Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Girls Should Read: Romance and Feminism: A Manifesto

My friend Lauren pointed me towards this little piece called You Should Date an Illiterate Girl, which is about girls and literacy and romance, and weirdly, calls out feminism. 
Regarding my heterosexual friends, I have observed more than a few friends in my life in relationships they are not passionate about.  This makes me sad for them, and also for the people they are with.  Once you have had that passion, even if it is unrequited, everything else palls in comparison.  It is like listening to pop music after weeks of Girl Talk on endless loop: everything is simple, and in a bad way, in a where-did-all-the-riches-go? way.  And when you see people who aren't really passionate about each other, who are with each other people so that they aren't alone, who are getting married because it's apparently that time in their life, who are with someone so they don't have to think about the other someone they actually want to be with but has broken their heart and left them to pick up the pieces, I concluded that "romance" for so many people is about having the wrong priorities.  So I sympathize with this, because I feel these things too, even though I am generally not as poetic about them (except, hopefully, in my own poetry) and don't look at it holistically but as it applies to my own personal circumstances. 
And then there's the feminism.  I always find the intersection between romance and feminism to be interesting.  If you read romance novels or see rom-coms, there are a lot of things that are disquieting about what love for women should be.  Rom-coms are about a woman making a sacrifice.  Rom-coms are about a woman realizing how wrong she is and how her guy friend who really wants her is rightRom-coms are about a woman fixing herself to be acceptable to her true love and society as a whole.  Oh, and if she just didn't have a career and ambition and thoughts, then really, she'd find it easier to find someone.  I like that this piece subverts that, explaining that no, men, you don't want a dumb, unread, unromantic woman; you want one who is thoughtful and reflective, who is brave and smart enough to take care of herself.  Because if she's not smart enough to take care of herself, she won't really take care of you either.  If she's not able to be brave for herself, she won't be brave about you.  If she's not thoughtful enough about who she is and needs, she won't think about who you are or what you need.  And for heterosexual women, this is the same thing.  If a man isn't capable of realizing how valuable you are and how special you are and how deserving you are of someone who loves you truly, fully, and for your gifts and not just as a ploy to stave off loneliness, then you shouldn't be with him.  As a feminist, I know the value in teaching women not to be "selfish," as it is so wrongly called, but to be self-aware and to assert their needs.  As a romantic, I want people to find each other and work for their relationship, but I am often disappointed and saddened by romances that are more about boy-meets-girl, girl-subverts-herself-for-man-or-else-is-alone stories and images.  I want there to be such a thing as romantic feminists or feminist romantics, who see the problems between these two things and subvert the anti-woman "romances" out there and make women who are happy and well-adjusted and have agency in their lives as sexy as I know it is for those of us who experience and strive to experience it. 

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