Here’s what I learnt from Why Men Love Bitches – the 19-year-old dating manual that’s gone viral

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  • Almost 20 years after first published, Gen Z on TikTok have pushed this controversial self-help book back onto the bestseller list. Anita Ghosh explains why

    For Gen Z and millennials, the noughties self-help book, Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov has a reputation which precedes itself. If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard of it, and could, most likely, pick its garish cover from a line up. And now, 19 years since its initial release, its no-nonsense, straight-talking is inspiring a whole new generation after going viral on Tik Tok. Videos with #whymenlovebitches dating tips have racked up nearly ten million views.

    How I fell for Why Men Love Bitches

    I’ll admit, despite at least one battered copy lining the communal bookshelf (usually nestled between Sheryl Sandberg’s autobiography, Lean In, and the “original text that started a movement” #GIRLBOSS) of every house-share I’ve ever lived in, I managed to avoid it throughout my 20s. That was until a few years ago when a friend gave me a copy post break-up.

    why men love bitches

    Writer Anita Ghosh

    You see, break-ups make clichés out of the best of us, and whilst time, a new haircut and Joni Mitchell on repeat go a long way in soothing our bruised egos and crumpled self esteem, we often need something a little deeper than the bottom of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. We’re looking for something which makes us feel in control and, without sounding like a self-help book myself, helps us take back our power.

    What the book gets right

    Enter Why Men Love Bitches – the retro relationship bible. Which, to a certain extent, does exactly that. Strip out the outdated metaphors and the author’s obsession with hunting analogies – at its core, it’s intentions are about building confidence and valuing self worth. These themes are as relevant now as they were in the noughties and like one Tik Tok user says, “This book taught me how to have self respect, healthy boundaries and empowerment in all the relationships in my life, romantic or not.”

    How many times have we felt like we were giving way more than we were getting or knew we weren’t treated right but carried on regardless? It’s often the most obvious advice we need to hear the most and this book gives it to you straight. It’s kind of like your no-bullshit best friend who picks you up off the toilet floor and makes you do warrior goddess power poses in front of the mirror.

    What the book gets wrong

    However, for me, what’s particularly jarring is it’s heteronormative ideology and over-simplicity of gender roles to an excruciating extent. I’ll be honest, there were times I forgot I wasn’t reading a manual on how to train a dog. Controversially, it provides criteria for women to live by, to change and adapt to, in order to be worthy under a male’s gaze.

    * Don’t have sex too soon
    * Don’t be too nice
    * Don’t talk too much

    And if that’s not enough, a particular highlight for me was the nine different ways to avoid being a nag. Despite claiming not to, it feeds into a narrative that women can’t authentically express themselves without the risk of rejection. Or on the flip side, if we do set healthy boundaries, we’re a bitch (whether that be good or bad).

    The reality is, dating will always run the risk of leaving us feeling as appealing as a sack of potatoes, but like the 10.5 million people who’ve viewed #whymenlovebitches on Tik Tok, there’s solace to be found in not being the only one.

    In a time before social media, copies of Why Men Love Bitches were compassionately left on bookshelves ready for the next person who needed it to find; now people share their favourite tips on Tik Tok instead. Whilst the ways in which we share our experiences and offer advice changes, the comfort we find in talking about them doesn’t.

    Perhaps like any self-help book, it’s about taking the bits that resonate and forgetting the rest. With the hope that in another 19 years, there’ll be enough change and movement for the next generation to know their self-worth without the need of a dated self-help book altogether.

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