I was recently interviewed by a journalist in London about dating as a feminist. I’ll post the published article when that time comes, but I thought I’d share the interview transcript, as most of it won’t make it into the article because of a pesky word limit!
1) What do you think the common misconceptions of feminist dating are?
There is an incredible amount of misconceptions about feminism itself and it is a highly stigmatized and misunderstood identity. I would define feminism most simply as a collective effort of all and any gender identified people that works to achieve equality across the board, including but not limited to gender, racial, class, and disability issues. Because feminism is misunderstood by the majority of people, dating as a feminist can be quite a challenge. The most common (and most absurd) lines that dating feminists receive are probably: “Don’t feminists hate men?” and “So are you a lesbian?”. We don’t hate men, we just can’t stand it when male-identified people don’t understand or recognize their privilege and engage with patriarchal language or actions without thinking twice about it. And no, you don’t have to be a lesbian to be a feminist, but feminists generally have a good understanding of the fluidity of sexuality and that the normalization of heterosexuality is a product of patriarchy.
Here’s truth about dating a feminist: Whether it be a woman, man or gender non-conforming feminist that you are dating, they will probably be passionately aware of and educated about socio-political issues and how they play out in their personal lives; they will understand the nuances of sexuality and the absurd expectations and limits placed on it today. They will thus explore the bedroom with you in a freeing and progressive way. Rape culture and slut shaming will be locked out of your relationship if you’re dating a feminist. It takes a progressive and passionate person to date a feminist, but they will most likely find themselves as part of a fulfilling, learning-filled and inspiring partnership.
This isn’t to say that every feminist is part of a perfect relationship–feminists are not immune to dating violence, abuse, or dysfunctional relationships. I’ve been part of my fair share of dysfunctional, unhappy partnerships. Just like every person, it has taken time for me to establish healthy boundaries, expectations, and dating practices. Being a feminist isn’t a cure-all for dating problems, but when you are dating someone that respects, appreciates and engages happily with your feminist identity, one’s feminist identity can grow in amazing personal ways, as opposed to the ways in which they might grow politically in a more public realm.
2)How do men you’re dating react to you being a feminist?
I have only dated men that are comfortable with and accepting of me being a feminist or that identify as feminists themselves, save for a few men that I dated before I had fully come into and embraced my feminist identity. Some of my friends have advised me to be less forward with my feminist identity upon meeting someone in a bar or while on a first date, but I strongly disagree with this advice. My academic and professional careers are both centered around feminism, not to mention that much of my free time is spent reading feminist literature, blogging about feminism, or volunteering at Planned Parenthood and for a rape crisis hotline. Thus, I would never try to hide the huge role that it plays in my life. I don’t try to flaunt it aggressively either–it comes up very naturally when I’m asked about my job, interests, studies, etc. If I happen to be speaking to or on a date with someone that is not very familiar with feminism’s values, I will provide them with a little explanation of why I’m a feminist (that I believe in equality for all people, regardless of race, gender, class, ability, etc.) and they usually experience an ah-ha! moment. So it’s usually a great teaching moment that enables me to destigmatize feminism for someone and provide them with a glimpse into my value system.
3)Do you think it is difficult to balance feminist ideals and values with being in a relationship with a man?
Sometimes it is, depending on who you’re dating. Oftentimes, men have thought I was being “too uptight” when I made a fuss about things like street harassment or sexist advertising. There have been times that men certainly haven’t appreciated my feminist thoughts and actions, but that usually serves as a red flag for me and I will reconsider my relationship with them. I wish I could say that I have always stood my feminist ground and broken up with these guys, but that’s not true. As a feminist, I have struggled with dealing with my desire to be accepted by men, which I was taught by society to have and crave from the minute I was born. However, at the same time, feminism has greatly freed me from the grips of many aspects of our patriarchal society. Feminism has taught me to love my body, to be comfortable with my sexuality, and to value my intelligence (both emotional and intellectual) above all else. I am still working on freeing myself from the desire for male approval, but am generally happy with my ability to not give a crap about it anymore.
I am currently dating a woman seriously for the first time and have found it far easier to be in this relationship as a feminist than most I’ve been in with men. I’m sure this isn’t always the case when a woman-identified feminist is dating another woman, but I think our shared experience as women in a patriarchal society certainly doesn’t hurt my girlfriend’s support and understanding of my feminist identity.
4)Do you think being a feminist can be a benefit to healthy relationships/dating?
I absolutely think that feminism benefits a relationship because it espouses values of equality and respect. If both people in the relationship are invested in having a “feminist relationship,” I think it is certainly beneficial to the creation of a loving, equal and respectful partnership.