Many of us have heard the refrain “If he wanted to, he would” in response to relationship troubles with seemingly withholding men. It’s a phrase that says, “he’s just not into you.” But what if there’s a little more to the story? Though it’s certainly still a sign to move on, it does point to a missed conversation about the treatment of women.
"He does neglectful or bad things to you because he doesn't like you" ignores everything we've learned about abuse, control, trauma, and intimate partner violence. People's level of interest is not directly correlative to the treatment of their partners. It's actually a reflection of their inner state. In a world where misogyny exists, the increasingly poor treatment of women is not a coincidence or evidence of desire.
"If he wanted to, he would."
This is certainly true, but who is speaking to the broader culture and trend of neglectful men? What happens when men never seem to “want to” as a means of normalized engagement?
Are there benefits to men for not “wanting to,” such as creating a dating culture where they have to do less work?
Did it ever occur to you that, in many cases, he may actually be grooming you for cycles of abuse using “pick-up tactics” and/or it is his own fear that keeps his heart small? That many men are taught to continuously deliver low so that the bare minimum feels very big? That cold selfishness is taught to men in capitalist society as a means of survival and identity? That the denial of your own heart's desire is on purpose? That it's not about want, but fear and control? That many men are only taught to relate to women by withholding?
We’ve all been there, men who make us jump through rings of fire for extremely “mid” or even abusive relationships.
Most of us have experienced partners who refuse to acknowledge our needs and humanity because it keeps us small and them in control. Even in cases where carelessness is not intentional, society rewards men for careless behavior. Instead of sanctioning that behavior as undesirable, we label the women as “not desirable enough” to elicit care from a man. Instead of collectively raising the bar of poor behavior and communally calling men to task who exhibit poor behavior, we place the burden of desire on women.
This is not an isolated experience. Men everywhere seem to have collectively created a standard of lack.
Women increase our level of care, hoping that it will eventually lead to better treatment and intimacy while withholding men rest and dangle an emotional carrot on a stick.
They benefit, while women are pressured to constantly perform desirability to men’s tastes because it’s linked to our humanity, survival, and the care we receive. Then it’s taken for granted that for some women, those deemed beneath the patriarchal valuation of “worthy,” men rarely ever seem to “want to.”
Tiered kindness in dating treatment is a method of control.
It says that some people are more worthy of care, depending on how much they inspire our desire. It says that others are merely for our pleasure and therefore deserving of a denial of resources while we engage them. Those with more societal power can pull back positive treatment at their own whims and give it to those they deem “worthy,” as opposed to honoring women they engage as a value system. (Even when those women fall outside the realm of their “desire.”)
Practicing a system of care as a broader social value means that it can no longer be apportioned according to the ever-changing whims of men and their patriarchal standards. Poor or careless treatment is often used to damage a woman’s self-esteem so that her partner can remain in control and not have to show up entirely. Sometimes, the carelessness is the point. It’s an entry point into manipulation by manufacturing desperation and establishing a low bar. It’s a way of re-establishing and reinforcing existing power dynamics and reminding women of “place.”
A partner who has been careless with others is not in the practice of love, so where one suffers, all do.
This practice rarely springs up for the “right woman” in a way that is sustainable over a long period. Selfishness towards anyone you date will appear elsewhere because "liking" people is something that fluctuates. We can make the mistake of thinking we are above the dangers of misogynist dating culture because we are too smart, pretty, or societally celebrated, but this is ultimately a house built on sand and others’ ever-shifting desires.
Where systems of care as cultural norms are absent, all eventually suffer.
We are often all too quick to blame women for whatever happens to us in the space of our innocence and learning. Not "liking" someone isn't an excuse to treat people poorly and for society to then put the blame on the recipient of the behavior. Many of us are trained from an early age that to be a woman means to do the labor of deciphering emotionally unavailable and cryptic men.
Men are taught to shut down and withhold their feelings, and women are taught to do the work for them and adjust.
Establishing a “normal” or a baseline to judge what is happening around us can, in fact, be very difficult, especially when the world does its best to keep us disconnected from our own hearts, and “normal” is often really bad. It’s especially difficult when everything women do is scrutinized and quickly punished. When we “see it coming” and state our case, women are accused of being harpies that are overly critical of men. When we don’t, we are blamed for whatever happened to us and asked, “Why didn’t you know better?” People say you should see everything coming as a woman when it comes to men.
A better analogy is that you always have to navigate some tricky territory as a woman. You're wading through the river, and it suddenly dips off into a deep current, and the water is over your head. You thought you had it, but you ain’t got it. Others are quick to tell us all the ways we are inferior for failing to avoid the violence of others, often in the guise of tough love. Sometimes you fall in the river when you are learning how to swim.
A lot of “tough love” is actually just people’s frustration with your process. Which is just frustration with their own process and the process of life in general. Abuse and withholding in relationships with men can be a deeply ingrained issue that actually has little to do with the person on the receiving end. Sometimes it’s just easier for others and ourselves to say, “he’s not into me” to expedite the stickiness and complication of feeling stuck. We lash out with our own feelings of helplessness and convince people, especially women, it’s for their own good.
The point here isn't the person's level of interest, it’s that this is the way they behave relationally as a human being. They believe the standard of care and humanity for those you deal with is based on the amount of pleasure you can currently extract. They have a tier system for humanity. Often, even within these societally constructed tiers, every person has their own code.
You can never truly know "why" someone is treating you poorly and SEEMINGLY showing care to others, but you can acknowledge it’s a reflection of their own inner state and not you. From there, you can begin to take steps that ensure your own well-being, whatever that looks like for you.
The journey to that care can be a long one.
People often trivialize the journey of being and becoming a woman. It’s a remarkable and complex experience. We can’t pretend anyone has all the answers to avoid heartbreak or survive patriarchal cultures because they don’t. No one’s cracked the code.
After being left so cold by men and the world, so many of us are in need of healthy, generous, patient, and warm lovemaking.
Women and the feminine everywhere are starving for genuine connections and intimacy. We are in need of a return to self, based in radical love and community and lovers that reflect that process. The path there is not to slam women down for misreading the behavior of others but to acknowledge that their behavior does not define us.
We are courageous, fearless, gorgeous, and vital, even despite the best attempts to thwart our divine becoming.
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
The face of tennis is changing, and it’s about time. Over the years, if you were asked to name any Black tennis player, two would come to mind: Serena and Venus Williams — and rightfully so. But as new tennis sensations like Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka rise to fame for their athleticism and tenacity, it’s clear that there’s a new era of tennis taking shape to bring forth a fresh take on representation and reclamation on the courts.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now for Black Girl Tennis Club co-founders Virginia Thornton and Kimberly Selden to lead the charge of making tennis more accessible to Black women and girls so the next Serena and Coco can emerge.
What began as your everyday lunch chat between friends to discuss their mutual dream of owning a boutique hotel turned into a proposition to start a tennis club together. With Virginia being a tennis player since adolescence and Kimberly entering the sport as a hobby in her adult life, the two jumped at the idea of making a space where Black women could discover a new hobby and not feel like the “only one” on the tennis court.
“The club kind of started for selfish reasons, but not in a bad way,” Virginia tells xoNecole. “We realized that there was actually a need for this.”
Kimberly adds, “Now we're literally disrupting a whole industry. We didn't plan it, but it felt divine; like we were called to do this. Black Girls Tennis Club has been a catalyst for personal growth in all areas of life, and we would have never anticipated that.”
Since establishing the Black Girl Tennis Club in 2022, the two have made it their mission to cultivate a space for “Joy Equity and Radical Wellness.” Their platform serves as a means to inform, inspire, motivate, and reshape the narrative around Black women and girls in the tennis world while highlighting the transformative power of sports and play for liberation.
With approximately 78% of tennis players being white and only 6.8% being Black, and the average cost of a private tennis lesson being $60 per hour, racial and economic disparities within the sport are vast. To help close this gap, the two founders have banded together to develop free tennis instruction clinics for girls aged 8-18 and local tennis events that bring adult offerings through programs like the Self Love Tennis Club and Cardio Tennis Classes to HBCU campuses in Virginia.
Both Virginia and Kimberly understand the power of their mission and believe that they were brought on each other’s path to execute it together. “It’s the power of alignment,” Kimberly says. “I think when you're doing the right thing and you're obedient, and answer the call, that’s when things start to happen, and the universe conspires to make them happen.”
We caught up with the founders to discuss their mission, the importance of representation, and how they plan to disrupt the tennis industry one court at a time.
xoNecole: Could you talk a little more about your CARE pillars with change, access, representation and exposure?
Kimberly Selden: As we started to do the work, we saw that there were so many equity issues. Although we knew from our own personal experiences that there are barriers to tennis being an expensive sport, we just acknowledged it as the culture of tennis. Because it's predominantly white, that transfers over to the fashion, the dynamics on the court, the attitudes, and the mindset. And so we knew this required a culture shift for us to ever really feel comfortable.
We were exposing kids to tennis, and then after the clinics, they're like, "Okay, now what?" It's still expensive, and they still may or may not have had access to it if they're not with us. We don't want to just pop in like, "Hey, here's a clinic, bye!" So, the culture change is just a reflection of what our existence looks like. Access is about being able to access the sport through courts, programs, or a coach. Representation is that we can't believe it until we see it.
Granted, there are a lot of pro Black women tennis players taking off, and we love that. But we think about media representation as well [as] representation within the USCA, in the boardrooms, and the people that are making the rules around the game.
xoN: Why do you all think it’s important for Black women and girls to reclaim their space on the tennis court?
Virginia Thornton: It's rare, at least in my world, where you're in a space and see nothing but women who look like you. But it makes me feel great when I can be my authentic self, especially on a tennis court. Just shedding all the weight of pretending to be anything else. You feel at home when you're around nothing but Black women. Even small things like seeing a young Black girl being okay with how God made them is amazing.
KS: [In] the Atlanta clinics we did, everyone was crying. It's just clear how desperately we need it. Connection is the key to a long life. So many of us — especially from the pandemic and working from home — are isolated. With every clinic, it's just fun to be there, and it just fills you up. I think people need hobbies. I think a lot of people, especially people in big cities, feel that way and were confronted with that during the pandemic.
xoN: How did sports play a role in helping you two find your voice and confidence both on and off the court?
VT: I think what people don't realize is that tennis is such a mental sport. You could be a 4.0 player and have a bad mental day, and you will play like you've never picked up a racquet before. So, the mental piece is super important. For me, it's like ‘you against you,’ even though you are playing somebody.
If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court. I had an issue on the court where I have a habit of saying, "Sorry," — I think a lot of Black women do, honestly. Then I realized that they wouldn't say sorry or they’d use my kindness as weakness. I've learned a lesson in that because everything translates on and off the court.
"If you're able to work through those mental pieces with yourself on the court, that will translate off the court."
KS: It's easy for me to do things that I'm good at, but it's not easy for me to do things that I'm not good at. Tennis is still challenging for me, but it pushes me. It’s a reality check for me; I know when things are aligned, and when they're not. It feels like a big metaphor for me because it's pushing me to do something that's uncomfortable and makes me work for myself more.
xoN: What do you hope the long-term impact of Black Girl Tennis Club will be?
VS: We want to have a space for people who might be workaholics or might be going through depression. It's always great to have a hobby, whether that's knitting, sewing, or what have you. For me and Kimberly, it’s about creating hobbies for Black women and girls but also knowing that it’s okay to not be amazing at it. You don't have to be amazing at tennis; you could hit around the court, and that's okay.
The next Serena or Venus might come from Black Girls Tennis Club.
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