Feminist Dating Woes

Over at her blog, Mary has a rant about being a heterosexual feminist in a world where men just don’t get it:

So yeah, it sucks and it’s hard blah blah blah fishcakes. And I’ll never be the girl who does anything for a man, and I’ll never be that girl who thinks her man can Do No Wrong, for He Is Man. That’ll suck some of the (twisted, unhealthy, movie-style) “romance” out of your life. And maybe I’m worse off for not being able to feel that way, for not being able to “love” in that sense. Except I’m not. I expect more from my partner, and he will give it to me, or I will walk away. I expect respect and consideration, and he will give it to me, or I will walk away. I expect thoughtfulness, and he will give it to me, or I will walk away. I expect a man to have as much anger at the patriarchy as I do, and he will show it to me, or I will walk away. He will prove to me that he IS the exception, or–you guessed it–I will walk away.

Since I’m mostly confined to looking at men as potential parnters at the moment, I am really feeling her pain. I’ve never been the “normal” kind of girl. Even when I believed in the concept of “true love”, I was never into that romantic bullshit. I always thought it was off, and when I was with my first boyfriend I finally understood why: because it’s about abuse and control, not love and partnership. Even when I find a guy who genuinely likes women — a rarity among heterosexual men, unfortunately — that doesn’t mean he likes a girl like me.

It’s annoying, but at least I have a great life going for me. A partner would be an addition, not the thing that makes or breaks my happiness. Yay feminism.

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25 thoughts on “Feminist Dating Woes

  1. Sometimes I think that being a feminist woman who sees men as potential partners is a special kind of hell. Either you date men who are not feminist at all, or you date men who are supposedly feminist or pro-feminist and discover just how unwilling or unable many of them are to translate their politics into their personal lives. And honestly, sometimes dating non-feminist men is easier because they have nothing to prove, so if you call them out on their sexism they aren’t quite so defensive.
    This comment may seem very cynical, but I’ve had enough of so-called feminist/pro-feminist men who are just as misogynist as their nonfeminist and antifeminist peers.

  2. Oh, heck yes. Sometimes men as a group (and occasionally, individual men) anger me so much that I can see the merit in the idea of lesbianism as an act of feminism. And yet, as Mary says, you can’t just make yourself gay. (Also, I think it would be insulting to turn to women if you’re not actually attracted to them, like they’re just the backup option.)

    I also felt like you did when I was younger, uncomfortable and leery of the popular construction of “true love” without really knowing why. Privileging the narrative of (heterosexual) monogamy –> marriage –> kids is a perfect way of maintaining the status quo of the gender hierarchy, even though it’s disguised as something for women (because men don’t like that icky romance stuff). Let’s not even start on the idea that we must have a boyfriend to be happy.

    I’m lucky enough that, not only is my boyfriend pro-feminist, we actually started dating before I came to feminism, and he followed me through that transformation instead of fleeing in terror. (What are the odds?) Sometimes he is less sexist – or at least better about being educated about it – than some women I know. Of course this doesn’t contradict the fact that most women are smarter about sexism than most men. But if I had judged all men according to that trend, then I would have missed out on my boyfriend. This is partly what I wanted to say in that post of mine that you linked – you can’t always judge individuals according to the broad trends displayed by the group. You just have to hold out for the good ones, few as they may be.

  3. I’m completely sympathetic, but you can’t demand that your partner meets your needs all the time, no one is that perfect. Having a positive, loving attitude towards women is more important than a specific pro-feminist idiology. Sometimes the unconcious is more important than being educated, the education can develop over time. Besides, stereotyping men supports the patriarchy, give each individual a chance. My husband is the “fem” in our relationship sometimes.

  4. In my experience it’s no better being gay. The majority of younger lesbians I know do not identify as feminists and some are actively hostile to the feminism.

  5. True Love ™ gets rejected by lots of men, as well. Primarily because it is messed up and creepy and terrifying in the power dynamic it sets up.

    I also agree with Breenaronan that no one is going to meet all your needs and expectations all of the time, because humans are frail and difficult. Mind you, I think Mary is more than aware of that and is venting, which is fine.

    Also, she’s 23, and has a list of men that’s about a dozen-strong. All oh whom, I should point out, seem to be assholes. (Especially the “feminist” one, although again, that’s probably due to disappointment because he’s supposed to already be better dammit.)

    I think everyone has lost faith with the rest of humanity from time to time. But there are lots of humans, and some end up restoring it. (Curse me, I am an optimist in such things.)

  6. Sorry, just wanted to clarify that pointing out that True Love creeps some men out wasn’t an attempt to start a “what about the men!” thread drift, but just to point out that I think lots of people get the sense there is something very wrong with it long before they can identify what it is.

  7. Of course no one is perfect, and of course no one’s going to meet my needs all the time. But why should I be the one who’s always compromising? I’m tired of compromising, especially when the thing I’m “compromising” on is “getting basic respect.” Or sometimes I’ll get the other problem, in which a man, paradoxically, seems to have little trouble respecting me as a human being and lots of trouble caring about abstract feminism. But I’m expected to care about the problems and issues that animate HIS life. Why compromise? If he can’t exercise himself to care about my values I’ll walk, and since there wouldn’t be a sane person in the world who’d fault me for doing so if the contentious issue were, say, desiring kids, or hardcore political affiliations, I see little reason to assume it’s somehow wrong to stop demanding a sympathetic, pro-feminist partner.

  8. “Even when I find a guy who genuinely likes women — a rarity among heterosexual men, unfortunately — that doesn’t mean he likes a girl like me.”

    That was a joke right?RIGHT?

  9. Philly Jay: It’s a lot more true than I’d like. I’m sure you caught the whole blowout on Jenn’s blog about DACs and AAW, which is a prime example of what I mean. Macho culture tells men that “loving” women doesn’t include liking them. It doesn’t even include seeing them as autonomous human beings.

    Some guys break away from this idea, but a lot don’t. And it’s not going to get any better until people become aware of the harms that objectifying women does to both the objectified women and the men objectifying them.

  10. “Philly Jay: It’s a lot more true than I’d like. I’m sure you caught the whole blowout on Jenn’s blog about DACs and AAW, which is a prime example of what I mean. Macho culture tells men that “loving” women doesn’t include liking them. It doesn’t even include seeing them as autonomous human beings.”

    Ok, I get what you were trying to say (I think) but when you said it’s a rarity for heterosexual men to like women, I thought that was….odd to say the least.I’m thinking it makes much more sense to say it’s hard to find a man that holds the same political/feminist views/beliefs as you do.But hey, if it’s that bad, you could aways turn to women, if you’re attracted to them that is.
    Then again,a friend of mine, a woman who happens to prefer women wishes women were more simpile to deal with like men and less like “b*tches”.Her words not mine.I guess the grass isn’t always greener on the other side eh 🙂

  11. I’m thinking it makes much more sense to say it’s hard to find a man that holds the same political/feminist views/beliefs as you do

    Well, I definitely feel that too, but it’s not exactly the same point. Trying to explain what I meant is impossible in a comment, I think :/ I’ll keep it in mind for a post topic, though, and as soon as I have some time to settle down and think it out, I’ll start working on it.

  12. Sorry for finding this thread so late, but I can’t pass it up. Re: philly jay’s comment… it’s not just a feminist viewpoint issue because… let me use an example. I grew up in a very hick area. Guys there didn’t enjoy women’s company. Didn’t enjoy talking to them, because women weren’t supposed to have opinions or say anything intelligent. Didn’t enjoy hanging out with women because, in that region, it was very important for men and women to have segregated activities, or else someone might think someone was gay, oh noes!

    Those men would say they liked women, but “like” means “enjoy the company of”. They clearly didn’t. It didn’t mean they were overtly anti-feminist. It did mean that when they wanted someone to enjoy being around, they looked toward other men, not women. That just doesn’t meet the definition of “liking women”.

  13. There’s two terms here that have been used around me that may add to the discussion/understanding: ‘Heterosocial’ and ‘Homosocial.’ They are generic terms, so realize there’s a certain degree of ‘black-white’ in the descriptions which is less than perfect in real life, but they may just illustrate.

    Heterosocial: Enjoys/prefers the company of people of the opposite sex. Socializes along those lines. A SO of the opposite sex is more likely be a friend/associate as well as a girlfriend/boyfriend/lover/husband/wife, fitting both roles in a likely more dynamic way. (A SO of the same sex perhaps being less likely to be like that.) Often associated with being actually gay due to the person doing things people of the opposite sex like to do.

    Homosocial: Enjoys/prefers the company of people of the same sex. Socializes along those lines. A SO of the opposite sex will likely be little more than a girlfriend/boyfriend/lover/husband/wife, fitting those roles far more explicitly due to there being less of an other component to the relationship. (Similarly, SO of same sex would be more likely to be like the heterosocial case.) Often associated with ‘homoerotic’ (but not quite as gay) things such as football.

    Beta is describing a part of the world where the men _must_ be extremely homosocial, and thereby lacking _any_ of the components of the heterosocial, often in the fear that the last thing I listed under heterosocial might be suspected. I would doubt you could say that they ‘liked’ women. They would say ‘they wanted to nail’ women, perhaps. ‘Liked… to screw’ women. But if someone don’t like what a group does, or says, or is, in any way… how can they really say they like them? And if you’re looking for more than satisfying social/gender/sex role A, B, or C that are typically given to women… well.


  14. philly jay: It’s important to note that it’s not “all men” that are being addressed here, but rather, as ariella said, socialization patterns and forces.

    I’d like to think that the vast majority of men, given the chance, would both be attracted to and truly like and respect women. But what the argument is here is that most men are not given that chance because we live in a society where men are taught to devalue, objectify, and fetishize women.

    Respect for women, and I mean truly respecting them and not just giving lipservice to the idea while doing things like calling women “bitches” and “whores”, is something that men have to fight very hard for, and most of the ones I’ve met are willing to only go so far before they think that it’s good enough (sort of the “I believe that men and women are equal, I don’t hit my girlfriend, so why does it matter if I make sexist jokes?” variety).

  15. Sorry to respond so late…I agree it has a lot to do with the region you grew up in. I grew up in the midwest, in a small town and went to college in the south. Men were not only egotistical and condescending, but unintelligent…they had no reason to feel superior other than from learned behavior. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago and later, to Colorado, where I met progressive men who treated women as their partner and friend.

    We need to keep in mind that a man will treat you with respect if you earn it…you need to be smart, take initiative, have high self-esteem, and respect him as well. I feel so many feminists get aggro, but they have low self-esteem and men [and women] do not respond to that.

    One final note….I tend to get angrier at women than men who are sexist. Women who cake on makeup, complain how they need to lose weight, wear tight-fitting clothes, bleach their teeth with toxic chemicals, etc. They insist that their male counterpart make the decisions or speak for both of them when in public. It really pisses me off how so many females fret over their appearance…in some ways, we are more to blame and are encouraging sexism. We create our double standard.

    • April, I’m really offended by your assertion that people should not treat others with respect if they do not have healthy self-esteem. Seriously, fuck you.

  16. Hi tekanji. I haven’t really taken the opportunity to say this before, but, thank you very much for your blog. As a privileged male living in America, I didn’t really realize just how far away we are from gender equality until I started reading your blog on a regular basis. Now I find myself looking at popular media and listening to my male co-workers with a much more critical mindset. My wife has remarked that I’ve become a better husband, a better father and a better man since reading your blog. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble finding a partner worthy of your obvious intelligence, depth, wit and passion. There are some of us out there, though, and others who just need their eyes opened. Good luck!

  17. I ask that you read my post before any judgments are made. I am a man that would love to date a feminist woman. The reason I want a feminist woman is because there is nothing more attractive than a confident and driven woman. I also love the fact that she would have her own tier of beliefs. But the reason I am posting is because I can’t seem to find any feminists, and when I do, I always seem to be branded a pig right away. This is not me at all though and it is quite the opposite I am very against a lot of the disgusting things a lot of other guys say. So I guess my question is how do I find a feminist woman, and how do I get an audience without being branded. And I want to finish by saying thankyou for your input and, this is the only post from me on this site, I will never post here again.

  18. I don’t think feminists should have as hard a time dating as they think. They need to explain better that since they are about equality, men can treat them no better than they treat their male friends. They want equal courtesy and consideration to men, no more.

    It’s far easier being with a feminist in that way. No need to pay for her meals, open her doors, pull the car up to the door for her in bad weather, buy flowers and other things that men don’t care about but non-feminist women do.

  19. I would like to date a feminist woman because I don’t have to feel obligated to pay for her half or worry about opening her doors, giving her my jacket if she’s cold of, or any of those things that women normally want. Equality makes dating a lot easier and cheaper for men.

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