Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the editor of Feministing.com, 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about her book, “Outdated: How Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life.”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
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.