(Content Warning: misogyny, Nazis, rape, intimate partner violence)
Originally published on Medium and republished here with the author’s permission.
Dear young person,
First, let me say that this applies regardless of your a/gender and the a/gender of the person you love. Know that people of all a/genders may experience this and perpetuate this, especially, but not exclusively, in youth.
However, there is a particular pattern of cis white girls who date cis white boys whose political views “don’t match.”
Except it’s not that their political views don’t match: It’s that his views exist in a framework wherein you are less of a person – with less agency, less competency, and less nuanced an inner life than he.
Young white men are finding themselves intoxicated by toxic masculinity and grasping at political ideologies that are not simply “controversial,” but are, in fact, potentially dangerous and damaging.
And it’s okay to note that and act accordingly.
Many of us are conditioned to believe that true tolerance is the ability to stomach and even politely nod along with opinions that are different from our own and that, in doing so, we are making the world a more harmonious place.
Young women, especially, are groomed to acquiesce in moments of disagreement.
Never is this more true that when the person you love, as a young person, has what appear to be fully formed and forceful opinions about politics, current events, and ideologies:
We disagreed on almost everything, but that’s what made him interesting. I started to see the actual human person behind the vote leave badge, something I’d never tried to do before.
After they got over the initial shock of our “opposites attract” relationship, the main reaction to him from my friends and family has been baffled amusement. Upon meeting him for the first time, one of my closest friends, who’s bisexual, got into an argument with him after he claimed her sexuality didn’t exist. Despite this, they’re now both good friends.
But young person, I want to say this clearly and without mincing words: You are not required to abide by “political opinions” that question or demean your humanity. In fact, you should not abide by them.
“Agree to disagree” reads the now-viral tweet that features the girl in the Nasty Woman shirt with the rainbow flag beside the boy in a Make America Great Again hat and the Meninist crewneck. Click through to see that his Twitter timeline is full of retweets of Tomi Lahren monologues and statements about “’Merica.”
The girl in the picture is not, as many have assumed, his girlfriend – but that doesn’t change the story that the picture tells much. She is his friend, and she is complicit.
And anyway, his girlfriend isn’t difficult to find. Her timeline is absent of politics, but peppered with single-line tweets like “i hate that i get soo upset about the little things” and “i’m so dumb” and “i hate how sensitive i can get.”
Of course, I don’t know these girls, but in a way, I kind of do – because I was this girl. And what I needed to hear was that this is not the default.
You don’t need to bend to fit this. This is not good for you. You don’t need this.
There was no Twitter when I was your age, young person, but there were plenty of other ways for lonely, isolated young men to find and cling to ideologies that demeaned others.
“Fuck feminism,” one partner said to me in his car. “Women are fine. Women are already equal. Feminism makes it harder for men to get into college. It makes it harder to get a job. It’s not fair.”
“Equal rights, equal fights,” he’d joke. One of his favorite other jokes was the one about the woman with two black eyes. He told it to me at least twice.
A budding feminist myself, his aggressive disagreement with my understanding of the world – and really, with me and my own experiences – made me a bit smaller and, more than that, stopped my own concrete ideologies from taking root.
It would be years until I could become more vocal, more sure, and more motivated. His voice was often in my head: a privilege he didn’t deserve.
He disagrees with the idea of you as an equal partner. He disagrees with your lived experience.
Bad news: Dating or marrying a woman isn’t a get-out-of-sexism-free card. The most brutally misogynist men often date, marry, and claim to love women. Most of the same men who opposed women’s rights to vote, who wrote laws insuring that it was legal to rape your wife, and who barred women from colleges and universities were married to women. Most women who are murdered are killed by men with whom they are currently or formerly romantically involved – men who often claim to love them.
And young person, I can tell you from experience: If he doesn’t believe you when you say you need feminism, when you say that a president who is an alleged sexual predator is not who you want leading the country, when you say that you support inclusion and true acceptance – he certainly won’t believe you or trust you in other areas of the world.
Donald J. Trump is, unequivocally, a misogynist.
He has shown, time and again, that he fundamentally lacks respect for women. His personality is, dare I say, deplorable – but that’s what so many of his supporters, with their latent sexism, like about him. (This is true also for their white supremacy, anti-Muslim bigotry, ableism, classism, and so on.)
And he is, like so many abusers, coming into the lives and feeds of girls and young women when they are most vulnerable. Depression among young women is up significantly, in large part due to the exact kind of negativity that Trump embodies.
Intimate partner violence is fairly common in young couples – about 20% of teenage girls in relationships with boys report experiencing it – and it is much less likely to be reported if an abuser is also emotionally manipulative.
If you’re experiencing violence in your relationship, there are resources.
When he undermines you for your political views (He seems so sure! He knows so much about it! He’s spent so much time on the message boards!) it’s much harder to know when you’re right about anything.
And young person, you actually are right: You are right about gender equity. You are right about a president whose ideology is so clearly rooted in hate. You’re right about inclusion and intersectionality and whatever else he’s tried to argue about.
But you are not right if you think you have to stay with him. You are not right if you believe that all men are like that.
A partner who voted for and continues to support a candidate who undermines your humanity does not respect your humanity.
We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.
—Son of Baldwin (@SonofBaldwin) August 18, 2015
Your peers who are more marginalized bear the brunt of your connivance. Continuing to date someone who undermines you and marginalized people tacitly permits these views to exist.
You are not being a good ally.
If you’re worried you’ll never find one such partner, young person, don’t forget that Trump supporters are in the minority. (Also, considering Trump’s many terrifying scandals and executive orders over the last month, perhaps that minority will grow even smaller. His current approval rating is the lowest of any new president, which is certainly encouraging.)
This isn’t to say you must only date those who share your views exactly. You don’t need to align on every issue, especially those that are truly political.
But do date someone who doesn’t embrace an ideology (and a candidate) that actively reduces you.
Young person, there are people in the world of all a/genders who not only agree with your political views, but agree with your fundamental belief that you are a human being who is worth loving.
There are people in the world that you can be in a relationship with who don’t make you feel like you’re “too sensitive” for getting upset over an executive order, who don’t need to be asked not to call refugees “illegals,” and who will support you in your various causes.
In short, young person, I hope you at least remember this: Don’t fuck someone whose political actions could fuck you.
Hanna Brooks Olsen is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism, a small human, and a Millennial. Her interests are politics, podcasts, Pac-12 football, feminism, and Oxford commas. She is curious to a fault. Follow her on Twitter and Medium @mshannabrooks. Read her articles here.