Thursday, December 4, 2014

An Open Letter to the Girl Who Wrote "Nice Guy"

For context, read "An Open Letter to the Girl Who Let the Nice Guy Go" first, then read the rest of this post. The original post was first published in June of this year, but I only recently saw it on my facebook newsfeed. This is my reaction to the letter. 


Dear Writer, 

I can see that your letter comes from a good place, that you are probably writing on behalf of your friends. You've probably seen some wonderful guys get ignored, and I can see that this frustrates you. As a woman, I too have experienced the frustration of being ignored. Perhaps you have too. I applaud you for questioning the minefield of dating, because it truly is a minefield, and trying to navigate it brings up all sorts of difficulties and heartbreaks. 

But now I have to address the sentiments of your letter that bothered me, the attitudes that are pervasive in our culture. These attitudes may spring from a place of good intentions, but ultimately they hurt women. Your open letter is full of genuine concern, but beneath the surface, some problematic outlooks lurk. 

First, you begin by lamenting the women who consistently date men who treat them like dirt. And then you said this: 

So you tried to push the nice guy away. When he wouldn't go away, you pushed harder. Still, he didn't give up and every time you pushed harder, he pulled you in even more. He ignored your fears and forced you to grow; He fought for your passions when you were too busy writing them off. He forgot your wants and focused on everything you needed. Then you walked away because he was too nice. 

This may come as a surprise, but she probably walked away for reasons other than him being "too nice." Let's talk about consent for a minute. We usually talk about consent in terms of sex, but no means no whether or not the situation involves sex. You're asking for a commitment that goes far beyond sex. The "nice guy" here wants an emotional commitment. He wants her heart, her time, her trust. He wants what she clearly isn't ready to give to him yet, and he's not respecting her "no." In fact, he's willing to "pull [her] in," "ignore [her] fears," "force [her] to grow." Words like pull, ignore, force, and forget your wants, should send up a giant, bright red flag. If we were discussing sex, it would. But we're discussing something even more important than sex. That's not to diminish the importance of sexual consent but to highlight the importance of emotional consent as well. Her mind, her heart, and her soul are all more important than her body, and the "nice guy" wants her to give all of those things to him on his own terms, not hers. The first paragraphs in your open letter reveal that this hypothetical woman has probably been hurt by the men in her life. And yet the "nice guy" thinks that she should be ready to date him because he's nice. It's not just about him. It's about her too, and whether or not she is ready to be in a relationship with him. He can't force an emotional bond with her. No does not mean please ignore what I want. No does not mean you know what I need better than I do. No not mean pull me in further when I push away. No does not mean maybe or keep asking or I'm playing hard to get. No means no. That's it. The end. 

"Wait," the nice guy may be thinking, "but why is she saying no to me but not the jerk?" Well, if somebody is hurting her, if he's abusive in any way, be that physically, emotionally, or sexually, then Nice Guy should do something about it. He should encourage her to get help. Call the authorities if she's unable to get help on her own. But he does not get to decide that a relationship with him is what she needs to heal. He may offer support, but he should not force her into a relationship. A "nice guy" coercing her into an emotional bond is the last thing she needs, especially if the aforementioned jerks have toyed with her emotions in the past. 

This letter assumes that women owe men. Hollywood has been perpetuating that idea for many years. But it's time that we call out these attitudes so that we can put a stop to them. 

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