The “I’ll Never Date A Feminist” Think Pieces Point To A Bigger Underlying Misconception About The Movement

In preparation for writing this, we asked a wide variety of people whether they would date a feminist, and the answers varied. From people ages 15 to 60, most seemed genuinely puzzled and found it hard to answer. After some follow-up questions and a lot of confusion on our part, things cleared up when we realized one crucial fact – many people today still don’t know what a feminist is, or what feminism stands for.

They thought they did, but after a bit of probing, the true foundation of their understanding dissolved. When we asked them to tell us what they thought being a feminist meant, we received a plethora of descriptions; some reasonable and some even tyrannical.

Which brings us to the subject of this article. We’ve all seen a think piece or two about people declaring they would “never date a feminist”, as some of these have even gone viral, for all the wrong reasons. Yet personal preference is not necessarily what is in question by us, because underlying the negative sentiments expressed is the stark realization that people are still buying into the myths about feminism, stereotypes from an era gone by, rather than taking a serious look into the important and intersectional work of feminism today.

What is a Feminist?

Here’s what Webster’s Dictionary says: “Feminist: a person who believes in bringing about the equality of the sexes in all aspects of public and private life.” Meaning, the social, political, and economic equality of all people.

Sounds pretty simple to most of us, right? Under that definition, almost everyone can agree that all human beings should be called a feminist no matter their age, their gender, their race, or their religion.

Once we gave our survey group the Webster’s definition of a feminist, the confusion and aversion feedback mellowed. “Well, when you put it like that!” They’d not only date a feminist, and would consider themselves a feminist, but wouldn’t date anyone who was not a feminist.

But for some, even the idea of everyone being equal can be a problem. It’s like the saying “when you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. Patriarchy’s power structure is akin to a “trickle-down” effect where the privileged few are at the top and hold all the cards. The idea of that power being disseminated among many can be a threat to those who have inhabited lives and spaces where they benefit from systems of discrimination and oppression toward others. This is exactly what feminism aims to break down.

“But… That’s Not the Kinds of Feminist I’ve Met.”

We have to acknowledge that this response is common, and understand why. The “feminists” who say it’s women’s time to reign. The ones that say all men are garbage – and if not all men, then the ‘good ones’ still need to be punished for the bad. “It’s about time we got a turn,” they say.

In the case of any extreme or fringe opinions about an array of topics, it’s always the loudest mouth in any group that drowns out other true feminist voices. The mainstream media, which thrives in ratings, clicks, shares and money, is often going to focus on those fringe voices because they are polarizing and instantly get the reaction they are looking for, which is a huge disservice to the everyday work of feminists working to make society better and more equal for all.

For instance, if a person wanted to find out information about Christianity, they are not exactly going to seek out extremists hate group Westboro Baptist Church, right? In the same way, seeking out feminist voices and activists who are serious about their work of dismantling systemic discrimination is a great place to start.

Why Do Feminists Get a Bad Rap in Dating?

Our world is filled with millions and millions of women who are subjected to sexual slavery, genital mutilation, forced religious beliefs, and so much more. If you’re calling yourself a champion of feminism and you do not stand in that gap for all women, in all aspects of public and private life, then you should reevaluate your own definition of who you are and what you really believe. Clearly you can claim yourself to be anything, but that doesn’t always ring true if your actions and your beliefs do not follow.

Terms like “feminazi” and “feminist killjoy”, or even phrases like “feminism is cancer” is indicative of some seriously hideous underlying animosity toward feminism. To compare someone seeking out equality in all aspects of society to the Jewish holocaust, or a serious disease, is incredibly distasteful.

When these attitudes are brought into the dating world, it can become a toxic playground for misogyny and perpetuating subjugation of women. Sadly, there are still far too many men who are intimidated by accomplished, unapologetically feminist women. With our changing world and society, women no longer need to “rely” on men for the things our foremothers needed to: financial stability, social status, raising a family. Which should be a freeing thought in any heterosexual dating situation, but instead it can come off as a threat.

The issue of raising men to understand women and girls as equals today is one for another blog post, and one which we have talked about in other ways. But at the heart of it, if more heterosexual men came to a date not feeling the burden of needing to appear superior, and balking at any mention of a woman’s autonomy and happiness that doesn’t rely on anyone else, perhaps feminism wouldn’t be such a threat

Is It Difficult to Date a Feminist?

Not if you believe in the fundamental idea of all human beings as equals. It’s when there are certain ingrained caveats and secretly-held beliefs pertaining to one gender being of inherently less value in some way, that problems will arise. The question and discussion topic should be less about whether or not someone would date a feminist, but rather would you date someone who still holds outdated notions about gender roles and women being inferior.

With popular dating apps like Bumble, which is billed as a “feminist” dating app allowing women to make the first move, and more men speaking up about their feminism (such as John Legend and actor Matt McGorry), we can collectively break down misconceptions about feminism and make the dating world feel less of an intimidating space.

And if you are still in the dark about feminism, or stuck on the idea of only seeing the negative and most extreme examples of what a feminist is, ask questions. Read about intersectionality and how the movement is far more than just about trying to elevate the status of cisgender, (predominantly white, affluent) women.

So, now that you know, the next time you’re checking out a dating site like benaughty.com, and someone says they’re a feminist, ask them to define it. If you are a feminist who is asked why, don’t be afraid to share your views on gender equality. If someone doesn’t want to date you because of this, feel thankful for the energy and time you did not have to waste on them. Dating is tricky, but when underlying misconceptions around gender equality and feminism are broken down, it can be fun and stress-free for both parties.


 

 

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