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Why Women Are Ghosting You

Upon reading the short story, “Cat Person” published in the New Yorker, I wanted to know badly what other people thought of it. The short story follows a young college student, Margot, who begins texting an older man, Robert, whom she met in a movie theater and then goes on a date with. The story has been described as chilling, delving into topics like online dating, consent, and relationships between men and women. Ultimately, Margot stops texting Robert after their sexual encounter and eventually rejects him. The story ends with Robert somewhat stalking her and, ultimately, calling her a whore. The reactions to it from many men were that of utter confusion. Why would a woman sleep with a man she did not want to sleep with? Why wouldn’t she just be honest with him? And the worst reaction: Why is anyone surprised he called her a “whore” when she ending things so poorly?


The story stuck with me because I, too, have felt like the story’s main character, Margot. I have belittled myself to make a man in a vulnerable situation feel more comfortable. I have allowed myself to spend time with boys who I did not like that much but who I felt I owed my time to because they really liked me. And I have also taken part in the practice of ghosting- ignoring somebody who is texting me, instead of outright rejecting them. With time, I have gotten much better at being straightforward when someone is interested in me and the feeling is not reciprocated, but I still do the dance many women do: We exert energy into finding the most polite, passive way to get ourselves out of uncomfortable situations with men.


Understandably, this is a process many men are unaware of and do not see justification for. In relationships, I have heard men complain about women so much and so often for their unwillingness to be straightforward. Why don’t women just be honest about how they feel? Why do they say one thing when they mean another? To me, the answer is overwhelmingly clear. The core message of female socialization is to be passive- to not be overwhelming or masculine or crazy. Our own feelings, opinions, and desires are to be quieted. As a result, we are often indirect about our feelings, which leads us to reject people indirectly.


This is not to say men do not “ghost” their partners. I am sure any non confrontational person absolutely hates the idea of outright telling a well-intentioned friend that they do not have feelings for them. However, the process of passively fading away from uncomfortable situations seems to be universal among the women in my life. After reading the short story and men’s reactions to it, I found myself wondering why we do this, why I have done this. It reminded me of the song “The Fade Away” by two comedians, Garfunkel and Oates, and I questioned if quietly exiting someone’s life is a fair thing to do.



But I realized the reason why we do it is relatively clear: Rejecting men outright is inherently dangerous. From a very young age, it becomes clear to girls that their bodies are negotiable commodities. Boys whine that “nice guys finish last,” cat call us in public, and dress code us at school. Male entitlement to women’s bodies literally follows us everywhere. So in heterosexual relationships, when dating goes awry, our reactions are not dramatically different from our reactions to a creepy guy from class snap-chatting us a picture of his wiener. We understand that confrontation, for women, can be life threatening.


Ultimately, my question for myself after reading the short story and doing some inward-thinking is whether this behavior is fair. At the end of the story, Robert is left confused, without answers as to why she stopped talking to him because she never gave him any, and while Robert is most certainly an asshole, Margot purposefully pretended everything was fine between them before ignoring and then dumping him. I was disappointed in her willingness to go along with situations she was uncomfortable with, most likely because I am disappointed in myself for doing the same. But can we expect women to always be forthcoming when everything around us tells us to do the opposite? Furthermore, can we expect women to be forthcoming when men react to it so poorly?
To heterosexual men, I want to say that I understand your frustration surrounding indirect communication, but, please, ask yourself if you have ever responded to rejection the way Robert did.

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