Dear Marooned Alien Princess

I love my boyfriend but he doesn’t feel the same, though he cares about me. What can I do to make him fall in love with me?

Oh, honey. You can’t force these things. You can’t make anybody do anything. I think people expect there to be some magical spell or Cosmo sex tip that will drive them wild, but you can do it all and it won’t make them care.

Beyond asking what he wants and gauging if you can (or should) fulfill that, let’s pretend he doesn’t exist for a moment. Who are you and who do you want to grow to be, independent of others wishes and needs? This is what should guide your personal development. Everyone else is merely outside of you and will come and go or let you down, but you will always be with you. You can put all your energy into becoming what one man who cannot see your fullness imagines in his head as ideal. But this won’t guarantee you his love.

You could, like many women, end up losing yourself in someone else’s fantasies only to be left out in the cold, rebuilding yourself to undo how you warped yourself for him. Or hell, maybe you could become his dream and win his love, but he will have fallen in love with the mask you put on, not with who you really were, and that is not sustainable. Not without the agony of constantly contorting in fear. And would he do the same for you? Would he forgo his agency to be just what you liked? To quote Warsan Shire, how far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps?

I’ve made the error of trying to be everything to someone and giving my whole life only to have them never find it enough. It taught me that whoever loves me needs to love me as I am. Or it won’t ever be love. They can either learn to love you as you are, or not. You are not an inferior being who needs to change to be worthy of love, you are worthy right now. You are not lacking if they cant appreciate you.

You can contort yourself for others’ petty whims. Or you can be the best you in terms of your own goals. The former will be martyrdom. The latter will see you through whether you are single or not.

I’ve been trying to learn more about colonialism and capitalism, but how does it tie into my daily life? I know I have been oppressed and abused in my personal life but it still feels abstract to read about larger systems. It seems like our current problems are now and that’s the past. Can you help me understand? 

Well, to put it simply, micro is macro. That means the little things are small versions of the big things. We could look at interpersonal relations, rape culture, modern wars, colonialism, capitalism, globalization, white imperialism as a continuum rather than separate things. Think loops within loops. Giant abuse cycles with mid-sized and smaller abuse cycles interlocked.

You’d say, what does a cycle of domestic violence have to do with rape or the Iraq War or 1492, right? But let’s look at the mechanisms of all these things, how they’re perpetuated, supported, who is most affected, who is assumed to be rightfully aggressive and whose self-defense is vilified. Let’s look at victim blaming and how it keeps pretty much all the “isms” alive (“If only you were X, Y, or Z, I wouldn’t have to hurt you”), and how respectability politics works on the same logic.

The need to exert control over other peoples bodies and reactions and disregard for personal boundaries is seen in abuse within interpersonal relationships, in slavery, and in colonialism. The same “Do what I say or be guilted or agressed into it” is seen in rape—which is usually an extension of other forms of abuse from people you know and even love. Rape doesn’t come from a singular, isolated goblin in the dark of the night. The same “I want what I want, and I don’t care how it hurts you” that we see in domestic violence is what we see in how capitalism operates across the world. It’s the same notions of “Everything’s here for the taking, to be exploited by me” we see in sexist men, in their manifest destiny, and all over what we now call the globalized world. The point has been not so much to connect communities (though that has occurred and it’s had its wonderful effects) but to expand the reach of capitalists.

Your question is why I hate to see rape culture framed as if it exists in a vacuum, when it is part of the larger culture of abuse and systems of domination. The same way people victim-blame women enduring domestic abuse, they victim-blame people who’ve endured rape and civilians being currently droned and bombed: “If only you left, did what they want, dressed like whatever, made better choices, they wouldn’t have to hurt you, be grateful, blah blah.” The same way black women in prison tend to be there for defending themselves from abusers, people defending themselves from the war machine are labeled dangerous insurgents and enemy combatants. In those cases its implied you should be a good victim and just lay down and take it with a smile, no room to fight for your life. And it happens that the more “isms” you face, the less power you have, the less sympathy or right to self-defend you are allotted, the less accountability you get.

By the same token, we can see how abusers, people with more institutional power, are generally more supported than the people they abuse. Power means people are more willing to see your full-on humanity even if you colonized, murdered, and enslaved millions. Abusers are often also lauded as “important to the community” and their “good work” is seldom unmentioned as victims are dragged through the mud, much like marginalized communities are treated on a large scale by their oppressors.

This is before taking into account whose labor, blood, sweat, tears, and land all the things we now have are built on.

That is to say, these systems and dynamics are damn near inescapable. They’re in your romance flicks where being chased after saying no a million times is glorified (A.K.A. a drawn-out dramatization of rape), they’re in your home when you are guilted into submission and admonished for speaking up, they’re outside when strange men assume they’re entitled to your time and body, they’re in your university when you mainly learn about colonizers and are subjected to classist, racist, gendered, other emotional abuse you can’t speak against lest you threaten someones chance at a tenured position, and they’re online when people try to use and abuse you and your personal space.

They are, unfortunately, what we see as normal life.