I wrote not too long ago in semi-defense of the Twilight books, mentioning that part of the backlash against them was rooted in sexism.
I hate that argument. I like dresses and makeup and boys, and I’m still a feminist. I maintain that I can also be a romantic (when I’m not being a cynic) and be a feminist, too. What’s wrong with a feminist enjoying a love story? Must the love story have a twist to it, be something like Jeannette Winterson’s Written On The Body? (And is there a more romantic book than that one? I think not.)
Caitlin Flanagan, our bête noire, wrote and Sady admirably refuted another boring us v. them drama about hookup culture vs. wanting boyfriends, as if it’s not possible to do both. Or to have your heart broken doing both.
But! Romance. And desire. It’s an obsession of mine, a subject of much of my feminist-blogging, female desire is. A few of us declared Female Desire Week on our blogs a couple of years ago, and explored all sorts of parts of it. I think it came out of the 98354674896th incarnation of The Blow Job Wars, in which certain self-declared “Radical” feminists informed some of us that we were insufficiently radical because we might still have sex with men.
Not gonna fight that battle here. No, really. Probably shouldn’t have brought it up.
I’m 30. Single. Living in New York, working in media, writing on feminist blogs. I was engaged once, dear readers, sort of against my better judgment. (I didn’t want to get married but didn’t want to break up, so I said yes when he showed up with the ring I didn’t want. He didn’t believe that I honestly didn’t care about the culturally-defined rules of romance that I, as a heterosexual lady, obviously wanted.)
Nope, I still was unimpressed with the idea of a ring, a fancy wedding, etc. But I am, still, rather a hopeless romantic. (Occasional emphasis on the hopeless, as certain friends will tell you!)
It’s hard to be a feminist and a romantic. I write fiction in my spare time, and fiction is driven by drama, but I’ve done my best to exise additional drama from my life. Yet I get swept away by crushes and I fall in love and do stupid things. And when I get out of it I look back and think “I should’ve known better.” I’m a feminist! I know there’s no “One For Me” out there! No knight in shining armor, etc.
I don’t care about a white wedding or any of that—which has little, honestly, to do with me identifying as a feminist and more to do with just…who I am. But I do want to fall in love. And I want to believe in love. Which can be quite, well, hard these days.
I read this this morning, on powerful women falling in love with men, and had a conversation yesterday with the fabulous Monchel of Problem Chylde about Twilight (see, it’s back!) and how it made us think about being romantic. And I think that the hardest thing in the world to negotiate are the lines between settling and being realistic; between waiting for a fairy tale that isn’t real and refusing to take less than you deserve or to “give someone a shot” because they ask.
There are so many factors that play into this stuff, so much cultural messaging at us, that it’s nearly impossible in all of it to identify our own desires. To trust ourselves. And I do think that’s a feminist issue. Hetero, queer, monogamous, polyamorous, bisexual, asexual, we are constantly bombarded with messages not only from the mainstream (here, buy an engagement ring! Sign up for Match.com!) but from people who identify as feminists. From our friends and family. Everyone knows better than we do what we want and need.
That’s (an abbreviated version of) my story, Feministe. What do you think? How do you feel about romance? How do you define it?
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