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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A woman needs a man…

Published: March 6, 2009
Section: Opinions

As was bound to happen, Taylor Swift and I have had a falling out. Do not get me wrong, the small country portion of my soul still enjoys her music, but the rest of me is starting to have a huge problem with her attitude, most specifically how she relates to men. Taylor likes to pine for men who are unavailable or uninterested (Teardrops on my Guitar), she likes chaotic or obsessive relationships (The Way I Loved You), and it takes every ounce of courage for her not to get back together with a guy who has cheated on and hurt her (White Horse). I could cite more, but I am trying not to sound crazy. Seeing these Facebook bumper stickers that say things like “Taylor Swift sings songs about my life,” presumably for tweens, gets me really worried (until she writes “Strangely Oedipal Redneck Pedophile Stoner,” I do not feel that they really apply to my life). This unhealthy, yet far too common, view of male/female relationships is being passed to the next generation. Of course the same thing happened with “Sex and the City” when we were young and had our minds melded by Carrie Bradshaw and her love of old men with health problems, failed marriages, and commitment issues. I think it is time that this relationship pathology is stopped.

To move onto less frivolous things, think about Rihanna and Chris Brown. Everything is going great, they perform together, get matching tattoos (um, the first sign of an unhealthy relationship BTW) and then BAM (sorry), he is arrested for physically assaulting her. She went to the hospital and he was investigated for attempted murder. Without reading Perez Hilton, can you tell me what happens next? They are back together, with all of their male friends defending that decision.

So, flanking the Women’s Liberation Movement, the “Vagina Monologues,” the pill, equal work for equal pay, and the Rabbit, is this sort of omnipresent conception of women’s masochism. I do not mean masochism as it is usually used, in terms of the sexual paraphernalia, which is not a problem as long as it is consensual (the safe word is “narwhal”). Here, I am using the term as it was used in the DSM-III, but not in the DSM-IV, the DSM-IV-TR and probably not in the DSM-V in 2012, to classify the misguided concept of “Self-Defeating Personality Disorder” (SDPD).

SDPD was the attempt of male psychiatrists to understand women without having to do any work or even attempt to fix their problems. They said that certain women choose to suffer, in menial jobs, tragic abusive relationships, or just generally unfulfilling lives, simply because they like to suffer and unconsciously make choices that allow them to do so. A woman will not divorce her abusive husband, not because her family will likely side with the man, her children will be hurt, and she will most likely be left in a difficult financial position; no, it is because, deep down, she is asking to be hurt. I would really like to know how the men reviewing DSM criteria allowed such rapist-like reasoning into their book. Oh and also, if she does leave him, she will just go find another abusive man because she cannot help her suppressed longings, so what’s the point? I really love listening to “Loveline” with Dr. Drew, but it always angers me when he says such things to women seeking help on how to find a half-decent man; he then usually goes on to suggest therapy which is fine, but you cannot blame failed relationships on one party’s possible display of no-longer-validated symptoms.

You and I both know that such thinking is wrong. Clearly, masochism is a social rather than mental disorder, although it cannot hurt for women who feel that they keep getting hurt to go to therapy. Women are taught from an early age that quiet self-sacrifice is the correct mode of behavior, that being alone for any length of time is the worst possible state of being, and that a woman’s first priority is her man’s happiness (look at Cosmopolitan). Such themes are combined with the overarching Christian concept that self-denial, suffering, and guilt are the roads to purity. Rihanna probably felt that she provoked Chris Brown to hit her (maybe by being pregnant, if the rumors are true) and that taking him back was what any good woman would do.

I am just really sick of seeing this supposed affliction permeate so many facets of culture marketed to women. Even a beacon of feminism like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” plays into this idea (in an extreme manner), with Buffy pining forever for Angel even though he literally loses his soul and tries to kill her after they sleep together, and falling in love with Spike who attempted many times to kill and rape her. So yes, SPDP is no longer an official condition, but it is still an omnipresent myth that women like to suffer and love those who make them suffer.

I guess my overarching message, in time for Vagina Week, is “Do not be Rihanna.” Instead, be more attuned to the stupid message lying hidden in catchy country-pop, and be empowered; buck the societal reinforcement of SDPD (you don’t have to stop being a sexy masochist though, if that’s what you enjoy). I don’t like hearing my friends say that they don’t want to be alone because not having a man makes them feel ugly and I don’t like people feeling smothered by relationships, wondering if they can take care of themselves, deciding to stay together because it is easier than venturing out alone. I am trying hard not to be bitter about all this, but come on, ladies, you have been being really lame lately. Maybe I’ll just go watch some Manswers and feel better about my gender.