Quick Take: Think chicken soup for the straight, single, female, feminist soul
Makes Me Want To: Read What You Really, Really Want by Jaclyn Friedman, and date, believe it or not
My Thoughts: After a bad breakup, Samhita sought solace at her local bookstore. She found herself in the self-help section and was horrified that all the books for women were shaming, anti-feminist tirades that were not at all helpful. The book she wanted wasn’t there, so she wrote it herself: Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life.
Why address dating when there are so many other more important issues?
“If we are not happy and not recognizing what we need in our personal lives, we cannot create the change we want in the communities around us. We are better change-makers, rabble-rousers, organizers, and activists when we are more satisfied, fulfilled, and content” (14).
The book covers a variety of topics from hookup culture (“being accountable and being committed are two different things” and “just because a relationship is casual doesn’t mean it has to be disrespectful”), the meaning of singleness (yes, Sex and the City is discussed), why most dating books suck (hint: they play to the lowest common denominator of sexist thinking—yeah, we’re looking at you Steve Harvey), and why being a feminist isn’t incompatible with love and dating (pretty much the entire book).
But there are some things it doesn’t cover. “This book is not about finding answers per se, but rather helping women sort out the best ways to navigate the existing romantic terrain” (155). I would have liked to have read that blurb on the back of the book. I know that approach is healthier and better and more useful, but sometimes I just want some answers. Samhita’s smarter than that—she knows I need to find the answers myself, and that my answers may not be her answers.
What’s the first step? We need to rethink what we’re told we need to make us happy. That’s the first step in recognizing that conventional standards for dating may not make us happy. This gives us the space to think about what actually does make us happy.
That is the most feminist thing you can do: identify what you want and ask for it. Not just in relationships, but in all areas of your life.
For me, the most valuable concept is that feminist dating requires maintenance. Early in the book, Samhita addresses associative memory–the idea that repeatedly viewing certain images teaches us to prefer certain things over others. Or, repeatedly hearing sexist, unhelpful dating advice teaches us that there’s something wrong with us, and our unhappiness is all our fault. How to counter this? It’s tough, and it doesn’t get solved in one book or one discussion. It takes time, and it takes maintenance. Outdated is a great book to have on your bookshelf. I know I am strong and intelligent and independent and attractive and other nice things, but when constantly bombarded with messages that I am too smart or too dumb, or too independent or too needy, too fat or too ugly, or just plain too something, it’s easy to forget. It’s associative memory at work. Outdated can be the counter to that. I can pick it up and flip through it, reread underlined passages or entire chapters to counter those negative messages with positive ones and remember that I am not too anything. I am me and am worthy as I am.
Thank you, Samhita, for reminding me.