One of my favourite books last year was “Radikale Zärtlichkeit. Warum Liebe politisch ist” (Radical Tenderness. Why love is political) by Şeyda Kurt in which the author analyses love from an intersectional, feminist standpoint. So, when I heard about Mona Collet’s “Réinventer l’amour. Comment le patriarcat sabote les relations hétérosexuelles” (Reinventing Love. How the Patriarchy Sabotages Heterosexual Relationships) a few weeks ago, I was excited to dive deeper into the topic!
In “Reinventing Love” Chollet is taking on heteronormative stereotypes and relationship dynamics and tries to demonstrate how the patriarchy is making it difficult for men and women to have happy and fulfilled relationships with each other. In four chapters she investigates violence in relationships, the erotization of male dominance, the ideal of the inferior woman and self-determined sexuality.
The book offers a broad overview of culture, philosophy, science, and feminism and explores the possibilities of heterosexual love and desire in the patriarchy with different example. Throughout its course it shows once and once again that heteronormative socialisation and strict idea of what constitutes the male, or the female role are making it difficult to have a relationship on an equal basis. “Reinventing Love” reminds its readers again that in love (as well as in life) we should find our own way and figure out for ourselves which of society’s ideas fit us and which we can toss out the window.
I especially liked how Chollet problematizes the fetishisation of women of colour which highlights (once again) how colonisation and orientalism have left their traces in our daily lives. The insight into the French discourse and Chollet’s personal perspective on love were interesting because they offered new impressions – from another country and an author with more life experience than I have.
However, it sometimes seemed to me that Chollet tended to reproduce the ascriptions that she set out to analyse. So unfortunately, there were a few generalizations throughout the book – even when these were founded in research and observations, I would’ve wished for a more differentiated approach sometimes. During the translation, occasionally a bit more sensitivity towards hurtful or outdated language would’ve been appropriate. Although some words might not be problematic in French, I believe that in a translation the reproduction of racist language (the German Z-word) should be omitted.
Nevertheless, “Reinventing Love” overall offered an interesting and easy read. Aside from more familiar topics of feminist criticism (such as treatment of violence against women in media and the justice system) I also got to know new concepts such as “deep heterosexuality” by Jane Ward. Even though I didn’t agree with Chollet in all her analyses or observations, “Reinventing Love” offered many new impulses to view the topic of love in the patriarchy from new angles.
Thank you to the Dumont Verlag for this review copy! You can learn more about “Reinventing Love” by Mona Chollet here.