Why the fight against patriarchy is a fight for love
A collection of my favorite bell hooks quotes
and welcome to my new subscribers – so happy to have you here!
In today’s column I’d like to build on last issue’s conversation with Anne-Kathrin Gerstlauer about the Gender Dating Gap (you can go back and read it here). After we talked so much about dating, I kept wondering about what comes after. Why we struggle so much with building relationships that are truly loving, and on eye-level. Why the majority of men that I have dated couldn’t talk about how they felt if their lives depended on it. Why saying that you are looking for a relationship, or even love, feels like something to be ashamed of.
Anne-Kathrin (and many other smart women) recommended bell hooks’ work on love to find some answers to these questions. And you know how you sometimes come across a book which makes all the puzzle pieces in your brain slide into place? hooks’ “all about love: new visions” did this for me. In her book, she set out to explore what true love is and why it often feels so hard to come by. The first question actually gets answered quite quickly, and I like her definition of love as an action. According to hooks, „when we are loving we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment and trust.“
So far, so good. Now, why is this so HARD? On the one hand it becomes clear, that most men and women have simply never learned how to love well. My family is as dysfunctional in this regard as the next. On the other hand, hooks unpacks masterfully how patriarchal socialization has done a number on love and our relationships. How it’s virtually impossible to nurture true love in an oppressive system which is built on male dominance.
On Instagram, I half-joked that this column would be nothing more than a string of bell hooks quotes, and you know what? I’m on my last day of vacation, I’m tired, and I couldn’t say any of these things better than the queen of love herself – so let’s do it. Here are some of my favorite hooks quotes on love in the times of patriarchy:
„We cannot love if we remain unable to surrender our attachment to power, if any feeling of vulnerability strikes terror in our hearts.“
„Patriarchal masculinity requires of boys and men not only that they see themselves as more powerful and superior to women, but that they do whatever it takes to maintain their controlling position.“
„From the moment little boys are taught they should not cry or express hurt, feelings of loneliness, or pain, that they must be tough, they are learning how to mask true feelings. In worst-case scenarios they are learning how to not feel anything ever.“
„Indeed, if patriarchal masculinity estranges men from their selfhood, it is equally true that women who embrace patriarchal femininity, the insistence that females should act as though they are weak, incapable of rational thought, dumb, silly, are also socialized to wear a mask.“
„Most men feel that they receive love and therefore know what it feels like to be loved; women often feel we are in a constant state of yearning, wanting love but not receiving it.“
„It [patriarchy] sets up a gendered arrangement in which men are more likely to get their emotional needs met while women will be deprived. Getting your emotional needs met helps create greater psychological well-being. As a consequence, men are given an advantage that neatly coincides with the patriarchal insistence that they are superior and better suited to rule others.“
„Were women’s emotional needs met, were mutuality the norm, male domination might lose its allure.“
„If men were socialized to desire love as much as they are taught to desire sex, we would see a cultural revolution.“
Well. As bleak as the situation may seem, hooks never tires to stress that as a species, humans are capable of learning and adapting to radical change. We can learn how to be loving. How to communicate honestly and openly, how to stay committed and how to honor each other’s needs. How to both give and receive. We can even go to therapy.
Admittedly, it’ll take a whole lot for men to choose mutual satisfaction and growth in a loving relationship over power. However, as hooks also says: „There is no love exclusively reserved for romantic partners.“ We can experience fulfilling love in our friendships and families. More so, we can practice being loving in relationships which are not romantic in nature. In fact, many women who tolerate emotional or physical abuse in their romantic relationships, would never allow this to happen in their friendships.
Here’s to learning how to love, here’s to bell hooks.
pop culture pleasures
I have been driving all across the country over the past week (year two of staycation!), so I’ve got mostly podcast recommendations for you.
In Day X, the New York Times Berlin bureau investigates the network of far-right extremists in the German military and in German politics today – and they even get Franco A. on the record. Definitely one of the best podcast documentaries I have ever listened to, and also: lots to learn for German journalists.
Fresh off the podcast mill: Dolly Alderton came back on How To Fail! It was a lovely interview and I will forever love Dolly – but it was a very guarded conversation, especially by How To Fail standards.
Otegha Uwagba had two brilliant guest on In Good Company: A while back, she talked to Anna Wiener about toxic work culture in startups and tech – which landed very close to home. And her most recent guest was journalist, author and podcaster Ann Friedman, whose work I have admired for a long time and who is just so transparent about her career.
Before I went on this little road trip, I devoured the Norwegian drama series EXIT. It follows the lives of four investment bankers in Oslo, who can be characterized as the love children of capitalism and patriarchy who were born without any moral compass or conscience. Plot twist: The show is based on true stories. It’s wild.
Pippa Bailey published this beautiful, heartbreaking New Statesman column about her own break-up, a mere 48 hours after it happened and I doubt that there’s a soul on this earth who cannot relate to this piece.
“I cannot craft meaning from this ugly sadness, not yet, but perhaps I can write some beauty into it. Maybe I will be embarrassed by these words in six months, a year – but in six months, a year, I know I will be OK again, and, God, that is all that matters.”
Have you ever asked yourself why every woman on US TV shows has the same kind of wavy hair? I have. Twitter has. Vox has. Here’s the answer.
That’s all for today, thank you so much for being here. If you’d like to support my work, you can do so by subscribing to this newsletter, forwarding it or treating me to a cup of coffee. Or simply by coming back next time.