Browsing Tag



playing hard to get and being pursued

over shoulder
Me and Handsome

I put my cell phone back in the pocket next to my arm rest and looked for a spot to turn the car around. It was not going to be possible to drive all the way back to Virginia– the snow was coming down too swiftly for it to be safe, and my boss agreed, but I couldn’t get a hold of my friend to ask if I could crash at her place. Until I could, I would hang out with a friend and Handsome, who I had just met the day before.

We sat on the couch, side by side, watching a few episodes of Justified, and, at one point, our mutual friend stepped out.

Do something, Samantha. Don’t just sit there.

I wanted to. I wanted to speak up, to be brave, but my mind flashed back to the single time I’d ever had the guts to ask a guy out– and how horribly that had ended. It was a humiliating experience I wasn’t eager to repeat. So, we sat on the couch and made idle chitchat, with me silently begging for one of us to do something— until his friend returned and our golden opportunity evaporated.

I sighed to myself, resigned to the fact that he probably just wasn’t that into me.


A few weeks later, on a Wednesday night and I was getting ready to go out, my phone rang, and the screen lit up with a number I’d never seen before.

“Hello?” It came out a little more tentative than I would have liked.

“Hi, is this Samantha? This is Handsome, from a few weeks ago.”

Instantly, I was on the gigantic fluffy couch, warm and comfortable and nervous as hell, waiting breathlessly for something to happen.

“I remember. Of course I remember you.”

A few more minutes of not-horribly-awkward-but-still-awkward conversation, and then Handsome made me the happiest woman, I’m pretty sure, of all time.

“If you were up here, closer, I’d ask you out to dinner–“

And, typically, I jumped in with both feet first. “Well, if I was there, I’d say yes.”


Later, in conversations that I’m pretty sure all new lovers have, Handsome told me that one of the first things I did that attracted him to me was that I didn’t play shy, or coy, or hard to get. I was honest, straightforward. I’ve never been interested in playing games, or leading men on, or being anything less than myself.

I also encourage women to think about taking a similar approach– to throw out all of the bull that goes on in the flirtation rituals and just be honest about what you want. Don’t be or mean, or dismissive– politeness and respect go a lot further in this world than cruelty. Don’t laugh at the poor guy who you would never dream of dating, but don’t try to let him down so easy that you leave him on the hook.

I really do think that honesty is the best policy when it comes to the interactions between men and women, although of course this is more complex than what I’ll be able to lay out here.

And part of it is this.

Please. Go read it.

Right away.

. . .

I 100% agree with the point of Rachael’s article.

But, it also made me think, because it brought to mind the endless parade of articles in the Christian (and non-Christian) blogosphere that tell women to view the act of pursuit as exclusively masculine. Women are unceasingly told, from virtually every mouth, that if we pursue a man, we will thenceforth be perceived negatively. We’ll be too bold, too forward, desperate, clingy . . .

I think these ideas are interrelated: American culture has this pervasive idea that playing hard to get somehow makes a woman more attractive, that it makes “the chase” more dynamic, more interesting; Christian culture has this pervasive idea that it is our biblicallly mandated role, as woman, to be pursued.

One culture says allowing yourself to be pursued is more interesting.

The other culture says that being pursued is absolutely necessary.


Neither of these positions encourage honesty, transparency, effective communication. Neither one contributes to the man or the woman being able to learn and understand more about each other. Neither one is conducive to building an open relationship based on mutual respect and communication.

In the past few years, there have been a boatload of articles flooding my facebook feed about how “manboys” (what a terrible term) are being too passive, that women are watching opportunities to date possibly awesome guys slip through their fingers, and they’re trying to figure out what to do about it. Some of these articles even propose conservative solutions, like Candace Watters’ popular post, Pulling a Ruth.

But, all of these solutions still operate inside the gender binaries that are heavily entrenched in Christian culture.

While I was in graduate school, I spent a lot of time in the honor’s office, which, to be frank, was heavily populated by men throughout the day. On a whim (I have a lot of those. There’s not a lot I can do about them except just go with it), I started an impromptu survey of pretty much every single man in the office, then in the library, then around the second floor of DeMoss.

I only asked one question:

If I a woman you thought was attractive and seemed nice asked you out, what would your reaction be?

Overwhelmingly, the response was negative. Decidedly negative. These college-aged men responded without hardly any thought, and their reaction was positively knee-jerk. With a few, I could even see their reaction on their face: disgust, revulsion– pity, even. Almost all of them (out of the 100 or so I asked) said that they’d be flattered, but they’d ultimately say no. If they seemed interested in talking further, I’d ask them why. Without exception, they said that they would perceive the woman as too bold. That they wanted to be the one doing the pursuing.

I don’t really want to get into why this is so, I’m certainly no sociologist or psychologist, and there’s plenty of resources on the Great Wide IntraWebs on possible explanations for this, but, I think that it’s likely that this is a socially constructed narrative for men and women.

Socially constructed narratives are an integral part of our lives. A lot of these narratives could be called etiquette. We tend to follow these rules– like don’t hang up the phone without saying goodbye, or don’t turn around to face a crowded elevator. Breaking these social rules tend to freak people out.

But these narratives, these rules, aren’t always good, and I think this one is especially pernicious. Because, at its most basic, the evangelical concept of “men that pursue” is based on subject-object understandings of gender. Women become prizes, trophies– things. Valuable things, to be sure, but things nonetheless.


laughing in spite of . . .

new girl

When New Girl started running trailers before the pilot episode in 2011, I thought it might be a show I could get into. However, when it started, I was in the middle of my first semester of grad school, so while I caught a few episodes, I didn’t stick with it. At the time, I was actually struggling with how Zooey Deschanel was being presented in the media– she was being painted as the ultimate quirky girl– there was a Lord of the Rings reference in the first episode, and the premise for Jess’ character was that she was unique, and zany, but, in the end, absolutely adorable and someone who everyone can’t just help but love because she’s just so darn cute.

As someone who is actually a gigantic nerd, and someone who is actually bombastic and someone who is actually quirky and zany and all of the above, I can attest to the unfortunate reality that I am not so adorable that everyone just thinks I’m the greatest.

At times, the fact that I have friends who do think I’m just the greatest feels like a small miracle. My life doesn’t look anything like Jess’ character. I have that energy level, that zest for life, and guess what? It sometimes annoys the crap out of people. And when that happens, I don’t wave my arms and decry their annoyance and say “I love weddings and I’m going to dance my face off!” until everyone who was annoyed starts slow-mo chicken dancing with me. Even if I do go slow-mo chicken dance, the annoyed people don’t join me. Usually, they make fun of me, and, in my experience, I become the butt of a lot of mean-spirited jokes and I have to deal with dismissive, mocking behavior from that point forward.

So, I didn’t stick with New Girl for very long.

But, me and Handsome decided to give it another go last night.

We watched the first five episodes or so (thank you Netflix), and the whole I’m-so-spunky-don’t-you-just-love-me part of Jess’ character didn’t bother me anywhere near as much. Hardly at all, actually. I attribute that to the past three years of growth and development I’ve survived. I learned to adapt, I learned how to recognize social situations and behave appropriately, I learned how to read people enough to know when my rambunctiousness would be enjoyed and when it wouldn’t– mostly. So, maybe Jess’ character goes through some of the same development, and I’m curious to see if that happens.

This time around, something else stood out to me:


If you’re not familiar with New Girl, that is Schmidt, who is an in-general “douche with a heart of gold.” He serves a similar purpose on this show that Barney does on How I Met your Mother— he’s so disgustingly chauvinistic, you love to hate him. He’s a pig, and all of the characters on the show know it, so they exact their revenge on him in various ways (like the fact that he’s the only roommate who ever puts money into the Douchebag Jar). He’s also blinded by his arrogance and narcissism, which just helps his roommates make fun of him.

However, one of the ways that the show’s writers have decided to make fun of Schmidt is through his work environment, where he is the only man. Everyone else that he works with is a woman, and they endlessly mock him for a variety of things, only a small part of which is deserved (in the pilot episode, they’re making fun of him for wearing a pink tie).

In some ways, Schmidt’s work situation can be viewed as social commentary on how ridiculous sexism is; the writers are making it clear that the women are not making fun of Schmidt himself (like his friends do), but only of his gender, which, we viewers are supposed to automatically understand is nonsensical.


I have a problem with this because reverse sexism is not a thing, in exactly the same way that reverse racism doesn’t exist. Neither of these exist because they are not possible in a white and male privileged culture. I’m not saying that women can’t objectify men, because they can and they do (which New Girl shows when Schmidt’s Santa costume leaves his chest completely bare). I’m also not saying that people of color can’t treat white people badly in a stereotypical and negative way. These things happen.

However, these behaviors are not racism and sexism.

These things are certainly rude, unprofessional, and some actions could even be labeled unethical. But, a woman objectifying a man is not sexism, because a woman, in male-privileged culture, does not have the power or the ability to limit the purpose of a man’s existence (either in his personal or professional life) to his physicality or sexuality; however, this is exactly what happens to women when men objectify them. They are contributing to and being a part of a culture where women exist to serve the needs of men. The reverse is untrue.

So, when I was watching New Girl last night, I had a hard time not throwing my remote control through  my television. It also just kept getting worse, complete with Schmidt making a rape joke.

But, I also laughed. Some parts of the show are genuinely funny. I thought Coach was hysterical (whyyyy did they replace him?), and the scene wear Jess goes on a rampage to get her stuff back from Spencer made me want to whoop and cheer.

So, I was torn.

Because, as a feminist, I’m aware of how the treatment of women in media contributes to the treatment of women in reality. When a popular television show makes a rape joke, it only reinforces the idea that rape jokes are ok, that rape, victimization, and violence against women itself can be funny.

But, as a feminist, I’m also aware of the fact that sexism is everywhere. Really, everywhere. It’s maddening how ubiquitous it is. I cannot read hardly any book, watch any show or movie, or listen to any song or conversation without encountering sexism in some form. And, trust me, it’s exhausting. Some days, I really wish I could go back to a more innocent time when I was completely blind and ignorant to how pernicious and omnipresent sexism is. I want to just be able to laugh at a show like New Girl without having to grit my teeth to get through the sexism and the rape jokes.

I’m slowly learning that there has to be some form of balance. I can’t constantly be reacting to every single example of sexism I see. Sometimes, just for the sake of my own sanity, I have to let it go, and I have to be able to do that without feeling guilty about it. I have to have priorities, or I’m going to completely burn myself out.

I have to be able to flinch, but then move on if it’s not something I can personally do anything about. Sexism at my church? You bet your Bunsen burner (sorry, old Adventures in Odyssey reference) I won’t quit going after that until it’s gone. But in the media I consume? Then . . . then, it’s not quite so clear. Sometimes, I will quite watching that show, or reading that book.

Sometimes, though, I’ll laugh in spite of it.