We’ve all heard it before. “She doesn’t see how great I am!” or “Why does she only go out with jerks?” or maybe even “She put me in the Friendzone!” What I am describing is, of course, the “Nice Guy,” the whiny, self-entitled, beta male.
They are the bane of women, both feminist and non-feminist alike, and are equally a problem to men who observe them. While people on all sides argue over who is in the right and who is in the wrong, I seek to answer a question the people on the sidelines have probably asked themselves. How can we put a stop to this?
Before I get started on my theory, I am going to define what the Nice Guy™ is. While people have their own opinions on the matter, I will cite the geek feminism wiki’s definition.
“Nice Guy™ is a term in Internet discourse describing a man or teenage boy with a fixation on a friendship building over time into a romance, most stereotypically by providing a woman with emotional support when she is having difficulties with another male partner.”
I was rather interested in the idea of a stereotype, so I did some digging and found the most common aspects of these Nice Guys™.
- They are less assertive than the “jerks” they blame for ‘stealing’ the object of their affections.
- They will pine for the girl of their dreams without actually saying it.
- Their “niceness” only lasts until they get the verbal rejection.
These people are often labeled as “creeps” and “misogynists” by females, feminist or otherwise. Men, feminist or otherwise (yes, male feminists exist. What a twist! #failed internet sarcasm), will no doubt consider these people the true jerks, the wimps, the betas. At the end of the day, nobody likes them.
But is this really the fault of the particular men that they became the Nice Guy™ that we can all agree to loathe? Or is this an unintentional side effect of choices that had fairly decent intentions when they were first made? Now, in the interest of fairness, I am going to be eliminating the stereotypical Nice Guy™: the overweight, fedora-wearing neck-beard who stalks women on Facebook with a total lack of social skills.
What I will look at is what I view as the “real” Nice Guy™. The subjective nature of beauty standards aside, this denotes the average looking person with questionable social skills and an aversion to confrontation. To the laymen; the dorky doormats. To examine the Nice Guy™, we need to examine their favorite term; The Friendzone.
In the words of Ryan Reynolds, the friendzone is “When a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become a complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother. Or a lamp.” Coined in 1994 in the sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S, this refers to the one-sided relationship where one party wishes to be romantically or sexually involved with another, who prefers to keep things platonic. In most cases, we are made aware of the situation when a man laments that they cannot win the heart of a woman.
The Nice Guy™ will perceive himself being put in the Friendzone when he is rejected, and that in turn leads us to find blogs vilifying the women who rejected such men. Some of us may find ourselves wondering “When will these people learn romance isn’t a transaction?” when we should really be asking “What made these Nice Guys™ believe it was a valid tactic?”
The answer to that may or may not come as a surprise, but this boils down to parenting and mainstream media’s effects on children. For the former, it is a very common trend for parents to shoot down any desire a child has to fight back when dealing with a problem. If there is a bully in school? Don’t retaliate, tell an adult, just walk away, let karma deal with them. All ways to tell kids not to strike back. Political correctness takes this even further by using “soft language” while seeking the most inoffensive way to convey a message. Training children to back down and rely on less direct methods inevitably carries over to the desire for a relationship, like when you defang and declaw a tiger.
Mainstream media does not help matters, as most children’s programming will use the Dogged Nice Guy (the persistent guy who relies on displays of affection and sheer tenacity to get the girl) trope in regards to the central protagonist’s love life. These protagonists are often non-descript, or “average” for the sake of allowing children to project themselves onto the character. Equally often, they will be pitted against a more impressive looking rival, be it a jock, the rich kid, someone who has something or several things to distinguish them from the protagonist, and by extension, the target audience. Most often played straight, the protagonist wins in the end, proving he doesn’t have to be the impressive athlete or some rich kid, and thus teaches the children the lesson that “You don’t have to be like the other guys to get the girl,” a lesson that will not go away anytime soon. After all, who doesn’t love the David vs Goliath tale where little David comes out victorious in the end? It’s inspirational, it’s something we all want to aspire to, to come out on top despite our inherent weakness.
Mainstream media also does what it can to assist parents in teaching children that retaliation, that fighting back against your problems, is not the real solution. Your protagonist decides to take revenge against a bully? He’s shown to be just stooping to the bully’s level and is thus painted to be in the wrong until he changes back to the non-confrontational approach. These lessons are not going to be going away anytime soon, as moral guardians will hound any media outlet that dares to encourage unsavory behavior like retaliation.
As a result, more and more boys grow up taking the combination of lessons to heart, they grow into the Nice Guy™ role. The final nail in the coffin is the issue of confidence, which is, from what I have been told by a few of my female college classmates, is a deciding factor in whether or not the male in question is worth dating. Confidence, in regards to an individual possessing it, is defined as the feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. Nice Guys ™ are often touted to be needy, lacking the confidence that serves as an attractive quality.
The thing is, confidence is not someone humans are born with. Confidence is a result of experience. When somebody goes skydiving for the first time, odds are they are frightened out of their wits. After going skydiving for the first, second, and third time, the person gets the hang of it. They feel more confident in their ability to go skydiving because they’ve already done it successfully. If one is unable to dive into a swimming pool and they keep on failing, they will eventually give up; having come to the conclusion that they will never be able to dive.
When the Nice Guy™ listens to a female they have feelings for lament that they “cannot find a nice guy” when talking about their current romantic partner’s action, be it a real jerk move or not, the Nice Guy™ is left wondering “What about me?” More accurately, they are wondering “Why don’t I count?” With consistent happenings, the Nice Guys’™ confusion gives way to resentment, which leads to the questions on internet blogs “why do girls only go for jerks?” or “Why don’t girls like nice guys?” Not out of malice, not out of the desire to guilt women into dating them specifically, but to reach out for an answer, to figure out just what they are doing wrong after doing everything they were trained to consider “the right way” of pursuing a relationship.
What do men and women do to these Nice Guys™? They label them misogynists and creeps, mock them, shame them. In their desire to prove their own ideologies correct, they stamp on the little confidence they may have had left. Rather than get a valid answer, they are handed the blame-ball, which they try to pass onto the alpha males, the girls. We can all agree that nobody likes to take the blame, nobody wants to take responsibility.
My theory, as such, is in order to end the Nice Guy™ trend, we need to examine the source of the behaviors the Nice Guys™ deemed as acceptable. We need to encourage children to be more assertive, more aggressive. For example, when a kid punches a bully in retaliation, we should not punish the kid who punched back. We should praise them, reward the more assertive behavior. We should also stop exposing children to bland protagonists, remove the usage of the Dogged Nice Guy trope. All in all, we need to teach young boys that it is perfectly acceptable to take charge, to be upfront, within reason of course. After all, Nice Guys™ will fade away when we as a society stop breeding them.
Of course, if you really don’t want to change what boys grow into, I suppose you could convince the girls to go for the Nice Guys™ and train the girls to give the boys the confidence boost they so desperately need. (#BlatantSarcasm)