Recently, I was watching a video on YouTube and, when the video ended, an ad popped up that said, “Why Men Pull Away: 10 Ugly Mistakes that Ruin Any Chance of a Relationship – CatchHimandKeepHim.com.” I was so offended by the ad’s attempts to exploit both women’s fears and the stereotypes perpetuated about them that, with righteous indignation and morbid curiosity, I clicked.
Catch Him and Keep Him is the website of Christian Carter, a self-proclaimed expert on the inner workings of men’s minds and the ways in which women push them away. On the website’s homepage is a video explaining the kernels of wisdom customers receive when they purchase his book and DVDs. In the video, Carter explains that, in his conversations with women, he discovered that, “…while lots of women have the best intentions of being a great partner and being in love, they were making mistakes that turned men off or pushed men away.” As if the man’s emotional hang-ups have nothing to do with a break-up.
Clicking through the website (yes, I actually devoted some of my valuable time to this – that’s how outraged I was), I found a page with yet more videos detailing the specific benefits of each product. Here are a few of the bits of advice Carter claims to teach women:
“Why a man will withdraw after a few great dates or especially when you’ve finally gotten close, and what to do about it.”
“The two types of attraction that men feel, and how you need to trigger both types of attraction in your man if you want to make him want a lasting relationship with you.”
“The critical mistakes that literally kill a man’s interest in attraction… and what you can do to avoid accidentally killing a man’s interest in you.”
Needless to say, I was appalled. So I read the website’s “About Christian Carter” page to find out what kind of professional credentials this man has and, not surprisingly, I found out he has absolutely none – or if he does, they are not listed on his website. Of course, having letters behind one’s name is not necessarily a guarantee that one’s knowledge and opinions are valid. There are many practitioners – from nutrition counselors to life coaches – who hold certificates rather than degrees, and some who have no professional credentials at all, yet their life’s experience has given them insights they can utilize to help others. But when one is proposing a philosophy as potentially incendiary as Carter’s, I for one would like to know that such a person has some degree of expertise to back up his claims.
To be sure, genuine relationship counseling can be invaluable. And I believe that men and women sometimes communicate differently and, in a relationship, it is important to understand that. But Carter is not promoting authentic dialogue between partners. Rather, he is playing on the insecurities of women. For example, the wording of the ad, “10 Ugly Mistakes…” subtly calls to mind the horribly misogynistic practice of judging women based on their appearances.
In addition, Carter preys upon women who perhaps have low self-esteem or feel inadequate when it comes to their love lives. For women who want to find a partner but feel helpless because they have been unable to do so, changing themselves to attract a mate may sound appealing because such a solution is within their control. These women might feel disempowered in certain areas of their lives, but at least they know they can change their own behavior. Of course, Carter’s promise is a false one, because truly supportive relationships require both partners to accept one another. If a woman has to change herself to attract a man, that man is not likely to be a good match for her.
Yes, many people – both men and women – harbor destructive emotional patterns that can be detrimental to their attempts to find love. In those cases, it is often beneficial to try to move beyond negative emotions and ideas and perhaps work with a therapist. But Carter is not talking about those individual cases – he is making assumptions about the way most women behave. And that, of course, is nothing more than a stereotype. Indeed, the quotes above evoke myths we’ve all heard before – that women or clingy and that they often do or say things that men deem unattractive. Furthermore, the idea that to find a mate, a woman has to “catch” a man reinforces the notion of a woman being a ball and chain, tying her man down and preventing him from sowing his wild oats. Of course, by stereotyping women, Carter is also stereotyping men, assuming that the majority of men respond to women in the same way.
What’s more, Carter implies that it is up to the woman to make sure she never makes a wrong step, that she must always be on guard or she will drive her man away. Furthermore, Carter seems to believe that, if the woman does something “wrong” and the man bolts, he will be justified in doing so and the break-up will be her fault. That belief is insulting both to women and men. It suggests that a man’s emotions are more important than a woman’s, and women must be careful not to offend the delicate and fickle sensibilities of their men. And it paints men as emotional infants incapable of examining their feelings and discussing them rationally with their partners. Though Carter asserts in one of his videos that his customers will “finally know how to have a great relationship without being the one who has to do all the work and hold it together,” that assertion seems like an afterthought. The nature of Carter’s products places the onus on women when it comes to maintaining a relationship.
Why am I so angry about one website? I don’t know how many page views Catch Him and Keep Him has received, but I imagine it is not overwhelmingly popular, so maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up about it. But I think this website is worthy of my anger for two reasons. First, it is advertised on YouTube with a potential audience of millions, so it may not languish in obscurity much longer. Next, this website is just one example of the endless stream of messages we receive from the media reinforcing bogus myths about women and relationships. These messages are sexist and they plant ideas that make it more difficult for many women and men to find and maintain romantic relationships that are truly supportive and nurturing.