4 Reasons Why She’s Not Too Good for You (& You’re Being Sexist)

It’s a trope as old as remembered time: The relatable protagonist sees a woman, assesses her based on some criteria that we the audience are presumed to intrinsically understand, and sighs some version of “She’s too good for me.” This is intended to relay a fear of inadequacy on the part of the protagonist (one that he is probably going to overcome with her help, natch).

Despite its transmission of insecure feelings, saying “She’s too good for me” is paternalistic, patronizing, and rather patriarchal.

Northern Indian depiciton of a lady with a yo-yo

Reason 4: You’re putting her on a pedestal.
So-called “benevolent sexism” hurts in many ways. At its core, it presumes that men are people and women are Other, which isn’t helpful in eradicating gender bias from the world. Inverting the patriarchy isn’t feminism.

Reason 3:  You’re allowing the halo effect to cloud your better judgment.
Just because someone is attractive doesn’t mean that they are a good person. We human beings are more likely to attribute non-physical positive traits to physically pretty people, so you’re likely noticing her good traits more than you would the good traits of someone to whom you aren’t attracted.

Reason 2:  You’re likely reinforcing gendered societal norms in some way.
What makes her “too good”? She’s “too” conventionally attractive by 21st-century Western standards? She’s more polite than you are in social situations? She gives more money to charity? All of these traits are at least somewhat influenced by gender. All genders are trained by society to see women as objects and women are expected to adhere to a more stringent beauty standard than men, which, at the very least, influences the notion that women are more attractive on the whole than men are.  As for politeness and charity, women are assumed and expected to be “nicer”.

Reason 1: You’re making all kinds of decisions for her.
Unless you know exactly what she wants and expects from a partner, you can’t know if she’s too good for you. You’re also making incredibly broad assumptions about what she wants in a partner and deciding your worth relative to hers without her input. Doesn’t her opinion on the issue of your potential compatibility matter?

You can still be perpetuating sexism even if you feel like a scared child, not a big powerful oppressor. It can still be sexist if you intend to say nice things about someone. It can still be sexist if you’re feeling insecure.

And yes, it can still be sexist if you’re a woman. There is a reason I used gender-neutral language to describe the person thinking that a woman is better than them: More than once, I myself have fallen for the “She’s too good for me” trap in my assessment of women. With men, my reasons for not attempting amorous overtures are usually far more nuanced than “She’s too good for me”. I give them a chance to indirectly communicate what they want and I take those signals into consideration when deciding whether or not to tell them I like-like them. With women, I usually decide for both of us that we aren’t to be. I base my decision on factors that may or may not have been meaningful to to other woman and often before I get to know her enough for her  to communicate anything in the way of her preferences.

What if you have taken her desires into consideration and still decided that you’re not going to try anything? You can avoid perpetuating sexism by saying what you mean and being specific about it. Say that you’re incompatible, that you don’t believe she’d be interested in you, or even that you’re simply too chickenshit to ask out someone you find to be very attractive. There is really no need to turn it into yet another way to depict women as less than human.

Many thanks to my Facebook friends who, in the discussion that carried the seeds of this post, helped me to refine a rant into an argument.

4 Reasons Why She’s Not Too Good for You (& You’re Being Sexist)

14 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why She’s Not Too Good for You (& You’re Being Sexist)

  1. TJL

    So if I believe I’m good enough for a girl, I’m misogynist womanizer and if I think she’s too good for me, I’m dehumanizing her and making her decisions for her. Got it, men are assholes.

    Question, why does the “benevolent sexism” argument never pop up in situations where a man hits a woman in self defense or when a couple commits a crime, but the hubby is given a longer sentence? Kinda seems like y’all like that elevated status when it benefits you. Also when did the “free thought ” blogs turn into tumblr?

    1. 1.1

      I never said any of those things. In my view, respectfully asking someone out and taking their no for an answer is not being a misogynist womanizer. Whether you believe you’re good enough for a woman or not good enough, you’re ignoring her consent and opinion in the matter. See how that works? Two people deciding whether or not they want to be together. If one person ignores the other person’s opinion and decides he deserves her or doesn’t deserve her, then yes, he’s an asshole for ignoring her views in what is supposed to end up a multi-party relationship.

      I actually very much disagree with unfair sentencing based on unscientific sexist notions. The fact that men of color receive harsher sentences than white men (and the same inequalities perpetuate along gender and economic lines) is something that I try to spread awareness about. I’m not the only feminist who cares about such matters, either. Many feminists have worked on prison reform measures:

      I don’t use Tumblr very much and we haven’t been acquired by them, so I’m not sure what you mean.

  2. 2

    I don’t know.It seems like the
    “x is too good for me” is more about the self-esteem of the person then about sexism. I mean, both people’s choices are relevant in a relationship. If a person feels, for whatever reason, that another person isn’t a good match for them, isn’t that a valid choice?

  3. 4

    Your points #3 and #4 are probably correct in many such cases.

    But I don’t think a requirement for better specificity, or the issue of taking away the other person’s choice, are valid in this context.

    About specificity:
    That’s kind of turtles on the way down. Almost all first level details are still very vague and generic. Do you really think that “not a good match” is specific? *Why* isn’t she a good match? That’s very unspecific. It’s odd to define someone as “not a good match” because how do you know? There are a lot of aspects that can affect how good/bad a match is, and most of these are very subjective and in practice have both many working and non-working matches with whatever combinations.

    It’s also a convenience. “too good for me” means that when you weigh what you know about yourself (ideally and hopefully a lot) and about the other person (in these cases not nearly as much, but that’s the info you have) you think that, from your own perspective, you’ll get a lot more than you’ll give (i.e. if you had to make a decision for the other person, given what you know, you’d be emphatically not interested). “Too good” is a good shortcut for that, without going into the details or over-explaining. Most people should be able to quickly understand the gist, and only ask about the details if they want to go into it.

    The phrase is used in general conversation. Not by itself in an essay. You start with a very general term, and only go into details when needed. Just like you can complain about the “awful” lunch you had, without having to start off by detailing every details about the service, food quality, costs, air-conditioning problems, or whatever it was that made the lunch “awful”.

    Though, for all this to hold, you should be able to go into the details if you do need to. If the answer to “why?” is “I don’t know, she’s just too good for me, I can’t explain it” then that’s indeed a problem, and I agree completely it’s not useful. But I do doubt that’s the case in most times people use this phrase, usually the reason people don’t just go into the specific and details is because the general phrase is a quick phrase that passes the overall sentiment relatively well, while the specific details can take some time.

    And from that, about choice:
    It is of course possible, and common, that other people will have different values and opinions and weights for various characteristics. So it is possible that what seems to you like a bad “deal” for them will be a good “deal” for them from their own point of view (or will be not so good from your point of view, if given information they have and you don’t).

    To clarify, I’m not saying a relationship is a business deal. I’m saying that you can judge how much you’re interested in a specific relationship for yourself, which is a way to see if the relationship is or isn’t “good” for you and how much, and so can everyone else. So if you judge a potential relationship to be a certain high level of good for you, but a noticeably lower level of good for the other person, then offering the other person to have that relationship with you is you making what, for your value, is a “good deal” for you but a “bad deal” for them (you expect to get more from the relationship than they would for the time it lasts).

    You do need to consider your own best knowledge and value when taking action that involves other people. If you really believe you make someone a bad offer, then you can’t make that offer in good faith just because they might think otherwise.

    When you don’t know what the other people think, yes, ask them and give them a choice. When it’s about them and not about you, yes, ask them and give them a choice. But when it involves you as much as it involves them, and for your values making the offer is knowingly making a bad offer, you don’t have to make the offer.
    Best effort to be a decent person given the information you have is not to make people offers that make you feel you’re taking advantage of them but that may improve your life if they don’t realize how bad the offer is and choose to accept it.

    The fact that their values may be different doesn’t matter, because you’re the one making the offer, so you should judge your actions by your own best knowledge (with what you know of their preferences if you know, but without if you don’t) and standards.
    ( Say, if they really really like shiny beads, and don’t value land because they don’t really believe in land ownership, why not offer them shiny beads for rights to their land? You shouldn’t make the decision for them, and should let them make their own choice, right? Just because your own values and economic beliefs say that land is worth something doesn’t mean that they must agree, so give them the choice instead of being paternalistic. Hey, maybe they won’t only think it’s a good deal, but will think it’s such a good deal that they’re actually swindling you rather the other way around, so total and complete win-win for all, since everyone is happy. Just ask them. )

      1. That’s true. I used that with the rest of the specificity issue, because that tied to a large part of your original point #2 (“What makes her…?”), and because you used exactly that phrase in your comment replay of:

        Like I said, a person can just say that: That they’re not a good match. That’s quite different from the unspecific, odd statement that is declaring someone “too good”.

        So from that perspective “not a good match” isn’t better, but actually less specific (the match can be bad because she’s better, because you’re better, or because of other reasons that doesn’t make what one receives superior to the other).

        But yes, I agree it’s better for avoiding sexist undertones, which a much bigger and more realistic problem than how specific are general non-specific statements.

        1. I disagree. In my view, in this context, saying “she’s too good for me” is less specific than saying “we’re not a good match”. The former doesn’t say anything about your potential romantic compatibility, while the latter does.

          1. I think that “she’s too good for me” is a subset of “we’re not a good match”, because can you really believe you’re a good match with someone when you also believe that being in a relationship with you will not be good for the other person, and that they will be much better off without you?

            I don’t see how “she’s too good for me, being in a relationship with me will not be good for her, but we’re a great match!” works.

  4. 5

    Unless you know exactly what she wants and expects from a partner, you can’t know if she’s too good for you. You’re also making incredibly broad assumptions about what she wants in a partner and deciding your worth relative to hers without her input. Doesn’t her opinion on the issue of your potential compatibility matter?

    My husband tried to compliment me with sentences like how he didn’t know how he deserved such a woman, I was too good for him, he was the luckiest guy…
    I made him stop for those reasons.
    1. I don’t like it when people talk bad about those I love, even if they are doing it themselves.
    2. What does it say about me? That I got together wuth a loser? That I didn’t have a minimum of taste and judgement?
    It’s bullshit all the way down. People click or don’t click for many reasons. Conventional attractiveness is only one of many factors.

  5. 6

    How about this: She was too good for me because she was in a stable job, while I am unemployed. She was saving her money to move out, while I was sitting at home having panic attacks and losing my temper at slight provocations.

    I decided that I, as an angry and paranoid man, would not want her to feel as though she must “fix” me. I decided that I wouldn’t want to put her through the anguish of knowing that she would be unable to help me reconcile the innate fear and self-loathing that comes with IED.

    It’s not so much that I’m putting her on a pedestal, she was quite the average girl, rather that I put myself into a pit.

    And you tell me that I am sexist for doing so. And I believe it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *