[TW for sexism including objectification, ableist language, discussion of rape and abuse.]
So, I have this friend. For the sake of her anonymity here, I'll call her Greta. Greta has been in and out of a relationship with a guy named Mike for a number of months now, and I've been in the background watching and fretting. Things were never smooth between them, and the last time Greta broke up with Mike was unusually rough. In her words, she had to be "mean" to him two days ago to get across the point that she doesn't really want to talk to him right now. Mike, classy guy that he is, took the opportunity to rip Greta up and down in a blog entry that he advertised on his Facebook. (Normally I'd take pains to anonymize him too, but since he so clearly wants this to be public, it would be rude of me not to oblige.)
Entirely aside from the wild twisting of reality and ad hominem attacks, some of the things he says about women, sexuality and autonomy sent me into a flailing rage.
The blog itself inspired facepalm in name alone: Mike's Super Amazing Blog! Because, y'know, the more adjectives and exclaimation points involved, the better the blog's content. The offending entry, entitled What I Want, is a laundry list of things Mike is looking for - and things Mike is definitely not looking for - in a relationship. He begins with some classic ableist language ("lame") and waxes poetic about love and its variation and peculiarities. He asserts that he has very few demands, and that all he wants is this and this and this and this and this and that too, and a "good handful of boob" would be nice.
Mike then gets to the meat of his post: ten things he does NOT want in a partner. What strikes me most about this entire section is the oversexualization of everything. In his second point, "No Text Message Relationship!", which frankly should have everything to do with communication and nothing with sex, he twice alludes to sex. Apparently texting is okay when a woman wants to shag, but otherwise, he "can think of much more comfortable places to put [his] hands" than a cell phone.
The rest of the points have me torn between rolling my eyes heavenward and shaking in fury. Let's break it down:
Point 1: "No sluts!" Mike's point here is that he's a monogamist and wants his partner to be as well - that is, unless she wants to bring home another girl to play with. Which is totally a practice in equality when she can't bring home another boy because he doesn't want to "taste the last guy" when he goes down on her. Bonus slut-shaming in this point too.
Point 3: "No Religious Nuts!" My problem with this section is less his distaste for religion and more for the libelous way in which he (mis)represents Greta. Mike and Greta met on a dating website. This dating website has a profile people can fill out. Greta chose to begin her profile by announcing her complete dedication to her religion. She talks about it for an entire paragraph. There is no possible way to misinterpret how serious she is about her religious beliefs unless it's done intentionally. Greta is the most unique individual I know, both in a religious and a secular sense, so it is infuriatingly, insultingly mischaracterizing to claim that she is brainwashed or programmed, or that she is somehow no longer individualistic because she goes to church every week. As a matter of fact, she's a thinking, feeling human being with the intelligence to make her own decisions. Mike knew from the get-go that Greta is religious. When they broke up once, twice, three times, he always came back with the knowledge of her dedication to God. And now, he lambasts her for not changing that for his sake? For doing as she has always done despite the magnanimity of his presence in her life? Tell me again, how is this on her head?
Point 4: "No pseudo-intellectuals!" Just because you're not familiar with a word doesn't mean that it's pseudo-intellectual when someone else uses it. Just sayin'. Bonus points go to Mike for more ableist language in this section.
Point 5: "No Blame Placers!" In all the many years I've known and been close to Greta, she has never once placed blame on me for something I haven't done. I acknowledge that my experience is not universal, but based on Mike's track record, it's fair to assume that this is blown entirely out of proportion.
Point 6: "No Abused/Raped Women!" The first time I read this, I saw red. My jaw hit the floor. I started shaking.
Here's the thing: many victims of abuse and assault don't realize what is happening at the time. Trauma can do that. The book I Never Called it Rape goes over this phenomenon quite thoroughly. Next there is no set way for a person to react to the trauma of abuse. Some ways are more common (PTSD), and other ways are less so. It's extremely individual - in fact, as individual as a personality, which is what abuse actually warps. Abuse is even worse when it comes from a trusted figure such as a family member. This is why someone in a position of trust is punished more severely than a stranger when a crime is committed.
Further, how many women were just eliminated from Mike's dating pool (to their benefit)? Well, according to CALCASA, "...at least 1 woman in every 3 has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime." Think about that. Drive around the block and count how many women you see, then think - 1 in 3 has been subjected to abuse. Glance into the eyes of three women as you pass them on the street. One of them has had her rights and personal autonomy grossly violated at some point. And you, Mike, dismiss them based entirely on their victimization, and justify it with the minimalizing term "boohooing" and the horrendous victim-blaming language. What is a person to do? Keep it all to hirself, bottle it up, refuse help under the false bravery of wanting to handle it on hir own? Allowing negative thought patterns to cycle and cycle and get worse and worse for fear of inconveniencing or irritating the people around hir? That is the type of thing that results in suicide, Mike. When that spiral reaches the point of "it's better to be dead than to be a burden on the people around me", is it still weak to ask for help? Or maybe, just maybe, is it better to get help before it reaches that point?
*steps away from the computer for a few minutes, breathes deeply*
And now, on to point 7, which doesn't get any better: "No Crazy Bitches!" Ableist and sexist. Mike's track record is only getting worse. Continuing from the previous point, Mike now derisively dismisses those women who have been on mind-altering drugs (nevermind that Mike smokes marijuana, which is, in fact, a[n illegal] psychotropic drug - but he has a penis, so it's okay!) or who have been through years of therapy. As if there is something wrong with anti-depressants or in reaching out for help after deep traumatization. This is bad enough victim-blaming on its own, but then Mike takes it a step further and characterizes these women as abusive themselves. There is not enough disdain and contempt in the world for such narrow-mindedness.
Point 8: "No Liars!" Sigh. Wasn't this covered already? No? Well, maybe more ableist language will make the point. Keep digging, Mike.
Point 9: "No Dirty Girls!" Y'know what, if someone wants to live in filth, that is hir choice. It is incredibly arrogant and selfish of you to go into someone else's home and then complain about the state of cleanliness. If you don't like it, don't go there. Ta da! Problem solved!
Point 10: "No Facial or Arm Pit Hair!" So now a woman has to conform to the societal expectation to remove hair from various parts of her body in order to please you? Because kissing a woman with hair on her upper lip somehow feels like kissing a man? Get over your cultural conditioning. Hair is hair, it's not the end of the world, or even something to get fussed over. I don't care of a woman is a total stranger or your wife of 50 years, whining over pit hair is one of the pettiest things I think I've ever seen. It is 100% within a woman's right not to shave anything whatsoever, and passing judgment on her for doing so is a violation of her right to choose how to treat and present her own body.
In short, Mike, your laundry list of "do not want" is but a thinly veiled attack on Greta. I do have to thank you for one thing though: At least there is no shred of doubt as to your sexism and whole-hearted adherence to the culture of victim-blaming.
(Oh, and that postscript to your blog in the form of a comment? Also overtly sexist. Now a woman can't have a life outside of you, and must be available to service you should you ever call. Go back to the 50s.)