Samhita Mukhopadhyay knows what she is doing: she is the editor of a well know feminist website, and her book Why dating is ruining your love life sets out to explain the reasons why contemporary dating is based on continuous brainwashing by media, and this, she argues, is done so wisely that we need to unlearn and deconstruct these so called truths, if we want to engage in healthy romantic endeavours. If you picked up this book hoping that it will reveal the big secret and help you find the man (or woman) of your life, I have to warn in advance that you will be greatly disappointed. However, an open and critical mind will revel in some facts that will make him/her re-think everything what we think we know about dating and relationships.
Mukhopadhyay starts with a short introduction to the history of feminism, positioning herself as a feminist woman of colour. She then introduces one of the main topics of the book; the popular claim that feminism has ruined dating. Mukhopadhyay takes the challenge: it is not feminism that ruined dating – it’s the dating that ruined dating.
The book explores the complicated issues of marriage, singledom, masculinity, myths, sexuality, all in reference to the popular beliefs on one side, and feminism on the other. Mukhopadhyay asks to stay critical about the media’s portrayal of romance and its expectations. Several examples in the first half of the book are US-specific, and a non-American reader might feel left out or puzzled. However, it would be unfair to dismiss the book for this reason, as Mukhopadhyay’s arguments are balanced and there is no shortcoming in terms of the quality of her writing.
Men and women, Mukhopadhyay says, are constantly bombarded by impossible, unreachable, contradictory messages about that the other sex expects or wants; although the author focuses on the female side of the population, she does not forget the other side of the coin- men are equally affected by the messages from the outside world as to what is expected of them in terms of being men, and being men whilst dating/in relationships. When it comes to the female side of the dating industry, Mukhopadhyay successfully reveals the faulty logic of many contemporary books/sources on dating, calling them misogynistic and sexist.
For me Why dating is ruining your love life was not a revelation and did not evoke a wow reaction; it was more a reminder to stay critical. Maybe the book will be a breath of fresh air for someone who is lost in-between the myriad of dating advice. The author thoughtfully combines personal experience from her own dating fortunes and misfortunes and compares these to feminism. Feminism, according to Mukhopadhyay, requires reminding oneself what one believes in, in order to form and maintain satisfying relationships. The most important message, I believe, is to not take dating and relationships for granted. There are many kinds of relationships, and discovering what kind suits you best is essential: one-night-stands, casual hook-ups, polyamorous relationships, open relationships, monogamous relationships; they all exist as valid paths for different individuals. The more we acknowledge the imperfection of ourselves, the more freedom we have to carve out the relationships that we consider meaningful. This book is good in emphasizing the importance of starting the romance from the inside (within ourselves), and not from the outside, which is full of impossible standards and hurtful “truths”.