Pop Dating Advice Has Almost Ruined Romance -- Here's How to Take it Back
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In her new book “Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life,” Feministing.com Executive Editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay takes everything you may have read in “Cosmo” or seen on “The Bachelor” and tosses it out the window, but not without first breaking it down with candor and a sense of humor. So much more than a dating book, this is a how-to manual for today’s smart, progressive, self-aware woman, as in: how to undo the damage done by traditional dating advice, challenge gender expectations and deepen our understanding of radical love.
Responding to the barrage of conflicting messages about what women should want from relationships and how they should go about getting it, “Outdated” points a finger at obsolete notions about men and women’s innate differences, debunks popular dating myths, and reveals how feminism is not killing romance; rather, with awareness and persistence, it can only help our relationships.
Colorlines.com talked with her about finding her voice, the shift in women’s traditional roles, and what straight people can learn from the queer community when it comes to dating expectations.
The genre of self-help dating books and magazine columns is very popular in mainstream media. Why did you, as a feminist of color, decide this was an important discussion to have?
And also people that have experienced trauma, it’s a really personal thing, it’s a much more private experience than coming out and talking to a friend about something, or seeking help which is often expensive. So I just felt like there was this silent ticking bomb of bad information that was reaching really vulnerable populations.
Could you talk a little bit about your process in deciding to write this book, and actually writing it. What challenges did you come across?
Writing a book is really hard. But something that I guess I haven’t really spoken about is that as a woman of color first generation immigrant, a South Asian immigrant, I grew up in a predominantly middle class to working class white suburban town, and I wasn’t a particularly good student. That isn’t really what’s understood as the Asian American or South Asian American experience. So I had really internalized this belief that I was not intelligent, because my peers within my ethnic community were incredibly successful academically and I didn’t have that same kind of success.
I took a really derivative path to finding my voice. Many years of Women’s Studies education and having really amazing mentors over the years helped me cultivate my voice, but the rubber kind of hit the road in the book writing process. I had to face my demons that I had really internalized this belief that I wasn’t intelligent and that I didn’t have something smart to say. Overcoming that was probably the biggest obstacle in writing a book or even being a woman of color public intellectual, of saying, “What I have to say has legitimacy” despite the fact that I am internalizing the [idea] that I am not legitimate.
We’ve recently looked at how there’s a whole industry devoted to telling women, especially women of color, that they’re doing something wrong. This idea of women being blamed is also something that comes up in your book. How does your book flip that idea on its head?
Part of the [reason] that women are blamed for declining relationships is because up until this moment in history, or even in the last thirty years, it was just assumed that men could do whatever they wanted and women had to compensate for that and they were the people that held family together. There was this inordinate amount of pressure on women to remedy any marital problems, to make sure there’s food on the dinner table so that the family is communicating in the evening, to make sure of any kind of religious education or any kind of cultural education. All of that has directly tied into it the identity of being a woman in the family.