Monogamy, patriarchy and Gale Shapley

This edition of the newsletter is inspired by many things - failed matches, endless conversations with my husband and a previous edition of the newsletter.

Men like looks, and women like books

A popular Indian dating app conducted a survey a few years ago amongst their users to understand the top criteria for choosing a partner

Here’s what the women said:

  1. Profession

  2. Education

  3. Looks

and here’s what the men said:

  1. Looks

  2. Looks

  3. Looks

No surprises there, huh? Except, some people don’t like to believe the results. Some others don’t like what’s on the list. For instance, feminists. You hate patriarchy. I get it. I do too. Call me privileged, but patriarchy doesn’t impact me beyond the division of household labour. If I had to choose between feminism and monogamy, I’ll choose monogamy (also because I’ve OCD!). You can choose the former, it’s up to you. But choose, you must.

Why is this one or the other?

In the animal kingdom, one sex is made visually more appealing than the other. Naturally, one one has little choice but to appreciate apparent visual cues (beauty, might, etc.), especially when it comes to choosing a mate.

Among humans, in general, women are visually more appealing. So, our societies evolved around that. Unlike the animal kingdom, great power (beauty) came with responsibility. Raising a human child is a lot more challenging compared to teaching one’s cub to hunt, fly or swim. So, we invented monogamy.

In order to compensate men for their freedom (they didn’t have to bear or rear a child), we gifted them patriarchy. So, you see, for generations, we’ve bartered patriarchy with monogamy.

Being an ambitious heterosexual woman, I often wonder why I’m attracted to a smart men who are professionally more successful than I am. Why don’t I feel the same way for a dull man with a kind heart? I know that I am not alone, plenty of women feel the same. But I also know that plenty of men don’t feel this way.

Traces of patriarchy continue to linger around despite our best intentions to do away with it. Women refuse to see it. Men are apathetic to it. This mismatch in beliefs is one of the key factors for many awesome people being single late into their 30s today.

I personally know good-natured men who’d have a great life being married to a professionally successful woman, but they continue to be single because a part of their self-worth is tied in being able to attract a good looking woman. I also know plenty of women who continue to be single because they won’t settle for (or gift patriarchy to) a man with anything less than their expectation of success.

So, our ambitions to have an equal world are very closely tied to how we think about romantic relationships. Unless we’re willing to loosen the strings on how monogamy, we risk slip deeper in patriarchy.

So, what’s the way out then?


The dreaded word. Urrgh. Yes, you heard that right. This applies to both men and women. I know you guys hate this word, but let me prove it to you mathematically using Gale Shapley. Well, I had to, given that this newsletter’s called Shapely Gal, no?

I’ve bullied the husband into making a little video to illustrate what happens in the most generic scenario. I didn’t write his script, so if you hear him saying things about guys from IIT, remember that I didn’t say that. :D

So, as you see, there are some people who receive more interest than the others. This means the others, have to rely much more on luck, quick thinking and timing if they want to outdo themselves in the matching market. A lot of people simply take themselves out of the market and put love because they don’t want to settle for what their inheritance can afford them.

More practical word of advice

For women: You might be well on your way to making the cover of Forbes, but men don’t care about that. It sucks. You are tired of being measured on your beauty. May be men are tired of being measured by their professional success too. May be they want to just be able to connect with someone nice. Who knows. So, if you happen to be on the market by some crazy chance, cut people some slack.

For men: Women have lives that are just as professionally sorted as yours, if not more. So, if you’re relying just on your professional success to get a woman’s attention, try harder. Also, looks isn’t everything. You might feel like men around you will hold you in high stead for having landed a good looking wife, but let me remind you that no one cares a damn about anyone else in this world. So, it’s all in your head, or elsewhere.

More from Shapely Gal

Here’s a little sneak peak into the various projects I am working on:

  1. Dinner Club - The first week was off to an awesome start - 3 awesome dates with good feedback. I’ve 7 more dates scheduled for this week, and I hope to scale it further by next week. It is absolute madness, I tell you. But good madness.

  2. Workshop - A few people who saw this video from my Youtube Course wanted a longer/ live session on this. So, I am about to start designing a new workshop on how to identify your partner type. If you’ve any suggestions/ feedback, drop me a note. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Sneak Peak…

what I’m reading/ watching:

Shapely Gal is a weekly-ish newsletter that discusses love, relationships, marriage and the various markets these are traded on. This newsletter is a concoction of observations, theories, ideas, real stories, figments of imagination and sometimes just rants on romantic relationships.