Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dating Industrial Complex

I have long loved the blog Racialicious for it's smart, savvy cultural commentary and criticism. Awhile back, I highlighted a series of posts they did on dating and race, and today, I'd like to bring your attention to the following post over there by Andrea (AJ) Plaid. Specifically, let's consider these two paragraphs:

I’m hoping that Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s book, Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life becomes a best-seller. Because she not only takes inventory of all those dating-advice books cluttering bookshelves and e-reader lists, she also takes that rarest of inventory: an anti-racist feminist inventory of the whole dating industrial complex.

Mukhopadhyay reminds the reader throughout her book that these books consistently erase those who are not cisgender and heterosexual and able-bodied and middle-class. She also says that the dating industrial complex is also rather unkind to cisgender men–all of this because they’re trafficking in narrow stereotypes based on gender binaries. And if we believe in some sort of feminism? Well, Mukhopadhyay analyzes, these books try to make that belief the reason why we’re not getting laid, let alone married. We, to paraphrase DuBois, are the 21st century problem to be solved because, so says this literature, we dare to exist–sometimes caring about being in relationships and sometimes not.

This really expands on the conversation I brought up in yesterday's post. Perhaps phrases like "dating industrial complex" give you a headache, but I have to say it's pretty spot on. So much of the dating and relationship advice out there is driven by white, heterosexual middle class norms and biases. Furthermore, it's hard not to notice how everything from life long spouses to one night stand partners have become packaged commodities that we "must have" at all times.

While part of me is grateful that options have expanded through methods like online dating, I'm unable to ignore the rest of the baggage that has come with those expanded options. This blog is littered with posts addressing some of those issues. The shopping mentality many folks have. The short attention spans. The transactional expectations. However, I'm still figuring out how best to integrate some of the issues mentioned in Andrea's post. In part because I, too, have swallowed some of the dominant stories we collectively have around dating and relationships.

In the end, plenty of people live perfectly good enough relationships without delving into any of these issues. And others are quite happy living on their own, uninterested in things like the patterns of modern dating.

I'm not really speaking to those people directly. Who I am speaking to are those of you out there who wish to experience relationships consciously. Those of you who aim to love and grow with another. Those of you who see an intimate relationship as a vehicle for living a more fully alive, authentic life.

So, if that's you, it's worth considering how some of what Andrea and Samhita are writing about might be impacting your life.


  1. Nathan I can't thank you enough for introducing me to this book! I bought it last night and read it straight through. Everything I've been trying to say, in my blog, to my friends and family and in the comments sections of other blogs is written here so eloquently. So much food for thought. This just might be the paradigm shift that I've been trying to make!

  2. You're welcome. It's hitting on a lot of the issues I am interested in as well. As this blog has gotten going, I've felt like perhaps I, too, could add to a potential paradigm shift. Because one is sorely needed. I'm grateful to writers like Samhita for daring to challenge us all.