Men and love: Women’s search for life in an emotional wasteland

Dedicated to a variety of men I have known: some who I have loved, some who have hurt people I love.

There is currently a vast communication breakdown between genders in how the process of love is meant to work. Although love is commonly understood to involve some levels of kindness, generosity and vulnerability, its current state under patriarchy means that many men flatly refuse to take responsibility for how much their behaviour hurts the women they claim to love. While not exclusive to any person or gender, this resistance to accountability is a general trait shared by those who hold power and are unwilling to relinquish it—wealthy people, white people, able-bodied people and so forth. But when it comes to masculinity, and particularly to heterosexual masculinity, this behaviour is deeply intertwined with gendered differences in understandings of what it means to love another and to be loved in turn. Despite how masculine power means that men generally retain a certain distance from and contempt for women as a whole, it is highly unlikely that a man will be able to live out his whole life without knowing, loving or needing a woman at an intimate level, even if it is only his mother. In turn, this is perhaps one of the most damning parts of patriarchy for women; to paraphrase what bell hooks wrote in her book Communion: The Female Search for Love, we cannot stop loving our fathers, our brothers, our lovers, our friends, our comrades, even “when they hurt us again and again”.

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