Dating While Feminist

Oh I relate to this interview with Jaclyn Friedman so, so much. She talks about the difficulties of dating while feminist, and how hard it can be to negoatiate your beliefs with your lovelife. I mostly date dudes, and let me tell you: That shit is not easy. Outing oneself as a Feminist Blogger does help to immediately weed out particularly undesireable men, but it also creates a lot of expectations and problems. One of those is certainly what Jaclyn calls Hellcat Dream Girl:

What happens to me that drives me up a tree is this: The guys who respond to me and are like, ‘You’re awesome. You’re kind of a hellcat.” They think it’s cool and kind of bad-ass that I’m outspoken and passionate about things. They think that’s really hot. They’re into it. But then when that outspokenness gets applied back to them, it’s suddenly game-over. You know the idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl? She’s light, and quirky, and she has no inner life of her own, and just there to serve our hero’s development and erotic interests. I sort of feel that I get cast in these dudes’ narratives as the Hellcat Dream Girl, there to prove how bad-ass they are because they’re dating such a bad-ass woman. They think it’s cute or sexy. But when I use that smart, outspoken bad-assery to challenge their own perspectives, it’s suddenly not sexy at all. It happens when they say something that I disagree with, and I act like a person and not someone that is playing out their particular fantasies.

It’s happened to me a million times . . . they want it as a trophy. “Hey, look at my bad-ass girl.” They don’t want to deal with me as a person. It follows this pattern where it usually comes from a person who seeks me out. They try to seduce me. They think I would be an accomplishment to conquer or something. They seek me out and try to get me interested in them, and then I am, and then they flee. . . . I feel like the same thing happened with the guy I dated for two years. He liked the idea of being a guy who would be with someone like me, but ultimately it turned out that he wanted someone who wouldn’t challenge him as much, a person who was easier and quicker to sweep away. I got evidence of that when, within three months of breaking up with me, he was dating a 23 year old who lists her political views on Facebook as “moderate.”

Oh darlin’ I’ve been there.

Another issue I run into all the time? Knee-jerk defensiveness if I say anything about sexism that may somehow kind of have something to do with you. Like the dude who lived in a males-only elite club in a culturally conservative country, and I asked him if he would join a whites-only golf club in the United States and he did not like that very much, and a few months later it started an argument that resulted in us not speaking for months. Or like the dude who referred to Joanna Newsom’s voice as “shrill,” and I made an off-hand comment about how “shrill” is a pretty gendered word and only used to describe women, which was met with “But her voice is actually shrill! It’s a sound! I’m not being sexist!” and that’s true but this argument still comes up, like, four years after the fact. And I don’t bring this up to be critical of those dudes — those particular dudes are very nice dudes, and the defensiveness kicked in, I think, because they were actually trying really hard to be not-sexist, and the realization that maybe they were partaking in something less than egalitarian — or being accused of being sexist — was frustrating and uncomfortable for them, especially coming from a Known Feminist. That’s laudable. But the whole “I pretty strongly ID as a feminist” thing means that anything I say about a dude’s sexism gets blown into a whole big thing, like if he makes a wrong move I’m going to handcuff him and throw him in a cell with Camille Paglia. And then of course there are the times when I actually do want to handcuff a dude and throw him in a cell with Camille Paglia because what he just said is so stunningly ignorant and offensive that I’m wondering how I ever came to date this person in the first place.

And that’s once the relationship actually exists.

Even getting to the point of “this is a person worth dating in the first place” is… not easy. Any relationship requires compromise and flexibility, sure; but how and where to compromise on the feminism thing is particularly difficult because we aren’t talking about a political issue here, we’re talking about a way of seeing the world. I also watch a lot of women date men who are, to be kind, Not Great, but they want to date someone and Not Great Guy is there I guess. I remember being at one feminist conference or another, and an audience member who identified as a feminist asked a panel of feminist writers what they do about the men in their lives who joke about sexism — she was engaged, she said, and her fiance and her dad love to joke about how she should get in the kitchen and make them a sandwich, ha ha ha, and she told them a bunch of times that it bothers her but that they still do it. And all I could think was, “Oh sister they are not joking, dump that dude and dump him now.” But I’m pretty sure I could have said that and she would not have dumped that dude, now or otherwise. And then I remembered that I once dated a dude who sat me down to watch an episode of Tough Love (“I know you’re skeptical, but he totally helps these girls!”) where host-man tells one of the contestants that she’s so slutty she’s going to get herself raped. I voiced my disgust and he was basically like, “But host-man is kind of right, don’t you think?” And I didn’t dump that dude on the spot either, even though I felt so gut-punched I could barely talk.

Point being, it’s awfully easy to look at other feminist women and think that they are making obviously terrible choices with their love lives; it is much harder to actually find someone who meets all the requirements of a feminist litmus test, and is single and is someone you’re attracted to and is also attacted to you and is someone who you want to discuss things other than feminism with and is in the right place at the right time. So if you want a relationship — and I think that most people really do want relationships — you have to be able to put some things aside. Where and how you put your feminism aside is, for me, significantly harder than he likes cats and I’m more of a dog person.

Again, I kind of fall where Jaclyn does:

Here is what’s depressing about dating while feminist. Feminism is what I do with my life, it’s how I spend my days, it’s my job, it’s not just an opinion I have among many other opinions. If I had a hardcore litmus test, the pool of men I could date would be so tiny. And then when you weeded out men who are gay, the men I don’t find attractive, the men already in monogamous, committed relationships—really, I would never get laid again. So I do feel that I have to try to be flexible out of necessity. But if I were to end up with someone—and I do want a long-term, stable relationship with someone at some point—they would have to be feminist on some basic level. They would have to be.

Right now my basic litmus test is this: Is he interested in feminist issues when I bring them up? And can he talk about them in ways that express curiosity and engagement and respect, instead of defensiveness or dismissiveness or attachment to stereotypes? If we can talk about this stuff in ways that are interesting and productive, I can work with it most of the time.

Basically, that. Where I differ from Jaclyn, I think, is that finding a long-term stable relationship isn’t a huge priority for me, and so compromising on feminist values doesn’t feel particularly urgent. It would be nice to be in a long-term stable relationship, but only in the sense that I would like to find someone with whom I am actually motivated to build such a relationship. In reality, though, I’ve kind of settled into the idea that I will probably not end up creating such a relationship; I feel like maybe that reads as sad or depressing, but it doesn’t feel like that at all. I mean, I’ve never been the person to fantasize about My Ideal Wedding, but I have fantasized about My First Published Book since before I could actually write. Which isn’t to sound morally superior or like this is actually a good thing; it’s probably something I should talk to a therapist about, to be quite honest. I read all these stories about women my age who are totally anxious about finding The One and getting married, and I keep hearing that women my age have this biological clock thing ticking quite loudly, and even a lot of my friends seem to be feeling like they should be locating their person right about now, and I often wonder if there isn’t something seriously deeply wrong with me not only because I don’t feel any of that anxiety but also because I don’t at all fear A Life Alone. Maybe that will change in a decade — my mother says it will, and then she reminds me that she would be a really great grandmother. But it means that in the meantime, I can get to know a lot of different people without feeling like I’m auditioning them for the role of Jill’s Perfect Mate. It takes a lot of pressure off.

It also results in a lot of disappointment and trainwrecky dates and aborted relationships.

And I also end up making compromises all the time, until I decide I can’t anymore, and that never ends well.

That said? I’ve also had the good fortune to date a good number of very solid, feminist dudes. So don’t despair! Good dudes — great dudes — exist, and they exist in large numbers, even. Great ladies, too. But negotiating actually being with them is no cake walk.

I’ll end with Jaclyn:

Oftentimes I wonder what the people who know me professionally would think about the compromises I make when I’m dating. I wish this were a live conversation where other feminists were weighing in. I’d like to know what other women are doing. Am I making the right compromises here? Should dating require these sorts of compromises? Is there any tactic that produces better results? . . . I feel very unsure about what the best way is to live my politics and have a sex life. I really feel in the weeds about it. But it’s something I think about all the time, and I don’t feel like I have the answers.

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129 comments for “Dating While Feminist

  1. Tracey
    March 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I recently started reading this blog and really enjoy it. I can relate to this post. I just got engaged to a guy who shares my values and I don’t ever have to compromise, nor does he get defensive about his gender (yay!)… so yes, they are out there. I say, keep being picky. As women we put up with a lot of crap when most guys would just say “buh-bye” — I think that’s one lesson we can learn from them. When dating, my basic guiding philosophy was — hang out with him as long as you enjoy it. When it stops being fun, when you’re wondering if it’s supposed to be better than this — than time to start seeing what else the world has to offer. Because when have you ever met someone, who’s with the love of their life, who says, “Love isn’t quite as awesome and romantic as it’s made out to be”?

  2. Beth
    March 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Since I am work, this won’t be as detailed as I would like, but in generally and specifically, Yes. I completely relate with both Jaclyn and yourself, Jill. In my dating life, there’s the Feminist guy who likes the Hellcat but then is so afraid to offend that it cripples the relationship, and the constant battle of “but should I be disappointed when he is less aggressive in response to my Obvious Feminism?” Because if he was too aggressive, would I derail him for being an aggressive, masculine-prerogative type of guy, but when he’s timid, I get frustrated that he won’t engage. I am constantly battling with a population of men, myself, and that elusive guy who just gets it. And, of course, as you mention, there’s the struggle that maybe I am just buying into social expectations of long-term monogamy when my actual life goals (at 23) are to someday get tenure and a dog. So, thanks Jill, and I’ll be passing this post around.

  3. Bill
    March 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Jeez, you heteros be crazy, yo.

    • March 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm

      Jeez, you heteros be crazy, yo.


  4. hearshot
    March 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    As a guy who dates women, I can attest that it’s kind of weird from the other side of the spectrum, too. I’ve had promising interactions derailed by an offhanded admission that I consider myself a feminist. Some women, for whatever reason, find that creepy.

    Some assume a guy claiming to be feminist is just doing so to get laid. Some assume they can’t “be themselves” around a feminist-IDing guy, and some think a guy can’t be feminist. One, notably, said feminist males “break” feminism, because it’s apparently all about “putting up with men.”

    As a guy, I definitely don’t have to make the compromises feminist women do. But I have run into a couple dating challenges I wouldn’t have believed existed.

  5. Dawn.
    March 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    hearshot – I’ve totally witnessed one of the dating challenges you mention. Some of the feminist-identifying women I’ve encountered are immediately wary of a man who enthusiastically identifies as a feminist. They seem to suspect he’s just identifying that way to sleep with feminists, who are often presumed slutty, thanks to third wave stereotypes. I can understand why this wariness exists, but I feel bad for men in this situation who truly identify as feminists and are trying to build an egalitarian relationship with a like-minded person. I try not to judge or interrogate the way people identify, unless the identification is something I fundamentally oppose, i.e. fundamentalist Christian or men’s rights activist.

  6. March 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Oh boy, I’m putting this up on my Facebook group called “Yes, I am a feminist.” right now. Ditto, Ditto and Ditto. I find most guys who are attracted to my personality either want me as the bad-girl trophy you both referred to or they want me to kick their ass. I don’t mind kicking ass if necessary, but it’s not a job I am applying for.

    At 53 my own life is super engaging, but I do want a real relationship, a bond.

    hearshot, if you’re in the northeast U.S. and over 40, say Hi. :)

  7. RMJ
    March 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Cis het feminist here, partnered to a cis het dude with some attitudes that are problematic, to say the least.

    I’ve been with him for quite some time, and feminism has been a point of discussion from the very beginning. And the conversations I have with him about feminism (and more often, social justice, racism, or cissexism) are as often as not disappointing and frustrating.

    But he has always, always, always, treats not just me but my point of view and opinions with the utmost respect though not always deference. He’s learned how to respond to privilege call-outs, and as importantly, he’s learned from them. One thing that’s impressed me particularly is how he’s integrated my critique of him into his critique of me. If I’m doing or saying something that reinforces gender norms in a way that harms him, he is able to articulate that harm and call me out.

  8. leedevious
    March 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    When I first met my boyfriend, I liked him a lot immediately. Later on, I found out he was conservative. Oof.

    Our 1-year anniversary is growing near. I think I’ve changed him. He’s all excited about the issues I’m excited about now.

    I’m not saying this will happen for everybody. I’m just lucky he’s rather open-minded.

  9. boop
    March 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    haha – awesome one-liner, Bill.

    I’m currently in a hetero relationship – my first one, actually – and I guess I must just be absurdly lucky? He is definitely open to criticism when he says or does something stupid. And every once in a while, he even picks up on sexism floating around in the form of an ad or a random comment by a stranger before I even do. So, I agree with Tracey, they’re out there.

  10. March 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Wow. I am thrilled you are articulating the experience of dating while feminist. I was beginning to think I was an alien on the planet. The cycles you and Jaclyn describe are right on. It doesn’t make me very optimistic but it certainly does help. Thank you.

  11. roula
    March 26, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    OMG. Jill, it’s NOT just you. (Disclaimer: I’m partnered with a really super guy who supports and participates in feminism with me even when it involves him getting criticized – but I swear to god, if I met his six-years-ago self now, I would NEVER put up with then-him. It’s been a long slog to here, in which I was only patient with him because I was more flexible and more willing to compromise at the time.)

    ANYWAY: That thing about being OK with not settling down, if you don’t find someone worth settling with? It’s not just you! And it’s not sad! I often reflect that if Dude and I were to break up, I would probably end up not getting serious with another dude if future, just because of how much stronger my feminist values have become over the past 6 years of our relationship, and how little patience I now have for dudes who don’t get it.

    And I am OK with that. I mean, sad that there are so many dudes out there not getting it, but OK with being me and being happy on my own and not lowering my expectations only to wind up disappointed or stifled.

    So…please don’t apologize for it or talk about therapists! Why would it be “healthy” to share a life with someone who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with you on the extent of your human rights?

    Thanks for writing this post :)

  12. Cathy
    March 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Love this post — a problem I’ve had before is when spending time with a man around his male friends. It puts a lot into perspective, as the openly respectful, understanding, not-scared-of-a-feminist guy is now surrounded by a group of men who possibly don’t share his attitudes and possibly will say some sexist things. It can be a reality check to see how a guy acts in a social setting like this.

    Also, men seem to get especially roadblocked when you tell them you wouldn’t change your last name if you got married — as if he’s saying, “Wait, you’re really serious about all that feminist stuff?”

    • March 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm

      I’ve actually never had a guy get weird about the I-don’t-plan-to-change-my-name thing, but with one dude I brought up the fact that if I give birth, I think the kid should have my last name and not his — that did not go over well, and it was interesting to see how much some dudes invest in their name carrying on through their progeny, even though women are the ones who do all the hard labor on that end.

  13. convexed
    March 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    As this post deals with interactions/attitudes in dating esp. male-female pair ups, I’m curious about the author’s usage of the word ‘dude’. For me, the word ‘chick’ is a dealbreaker, addressed to me or referring to other women and girls. I’m wondering how other feminists negotiate this territory in their own lives. Is ‘girl’ ok for adult women? What about ‘guy’ for adult men—doesn’t signify child-ness so explicitly, but by fleshing out an in-between territory for guys or dudes, do we risk playing into old tropes that claim Manhood as an indicator of a certain status or prowess rather than a (slightly less) fraught reading of an intersection of factors of sex, gender, and age? Is this ‘enabling’ an indeterminate ground for emotionally/socially juvenile adult males? To what extent problematic if the old notion of advancing to manhood via asserting alpha sexual dominance is not challenged or complicated by alternative interpretations of masculinity? I know opinions differ and there are threads on blogs that approach this in various ways, but within the context of navigating relationships (of any duration or intensity) I wonder how other feminists work with this. For instance, if men claim not to mind being referred to as ‘dude’, does it become harder to convince them why it offends you (if it does) to be called by loaded gender tags? Is ‘dude’ directly derogatory to men the way ‘chick’ or whatever might be to women, and if so, how much is a difference in the language and its reductive-ness and how much weight comes from the power implications and realities these terms differently reflect? There aren’t many comments ahead of mine, so I don’t mean this to derail or divert other responses. I do appreciate any thoughts because the language/naming issue seems to come up often in my own dating adventures.

  14. convexed
    March 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    *between beginning and submitting my first comment more posts went up…

  15. March 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I used to obsess about finding the right woman, settling down, having kids… blah blah…

    I realized a couple years back that I had not even found myself roantically interested in anyone for a couple years. And now people will ask about setting me up, they will introduce me to women and I just kind of, shrug. If I meet someone and we hit it off? Nifty. If not? I’ll be fine. So, I don’t think there is any problem just because you are not anxious about finding a man.

  16. March 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I use “dude” for both genders.

  17. March 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Sorry- I was responding to Jill’s comment:
    I often wonder if there isn’t something seriously deeply wrong with me not only because I don’t feel any of that anxiety but also because I don’t at all fear A Life Alone.

  18. Gembird
    March 26, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Trish S- I call everybody ‘dude’ too. Nice to see I’m not the only one.

    So yeah, like a lot of other people here I’ve been pretty lucky and found a partner who doesn’t freak out over me being feminist. But the stuff quoted from Jaclyn really gets to me, because I remember experiencing the same thing before I met my current boyfriend.

    You would think ‘alternative’ guys and nerds and so on would be okay with a feminist girlfriend, right? Like, maybe they would think she was smart and brave and generally awesome. Nope, not really. It seems to be “Oh that girl with the opinions, she is cute when she is angry, also she wears offensive t-shirts and I am down with that OH WAIT NOW SHE IS ARGUING WITH ME AND THAT IS SCARY DO NOT WANT”

    In my case, I think the problem was that I was looking for someone who shared my interests like gaming, science fiction etc. Only problem is, the kind of guys who are into that stuff are used to being right all the time and if you challenge them, it freaks them out. It’s great to hear that this happens to other feminist women, and that it’s not just me, because it’s obviously a universal problem and not some sort of geek superiority issue. I mean, it’s not great to know that other politically-minded hetero women find it hard to deal with dating, but it’s good to know it was never my fault for having weird taste.

  19. Dorothy
    March 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Of course dating is going to be difficult as a feminist. Heterosexual relationships are at the heart of the male/female dichotomy. I believe most of the societal injustices and sexisms that occur are a result of the gender roles society has created over time through the obsessive romanticization of heterosexual relationships by women and the male subjugation of women. (Wowzas, sounds aggressive – but I believe it.) As a feminist you attempt to break down those roles through discussion, which of course is not going to make many people – particularly your nearest and dearest – comfortable. No sensible-minded individual wants to admit they partake in bigoted behavior, but what makes it all so dangerous of course is that these sensible-minded individuals don’t realize they are partaking in bigoted behavior. As feminists that’s our job though, and it not only can affect romantic relationships, it can affect platonic friendships as well.

    What’s interesting though is that you still for some reason give credit to people who idealize marriage and the idea of “The One,” as if those ideas weren’t themselves sexist. I believe in companionship and monogomy, but fantasizing about some dude out there who is prince charming is just as bad as a guy fantasizing about his hellcat bad girl. Not saying the OP is a guilty of this, but many of my friends are and I frankly think it’s delusional and dangerous. If a girl (or boy for that matter) truly believes this, she (or he) is setting herself (or himself) up for failure. And of course, it works both ways, I don’t want to be idolized or vilified – just want to be treated as an equal, which men deserve too.

    All I ask for in a partner is someone who is open to discussion about everything and anything, not limited to but certainly including feminist issues. Someone who can – like Socrates – entertain an idea without accepting it and someone who can intellligently discuss and be (self)critical of language and behavior. I don’t think feminism is something inaccessible to males, just because they’re males. I think it is a thought process that any sensitive and intelligent individual – regardless of gender – is perfectly capable of supporting.

    Now how one goes about finding a sensitive and intelligent individual – not sure.

  20. March 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve actually not had huge problems finding partners who fit with my feminism, but a) I’m not het, b) I’m as happy with shorter relationships or even one-nighters as I am with longer ones, and c) I don’t know, I think I may just have gotten pretty lucky in my life with this. If I file through my dating history, I realize that I tend to date people who are a minority or oppressed class in at least one way, if not via sex or gender.

    On a happy note, I recently got a very sincere and warm thank you letter from a recent ex who, unlike nearly all of my partners of all genders I spend more than an evening with, did have a very substantial feminist journey to make. We had some a few profound clashes in the few years we were together, especially a few months after we started seeing each other.

    It was a thank you for seriously improving and changing his life for the better, and helping him to evolve the person he is for the better. And it rocked, hard.

  21. March 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    This is my first relationship as a real adult where sharing feminist politics was a major part of it. Working out pretty well. I know a lot of pro-feminist guys, but most have wives or girlfriends. I fear they get snatched up quickly.

  22. March 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    This is a very well written post. Thank you.

    I think that the crux of this issue is a common one, no matter what your belief system is. Liberals, Conservatives, Christians, Atheists and Humanists experience the same thing. I’m an Atheist currently dating a guy who used to be a Christian, which I was worried about at the start. But it turns out we have the same values.

    My only advice is this – no one is going to agree with you 100%. It doesn’t matter how right you think you are – asking your boyfriend to agree with every point that you have concluded. Wouldn’t demanding that he agree with you 100% be an inverted version of this: Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s light, and quirky, and she has no inner life of her own, and just there to serve our hero’s development and erotic interests. As in, he’s smart, educated, caring, respectful and agrees 100% with my world view.

    If he has the right generalised attitude and respects your opinions, even if he disagrees with them, than I think that’s a good start.

    • March 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      Goldnsilver, that’s an interesting point. I think part of what I was trying to get to in the post is that, for me, feminism isn’t a belief system like any other — it’s not, for me, the same as most of my other political beliefs or even my religious beliefs. It’s about my basic humanity, and about my partner’s ability to see me as a fully-realized, fully equal human being. I think as Dorothy points out below, the male/female cultural dichotomy makes truly egalitarian heterosexual relationships impossible. I actually firmly believe that a male/female relationship can never be totally, perfectly equal (that, though, is probably another posts). Just how much inequality I can tolerate, though, is another matter. So it’s not that I need a dude to agree with everything I say (for the love of God, please don’t do that, dudes). It’s that I can’t tolerate a dude who thinks that women are fundamentally, by their nature, “different” than men, or a dude who thinks that women who are sexually aggressive are slutty, or a dude who wants a woman he can protect and take care of rather than share/build with, etc etc. To me, those aren’t opinions, exactly, in the way that “I think they should repeal the inheritance tax” is an opinion.

  23. Ami
    March 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I feel lucky in a lot of ways, because I found someone who is very similar to me and like minded very, very early in life and we’ve stuck it through. What was nice about being with him in high school is that when I came into my own as a feminist, he was still also growing and learning about the world around him…so when I started talking about gender issues he didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about what I was presenting. (Not that older people can’t change their attitudes, but I think it is easier to be open to new experiences if you don’t have a litany of different/bad feelings about things from your past.) Basically, I was the first self identified feminist he had met, and he already loved me, so it was easy for him to open to the idea and to eventually also embrace feminism, to the extent that he often challenges me to be a better feminist.

    I often talk with my single friends about how I feel that I missed out on the opportunity to date as an adult and live that single, young woman life. (Not that I have regrets, but it’s definitely a “what-if” situation for me.) However, thinking about how to date in general, and then add in the fact that I’m a feminist, well let’s just say I’m overjoyed with where I am.

    It’s also interesting to me how “settling down young” is so often tied to conservatives. That is so NOT me, but when I compare myself to the other people who are in my similar situation, we have very different world views. Of course many people don’t think we’re “really” married because I still have my birth name.

  24. March 26, 2010 at 4:39 pm


    I think part of what I was trying to get to in the post is that, for me, feminism isn’t a belief system like any other — it’s not, for me, the same as most of my other political beliefs or even my religious beliefs.

    It’s an interesting point. Is feminism even more integral to feminists than their culture and their religion (or lack thereof)?

    I think as Dorothy points out below, the male/female cultural dichotomy makes truly egalitarian heterosexual relationships impossible. I actually firmly believe that a male/female relationship can never be totally, perfectly equal (that, though, is probably another posts).

    It definately a subject for another post, because I’d be really interested to hear your opinions on this. I don’t think it can be perfectly equal on the outside – society will try to always pull man and woman back into line. But in private perhaps.

    It’s that I can’t tolerate a dude who thinks that women are fundamentally, by their nature, “different” than men, or a dude who thinks that women who are sexually aggressive are slutty, or a dude who wants a woman he can protect and take care of rather than share/build with, etc etc. To me, those aren’t opinions, exactly, in the way that “I think they should repeal the inheritance tax” is an opinion.

    I can’t tolerate that kind of guy either. I definately don’t think any woman should. A man who doesn’t see a woman as an equal human being shouldn’t date women.

    I was more talking about the whether he agrees with all the feminist talk points or beliefs (the ‘nitty gritty’ as they say).

    • March 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm

      It’s an interesting point. Is feminism even more integral to feminists than their culture and their religion (or lack thereof)?

      I’m sure the answer to that question differs from feminist to feminist. For me, my culture and my religious beliefs have probably shaped me as a person more than or at least as much as feminism has. But when I’m looking for a partner, shared values vis a vis feminism are much, much more important to me than shared cultural or religious backgrounds/beliefs. Feminism is distinct from other opinions or traditions that I hold because it is a lens that I choose to use to view and pick apart and critique the world around me. It is, for me, the way in which I can maintain my sanity in a place that often feels really fundamentally unfair and ass-backwards. I need a partner to be able to understand that.

      As for the nitty-gritty feminist talking points — not even feminists can agree on those, so I wouldn’t expect every pro-feminist man to. But again, there are some baselines. Don’t believe in equal rights for LGBT people? You’re out. Don’t believe in the right to abortion? You’re out. etc etc

  25. maggie
    March 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm


    I haven’t dated-dated all that much, but I have done a fair amount of looking for NSA sex. Even in a friends-with-sex scenario, tons of dudes* cannot handle it. Feminist and with no sexual hangups? Terrifying!

    *I also use “dude” for everybody

  26. maggie
    March 26, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Erm, I didn’t mean to make “no sexual hangups” sound like it’s a feature of non-monogamous/casual sex. Unrelated!

  27. Cassius
    March 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Well duh, mental strentgh is much like physical strentgh. A girl might think its cool how badass her boyfriend is. She feels protected, maybe she even likes it if he beats up another person for no reason. It is similiar with mental strentgh.
    Yes it is sexy to some men if a woman is strong and outspoken. Its a form of power. BUT if she directs that power against her love interest he is going to feel hurt, he is treated like everybody else AND in a negative way.

    Its normal not to want to be treated by a love interest that way.

  28. March 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    That’s a great point- it’s not just heterosexual women who occasionally and disastrously pick someone of who seems a bit badass for kind of the wrong reasons? Men do it too? Wow!
    Because a very popular narrative in the mainstream seems to be that women prefer assholes and that also makes them responsible if the said assholes are violent towards them.
    Seems the “dangerous to know = attractive” applies to both sexes, but it’s the women who are punished and criticised for it.

  29. Opie Curious
    March 26, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    So I’m going to ramble here. And it’s long. Sorry for that.

    Like Hearshot, I’m a man who dates women. Like Thom, I’m single and don’t date all that much, or haven’t in a long time. Sometimes I’m not interested, sometimes just too shy for my own good, sometimes just unlucky. My life is pretty fulfilling even without sex or a relationship; I just want to be clear where I’m coming from on this. So…

    1. I have a dating site profile. I’m mostly on it as a curiosity because I think the way they match people up is interesting, but I’m open. I did not explicitly identify myself as a “feminist” for fear of eliciting the reaction cited above: this dude is skeezy. I did, however, say that I was looking for women who are active liberals and feminists. I pointed out that while these words don’t have hard and fast definitions, my experience is the people who identify themselves that way tend to hold a basic value system that I really want. That seems like a fair way to put it.

    2. But then I worry about Jaclyn’s other comment: the guy who falls so all over himself to demonstrate his feminism that he seems humorless and self-flagellating. I wonder if sometimes I come off this way. I’ve had a lot of conversations with generally progressive and strong-voiced women in which I’ve been the one asking them not to use “bitch” derogatorily or say “grow some balls” to indicate courage. They think my criticism is absurd.

    This is not the same thing Jaclyn was talking about, but the line here – how strenuously do I push my feelings about women being pigeon-holed by language, for example – is a tough one to see. Like, it feels pretty damn unfeminist to tell a woman how she should feel about women and language, but it also feels very unfeminist to allow misogynist language to continue unchecked.

    So I am uncomfortable. As, I imagine, are most people. I am not special in this regard.

    3. But it’s also the case that I did not grow up with feminism. My dad was in the military. My mom is a conservative Catholic. Also, my mom earned more money than my dad, and my dad was the more nurturing parent, and my mom worked more. So they weren’t themselves in a completely traditional marriage, but they certainly didn’t prioritize challenging those ideas, and their other affiliations exposed me to support for those ideas.

    I went to an all boys Catholic high school that I mostly loved. But my English classes – in four years – read only two works by women. One was Frankenstein. The other was “The Yellow Wallpaper.” At the conclusion of that reading, our teacher asked us how many of us “identified with” feminists. In a class of 30, just two of us raised our hands. When I arrived at college, I did not identify as a feminist; I thought they were mostly right, but so far as I was concerned, men could not be feminists.

    4. I only started to identify as such around the age of 24 or 25. Reading blogs like this one and Feministing are large parts of what led me there. I’m now 28, so it’s been only a few years in which feminism is common currency in my own speech. That means it is still a rather new experience for me. But it is not really anyone else’s responsibility to deal with that newness. A feminist woman who has been working through patriarchy and social questions since she was a child shouldn’t have to be patient with occasional backwards bullshit if she doesn’t want to. And I don’t want her to think she does.

    5. So yes, I feel self-conscious about my own place vis-a-vis feminism. A lot of things now come to me through a feminist lens naturally, but a lot do not. I try very hard not to lose sight of that, and I make a conscious effort to challenge myself through that perspective. This can be annoying, I’d imagine, but I’m not sure I should just wait for someone else to do the challenging.

    6. That said, I sometimes push back or defend myself sometimes when I am called out for saying/doing something that smacks of patriarchal. Not all the time, but sometimes. But part of it is because there’s a dialectic here. Like, say there’s an issue we’ll call A. The perspective I come to the conversation with is X, and maybe there are reasons that it needs to be challenged. The perspective this feminist woman I am with comes to it with is Y. While I can’t immediately jump to agree with the conclusion drawn from perspective Y because it’s not my perspective, I can certainly find a new perspective Z. But that only comes because trying to understand perspective Y inherently draws me out of perspective X to a new place. And this is a good thing, but I will get there only by arguing! So pushing back isn’t because I refuse to accept criticism of me but because it’s part of figuring it out.

    7. Sure, sometimes it’s personal. Nobody likes being told they’re doing something offensive. It hurts. I’d say the key isn’t whether you get pushback; it’s whether it’s unrelenting or is intentionally personal. Those are not okay. (I also just like arguing. Seeing people’s intellects at work is wonderful.)

    8. Back to the dating profile for a minute, because that bit about actively seeking them: I worry about seeming skeezy, and also about seeming overeager, and also about seeming too self-conscious (which this comment surely indicates I am). I don’t want to waste the time of someone whose expectation of male-female relationships is a lot more traditional than mine. But yes, I see the point of why coming on too strong is problematic, too. Eesh. I don’t know what to do about this.

    9. And maybe the answer is “quit whining and figure it out.” Which would be a fair answer. But I guess my point is: it is actually confusing sometimes, this figuring it out. If men seem unsure of themselves, well, that may be why. And if they act way too sure, it may be because sometimes people don’t’ want to expose their egos by admitting “I’m a grownup who doesn’t really have it figured out yet.”

    But reading things like what Jill has written here and like what Jaclyn wrote is really helpful. So thanks. Keep it up.

  30. March 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    In terms of feminist dating litmus tests, it’s nearly 20 years since I last dated, and perhaps this one isn’t so uncommon now as it was then, but one of my litmus tests was: is he OK about me thinking of something we could go see together, me ringing him up to invite him, and then me organising and paying for the tickets plus paying for the meal beforehand?

    My experience was that some men found this reversal of stereotypical dating roles confronting. Most were surprised, definitely. My partner of the last nearly 20 years hardly turned a hair (this doesn’t mean that we haven’t had our “why can’t you see this is a problem?” moments at times, but it was a damn good start).

  31. A guy (dude)
    March 26, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Well, I’m a guy who likes dating strong women. I’ve got little interest in weak ones; I hate feeling like I am dominating a relationship. I’ve dated a good number of feminists not to “tame” them, but because they are often strong.

    But a lot aren’t, and use feminism as a defensive measure. If you (not you you) can keep the focus on all of the external threats and hassels, you never gotta look inward at all. And when you do, its just to congratulate yourself on fighting through all of the bad dates and disappointments.

    I don’t think I read a word about how you (and this does mean you) dealt with being challenged in your feminism. Well, except for a bitter long post about how one guy pointing out that dressing and talking a certain way means you are mostly going to get hit on by guys looking just for sex (which just shouldn’t even be controversial) made you shut down for the evening, feeling “punched in the gut”. Hell, I wouldn’t walk into dozens of places wearing liberal slogan shirts for fear of some asshole picking a fight with me… not because I would deserve it, but just because it is a provocation to a lot of assholes. It is possible you and I could discuss the finer points of that for hours, or possibly you would just get pissed off and shut down at my “sexism” for simply having a realistic view that there are a lot of assholes in the world and there are situations where you are more likely to get an undesired outcome by sending a signal you know will be interpreted in a way you don’t want.

    And shrill? Really? Maybe its just because women tend to have higher pitched voices than men? I’ve heard shrill man voices, too, its just a lot less common, right? Is that really worth getting pissed off about?

    Like everything else human, feminism means a lot of different things to different people, and people express it in completely different ways. I feel like your post is all about how no guy has lived up to the feminst ideal, but how many feminists do either? There are compromises in everything, impurity abounds.

    I wouldn’t want to be with anybody who feels their primary personality factor is a political ideology, no matter what it is. I will never be able to live up to every last bit of it. I don’t want to have to worry about whether everything I say will be put under a microscope for traces of impurity. I readily admit, the impurity is there. Some always will be. Everyone is a little bit racist. Everyone is a little bit sexist. You are too.

    So since I’m already (possibly rudely) calling this argument out on your blog, I might as well finish being offensive … have you ever used feminism as wall to close men out, so you don’t have to open up and reveal vulnerability or sensitivity?

    @Convexed – I use the word “chick” exclusively affectionately. I have run into women who feel the same as you, and I do avoid using it around them, but I have never understood the anger towards it. Are we (everyone) allowed to have words for women other than “woman”? Because if I use the word woman, it is probably neutral or negative (because I generally don’t use any of the more negative words, so it naturally defaults back to “woman”). What positive versions of the word “woman” are acceptable?

  32. Ry
    March 26, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Hey I’ve been following this blog for about a week and this the first time I’ve felt the urge to say something so, um, hi.
    Quick note: I use “dude” for everyone too. I don’t know if it’s a geographical thing (I’m from the southwest and my new york cousins used to make fun of me for it) or a generational thing, or what. Currently living in the Southeast so I often fling terms like “hun” and “sweety” at men because frankly it’s a form of self defense down here. The sexism is so think and inherent in everything it’s hard to breath.
    Okay, I MAINLY wanted to say I don’t think you sound like you need therapy. In fact I would posit that those who cling TOO tenaciously to that dream could use some counseling regarding self-love and acceptance. Especially once you get past certain age level.
    I’m with you on the take it or leave it. Wish I had some thoughts on dating and feminism but I’ve been happily out of circulation for too long, ha! Loved reading all the comments though because there’s lots to keep in mind next time I feel the need to jump into that pool. You wrote a really good conversation starter.

  33. J.
    March 26, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    My last relationship with a guy consisted of me wanting to talk about things I was interested in, mainly progressive politics and social justice (including feminism), and him finally deciding that my wanting to talk about these deep, serious, thoughtful things was “expecting too much of him.” Like, my wanting him to listen and respond and think about serious issues and engage in conversations was demanding too much of him. So at that point I didn’t feel bad at all about ending the relationship.

    But I get this apolitical vibe from a lot of people, female friends and male romantic prospects alike. People who’ll sit and listen to you politely, or agree that something is unjust and that’s too bad, but admit that they’re “not really interested.” They’d rather talk about sports or TV or food or all the stupid consumerist, distractionist shit our culture fills our heads with, because talking about social justice makes them “depressed.” I’ve seriously had people tell me I must be depressed all the time simply because I asked them to please not call women “sluts” and/or pointed out to them that the funny jokes they were cracking were based on racist stereotypes, or mentioned something I read in the news that day, or wanted to talk about the news instead of gossip at lunch.

    I just read Barb Ehrenreich’s _Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America_, and many of my dating experiences have made me think she’s on target.

  34. Kyra
    March 26, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I think it’s important to know what’s going to be important to you, and what’s negotiable, and what’s going to slowly infuriate you over longer periods of time, and communicate this, and then watch and take into account the guy’s ability/willingness to learn how to be respectful on your terms.

    Obviously open-mindedness and non-defensiveness are big, and seeing you as a person is vital, and an ability to respect and listen during those times when you call him out for something. Above and beyond that, knowing the specifics of what annoys you and being able to communicate that to him so he can avoid doing the wrong things with minimal effort. Guys aren’t often taught how to be observant and thoughtful to the tune desired in a feminist relationship (and each individual woman’s preferences are different), so anything that helps it not be a minefield for him on some level will decrease the annoyance rate with any guy who is not utterly careless or passive-aggressive.

    For example, I am extremely resentful of anything resembling pushiness, especially from men, so I would communicate that the more he wants me to do something, the more important it is that he ask rather than push or demand—and he can generally convince me of a lot if he communicates that it really matters to him and he would really appreciate it. Or that if I withdraw from him or get defensive, the proper response is to retreat a bit, to return the ball to my court for the interaction, which will generally fix things enough for me to feel comfortable again.

    Or that appreciating things goes a long way with me. Or that hogging the driver’s seat is an automatic dealbreaker. Or that I don’t give a damn if he leaves the seat up, but if he doesn’t help with the laundry I’m gonna just do my own. Et cetera.

    Knowing yourself, your preferences, your dealbreakers, and being able to communicate what you expect and take him to task if he ignores them, is my recipe for reasonably painless dating.

  35. J.
    March 26, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    So I want to know who’s going to start a feminist dating website? Because I think that’d be awesome shit.

  36. Lindsey
    March 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    I totally know what you mean here. When we first started dating, my boyfriend identified as “conservative”…we’ve been dating for 2 years, and I think my fiercely liberal viewpoint has rubbed off on him quite a bit. His friends can be really bad sometimes, bashing gays and making sexist comments, but he never joins in. I’ve frequently had friendly arguments with his friends, and he will at least try to defend me, if not totally taking my side. He agrees with me on lots of social issues, and while I don’t really require that a guy I date to ID as “feminist”, it helps that he at least tries to see my point of view, and is never disrespectful. I feel lucky to have him.

  37. Lucas
    March 26, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Great blog, got linked here from feministing, thanks for the lively discussion.

    I was born by artificial insemination 33 years ago and was raised in a strongly feminist household by two wonderful lesbian women. I basically grew up thinking women hung the moon and I as a man could never even hope to compare. I saw a lot of myself in the description of the self-flagellating man feminist in the article quoted here.

    I just got out of a relationship of 7 years to a woman in which my primary failure was putting her in a position of absolute authority and ethical superiority. It’s been a tough wakeup call for me to realize a deeper meaning of women’s equality, and to start to value myself as a person more.

    Something disturbing I noticed about the online dating thing, which is how few women seem to express feminist values. I’m on one site where you can answer questions and one of the questions was “No means no:” with answers like “Always,” which I naturally chose, and “Sometimes, unless it means yes,” and “Never.” I kind of figured this was a no-brainer but I saw plenty of women who chose the “Sometimes” answer! I wonder what compelled them to answer it that way? Either they thought being firm about it would repel men, which is bad news, or they genuinely think that, which is also bad news?

    Lastly it was a little disheartening to see the quoted article state that they tend to avoid men that identify as feminist on their online profile because they typically are either the self-flagellating kind or are the tiger-seekers or are trying to get laid. Granted all of these things are true, and perhaps even may have applied to me in the past. Still though, it’s disheartening to think of all the damage that patriarchy has done to heterosexual relationships. It’s even more disheartening to think that as a cis-gendered man that I am probably unknowingly contributing to that damage.

  38. convexed
    March 26, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I definitely see the usefulness in thinking about agreement on the ‘nitty-gritty’ or 100% agreement, etc, in terms of values, rather than issues or policies. This might be a good way to address defensiveness. I like how Jill framed it as a ‘basic’ set of beliefs–that, rather than being malleable and shifting and ambiguous, as readings of current events can be, or compromisable in the way politics must be sometimes, feminist values form the ‘basis’ of a worldview, are foundational, and thus not able to be switched out like windowboxes or insulation adjusted to the season.
    Even when feminists disagree among themselves, there’s a trust that we’re operating on a level of certain shared claims and ideals. So, we should resist the urge to be right all the time, because that impulse overlooks the underlying sympathy and respect. But, as most posters above suggest, people have a good intuition of when the conflict is indicative of deep-rooted irreconcilable oppositions in values. It can be rewarding to work with someone towards an understanding of the world that learns from their experiences as they learn from yours. It’s not probably rewarding to subject yourself to a close relationship or extended time spent suffering the company of someone whose agenda is to debase and delegitimize you by trivializing or dissecting your every statement of belief–not to lead to productive discussion but to perpetuate a competition and tension with the ultimate goal of uprooting you to assert themselves over and above you.

  39. March 26, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    J. – I totally know what you mean. I’m really sick of the reaction from people that I’m somehow “depressing” because I like to talk about feminist issues or politics in general (for me, politics is exciting!) It’s made me realize that I probably need some guy who not only has similar beliefs*, but also has a fairly strong interest in politics because I can’t stand being told I’m depressed and sick for talking about things that interest me for too long.

    *Like was pointed out earlier, I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything, but certain central beliefs and general attitudes need to be there. He needs to accept gender equality, racial equality, and LGBT equality. He needs to be pro-choice. He needs to understand the way class works, so economic libertarians need not apply. He doesn’t need to be religious, but he shouldn’t be bothered by the fact that I’m not.** Etc. etc.

    **I’m not just talking about openly trying to convert me. But the sort of outward-acceptance of my agnosticism while clearly being uncomfortable with the topic isn’t much better either. I’m sick of this religious-privilege bullshit where people who have a faith can talk about it wherever, but there are only certain approved spaces for atheists and agnostics to talk about what they believe.

  40. BStu
    March 26, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Its a really fantastic piece and its essential reading, in my opinion, for feminist men. Its a lot of things we need to hear and understand, even if we’re not of the “trying too hard” variety. Jaclyn really lays out a good understanding of her perspectives and experience and there is clearly a lot share among other women.

    It occurs to me that the “trying too hard” type (or types, as I got at least two distinct variants out of the interview) are in some ways like Nice Guys™ and White Knights. There are patterns of behavior some men exhibit with at least an internalized sense of good intentions. What they are all lacking, though, is a real awareness and respect for others. They are letting their notion of being well-intended obscure the actual results of their actions. I’d like to think a lot of guys like this can get themselves out of this if they can muster up the necessary self-awareness. I know in my youth I had moments of being a White Knight in waiting. I got called out on it, though, and I was thankfully able to shake off the initial defensiveness and really examine myself. I knew my intentions were good, but I had to recognize that good intentions don’t justify all actions. I may not have seen what I was doing as “trying to save” someone, but I had to realize I was fitting the pattern of behavior. It helped shape what I looked for in relationships from then on, often seeking women that shared some of my core beliefs with regards to feminism and also fat acceptance in my case. I’m really happy with how that all turned out, but I needed to first knock myself out of an unhealthy cycle. So, I have a lot of empathy for some of these kind of men, but I know change comes by talking about it and that’s why something like this interview is so important. Its starting a discussion now about a lot of shared experiences. I hope feminist identifying men can really learn from this and learn to examine their own behaviors so they can be more self-aware. Whether it be knee-jerk defensiveness or the flip-side of being overly deferential or a lot of the other “not quite getting it” issues that can come into play.

    Anyway, all of this is basically to say, great article. Ought to be read.

  41. convexed
    March 26, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    In response to the dangerous/attractive thing, I think it’s good to remember that earlier posts described the Hellcat as having a strong mind, outspoken, etc. I’m not saying words are never violent, but the characterization of bad-ass as verbally abusive hadn’t come up…so how to balance it against the notion of women who choose men that are physically strong and seem dangerous, when often part of that attraction in this society seems built on an eroticization of violence and control. Are men we date really in ‘danger’ if we call them out respectfully on thoughtlessness or sexism? Versus the reality of the problem of men who inflict physical harm on intimate partners.

    I understand and appreciate the point that men can feel aggressive speech as hurtful even if it initially attracts them. But, experiencing something subjectively as uncomfortable (being intellectually challenged by impassioned but respectful speech) doesn’t make it an objectively hurtful or offensive behavior (being physically confronted or threatened by a body). I guess I’m wary of anything that could syntactically suggest that women speaking and engaging in society is somehow ‘threatening’ to men the way glamorizing male dominance is threatening to women.

  42. March 26, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    This is a great post… I can relate to so much of what you said.

    I was lucky, and sort of “came into” feminism at the end of my last relationship. My now-husband and I started dating pretty much immediately after ending that relationship, and I remember sitting at his apartment on one of the first nights that we hung out, and I referenced a news article linked to on this website. I mentioned it was a feminist site in the description, and he stopped me and said, “you’re a feminist?!” I didn’t really know what to say right away, because I was only just crawling out of that “I’m not a feminist, but…” stage, but I saw that he looked happily surprised, not terrified, so I said, “well, yeah…” and we started talking about feminism.

    Anyway, yeah, so I lucked out having a new relationship with a guy who identified as a feminist at the same time that I was really solidifying my identity as a feminist. It gave me a lot of confidence, feeling like I didn’t have to hold back anything for fear of offending him or thinking he wouldn’t understand.

    I’ve met quite a few enlightened guys lately. I’m not even surprised anymore when I’m at a party and a woman in the group talks about feminist issues (I’m also randomly meeting so many feminist women!), and the men don’t even flinch as they nod and agree. I’m very optimistic.

  43. Hannah
    March 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    once upon a time I found a guy I liked who was, and even called himself, a feminist. I was so excited!
    unfortunately, he turned out to be a frequent user of illegal substances, too. oh well.

  44. March 26, 2010 at 7:41 pm


    I understand and appreciate the point that men can feel aggressive speech as hurtful even if it initially attracts them. But, experiencing something subjectively as uncomfortable (being intellectually challenged by impassioned but respectful speech) doesn’t make it an objectively hurtful or offensive behavior (being physically confronted or threatened by a body). I guess I’m wary of anything that could syntactically suggest that women speaking and engaging in society is somehow ‘threatening’ to men the way glamorizing male dominance is threatening to women.

    Cogent point, beautifully phrased. Word.

  45. Ms. Annie C
    March 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I have to say– this post really hit home with me. Not to brag or anything, but I hit “incredibly f*@#ing” lucky on the love-o-meter when I found my current partner; straight male, socialist poli sci major, vegetarian Trekker, as much as an outspoken radical feminist as me– and NOT an asshole?!? WTF. I couldn’t believe it, but here he is, eating all my bagels. In my case, I’ve found myself compromising more with my friends than my love interests; to a point I can see why that’s more understandable, but at the same time it’s more ridiculous than the former. Where is the line? Is the line different when you’re alone than when you’re surrounded by people? If the line moves depending on your surroundings, is that a reflection on the conviction of your beliefs? I coped by becoming very content with being fucking incredibly alone for the majority of my life (friends, boyfriends, girlfriends– zip.) but not everyone is cool with that. I feel like this post and the awesome comments everyone left helped me understand that compromising isn’t the same as being squirmish about one’s beliefs. I’m itching for the day when none of us has to be shy about calling out a partner because of a “she’s asking for it” comment or a “fat chick” joke. Cheers.

  46. kittyFood
    March 26, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Completely agree with everything you say.

    I also usually try to date guys that like scifi, gaming, coding, etc., but I have to say, it seems like nerds are less okay with feminists than most other kinds of men.

    My guy is pretty great about these things. We don’t always agree about what’s sexist, but he’s consistent and thoughtful about it. I love seeing him call out his friends about problematic comments.

  47. Ash
    March 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I love that last paragraph because it sums up how I feel exactly. I’m a leader in the women’s center at my college, and I feel like I need to have a good feministy relationship not just for myself, but to set an example for anyone who may look up to me. I worry I compromise too much and that I’m sending the wrong message. It’s hard. It’s a good thing, too, though, I guess, because I have really low self-esteem and would probably fold even more if I didn’t feel such an obligation.

    I lucked out this time. I was at my new boyfriend’s band practice, and it’s a country band, and there were all these bullshit misogynistic posters hanging up in the garage. I scowled and sat down, and was reading Jessica Valenti’s “The Purity Myth” while they played. Boyfriend came over later, and when he tilted the book up and read the cover, he smiled, tousled my hair a little, and said, “Couldn’t agree more.” He always listens to my feminist rants and isn’t intimidated. Our relationship isn’t perfect but it does give me hope.

  48. March 26, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    try dating while feminist AND vegan! people often attack my choice not to date meat eaters but are more supportive of my choice to only date feminists. of course, it is much easier to weed out the meat eaters at first glance than it is to weed out those guys that are only feigning feminism. sometimes it takes months to realize that a guy actually harbors sexist attitudes. i know after the first date if a guy eats animals!

  49. Bill
    March 26, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    This stuff never seems to come up in my dating experience, other than an perfunctory acknowledgment that sexism sucks. I don’t self-identify as a feminist, because it makes me think of some creepy guys who DID, but I am feminist friendly. I usually avoid getting too deep into these issues, because it feels like an awkward soapbox for a guy to be on when talking with a woman, if she’s not really into the topic. It’s also awkward when I am more aware of feminist theory but less aware of real-life feminist issues than someone I’m dating.

  50. Rachel
    March 26, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    One thing that my current relationship (we’ve been together for nearly four years) has taught me is to keep in mind that it’s not just young girls/women who need feminist role models. However, just because they haven’t ever really considered a feminist viewpoint doesn’t mean that they’re not willing or able to change once they’re presented with it in a rational, non-stereotypical-bra-burning-man-hating manner. My boyfriend grew up in an incredibly “traditional” family — his mother quit her job the minute she got married and, from that point on, her entire life revolved around her husband and family. She doesn’t make a single decision without his permission or input and has no independent life to speak of. As far as my boyfriend was concerned, this is what families and relationships were like. Once we got to know each other it became abundantly clear to him that I was not that sort of woman, wouldn’t ever be, and if he wanted to be with me he’d have to be okay with that. He still sometimes says things that I find offensive, and I sincerely doubt he’d ever label himself a feminist, but he respects me and our relationship, and that’s what I personally think is most important. And frankly, he’s been very open minded — sometimes all it takes is exposing someone to an alternative world view (of course, this doesn’t go for everyone, but if we’re talking about a generally nice, respectful person who has never really considered things he grew up with from a different perspective.) One thing that I think has been important for us is for me to explain to him why I disagree with him/his views rather than to go on the attack and totally dismiss him as a sexist moron. More often that not, he winds up seeing the light, so to speak, and doesn’t feel like he needs to get defensive.

    Further, my ex boyfriend (the one before current boyfriend) was the sort of guy who totally paid lip service to feminist ideals — liberal, artsy, vocally pro-choice etc., yet when it came to our actual relationship, he wanted to be totally in control all the time. Anything I did, he insisted he could do, or had done, better; any of my comments and opinions were obvious, or stupid, or simplistic, but everything he said was brilliant and insightful; every achievement of mine was minor in comparison to whatever he was up to (not much.) In short, he was an asshole, but worse, he was the sort of asshole who “believes” in feminism, until it actually comes to ceding some power and establishing equilibrium in his own personal relationships.

    Even though current boyfriend made the near-dealbreaking error of voting for George W Bush (before we knew each other, and he has subsequently admitted it was an epic mistake) and sometimes says or does things that make me think he is a walking stereotype, he’s also the kind of guy who doesn’t freak out when I ask him to pick me up tampons at the grocery store, who doesn’t think that doing the laundry or vacuuming is “my job” as the woman of the house, and readily asks for my help and acknowledges when I’m better at stuff than he is.

    • March 27, 2010 at 10:37 am

      I don’t think I read a word about how you (and this does mean you) dealt with being challenged in your feminism. Well, except for a bitter long post about how one guy pointing out that dressing and talking a certain way means you are mostly going to get hit on by guys looking just for sex (which just shouldn’t even be controversial) made you shut down for the evening, feeling “punched in the gut”.

      Are you for real? We weren’t talking about how dressing a certain way will make you more likely to get hit on by guys. Re-read. The issue was a comment that dressing and acting a certain way made you more likely to be raped. Christ almighty.

      So since I’m already (possibly rudely) calling this argument out on your blog, I might as well finish being offensive … have you ever used feminism as wall to close men out, so you don’t have to open up and reveal vulnerability or sensitivity?

      No, not really, but thanks MRA Dr. Phil.

  51. Bushfire
    March 26, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Cis bi female here. I am in a relationship with a feminist woman and very happy about it! I could never be in a relationship with someone who wasn’t feminist. Everything I do and think about has a feminist angle on it. That said, I consider some people feminist who don’t actually self-identify that way.

    Cute anecdote: when I was a college student in my pre-feminist days I had a boyfriend who was far more feminist than I was. I remember looking at some calendar with girls in bikinis and thinking it was hot and he explained to me why it was problematic. I thought the role-reversal was quite amusing.

  52. Dominique
    March 26, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I’ve stopped dating. That makes things simple. Then again, my libido is gone, which makes my choice a *lot* easier. Funnily enough (not), I don’t want the libido back :)

  53. lisa
    March 26, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Honestly I don’t know a lot of men who I’d say pass the feminist test with an A+. With most guys, it’s a constant dialogue.

    I’ve dated a lot of guys who go around talking about what feminists they are. They know all the theory, but they don’t have the practice. They may understand how gender functions in society, but until they stop dominating intellectual conversations (often about gender and power!), they’ll never be real feminists in my book… just hypocrites. [There are lots of guys who are feminist without being assholes… but I tend not to be attracted to them.]

    After dating lots of these guys (he reads bell hooks! swoon!) and being totally disappointed, I’m so thankful to love a man who truly respects women even if he doesn’t think of himself as a feminist. I’m in to the theory, he’s not. But he treats me really well, comes from a family with a strong working mother, respects other women, shares everything equally, and is willing to dialogue about gender and power honestly and without pretense. He’s everything I wanted in a partner, and yet nothing like I imagined he would be.

  54. Max
    March 27, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Hi. I’m a straight, single male. I do not identify as feminist, I’m a ‘Don’t Care’. Basically I don’t care what people do or believe, as long as they don’t get in my face I won’t try to stop them. To me people are all the same, no-one is better or worse than anyone else. But, while I may not be inherently superior than any particular person, I will be better at some things e.g. I’m not stronger because I’m a man, I’m stronger because I workout every day and you don’t. And likewise you will be better at things.

    On the topic, I would love to date a true feminist. Why? Because I am sick of women claiming the privileges of feminism without giving up the privileges of chauvinism. In other words the majority of women out there insist that men still continue the old-fashioned male gender stereotyped dating role, e.g. HE has do all the asking (and risk rejection), HE has to plan the date, HE has to pick her up and drop her off, HE has to pay, HE has to call, HE has to ask for sex. But the moment it suits her needs she will turn around and claim to be feminist and demand equality.
    Another thing is women I date these days all ask what I think of my mother. My mother was (and is) a stupid and abusive person, and I say so – this should not be a problem to a feminist, women can be just as evil as men. But for some reason mothers are apparently all angels by default. Funny none of these women care what I think of my father.
    Yeah dating a feminist would be sweet, only paying my share, only having to do half the work, not getting rude stares because I don’t understand crazy out-dated rules about what side a gentleman walks on.

    And I noticed above Jill commented about basic rules of feminism, equal rights for LGBT and abortion rights. Just so you know, lesbians tell the best (worst?) sexist jokes and the only anti-abortionists I’ve ever known are all female. Does that disqualify these women from being feminists?

  55. Catnip
    March 27, 2010 at 4:28 am

    A guy (dude) said:

    If you’re talking about the part of the post I think you are, you’re being disingenuous. The dude in question was defending the statement that a woman who dresses a certain way will get herself raped. If you can’t see the difference between getting hit on and getting raped, you seriously need to update your understanding of consent and general decency. Women don’t “get themselves” raped. Rapists rape them.

  56. Catnip
    March 27, 2010 at 4:31 am

    Okay, so I totally screwed up the blockquote… That was in fact my response to this part:

    “Well, except for a bitter long post about how one guy pointing out that dressing and talking a certain way means you are mostly going to get hit on by guys looking just for sex (which just shouldn’t even be controversial) made you shut down for the evening, feeling “punched in the gut”.”

  57. Kaz
    March 27, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I wasn’t originally going to comment on this post, because I’m not straight and have never dated a man nor plan to so there’s not really much I can say, and because I’m repulsed asexual and vaguely homoromantic and therefore my sympathy when it comes to any heterosexual person bemoaning their shrinking dating pool is limited. (Nothing against you all, but I’m probably never going to be able to date just because the number of people I am even compatible with from the sexual/romantic orientation standpoint is so miniscule. Ruling people out on account of political belief is a stage I don’t even get to.)

    However, I really have to respond to this bit:

    it’s probably something I should talk to a therapist about, to be quite honest. I read all these stories about women my age who are totally anxious about finding The One and getting married, and I keep hearing that women my age have this biological clock thing ticking quite loudly, and even a lot of my friends seem to be feeling like they should be locating their person right about now, and I often wonder if there isn’t something seriously deeply wrong with me not only because I don’t feel any of that anxiety but also because I don’t at all fear A Life Alone.

    No, you do NOT have to see a therapist. It is NOT a sign of something deeply wrong with you. If you’re *unhappy with this*, if you’d *like* to feel the anxiety and fear the Life Alone, go for it, but lack thereof is not an intrinsic signal of something wrong with you. Also, not having a romantic relationship =/= dying lonely amidst hordes of cats. As mentioned above I’ll probably never be able to have a “proper” romantic relationship but I’m certainly not doomed to loneliness! I’m planning to have a ton of close friends and maybe live together with a BFF of mine. Although okay, we might be raising cats.

    I am sorry for being so forceful, but the “oh god, I’m doomed to loneliness because I can’t date” as well as the “oh god, I don’t really want to date, what’s wrong with me?” were things I struggled with over the course of coming to terms with my orientation. And, to be honest, I’d argue that they’re both forms of societal pressure, of forcing people into the One True Societally-Acknowledged Relationship – the romantic (sexual hetero monogamous etc. etc.) relationship – and actually reflects a lot of asexophobia (among others) as I know a *lot* of asexual/at least partially aromantic asexual people have had to grapple with these beliefs, both internal and coming from other people. I’m honestly wondering whether to suggest you look into the asexual rights movement, particularly the aromantic bits, based on your comments.

    Never to mention that this is hardly free of sexism; I’m pretty sure that “having a romantic relationship must be ZOMGimportant to you and if you do not have one you will die lonely” is more aimed at women than at men.

  58. Q Grrl
    March 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

    “have you ever used feminism as wall to close men out,”

    All the time. It is wonderful to have backing on my desire to live my life without men in my intimate spaces. It is wonderful to have a litmus test of what is important to me, to my mental health, to my physical safety, and to my ability to dream and manufacture my own life.

    Oddly enough, I’ve never come across a man who uses feminism as a means to become closer to me, to get to know me better, to understand where I am coming from, or in an attempt to downplay his own privilege.

    Usually men use feminism as a means to wall me off; or as a whip to guilt me into liking them because of deeply socialized/ingrained fears that I am bad if I don’t include men in my personal space. Sorta like you did.

  59. HazelStone
    March 27, 2010 at 11:12 am

    What worked for me was only looking among radically left men. You have to be a Level 5 Feminist Ally or all I’ll do is have a NSA sexual relationship with you.

    I’m a Radfem so I’d rather go without dating than be in an intimate relationship with a “dood.”

  60. March 27, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I know that has been addressed, (although always a little bit obliquely) in this thread, but it needs to be stated GLARINGLY and OBVIOUSLY: wanting to date a man who is a Feminist is NOT the same as looking for a man who shares any other opinion/mindset. Because by requiring him to be a Feminist, you are requiring that: HE ACTUALLY SEES YOU AS AN EQUAL, FULL HUMAN BEING!

    I know oppression comparisons are bad form, but here it seems useful so I am going to use one. If a person thought that another person, who was of a different race, was LESS HUMAN than theirself, what are the chances of that being a healthy relationship? The requirement that a significant other NOT think that other races are inferior is of tantamount importance in a cross-racial relationship. Similarly, in a Feminist relationship, it is OF TANTAMOUNT IMPORTANCE that the male not inherently believe that the female is less human, inferior, or second rate.

    If you, as a Feminist, have internalized the Truth that you are NOT inferior and less fully human than a male, there is NO WAY you can have a successful fulfilling relationship with someone who thinks you are less fully human than a male.

  61. convexed
    March 27, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    @ A guy (dude)
    Well, sure, I use the word ‘chick’ affectionately, too, when addressing newly hatched birdlings. My concern is that the *word is offensive* in and of itself, not that some women are offended and some are not. Were talking about
    My question for you is: is this word so very essential to you as your best or only expression of affection? Knowing that it can be quite offensive in its semantic resonance, why go through the trouble of testing it out and then adjusting your behavior for each sensibility? Do you only verbally recognize women as adults when it is explicitly required of you? This would suggest a resistance to adapting your basic mindset and esteem of women, and I think it’s worth asking yourself why.
    In a very obvious way, young beings and bodies need care. They are unable to function for themselves. Caretakers are endeared to babies, and this affectionate bond has a positive outcome for the developing babykins, ideally cultivating a safe and cozy space for nurture and growth.
    In a very obvious way, adult women do not require to be fed yogurt from an eyedropper. Many of us prefer to receive the kind of affection that acknowledges our autonomy, rather than one that presses on us the idea that we are your sweet baby animal.
    It might not offend your girlfriend, but it may offend her friends who hear you use that term. If you expect every woman to individually ask you to drop the term, than I question the true companionship (affection) you feel with/for women.

  62. Gembird
    March 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    @KittyFood, #50

    “I also usually try to date guys that like scifi, gaming, coding, etc., but I have to say, it seems like nerds are less okay with feminists than most other kinds of men.”

    Yeah, definitely. I don’t know if it’s a kind of Nice Guy thing or what. It’s almost like they didn’t buy into the patriarchal ideas about what a man should be, but they totally bought the ideas about what a woman should be. After all, these guys aren’t macho men who like sports and picking up girls in nasty clubs and driving fast cars, but they often still talk over women. The worst thing is when they try to use science to argue that certain differences between men and women are innate (not childbirth type stuff, more ‘ladies love romance’ stuff), especially since I’m on their level when it comes to science-y stuff- a whole lot of us are.

    On the other hand, I think that nerds who don’t buy into that make fantastic friends and partners, as you and I were lucky enough to find out. They may not always realise that things they’ve said or done are problematic, but they make the effort to understand why it was a problem once you point it out.

    I realised just how lucky I am to have a relationship with my current boyfriend recently. I had a confrontation with somebody who was convinced that I hated men and people with Aspergers because I questioned his belief that women in science are never neurotypical. My boyfriend demolished his argument pretty quickly and explained in great detail why ‘girls can’t be smart and also neurotypical’ was sexist and generally offensive to pretty much everyone. And he never says “What about teh menz!?!” which is always a bonus.

  63. Another Laurie
    March 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I have always considered feminism central to my worldview and my life.

    I have been with my husband for 15 years, married for 12. He is a pretty mainstream guy and he does not identify as a feminist. I am (mostly) okay with that because he has almost always respected me as an equal partner. He respects my sexuality, my career, my autonomy, my opinions, my reproductive decisionmaking etc., as equal to his. I immediately liked the fact that he had strong relationships with his mother and sister, and that he was able to get along well with women in general. I also like the fact that none of his male friends seem to be sexist douchebags. Basically, it comes down to the fact that he respects me — though it seems sad that that is not necessarily a given for het women in our relationships with men.

    That said, my husband and I have definitely had conflicts about feminism. He was (and is) weird about my surname. He thinks the term “feminist” is exclusionary. He doesn’t really care to try to understand why feminism is so important to me and he tends to view it as a hobby, similar to his interest in football. Perhaps because he himself takes my equal status for granted, he tends to believe that gender issues are a thing of the past.

    There have been definitely been times when I have felt hurt by his indifference to feminism. I have on some occasions asked myself how I could have married someone who doesn’t get it. I have said, “Oh shit, I am literally sleeping with the enemy.” We do tend to move past these issues with humor, even if we don’t always resolve them. He is able to laugh at himself, which helps.

    I think it helps that most of our disagreements relate only to symbolic or abstract issues. The way we arrange our lives and actually treat each other is very much in sync.

  64. Another Laurie
    March 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    It’s that I can’t tolerate a dude who thinks that women are fundamentally, by their nature, “different” than men, or a dude who thinks that women who are sexually aggressive are slutty, or a dude who wants a woman he can protect and take care of rather than share/build with, etc etc.

    That’s probably as good a statement as any of my own litmus test.

  65. convexed
    March 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Hmm…’nerdy’ guys get hit with a lot of shit for being less traditionally manly, and I wonder if one coping mechanism is to re-assert masculinity or maleness in a sort of default: ‘I don’t play sports, etc, but I am for sure not a woman’, requiring much maintenance of that line of gender…could these guys be even more threatened by proximity of female intelligence or challenge? If alpha male is most exalted, and nerdy guys are somewhere below that, there might be a sense of risk of being absorbed into the maligned territory of female unless there is an assertion of male domination on some level. Esp. if the respect for being a sci-fi expert is so hard-won, it could be terrifying to have to relinquish any of that earned authority if a female bests you in your ‘own’ field…I’m just speculating.

  66. Gembird
    March 27, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Convexed, it may be speculation but I think you might be onto something.

  67. latinist
    March 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I hope this won’t come off as gloating (and to be honest, that’s to some extent what it is), but I’m a straight dude,* and making occasional feminist observations, having a generally feminist point of view, etc., has basically been the best thing for my love life ever. I’m now in a relationship (about to be a marriage) with the greatest person ever, and she’s mentioned more than once that a part of why she fell in love with me, in spite of my many flaws, was my basic willingness to believe that things important to women are important in general.

    Of course, the kind of women who would be turned off by a guy’s feminism — not necessarily by a guy saying “I am a feminist,” which I can see why people would be suspicious of it, but by actual feminist attitudes — have never been the women I wanted to go out with. But in general, I haven’t had ANY of the difficult experiences of the straight men above on this thread (or, obviously, of the women). Being a male feminist rules!

    Also, I just want an excuse to share my proudest straight-male-feminist-in-a-relationship accomplishment: I have, on several occasions, ironed my fiancee’s skirt. I want THAT bumper sticker.

  68. March 27, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Um, wow.

    I’m going to echo a couple of people here — you do not, absolutely not, have to see a therapist about this. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you or with this. You should not feel like you have to throw this into your essay as a caveat to protect yourself.

    I realized when I was seven years old that I never wanted kids. I’m 49 today (literally; it’s my 49th birthday) and I have never once regretted that decision. I’ve been married and divorced three times and I am so much more happier alone that I cannot even put it into words. I am no longer forced to make concessions and compromises that efface me from the world or that diminish my standing as a human being. I don’t have to put up with being some man’s mommy and picking up after him, propping up his ego, or worrying that saying “no” if I’m not in the mood for sex is going to bruise his precious sense of masculinity.

    I have been told I was sick and deranged and a variety of other ludicrous things because I chose not to add to that about-seven-billion pile of people on this planet. When I was 39 years old I was finally able to get a doctor to give me a tubal ligation (I started trying when I was 23) — and the doctor wanted me to get my then-husband’s permission. I had some very strong words with that doctor and finally got the procedure without the then-husband’s signature on a piece of paper. Then-husband was aware of my decision because one condition of our marriage was that we were not having kids, and beyond that he had no investment in whether or not I should have children with him or anyone else.

    If you want to be in a relationship, great, but if other things are more of a priority to you, you are not sick. By every deity that has ever existed (or not, your choice) do not buy into the bullshit that you are defective if you would prefer to spend your life devoted to your own causes and your own person. I am extremely happy living alone and having an occasional lover for a little fun. I didn’t suddenly turn unsexy at 30 and I didn’t die at 40. I’m a disabled veteran with post traumatic stress disorder and I still manage to have a fulfilling sex life, both solo and with partners. I openly have both male and female lovers and I have fun with both.

    Society may tell you that there’s something wrong with you if you’re a woman who’s not panting for the altar, but society is wrong. I was shocked to see a feminist author on a feminist blog worry that there is something wrong with her if she chooses to have a life that pleases her without a romantic relationship that defines her. Please rethink this.

  69. nico
    March 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I just want to say that you do not need to appologize and you do not need a therapist, just for thinking you might not mind ending up unpartnered.
    It makes me so angry and depressed that people think this way! Not everyone needs or wants a lifetime romantic partner, and that’s okay – we need to stop acting like a life unpartnered is tragic and lonely. I think this attitude is responsible for a lot of miserable marriages.

  70. Julie
    March 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    This is a hard subject for me as I got married when I was 20 and was not a feminist at all. My husband was actually more of a feminist than me- I asked if he cared if I changed my name or not (because I was planning on it but wanted his opinion) and he told me it was my name and my decision. I was anti-choice, he was pro-choice. I’ve now been married for almost 9 years and have gone from “I’m not a feminist but…” to “Of course I’m a feminist” while my husband has pretty much stayed stagnant. He doesn’t think abortion should be illegal, but is of the “it’s my baby too” mindset (with exceptions, when I was carrying a fetus who couldn’t survive after birth, he told me it was my body that had to deal with whatever happened, so the final decision was mine), thinks I overreact when I point out sexism, definitely thinks “women can be sexist too”, etc… but at the same time, he’s a great and involved father who takes his turn staying home from work when they are sick and makes sure he is home to get my daughter off the bus everyday after school. When I decided to go back to school to have a better paying job that I loved, he viewed it as a partnership and will do extra so I can get schoolwork done. He supports my ambitions, even though it makes things harder at the present time, and always asks my opinion on political issues because he wants to hear my take before deciding where he stands. He doesn’t fall into the “men are studs, women are sluts” trap and he helps me ensure my kids have equal opportunities (I have a son and a daughter). So in the end, I guess I choose to sacrifice meaningful conversation about feminism and feminist issues for a committed partner/parent. It’s not perfect and sometimes it’s so frustrating I can’t describe it, but at the time being I have no better idea.

  71. March 27, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Uh-oh. If being a feminist means having to think that Joanna Newsom’s voice isn’t shrill, then I’m screwed.

  72. March 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Well, I’m not straight, nor even bi, so I can’t really identify with going after men, feminist or otherwise. I mean, I did the usual experimenting with guys early in college, but then settled down solidly as lesbian thereafter.

    I will say one thing, I have definitely experienced with a lot of queer women a solid resistance to identifying as feminist, even if they agree with most of the basic ideals, like Jill covers. Part of this could be that I am attracted to queer women that in gender presentation tend to be ‘straight-appearing’ in terms of a more contemporary heterosexual femininity, like I similarly present as (while not a girly-girl, do love the cute little dresses, skirts, heels, etc I’ve got in my closet). Just as like I tend to be more attracted to more fit women, and more intelligent women, as well assertive and independent. So that could be part of it, in terms of the demographics I am going after.

    I’ve often been painted, when dating, as the humourless feminist, as the person that thinks about everything “too politically”, that I over analyse things … hell, just earlier today a friend tagged me in a “quote of the day” on her fb page, and when I pointed out why the quote was kinda awful, she accused me of “thinking too much” and not just enjoying it as something “thought-provoking”. I had to wonder why she tagged me.

    But anyway, so I’m really picky about who I date. I certainly don’t want a carbon-copy of myself in the women I see at all, as I love difference and challenge in a relationship, but there are some basics I won’t compromise on, and the feminism thing is one of them. I run a mile from the radfem idea of somehow men and women are “just different” so I tend to try to find more third-wave feminist women to date.

    I would like to be in a long-term relationship, as I have been in a couple, and adored both the person, and being in relationships with them. But the thing is, I am career-focused, and travel-focused, tying both in together, something I love, and all interwoven with my politics … so if it comes down to a choice between my career and a relationship, the latter is going to loose each and every time. Maybe that means I’m going to be single, but honestly, I’ve met and dated women that WERE great fits, just the timing wasn’t right, so I know I’ll meet someone.

    I just refuse to see being picky about dating as a bad thing.

    That all said mind you, I will say I do get sick of the privilege in straight, or bi, women complaining about it being tough finding the right guy, for whatever reason … after all, you all have something like ~90% of the dating demographic you focus on. Talk to me when your dating demographic is 10% or so even before you add in particulars, not to mention have societal approval in your dating, and we’ll speak about a narrow dating pool then.

    But then, I’ve experienced many-a-time the thing of meeting the most amazing feminist, sexy, awesome woman, totally crushing, and then finding out she is utterly and completely straight. Dammit.

  73. exholt
    March 27, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    But I get this apolitical vibe from a lot of people, female friends and male romantic prospects alike. People who’ll sit and listen to you politely, or agree that something is unjust and that’s too bad, but admit that they’re “not really interested.” They’d rather talk about sports or TV or food or all the stupid consumerist, distractionist shit our culture fills our heads with, because talking about social justice makes them “depressed.”

    I’m wondering how much of this also has to do with the fact topics such as politics is not only considered excessively serious, heavy, and academic for a party, family gathering, or personal relationships, but also a polarizing one.

    I’ve had similar reactions from relatives and friends whenever I start discussing my deep interests in Chinese history and world politics. Each time I’ve done that, they’d say I need to realize I am not in a university classroom or a political meeting and that I shouldn’t “ruin” the atmosphere of what was supposed to be a casual fun gathering by bringing up such deep topics that I come across as an insufferably intellectual “bore”. It is one reason why I never advertise the fact I was a poli-sci minor and refuse to do more than mention that I studied history in college unless the individuals/date explicitly expresses a deep interest*.

    It is a similar reaction to what my hardcore engineering/CS colleagues experience when they start discussing the finer points of operating system or microprocessor design. Only difference is that with politics, you’d also risk offending/pissing off others because you are perceived as questioning the very premises of their worldview…..a reason for the common etiquette quote where two topics to be avoided at family gatherings or parties are politics and religion. Then again, this also means discussing politics can serve as an effective means to filter out undesirable dates early in the game.

    that I over analyse things

    I get that comment a lot myself….though in actuality, that’s mainly because the vast majority refuse to analyze many things, especially serious/complex ones like politics in any meaningful depth.

  74. Show-na
    March 28, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Presenting feminist ideas to a few men I have recently dated has been an interesting experience. I sent one guy a couple of chapters out of Full Frontal and he criticized the writing style instead of engaging me in the content. He claimed to be a feminist but seemed completely uninterested in the subject. I think he was interested in the idea of being a feminist but didn’t understand what being a feminist actually meant.

    In another relationship, I completely dominated this dude (totally by mistake) because I had so many passionate ideas about feminist perspective among other things. He was very open-minded, but let his sense of self be pushed to the background. Fail. So much for an egalitarian relationship void of

    Maybe these guys fall under Not So Great Guys; maybe my feminism is too new to judge so harshly; maybe I need to learn where to compromise.

    Great post. I have much to consider.

  75. exholt
    March 28, 2010 at 1:40 am

    In another relationship, I completely dominated this dude (totally by mistake) because I had so many passionate ideas about feminist perspective among other things. He was very open-minded, but let his sense of self be pushed to the background. Fail. So much for an egalitarian relationship void of

    I’ve seen this before with others when they’ve had little/no background on a given topic I or others happen to be passion about, especially something perceived as serious and intellectually challenging such as history or politics. While many will attempt to engage on some level, others may be so intimidated by their lack of knowledge/background that they may go along with what the one who brought up that topic said not only to get along, but also in the belief that s(he) should defer to the “expert” and not voice perceived “uninformed opinions”.

    It is one reason why so many older relatives and some friends warned me that bringing up “academic” and serious topics like politics will cause me to be perceived as a “bore” at social gatherings and tends to be such a mood killer that most dates will run for the hills if I was daft enough to broach those topics. Worse, they’ve also warned it may be perceived by most as a crass way to intimidate others with my intellect and thus, not a good way to endear myself to others.

  76. Samantha b.
    March 28, 2010 at 8:12 am

    @Paula, I actually think Joanna Newsom has a pretty delicate voice that she manipulates in an often abrasive fashion. This contrivance may or may not be to any one given person’s particular taste, but it ought to be acknowledged that it’s a controlled, highly deliberate technique that no doubt she’s worked laboriously to develop. Contrived abrasiveness is nothing especially uncommon to male musicians, and I think generally such male abrasiveness is readily received as deliberate rather than incidental. Whereas with Newsom, she’s just dismissed as having an unlikeable voice. Also, yeah, shrill is a word almost exclusively applied to female voices; it’s really difficult to argue that it’s a gender neutral term.

  77. March 28, 2010 at 9:16 am

    J 37 – YES I so relate to people complaining ‘but you aaaalwaaaays bring the conversation round to feminism! It’s just so DEPRESSING and I don’t want to think about it!’. Um, no I don’t, I very much bite my tongue a lot – in order to have any social life – but I do react to stupid jokes/ comments, or give my opinion if a feminist issue is brought up by someone else. I wondered if I was boring people but on reflection, I’m not.
    Example: in a conversation *none* of us wanted to get married, but as soon as I said that, everyone rolled their eyes and said ‘you wouldn’t’ and that my objections were ‘outdated’. They had agreed with me a moment ago.
    And i hear you about positive thinking. I must read Ehrenreich’s book. But yes it must be more depressing to know there is inequality and crush that knowledge down because ‘it brings you down’…doesn’t work…it’s just repression. At least feminists are doing something about it, no matter how small that is, and that means they have hope for the future.

  78. barbarian
    March 28, 2010 at 11:41 am

    It occurs to me that I, er, don’t know any feminists. At least, nobody whose professional life revolves around feminist political activism.

    The politically active people I know best are conservatives, and the thing is, they really ought to date each other. They’re so much happier when dating a comrade/teammate than someone who doesn’t understand, or thinks politics is boring. If your profession or passion is politics, you really can’t have a serious relationship with somebody who isn’t on your side; or, at least, if you do, there’s going to be conflict.

    Me? Right now I’m starting to date someone who “hates feminists.” I’m inclined to think he doesn’t mean it, or doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He’s never seemed inclined to disrespect my own accomplishments, or the accomplishments of women in general. I think a lot of men who “hate feminists” really just hate people spoiling their fun, never mind that lots of feminists aren’t spoilsports.

  79. Kay
    March 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I could have read a lot more of the article, if not for the constant use of the word dude. The 90s are over, it pretty much took away any merit this article had.
    Also, I think (as a woman, feminist and bisexual) the problem feminist run into is they expect their dates to have some sexist views. So, when a guy says Joanna Newsom’s voice is shrill, she starts an argument because shrill is a word generally described to women. She ignores the point his trying to make about Newsom’s voice, and starts on gender inequality.
    No one wants to be in a relationship in which the other person is, at least, subconsciously searching for something.

  80. exholt
    March 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    But yes it must be more depressing to know there is inequality and crush that knowledge down because ‘it brings you down’…doesn’t work…it’s just repression.

    While this may apply to some, most people IME don’t even care enough about inequality or other problems in the world not affecting them to feel the need to repress that knowledge. In short, it is the “not my problem”, “why should it be MY problem”, or the ever popular “Why should I make up for the slack, bad luck, or the ineptitude of others by being concerned about their problems”??”

    Worse, there is a strong appeal to having a hierarchical system where there is almost always someone lower than you to “kick down”…..a theory why talk shows like Jerry Springer or TV programs like Cops and Beavis and Butthead were so popular by appealing to the “At least I am not as stupid and idiotic as [any show like the ones mentioned above].

    A factor in why conservative/libertarian ideas still hold a lot of appeal for many in the US….

  81. exholt
    March 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    If your profession or passion is politics, you really can’t have a serious relationship with somebody who isn’t on your side; or, at least, if you do, there’s going to be conflict.

    Or who doesn’t share the level of passion or any interest in politics regardless of his/her political views. Remembered hearing one of the reasons why Jane Wyman divorced Ronald Reagan in 1948 was because she became exasperated with him incessantly discussing politics.

  82. Mona
    March 28, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    These ideas resonated with me.

    The key issue, to me, is that only guys with true and individualised self-confidence as well as a natural willingness to respect human beings not in their same privileged category as inherently equal tend to be feminists or able to turn into feminists – and that kind of good character is rare period.

  83. The Flash
    March 28, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    *shrug* structural analysis disenfranchises men. Particularly hetero cis- able-bodied men. If you don’t want a guy who constantly self-flagellates and still buys into feminism, maybe you shouldn’t paint the kind of guy you’re looking for (outside of the feminism beliefs) as inherently part of the problem. You’d be contributing to creating a feminism that either doesn’t cripple its MHCA (that’d be male hetero cis able) emotionally/intellectually, and you’d create an access point for guys who stay away because they don’t like to sit around feeling bad about themselves.

  84. AM
    March 28, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I could probably write a lot more than I’m going to, but long story short- I can relate and I refuse to compromise anymore. Being attracted to someone because they are fiery and passionate about something but not actually respecting those beliefs or giving them legitimacy (which is not the same as agreeing 100% with them) is tokenizing and offensive. And when I say I refuse to compromise, it doesn’t mean my feminism is 100% rigid and unchanging. Rather, it means I have core values and beliefs I won’t compromise on concerning my feminism, but I am open to new ways to conceptualize feminist issues and the challenges I experience as a feminist woman while navigating relationships, friendships, gender equity concerns, consent, sex, etc. etc. But in terms of political identities, I refuse to date someone who is not feminist and not pro-choice. Maybe that makes me stubborn and lowers my dating pool significantly, but I don’t really give a shit. There is a spectrum of feminist beliefs and no two feminists are exactly the same, but the basic belief in gender equity, a woman’s bodily sovereignty and integrity, an awareness of gender oppression and the rigidity of traditional gender roles, and things like that are part of the fabric of my being and not something I can compromise on. But thanks for the great article- lots to think about and consider! :D

  85. convexed
    March 28, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    @ The Flash.

    No, we’re not depriving anybody of voice or participation. We’re responding to the ways in which *many* men use their voices and participation to shout down a reasonable challenge to their privilege. That is, we are analysing an existent resistance to analysis.
    ‘Disenfranchise’ might be the wrong word for you to bring here, considering its usage best relates to issues of citizenship and voting. We’re talking about interpersonal relationships. If you want to make a claim that men feel pressured to shut up when their feminist girlfriends bring out the feminism, go ahead. Please don’t embarrass yourself by claiming that men have been historically bumped out of rightful participation in political process by women.

  86. Holy!
    March 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    It’s probably pretty obvious that non-feminists tend to do better in the dating game. Most guys will just stick with something a little closer to home, even if they’re not an out-and-out sexist pig.

    Perhaps that’s why there are more non-feminists to begin with? Maybe they just out breed them?

  87. Zes
    March 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    My husband was onto feminism before we met. I feel very lucky! For example it never occurred to him I should change my name on marriage (his mother is a PhD who practices under her birth name). It comes up in small ways daily. We saw a commercial recently where a little girl comes into a room with a clipboard and says to a little boy, “The doctor will see you now” and the boy goes into a room to meet with another boy dressed up with stethoscope and labcoat as a kid doctor, who prescribes a diet high in fiber (the product is some kind of fiber-containing cereal I think). My husband summed it up, with no prompting from me, “Hey parents, if you want your daughter to aspire to a world where men are the bosses and customers and she is the secretary or servant, and for your son to think that’s perfectly normal, feed them this cereal!” What’s particularly good about him doing that sort of thing is it makes it extremely easy for me to introduce feminist concepts around his less-enlightened friends because I have him as backup and because often he has paved the way by saying something lighthearted of this sort, that makes them laugh AT sexism instead of WITH it.

    I would be interested to know what other married women have experienced in one regard, which is married privilege. Married feminists cannot be easily written off as man-hating bitches destroying the nuclear family. Additionally my husband is immune to accusations of emasculation by me as he has the overwhelming privileges (on top of being white, het, cis and male) of being handsome, tall, a graduate, and a high earner. This seems to have rendered me automatically highly credible to certain more sexist men who previously would have dismissed me but now engage with me. Am I piggybacking on his privilege? Is it because they think “well she talks a big game but she submitted to marriage”? Or do they actually look at us and reconsider? Are they really listening? Maybe. I speak in particular of older men who did not have so many feminist women to choose from and seem now their children are growing up to lament the gap in their marriages. Even among more contemporary colleagues my husband has said that some of his apparently sexist coworkers – men who admit they deliberately married to get their mitts on a woman who was NOT their equal in intellect or ambition because they thought that would stop her being a good homemaker or supportive wife – have told him they are jealous when he speaks of my helping him budget a project or in my own work, opening a show, or simply geeking out with him about the many interests we share. They say they wish they had more connection with their wives and something to talk about besides the kids. So maybe in their heart of hearts even some sexists secretly want feminists, or would be happier with us, they just don’t believe they are strong enough not to lose themselves in marriage to us (just as some women are apprehensive about marriage or kids for the same reason). So I would like to ask other women, how does your partner’s support or lack thereof affect your ability to function as a feminist? Not just within your relationship as the post asks but also outside it? I hope this is not a derail as I feel it is part of the same issue. If it is then I’m sorry!

    (Sorry if this double posts the browser glitched!)

  88. Amanda F
    March 29, 2010 at 3:20 am

    I think too often are women making compromises in relationships: letting go things no to piss *him* off or silencing our needs because we don’t want to appear bitchy or needy. And too often are men NOT making compromises because for them it’s a step down on the ladder to be “whipped,” to have to give up things. For so long, men were used to having women come to them because women needed them to live in society (mostly financially). Now–you have to WORK at relationships.. both sides need to make compromises and sacrifices to exist as a couple, and a lot of single men today did not have fathers who had to do that. I think women should all put their foot down until men accept that a relationship is compromise.

  89. The Flash
    March 29, 2010 at 4:21 am

    @ convexed— I disagree. Disenfranchising doesn’t only have to do with legal voting. To the extent that men are made to feel intrinsically part of the problem and therefore that their ability to assert themselves is undermined, not for what they’re saying but for the mere reason that they’re men, that’s disenfranchisment. Not having the privilege to be part of the conversation is disenfranchisement. Guides to how to be a feminist man that tell men to shut up and listen are disenfranchising those men by telling them their voice in feminist spaces isn’t equally legitimate.

    “to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity; especially : to deprive of the right to vote”

    I mean, if you want to paint yourself as a social incompetent who defines everything strictly and is a competitor for “most likley to become a member of the cast of ‘The Big Bang Theory'”, then maybe you have a point. But otherwise, please don’t accuse me of “embarassing” myself when my point is perfectly clear.

  90. Another Laurie
    March 29, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I was interested in Zes’s comment about using her privilege as a married woman to advocate feminism — and piggybacking on the automatic credibility her husband commands as someone in a very privileged group.

    I actually think it is helpful to remind people that feminists are often married and often have kids. There are ways to do this that don’t apply that women OUGHT to be married and have kids. I think it is good the more people see that feminists are diverse group that can include a lot of different types of people, including people that the average anti-feminist might assume would have no “reason” to embrace feminism.

  91. Niki
    March 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I’m a (cis, female, hetero) feminist in a long-term serious relationship with a man who doesn’t consider himself a feminist and, before we started dating, probably still believed all the stupid stereotypes about feminism. He was a little caught off-guard when he first found out about my identification as a feminist, and he was a complete stranger to feminist theory, but it didn’t scare him off, and then the more we hung out, the more I have to assume he realized he was wrong about. I don’t hate men, I love makeup and dressing up and I shave my legs*, I’m not an angry person, and I’m only a little bit obsessed with my cats. (We only have two!) And within the group of friends I hang out with, there are other girls like me who are feminists, and so he’s had the opportunity to see that maybe the clichés aren’t true.

    He still doesn’t personally identify as a feminist and he’s still prone to some tendencies that really highlight his privilege; like, for instance, he thinks Family Guy’s rape jokes are hilarious. We disagree on that stuff. But I’m not going to dump him because he laughed at an offensive joke. He agrees on the political stuff (he’s very pro-choice, for example), and he supports me in my desire to build a career in feminist media; that’s much more important to me than whether he joins me in my daily examination of the world through a feminist lens. He’s a good man, he and I have a good relationship, and we can deal with our different takes on pop culture so long as our core values are in sync.

    *I probably don’t need to say this, but of course I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong with not wearing makeup and growing leg hair!

  92. Sheelzebub
    March 29, 2010 at 10:16 am

    To the extent that men are made to feel intrinsically part of the problem and therefore that their ability to assert themselves is undermined, not for what they’re saying but for the mere reason that they’re men, that’s disenfranchisment.

    Utter fucking bullshit. Men are free to stand up for themselves if they are being mistreated. Having privilege doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for yourself. If anything, a woman who stands up for herself is called irrational, hysterical, shrill, and unfair for not tripping over herself to accommodate her man.

    I find it interesting that pointing out someone has actual privilege–institutional, economic, and cultural privilege–is disenfranchising. Cry me a river.

  93. Sheelzebub
    March 29, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Guides to how to be a feminist man that tell men to shut up and listen are disenfranchising those men by telling them their voice in feminist spaces isn’t equally legitimate.

    Would it kill you to STFU and listen? Women’s voice are NOT heard, they are NOT counted, and they are NOT taken seriously. In women’s spaces, it is frankly the mark of an ally to STFU and stop trying to take shit over. You do not have to deal with sexism on an immediate and daily basis the way we do.

    Honestly, it’s disgusting that you would equate having to refrain from mansplaining to disenfranchisement. Get over your privilege–it’s not always about your fee-fees.

  94. Samantha b.
    March 29, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Kay, if you think there are *any* relationships in which people aren’t ever subconsciously searching for something, I’d call you incredibly naive. At best. And your blame-it-all-on-the-mean-feminists logic really doesn’t strike me as cogent. You’ve just sort of built that interpretation whole cloth, without providing any justification for it. It’s almost like you’re subconsciously searching for something?

  95. Airina
    March 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Exholt– we need to hang out! Somehow! Because I also have a strong interest in Chinese history and world politics! I have had people tell me to shut up about those before too!

  96. Zes
    March 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Another Laurie – your point is well taken. People forget that feminists have to live our lives too. Some seem to love to pigeonhole and forget that people are individuals, one feminist is not the same as another. My married sister changed her name but does not shave her legs, I am the reverse. Neither of us gets to tell the other she is not a feminist or assume our husbands aren’t. There is much more to it than that.

    Certainly as far as married privilege I think it is telling that many women who do not change their name later do if their husband’s career takes off (eg a certain Hillary Rodham), or if theirs does. I have actually used my husband’s name where I think it will have more effect, like when I am obliged to deal with a real old patriarch.

  97. The Flash
    March 29, 2010 at 11:40 am

    @ sheelzebub:

    “Men are free to stand up for themselves if they are being mistreated.”

    Look, sure we are. But only because a certain strain of feminism has not emerged victorious over general political discourse yet. If the people who say that ‘men can’t be feminists’ or ‘men should hold back in feminist spaces’ actually got to design the rules, this wouldn’t be true, as far as discussing feminist ideas and initiatives is concerned.

    “Would it kill you to STFU and listen? Women’s voice are NOT heard, they are NOT counted, and they are NOT taken seriously.”

    Talk louder. Also, not shutting up doesn’t mean I don’t listen to women’s voices. It just means I hope mine is listened to as well.

    “In women’s spaces, it is frankly the mark of an ally to STFU and stop trying to take shit over.”

    Is feminism just about women, or is it about a moral/ethical way of looking at how we gender our actions and words and expectations? Does feminism stand for the dignity of gay men? Does feminism stand for not requiring little boys to act a certain way just for being boys? Does feminism stand for enabling men to be domestic spouses to support their partners? So do I get to be a feminist, or am I stuck only being an ally?

    “You do not have to deal with sexism on an immediate and daily basis the way we do.”

    That’s sort of true, because I live in New York, so I can enjoy cooking and I don’t need to know how to shoot a gun, and nobody says I’m not a man for those things. Is that true in general? Is it entirely true in my life? But thanks for telling me what my experience is.

    This whole tit-for-tat of ‘men are the oppressors so oppress them back’ is ludicrous. Just because the outside world isn’t equal doesn’t mean that in feminist spaces we can’t create equality (which is not sameness). Be better, not just different.

    And if you won’t let a man be an equal in the feminist conversation, maybe it sheds a little light on the difficulties of finding a feminist man to date.

  98. March 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    TheFlash, you make completely reasonable points that the majority of self-identified feminists would agree with.

    Is feminism just about women, or is it about a moral/ethical way of looking at how we gender our actions and words and expectations? Does feminism stand for the dignity of gay men? Does feminism stand for not requiring little boys to act a certain way just for being boys?

    I recognize your handle, so I know you’ve been around the feminist blogosphere awhile, and been participating in various discussions. Of course feminism stands for gender equality, and with that comes also advocating for freedom from restrictive or prescribed gender roles for all sexes and genders. It seems like what you’re missing is the common understanding that most of us who are well-versed in feminism have: Most of the gender norms that men and boys have to deal with are rooted in misogyny. While we’re fighting the patriarchy and misogyny, we’re also, by default, fighting for men and boys to also be free from gendered expectations and restrictions, as well.

    All anyone is really trying to say to you in this thread is that, when your in an online (or “real life”) space centered around feminism, and misogyny in general, it’s important that you listen to the experiences of the people most negatively affected by misogyny, and take that into account in your responses and comments.

  99. Sheelzebub
    March 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    You know what, Flash? You would have a leg to stand on if the majority of Congress were female, if the President has always been female, if the majority of CEOs and C-level executives were female, if women’s voices were as valued as men’s, if violence against women was taken seriously (and WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ OMG ELEVENTY argument didn’t show up like clockwork

    Talk louder? That’s all we do–and are called shrill, are shut down, ignored, and then accused of being misandrist. Not for nothing, but instead of instructing me and other women to talk louder, you could, you know, listen. Instead of taking up all the damn oxygen in the room and making all about you and your feelings. The rest of the big, wide world will hand you a platter full of hankies if you so much as stub your toe–that you feel entitled to women’s space as well is indicative of your privilege.

    I don’t go trying to take over shit with my gay friends–even though there are ways I could argue that heterosexism hurts me as a straight person, it hurts them a thousand times worse. It’s not about getting pouty about being “just” an ally and having to listen.

    Sexism may hurt men, but you still have power on your side–your discomfort with the way sexism can affect men is nowhere NEAR how it affects women.

    You’re providing a prime example as to why I’d rather men actually take a moment (or two or twenty) to listen. You’re taking an issue that affects women on a deep and immediate level every day–a level that you do not have to deal with, a level that often infringes upon our basic human rights–and making it about your offended sensibilities.

  100. March 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Let me add one thing to the end of that– take that into account in your responses and comments, instead of treating everyhting like an attack against your gender, or your personhood, or your rights. Get rid of the automatic defensiveness, and people will believe your genuinely interested in what’s happening here, rather than assuming your a troll or simply want to argue.

  101. Sheelzebub
    March 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    This whole tit-for-tat of ‘men are the oppressors so oppress them back’ is ludicrous.

    What's ludicrous is that you'd equate oppression with listening and letting women have the floor (for once) when it comes to oh, misogyny.

  102. convexed
    March 29, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    “Not having the privilege to be part of the conversation is disenfranchisement.”
    Well, I’d like to assure you that you can still feel special: it’s *because* of your privilege that we’re even having this conversation. Men have participated, as instigator and impetus.
    You accuse me of defining terms strictly and (your syllogism loses me here) painting myself as a ‘social incompetent’. I narrow the definition of disenfranchisement to referring to citizenship because that is its relevant usage here–feminism facilitates conversation about power differences between groups and how those differences have historically manifested as political disenfranchisement vs political privilege. I believe you are re-framing that word deliberately to re-cast offenders as victims. It’s offensive for a dominant group (or member thereof) to re-appropriate historically loaded language that describes best the long-suffering of marginalized groups and his own implication in those inequalities.
    Language is an active system. Ignoring its nuance, resonance and connotation in favor of insisting on a controversial and problematic usage in a forum where you can rightly expect to be challenged—-at best you are guilty of sloppy communication, at worst you are deliberately manipulating the thread of this conversation with the intention of derailing and devaluing our concerns.
    I am not sure I understand the grounds on which I’m being called a ‘social incompetent’. To the extent that this forum is a site for interpersonal interaction (albeit virtual), I think I have proven myself quite capable of listening and responding in a reasonable, sincere manner to the concerns of other commenters.
    If, my parsing of ‘disenfranchisement’ is not to your liking, you are free to consult any authority you like: the dictionary, historical documents, the voices of the feminists on this site. My own interpretation of that term is premised on and substantiated by other sources and voices other than my own private sensibilities.
    That I have consulted the ideas of others indicates I am not socially incompetent.

  103. convexed
    March 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Also, Flash, claiming that the only reason feminists allow men to stand up for themselves is because our discourse has not taken over dominant discourse demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of the projects of most feminisms.
    You acknowledge that our voices are not dominant. Thank you. Please do not assume we wish to (or eventually will) ‘take over’ and silence non-females. Especially if you are also appealing to our recognition of the ways in which misogyny and patriarchy are damaging to men and boys.
    You say that you hope your voice is listened to as well. Your voice was listened to. Your comments remain on this board. Did you hope that your statements would go unchallenged? Do you take our engagement with your ideas as an indication that we haven’t listened? See how posters above have quoted your words in their replies to you: they are listening and responding to what you said, representing yourself and your views. You can’t claim your words have been blocked, or that anyone revised your participation out of the commenting history.
    You’ve been given the chance to speak, you’ve spoken. We get to speak back, because it’s a conversation. If this seems unfair, you might rethink your own social understanding of how dialogue works and how we all negotiate the boundaries of our engagement with others…

  104. Amarantha
    March 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I haven’t found it all that hard to meet guys who, while not identifying as feminists, see me as an equal and want to share and build a relationship.These guys agree with all my major feminist tenets (striving for equal earning, fair-share of housework, equality in child-rearing, fighting against rape culture) even if they’re not out there fighting for it all the time.

    I think I’ve had good luck for two reasons. a) I usually befriend people before I hook up with them…before a sexual relationship we’ve talked about a lot of stuff, we see each other as fully-realized people, not stereotypes, and if we’re still interested, it seems likely we see eye to eye often. b) I date nerds that are almost all science-math geeky. Many are keen on finding a girl who can discuss the things they’re interested in, and there seems to be a higher percentage of men into those subjects. That can be a bad thing but usually means they’re willing to compromise a lot and keep an open mind in order to date someone they think is cool.
    But I’m sure it can be tough if you are only attracted to, say, the frat boy look. People present the way they want to be perceived. If they look like Nick Lachey, odds are, they have at least some of the ass-backwards views you’d associate with that type as well.

  105. A guy (dude)
    March 29, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    That is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about, Convexed. That was an incredible level of analysis from a pretty simple question, and almost none of it was relevant to me or my worldview.

    I guess that when I say “chick” it has absolutely no relation to a baby bird. I can’t even recall the last time I had anything to do with a baby bird. I don’t know many people who do. As far as I know, the context has nothing to do with a baby bird anymore. I never think “ok, time to test with this word”, it would never occur to me to test that way.

    I mean, “bitch” as a female dog is actually pretty positive as far as I’m concerned. Female dogs are usually very sweet and affectionate, showing none of the traits that people generally mean by “bitch”. I never use bitch in the “unpleasant woman” context, though, because it is loaded up with lots of negativity that describes the user as much as the subject.

    I don’t know where that came from with chick. There are lots of words that get used as terms of endearment that have nothing to do with the normal meaning of the words… I’ve never been upset at being called “babe” “baby” “honey” or so on by a GF, because it would never occur to me “what?! you think I’m helpless?! I need to be protected and taken care of?! That maybe I wet myself?!” That doesn’t even seem a sensible approach to life.

    Lots of words have different contextual meanings. Bitch is plainly a negative one when used to reference women. Where did “chick” pick up the negative. I mean, I almost never hear it used to begin with, its just a retro 60’s-70’s thing I picked up somewhere (I think from an ex more than anything else).

    So again I ask… are there any words besides woman that are acceptable, that won’t be analyzed as an attack on your equality?

    Going further back up…again, I still don’t see why someone saying “if you dress a particular way in a particular setting you are risking being a target for rape” (“date rape” or violent rape not specified) is anymore controversial than saying “if you go into that bar wearing a liberal t-shirt someone is probably going to pick a fight with you” or “if you wear a red jacket into that neighborhood it might be mistaken for gang affiliation”. Or even “if you buy a red car you are more likely to get a speeding ticket” Or “if your car has an antibush bumpersticker the secret service might not let you into the event”. That isn’t saying you deserve violence, or that it is justified, it is just an acceptance that we live in an imperfect world.

    Am I wrong here? I am really trying to understand the source of the anger/betrayal. I would like to live in a world where a person could wear whatever they wanted wherever they wanted, and work to make the world more tolerant in my daily life, but I still have to accept that isn’t how the world works.

    I as far as I can tell from the original linked article, the person on TV did not say the girl deserved to be raped for dressing that way… if he did I take it all back.

    I guess at the end of the day that is really what I see as the important difference… some women are comfortable in feeling they are equal and don’t feel like they have to be on the defensive (or offensive) all the time. The express it through how they live, how they interact with people around them. They are feminist by example, and while they are happy to explain to others how their worldview works, they also recognize that constantly being upset isn’t going to win any converts.

  106. jhsizemore
    March 29, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Sheelzebub and April,

    I read Feministe on a daily basis, and several times I have wanted to jump into the conversation. After reading the comments, I often feel unsure of how to do that.

    As a man, how do I go about speaking in a feminist space?

    It seems from your comments that it is common for men to approach this subject using their minuscule amounts of empathy as an entry point, pointing to how gendered norms are harmful to us too. But this is not received well, as then the focus is being shifted disproportionately onto the male as a sufferer from misogyny. Point taken.

    Before I read this, to be honest, I felt that this was a valid way to feel a common cause with feminism.

    So now I will quote one of the OP’s quote:
    “Right now my basic litmus test is this: Is he interested in feminist issues when I bring them up? And can he talk about them in ways that express curiosity and engagement and respect, instead of defensiveness or dismissiveness or attachment to stereotypes? If we can talk about this stuff in ways that are interesting and productive, I can work with it most of the time.”

    I’m still at the level of curiosity and engagement. I have listened quite a bit, but I feel like if I don’t ask questions, if I am not involved, then I have little chance of understanding.

    So what are the alternatives to my minuscule empathy? In what other ways can I engage and empower feminism?


  107. Alice
    March 29, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Something that I regularly struggle with as a feminist is dealing with the relationships my (straight, cis, hetero) girlfriends choose. I have a couple of friends who identify as feminists, and then date the most ass backwards guys ever. Of course this is the choice of each individual person, but it becomes my problem in a variety of circumstances… for example when the couple inevitably breaks up and I’m called upon to support the friend emotionally for the next year and proceed to call the guy out on all of his ass backward views, only to have the couple get back together (needless to say, it is awkward), or when I’m travelling in a car with a couple and I have to hear the absolutley disgusting, offensive, barbaric way the man speaks to the woman (which occured weeks before their marraige). And I’m of the view that if you hear harmful language (ex. a racist comment) and don’t speak out against it, you are participating in the harmful behavior. So do I speak, and surely lose the friendship, or keep my mouth shut, and feel like I’m losing my mind?

    I’m interested to hear if others have these problems, and would welcome any tips for dealing. I love my friendships and my girlfriends are very important to me. Like Jill, I am not seeking out a long term monogamous relationship with a man; however, I am seeking to maintain my long term friendships.

  108. March 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm


    I’m still at the level of curiosity and engagement. I have listened quite a bit, but I feel like if I don’t ask questions, if I am not involved, then I have little chance of understanding.

    So what are the alternatives to my minuscule empathy? In what other ways can I engage and empower feminism?

    I’m glad to hear you’re still at the level of curiosity and engagement, and not quite to that cynical point that Flash seems to currently occupy ;)

    My suggestion is, when you come to this or other blogs and have a question, read through the comments and the discussions that are happening and see if it may already be answered. If they haven’t been answered, ask away– but I’d urge you to think about the question, and consider whether you’re framing it as truly a question for clarification or out of curiosity, or whether you’re framing it as a criticism without an attempt at understanding.

    The reason I say this is because (and I am getting most of this from my own mistakes on blogs or forums) often, one person who identifies with the group may post a comment in a snide manner or use abusive or offensive language, and people who are new to the topic will often see their casual online tone, or their casual language, as representative of the ideology of the entire group. I’ve found that it’s much wiser to ignore those individuals at first, and try to get a general vibe of what’s being discussed.

    And it’s extremely helpful for social justice-type blog readers to be familiar with a basic “101” of the topic at hand. Most people participating in the discussions on blogs like these are familiar with feminism and have identified as feminists for a long time. The discussions therefore tend to be a little more in-depth, assuming a basic understanding of mainstream feminist theory, and many people are rather intolerant of 101-style questions that derail a discussion. If you’re not already hip to this page, here’s a blog that thoroughly answers just about any basic questions about feminism.

    On a final note, since this comment is already freaking long, when it comes to the ways that men are harmed by patriarchy and social expectations, I’d recommend maybe finding a less feminist-oriented space. While we are definitely aware of, and continue to fight against, the ways that patriarchy harms men and boys, in feminist spaces, conversation is usually focused on misogyny and the ways that patriarchy harms women. Not to plug myself, but two of the (male) writers on my blog often talk about that in a (mostly) feminist-positive light.

    Hope that helped.

  109. March 29, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Oh, one more thing– It’s not that dissent isn’t welcome. But blogs like these and many other mainstream feminist blogs are used to getting a lot of trolls, and malicious or blatantly sexist and juvenile comments that hostility, or the suggestion of the potential for hostility, are not treated kindly. Some blogs are more tolerant than others, but it’s usually made clear how you should behave in the comments on the blog’s “comment policy” or About page.

  110. March 29, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Looks like I’m late to what is a very long discussion, so I apologize if this got covered already.

    As a het male online and anonymous, I’m absolutely a feminist. In person, I would never, ever, eveeer self-identify as a feminist to any woman I’m remotely interested in unless asked directly. I barely do it to men I’m friends with. Don’t get me wrong, my views do not change in the real world or anything like that, but I sense it’s a major faux pas to say the “F” word. Men assume ulterior motives, or express apathy. Women will tend to assume (fairly, I suppose) that it’s a ploy if you do it early on. Later on it’s almost like you’ve been hiding something and suddenly you’re springing it on them. I’m not surprised that it’s hard to find feminist guys because it’s impossible to wear that on your sleeve. I have yet to meet anyone IRL (male or female) that I relate to on this level, so I feel ya to some extent. For whatever reason I only really seem to see feminists proliferate in the ether of the ‘net.

  111. chaos_bird
    March 29, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    One tiny point, having to do with psychology, more than feminism – at least to me. (and then some rambling…sorry)

    As a bi/poly woman in relationship with two men, prone to depression and anxiety, who is incredibly thin-skinned when exposed to negativity, and a person who has had to ACTIVELY remove herself from constant perusal of the news in order to keep from setting off sky-is-falling anxiety about things which I cannot directly affect here in this moment, I would say that it is likely that there are those people (like myself) who find a need for constant discussion of social problems triggering to some degree.

    My inability to face the news, in depth, every day, does not equal dis-interest – however I fear that it may be seen as such. I find it better for my own personal emotional and psychological health to focus on the issues presently and directly affecting my friends and loved-ones.

    In some ways, I see those people who are able to take in and process so much outside, often negative information as deeply strong – though I’ve been called “strong” and “brave” and “emotionally fluid and fluent” for my ability to constantly monitor, discuss, assess and understand myself, and to help (hopefully) others do the same.

    I identify readily and happily as a feminist, however there are times when I simply don’t have the mental energy or fortitude or academic background to argue finer points of theory, and I’m ok with this. The beauty of feminism is that, for me, it means that *I* get to choose what issues, what problems, what values are important to me instead of having them dictated to me by anyone else – a sort of autonomy of the spirit.

    It’s neat to read so many different thoughts, even if I can’t always contribute to the discussion in the way I might want.


  112. chaos_bird
    March 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    clarification – I’m the one prone to depression/anxiety – not my two partners. Sentence structure FAIL. :)

  113. March 30, 2010 at 1:34 am

    I’m a straight, cisgendered woman, and very lucky to be in a wonderful partnership with a (hetero, cis) feminist man. Honestly, given what folks have said about feminism acting as a primary lens for understanding truth and relating to fellow humans, it’s hard to separate his feminism from his generally compassionate, clearsighted, and insightful way of being. He reads and discusses feminist history and lit as part of a (very friendly and non-dogmatic) Marxist organizing collective, an explicit objective of which is to develop WOC leaders in local anticapitalist struggles. Feminism is a big part of his life — had been since way before I entered the picture. Now, he and I both attend a Marxist feminist study group. And partly as a result of this values compatibility, our communication is extraordinarily healthy: the best of almost any relationship I’ve ever seen. (And, I might add, in the vein of Yes Means Yes, tremendously sexy. ;)

    Relatedly, in the year before I (re)met him (we were actually high school crushes, hadn’t seen each other for years), I completely abstained from sexual relationships altogether. I was on a big meditation kick, and spending a lot of incredibly fruitful time in solitude or in non-sexually-active community. And even when Ryan and I reconnected, I wasn’t looking for a serious relationship in particular. I honestly believe that a more important goal than finding the ‘right’ partner is establishing a very solid foundation of self love and comfort with the realities of fundamental solitude. (Not easy work, not by a long shot.) When we’re committed to that greater endeavor, then the particulars (partner, many partners, no partner) flow organically from there, and we find ourselves capable of more and more loving, on all levels.

  114. Sheelzebub
    March 30, 2010 at 8:36 am

    jhsizemore–do what I do when I read blogs by people of color and that focus on racism or by people (or GLBT blogs, etc.)–lurk more. I may have a hundred questions or a bunch of defensive reactions to someone’s post–but I keep reading to learn more. It’s not up to them to teach me–they’ve got enough going on. Read a variety of blogs and books and perspectives, and keep in mind that you’re coming from a place of privilege. Be more concerned with being a good ally than getting a cookie.

  115. March 30, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for the advice April and Sheelzebub. I came across this <a href=""page after following April’s link, which was additionally very helpful.

  116. March 30, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I’m a cis het white male, and I’m coming way late to this discussion, but I just wanted to say thank you for the original post, Jill, and thanks to most of the commentors for great comments. I think a lot of this stuff is a bit more complex than is generally allowed for.

    I identify as a feminist (though I’ll defer to “pro-feminist” or whatever, depending on the context and what folks around me would prefer), and I do so in the course of dating, despite the fact that there is a stereotype about Feminist Men (as creepy opportunists) that is akin to Nice Guys(tm); I do this because I think it’s important for men to claim some feminist identity, even if it somehow costs us some dates, so that men-as-feminists is a normalized sort of conception, someday.

    One other thing I’ll add to the discussion that I haven’t seen touched on is this: Once I recognized that becoming a feminist was pretty much going to be a lifelong sort of process, then I was better able to deal with some of the stuff everybody is talking about: Privilege blindness is a difficult thing, giving up privilege isn’t easy (cry me a river, I know), understanding on the deepest level that we’re all human and we are equals as humans should be a no-brainer, but isn’t, because of deeply entrenched cultural beliefs. I suspect I will keep discovering new ways that I have been (or am being) sexist for the rest of my life–but the fact that I continue to progress *as a feminist* helps me get through it all.

  117. makomk
    March 31, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Utter fucking bullshit. Men are free to stand up for themselves if they are being mistreated. Having privilege doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for yourself.

    …but women get to decide if they’re actually mistreated and are allowed to stand up for themselves, and indeed if their experiences are valid or meaningful at all? At least, that’s generally what I see.

    Would it kill you to STFU and listen? Women’s voice are NOT heard, they are NOT counted, and they are NOT taken seriously. In women’s spaces, it is frankly the mark of an ally to STFU and stop trying to take shit over.

    Given that basically all discussion of stuff like rape and domestic violence is effectively treated as women’s space, that’s an… interesting attitude. (Domestic violence in particular is an example of “political disenfranchisement vs political privilege” – woman, and especially feminist women, have political power in this area in the US that men and male victims don’t. The net result is a system where male victims and victims of female-perpetrated violence, and especially male victims of female-perpetrated violence, can’t seek help from the police for fear of being the ones arrested. Also, please don’t quote arrest-based statistics to “prove” that there’s no such thing, or I’ll lose all hope altogether.)

    convexed: in the hypothetical scenario of a feminist (particularly radical feminist) take over, they would end up silencing non-females – not because they want to, but because feminism has some interesting structural issues I’d rather not go into here. (In particular, men’s experiences and therefore the level of equality reached are determined by what women think they experience; there’s no place for men’s lived experiences. This may be justifiable now but becomes a big problem in the hypothetical “feminist takeover” scenario.) Not gonna happen, though – the more likely route to a feminist victory seems to be one in which feminism as a movement becomes irrelevant.

  118. Sheelzebub
    March 31, 2010 at 9:24 am

    @Makmok–thanks for proving me right about men making it all about them. BTW, see above–men have the lion’s share of the power in this country and society. The overwhelming majority of judges and legislators are men. Men tend to be wealthier, paid better, and populate far more C-level positions than women do.

    Take a look at the sheer number of women who are killed by partners–partners they left–and then whine about how we have “power” in that arena. Take a look at the way the courts treat mothers who are divorcing their abusers–say anything about it, and you’re alienating your kids from daddy. Kids have been forced to visit with and live with their abusers (one memorable case had the kids forced to visit their father, who was in jail for raping their mother–even though the kids wanted zero to do with him and were traumatized by this).

    Check your privilege.

  119. La BellaDonna
    March 31, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Remembered hearing one of the reasons why Jane Wyman divorced Ronald Reagan in 1948 was because she became exasperated with him incessantly discussing politics.

    Exholt, I’m not arguing that it wasn’t a factor – but I think the fact that she had a dreadful miscarriage, and that he never even turned up at the hospital, might also have had something to do with it.

    I know that she felt increasingly abandoned as he got involved in politics – and that feeling is not going to do anything positive for the longevity of a relationship.

  120. College Girl
    March 31, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    I’m so lucky to be dating a critically-thinking grad student…even when he’s doesn’t agree with a particular feminist opinion of mine, his reasons are usually thoughtfully considered and he is capable of recognizing valid feminist criticism. The other day he made a sexist joke and when I point it out his response was, “Okay, fair enough…I accept your standpoint.” Which was about 10 times funnier to me than the original joke.

  121. April 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    As an asexual who is largely aromantic, this does not really concern me personally, but I can definitely sympathize.
    It’s not just dating, too. It’s with family, friends, other people who you’ve just met, …
    “Oh, you’re feminist.”, like that is some sort of social failing, or you’ve just become infinitely more difficult to be around. (Which I can kind of understand, to be honest.)

    Anyhow, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with you for not focussing on a longterm romantic relationship, because hell, there are lots of people out there (including me) who do not care for one.
    Both the assumption that there is “something wrong with a person” for not being very romantically inclined, and the whole “That’ll change once your biological clock starts ticking!” line of thought are in fact items on the asexual bingo card.

  122. lilac
    April 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I don’t have the time to read all the comments and I’m several days late, but this article rings really true to me. I’m currently dating a guy who won’t discuss feminism or any feminist topics with me – in fact, he literally runs from the room if I bring it up. I don’t know if I somehow shut him down at the relationship’s start, but I confess to not even knowing his viewpoint on feminism. I can’t even get him to tell me.

    It’s very frustrating and scary. There are no subjects I won’t discuss with him and I wish he’d give me the same regard.

  123. April 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    It’s funny, I found this post after searching for “why dating as a feminist sucks,” or some other angsty drivel. I’m a little late, so I apologize. Anyway, I totally agree with what Jill and the linked article has said. The whole “conquering” a feminist/any strong female thing tends to piss me off more than anything. Actually, kind of off-topic (English major here, apologies in advance), but that whole fetishizing of more “autonomous” women has been a theme in western culture, at least, for a pretty long time. It actually reminded me of Isabella in Measure of Measure (c. 1603/04). She possesses the most reasonable, powerful voice in the first half of the play (she talks more than anyone else, too) – until the man who is interested in Isabella humiliates her. The play ultimately concludes with a scene in which she is on her knees (literally), and silent, without a voice at all. The man who courts her had previously been completely uninterested in women until he met her, and expresses his infatuation with her strong-willed character. Also interesting – she is in the convent and wishes not to be married until after her humiliation and silencing. Okay, that was way too much of a tangent.

    Anyway, another problem I’ve come by in dating as a feminist is that I tend to make exceptions for other undesirable character traits if I do find a man who also identifies as a feminist. You know, I feel like it’s so hard to come by sometimes, I’ll make excuses for being treated badly in other ways, or for, uh, generalized mental instability. Ugh.

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