Let’s all let out a collective sigh.
I probably don’t need to tell you that it’s tough to navigate the dating world as a feminist.
Heck, it’s hard to happily sit through most commercials on TV as a feminist, let alone sit through dates with people that may drop a slut-shaming bomb mid-conversation.
If we were to require that our partners mirror our feminism to a tee right out of the gate, our dating pool would be impossibly slim, especially when you take the necessity of chemistry and attraction into account.
That’s why dating as a feminist requires a lot of negotiation with yourself — what are you willing to let slide and what are you not willing to compromise on?
For example, are you willing to date someone that doesn’t have “the male gaze” in their lexicon (yet), but believes in a woman’s right to choose an abortion?
At the same time, it’s not uncommon for this negotiation process to feel uncomfortable. The dating compromises that one makes along the way can feel deeply at odds with your personal feminist politics, like you’re betraying feminism if you date someone that isn’t a famous feminist author.
It goes without saying that dating as a feminist is no easy feat, but there are helpful ways to frame its challenges and check in with yourself that relieve the experience of some headache and heartache.
1. Remember The Possibility Of Feminist Evolution
Many of us end up dating people that might not identify as feminists when we first meet them and that’s okay. It’s important to remember that we didn’t always identify as feminists. There was a point at which we adopted and immersed ourselves in the identity, probably a point we cherish as life-changing.
Although we don’t want our primary role while dating to become being a Feminism 101 instructor, I think it’s exciting to remember that we can open up the world of feminism to those we are intimate with.
Isn’t sharing your interests and ideas with one another a huge part of dating anyway?
2. Be Flexible But Stand Your Ground
In all honesty, what I said above about remembering the possibility for feminist evolution should be taken with a grain of salt.
Why? Because my efforts to engage my dating peers in conversation about feminism have been dismissed or laughed at too many times for me to romanticize it.
You’ll know the best way to introduce your feminist identity to those you’re dating or romantically interested in.
You may feel best about incorporating feminism into your online dating username and having it on the scene from the get-go. Or you may be more comfortable with bringing it up organically in conversation.
Regardless of what method you choose in introducing feminism to your dating experiences, you’ll have to decide how you’re going to react to the response you receive.
Creating a flexible but meaningful feminist dating “litmus test” can help you decide what you’re willing to let slide and what you’re absolutely not compromising on.
Although I’m now happily partnered with my girlfriend, I felt like a flailing feminist dater not so long ago. The feminist dating litmus test that I developed was based on the minimum requirement of someone showing interest in feminism and the feminist issues I talk about.
Some other things I’ve never been willing to compromise on are voting, being pro-choice, and not exhibiting defensiveness or doubt when I talk about privilege and social constructs.
It was okay if they were unfamiliar with the issues and ideas I brought up. But their willingness to engage with them in a thoughtful and sincere manner was what I really paid attention to.
Come up with a framework of negotiables and non-negotiables to employ when you hit the dating scene. It might seem too scientific for something that’s supposed to be fun, but try it on for size and see if it makes dating as a feminist a little less painful and conflicting.
3. Knowing When To Move On
What should you do when you like someone, but they’ve pretty consistently dismissed or made fun of feminism or feminists, including you?
Be honest with yourself about your needs and wants in a partner and the relationship you want to build with them.
If you find that those needs are not being met, it’s always a good idea to embrace the fact that it’s just not meant to be.
Let’s face it – if someone doesn’t respect your feminist values and identity, this lack of respect is probably going to manifest elsewhere in the relationship.
When there are red flags waving in our faces, it’s important to acknowledge them from a place of self-respect and self-love and decide to move on if that feels right.
Sara Alcid is a young feminist living and working in Washington, DC as a reproductive health and justice advocate. Sara loves thinking, reading and writing about the socially and personally transformative power of feminism, queer issues, and women’s health. Follow her on Twitter @SaraAlcid.
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