Romantic Love: A Patriarchal Ploy
February 14. It’s that time of year again. I remember it from days gone by. Wondering if I had far-off, unknown admirers who’d suddenly find bravery within and send me a card. Feeling the wistful disappointment when looking at an empty mat after the post had been. As a child, I made my mum a card and gave it to her and she said: “Someone loves me”. During some years, there were cute cards from my cats (yes it was my mum in return). For many years, there was a build up of suspense that, maybe, this year would be the year when a boy would notice I exist. Romantically. I was, after all, continuously sexually objectified in the street and that’s almost the same thing, isn’t it? It was easy-peasy after I started dating women. I got valentines cards without fail and flowers and presents at any time because most women have romance in their bones. Their very conditioning.
Ok stop right there. Let’s look at this. If there’s something women are encouraged to easily do but men aren’t then we can almost guarantee it’s something which works against women, not for them.
In many cultures, including where I live in the UK, “romantic love” is a cornerstone of compulsory heterosexuality. From as soon as we can understand words, we’re given messages about marriage, motherhood and romance. Jokes are made about the 3 year old boy down the road marrying us one day. We’re asked repeatedly who we want to marry when we grow up. It’s instilled in us, from birth, that our primary aim in life should be finding a male “soul-mate” who we can look after and live happily ever after with. If we don’t get that reinforcement often enough at home, then children’s fairy books make damned sure there’s back-up when required. Gender socialization starts from birth and we are read, as soon as possible, books which tell us about our place in the world as servers of men.
On the surface, perhaps, it all might seem innocent enough, if you’re prepared to accept this kind of propaganda at face-value. It’s only when we look deeper, from a radical feminist lens, we see the sinister implications of how “romantic love” works.
Centuries ago, women were controlled through economics; forced to be financially dependent on the patriarch. The only way they could survive was to be sold to the next patriarch (middle/upper class women) or to find a patriarch who had a chance of earning an income (poor/working class women). This form of control continues to exist but now needs strong back-up given that (some) women can earn a living wage based on their own training, education and skills.
That back-up is romantic myths. The idea that there is a man out there for all of us, who will love us, protect us, and nurture us. Forever. We have feedback that this must be true through the magazines we read, the books we buy and the films we see. Without fail, happy, successful heterosexual partnerships are mirrored back to us. On the rare occasions this is not the case, it is made clear these are exceptions in life, not the norm.
Who can blame women, then, when we naively seek “romantic love” which we think of as mutually nurturing, caring, emotionally equal relationships? Online dating sites are full of promise for the female romantic. Women seek connections and men seek casual fucks with sexually objectified women who, they believe, will be just like the tortured women in the porn they consume.
Our deeply conditioned belief in “romantic love” keeps us in abusive relationships. We look for deeper meanings, we say that “he loves me really” when he fails to live up to any kind of basic human standard, or “I can change him”. A belief in “romantic love” overrides experiences of beatings, rapes and psychological torture. We will find it, no matter what. We must. All the messages we have received from birth tells us it is there – what is wrong with us that we can’t find it? We are taught we are incomplete human beings without the love of a man. We must suffer in the hope that one day we might be given it. For real.
It is a Stockholm technique to keep females, as a class, trapped inside compulsory heterosexuality. Compulsory heterosexuality is designed to benefit men, as a class, at the expense of women, as a class. Imprisoning women or putting us in cages, will not work because we need to be free to carry out errands. They invented “romantic love”, instead, as a psychological cage with the aim of keeping us in our places until death.
As poverty bites hard in 2013, and as the welfare state shrinks, more and more women will be forced back into the home and into economic and financial dependency on men. Logic wouldn’t keep a slave as an unpaid drudge, meeting the financial, emotional, sexual and practical demands of men within the confines of compulsory heterosexuality. “Romantic love”, however, will fare so much better than a ball and chain.