Thursday, 17 September 2015

A Second Hand Emotion

Hallo again everybody!

I just want to quickly say that I am overwhelmed by the response to my last blog post. However many moons ago that was. You have made it so a pretty negative experience has meant that I am able to grow and share my experiences with you wonderful people. I really feel like I am headed in a positive direction, in so many ways- and it's largely down to all of you beautiful daisies who for whatever reason care about what I have to say. So thank you, you big badasses.

Now, I have actually had a lot of requests lately to write about luurrrrrrvee. Hence the really bad Tina Turner reference in the title. I'm really excited to write this post, and I really don't know where to begin. I have a lot of opinions on dating, love and romance and I try to look at it through my feminist-coloured glasses whenever I can. Personally, I am in a long-term committed relationship- but that doesn't negate what I am about to say. Being critical of something dos not exclude you from liking or participating in it. This is something I am arguing about with people all the time. Just because I have torn apart this coming-of-age teen movie from the 90's doesn't mean I don't enjoy watching it. Just because I recognise that something is problematic does not mean I don't like it, per se. 

I think that being critical of most things is the healthiest thing you can possibly do, even if you choose to participate in that thing; at lest then you are aware that it is a choice. Creating a space for yourself to make informed decisions after you have looked at everything critically is a really productive thing to do. All this being said, I recognise that I actively benefit from privileges that make it so that these choices are easy for me to make- such as being white and able-bodied for example. I am given a space to move and stretch and build my personality and identity that is not afforded to people who do not benefit from the same privileges, and that is a shitty thing that I actively benefit from. No decision I ever make to inform my identity will ever be attributed to my race and I am able to use my body to express myself in a physical way to attempt to empower myself.  I try to be aware of these things. And while I can't do much to change my lived reality, I can try to engage in a discussion wherein I am critical of this privilege and the discourses that they produce. It is an active and ongoing process and I think that the most important thing for me (and preeettyy much everyone who benefits from these privileges) to do is to just listen- so if you have anything you ever want me to correct, add, consider, anything, ever- just shoot me a comment.

Okay. So love. Lovely love. What's love got to do, got to do with it? Etc. Upon uttering the word I already have a kind of nightmare of songs internally playing in a mismatched medley in my mind. Say that sentence five times fast.

Mary Evans (2003) argues that the idea of love which is produced and reproduced in popular media  can lead to high expectations, disappointment and a sense of entitlement. She argues that an emphasis on individual autonomy and difference in the romance narrative has led us to believe that there is someone who can help us fulfil our full potential in our potential for love, and that failing that we are just going to keep trying (and failing) to find love through agent and empowered decisions about who we sleep with, who we date- basically who is worthy of our time. Because we are all made to believe that love will sweep us off our feet, that we will just know when we find love, that there is someone who can make up our other (better?) half- we don’t settle for second best. At least not in the same way that- in the past- a kiss was a contract. You may see your grandparents, married since they were younger than you are now, and compare it to your experience of searching for love: trial and error, chaos and uncertainty, in the quest for your one true love. And in making this comparison, you may ultimately render your grandparents love less real, or less legitimate than your experience of love. How, you ask, can they know that they are the ones for each other? To what extent are they faking it? And then you feel feel blessed and count your lucky stars that you don’t live in a time where you have your decisions made for you, in a time where you can choose to find love in your own time, on your own terms and suited to your own expectations.

But how much is this search actually conducted on “your own terms”? If we are to unpack notions and illusions of agency and individual freedom, it may be that we find out that we weren’t really calling the shots all along, but largely contributing in the continuing narrative of commoditised romantic love. This is maybe why we so often face disappointment. We are part of the processes of finding love, but love rarely presents itself as an end game, like a shiny reward for playing the romance game. I am not saying then that our grandparents have had it better (they haven't), or that I have come to realise that their love is more ‘real’ or ‘organic’ -like that is even a thing- I am suggesting that we do not currently live in a world where the discourse of love can be separated from the way of thinking that is specific to that particular time. 

A lot of this, I think, is a reflection of modes of production and the economic patterns of the time (bear with me on this one haha). Your grandparents’ love and consequent marriage could be said to be a product of them existing in an era of Fordist production, an era characterised by supply, demand and necessity (and I'm really sorry how much I am honing into your poor gramps here). The desire for security and stability meant that they were buying things more or less because they needed them, or at least because they thought thy did. How many times have you seen an old add for soap that's like: "Soap: It Will Make You Clean."? ...Or something like that. Haha.

In turn, my ventures into the search for love could be fostered in part by my existence in a Post-Fordist era of production, an era characterised by niche marketing, individualism and consumer flexibility. The way that love is sold now happens in so many different ways: the media and marketing, films, pretty much any thing that is highly visible and contingent with popular culture. We are asked in magazines: "Are you in the right relationship?" and we buy new clothes, apps, books and more in the quest to discover what we want in love.

Perhaps it is apparent that the way that we will experience love and intimacy is to at least some extent a product of consumer patterns and values. In recognising this, we can think about the discourse of love as constantly evolving to reflect the modes of thought reflected from consumption patterns. These routines and rituals are performed and reproduced so as to reinforce meaning, while at the same time creating some illusions of agency and personal identity. The way the romantic love is produced and reproduced in a cultural context will determine how the participants in that narrative will experience love.

We are living in a moment where love is a text, a narrative that is sold to us so that we can go on reproducing its effects. Expressions of love and intimacy have evolved, yes, but where do we go from here? Are we just going to keep doing, feeling (and buying) the same things over and over until we feel satisfied? Will we ever feel satisfied? Mary Evans (2003) argues that if we continue the way we are going, by capitalising on romance (and cashing in on disappointment), we will be faced with an ultimately pessimistic future, where romance and sex is readily available, but love is not. But what does this mean? What's so important about love, and how do we actually define it? As it is, the narrative of love is told time and time again in popular culture: through music, television, advertisements and the online world. This narrative is presented as though love is an achievement- like love can be earned, like it’s something that we are entitled to, like love can be bought.

Modes of intimacy and expressions of love are mutable. They are constantly changing and will do so as long as the world around us changes and expands. The way we relate to others is directly affected by the mediums through which we communicate these relations. For example, the role and impact of technology in love has been a hot topic for debate in recent years, with significant media focus on cyber-sex, simulation dating, social media and even artificial technology. The hot potato of moral panic that is being thrown around frantically is the question of authenticity. Have we "lost" love? If we have, what is at stake? Have we really lost authentic love, or was our understanding of it never really "authentic" in the first place, and in reality we are all just swimming along and changing and expanding as we go? The people screaming from rooftops (idk if they're actually doing this but hey) about the "loss of love" are so often mourning the supposed loss of, lets face it, heteronormative, monogamous and western/ euro-centric notions of what love is meant to look like. 

Dress: from a market
Socks: Annika's
Shoes: Thrifted- originally from Rubi Shoes
Brooch- Handmade for me as a gift by the amazing Hannah love "sold" to us? Is it catered to the individual? What are our expectations? Is it heteronormative? Is it authentic? WTF does that even mean?  Is the pleasure of love derived from the search or the result? Are we all super disappointed? So many questions. I don't know. Love is a tricky, wonderful, triggering and validating thing all at once.  It's political. It's stupid. It's important.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or on my Instagram  or Tumblr.

Love always (haha),

Katie Buddle


Evans, M. 2003. “The Future of Love” in Love: An Unromantic Discussion. Cambridge: Polity. Chapter 6: pp. 124-143; 153- 155.