What Men Dare Do! "O, what men dare do! What men may do! What men daily do, not knowing what they do!"

11Apr/118

Dating while Feminist (and a dude)

As a warning, this post is a bit more rambly and personal than my usual ones, so I apologize in advance.

It's not unusual on feminist blogs to see a sort of "Dating While Feminist" type post every now and then.  Feministe had a great post a while ago about an interview Jacklyn Friedman did (with Amanda Hess, who's great!) on "Fucking While Feminist."

But what about dating while a feminist man?  It's a question I've given a lot of thought.  Generally speaking, the issue is a continuance of a common feminist problem: living as a feminist.  Making the political personal.  I've spoken before about how my "click" moment was when I realized that my then-professed feminist beliefs really only encompassed policy positions (e.g. equal wages, anti-discrimination, pro-choice), but that I wasn't really living out those beliefs in my personal life.

But perhaps a "problem" as it were specific to dating is that simply stated: people who self-identify as feminists are a minority, so if you're going to be out there dating and you're a self-identified feminist, chances are you might be dating a non-feminist (or even an anti-feminist!).  How do you do that?  Should you bring it out on the first date?  Second?  Not at all and just let it come organically?  These questions were all pretty academic ones for me for a while, as I was in a relationship for most of my post-feminist-click, but well, one thing led to another and I'm single again, and I've been having to deal with these issues head on.

When I set up a dating profile (yes, yes, like many other twenty-somethings, I have one), I actually put that I identify as a feminist in it, and it's led to some interesting responses.  Far and away the majority of responses of are, "That's awesome!" which is certainly heartening.  But there's also some more ambiguous responses.  In asking me what it meant that I was a feminist, one woman volunteered that chivalry was dead and she wanted men to be men and women to be women.  I didn't continue on that one.

As a feminist man, when I find I'm with someone (either just socially or on a date) and a discussion of feminism comes up with a non-feminist, I frequently get something like, "You're a lot more feminist than I am!"  It's a peculiar position to be in, and not one that any of my prior feminist experiences really prepared me for.  After all, when you're a feminist talking in a safe space with other feminists, you usually aren't confronted with a lot of people being "more feminist" than others in the same way.  Of course, you have debates within feminist communities with more radical feminists on one side and less so on the others -- there is a spectrum, but everyone in the room is still feminist.  My admittedly limited prior feminist outreach and activities was often in sexual assault prevention type stuff, and well, that's obviously not dating.

While I'm not a woman, so it's a bit tricky for me to make a comparison per se, I always feel like a lot of the "You're more feminist than I am!" statements contain a bit of incredulity at the fact that it's a guy who's more feminist than them.  I don't always have a good response to that, other than that I sometimes say that I suspect they're just as a feminist as I (usually I hang with pretty progressive people), but just haven't talked about it enough.

I suppose one way to look at it is just like dating someone with different politics than yours.  Many people (myself included) view their politics as important at a personal level, and would not consider dating someone who couldn't respect their views.

Perhaps I'll continue with a little series of missives on my travails on dating as a feminist, but I'll wrap this one up and invite anyone who has any comments or experiences they'd like to share on this topic to chime in!

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