There’s something that’s been on my mind for a while. It’s quite unusual for me to air any of my views about society (other than how it can be changed by kindness or finding beauty) through the medium of my blog, but this particular issue has been bothering me for a really long time. It made me wonder if I’m alone in this particular world view or if there are other women, and indeed men, out there, struggling with the same frustrations. Right now, this nagging feeling I’ve had for years that something about society is
extremely just a little bit out of balance is spilling over into the need to articulate it.
I’m talking about the socially accepted and totally normal message we receive on a day to day basis about romantic relationships between men and women.
What are we hearing every day?
The message wears several costumes. We may hear it parroted in different forms and from different people and sources we respect: friends, family, films, the media. Does “don’t seem too keen, you’ll scare him off” sound familiar? Or how about “it doesn’t matter how he proposes, you should just be grateful he wants to marry you”? What about “she’s pressuring him to propose – he’ll do it when he’s good and ready”? How about “twenty ways to please your man?” or “be adventurous in bed or he’ll lose interest?” How often do you come across articles like “the trends men secretly hate” or “dress to impress him this Christmas”?
These messages are all too familiar to me. Throughout my relationship with John I’ve heard them in different ways depending on what stage we are at. The world outside our relationship cannot cope with the idea that my very existence doesn’t revolve around finding ways to hang on to my man.
So what do all of these messages mean?
In essence, they come down to one, apparently universally accepted fact: in romantic, heterosexual relationships, men call the shots. We must be show exactly the right amount of interest, wait patiently for him to decide when the relationship should move to the next level, keep his interest through making the effort with our appearance, in the bedroom.
Women who don’t conform to these expectations are labelled aggressive, desperate, needy. Women who don’t subscribe to the idea that keeping their relationship alive requires bedroom acrobatics and a 24/7 grooming routine are accused of letting themselves go, or not doing enough to keep their man’s interest.
While the odd article about feminism (usually in the very publications from which we receive these messages) may tell us otherwise, the dominant message we receive from the world around us is that we are not equal participants in our relationship – that commitment, affection from the men we are romantically involved with, these are precious gifts which we should earn through a careful blend of aloofness and attentiveness and for which we should be infinitely grateful should we be fortunate enough to receive them.
And not one of these accusatory, judgemental labels is levelled at our male counterparts.
Starting a revolution
I, along with many of my friends, am one of the lucky ones. I am in a healthy and balanced relationship with a man who doesn’t believe the hype. I am in a reciprocal relationship where we are fifty-fifty shareholders in matters of the heart, the home and our mutual direction.
I am buoyed by the fact that so many people I know seem to have similar dynamics – there is a new breed of relationship being born, one founded on a message of equality, respect and common sense.
So why are these, arguably much more favourable messages not being reflected in the popular culture around us? Why is the status quo so fiercely protected as “romantic” and “traditional” instead of antiquated and, frankly, offensive? Why is what I’m writing even remotely controversial?
These are questions I wish more people would ask themselves in 2014. I wish for a world in which we are less concerned with scaring off men and more concerned with whether or not the relationship is as fulfilling for us as it is for them, where women understand that their feelings matter just as much as their partner and where society stops smacking them down for doing so.
Who’s with me?