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29May/110

Dating While Feminist: Question to Captain Awkward

I only discovered Captain Awkward a couple months ago, but I've been loving every post!  Captain Awkward is an advice column/blog, covering dating and relationships, work situation, and just life in general as a young something awkward person (and who isn't?).  From her about page:

I write screenplays.  I read advice columns.

Advice columns are full of conflict.

Good screenplays are full of conflict.

People who write to advice columnists are usually looking for help in having a difficult conversation.   Most advice-column advice comes down to “Have you tried telling that person what you just told me?”

Movie characters are all direct and brave and articulate the way that we almost never get to be in real life. They get to have those difficult conversations and make them sound awesome.   That’s not because screenwriters are life experts.  We are not.  You should probably not be taking life advice from a woman whose plan for paying back $100K in grad school debt is “write a screenplay!”

I can’t tell you what to do.  But I can probably tell you what to say.

Liking Captain Awkward as I do, I figured I'd throw out the question I was pondering a couple months ago: Dating While Feminist.  And less than 24 hours later, I got my response!

Captain Awkward started out with some solid, all-purpose advice:

My rules of dating are the same for all people.  Let’s review:
  1. The other person is just a human
  2. Ask the person out sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
  3. Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
  4. Be cool with rejection.
  5. You can’t control whether someone will like you.
  6. Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
  7. Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends.
  8. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.  It’s okay to say “I feel shy about asking you out, but I like you."

Captain Awkward then goes on to some specific advice.  I'd ask you to go read the whole response there, because I'm going to riff on a couple themes she has going on there.

Firstly, "Some people are feminists who don’t necessarily identify as feminists."  I think this is hugely important for all people (not just straight, cis dudes like me), especially of our (20's something and younger) generation.  I've written some before about strategies and tactics for reaching men, and I think that this is one of the most important principles behind these strategies: there's a lot of low-hanging fruit out there.  A lot of people believe all the things that one normally associates with feminism, but just are afraid to self-identify with.  I think that part of whatever place men have is the larger feminist movement is to de-stigmatize identifying yourself as a feminist as a man.

Secondly, on to the dating stuff.  I think all of Captain Awkward's advice is spot-on, and good all-around dating advice to anyone.  Not to get defensive, but I sure hope I'm not mansplaining, as Captain Awkward suggests I might be, but I recognize that that's a big problem for men in the feminist movement, particularly new men in the feminist movement.  We're excited that we "know" things we didn't once know, and we want to tell people about it.  We're excited when we meet other feminists and want to engage them in conversation, even if they might know worlds more than we do.  I think in particular, we men new to the movement, when it was often hard for us to get into the movement, automatically assume that all women, or at least a lot of them must be just as feminist as we are, and that's simply not the case.  So in a situation like dating, or meeting new people, we assume people hold views similar to ours, when that's simply not the case.  Then we end up being all "mentory" as Captain Awkward says.  That's sort of the flip-side of meeting someone feminist and being overbearing about it.

Thirdly, something else that Captain Awkward mentions is a bit like the Bechdel Test.  The Bechdel Test is a test from a comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, where a character explains she'll only watch a movie that satisfies three criteria 1: it has to have two women in it, 2. who talk to each other and 3. about something other than a man.  Captain Awkward has something that strikes me as a variant of that test: don't date someone who in their online dating profile only has music, TV shows, movies, and books written by men.

Sadly, still being out here in Kansas for work, I don't think I can take Captain Awkward's suggestion and take a date to see Meek's Cutoff (not that I've been dating out here), but I'll have to give it a shot when I get back to DC!

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