A MASSIVE, MASSIVE ANGEL, WHOM WE’RE ALL ROOTING FOR:
Every time I'm reminded that my boyfriend is more right-leaning than I'm comfortable with I get this terrible sinking feeling.
When it comes down to it though, the issue is more "your opinions sound a lot like opinions held by other, much worse people who have much worse opinions about a lot of things so i think you might be a bad person", rather than "you think things that i find unacceptable". That sounds paranoid as fuck. And yet.
Like when the trailer for Accountant of Auschwitz came up while scrolling through Netflix last night and he was like "I don't get it; it's not like he had a choice", and it wasn't even that he was factually wrong (i had no idea how much of a choice Groning had), but that it's a very weird thing to bring up. Or with Michael Jackson. I did not know the facts (neither did he) and yet, I was very angry that he thought what he did and the reasons he thought them.
See, I don't want to break up with him over this, yet in some sense I feel it would be the *right* thing to do? I don't respect his opinions, to say the least. On the other hand, I think I'm waaay more bothered by people around me having different political opinions than others are, so I don't know.
This might be *my* problem. (And yeah, I know that doesn't mean I can't break up with him, but it's certainly something to take into consideration). Maybe it is 100% correct that you can respect someone with completely different opinions, and most people manage to do it, but I just can't? And what does it mean to respect an OPINION that you disagree with? It does not make sense to me at all.
And it's never something obvious, sure he's watching that video about how it's bad that Battlefield V has women, but it doesn't necessarily mean he agrees, and sure he once mentioned Hitler did good things, too, like highways, but he did that from some (possibly misguided) sense of being objective, or maybe that's a perfectly reasonable thing to say when you're not on the internet, or something.
Sure he thinks "both sides are wrong" is an actual opinion, and sure he is subscribed on YouTube to one of the country's most annoying public figures with some surprisingly dumb but angry opinions who is nevertheless admired by people who want to think of themselves as smart, but can't you be a fan of someone without agreeing with everything they say?
Sure one of his friends is dating a literal 16-year-old, but what is he supposed to do about it, and sure, when the idea came up that maybe one of his acquaintances isn't the best boyfriend ever, he felt the need to mention that without his money his girlfriend could not afford the lifestyle she has now, as if the wealthier you were, the meaner you could be to your girlfriend.
Sure he laughed at some fatphobic / sexist jokes but it's not like he was the one making them. Sure he didn't like me having blue hair, but he's just stating his opinion, isn't it possible that this is *just* an opinion, and not some kind of sign that he is secretly a neo-nazi?
Like I once got myself into a bad mood by thinking about whether he'd be the kind of person to be very much against the idea of his girlfriend getting a tattoo and concluding that yeah, he probably would be. I don't even want a tattoo. And I didn't even ask. Should I ask? (Does this sound really bad? Or am I being unfair? I literally can't tell. I'd like to mention here that these are pretty much the worst things I could think of after being together for 2 years, it's not like this is an average week with him.)
JESUS FUCKING CHRIST BREAK UP WITH HIM. I know—I KNOW—that I’m supposed to walk you calmly through the reasons why I think that, and why that’s my advice, and I WILL!, but I just want to let you know my opinion up front in case you don’t have 12 minutes to read my entire treatise on why this dude has got to go.
Here’s the thing that you’re overlooking, which you (like all of us) have been trained to overlook: OPINIONS ARE PERFECTLY GOOD THINGS TO JUDGE PEOPLE ON. Opinions are the content of someone’s character, the very basis of which is who we are as individual people. There is absolutely ABSOLUTLEY no value in respecting someone’s opinion when it is a harmful one. That’s a bullshit fucking credo that racist, sexist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic, ableist ass dipshits Made a Thing so that people couldn’t call them out as easily. It is VERY FUCKING CONVENIENT to say, “respect my opinion, even if it’s different than yours” when your opinion is bigoted, don’t you think? It’s a brilliant ploy.
I do not want anyone to EVER respect my opinion even if it’s different than theirs simply because they think that that counts as some kind of kindness or morality. It is not. Respect my opinion if it’s moral and treats people well. Fight against me if it does not. Correct me, yell at me, don’t buy my art, refuse to be my friend. Do whatever you need to do to in that situation. That is what I hope happens when/if I have a cruel opinion like your boyfriend. The fact that your boyfriend is trying to make space for cruelty, even when it’s not his own SHOULD TELL YOU ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. Do not let him convince you to make space for cruelty, too.
Now, that’s the beginning of this, but the middle is this: THOSE AREN’T EVEN OPINIONS, REALLY! Opinions are like, “Tea sucks shit and tastes like stick water why are you drinking it??” That is an opinion which does not need to weigh in on whether you respect someone or not. HAVING RACIST OR SEXIST “OPINIONS” IS ABSOLUTELY SOMETHING WORTH NOT RESPECTING. You do not need to get along with racist people to prove that you’re kind. It isn’t kind at all in fact. All it does is tell people of color that you’re willing to overlook their humanity for the sake of “civility”— a concept made up by oppressors to keep people like YOU from fighting for marginalized folks. Got it?
What he is expressing and upholding are beliefs. He believes that people should get to date teenagers without censure. He believes that he should get say in your body. He believes that Hitler did some good things. He believes in consuming the opinions of people who are hateful and cruel. And if he were watching these videos in order to fight back against them, YOU WOULD KNOW BECAUSE HE WOULD ACTUALLY BE DOING THINGS TO FIGHT FOR MARGINALIZED PEOPLE. Which he is not. There is nothing— NOTHING— “balanced” or “objective” about making sure to watch videos of people on the right who spew hatred. What could he possibly be gaining from that, anyway? The breaking news that some people are bigots? We already all know that. You need to get a lot more honest yourself about why he’s consuming the media that he’s consuming and also look into how programs like the ones he’s watching are designed to radicalize people.
I know I’m probably sounding rather extreme but I want you to hear that your boyfriend repeatedly demonstrating uncaring beliefs and actions are his choices. That is exactly who he wants to be. And yes, of course he’s “Nice” because that is the very idea of being in power. You get the allowance, the luxury of civility, while everyone else has to fight for their rights.
Let’s address some individual quotes from you to really hit this home:
Sure one of his friends is dating a literal 16-year-old, but what is he supposed to do about it? THE FUCK???? HE IS SUPPOSED TO bare minimum NEVER BE FRIENDS WITH THIS PERSON AGAIN. TO NEVER SPEAK TO THEM. THAT IS SUCH AN EASY LOSS. SUCH AN EASY FUCKING LOSS.
Can't you be a fan of someone without agreeing with everything they say? YES! When they say things like, “New York is the best city on earth,” or “Mustard is delicious,” I can still be a fan of someone who says that. NOT when they enact and support and champion policies to kill immigrants or poor people.
I don't respect his opinions, to say the least. What do you think makes a person then? This is like the #1 thing you get to control: your opinions and your actions. This is about how your boyfriend treats people, for fucks sake. This is the reddest flag of all time, holy hell.
Sure he laughed at some fatphobic / sexist jokes but it's not like he was the one making them. Those jokes are designed for people just like him: people who want to be fat phobic and sexist without the bill to pay at the end. You laugh at those things only if they are not real to you. Only if they are to be derided. Now, I know I might get pushback for that. I know that there are plenty of times that we have all laughed at inappropriate jokes. But this is part of a larger pattern for this guy. And the pattern is that he sucks.
I do not think that your boyfriend is a Neo Nazi. I do think there’s a non-zero chance that he thinks Neo Nazis have some good ideas. That is fucking sick. Get out. Break up. What is the plan here? To have kids with a person who hates fat people? Who hates women? Who thinks Hitler had some good ides? To spend your life at parties apologizing for all the racist shit he says. Do not condone his hate by making excuses or space for it.
Break up however you think is safe. Get support, make sure you have a plan. Maybe you mention these concerns, maybe you don’t. I find it unlikely that you leaving him will change anything, other than convincing him that either you are “crazy” or that women in general are “crazy.”
In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” — Angela Davis
Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tries to write about Fleetwood Mac for GQ, avoids writing by tweeting at @1followernodad, works full-time as a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at firstname.lastname@example.org.