A real boyfriend/partner…

I love Pinterest. I use it for self-care purposes when I need a breath of fresh air at work. I find it’s overall easier to filter out negative stories and opinions than on most social media sites.

But there are always exceptions. I was looking up self-care quotes and then decided just to look at quotes in general (guess that’s wherein my mistake lies!) and that’s when I came across this.

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Source: Pinterest

I literally had a visceral reaction and had to share it with someone. So what better place to do so than on this blog? The entire Twilight series, much of pop music and television shows perpetuate these same messages.  But this pin stuck out to me because it’s such a simple, short and blatant example of messages that inundate us on a daily basis.

When I first saw this pin without reading anything more than “a real boyfriend is” I held my breath, knowing what type of message was sure to follow.  And sure enough, in line two, there it was. A real boyfriend texts you all the time. Now I understand that as a married woman in her 30s, I am disconnected from the normative texting habits of teens and that what may seem obsessive to me could be actually just how kids are these days (cue me feeling really old).  The problem is that when you make this blanket statement it makes it hard to discern when this behavior becomes problematic. When a girl’s boyfriend starts texting her every ten minutes to see where she is and what she’s up to and over time becomes abusive when she doesn’t respond immediately – how does she make sense of this behavior when she’s been told a real boyfriend is supposed to text you.all.the.time.?
And then come the lines about jealousy and being overprotective.  Don’t get me wrong, I know jealousy happens from time to time but it shouldn’t happen that much. And again making a blanket statement about a “feeling” that is used as a control tactic in abusive relationships makes it harder for people to see when their partner is using jealousy as a guise to isolate and demean them. It becomes a problem when someone’s partner tells them who they can spend time with and is often accusing them of cheating. And if that happens to you, it will likely make you feel crappy and you’ll think this is not okay. But how do you trust your gut when you’ve been told your partner should be jealous?

And then there’s the last one. The idea that a boyfriend is supposed to be overprotective. Sooo skeevy. Why? Why should a straight guy be overprotective of his girlfriend? Because she’s weak and fragile? Because she’s less of a human and more of an object who most certainly couldn’t make it on her own? Hell to the no! Girls are strong and can hold their own. Don’t believe society’s lies!

I know I’m focusing more on heterosexual relationships in this post and that’s because this pin is so clearly targeting women attracted to men (or more accurately adolescent girls and young women who like dudes). And because of our society’s history of misogyny, it’s important to address the ways this pin specifically contributes to the vulnerability of straight girls and women.  But relationship messages and ideals for LGBTQ folks need to be positive and focus on equality too (obviously)!  It’s also important to note that heterosexism and sexism go hand in hand so negative messages directed about gender norms impact the LGBTQ population too.

The other thing I try to be mindful of in writing these posts is to not judge/come off as judgmental of the girls and women who believe messages like these. It’s all too easy to condescend and demean someone who looks for traits in a partner that so clearly come from sexist societal values. And yet the girls and women who seek such traits in a man and/or confuse love with abuse should not be ridiculed. They have been flooded with these types of messages since they were young. We all have been and even though I have always been a feminist and I constantly critique societal gender norms, there are still mainstream gender messages I buy into and follow. It’s incredibly hard to entirely break free of these messages. And the more you’re exposed to these messages with limited exposure to other ideas, the more likely you are to buy into them and (possibly) be more vulnerable to Prince Charming an abuser. And to ridicule someone for that is not okay.

So instead of chiding individual girls and women, we look to society and we look to patriarchy and we infiltrate the mainstream culture with alternative messages. Like the one below, which I also found on Pinterest. Until these messages become the norm and until warning signs of abuse are no longer considered charming or gentlemanly.

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Source: Pinterest

 

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