I think about men all the time. About how they, individually (Donald Trump) and as a group, are oppressing me. And about how they, individually (Timothée Chalamet) and as a group, are very hot. And also: how spending so much time thinking about how they, as a group, are hot … is probably oppressing me. Unsure what else to do about it, I’ve written this book.
How to Date Men When You Hate Men is a comedy philosophy book about what dating and loving are like now, in an era that we thought was the end of patriarchy (but we now know is at least five hundred years away from that) and at the beginning of an age where robots do all our dating for us. Honestly: it often sucks, and it’s hard to know if it’s because of my personality, the guy’s personality, or thousands of years of inequality stemming from gender imbalances created by plow farming. This book is loosely structured to mirror the arc of a relationship, from crushes to flirting, dating and encountering problems, getting serious, breaking up, being single, and … making art about it all! Ah, yes: the human life span.
“DO YOU REALLY HATE ALL MEN???” ask you, Bill Maher. I don’t! Some of my closest friends are men! I have, and love, many male family members: all of my siblings are boys, and there are seemingly thousands of them (there are five). And of course, there are men who I have kissed and cared about or who I am dying to kiss and care about. Almost universally, I still feel fondly toward any guy I’ve ever been romantically interested in or involved with. These men are funny and interesting. Some are really kind! Many are hot! Quite a few still to this day very generously fave my social media content. To paraphrase the suffragettes in Mary Poppins: though I adore men as individuals, I believe that as a group they’re systemically oppressing women.
We’re at a point where it’s clear that patriarchy exists and that gender roles—the concept of gender, even—is profoundly broken. I won’t sit here and PROVE patriarchy to you, like my high school crush once asked me to (specifically telling me to cite more statistics and be less emotional—but more on that later!). Honestly, it’s not the responsibility of the oppressed person to constantly explain the details of their oppression to their oppressor, and it’s not like oppressors don’t have the same Google everyone else does. Also, I think that if you picked up a book with a title about hating men, you’re already pretty hip to the ubiquity of sexism and toxic masculinity. Young men are taking guns to school and shooting their classmates. An extremely high percentage of any men you’ve ever heard of have recently been revealed to lie somewhere on the spectrum of creepy to sexual criminal. Our president is constantly talking about the size of his penis! I feel certain it is only a matter of time before he has the surgeon general release a glowing report on it! Men: they need to get their shit together!
Let me take a moment to specify who exactly I am talking about when I say “men.” I am talking in most cases about straight, cis, able-bodied white men. I’m talking about men who have all the privilege in the world and who don’t even realize it because this is their water, to quote a classic example of a straight, cis, white man (who I love! If you’d asked me who my favorite author was at any point between 2011 and 2015, I would have said David Foster Wallace and then tried to figure out if you had read Infinite Jest without straight-up asking if you had read Infinite Jest). There are so many different systems of privilege—race, gender identity, sexuality, class, education, body shape, and on and on—that all interact to affect how much power a person has and how oppressed other people are by that power. The practice of considering these various identities in context with one another is called intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. If I wrote out “straight, cis, able-bodied, upper-class, college-educated, conventionally attractive white men” every time I meant “straight, cis, able-bodied, upper-class, college-educated, conventionally attractive white men,” my book would be 1,100 pages long. It’s not, because unlike straight, cis, able-bodied, upper-class, college-educated, conventionally attractive white men, I know how to edit a book.
But I should also say this: I’m a white, straight, cis, able-bodied, college-educated woman. I, too, have a lot of privilege! This doesn’t mean that I’m immune to stuff like male privilege and gender discrimination and hot boys manipulating me over text with an almost psychology-experiment level of efficacy. It means that there are types of dating-adjacent discrimination I have never experienced, and that what I have experienced has probably not been as bad as it would have been if my privilege were less. In this book, I write about how women are reduced to their worth as sexual bodies—this has always been worse for black women and women of color. I write about not knowing if I want to get married—but I’ve never had to live in a country that told me I couldn’t marry because of my sexual orientation. Even just having the free time to go out with dudes and spend money on food and drinks and tickets to see Antoni from Queer Eye host a comedy show—it’s a privilege. This is all to say that straight white men are not the only ones who need to do work! Fifty-three percent of white women voted for Trump; we really need to have a group meeting and reevaluate our commitment to not being villains to everyone. As people who do face discrimination but also have a lot of privilege, we have a responsibility to use our privilege to … dismantle our privilege.
This book is about my personal experiences as a horned-up perv but also about the “patriarchy” part of “white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” a phrase I say so often in conversation that I hope at least one of my friends has made it my personal text tone. It’s a book about the experience of loving while living through this oil-slick puddle of an era, specifically being a woman attracted to men who have all this structural power over you and have been told for millennia that it’s cool to treat women in a very degrading way, consciously or subconsciously. It’s not that there are “good men” versus “bad men” (though there are some obvious monsters): all men have received this coding. They aren’t born evil, they’re born into an evil system! It just didn’t sound as catchy to name the book How to Date Men When They Are Born into and Brainwashed by an Evil System That Mightily Oppresses Women.
But the pitfalls of dating in the patriarchy go beyond the obvious, like sexual assault. How do you date men when they don’t want to date anyone more successful than they are? How do you express excitement about love when men call that being “boy crazy”? Why get married when marriage benefits men in almost every way but makes women more likely to die a violent death? That’s absolutely true, and knowing that, I find it makes so little sense to get married, and yet I still bought a fake engagement ring at CVS for nine dollars this weekend. There’s a lot to sort through!
Meanwhile, men are finally learning that it’s actually not cool to act like giant, predatory chodes to every female-presenting human they encounter. Listen, I don’t feel sympathy for men who ruin women’s lives because they decide they have a right to the body, time, or labor of any woman they want. But I can understand why the average man might feel unsteady and confused, seeing as all media and authority figures have told them their whole lives that it was fine for them to behave in a certain way, a way that doesn’t really take female agency or interiority or personhood into consideration. Men read a lot of J. D. Salinger and grew up on Annie Hall, I get it! Please, men, have a seat in my cacti-and-throw-pillow-strewn salon and take a read on how it feels to love from the other side of things. Use it as a template for how to love women and how to flirt and be sexual in a way that won’t ruin women’s lives, or—and this is such a recent possibility—your life! Learn how the algorithm we’ve been coded into works, and help us change it.
The current, very overdue acknowledgment of widespread sexual harassment, paired with an increase in the number of women who are able to support themselves, paired with a million other things, means we’re experiencing large-scale social change in how we date, how we structure our lives, how genders interact, and in what “gender” even means, if it in fact exists at all!! It’s easy to feel confused about how dating is supposed to go and/or worthless because you feel like you’re not living up to the standard. But I’ve begun to believe we’re just blindly ripping our way through giant jungle cobwebs on our way to a new world order, and the fact that I am twenty-seven and not married or significantly partnered says more about our times than it does about me. I also feel like a fraud in using a lot of terms that used to be tied to more easily defined experiences, like “date” or “breakup.” I know that most of the time I’m not using those terms in a way that would make sense to previous generations. But the fact remains that I am having experiences, and I need to describe them! And maybe they don’t really get what I’m actually talking about when I say “date,” but it’s a lot closer than if I just started making up my own terms and telling people that some cute guy and I went on a blorg.
My hope for dating is higher than being able to kiss a man without both of us spontaneously combusting due to the problematicness of it all. I aim to experience romance joyfully—free not just from the issues that stem from patriarchy but from the anxiety of being a person at all. Is that possible? And what would that joyful relationship look like?
In addition to being a woman who loves men specifically, I’m also just a human person who loves human people. Not every single one of my thoughts/tweets/breaths/farts is, like, Mediated Through My Gender Identity. This book is not just about straight female romantic love; it’s also about romantic love in general. In fact, it was originally inspired by a book I love (and that you should, too: Lorde tweeted about it): A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes, a male human person who loved other male human people. I bought the book in the summer of 2015, in an Amazon order that also included a giant bottle of children’s mouthwash, because fellas: I was ready to kiss. I spent most of my time that summer with a guy who I was totally in love with, though it would be about four months before I ruined everything by realizing that I was in love with that guy. In A Lover’s Discourse Barthes takes various words associated with being a lover—“engulfment,” “waiting,” “why?”—and writes in fragments about his own thoughts and about literature, philosophy, whatever else that relates. I felt extremely indicted by some sections: “Even as he obsessively asks himself why he is not loved, the amorous subject lives in the belief that the loved object does love him but does not tell him so.” Save yourself the trouble of reading any of my previous work; that quote sums it up! But I also finished the book wanting more. Barthes didn’t cover the specifics of a lot of stuff that I’m interested in, like trying to kiss a gender that is actively oppressing you, or, like: texting is hard. Additionally, it DID very extensively cover The Sorrows of Young Werther, which I do not care about and never will!
So here’s the book I wished I had read, about not just dating but love in general: A Lover’s Discourse but considering patriarchy and technology and how changing gender roles and economies and urbanization have morphed how two humans decide to love each other and structure that love, and also with jokes. Like A Lover’s Discourse, the bulk of this book consists of words and phrases—“being chill,” “professionally insecure woke boys,” “subtweets”—with a few pages of thoughts and definitions on each, from my own life and from TV and literature and from possible futures I have imagined with Timothée Chalamet. Interspersed are comedy pieces that build to no particular point but that I included for fun and because the world needs to know that Tom Hanks is the villain of You’ve Got Mail.
Is this book a “how to” book? No. Honestly, I am bad at dating and all men hate me as much as I hate them (they hate me for reasons that are less structural), so I have no advice to give. Like, truly: I didn’t date at all in high school or college. I’ve never had an official boyfriend, which used to make me very concerned that something was seriously wrong with me, but now I’m like, sure, whatever, it’s likely that something is seriously wrong with me, but I’m too iron-deficient to care. Also, I love myself anyways, and maybe this is just some generational shift, like how millennials don’t buy houses because we’re too busy buying avocado toast and also because the economy is wrecked. I do see dudes casually and sometimes for a long period of time, but I’m bad at that, too. I’ve gotten dumped on a crowded subway, recently. I regularly give NO indication of my attraction to men until it becomes very obvious that they’re not into me, at which time I make a grand declaration of Feelings in such a way that it becomes a Big Deal.
Plus, dating advice is boring and I don’t care about it. And advice books seem to be weirdly gendered—women are made to give solutions to discrete, manageable situations, whereas men get to write philosophical grand thoughts that are no immediate help to anyone. Like, Plato’s Symposium contains a story about soul mates: human beings were originally four-legged, four-armed, two-faced beings who had immense strength and were always cartwheeling around, perfectly content. To prevent these powerful humans from taking over, the gods split each human into two, who then wandered the earth looking for their soul mates. That is … the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
I want to claim the male privilege of being no help at all. Honestly, by default, I will probably be more helpful than Plato. Here’s a book made up of so many opinions all clumped together that they just might have congealed into some sort of worldview. So consider this a philosophy book, and please add me to your college syllabi.
I wrote this book hoping that I would work through all my feelings and get all my thoughts in a straight line and never have to write or think about dating again. I wanted to write this one book about love and then be done with it, so when future people ask me how I feel about men or dating I could just say, “Read the book!” I did worry that choosing to write about love was in a way participating in my own oppression, writing about a frivolous topic instead of something meaningful, like … nuclear proliferation? I was like: Can’t women write about anything other than dating and their anxiety disorders? And then I was like [writes book about dating].
But I also think women are raised to think about love all the time! I grew up watching Nora Ephron’s better rom-coms and reading Jane Austen’s better marriage-plot novels, stories where the plot is driven by love, everyone is funny, and the men always kind of suck, even when they’re played by Colin Firth in the movie version. (Although I didn’t realize the men kind of sucked for, like, a solid ten years; realizing the men suck is a significant milestone in a modern feminist awakening.) Also conditioning me to think constantly about love: Women’s magazines. TV and films (I watch a lot: my literal day job is as a celebrity researcher on a late-night talk show). Every person I know constantly asking me if there are any special men in my life. (ALL men are special, you liberal cucks!)
So honestly, I’ve thought about love a lot because YOU MADE ME THIS WAY. And my thoughts on it: are good. I’ve come to see talking about love as similar to sharing everyone’s salaries, or to holding consciousness-raising sessions. We need to talk about our experiences so that we know what’s normal and so that we can identify patterns of oppression and figure out ways to overturn them. And also, I never understand ANY text ANY man sends me and I NEED the collective brainpower of Earth’s women to figure out how to respond.
Copyright © 2018 by Blythe Roberson