One of the things that comes up a lot in discussing feminism, and critique of feminism, is how women can have healthy relationships with men. On the extreme, you have Pat Robertson saying feminism turns women into lesbians, but in much more moderate discourse, many people talk about feminism weakening relationships between men and women, or upending healthy family structures. I know we’ve clashed some on the role of men in a relationship.
As women’s rights and feminism are experiencing a new spotlight, more attention is being given to the role of feminism in dating. I came across this interesting article about asking men on Tinder whether they’re feminists, for instance.
Now, throughout this discourse, the idea that feminism ruins male-female relationships is repeated again and again. You have men saying they lose power, and Women Against Feminism saying they need their husbands to open jars for them.
But I’m lucky enough to have started dating a feminist earlier this year, and it’s changed my whole perspective on relationships, so I thought I’d share with you how:
1. Consent is supreme. This started even before we were dating, when my now-partner asked if it was okay to flirt with me. He said he valued my friendship and didn’t want to make me uncomfortable. I’d come off of a string of guys who never asked what I wanted, so his straightforwardness stunned me at first. I dodged the question, and he told me flat-out that if I didn’t tell him I wanted him to flirt, he wouldn’t. It took me a day to respond, but I did decide I wanted his attention. Maybe this doesn’t sound the most romantic, but it totally was. And it’s created a foundation of trust and communication in our relationship that endures. Men such as Rush Limbaugh will have you believe consent takes the seduction out of a relationship, but it is really so much more romantic when you get to say “yes.”
2. Equality. The bf says, “It changes the way you do everything.” This doesn’t mean he can’t help me with a jar, should I need it. But it also means I can help him open jars (and I’m better at opening jars anyway). The roles we fill in the relationship aren’t dictated by our gender, but by our strengths and passions. So if I want to take him out for dinner and a movie, that’s not threatening (and believe me, I have dated guys who felt really insecure when I offered to pay for dinner). And he loves to cook dinner for me when we stay in.
3. Independence. He loves who I am as a person. He supports my freedom. My boyfriend also encourages me to spend time away from him, with my friends. He knows I am my own person and doesn’t want my other relationships to suffer because of my relationship with him. I’ve had women tell me they love when their boyfriend is jealous because it “shows he cares.” To me, it shows he’s possessive and insecure. I’ve been in jealous relationships, and they’re unhealthy. But in a relationship where the partners recognize each other’s independence, jealousy is unnecessary. He trusts me, and that means I am not afraid to be myself.
4. Shared values. This is true of any romantic relationship: Shared values are essential. With my partner, this means that he feels as passionately as I do about social justice. He loves the work I do on my blog and supports me in speaking out against gender inequality. Likewise, he is vocal in the fight against racism, for instance. We both care deeply about equality for everyone. I couldn’t be committed to a person who slighted my efforts, or didn’t believe that there is still work to be done.
So there you have it: Dating a feminist hasn’t ruined my love life. I haven’t emasculated my boyfriend and he hasn’t forgotten how to romance me. Instead, it’s given me the most loving, honest, healthy relationship of my life.