“Dating while [s/he’s] feminist.”

This is a post by N.

Of course all our relationships are textbook examples of open, supportive, and nurturing relationships. But reading “Dating while feminist,” the idea crossed my mind of an anonymous survey of men, and women for that matter, in relationships with people who are actively involved in feminist discourse. I am interested in the compromises that these individuals have made, and they challenges they’ve faced; particularly those that they haven’t perhaps felt free to be entirely vocal about?

This sounds dangerously like “lets go to the garage and complain about the women,” but I am wondering if there is something that could potentially be gleamed from these kind of responses? If I see enough interest in comments, I’ll set up a temporary e-mail address, write some questions, develop a little pseudo scientific methodology and give it a go. Let me know your thoughts…


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20 Responses to “Dating while [s/he’s] feminist.”

  1. A.Y. Siu says:

    I’d certainly be interested in the results of that survey.

    Anecdotally, I’ve had to make no compromises in our relationship, since my wife is a feminist as well. Unfortunately, we did compromise (at my wife’s urging) in terms of bowing to parental pressure for me not to take my wife’s surname when we got married.

    Not all of the problems arise from within the relationship itself. Sometimes they come from other people’s assumptions about the relationship. If the apartment is clean, some traditionalists who don’t know us very well will assume that my wife keeps a clean apartment. How do they know I didn’t clean it (I usually do)? Likewise, if something needs fixing or gets fixed, some traditionalists assume I will fix it or did fix it. How do they know my wife won’t fix it (she usually does)?

    It’s tough enough trying to live a non-traditional hetero relationship in a traditional world. I can’t imagine trying to do that with an anti-feminist partner.

  2. Bill says:

    Women need dick as much as men need twat. Once this is agreed upon there should be no more problems.

    • April says:

      Well, there are plenty of reasons why your generalizations aren’t exactly accurate, but I would certainly agree that men and women are sexual creatures (although not all men or all women), and that there shouldn’t be an allowance for one and not the other, as is still persisting socially today.

  3. BL1Y says:

    The problem isn’t dating while feminist, it’s dating while “a feminist.”

    The feminists who find feminism causes problems in dating are the feminists who define themselves as a feminist first and foremost. These people see everything as an opportunity to explain how man and patriarchy oppress women. It gets stale and obnoxious.

    It’s not different than someone who always wants to talk politics, or is a whore for anything indie. Feminism is not an excuse for a one dimensional personality. Besides, most of the hard-core feminists have nothing new to say, they just parrot Carol Gilligan and Katherine MacKinnon. The people with interesting views on sex and gender and everything are the ones who would rather be talking about something else.

    • April says:

      The feminists who find feminism causes problems in dating are the feminists who define themselves as a feminist first and foremost.

      I think you’re onto something. I just commented a minute ago touching on a similar point, which is that most women who call themselves a feminist will see feminism as something very core to her identity. Romantic relationships, though, shouldn’t be viewed or treated as mini-manifestations of “The Patriarchy.” It doesn’t work the same way and it can’t operate under the same framework at all times.

      I think the best relationships (when one is a feminist) are those that come from an egalitarian mindset, and take feminism to the larger, structured world (where we get more women in office, fight for equal pay, etc.).

  4. Since my husband isn’t a feminist, I don’t expect that he’d find a post like this on his own and leave a response. However, I know he’d have plenty to say about this topic in a forum where he felt permitted to do so. It’s been a real, true learning experience for both of us to be in a marriage of two different ideologies.

    So .. I don’t have ton to contribute from the perspective of someone who’s dating a feminist, because I’m not. But I will say that, despite the conflicts that arise from it, it’s pretty neat to be in a long-term relationship with someone who challenges you every day. He’s challenged by my feminism; I’m challenged by his conservative/libertarian leanings. I think we’ve both evolved, even if just by verbalizing why we don’t agree.

    re:BL1Y’s comment of “The feminists who find feminism causes problems in dating are the feminists who define themselves as a feminist first and foremost.” … Um, not so. I’ve never seen feminism as my most dominant characteristic, haven’t defined myself “as a feminist first and foremost.” But I’ve run into problems while dating men who didn’t want “feminist” to appear ANYWHERE in my self-definition, even if it was dead last or somewhere in the middle. That made it easier not to date them anymore, but still, conflict over feminism resulted in problems there.

    • April says:

      He’s challenged by my feminism; I’m challenged by his conservative/libertarian leanings. I think we’ve both evolved, even if just by verbalizing why we don’t agree.

      I think that’s great, and it’s the same way in my relationship. It can be frustrating at times, but then I let myself just listen with an open mind, and he does the same, we understand each other so much better.

    • N says:

      I have to say that I find the characterization of feminism and “libertarianism”, i.e. classical liberalism, as opposite ends of a spectrum as troublesome. Isn’t one able to affirm the moral reasoning that informs feminist theory without embracing a strong, perhaps socialist state?

  5. April says:

    I am interested in the compromises that these individuals have made, and they challenges they’ve faced; particularly those that they haven’t perhaps felt free to be entirely vocal about?

    In discussing feminism with my husband, I am often challenged with the reality that the “patriarchy” or “kyriarchy” doesn’t exactly play out like the theories suggest. For every time I’m upset by a suggestion that I may have gained weight, he’s offended at the implication that he may have lost some. When I complain about not feeling safe walking around my neighborhood, he resents the expectation that he accompany me everywhere because he’s the “protector.”

    In a serious, intimate relationship where both people want to know each other and grow together, you can’t behave as though your relationship is a mini-manifestation of “The Patriarchy.” Believing that your relationship entity is a perfect replication of it, as if every fight you have is because of it, or every negative quality you have is a result of it, would be to disrespect the individuality of your partner. And as feminism is so very at the core of any woman who calls herself a feminist, it can be very difficult to remember that the most intimate parts of our lives don’t always operate like larger structures of social interaction. At some point, you have to move past those broader definitions and find an actual solution.

  6. Frank says:

    April, I applaud your moderation of the site. I don’t think however, that men are really into feminism any more than women are into male chauvinism. Why do men have to be into this in order to get to certain women? Do men have to check their masculinity at the door in order to sleep with women like you? I find this to be the most troubling thing about feminists.

    • April says:

      This isn’t my post, but thank you!

      Before I answer your question, though, I think I need to know how you would define “masculinity” and “male chauvinism.” I don’t think the two are interchangeable. When I hear “male chauvinism,” I think of sexism. Like a guy who doesn’t want his wife to swear, but every third word of his is “fuck.” Or a guy who beats his wife but holds the door open for her.

      Actually, after looking up Male chauvinism on Wikipedia, it looks like I described it in a much nicer light than I needed to.

      “Masculinity,” on the other hand, doesn’t imply anything negative to me; it would simply be a way to describe characteristics of a person, and most people who can be commonly defined as “masculine” are male. I don’t believe that femininity or masculinity is superior to the other.

      I’m not personally attracted to stereotypically “masculine” guys who watch football and go fishing and like sports, etc., simply because I’m just not really into that stuff, myself, so there wouldn’t be much compatibility as far as a relationship is concerned. But I don’t think that men (or women) who are “masculine” are bad or unenlightened in any way. I just know we wouldn’t connect on a level that I would want for a long-term relationship, so I wouldn’t try to pursue that with someone whose interests are so different than mine.

      One last thing that I hope helps clear it up is this: I’m personally interested in things like philosophy, music, cooking, creative endeavors, reading, and writing. I don’t consider those activities to be masculine or feminine, but I consider myself more feminine than masculine as far as my demeanor is concerned, and the way I conduct myself as it’s socially understood, and I consider my husband to be more masculine than feminine in the same way. And we’re both interested in many of those same things, which is what makes us a compatible couple, as far as my relationship needs are concerned.

      The “dealbreaker” would be a guy who treats me in a certain way because I’m a female, not because of who I actually am as a person. I like when someone holds a door open for me if I’ve got stuff in my hands or they got there first, and I’ll gladly do the same for another person, but I don’t want a guy to hold a door open for me because he thinks that men should hold doors open for women. Obviously that’s a very tame example and I wouldn’t necessarily write someone off for holding a door open for me out of a habit that he has based on the socially-constructed idea that women are incapable of opening their own doors, but I think you get the idea.

  7. Julie says:

    I wouldn’t date a man who wasn’t a feminist, because I would never date anyone who didn’t see me as an equal. That’s what feminism is – a belief in gender equality.

    • N says:

      I think you’ll find a fair amount, if not an abundance, of guys that would resoundingly affirm the equality of sexes that also are apprehensive about the word “feminist”.

      There is a lot of misinformation out there about what feminism is, and subsequently a lot of perceived baggage.

      Just because a guy doesn’t have a Woman’s Studies minor, doesn’t mean he thinks that women are here to serve him.

    • Danny says:

      As N seems to be saying that is a pretty limiting declaration. I myself see women as equals but I don’t call myself a feminist. And I have to say that its almost insulting to try to imply the notion that only feminists believe in equality as if they have a monopoly on the concept. But sadly this attitude is quite common.

    • Melissa says:

      While you’re absolutely right that not all men who believe in gender equality identify as feminists, I can understand Julie’s concern. Because not all men who proclaim they believe in gender equality actually do. In this day and age, there just aren’t many people who’ll come right out and say, in all earnesty, that men are superior and women should just go back to the kitchen. But you WILL encounter a lot of people who’ll say it “ironically” (showing not only a poor understanding of sexism, but also of the meaning of the word “irony,” lol), and a lot of people who’ll be like “hell yeah, women are equal to men,” but then turn around and rape a woman, or promote a man over a woman not because of qualifications but because she’s “emotional,” or support abortion bills like the ones getting passed in Oklahoma and Florida right now.

      So basically, you’re all right. The fact that a man doesn’t identify as a feminist isn’t enough to assume that he doesn’t believe in gender equality. But the fact that he says he believes in gender equality isn’t enough to assume he really does, either. He has to show it.

    • April says:

      Right on. That’s exactly the problem. Hell, you even have women like those in support of Feminists for Life. Ugh. I’m starting to wonder why we even bother with the labels anymore. I do, only because I hate the whole “I’m not a feminist, but…” argument. It usually follows with a feminist statement, so why not just make the statement, and be okay with people saying you’re a feminist, ya know?

      I also understand a lot of men’s fears about calling themselves “feminist” in public, or around other guys. Homophobia and “wimpiness” and all that good stuff is still directed so heavily at men for showing anything other than total, socially-accepted masculinity that I really don’t blame a lot of men for wanting to avoid the possible harassment and abuse.

    • Danny says:

      Personally I don’t bother with labels when it comes to activism. There are things I agree with from MRAs, stuff I agree with from feminists, stuff I agree with from the anti-racists, etc…..

      Findingt myself agreeing with so many sides at once (damn shame they haven’t joined on a united front) I simply refer to the Book of D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F.

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