How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson
Maybe it has something to do with having just read Audre Lorde, or my trip to Italy standing below towering statues of nude men (David), maybe it is living in Spain where the dominant faith remains a patriarchal system that hides the abuse of children and denies women equality and reproductive freedom, or maybe it was learning in depth about violence against women, human trafficking, and the SHOCKINGLY high rates of men killing their wives and girlfriends in an effort to better teach gender equality to my students. Not sure which is really responsible (all of it), but the patriarchy is getting me down.
With toxic masculinity all around, I have felt an internal conflict in dating within the oppressive white western patriarchy [Sister Outsider language repeated from the last blog], and as soon as I heard of How to Date Men When You Hate Men, I added my name to the audiobook waitlist on my library app, Libby.
Women attracted to men have to selectively ignore the fact that their partner benefits from a culture that oppresses women and that he probably actively participates in that culture in many ways.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
As a white, straight, cis, college educated woman, I also benefit from aspects of this culture. Considering the words of Lorde, white western patriarchy must be challenged, and it is possible to do so without further oppressing minority women by acknowledging that there are differences in our experiences.
Reading How to Date Men When You Hate Men at 23
I have watched many of my close friends who I love and celebrate define their relationships with diamond rings this year. This brings me joy but also makes me think about how at 23, our pathways in life are already taking upon very different forms.
Coming from Nebraska, surrounded by a lot of strict Catholic and nondenominational Christian friends, the idea that I will spend my twenties dating men without the intention of marrying them, delay marriage and children to obtain a legal degree and awesome job, and continue to support contraceptives and abortions so that women have power to choose when, where, why, how, and if etc. they want to be mothers, creates a moral divide between myself and some of these friends.
As lifestyles change and some friendships feel more distanced, I feel upset watching these relationships weaken. I combat this by reaching out to my female friends constantly via texts, emails, instagram direct messages, FaceTimes etc.
I’m not going to pout about this growing divide, because women died for my right to education, my body, and career, but instead attempt to close it through my own education and female friendships. For suffragettes, freedom fighters, and champions who came before, I am building myself a life based upon fulfillment outside of motherhood and marriage. But that does not mean I cannot date, love, become a mother, and take it all the way to the courthouse with a romantic partner, so that is why I was so interested to read How to Date Men When You Hate Men.
As Lady Gaga said, some women choose to follow men and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you are wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.Blythe Roberson (but really Lady Gaga), How to Date Men When You Hate Men
So now, let’s dig into the book: How to Date Men When You Hate Men. Blythe Roberson discusses the 21st century aspects of dating. Like many of my book reviews, I will share some of my favorite quotes from How to Date Men When You Hate Men, suggest this book to a certain demographic (sorry mom, grandma, and all of my grandmother’s friends who regularly read my blog, this one might not be for you), and give some of my own thoughts on this book and dating in the 21st century.
Final note: I listened to the audiobook of How to Date Men When You Hate Men, so my quotes are probably ALL mis-punctuated.
Silly Girl Stuff
I’m glad Roberson took the time to write about frivolous women falling in love, because I, a frivolous woman, wanted to hear it. Plus, I felt a sigh of relief when she said that she too watches the Bachelor, more “silly girl stuff.”
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].Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Of course it is the same white western patriarchy telling women to focus our attention on love and marriage that shames women for being overly focused on the details of it all. I am a product of my environment, and though I hope to actively participate in its deconstruction, love makes the world go round and it is NOT frivolous or silly. Going back to Lorde, “I feel, therefore I can be free.”
Men Who Oppress Women
There are certain types of men who you expect to oppress you. These include republicans, venture capitalists, and men from South Carolina whose friend Gunner had a horrible time at fire festival. If you chose to date these men and find that they make weird comments to you about your make up or they dismiss the new Harry Styles album just because H. Styles started out in a boy band, or they like voted for Trump. Well it isn’t like there wasn’t a hot girl at the beginning of this race, waving a big red flag. Another red flag? Guys who love hot girls at the beginning of races, waving a big flag.
I am very vigilant about excluding these type of men from my life. One strategy for doing this is rolling my eyes. Men hate this very much, and are constantly telling me to stop. It’s like that Margaret Atwood quote that men are afraid women will laugh at them, and women are afraid men will kill them. Men hate when I roll my eyes at them, and I hate when they take away my structural power and my reproductive agency.
And yet, even the “good men,” who I hang out with, men who have never told me that Bernie would have won if he had been the Democratic candidate, tell me all the time, that they can never be with women who are more professionally successful than they are.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Roberson lives in NYC, and as a young woman from Nebraska, it is a little bit trickier to avoid men who fall into these categories, although I sure do try. As I grow older, I have more agency to choose my surroundings and avoid men who do not support women, even the ones who are highly educated, vote for democrats, and support women yet do not take substantial action to challenge the system that benefits themselves.
Men, AKA patriarchal society designed to benefit men, have tricked me into wasting a lot of time thinking about them, and I can never get that time back. But guess what men? Now I’m thinking about how to overthrow you.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
YAS, Blythe Roberson. I might participate in the world of dating, flirting, love etc., but I’m still actively trying to overthrow the system.
21st Century Dating
I’ve only dated in the 21st century due to being 3-years-old when the new millennia began. Running in a pack of preteen girls to the hotel computers to sign onto AIM messenger at an out of town dance competition, “dating” fueled by 7th graders texting on their flip phones into the wee hours of the morning, and dating apps that I download and delete 2 days later because I cannot meet a stranger with no mutual friends without fear of being murdered.
We’re on the cusp of so many societal shifts, the way the economy works, the kinds of jobs people have, the age at which people settle down, the kinds of things women are allowed to do. Everything is changing extremely rapidly. Hell, I look at photos of Madewell clothes from a few years ago and cannot believe I ever wanted to pay $130 to dress like a sepia toned farmhand. The way in which we are dating and loving is changing along with and because of all those other things.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
In my longest relationship, I debated with my partner how to define the relationship (DTR) and if/when to make it Facebook official. We were luckily safe from the world of dating apps because we met in class, but instagram, Facebook, Spotify vs. Apple music sharing, and other digital platforms affected how we interacted and how I perceived the seriousness of our commitment.
Strangers a Week Ago, Now You’re in Love?
I personally believe it takes about 3-6 months to even know a person well enough to know if you want to seriously date them. Every relationship is different: when seeing each other/hanging out turns to dating, then to words like boyfriend and girlfriend, and since I cannot even imagine putting a ring on my finger at 23, I will just stop there.
It should be illegal to use the word dating if you’ve been kissing someone for less than 6 months.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Nebraska, along with the rest of the midwest and the South, why are you (myself included) like this?? I definitely think it is okay to use the word dating once you are going on dates with someone regularly, but I am still hesitant to use this word when there isn’t an exclusive commitment. Now getting engaged in 6 months? I’ll agree that’s extremely quick and WILD to me.
Society is on the edge of something new and radical in the way that relationships are organized. But it feels impossible to see how it’s going to resolve itself. Whats a normal way to act in relationships? and How to be happy at all? It’s becoming more and more clear we don’t have to plan our lives as a road towards marriage, but then what are we doing?
All [narrative] arcs we thought we were following have been totally overthrown. We have to really tune ourselves in to our desires, which are of course covered by layers of capitalist grime from narratives and advertising. Anything goes homies. So my new plan is: marry the first rich person who asks me, convince a bunch of my friends to move to New Mexico, and die.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
So yea, “anything goes homies.” Do what you want, be free, marry who you love as fast or slow as you want to, but first take a moment to stop and think about how marriage is an institution created for men to take ownership over women who were not able to financially support themselves. So moving onto marriage: love is great, but the patriarchy sucks.
Marriage is Bad
Marriage is bad, and I am for sure going to end up married to the first person who asks me.
Say what you want about living in the 21st century… But one nice thing about the present is that we, as a society, have started recognizing that the institution of marriage has problems… And yet, there’s a bit of me that still wants to get married… I also think I can be the one person that can defy the odds and not end up with the man I love oppressing me and causing my early death.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
The above death comment is NOT A JOKE. Please continue reading below:
The benefit imbalance of marriage: Studies show that married men, compared to single men, live longer, accumulate more wealth, do better in their careers, are less likely to suffer from alcoholism addiction or depression, are less likely to die a violent death, and report being happier… All of that is the exact opposite for women. Married women make 7% less money and are more likely to die a violent death because their husbands kill them. [from Gilbert, Committed 2019] …
But when narratives from every form of storytelling, yet invented by man, constantly tell young girls that life is meaningless without love. This completely illogical sacrifice [marriage] seems justified.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Marriage is a flawed institution so why do both Blythe Roberson and myself, highly educated, liberal women, want to engage ourselves in a system designed for our own oppression? There are a lot of reasons:
Another reason I want to get married, which is equally another reason that marriage is bad, is that it provides a huge amount of external validation. External validation is something we are all taught to crave from a very early age, and the search for it makes up the entire personality of our current president. Marriage is a massive hit of external validation. Someone is putting on a nice suit and hiring a DJ to announce publicly that they consider you interesting and [desirable, emma’s PG edit.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Like Roberson, I want this validation that I am organizing my life in a way that society says, “good job, you’ve exceeded the expectations we have set for you.” But more so that that, I believe that love, stability, and partnership is worth supporting this institution created for women’s oppression. Blythe Roberson speaks to this below:
But in my heart, I think I am over-intellectualizing it. There’s a way to experience love joyfully, remember? Its not bad to really really existentially enjoy hanging out with and [loving, emma’s PG edit] someone. Also, and I know this makes me a loser, I want romantic stability.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Love Is Fake
Love is fake. Breakups suck a**, obviously.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Yes this is true [breakups suck], and I can attest from my own lived experience. Roberson doesn’t really believe that love is fake, but is critical about the reality of marriage lasting a lifetime in the 21st century, for very valid reasons.
But even if you pair up with an ideal partner, I think you’ll likely find that the kind of love you feel for each other evolves throughout your life, and maybe you will also find that at some point you’re going to at least experience, if not act on, romantic feelings for other people.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
It really is wild to imagine having a like partner for 50 to 70 years, especially when half the once married population is divorced.
Obviously there exists couples who have been together their entire adult lives. I would guess that those people are either very lucky, very religious, or very very good at conflict resolution. Many of those people were raised at a time when culture and divorce laws were much stricter, and many of those women never had the chance to become financially independent from their partners. Maybe a bunch of those people are very unhappy, maybe some of them are just genetically inclined to be chill and compromising, or maybe some of them made a bet with their homies that they would stay married longer. Who knows?Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
From my Nebraska perspective, all of my friends from university that have married by at least one year out of college, are very religious. I wish them all the happiness in the world and lasting, fulfilling marriages. I wonder how large issues that would cause much of the population to divorce in the 21st century, might be dealt with differently following the expectations of their religion.
According to American Community Survey (ACS) data by Philip Cohen, the divorce rate is falling for millennials. This is due to couples cohabiting couples before marriage and the couples tending to be “older, better off and more highly educated,” which is not true of my Nebraska friends who married before or following graduation and did not live together before marriage. Like I said, I wish happiness to all, but time will tell if these young marriages are able to last til death AND if the partners feel freedom to divorce regardless of religious expectations if they find themselves unhappy with their partner.
But for myself, as a young woman who’s potential future marriage will not be governed by a religious system, I choose to be more pessimistic:
Nothing in life lasts. Fruit rots… Game of Thrones [has ended]… The sun expands and burns up the earth and after that, all the energy in the universe dissolves into entropy and all life, and motion, and heat from the earth expires forever…
Knowing that endings are natural means that you don’t have to feel ashamed when your love ends, and when you find yourself loving multiple people over your lifetime.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Regardless of the institution of marriage being based upon the ownership of women AND the divorce rate being what it is, I choose to pursue love and hope to someday fill a banquet room with blush colored roses.
As a poet once said:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
because you’re young now,
and you’re not going to be hot forever.
You have to pursue love because love is great and fun, and it is even more meaningful in each moment because of the fact that one day someone dies, or you break up…
but no matter how it ends, when it ends, be compassionate with yourself and with each other. Break ups are natural, love is fake.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
My last and longest relationship ended last summer, and recently, my ex and I have reached some form of normalcy and friendship. This section of the book really resonated with me, because it is the part of the dating process that feels the most fresh.
A few of the quotes where Roberson was describing my life:
[My last relationship ended in anticipation of long distance, in what was a fairly mutual decision that our fate together might unfold a lot like this:]
Long distance relationships are only long distance while the partners work towards a future in which they live in the same place. Even if that future is extremely nebulous, since you’re not really making any concrete steps… Dating long distance also seems to involve careful planning to make sure you hit some quota of relationship hours per month…. The point of viewing long distance relationships as liminal, of always trying to resolve the distance, is that the prolonged period apart can cause problems, even when you’re hitting that relationship hours quota…
As my brother told me, if your relationship has any tiny problem, making your relationship long distance will make those problems obvious immediately.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
I believe that my ex and I made the right decision in stopping our relationship before the distance started. At the time, the goal was to continue to be friends, which was much trickier than anticipated, and really took an entire 10 months before I felt that enough time and space had made that possible. On trying to be friends:
Oh haha we used to kiss. The goal that everyone claims to aspire to is being friends with their exes, but like how? Friendship, mutual respect and good feeling, and lack of sexual tension is a very complicated aioli to whisk up, when you’re starting at a place of anger or hurt on at least one side, but also maybe a lot of residual love and [attraction, emma’s PG edit] for one another. Is it possible to become such normal friends with an ex that you end up telling other friends who had no clue, “oh haha yea we used to kiss a million years ago?”Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
I don’t really believe that a normal friendship is possible. I can’t send memes or music anymore. Additionally it really isn’t fair to future relationships to just keep the door open with people you loved before. Boundaries are an essential aspect of being friends with exes.
Once that break up happens, social media has changed the type of separation that exists between two people. On social media post break up:
It’s also natural to want to make yourself feel bad in the days and weeks and months after severing a relationship with someone. It’s easier than ever now because we have such easy access to what these people are doing at any time. In the past maybe people stared at daguerreotypes and wondered which sections of “Song of Myself” their ex was currently reading.
When you’ve had the kind of breakup where only 51% of you wants to split, looking at photos of your person on instagram can be a healthy way to manage the 49% of the time that you want to get back together with them… Thus you save much sadness for both of you and avoid getting to a point where you text them “I miss you” and they text back “hahahahahahahaha.”Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
So Blythe Roberson and I agree on a lot of this 21st century dating stuff. I really appreciated her criticisms, especially on the institution of marriage and how our understanding of this/expectation to stay married until death is changing. As a consumer of the audiobook version, I know that she says read receipts like REED, when it is most definitely read as in RED, so we don’t see eye to eye on everything.
Like Roberson, I think that having a supportive, stable, and loving partner is really wonderful. I’m excited for the next relationship that I have where my partner and I can be generous with our time, emotions, and love, but I’m also really happy to have time as a single woman in my young twenties traveling the world and pursuing a fulfilling career.
Reading this book was cathartic. It allowed me to process a lot of feelings I’ve recently been having when news breaks like the Alabama legislature’s abortion bill. It’s nice to laugh a little about the patriarchy while attempting to dismantle it. For these reasons, I think that this book really is entertaining and could be enjoyed by generations of women; however, the main audience is women in the 20s and 30s who are actively dating.
One final Blythe Roberson quote to leave you with:
I call men who don’t want to date me working class Republicans because they are acting against their own interests.Blythe Roberson, How to Date Men When You Hate Men
Thank you very much for reading! Until next time, ciao!