Saturday, March 23, 2013

Interview with Samhita Mukhopadhyay: Outdated

Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the editor of, answered questions

about her book, “Outdated: How Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life.” Mukhopadhyay

tells women to stop reading dating advice books that reinforce antiquated ideas

about the way men and women should behave. She talks about the challenge to stay

true to her feminist ideals while living in a world that punishes women for straying

away from the goal of white weddings and monogamy.

 You say chivalry isn’t dead but it should be. How do feminist women

 reject old-fashioned ideas such as paying for dinner without offending someone?

I don’t think chivalry is inherently bad. Every time someone is nice and

compassionate, that’s a good thing. What’s very problematic is when there are

power expectations attached to it, like that if he has paid for everything there is an

expectation to put out. There needs to be distancing between the expectation of

what you have to do because I’m a man and she’s a woman.

            What specifically should women do when it’s time to pay the bill?

Women could do a variety of things. I usually assume we will split the bill.

There is this thinking that if he isn’t paying, ‘Are we on a date or are we not on a

date?’ and you need to think beyond that as an indication. Maybe it’s something else.

Maybe he couldn’t afford it. If someone makes three times more money than you do,

I think it’s okay to let him pay.

You acknowledge that women often neglect their friendships once they have a

boyfriend. How do you reconnect with a friend?

It’s a slippery slope when women feel they’ve neglected their friendship and

they internalize some shame about that. But being with friends doesn’t mean you

have to be without your partner. When you go out with friends, your partner can

meet with them. That segregation can happen when you get self-involved in your

relationship but it takes recognizing it for yourself. But I think real friends will

forgive you.

You say fashion can be feminist. Do you think the fashion and beauty industry is

controversial within the feminist community?

It is a major conflict within the generational divide. Mainly it’s older feminists

criticizing younger feminists that have an interest in fashion. We need to know

where things come from and what the labor issues are and recognize unfair beauty

 standards for young women. But there is also this tremendous potential to express

yourself through punk and riot grrrl fashion. There’s room for criticism but also


You say the wedding industry is draining people of their money and reinforcing

the idea that women’s happiness is tied to marriage. How has the industry has


Weddings have become more expensive over the last 40 years. It’s not like it

was, where you have a wedding in your grandparents’ backyard and your mom

caters it. Marriage is still seen as a way to grow up. It’s the inherent next step. And

the finances and money that are expected have excluded a lot of people. It’s more

like an affluent proposition between two wealthy people.

Do you suggest the government give equal benefits to single people?

It’s important to extend those incentives to others. Marriage rights have been

a tremendous platform for gay marriage but it has left out a lot of people like single

black mothers and other outliers and subgroups that are demonized in the media.

It’s going in the right direction but the cultural benefits still help people in


You discuss how casual sex was enjoyable for you until you realized men still

 had the upper hand in the relationship. Is it possible for women to have casual sex as


I think there isn’t much we can do. We are living within the power structure

so the power structure will replicate itself in a relationship. But I’m not saying you

can’t have casual sex as a feminist. Women are good at negotiating our own power

whether it’s in a workplace or in our relationships and it would be the same in

casual sex. There is also the potential for really sexist behavior on the behalf of the

men you’re involved with as there is elsewhere in our lives but you need to know

what you want and what your expectations are.

You say it is possible for open relationships to work even though they didn’t

work for you. Do you know people who have made open relationships work?

The people it works for have a very strong sense of confidence in themselves

and their sexuality and what they need from a partner. It is a legitimate alternative

lifestyle and there has been smart analysis that monogamy can’t always work for

 people. I’ve seen it at its most successful for bisexual or gay sexual partners. 

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