Theater of Cruelty

What hinders love?

It is not original to warn that feminism threatens love.


The surprising thing in the book "Give me your heart – in search of love" is that Hanne Andrea Kraugerud so little problematizes the claim. Kraugerud has possibly seen many romantic Hollywood films during the writing process, but she may not have read much feminist theory.

Hanne Andrea Kraugerud stands as the valiant knight of love in her recent book, where she also lists who threatens love today. Here, she particularly highlights Fat feminists and others who believe that equality is the best framework for true love. This is a criticism that deserves answers and a discussion.

First of all: we probably start with two very different starting points when we are to find the good love for our time. Kraugerud is based on a very traditional understanding of love, and even highlights the Hollywood films as a kind of ideal for romance and love. She lets the couples merge into a secret, twosome community, where it is "the couple's logic" that rules. It describes Kraugerud himself as a closed, depoliticized and private universe where the couple can maintain their love. Here we have the rules about how we talk together, who does what – and what is law or not law. To outsiders, these rules can often seem provocative, such as when couples must always go home together from a party or talk in codes with each other.

Now, there is hardly any great disagreement that having one's own room, understanding and special communication is part of loving one another. But at Kraugerud this room is never problematic. However, it is emphasized that this space should not be problematized. On the other hand, those who look at the contracts with a skew are identified as the external threats of love.

But aren't there also internal threats in Kraugerud's stupidity? Because in its ambiguity, the couple still consists of two individuals. And what controls your inner playing rules? On what grounds is the couple's logic?

In the new women's movement in the 1970s, women met to talk about their own relationships and private spaces with each other. Many people discovered that the logic on which their relationship was based was not as unique as they thought – when they met women with similar experiences as themselves. The result was that the personal rooms were politicized. This led to a focus on violence against women, division of labor in the home and financial independence.

I don't think Kraugerud would disagree that these have been important steps to improve women's lives. I would also like to say that it has been an important step to make room for love. These women discovered were very important: namely that love and romance are also a relationship between people who are characterized by society and the conditions in society. And when women have less power and influence in society, it also has significance at the individual level. And if this is not made visible or problematized, then the individuals will also risk forming a relationship based on different power relations.

Researchers have also looked at this relationship. What Kraugerud calls "the couple's logic" has similarities to what Hanne Haavind looks at in the article Power and Love in Marriage (1982) and what Carin Holmberg studies in her 1993 dissertation (It's called Love).

In his article, on the basis of several empirical studies, Haavind provides a theoretical analysis of the power of marriage as an invisible power of marriage. She shows how the parties within a heterosexual marriage or love relationship have a common project in making the differences in the way they align to appear not only as fair and equal, but as a result of their love for each other.

In her doctoral dissertation in social psychology, Carin Holmberg presents an interview material with young married couples without children. Her informants, in principle, believe that a hierarchical arrangement between the sexes is illegitimate. However, in practice, the relationship is characterized by a power relationship: He has an overall role in the couple relationship and is the one who has the right of definition, both in relation to her own experience and to her experience of reality. She is the one who adapts and submits herself. The mismatch between pronounced gender equality ideology and cohabitation in practice solves the couple by interpreting the subordination: It is all about gender inequality, an inequality they think is linked to the natural and unchanging categories of "woman" and "man", in other words to the natural heterosexual relationship. She and he show each other their love in their own gender-specific way. By referring to "feminine" and "masculine", the couple provides legitimacy for a principally illegitimate hierarchical arrangement. (Reproduced here by article: The Natural Heterosexuality of Solveig Østrem).

Haavind and Holmberg show that what at the macro level can hardly be understood as anything other than subordination at the micro level (by the couple) is interpreted as «love» and as something very special for «the two of us». And they emphasize that it is important to make visible the price women pay for redefining subordination into something positive and desirable. At Kraugerud, the project seems to be the opposite, to say that superiority and subordination are OK because it is romantic – and an essential part of the couple's "own logic".

And this is also one of Kraugerud's main points in his critique of feminism, namely that the road to equality between women and men threatens romance. According to her, the politically conscious women's big headache is that we "are drawn to the demand for changing gender roles on the one hand and the inappropriate but eternal, beautiful, romantic and sexual performances on the other". And she cares about the things we dream about in love that are determined by gender roles. What will happen to dating, falling in love, checking in, wedding dreams, baby dreams, waiting and men who conquer and carry over the doorstep if equality is allowed to take on love?

Even I have a hard time seeing the threats to love here. I still have the benefit of meeting a couple who summarize that they separated because they were simply too equal. And here I must also add that I think Kraugerud's image that more equality in the home will create girlfriends who think and do exactly the same thing seems well sought. This reasoning should probably indicate that love between people of the same sex should almost be an impossibility – because what should the tension consist of then?

The statistics show that it is difficult to get relationships to keep when the children come, and that women take most of the work in the home. And even I know very many who struggle to get the love to survive over disputes over dishes and waking nights with the children. Possibly these couples would have made it easier if the women had found themselves in the right with a more traditional role and dedicated themselves more to the cup wash, as Kraugerud can tell that Eli Hagen likes to go a step behind her husband.

The problem, of course, is that the world is full of girls and women who want something different, while also wishing for love. They want to secure their finances, they want to continue their own professional life despite getting their boyfriend and they expect to live with someone who shares common tasks with them. So perhaps Kraugerud should rather have pointed out education and professional life as threats to love? Before women were given such opportunities, there were at least fewer divorces.

"Falling in love is not without some kind of common sense," writes French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Love is often partly an amor fati, a love of social destiny. He shows how the very concept of love must be dissected. Love is not blind. The power relations in society lie in us even when we fall in love. The pattern is that we find people from the same social team and the same culture. Women find men who have more education, earn more, are older and often higher. Thus, the masculine dominance is inherent in heterosexual love. And that's why it's an incredibly bad strategy when therapists or philosophers encourage us to talk less with each other and cultivate the differences.

I'm sure we need a different recipe than the one Kraugerud gives us. When she points out Hollywood as the ideal of love, she is on the wild. And an ideology based on the fact that cohabitation should float in the emotions pink light where women have to step on their toes so as not to scare away the "tension" is also an ideology that tells us that we have to accept that women take most of the work at home and come out the worst financially in the relationship.

For those women who do not want to base their lives on a traditional gender role pattern, then there is good news that more equality can mean a better family and love life for many. Studies show, among other things, that couples who have a greater distribution of responsibility for the children also hold more together. I am sure that a more equal distribution of power and tasks in a relationship will also strengthen the relationship. And I am sure that sharing the cup sink does not have to remove the high noise of the crush. On the contrary. In the lives of many women, more equality will mean more cooperation, communication, equality and freedom in the relationship. It's hard to see how this would be a threat to the couples' love.

I do not disagree with Kraugerud that love is important. It can potentially be an incredible force and value in life. But it can also be the superstructure that binds people to oppressive structures. Therefore, a debate about love must be based on finding solutions that allow us to break with these structures, both in the family and in society. And we must raise a positive vision for love that is not based on relationships. I still believe feminism is a good starting point for addressing this.

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