Let me just say that I love Erin Gloria Ryan. She is a powerful voice for women and an epically talented writer who inspires me. I highly regard and learn from so many of her pieces, both in terms of information and style, and admired this piece she wrote about Facebook's newest feature that allows people to ask you questions about your personal information, including your relationship status.
But there is one particular point in this particular piece that I disagree with. "Teens will love this."
A young woman has just as much right to expect to be able to set her relationship status as "single" and have it not seen as an open invitation as any other woman does. A single status is not the bat signal, it's not a sign a woman has a problem that needs to be rectified, and being constantly questioned about it is not something this teen loves.
Perhaps Facebook was thinking along similar lines, that teens would love this, when they came up with this new feature. But if so, Facebook is buying into a stereotype that contributes to the disempowerment of young women and to patriarchy.
Let me say here that there are many young women who have wonderful, healthy relationships. If this is you, good for you, I'm not talking about you, read on. There are also many young women who are looking for nothing more than the ability to change their relationship status on Facebook, or the equivalent thereof. From the time they are little girls, they get the message they are supposed to have a boy band poster up on the wall and a "crush." (By the way, my celebrity mindcrush is on Chris Hayes, who once said my name and I died.) But when that mindset evolves and is taken too seriously, and instead of reading articles from great writers on Jezebel or hundreds of other fulfilling activities girls spend the majority of their time focused on their relationship statuses for status sake, they are setting themselves up for a life of disappointment and regret.
Girls do not exist to boost the self esteem of guys. We are not conquests. We are not trophies. This is not Chick-Fil-A and we are not here for your pleasure. Guys also grow up with stereotypes. That girl in the magazine, whether she's writing or posing for a photo, is something to chase. If you can catch her, you level up and you continue to level up based on how much you control her physically and emotionally. Welcome to rape culture. And if you're reading this and saying, "I would never," good for you. But stop and ask yourself if even though you'd never, exactly what it is a guy is doing when he asks some random girl about her relationship status and why he feels he has the right to do this.
There are multiple ways to approach Facebook's latest move. I could
change my relationship status to being "in a relationship" with my dog,
Chris Hayes, or the Oxford comma. I could hide and save myself a few
hundred eyerolls. I could leave my "relationship status" as is, because it's honest and I honestly feel I should have every right not to have assumptions made based on the stereotypes of others. I'll take what's behind door number three.
Real relationships aren't status symbols. The fact that there are so many stereotypes to crack speaks to the fact we need more young voices out there speaking out against them. It's within our power to influence companies like Facebook based on our actions. It's within our power to empower ourselves through those same actions.