If I’d have pitched the guy I was dating to my Grandma, the conversation would have gone something like this: “Grandma, I met this really great guy! He’s ten years older than me. He definitely has a substance abuse problem. Also, he doesn’t read books by women!” She’d have said oy vey.
I liked him anyway. I was a late bloomer (which, sidenote, is a totally gross expression — my vagina is not a flower). He was the first guy to ever call me beautiful. He asked me “When can I see you again?” when I was accustomed to noncommittal “I’ll text you eventually maybes” from guys. We went to museums and concerts together. We explored bookstores and watched comedy. It was new to me to feel interesting to someone.
A week or so after we broke up, my friend did what friends are supposed to do. She talked shit about him. “He’s a dick,” she said.
I laughed. “He’s not that bad.”
Why was I defending him? He definitely was that bad. He ended up sleeping with a friend of mine. When we broke up, he patronizingly told me I should “talk more.” Oh, and did I mention HE LITERALLY DIDN’T READ BOOKS BY WOMEN? (Even as we were seeing each other, part of me knew he would quickly turn into an anecdote about a bad decision I made in my twenties.)
When I defended him to my friend, I wasn’t really defending the guy. I was defending myself for having liked him. Even though I knew all those things about him, I still felt bad when we broke up. Reminding myself of his misogyny didn’t make me feel differently. It just made me feel like there was something wrong with me, not him, for choosing to go out with him.
Think about the times you’ve seen someone’s new boyfriend and thought, “She could do better.”
You’re not really judging the boyfriend. You were looking at him and placing value on the woman based on her decision. When we tell women to “value themselves” when it comes to dating, we’re implying that their value is directly proportional to the people they have sex with.
This kind of thinking, even when it’s used with supposedly feminist intentions, dates back to middle ages. It’s the same as telling women not to have sex because it makes them less pure because it will make them less appealing to their future husbands.
It’s telling women that they’re only as good as the man they’re seeing.
I’m not implying that women should stay in relationships with people who are wrong for them. But I am saying that this happens to everyone. We all make bad decisions when it comes to our sex lives, and that doesn’t make us less feminist or less valuable because of it. We can’t control our feelings.
Once, when I was in my twenties, I dated a hipster misogynist. That doesn’t make me any less awesome.