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Book review: Just not that into 'He's Just Not That into You'

By Rachel Hills - posted Friday, 14 January 2005


If the success of the self-help industry has taught us anything, it's that there are a lot of confused and unhappy women out there.

Titles like Women Who Love Too Much, Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them and Women Who Love Men Who Have Tropical Fish Fetishes (guess which one doesn't belong to an actual book) line the shelves of the Bridget Jones generation, offering temporary solace and repelling the very suitors their readers seek to attract.

The latest craze is He's Just Not That Into You: The No Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys. Born from an episode of Sex & The City and endorsed by Oprah, the book promises readers a sort of no-nonsense tough love but ends up exacerbating the same insecurities and gender stereotypes that led to its success in the first place.

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Log in to Amazon.com and you'll find testimonials from scores of excited women talking about how "liberated" they feel now that they realise that if a man doesn't call them first, or ask them out, or drop everything to speak to them, he just isn't that interested.

That if he says he doesn't want to ruin their friendship, or if he seems intimidated, he simply isn't attracted to them.

He's Just Not That into You advises women to cut their losses with such men. If a man really likes you, he'll chase you. Never ask a guy out first, the book advises. Always let him make the first move. That way you can be sure that he really does like you.

But it's hard not to wonder how, exactly, it is empowering to believe that if there’s someone you want a relationship with you mustn't do anything to actually develop that relationship with him, just smile prettily and hope that he approaches you of his own accord. How exactly it is liberating to leave the question of the person you spend your life with entirely out of your hands and entirely in theirs. How it can lead to anything other than low self-esteem to believe that any man who doesn't ask you out or call you several times each week must find you unattractive.

The correlation between self-esteem and the belief that one has control over their own life is well-documented. And Germaine Greer made a good point when she wrote in The Whole Woman that “the power to make an object attractive lies with the beholder of the object not the object itself.”

It's not hard to understand why the women on Oprah's promotional special, screened in Australia last week, threatened to break down into tears, even as they declared the book would change their lives.

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What about what they wanted? What they were “into”? Why this emphasis on being attractive to others rather than on who they were attracted to?

But the book doesn't just objectify women, it also dehumanises men. Contrary to what the advocates of He's Just Not Into You would have you believe, some men don't make the first move when they're interested in a woman. Hard as it may be to believe, some men do get intimidated, are burnt from past relationships, and even have normal human doubts and emotions. Some men don't pursue seemingly disinterested women persistently, picking up on the notion that maybe she's just not that into him.

Sure, there are some women (and men) out there who do need to be told that if someone never returns their calls, is forever "busy" and is unresponsive in conversation, they're probably just not that into them. But for the rest of us, it's just "The Rules", marginally updated and packaged from a man's perspective.

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First published in Vibewire.net on January 7, 2004.



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About the Author

Rachel Hills is Managing Editor of Vibewire.nets print projects division and a freelance writer based in Sydney.

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