Jessica Valenti on the romantic industrial complex

Romance in the media

The Phantom of the Opera - Gerard Butler & Emmy Rossum“Gifted children and adults often try to repress the real needs of the Self in order to maintain connections with others.

“They feel they must choose between loneliness and the negation of the Self.”

Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., head of the Gifted Development Center, referencing Deirdre Lovecky’s article “Creative connections: Perspectives on female giftedness.”

So many commercial interests, so much of mass media and entertainment, emphasize relationships – pursuing them, celebrating them, making ourselves fit and competitive enough to have a “good” one.

Especially for young women.

Not that a romantic relationship isn’t a good thing – even for us men – but is it the height of fulfillment and a primary path to self-realization for everyone?

[The image is from The Phantom Of The Opera.]

The romantic industrial complex

In a post by Laura Barcella of AlterNet, she interviews author Jessica Valenti:

In “Full Frontal Feminism,” you write about how the “romance industry” keeps women distracted from larger issues by teaching them to obsess about their love lives. How destructive is this “industry,” and how can women fight the obsession?

Jessica Valenti: I’m glad you brought that up. Samhita [of Feministing] calls it the romantic industrial complex … I feel like it’s destructive to both men and women, because it reinforces these ill gender roles that position women as only caring about finding a partner as their form of personal fulfillment.

But it also positions men as the caretakers, as only interested in sex and beer. The whole thing is so ridiculous and limiting for people. It’s damaging all around, but to women, specifically, it’s insane.

When I think about the amount of time, the number of things I could have done if I hadn’t been obsessing about some boy …

From Full Frontal Feminism, By Laura Barcella, AlterNet. Posted April 24, 2007.

Jessica Valenti is author of Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, and Executive Editor of

Laura Barcella’s writing has appeared in the anthology “BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine.”

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Some additional perspectives on relationships:

Putting your talents first

In her article “Internal barriers, personal issues, and decisions faced by gifted and talented females,” Sally M. Reis, Ph.D. notes, “Many talented and gifted girls and women face a difficult, almost unsolvable, dilemma: How to put their own talents first when their entire life had been based upon the importance of relationships and the tacit belief that women always put others first.”

Hilary Swank

In my earlier post Relationships and being authentically yourself, I quote Hilary Swank about being single again [after divorcing]: who said she felt “the happiest I’ve ever been.. not because I’m getting a divorce, because I’m living in truth now… I really want to get to know me. I’ve never really had that time; I went from living with my mom to living with Chad.”

Salma Hayek

And Salma Hayek commented about the danger of losing yourself in a relationship: “We always think that you have to stand by your man, but women who do that usually end up sacrificing everything about themselves. Frida Kahlo stood by her man all the way, but she never stopped being who she was.” [From the page Relationships.]

A related aspect is the “beauty industrial complex” and its darker aspects.

Evangeline Lilly

Actor Evangeline Lilly of “Lost” admits, “I spent many nights crying myself to sleep wishing I was ugly because of the way men leered and disrespected me, because they assumed things about my mental capacity or my physical willingness based on the way I look.” [From my article The Dark Side of Beauty.]

Jane Fonda

In the mid-1980s, Jane Fonda admits, she experienced a sort of midlife crisis, with her creativity flagging and her marriage to Tom Hayden failing: “Instead off dealing with my crisis in a real way, I got breast implants.”

In her memoir “My Life So Far” she writes, “I think it is when people have lost touch with their spirit, their life force, that they become most vulnerable to consumer culture and the toxic drive for perfection.”

[The image is from the book Face Forward by Kevyn Aucoin, from the page Body image 2]