Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

14 February 2012

Valentine's Day Book Review: Outdated by Samhita Mukhopadhyay

Viva la Feminista welcomes Keidra Chaney of The Learned Fangirl for this Guest Post: 

I don’t read dating books. I do date, but I’ve been single more often than not throughout most of my adult life, and I’ve never fit into mainstream “three dates and you’re in a relationship” dating culture. More to the point, the “He’s just not that into you” advice behind most dating literature just makes my flesh crawl. Despite my aversion to dating books (or probably because of it) I was excited to read Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining your Love Life (Seal Press, 2011) when it was first announced, because even though I don’t read dating books, I totally want dating advice.

As a single, dating feminist, there’s not a whole lot of literature out there that speaks to me: even the more ostensibly progressive dating books out there don’t really push hard against gender essentialist, “Mars Vs. Venus” ideas of what it takes to enjoy “normal” romantic relationships. Many feminist books on gender, relationships and sexuality don’t always acknowledge the pursuit of romantic relationships and falling in love as a very real and valid desire for progressive women, some of whom want to figure out how to navigate the murky waters of the dating world just like everyone else .

Samhita Mukhopadhyay, editor for popular blog Feministing, acknowledges all of this in Outdated, framing the book is her own personal relationship history (the book starts with Mukhopadhyay nursing the wounds of a bad break-up) and moving on to her own survey of the relationship self-help aisle of the local bookstore. Through nine chapters, she offers a pointed critique what she calls the “romantic industrial complex,” those persistent myths that seem to define contemporary dating culture: women are longing for a Prince Charming or thwarting intimacy due to their own independence; men are commitment-phobes or ignored “nice guys; single people – but women in particular—in general are sad sacks until partnered.

Mukhopadhyay challenges the idea of partnered co-habitation as the desired goal for straight/ gay/queer romantic relationships and presents the notion that relationships and love can be happily pursued outside of such traditionalist, heteronormative definitions. And sometimes, even while you are having that very conversation with your feminist girlfriends at the local bar after your most recent bad OKCupid encounter, it’s nice to have that affirmed by someone in book form.

It’s also nice to have such serious cultural critique presented in such an accessible way, without falling into feminist scholar shorthand, or coming off too glib or chatty. At the same time, she doesn’t offer any easy answers, either. Mukhopadhyay acknowledges that the love is messy and complicated, especially when one is navigating the gray area between the personal and political. As such, to call Outdated a “dating advice book for feminists” would not quite be accurate but it is a well-presented introduction to a conversation that many single, dating feminists (at least the ones that I know) have been having amongst ourselves for some time now, Outdated opens this conversation up to a broader audience, and definitely a breath of fresh air for the “dating lit” scene.

Grab some chocolate, glass of wine and a copy at Powells or Indiebooks for anytime reading.

Disclaimer:  I requested this book for review. Thankfully Keidra was able to pinch hit for me. 

* Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog by helping me purchase books for school. Thanks! 

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