On Thursday, Kerala woke up to what is becoming a depressingly familiar story in south India. His advances rejected by a fellow student, a Kottayam man committed premeditated murder and suicide by setting himself and the young woman on fire. Before dying, the young man blamed the woman for “betraying” him.
Just as depressingly familiar have been responses that latched onto this betrayal statement, and judged her guilty. Fed on years of casual misogyny by our film industries, generations of young men have grown up with misconceptions about loving and “deserving” love.
In this culture of toxic masculinity, the right of women to say no constantly gets sidelined in the name of the sincere bleeding hearts of men.
It’s time to set out these distorted myths clearly, and call them out for the terrible lies they are:
Myth: Obsession is ‘romantic’
Fact: The word you’re looking for is harassment
Every hero convinces you that a single-minded pursuit of a woman to the exclusion of everything else is the most romantic thing any man can do. Getting the girl, these heroes have you believe, is only a question of the intensity of your feelings.
In real life, though, such obsession just scares the daylights out of people. Think about it – would you rather want a well-adjusted, multi-faceted partner who makes time for career, family, friends, hobbies and a whole lot else besides love, or a man who spends every moment thinking about one person. It’s fun for the duration of a film, but gets old really fast.
Myth: If your love is true, you deserve the girl
Fact: Repeat after me, “I’m not entitled to another human being.”
If you love the girl, and your intentions are true (meaning you want to marry her and live with her forever) then she has to love you back. Or so the thinking goes. We hate to break it to you, but no. Relationships aren’t just a matter of strong or true feelings.
There’s physical and emotional attraction, world views, and a whole range of compatibilities that go into it. And sometimes all of that isn’t enough. To expect someone to love you simply because you love them strongly and truly, is to expect that person to be nothing more than a blank mirror for your feelings.
And unless you’re the world’s biggest narcissist, blank mirrors can’t possibly excite for very long.
Myth: True love deserves at least one chance
Fact: Repeat again, “I’m not entitled to another human being.”
What you deserve, as does she, is to be treated with respect and dignity, your choices given as much consideration as anyone else’s. Beyond that, neither of you deserve anything more than what you agree to give each other, whether it’s a relationship or friendship or whatever else.
But insisting that you deserve a chance because your feelings are so strong and true, is like saying I should be allowed to act in a film with Shah Rukh Khan because I really, really want to.
When we can insist on some necessaries qualities for a single movie project, why do we hesitate when it comes to a question as big as the rest of someone's life?
Myth: Proving your love with “grand gestures” is romantic
Fact: Blood is not a substitute for Brill ink
We’ve seen on screen and in real life, the hundreds of letters in blood, the grand declarations that our hero can’t live without the heroine, and the threats to commit suicide if this doesn’t happen.
But let’s set a few things straight. Blood is not a good substitute for good old fashioned Brill Ink. And gestures towards suicide are nothing more than emotional abuse and blackmail.Just because the woman wasn’t physically compelled, that doesn’t make such actions less coercive and bullying.
There’s the flip side of this reality that the films never show us, the terrible toll that such obsessions take on the women they are targeted at, who see their lives disrupted, their minds weighed down with fear, guilt and myriad other emotions.
Myth: We were made for each other
Fact: We were all made for ourselves
It’s a nice thing to say when two people have built a life together for years or decades. If one part of the purported couple doesn’t agree though, it’s just another disguised threat.
After all, women aren’t waiting around to be found by their ideal husbands so that they can spend the rest of their lives loving them. They’re going out into the world and pursuing passions, building careers, finding their space and doing a whole lot more.
Whether or not a relationship emerges in between all these priorities is often just a matter of luck or fortunate timing.