“The mechanics of oppressing people is to pervert them to the extent that they become instruments of their own oppression”
What’s the number word used in marketing for young girls? Love. And for boys? Battle….. sighhhh.
As I have grown up, I’ve always been obsessed with love. I’m not talking about the peacemaking kind that changes the world (though I love that too) but the romantic, Disney princess, chick flick, perfect first date story, lineage of happily married family members who I look up to kind of love. Over and over again, I ask my parents to tell me their love stories, to hear the glorious moments that have mapped out their relationships so that I can build a map of my own to find my perfect husband! Recently I think that I was socialized and subverted to a very narrow definition of the kind of romantic relationship that I want. As I have been drawn into this romantic fantasy land, it’s been in many ways very classist, racist, heteronormative, elitist, ableist and yet at the core of my every hope and desire. No one ever expected that I’d have to confront my romance ideals as a feminist. The search that’s been a priority in my life is everything but complementary to how I’ve grown to understand myself as a feminist. And it’s really hard to shake. I’ve been taught and happily embraced striving for a man well groomed to become the perfect, handsome head of my life. It’s damaging because when I encounter these men I end up despising them. And when I meet men who some part of me really connects with or who I really want to be with in some way I’m scared of actually being attracted to someone who isn’t this perfect patriarchal American man.
When I think of ways to reshape my social constructions of what intimate relationships would look like, I’m really afraid! To redefine something so crucial to my gender identity, my femininity, my culture, and how I’ve envisioned my future and myself is horrifying. Like, terrifying. Young people are socialized into what romance and love and family looks like very early in life. I do not see much work at all to try to fix this and I wonder how my own life would be different if I weren’t taught to look for a prince.
Maybe in some ways, “terrifying” is good. Do you feel like this summer made you question your long held ideal or provided you with the awareness to see both the contradictions you outline above and your ambivalence towards men who don’t fit the “ideal” despite the fact that they might actually be a better partner for the future if you opened yourself up to that possibility?