A couple weeks ago, a close friend and scholar of anarchist history (read: badass), sent me an article by a group of materialist feminists who call themselves “The Infinite Venom Girl Gang.” This article, along with being a critique of capitalism’s inherent connection to sexism, explores the theory that our culture forces heterosexual women into obsession with being part of a couple.

The Gang, and the article’s primary writer Clemence X, argues that, because men tend to monopolize the intellectual, political and artistic realms of our patriarchal society, women only gain access to those male-centric spaces through romantic relationships. Furthermore, our culture promises women that we will be more sexually, socially and spiritually fulfilled if we glom onto a man and the power he possesses. This turns pairing off into a top priority for heterosexual women, making single ladies feel like “loose dogs” — unfulfilled, unimpressive and uncomfortable in environments dominated by established couples (i.e. being a fifth wheel).

In this way women are slaves to the Couple Form, and The Gang argues that we need to free ourselves in order to be recognized as the individuals and leaders we truly are.

Admittedly, these ideas are radical, and exclude the outlying men and women who have worked hard to become exceptions to these rules. But their argument is also painfully accurate in many respects.

At one point, the article says women are so obsessed with their love lives that “they interact not to deepen their connection to each other, but to gossip about boys, to process their relationships with men …” When I read that, I was filled with horror, embarrassment and a heavy string of questions.

Now I offer these questions to you.

Ladies, when you are in a space occupied solely by women — sipping margaritas on girl’s night, on a hurried walk to class with your best friend or at a party with women you barely know — how long does it take before the conversation turns to men? An hour, half an hour, five minutes? It seems like a reflex, a default topic for straight women everywhere who are trying to find common ground.

We too often resort to discussing our love lives in varying degrees of detail. If we see a friend for the first time in a long while, it doesn’t feel like we’ve caught up until we divulge our current relationship statuses. And then, if one of us is single, we are forced to say so in an almost apologetic fashion.

“Um,” we mutter, “I’m not seeing anyone right now.”

“Oh, that’s OK,” responds the other woman with a sympathetic glance.

For one thing, it is degrading to get this reaction to our singleness because it makes us feel like we are less valuable for not having boyfriends. Secondly, leading with this question belittles the other events and struggles at work in our lives. Why don’t we instead ask about family, friendships, jobs and the accomplishments that we work so hard to achieve?

We often go as far as to set aside time with other women to work through the confusion and excitement surrounding our romantic relationships. We get together just to speculate about what’s going on in the heads of men we’re dating, and to validate our actions and reactions toward our own romances. Who among us has not met up with her friends, explained her situation with a guy and sighed the words, “I’m not crazy, right?”

Why do we need other people — other women — to confirm that our feelings, suspicions and actions are reasonable?

When I’ve mentioned this subject to my male friends, they’ve basically scoffed. “Why don’t you just ask the guy what he thinks?” they say. Well, to be honest, I’m not totally sure. Perhaps we worry about confirming the “emotional woman” stereotype, so we hide our feelings and opinions. Maybe we are afraid of being burned by the “unemotional man” stereotype, so we lose our confidence.

Even more importantly, this reaction from my guy friends tells me that they don’t do this as much. They talk to each other about their love lives, but probably not as frequently or with as much vigor. So, why us and not them? How do they spend that time in a way that we don’t?

When women are attempting to decipher the intentions of men we are romantically entangled with, what are we not discussing?

Of course, I know that commiserating about our experiences with men is crucial to raising feminist consciousness. After all, we must compare our disappointments and fears in order to recognize and tackle our oppression. And I know we do talk about other things, like social issues, scientific discoveries and politics; we use our brains as well as our hearts. But we could do more often. I can’t help but think we would be closer to gender equity — and to each other — if we put discussions about men on the back burner and focused on our own passions, desires and ambitions instead.

Emily Pittinos can be reached at pittinos@umich.edu.

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