Man Ignores Woman in Relationship

I listen to WDJX on the way to work. They have a program called “Dear Jackson.” Listeners call in and ask advice. Other listeners call in and weigh in, with “Jackson” commenting here and there. This week, a 28 year old man called in, asking what he should do because his 26 year old girlfriend’s father said refused to give him “permission” to ask his daughter’s hand in marriage. Twice.

I’m dumbfounded. What should this grown man, who wants to ask his 26 year old girlfriend to marry him, do?

ASK HIS GIRLFRIEND.

This tradition, left over from the days when fathers DID decide who their daughters marry, is patronizing, conscending, and disgusting. It completely ignores the women in the equation. Who CARES what her father thinks? She’s a grown woman. She makes her own decisions.

I’m completely dumbfounded that this man is at a loss for what to do. Certainly he thought he was being respectful–but not to his girlfriend.

My gut tells me that this girlfriend shouldn’t marry this guy even if he decides to actually ask the person he wants to marry. If he’s going to ignore her in relationship issues now, why would he consider her in the future?

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Growing up in church

Growing up as an old child and a young teenager, I constantly got crap from members of my former church for my clothing.

I was taught to “come as you are” and that “Jesus didn’t care what you looked like or what you wore” but in reality, I was being taught the opposite. Every Sunday, I’d choose my outfit, sometimes dressy, sometimes not. Sometimes I chose the outfit because I really liked it, and sometimes because of the weather. Sometimes, I chose my outfit based on my activities for the day. Every so often, someone would pull me aside to tell me how “inappropriate” my clothing was.

Sleeveless dresses and tank tops are not appropriate for church, I was chided. I was angry. I was being made to feel bad for something that wasn’t wrong. I was being made to feel like an outcast, a dirty sinner, for something that wasn’t a sin. I could feel the burn of others’ stares. I could almost hear their judgments, too. Jesus doesn’t care, I screamed inwardly. It was hot! In the beginning, we were too young for “temptation” to be a concern, but they policed me anyway. note: None of the girls whose parents also attended church were policed for their clothing, only girls who came with relatives, or friends. The fun of the day, the excitement of learning something new at church, of spending time with my friends, was gone.

Shorts were even worse. I was active; I hated wearing a lot of clothes in 90+ degree, 80%+ humidity weather. I loved being outside and running around with my friends. But if my short’s legs weren’t four inches from the inseam? I was pulled aside, told my dress was “inappropriate” and that I should be more mindful of modesty next time. Again, I felt humiliated. The fun and joy of being at church with people I loved was gone. I felt like an outcast. The dirty sinner to be avoided.

Then, I and my peers hit puberty.

Gender policing began in earnest. We’d all been raised together, since ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and diapers. We were brothers and sisters, in closeness, and in Christ. And yet, suddenly, the adults in the church were dividing us. Whole areas of the church were suddenly off-limits to us–no more hanging out in the youth room, with the brightly painted walls (that we painted ourselves!) and the cool couches. No two of us of opposite genders could be alone, anywhere, at any time. We were met with disapproving stares if a boy and a girl sat too closely together in the worship service, or at dinner. Passing notes during the sermon was extremely suspect–notes were snatched and hissed lectures were handed out.

We fought back for some things: the youth room soon became an approved area again. When we started falling asleep during the sermon (unintentionally), we were grudgingly allowed our notes. But the ease of youthful interaction was forever lost to us.

We started to police ourselves. I was called a prostitute for wearing a knee-length skirt and-boots. We started whispering amongst ourselves if so and so were spending just a little too much time off alone together.

Would we have started to explore the realm of relationships and sexuality on our own amongst each other? Sure. Would it have started so early? Probably not. Gender-sex-sexuality policing 8-12 year olds hurt my relationships with my church friends. It divided us, first by gender, and then individually, until all of us felt judged and ashamed, and so acutely aware of our every move, that we felt pressured to superficialize our friendships with our opposite-sex friends.

I couldn’t just wear that pair of shorts with the red stitching and the buttoned pockets because I like red and I like stuff not falling out of my pockets. I had to hold my arms at my sides to see if the fabric passed my fingertips–the measure of modesty. If so, hurray, another awkward day at church where at least I wouldn’t get yelled at for my clothes. If not, I had to steel myself for a possible confrontation, which usually consisted of my responding that they could speak to my mother if they didn’t like it. (she was always on my side, thank goodness!)

I couldn’t just hug my male friends. The Christian side-hug was the only hug acceptable, though this was unspoken. If you simply hugged a male friend, the whispers about “being boyfriend and girlfriend” and hand-holding and kissing started, just as often by elders as it was by us.

Why did the adults start this gender policing so early? Why was it so vicious? Perhaps I have an answer: Jesus didn’t care, but Paul did.

Clothing and relationships weren’t issues before–we simply existed. We played together, learned about Christ together, and grew together. Humans are sexual creatures, but children are not.  The youth group at my church could have been a great support system for each of us growing up. We didn’t see one another as dating/sex prospects until after the adult Christians made us so.In doing so, they divided and conquered us, until we were bickering and judging one another, and church evolved for us not an escape from the world, but simply another scene of it. It drove us away, from our friendships, and the church, and even Christianity altogether.

We came as we were, and they didn’t like us. It wore us down until we were changed. And then we left, as we are.

“They” Don’t Need Marriage, You Say?

So, this is for all you out there who think that our homosexual brothers and sisters don’t need marriage. This is what happens when you try to downgrade people into second-class citizens: even if they “do everything right” they still will be treated like second-class citizens. When you elevate marriage above all, and deny it to people because of arbitrary characteristics, those denied will not be given that social validation, and decades-long  relationships are disregarded, and lovers are called “roommates.”

Women Are Boys’ Toys

This is probably going to be the first part of an ongoing series, because there are so many ways that women are used, spoken about, and advertised as toys that one post is not going to suffice. Today I want write about a very specific instance in which women are treated as toys by men.

Intimate relationships are a complicated thing to navigate. We have an entire fictional genre devoted to it, relationship self-help books have a huge market, movie producers make millions using the same basic storyline in dozens of different films, and we spend our entire lives trying to figure intimate relationships out, and how to get in the Perfect Relationship™.

Being human, we want the people we care about to be happy. Being involved in an intimate relationship is one of the many meaningful things someone can do, and when someone we care about is not in a relationship, we often find ourselves trying to set them up with someone they might like. And this is fine, provided it is done in a respectful manner, and with the consent of all parties, at every step of the way.

Respect.

Consent.

These two concepts are the very basis of all human relationships. Without both, no relationship, casual or intimate, can be meaningful or healthy.

Often, men will talk about the woman one has had an intimate relationship with, but for some reason is no longer with. Sometimes, a friend will express interest. This is fine. Here is the problem:

When the man gives permission, and they set about manipulating the woman or the circumstances in order to set up The Friend with The Man’s (former) Woman, who Owns Her For All Time, Since He Has Possessed Her Once.

This kind of thing completely ignores the woman, except in the context of Something to be Had. In 2010, it is assumed we’ve come ‘so far’ but in reality, we haven’t made it as far as others would like us to believe. We haven’t come as far as we’re told when a woman’s desires, consent, or personal agency as an individual human being is ignored.

Framing it as a friend’s consideration for the man’s feelings, again, ignores the woman. It’s hard to get men, who have never been treated as objects or property in any meaningful way, to understand this. They object, “But why would consideration for a friend ever be wrong?”

It is wrong because we’re talking about a woman. We’re not talking about the man here, the ex, the friend, the brother.

I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be difficult for an ex to see their former partner with someone close to them. I’ve been there, and done that. However, that’s between the two former partners. Depending, DEPENDING, on the degree of intimacy between the two former partners, it might be inconsiderate for one party to date a close friend, or sibling of their ex. It absolutely does not mean that anyone has to ask anyone permission for anything. Again, depending on the circumstances, it might be considerate for someone to give their ex a heads-up, but certainly not obligated to, though it is somewhat of a social rule.

One thing that I want to emphasize here is that it also completely ignores the feelings of the woman involved, in two ways. The most significant is her feeling about discovering she’s been spoken about in such a way. I’ve recently experienced this, and let me say, it was horrible. It was demeaning, embarrassing; I felt literally like a toy to be tossed around between buddies. I felt disrespected. I WAS disrespected. And that pissed me off. After living as a woman for 21 years, I expected as much from strangers (though I’ll say it doesn’t make it any less troublesome or disrespectful), but I expected more from people I cared about. I expected more from my former partner. I expected more from a friend of mine. They should, as people that are as close to me as these two men are, respect me more than their words implied. I don’t deserve to be treated like that. No woman deserves to be treated like that.

The second way in which a woman’s feelings are ignored in this situation is much less complicated: What if the woman has no interest in ‘the friend’? Asking permission of a former partner for a woman, ignores who she may or may not be interested in. Persisting, doing it anyway, sends a message that, hey, they don’t care what the woman wants. Friend wants her, Ex says “you can have her” and that’s that. The decision is made, no female input necessary. Or allowed. It sounds eerily familiar. Like, oh, I don’t know, arranged marriages? With “women’s liberation” being part of the justification for the continued war in Afghanistan, the hypocrisy of this practice astounds me. We’ll condemn forced/arranged marriages all the day long, but we socially ignore women’s autonomy every day. Just because it isn’t enshrined in law doesn’t mean everything is all better.

Here’s where women’s feelings, concerns, and anger are again ignored: we’re told we’re overreacting. To those who throw the ‘O’ word at women, I would say, stop, think carefully, put these same actions in a different context, and see if you don’t see any problem with it still.

To be or not to be: A Princess or an Equal?

While scarfing down some breakfast in between classes this morning, I read this post at Gender Across Borders. For the link-phobes, it talks about the issue of feminist relationships, and the difficulties navigating an equal relationship. In the comments I noticed a common theme popping up, that tends to pop up in these sorts of conversations. If certain commenters are to be believed, ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement:

Ladies, you can either be a princess, or you can have a completely equal relationship with your partner.

Gentlemen: you can either treat your significant other to dinner, hold doors open for them, or, treat them like your dudebro friends.

Got that?

Because feminism, apparently, has just ruined dating rituals and “chivalry.”

It’s a zero-sum game-either guys can do nice things for the women they are dating, or they can treat them as full equal beings in an equal relationship.

Notice how this idea completely leaves out LGBTQI partnerships. Unless you say that only one person in a relationship can be a “princess.” But that leaves out the assumptions about gender roles and expected gendered behavior in these relationships.

Also take notice of how this idea does not address women’s sweet-nothings for their partner. It assumes that women either “do” nothing for their partners (except put out, but that doesn’t count, of course!), or, it assumes that in an equal relationship, women continue to “do” the things they do (are expected to do? like to do?) while men no longer need to “do” anything.

**note: What I mean by the things men and women “do” in relationship is just those little things that people do for the person that care about. Not necessarily purchase-related things, note that door-holding is one of the Big Examples are used in this conversation. Money isn’t, or rather, shouldn’t be important in a relationship. But showing your affection and appreciation for your partner does help to make a healthy, solid relationship, and is what I’m referring to here.

I feel like I’m pointing out the obvious, but you do not have to choose between having an ‘equal’ relationship or showing affection/sweet nothings/showing common courtesy for your partner. This is not a zero sum game.

What does an equal partnership mean, if one or both parties refuse to do things for one another?

Along the course of this “debate” the meaning of equal seems to have been lost, or rather, co-opted by those that do not wish to put forth effort in a relationship, yet reap the benefits. If the actual definition of an ‘equal relationship’ were used, we would not be having this conversation. In an equal relationship, you do not keep a tally of who does what for whom. In an equal relationship, you do not “owe” your partner for them having done something nice for you. An equal relationship does not mean that you trade action for action, gift for gift, or favor for favor. In an equal relationships, gifts and favors are given freely, not with strings.

Relationships featuring gifts with strings is an unequal relationship–the old fashioned dressed up and garnished with a pretty title: “He Treats You Like a Princess.”