If a Woman Isn't Passive, Then She Must Be a Pick-Up Artist

Ladies: did you know that you're "pick-up artists" if you want to (gasp!) pursue a man and/or a relationship that doesn't end in matrimony?

Female pick-up artists are on the rise, according to a well-intentioned but bogus trend piece. "There are signs that, among some women, it’s becoming a thing," writes Dina Gachman. Evidence: young women frustrated by gender norms as ascribed by Patti Stanger and The Rules (woah: great band name) and the dating coaches and start-ups that attempt to cater to them. One such offender is CheckHimOut.com, which lures women by likening matchmaking to ladies' #1 fave activity: shopping.

Gachman first heard about CheckHimOut thanks to an IRL "Manventory" pop-up shop that strung three male models on a coat rack; female passer-by were encouraged to peruse the wares. The website also quite literally objectifies men by posing them on hangers while sundress-clad women cheerfully discuss which one looks like he'd fit best.

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The display definitely caught our attention, but it was also a little bit creepy. Do women really long to objectify and humiliate men in order to feel empowered? Do they want to do the exact things that they can’t stand sleazy guys - and PUAs - doing to them? “I don’t really want to meet a guy by picking him out like a pair of shoes,” one of my friends said after we checked out the Manventory.

But the website's founders don't think women want to objectify men before tricking them into fucking them as most pick-up artists do — they just want to let them call the shots. CheckHimOut's tagline is "the only dating website where women are in control"; communication is initiated by women, so they don't hear from any unwanted suitors, and men don't get any uninterested matches. CheckHimOut is heteronormative, obviously, and the "ladies be shopping!!" theme might be a discarded article concept from the desk of Carrie Bradshaw, but it's not really fair to ask how we'd feel if the gender roles were reversed, because we're not starting on an equal playing field.

Yannick Rolland, co-founder of CheckHimOut, said he and his partners created the site because they heard about women being "harassed" on others. “We wondered how they coped with that,” he said. “We wanted to create a site where women have the power and the choice.”

In other words, women crave agency, and if they have to choose between primly waiting to be picked up or identifying as pick-up artists themselves, they might choose the latter.

“I don’t see a lot of women self-identifying as PUAs,” said Arden Leigh, the author of the book The New Rules of Attraction. “The few women who do aren’t really trying to rack up their numbers so they can go brag about it to their friends while they play Halo. They’re just sick of sitting on the sidelines and looking pretty. They want the confidence to walk up and make the first move." Leigh also said that most dating advice geared towards women advocates "passivity and [glorifies] idleness - it doesn’t ring true for women of my generation."

But why can't we call this equalizing agency instead of pick-up artistry? Most pick-up artists provide men with tips like "It's 'counterproductive' if she sits anywhere else but on your bed, so put random objects on all of the chairs in your room"; their rapey advice contributes to a culture where too many men think there's a magical, manipulative code that you can crack to get women to sleep with you, unintentionally or otherwise. The women in this article want to be treated as equals to men; pick-up artists want to be superior to women.

"Even though the term 'PUA' might not be for everyone, I think most women today would rather identify with it than with a shrinking-violet archetype," Gachman writes. Good to know we only have two choices.