hang on to that man
August 13, 2003 05:22 PM

It seems pretty common for people to say "hang on to him" or "hang on to her" when they hear about acts of good romantic partnership. In exemplia: citing the fact that my partner cleans our house results in comments like "hang on to that one" and "he's a keeper!".

While yes, technically, I do agree that my partner is a valuable addition to my life (AKA a "keeper"), this is bothersome. [On an unrelated note, I think of the "keeper" as a little cup-shaped device some women stick up their cunts to bleed in, and I don't feel quite right calling anyone that. It implies to me you are a useful holder of goopy blood. Not entirely complimentary. And I'm going to use the word over and over and over for the rest of this commentary.]

What bothers me is twofold: first, the assumption of needing to "hang on to" a partner seems a little creepy; second, this type of conversation is invariably connected to a level of implied sexism. A man who cleans is a keeper. A woman with gymnastic sexual abilities is a keeper. Essentially, in the heterosexual context, a person should be kept for things that are stereotypically desired by one gender and stereotypically not performed by the other. Clearly, every straight woman is not a fanatic for clean socks, no more than every straight man desires a large-breasted gymnast.

Aside from that sexism, there's the implication of what makes a good straight relationship. People are to be hung onto as a result of attributes that really don't effect relationship quality. They're relationship hygiene factors (things like pay, or workplace structure in the work world), if anything.

And, of course, the notion that a partner is preferable to no partner. It's not true for everyone, and certainly not true for all possible matches of people, no matter their gymnastic or laundry capabilities. When you tie into that the frequency with which women will tell each other to hang on to a man versus the opposite, it evokes this notion of "catching" a man that really ought to be dead by now.

Why not just say - "hey, that sounds like an okay guy" - or even - nothing?

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