Him, Her and The Healthy Relationship

For all our lives, millennials have internalized problematic depictions of and mentalities around romantic relationships. We were brought up in a culture that glorified aesthetic considerations while trivializing the inherent toxicity of these depictions of what romance “should” look like.

Some of our secondary exposure to relationships were various forms of popular culture that perpetuated dating violence. This culture was punctuated by the rise and fall of “couple goals” on social media.

I was fortunate enough to get an in-depth look into how our generation perceives healthy relationships. Going into the interviews, mostly with men, I expected their responses to reflect that toxicity but was pleasantly surprised to find that more progressive ideas of relationships has rubbed off nicely on the men. Cognitive dissonance seems to be our generation’s problem.

I decided to show clips from the movies “Poetic Justice” and “Baby Boy.” A trend that I noticed in the responses was the idea of the “male punching bag,” the idea that a man can “take a punch” and therefore should.

When showing the clips from “Baby Boy,” many people felt that Jody was to blame for hitting Yvette during a heated physical altercation. Despite all of the subjects recognizing that abuse could affect anyone — a woman could physically abuse a man, and most even recognized that Yvette was physically abusive in the situation — many couldn’t bring themselves to see her as the aggressor.

It wasn’t until I showed clips from “Poetic Justice” that I uncovered this generation’s second problem: pride. In the selected clip, Chicago and Iesha, another toxic couple, have a heated argument, that ends in Iesha callously admitting to being unfaithful. Chicago’s solution is to physically assault Iesha.

Surprisingly, the same people who said that a man either never had a reason to hit a woman or was only justified in hitting a woman if it was self-defense, partially sided with Chicago in the matter. While many conceded that he was wrong for assaulting her, they ultimately felt that she played a role in triggering him in the matter.

Many tried to spin the narrative that her verbal abuse, even though they were mutually toxic in their arguments, triggered his attack, even though she controlled her actions in the matter. One could argue that Chicago’s pride was hurt, and the only way he knew to regain his pride was by striking the fire of hell into her face, but we’ll go with the first theory.

Collectively, the responses proved that we’re moving in the right direction. We understand that consent is necessary, even in a relationship. We are advocating for mutual respect, and we recognize that abuse transcends physical actions.

Abuse has no place in a healthy relationship, but it is tolerated based on gender stereotypes that we have been indoctrinated to believe by our society. We trivialize the physical or emotional abuse of a man because “he can take it,” but we wouldn’t be so callous when dealing with a woman in that situation. We concede with a man “putting a woman in her place,” through violence, because we can’t fathom how the docile woman, could ever injure her man’s pride.

A gendered perspective on abuse will continue to hinder our relationships. If we can’t view each other equally, we can’t have mutual respect or love in a relationship.