by Roxanna Bennett
All Men are Jerks *Until Proven Otherwise, a self-help dating book by Daylle Deanna Schwartz, sinks victim-blaming to new depths. From the back cover where the author states: “Men really can be jerks* but only if you let them” to this choice quote: “Look at all the abused women who stay! They say it’s okay to abuse them by not leaving”, Schwartz repeatedly attempts to hammer home the idea that women are weak, needy, dependent, and frankly, stupid, while men are manipulative douche-bags…but only because women let them be.
Schwartz’s intention was to create an empowering book for women wanting to take control of their lives. Instead she has shifted the blame from the poor behaviour of others back onto the person who is treated badly. In this case, women. All women, everywhere. In a cultural landscape where women fight desperately for pay equity, respect, bodily autonomy and authority, Schwartz strips away the social constructs that make this fight a necessity and shoves fault back down the throats of women.
Schwartz positions herself as a woman scorned by the father of all douchebags but blames herself for letting Him (her capitalization throughout the book) treat her badly. This is the foundation of her philosophy. Men take advantage of women because women let them. Women need to stop letting men manipulate them by buying them flowers, talking them into having sex without condoms, standing them up on dates, and outright abusing them. Women are needy. We apparently fall to pieces over a few daisies and have no trouble putting out without condoms because we’re so horny we think with our vaginas instead of our brains. Brains, it seems to Schwartz, are lacking in women.
Her suggestions for self-empowerment are pretty standard. Love yourself. This includes a shockingly almost progressive chapter on masturbation – almost progressive because while Schwartz says there’s nothing wrong with promiscuity, you need to wait and let a man earn your trust before you put out for him (a little sprinkling of slut-shaming to go with her victim-blaming). Build your self-esteem through affirmations. Tap into your spirituality. Accept yourself. Then learn to say no to jerks, you hussy.
This ridiculously simplistic idea is insulting to anyone who has ever navigated the complexity of a romantic relationship. The heteronormative stereotype of men and women dating make this book read like a long Cosmpolitan or Men’s Health magazine article. Hello! Schwartz has been quoted in both magazines, and has appeared on both Oprah and the Howard Stern show, peddling her brand of blame shifting disguised as self-empowerment.
Books like this one contribute to a culture that allows shame to fester, releases true abusers from the consequences of their actions by telling women, not only should you have known better, but it’s your fault he treated you badly. Reading this book help a few readers examine their own patterns of behaviour for improvement but it has the very real potential for causing more damage than good by reinforcing what the world already tells us: men are jerks because women want them to be.