— Rant Warning — Proceed with caution —
I generally stay away from talking about sexism. Every time I do, I tend to piss off half the planet, so I leave it to people who are far more articulate than I am. However, sometimes something happens that triggers my inner whatever, and I realize that the only way I can stop dwelling on it is by writing it out.
What is it that burned my craw today?
I was innocently reading a book earlier, when I ran across this line: “I must have you.” Of course this was said in a romantic context, a guy saying this to a girl. The girl simpers because oh-the-romance, and I felt my blood boil. This might seem fairly innocent to most people, but I read that line far too often for my comfort.
Every time someone says, “I must have you” I feel like checking the character (inevitably female) for her price tag.
The problem with lines like this is that they are so incredibly subtly degrading; they almost make me physically ill. People aren’t “things” to be had. You cannot “have” me, just like I cannot “have” you. It’s lines like that, peppered throughout the books I read, that make me wonder how badly we are kicking ourselves regarding this whole sexism issue, and most often without even realizing it.
I don’t think people maliciously say these things. I don’t think authors out there are cracking their knuckles and laughing evilly about how they can put phrases that piss of Sarah into their books. I think it just happens. It’s a natural flow of text. Isn’t that a rather sad commentary on our society today? When “I must have you” is a natural flow of dialogue, it says nothing good for any of us.
Yes, this is a short rant that is going roughly nowhere pretty fast, but I wanted to point out that phrase, and I wanted my darling readers to realize why it upsets me so much. We cannot “have” each other. I don’t belong to anyone, and neither do you. The fact that this phrase is almost always said to a woman (who then simpers because it is oh-so-flattering) is icing on the cake. Phrases like this say a lot about society, without saying much at all. The sad truth is most of the time I read this line it is women writing it. Why, my fellow females, please tell me why we shove ourselves, and our characters, in the role of possessions so willingly and so often without noticing it.
Please don’t misinterpret this to mean that I think this is a conscious effort on the part of authors, because it isn’t. I just find this turn of phrase absolutely baffling, and when I start thinking about “I must have you” my mind runs to all the other turns of phrase that amount to the same thing. I don’t think it is romantic, and I don’t think context matters. The truth is, we say these things, not only in books, but also in our daily lives. What does that say about our cultural identity and equality? We have come so far, and have ignored the simple phrases that undermine how far we’ve come. Perhaps the fact that we don’t even usually notice it just makes it more tragic.
So what is the point of this diatribe? I’m not sure. I set out to air my dirty laundry, and I’ve done it. Take whatever away from this that you will. If I’ve offended anyone, I apologize. That wasn’t my goal.