Once in a while, I receive a frantic email or call from one of my guy friends who are in new dating relationships. “She says she’s a feminist! What do I do?”
After having conversations with my friends, I realized that men who aren’t feminists don’t know how to date women who are. This leads to all sorts of confusion.
Here are a few helpful things to keep in mind as you date a feminist.
1. Feminism is the belief that all people should be considered and treated equally. Its primary concern is that women and men should be treated equally.
2. Men can be feminists. The term “feminism” isn’t exclusively for women.
3. There are lots of different types of feminisms which reflect the many values and perspectives that feminists have. Feminism is NOT monolithic. Aside from the belief that all humans be treated equally, not all feminists believe the same thing.
4. Not all feminists expect the same treatment in romantic relationships. Therefore you must ask what your person’s preferences are with regards to dating.
5. Feminists can think critically about gender roles, but still subscribe to gender norms. (such as the man paying for dinner, or women cooking, etc., etc.)
6. Feminists can also critique those gender norms and go against them in their daily lives as a method of resistance. (Like women working, and men being stay at home fathers).
7. Feminism is NOT ABOUT HATING MEN. It is there to point out inequality that women suffer (as well as other inequalities along race, sexuality, class lines). Sometimes feminists get angry about male privilege, but they don’t actually hate men. They do hate a system that perpetuates inequality.
The questions I get most often about dating feminists are: should I open the door for her? should I pay? will she ever cook?
I can never speak for all feminists, or all women. But I think most women appreciate thoughtfulness. If you open the door and it makes her feel uncomfortable, then adjust your behavior. Offer to pay for the date, and if she doesn’t like it, she’ll tell you so and go halves with you. And whether or not a woman cooks is for you two to discuss later.
When dating a feminist, the best thing you can do is get to know that person. Dating, after all, is about learning who your person is and what his/her values are. I am sure that any feminist would be happy to talk to you about what, exactly, he or she believes.
So instead of hitting the panic button every time you meet a feminist, just calm down, smile, and get to know him/her a little better.
Date a person who is excited about equality,