I have a problem. Sometimes when I'm at work, I'll read CNN.com. I like to keep up with the news, and although I have Boston.com up all day at work, they tend to cover a lot more local stories. It's actually pretty common that I'll get some piece of news through feminist blogs, I won't ever see it on Boston.com, but a couple days later, it'll be on CNN.com.
That's not the problem. The problem is that while I'm looking at CNN headlines on the page, I'll inevitably run across a headline that I KNOW will piss me off, and then I click it. The majority of these headlines are from The Frisky, a relationship advice site, and CNN apparently finds their relationship advice worthy of being on the site.
"You're a feminist. You inherently hate all relationship advice columns, or social advice columns in general." Bullshit. Have you read Love Letters or Miss Conduct, both in the Boston Globe? Phenomenal. Relationship advice columns are not inherently bullshittingly stupid. They're also not inherently feminist, relevant, or true.
I read Love Letters regularly (Miss Conduct has been busy lately, but I subscribe to her blog), and I like the way it works. Meredith Goldstein, the columnist, receives buckets of emails and picks ones to run on the blog. For each letter, she posts the letter and her response before asking for commenter involvement. While many of the commenters are not very nice or enlightened, Meredith herself seems to be. She never resorts to ridiculous stereotypes about men and women, and she calls people out where appropriate. While I've noticed that most of the letters seem to be about hetero-issues, I've read a few that weren't hetero-issues and so I wonder if perhaps Meredith just gets more hetero-issue letters.
I distinctly remember one particular Love Letter column (well, I guest blogged on Shakesville about it; I'd hope I remember it!) where a man wrote in complaining that all the women he dated were either ball-busting feminists or shallow gold-diggers. His letter reeked of complete disrespect for women, and he made it clear that he was a traditional guy who wanted to find a real lady who liked being treated like one.
Meredith called him out brilliantly, even reminding him that a lot of women want to be treated like people, not ladies. It was totally awesome. She wasn't cruel, but she didn't sugarcoat her response to protect the guy's ego. I wish I remember it better, or I wish I could get up the energy to link to my guest post.
What does this have to do with the Frisky? Well, granted, it's an entire site dedicated to relationship advice (for women). But I'm not really in the mood to read that women REALLY want the guy to pay for dinner, even if they pretend otherwise. Or that women should REALLY let the guy touch them in intimate ways on a first date. Or that women are ALWAYS on dates and in relationships with men. Of course.
To be fair, it doesn't necessarily make sense that all relationship advice columnists should have to be educated in sociology and sex and gender. Why not? Because the vast majority of the population isn't. But at the same time, isn't that the point? Don't we want to write to someone who is more knowledgeable about social interaction, about how gender plays into our interpersonal relationships, and ask them for advice?
I suppose it all comes down to who we're invalidating with this advice. But considering how many normal people have said, "Yeah, I've noticed that even though I'm a woman, I'm really not that comfortable with guys always paying for dates!" or "I keep the bathroom cleaner than my wife does," I don't think it's all that invalidating when feminists write these advice columns.
If I read something that tells me that, as a woman, I OBVIOUSLY must like having a guy pay for the date, even if I "pretend" to protest, I get really, really pissed off. I don't like having my date pay for dinner. It's not that I don't like it because I'm a feminist. I'm a feminist because I don't like it and I know that it's okay for me to not like it.
In other words ... The Frisky SUCKS.