This article was originally published on Wear Your Voice and was republished here with the author’s permission.
As a queer femme of color, I keep close relationships with people who go beyond allyship; they’re true accomplices in the fight against white supremacy, queerphobia, and misogyny. If you’re not going to support marginalized folks, then we can’t be friends, let alone date. The personal is political.
Beyond the lovely cushioning, happiness and support that we receive from our platonic relationships (which are, in all honesty, soul-feeding and essential), feminists also date! But there are questions we have to ask before we get close to someone.
The following list of questions is applicable to all relationships — certainly not just cisgender, heterosexual ones:
1. Do you believe that Black Lives Matter?
Yes? Wonderful. Let’s start here. There are three categories that are non-negotiables for me: an understanding of race, class, and gender. Not everyone understands how these three can be insidious, systemic and intertwined, but anyone who doesn’t take the time to learn how systemic racism works isn’t going to care about how racism affects me or people who are darker-skinned than I am.
I don’t want to have to have laborious discussions where I have to prove to someone that white privilege or non-black privilege exists. If they are willing to learn and listen and make the space to decenter their whiteness (if they are white), that’s a good place to start.
2. What are your thoughts on gender and sexual orientation?
The gender binary is a tiny box and I wish it didn’t exist, but it does. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone who is queer-phobic. One out of many important elements to dismantling patriarchy is to abolish gender roles as well as the limited understanding that we have about sexuality and gender itself. I can’t imagine being with someone who is transphobic; as a feminist and woman of color, it would be a betrayal of what I stand for. Ignoring trans-misogynoir would be to deny one of the biggest, most despicable problems that we face.
3. How do you work to dismantle sexism and misogyny in your life?
I’ve met cisgender heteronormative (cishet) men who hate women. They say they love women, but that love is conditional on not having their toxic masculinity questioned or threatened in any way. And they love us as a monolith, they love what women have to offer, whether it is sex, food, love, care, emotional labor: they love us for what we can do for them, not because of who we are for ourselves. It is crucial for cishet men to learn how to decenter their male privilege in order for them to understand the multitudes of interpretations of femininity and womanhood.
Beyond Misogyny 101, does the person you are with understand rape culture, systemic sexism, and misogynoir? Are they willing to learn if they don’t? Misogyny is more than the pay gap. Walk away from anyone who believes that “boys will be boys” and that women are supposed to be mothers because we’re nothing but ambulatory incubators.
4. What are your thoughts on sex work?
You may scratch your head at this one, but much like racism and misogynoir, being pro-sex worker is a necessary pillar of dismantling the patriarchy. I don’t mean pro-sex worker in the sense where non-sex workers write op-eds and think pieces about how sex work is amazing and feminist.
I mean the kind where we pass the mic to sex workers because they know their experiences better than anyone who hasn’t ever engaged in sex work. I mean the kind of pro-heauxism where you understand the labor of sex workers of color, especially trans women of color who engage in sex work, because their experience and knowledge is crucial to understanding the oppressive structures of our world.
5. Are you a supporter of the BDS movement?
BDS stands for “Boycott, Divest, Sanctions” — an effort to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. I grew up with Jewish (Israeli and non-Israeli) friends and Palestinian friends. Before even understanding how power and oppression worked together, we understood the trivial hatred that colonized and put in constant danger the lives of Palestinians every single day.
Eventually, I learned about Apartheid from a theoretical perspective, and I began to understand the terror, trauma, and stress of having everyone you love and care about get killed, simply because one nation has the military backing and power to destroy your land for them to settle on. Being pro-Palestine is not the same thing as being anti-Semitic. I shouldn’t even have to express that, but being pro-Palestine and BDS is a necessary part of intersectionality.
6. What is your understanding of settler colonialism and indigenous rights?
I didn’t grow up in the United States. I was raised in Switzerland, so my understanding of how Europeans committed genocide against indigenous populations here in the U.S. was fairly limited. It required a good deal of my own research to really understand how settler colonialism works and how devastating the erasure and violence against Native Americans is and was.
Your date thinks Native Americans are tropes or relics of the past? NO THANKS. A key part of intersectionality is having a complete understanding of how historical and current policies endangered the lives of millions of people, simply because of white supremacy and the colonialist entitlement to finite resources and land.
7. Do you think capitalism is exploitative?
Anti-capitalism, especially in the U.S., is imperative if you have an understanding of systemic racism, the prison industrial complex, the 13th Amendment, and exploitation. Capitalism, for one, teaches us that we are only valuable if we produce capital. That means that if you aren’t contributing to the system with your labor, your life means almost nothing.
If your date says they’re anti-fascist and part of the resistance but they’re cool with exploiting labor from communities of color and they support the school to prison pipeline, then there’s a good chance they’ll only value you for your ability to nurture them without any reciprocation.
8. Can any human be illegal?
We live on a tiny planet, with land and water within a galaxy surrounded by a universe with an inconceivable number of other galaxies and planets. Yet here we dictate where we are and who is allowed to be where we are. It’s mind-boggling that borders are even a thing, so to call people “aliens” or “illegal immigrants” is so inhumane and despicable.
White Americans stole this land, colonized this land, created so many borders, pushed out, killed and enslaved people of color and somehow they have the audacity to claim that this land is theirs and that black and brown immigrants are stealing their jobs, land, and homes? Miss me with that bullshit.
9. Do you support Muslim Americans and non-Muslim people from Islamic countries?
I can’t think of any other religion which has been vilified and lied about more than Islam in a cultural and systemic way. I am not Muslim, so I will stay in my lane, but I cannot imagine for a second even claiming to be a feminist if I didn’t stand in solidarity with my Muslim friends and family — especially now, especially after 9/11.
Don’t waste your time and energy on dating someone who thinks that Islam is inherently violent or misogynistic. Instead, read some Huda Sha’arawi or Mona Eltahawy to educate yourself further on Muslim feminism.
10. Does your allyship include disabled folks?
As an able-bodied woman, again, I will stay in my lane, but intersectionality has to include a solid platform for disabled people — and not just the visible disabilities. If you have disabled family or friends, please make the effort to listen and learn about their lives and their experiences. Disabled folks are subject to shaming and violence because humans are awful and lack empathy. Be mindful of others who mock disabled people; that kind of cruelty is inexcusable.
On a date with someone who uses ableist slurs? Walk away.
Lara Witt is an intersectional feminist writer, the managing editor of Wear Your Voice Magazine and a digital media consultant based in Philadelphia. She writes about self-care, pop culture and deconstructing systems of oppression. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, BUST Magazine, ELLE and more. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @femmefeministe and on Facebook.