How to Date to a Feminist in Just Five Easy Steps
By: Kim Tran
Let me preface this piece by saying the following article is based purely on anecdotes belonging to me or my friends. This article documents what often happens after those hallelujah moments when your partner who claims to share your feminist beliefs tells you that you’re too opinionated, smart, or difficult. It comes after you find out that Mr. I-think-we-should-be-open-and-polyamorous is actually sleeping with numerous women who think they’re in a straight and monogamous relationship. The following generalizations (and I willingly admit they are generalizations) are the ways I’ve seen and heard far too many “leftist” or “progressive” men backtrack, back-peddle and attempt to futilely redeem themselves after letting their their own patriarchial impulses run amok. And no, I’m not doing this because I hate men. I’m doing it because I want to like them, damnit. And maybe date one someday.
Step One: He offers you a blanket apology. This is the most sincere of the five steps. He actually feels badly about what he’s done! He will show remorse for his actions, himself and his whole friggin’ sex. He’ll apologize that patriarchy exists, that it oppresses you, and that it shouldn’t. He’ll apologize that racism exists, that it oppresses you, and that it shouldn’t. Life is unfair. It’s so much harder for you! He’ll apologize for that, too. He will say you should not have to deal with the sexism or racism you find on a daily basis. If you’re lucky, this step may include material goods. I once got dinner and breakfast in bed the next day. Take that, patriarchy! But oh wait, there’s the next step.
Step Two: He will tell you society made him do it. After a couple days of being in the doghouse, he’s had time to reflect on his actions and what he’s found he’s actually not responsible! More specifically, social norms made him do it. He is helpless in comparison to the overwhelming effects of rape culture, pornography and the hypersexualization of women. (If he’s an academic, he’ll cite numerous studies here.) He’s a good guy, you see. A valiant small fish swimming upstream against the tide of douchebags who do exactly as he does, except that he’s critical of his actions! You should be glad! It is not uncommon at this point for him to ask for sex in return for his good deeds.
Step Three: He makes you complicit. This is more or less an extension of the previous step. It is not his fault he did what he did, be it straying or saying something so off-putting you threw your organic cheese plate at him. It is partially (if not totally) your fault. After all, weren’t you the one who agreed to a polyamorous relationship in the first place? Doesn’t that make you a part of the problem? Weren’t you the one who made him breakfast every morning? That means you’re gender normative! In fact, you’re responsible for this whole fiasco!
Step Four: Hold the phone, pretty lady, this is the part where your privilege comes into play. Whether you are cis-gendered, able-bodied, curly or straight-haired, all become rungs in the social step-ladder. You are just like him, vested with the incredible ability to ignore the effect you have on others. You can use your feminine wiles as a weapon! People even buy you drinks in bars, you capitalist! You have more selection in clothing and hairstyles! While this is the most productive part of the entire affair (because let’s admit it: we all need to check our privilege) he is most likely encouraging you to do so in order to absolve himself of blame.
Step Five: Can’t we just sleep together? The last of the steps is a compendium of random acts of gratitude and sexism under the guise of sexual liberation. He will call/text/email to tell you you are amazing. He will say/write you are a remarkable a feminist, artist, activist etc. Because, let’s face it, you are. But he will also ask to maintain the relationship/arrangement you have. Or he will request to modify it so that it will accommodate his dishonesty and patriarchy. This is by far the saddest of the steps. It is also the last. After this, you can tell him to go f*** himself. After this, you can send him links to Men Against Rape (http://www.rapeis.org/activism/prevention/menagainstrape.html) and Occupy Patriarchy (http://www.occupypatriarchy.org/).
Finally, I am not of the man-hating feminist ilk. I find few women (read: feminists and people) are. I will also happily admit to my own shortcomings in relationships and elsewhere. My critique is born of love for men who try to align themselves with the feminist project. Please consider this a blueprint of what NOT to do, boys. It’s not enough that we call ourselves feminists, we have to live it, too.