Columns, Opinion

In The Mood for Love: Sugar, spice, but not everything is nice

As with any major religion, cynicism should be a healthy accompaniment to any believer of love. It is the salt that you add to the mixing bowl to make the baked good taste sweeter. The bad cop to the good cop.

Cynicism forces us to ask the hard questions, so that we can accept the good things that come our way.

I was in a lecture once where we were discussing common tropes within the film and television industry. One such trope was of a high-powered career woman who is painted as too committed to her career that by some death in the family or other will of God moves to a small town and falls in love with a man who runs a small business there. Often, he is disappointed about his life and doesn’t have the emotional maturity to leave the small town or reach his full potential. The female protagonist decides that it’s up to her to help him and she leaves her lucrative career in order to further his storyline. 

Now, there is a lot to unpack there, coupled with the issue that Hallmark uses almost exclusively white actors and actresses. Instead of just passively watching one of their rom-coms, it’s important to discern why this trope is such an issue.

It says bluntly that women shouldn’t make more money than men. It says that it is more important to help a man further his storyline under the guise of wanting to help him with his bakery all along. That making pumpkin spice cookies is your calling, and that your dream of being a CEO at your old company makes you cold and brash — everything a woman should never be. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard the quote about how you can’t go looking for love, but just to “let it find you.” So if we really believed that as a society, why are men still expected to make the first move? Because so many adages about love are aimed at women, they are mostly different ways to tell a woman the way she needs to act so that she may finally reach the end goal of finding a man to settle down with.

Quotes like that encourage women to let go of their agency for the sake of a partner. This paired romantic first encounter scenes in films teach us that love is based solely on attraction. That we should be grateful if someone decides that based on just our appearance, that we are worthy of their attention. If you run into an averagely handsome man in the same coffee shop for a couple of weeks with intermittent eye contact, then boom, you’ve got chemistry and the prospect of a dateable partner.

Cynicism is a tool that feminists of any identity can use to pick their battles. It’s the magnifying glass that allows us to appreciate the good things for what they are, and not what they could be. It gives you the power to step back, and make an informed decision before rushing in head first under the guise of love, when you need to. You can flip the power structure when you realize it’s there and be a more rational person; you’re forcing yourself to look at the red flags you might’ve missed.

Cynicism is seeing the battle, and picking your stance. After all, we’ve got to learn how to work smarter, not harder, if we’re not even going to make as much money as a man. 

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