Reader question #54: Dating while feminist.

Hey there Captain Awkward!  I found your blog a couple months ago and have been reading it religiously ever since!  Thanks for all the great advice!

I’m a fellow feminist blogger, writing on my blog mendaredo.com, and I have a question for you on dating that I was pondering a bit on my blog.  I’m a self-identified cis, straight, feminist dude, and to quote from my post:

But perhaps a “problem” as it were specific to dating is that simply stated: people who self-identify as feminists are a minority, so if you’re going to be out there dating and you’re a self-identified feminist, chances are you might be dating a non-feminist (or even an anti-feminist!).  How do you do that?  Should you bring it out on the first date?  Second?  Not at all and just let it come organically?

[…]

As a feminist man, when I find I’m with someone (either just socially or on a date) and a discussion of feminism comes up with a non-feminist, I frequently get something like, “You’re a lot more feminist than I am!”  It’s a peculiar position to be in, and not one that any of my prior feminist experiences really prepared me for.  After all, when you’re a feminist talking in a safe space with other feminists, you usually aren’t confronted with a lot of people being “more feminist” than others in the same way.  Of course, you have debates within feminist communities with more radical feminists on one side and less so on the others — there is a spectrum, but everyone in the room is still feminist.  My admittedly limited prior feminist outreach and activities was often in sexual assault prevention type stuff, and well, that’s obviously not dating.

So, I guess my question is this: what advice would you give a feminist dude who’s trying to date?  I don’t particularly want to be in a relationship with someone wants to adhere to traditional gender roles, but that be a tricky thing to suss out on a first date.  I also recognize it can also be pretty limiting to say, “I won’t date anyone who doesn’t share so-and-so beliefs.”  Thoughts?
-Jeff

Dear Jeff:
My rules of dating are the same for all people.  Let’s review:
  1. The other person is just a human
  2. Ask the person out sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
  3. Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
  4. Be cool with rejection.
  5. You can’t control whether someone will like you.
  6. Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
  7. Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends.
  8. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.  It’s okay to say “I feel shy about asking you out, but I like you.”

These apply to the very early stages of dating where you’re just getting to know someone.  Obviously in those early stages you’re also probably finding out how the other person feels about books, music, movies, food, family, work,  alone-time vs. together-time, sex, and politics.

Some people are feminists who don’t necessarily identify as feminists.  If you think that women are human beings with souls and the same capacity for intellect and moral action as men and who deserve the same opportunities and challenges as men, on some level you’re a feminist (and much more advanced than most Western thinkers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when this was still a radical notion).   Some people are feminists who don’t enjoy talking about feminism or politics in their free funtime.  Some people haven’t thought about it very much – if you pinned them down on various political issues they’d have feminist stances – but they haven’t read up on it or used feminism as a frame for thinking about the world.  Some people are in the Peggy Olson stages of feminism, where they focus on the plight of educated white women of a certain class but don’t think about intersectionality of race, class, disability, LGBT issues, and what feminism looks like outside of the prosperous West.  There’s a big difference between “I am uncomfortable when my boss asks me, the only woman, to plan the company Christmas party” and “The women in our village walk 2 miles each way for fresh water and girls don’t ever go to school and are married off to adult men when they are 12, and since there are no family planning services, they’ll have way too many kids way too fast (if they’re lucky enough not to die in childbirth).”  Some people will talk only about the second group of people and get mad at you for being pissed off about the Christmas party thing, which is also annoying.

So, yeah. Feminism:  It’s Messy In Here and sometimes You Can’t Win.

The way you date while being a feminist man is just to…date.  And have fun.  And find people with the same interests as you, which may include radically messing about with gender roles inside your relationships.  And be a cool dude with a lot of interests and friends who is nice to hang out with and who listens and who genuinely likes the company of women.  Other suggestions:

  • Listen more than you talk. (A generally attractive quality. If you figure out how, do let me know the secret.)
  • Don’t share share every thought you have right away (see above parenthetical).
  • Ask a lot of questions and find out all about her (not just how Feminist she is or how she responds to your Feminist insights).
  • Make sure that you’re not mansplaining, or using your interest in and reading of feminist texts and blogs to browbeat or argue for fun! with someone about the real and painful stuff of her life.  I don’t think you are doing this, but the fact that you’re getting into conversations that use the words “But you’re more feminist than me!” means that you’re maybe talking about feminism too much and applying it to everything in a way that feels not fun and competitive to the women you’re hanging out with?  Like, maybe you are looking for credit and gold stars, just a teensy little bit?
  • When you find out someone hasn’t really thought much about feminism, don’t automatically assign yourself to the role of Jeff, Feminist Mentor and start assigning reading and shit.

Here’s a big one:  When online dating, I am automatically skeptical of people who list a whole bunch of books, music, and films in their profile but who fail to list any works by women.  Sometimes, if the guy seems cool in other ways, I might bring it up – “Do you have any favorite books or albums by women?”  10% of the time I get a nice answer, like, “You know what, I never thought about it, but I do!  Here they are.” Or sometimes I get an honest confession of “Can you recommend me some good stuff?  I’m showing my ignorance.”  And then that dude is cleared for possibly dating.  But 90% of the time I get some defensive pretentious explanation for why he just likes art by men better and that’s just his preference and he’s not going to give chick art affirmative action by liking it just to meet chicks and I should really just dig his total honesty and, I guess, willingness to be a dick in defense of TRUTH and BEAUTY and LITERATURE, as if ignoring the creative output of half the human race is the fault of half the human race and not your own embarrassing pig-ignorance. I tag these people “DANGER: EXTREMELY UNFUCKABLE” and move on.

So do you like art by women, Jeff?  Do you make it a point to seek out films directed by women and watch them? Maybe take a date to see Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff this weekend, and when it’s time to talk about the film (which is chock full of gender stuff and race stuff and also just gorgeous and audacious and completely gripping), let her talk first.

37 comments
  1. My personal rule is that I’ll date people who are not feminists, but I will not date people who are douchebags.

    You don’t need to know about, I don’t know, the interplay between slut shaming and the rape culture to get into my pants. On the other hand, you need to not call ladies sluts for having casual sex.

    Also, responding well when I point out something is fucked up is a major plus. If I say “calling your phone retarded is insulting to mentally handicapped people,” saying “oh, yeah, never thought about it that way, sorry” or even arguing with me respectfully is a lot better than “YOU FEMINISTS NEED TO STOP TAKING OFFENSE AT EVERYTHING.”

  2. denelian said:

    i dated a feminist guy before i discovered i was a feminist [said discovery made a couple years after we broke up…]

    i remember the conversation – he had a book by Katha Polit [whose name i’m misspelling, sorry!] by his bed, next to a Lovecraft book, so i asked him what it was. he said “feminist theory”. and i said “oh. but, um, you’re not a woman” and he said “no, but i am a feminist”. and i said “oh. ok. is it my turn to cook breakfast?” and he said “nope, you made dinner; want breakfast in bed?”

    and that was the ENTIRETY of our communication about feminism.
    i grant that i was a feminist who didn’t KNOW she was a feminist – i was taught that feminism was “over”, and that everything else was vestiges of “the bad old days before feminism” and that it was [Patriarchy, although again, i didn’t know the term] “dying off” and all *I* knew about it was A) i wished i’d been alive when feminism was still “going” and B) i REALLY wanted it to “die” faster.

    but i came to adulthood in the 90s – i turned 18 in 95 – and i swear to you, the country was MORE feminist THEN than it is now.

    anyway, i think everthing Die Kaptanin says is 100% accurate – you don’t necessarily have to date a person who KNOWS that they’re feminist, you just want to avoid the aforementioned [by ozymandius] douchebags/assholes. which will ALSO weed out anti-feminists, i’m fairly certain 🙂

    and good luck!

    • miseryguts said:

      As someone who was born in ’89, I am constantly confused when I look back on the pop personalities of my childhood. Somehow I managed to grow up in a decade when a gold evening suit was appropriate women’s stagewear, and now they’ll hardly let you on TV if you’re wearing more than a minidress!

      I live in the UK, and I know the whole ‘girl power’ thing had serious problems from a feminist standpoint, but it was nice to have my formative years before all the tiny skirts and stripper heels came into fashion again, and when it was still okay to wear scruffy boy’s clothes and want to be a mechanic for a living. I mean, you can still DO that now, but the social approval of it has gone.

      I’ve never dated, but when I look for potential boyfriends anti-feminist attitudes are a bit of a dealbreaker. He doesn’t have to be feminist or identify as feminist, but if he starts telling me how women are genetically worse at maths and science (and he’s secure in those opinions rather than just poorly informed), then we have to say goodbye.

      • denelian said:

        i’m in a sort of on-going terror on behalf of my neices – as you say, i grew up with women able to do things, and while fully dressed! i don’t quite understand how we moved so far backwards, and i’ve been trying to figure it out for years – i still don’t get it. sigh.

        i think your rule there is a good rule-of-thumb. although i’m not sure that i’d keep that little aside, about possibly having heard such things and believing them to be true because they were to ignorant to know it’s NOT true – i find [this is just me – others may find other things] people who just *accept* sweeping generalizations aren’t really “thinkers”. and i prefer people who can, and WILL, think. also, i’m lazy; i don’t want to constantly have conversations like “move over, let me drive” “why?” “cuz i’m the man” “and?” “and everyone KNOWS that women can’t drive as well as men” “they do, huh? shut up and fasten your seat belt, let’s PROVE it. jackass”
        or whatever.

        mostly, i’m lazy 🙂

        • littlemiseryguts said:

          (same person, just finally remembered my password)

          Man, I don’t get it either. I think I saw just the tail end of it, since I’m only 21. I fear for the future in general, we’re even having attacks on our abortion access here in the UK, that’s something I never could have imagined happening when I was in school.

          Haha, you’re probably right about the thinkers-vs.-nonthinkers. I added it because I remembered a guy in my class at university, who held some deeply misogynist attitudes based on biological determinism, and did a complete u-turn on it in the space of one conversation. He’s definitely a thinker, he’d just never looked into those particular assumptions before.

          But then, I’m pretty chatty once my shyness recedes, so I like an excuse to talk at length with someone. Although someone who insisted I should let him drive because he’s a man would find himself walking home.

          • denelian said:

            ah, 21, that was an awesome year – The Year I Finally Tried Karaoke, is how it’s labled in LizYears 😀

            we *should* be afraid of the future – so far as i can tell, the anti-women groups seem to be taking over just about *everything*. it’s terrifying! to say the least…

            being chatty is a good, a man willing to listen to arguments and change some of his own based on other’s is actually a pretty cool dude!

            and i agree – it’d do him GOOD to walk home at that point 😀

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            Agarg, ran out of nesting.

            He is a pretty cool guy, which is why I decided that unexamined misogynist assumptions aren’t anywhere near as bad as well-formed misogynist viewpoints, or are at least worth testing.

            21 is almost over for me! I’ll be 22 in about 2 months. I hope I’ll be able to look back on it as ‘the year I got over recurring depression and finally stopped worrying that all my friends secretly hate me’, which barring horrible relapses is how it looks so far. So that’s pretty awesome, in a transitional sort of way. I asked out 2 guys! They both turned me down, but I didn’t collapse into a jellied mess of self-esteem problems! I’d been hung up on the first one for all three years of uni and got over him in less than 13% of that time, which I feel pretty good about considering I’d never asked anyone out before. Yeah, it’s been a good year!

            Which is fortunate, as I’ll need my newfound bravery to fight all the ludicrously unfair austerity measures and attacks on women’s welfare going on in my country…

          • denelian said:

            he sounds like a cool guy –

            and W00T! for some awesomeness for 21! i’ll send GoodThoughts that it ends as you wish.
            hell, i’m 34, and i STILL can’t ask a guy out! [not that i need to… same b/f for 7 years and all] so you’ve already surpassed my awesome 21st year 🙂

            and sadly… you’re completely correct. i recently crossed the UK off of my “places to immigrate to where i wouldn’t be hated” list 😦 and i find it totally shocking, that UK is sliding backwards like this. totally out of character, if you follow. *sob*

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            I am making it my mission in life to turn the UK back into the place people want to immigrate TO, not emigrate FROM. Stupid Tory government, every time they make a new policy I sit here wailing ‘noooo! My precious welfare state!’ I seem to be entering my adult life at absolutely the worst time in decades to do so.

            It doesn’t even make sense, I mean, if you look at our history our entire cultural heritage is various groups of people going ‘Hey, look at that nifty island, let’s all move there!’ *conquer conquer trade trade arrrgh the Scots run away* suddenly trying to pretend like we’ve got a unified British culture free from the influence of immigrants is ludicrous. I mean, we’re still a bit less racist than, say, France, but it’s only getting worse. And then sometimes they try to pretend they’re upholding christian values, and as a christian I think ‘Jesus wasn’t in favour of blaming everything on the poor and disabled you guys!’

            Out of a desire for more nuanced information (being white, straight, wealthy, able-bodied etc. a lot of the changes don’t affect me personally), which changes made you decide personally that it wasn’t the place for you any more?

          • denelian said:

            um… i think it was the story of an Irish girl [GIRL – like, 14] who had to [of course, sigh] go to Britain to get an abortion – it took all her money to GET there and pay for it – and then they told her she had to wait some period [longer than she could pay to stay for] so she *slept on the street* for a couple of days, waiting – then was sent home without proper aftercare, for some reason, by train then boat, and was almost kicked off the train for bleeding all over the place – not sent to a HOSPITAL but kicked off in the middle of nowhere. it was another woman protesting kicking her out in NOWHERE that allowed her to stay on the train until the next stop with a hospital.
            where the first doctor refused to work on her, because he was “pro-life”, and working on a girl gravely ill from an abortion [saving her life] was somehow NOT “pro-life”.

            that sounded like getting an abortion HERE, in the US, if you aren’t lucky enough to live NEAR one!

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            The tragic thing is that’s not even new, women from Ireland have been struggling to get abortions for decades after they were made legal in the UK. The Republic of Ireland is its own country, so the only thing we can do here is support charities like the Abortion Support Network who provide accommodation and transport for women from Ireland travelling here for abortions.

            However there ARE groups campaigning for the Abortion Act to be extended to Northern Ireland. (Sorry if you meant Northern Ireland, it could mean either.) I’m pretty worried about abortion access even in the mainland, so I’ll be sure to remember the bigger problems Irish women have too.

            (Also in regards to the train thing? SURELY if they’d kicked her off and she’d died that would be negligent homicide? I can’t believe these things happen so close to me, in a supposedly progressive country!)

          • denelian said:

            sorry – i was imprecise, it was Northern Ireland – i remember reading how grateful she was that it was *legal* for her to call and make the abortion appointment.

            part of the problem is that NO ONE told her *BEFORE* she came that there was a waiting period. it’s been a while since i read it, but i got the impression that some new law prohibited that, because anti-choicers wanted women to show up, realize they don’t have enough money, and then GIVE up.

            as for the negligent homicide thing…
            i’m Cherokee [i can “pass” – but it’s on all my medical records] and i’ve had doctors not do things that could result in negligent homicide [except i WILL protest – and then get told “whose gonna complain? is Wilma Mankiller gonna rise up from the grave and give us a lecture?” so now i NEVER go alone to ANYTHING…] and this girl was Irish, and i know that in theory Irish = English now, but some people hold on to their bullshit – it’s entirely possible the train person [conductor? i don’t remember] figured “it’s just an Irish brat, no one will care”. [i think those are the exact words her mother used]

            i know that it’s been like that for Ireland – both of them! – for a long time… it was the not informing her ahead of time about how LONG it would be, the silence about what she *NEEDED* to get it done [enough money to stay in whichever city, at minimum] and the lack of aftercare that sealed it for me.

            i’m *very* disabled, and i have a disease that means, for me, pregnancy = death. i’ve had an abortion [or, rather, i went for an abortion but it turned out to be a D&C, because dead fetuses aren’t aborted…]. the disabled are ALWAYS treated badly if they do something that lets people know they have sex.
            if that’s what gonna happen to an Irish girl who is a British citizen – what’s going to happen to Cherokee disabled me with a black boyfriend? [hell, we live in a area with LOTS of black people – and sometimes people, for NO reason at all, decide my b/f is “Muslim” because he’s black. then he starts talking and they realize he’s American – as if one can’t be both American and Muslim – and they stop being assholes. but it’s happened *here*, where we have a SMALL Muslim populace that is scattered around – what would it be like there, where the Muslim populace bands together and so many hate them just because they’re Muslim? not that USians are better than the British, we’re WORSE when it comes to Muslim-hatred, but there are more Muslims THERE, ya know?]

            i still want to VISIT – i’m just afraid to try to LIVE there. which makes me sad, bcuz for over a decade, Britain was my #1 “run to” country if things got too bad here 😦

            i guess… i guess i just need to hope that Labour can take back over and do it without selling out. unless Labour has been as compromised as our Democratic Party?

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            Ah, that does make more sense, and yes it is atrocious the way they withhold information about that kind of thing. Northern Ireland has a lot of anti-abortion sentiment, so while they can’t make it illegal to come to mainland Britain and have one, they can insist that they won’t do them there and won’t help people get one. I’ve honestly never found out why it’s so difficult, even for women in mainland Britain, to get information about how the procedure is actually going to work. It seems to be a bit hit-or-miss depending on your doctor. I’ll keep rummaging and see if I can find out how it gets that way.

            I hate to say it, but as a disabled person you might have MORE sympathy here in the UK than the Irish girl in question. Not saying we’re any better about ablism and such (we’re not), but the culture at large definitely hates women having children they can’t care for themselves without any help, so a person with severe disabilities would probably be looked on as being sensible if they got an abortion, albeit for a variety of completely unacceptable reasons. Ugh, it tells you something about the opinion on disabled people here when a good attitude to something like abortion still needs to be apologised for because of where it comes from.

            I’m honestly not sure about the muslim thing, it depends entirely on where you go. There are some parts of Britain with thriving muslim communities who are completely accepted by their neighbours, and other parts where people get all huffy if they so much as see a halal butcher in their town (as if non-muslims can’t eat it or something). It’s weird. We do have more resistance to things like banning the niquab like they did in France, and more support for multiculturalism, but it’s… I dunno, it’s a really complicated mix of very good and very bad. People probably wouldn’t look at a black person and think ‘muslim’ here though, most muslims here are middle-eastern or from places like Bangladesh or Indonesia.

            Ugh… Labour. We’re not sure what to make of them at the moment, they’re just as out of touch as the Tories. Probably due to also being made up almost entirely of rich, white men. They’re more centre than left at the moment, and they’d had 10 years in power which is really long enough for any party to stagnate. There weren’t really any good options in the last general election. I’m pretty ashamed of my country these days.

            Just as a nitpick, it should be Irish = British, not English. The English are people who were born in England (as opposed to being Scottish, Welsh or Irish), whereas any citizen of the UK is British. So as a native of East Anglia, I’d be both English and British, whereas the poor girl in your account would be both Irish and British. The Scots especially like us to be accurate on that point.

          • denelian said:

            i can guess how it gets that was – anti-abortion people push for something *extreme* [like, all abortions illegal] and then “compromise” on something that appears less radical, like waiting times being increased – and the pro-choice legislators take a deep breath and think they’ve “won”, when they’ve just done what the anti-abortion people have wanted – whittled away more access.

            that’s just a guess, based on here.

            it WOULD be novel [in a nice way] to live someplace where i’m not villified and told i SHOULD die. thats… thats enough, right there, i think, to put Britain back on my list. really? here, i’m told that of COURSE i should have died at 11 weeks, despite the fact that there was *no chance* for either fetus to survive [and both were dead before i even got to the abortion clinic] because “that’s what God wants” and etc about being a woman, highest calling, etc etc. perfect strangers feel as if they have the RIGHT to ask me where my kids are, then lecture me when i say “i have none” on how i’m “neglecting my duty” and if i *do* mention that it’ll kill me, the response is almost always “they you can be a Martyr for Christ!”

            i’m not Christian. which i NEVER say, for fear of mob violence…

            British/English – i went back and forth a couple times on which was correct. i couldn’t remember – now i will. sorry!

          • denelian said:

            oh, right – Labour.

            i know of 3 parties in Britain – Tory, Labour, and the xenophobic one that has a name i can’t remember. the one that hates everyone who is an “immigrant”.

            i know that there are other, smaller, parties, but i can’t remember what they are.

            it sounds like your Labour party *is* pretty much our Dem party – nominally “left”, but really on “left” compared to the ultra-right of the OTHER parties.

            do you have a *real* left-party?
            and are the allowed to accept donations from people who aren’t British citizens? [i mean… it’d be like $5, which is like 2pounds [i don’t have a “pound symbol” key…] but still – every penny counts, right?]

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            Ugh, they’re bringing in more stuff like that too. One of the things we’re trying to stop happening now is that people wanting abortions will have to be offered councelling by a service that doesn’t provide abortions. On the surface it sounds reasonable, until you realise that because of how healthcare works here that basically restricts the options to pro-life charities. It’s all little things that pile up until banning it completely doesn’t seem too different and everyone will go along with it…

            I can’t guarantee that nobody would think that of course, we have whackjobs here too (and I say that as a practicing Christian), but almost everyone here agrees that regardless of their stance on access generally, the one situation when abortion is ALWAYS acceptable is when the pregnancy was literally going to KILL you. Even the church says that. The church of England is pretty moderate on such things, so you’d have to find a member of a seriously fringe group before they’d tell you that God wanted you to die of baby-making.

            Thing is, because our landmass is so small, it’s much harder for extreme cultures to survive here. To pick a benign example, you’d never get people like the Amish here, because there’s just not enough space for them to isolate themselves. You’d never be able to go down to a specific part of the country and find everyone agreeing with the same extreme viewpoint like that, it’d be occasional random people who live all over and are vastly outnumbered wherever they go. So I think just by facts of geography you might find the UK more welcoming in terms of people insisting God wanted you to die (which is bollocks in my opinion, just so you know, God even TELLS the jews in the Old Testament how to make a poison that induces miscarriage so He’s obviously not against all abortion).

            As for political parties… well there’s Labour, who used to be MUCH further left than they are now, the Tories who are in power now, the Liberal Democrats who are sharing power with the Tories (I am not happy with this, I voted Lib Dem because I wanted a left-wing government, then I got a right-wing one that has the cheek to claim it has majority support for its policies)

            Then there’s small ones like the BNP (British National Party – pretty racist etc.), UKIP (UK Independence Party – euroskeptics who are anti-immigration), the Green Party, the Socialist Party… those are all the ones I know. I’d guess the Socialist Party would be the closest to what you want, but they don’t have a great track record on women’s issues.

            The only credible threat to the dominant two parties was the Lib Dems, but the problem is they’re made up of two parties. The Liberals, who were basically modern centrist liberals before that became a thing, and the Social Democrats who were essentially soft socialists. I’m more on the soft socialist end myself, and currently the party is more liberal dominated, hence the mess of a coalition we’re lumbered with now.

            Don’t worry about the British/English thing, I’ve never met anyone from outside the UK who wasn’t a little bit confused by it.

          • denelian said:

            BNP – that was the evil pary i was thinking of!

            you know, the point about lack of solitude is a good one – that’s how ALL the extreme wackos here in the US get to extreme wackodom – they high off to some out-of-the-way place with no one else and just sort of… marianate in their own poison.

            and then take over the Republican party…

            i guess i’m a soft socialist myself [i prefer to consider myself, in most ways, a “rational anarchist” – except i believe in social safety nets. because most of the people who need them? need them for reasons beyond their control. so that muddies my “political purity” – which is a GOOD thing, no one should [i think] have a “pure” political stance, it leads to BS like shutting down the government over not abortion, not even PAYING for abortion – but allowing women to purchase with their OWN MONEY separate insurance in case an abortion is needed!]

            i think it was Liberal Dems i was thinking of, as the “third party” – i knew but forgot that they’d, somehow, for some reason, allied with the Tories.

            Labour is less “left” for the same reason Dems are “less left” here – the Cold War ended.

            really. and then the Overton Window got pulled so far the RIGHT, even mild “left” ideas became “radical” in comparison.

            i’m hoping the Window moves LEFT, really really soon now…

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            I definitely agree that it’s best not to have a pure stance on politics. Especially since we’re talking about abortion, and I read a great article that summed up my feelings on it nicely by saying that people on either side who are completely happy and unconflicted about their views on something so serious are unsettling. I’m conflicted as a matter of course because I’m personally pro-life, but politically adamantly pro-choice (as in, I’d never advise someone to get an abortion, but I’d be horrified if it wasn’t a legal option), and I don’t understand people who can either be completely fine with ending a life like that, or be completely fine with telling a woman what she can and can’t do with her own body. I feel like any serious topic needs a more nuanced opinion than a since political ideal can adequately encapsulate.

            (For clarity on abortion, I do think that if society treated its children and families, including non-nuclear families, better, then there’d be much weaker justification for abortions. But at the same time I think that when it comes to each individual decision, only the woman who’s actually going to have to carry and birth the child is qualified to make the final decision, because she understands her own needs and mental and financial limits much better than any outsider could, and if she says she can’t cope then she can’t cope and we have to trust her on that. So I’m sort of anti-abortion but at the same time would never be comfortable restricting other people’s access to it, if that makes sense? Oh, and obviously this line of reasoning only applies to a healthy mother with a healthy baby, if it’s going to kill you or it’ll only live a few days then that’s a whole different kettle of fish.)

            And yeah, the BNP are nutters. Their stance on more or less everything is to blame immigrants. We do have a problem with low-paid immigrants eating up jobs, but that’s because we don’t enforce the minimum wage properly, not because they shouldn’t be here. If people had to pay them a proper wage for the work they do I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be so strongly preferred for unskilled work.

            I’ll second the feeling on where the Window is and where I’d rather it was!

          • denelian said:

            abortion:

            according to my understanding of Christian theology [and not even taking into account the times when JHVD *ordered* abortion and/or infantcide] people should be HAPPY when a child is aborted – it goes straight to Heaven, it does not pass Go, it does not collect $200 – it’s a pure, innocent soul that hasn’t even been infected with “original sin” yet [that happens upon BIRTH, theologically. of course, at one point being ENSOULED happened upon birth, and then the RCC decided to be AGAINST birth control and changed it’s stance…]

            moving away from theology – here is my take.
            birth control is of paramount importance, if we women are ever going to acheive that ellusive “equality”. until we have absolute and total control over our fertility, we are STILL at the whims of men and governments who want to control us via our uteri.
            since we have YET to find a 100% effective BC [even “absteneince” isn’t 100%, if you add in the risk of rape…] abortion is NECESSARY – not just for people like me, but for people like the 14 year old who thought a candy wrapper would work as well as a condom, because she got shitty sex ed – the mom who already HAS too many children, but her boyfriend wants one of his OWN, and sabatoges her BC. the woman who was raped. the girl who was raped. the 21 year old who did everything right and got pregnant despite 2 forms of BC.

            because until it becomes MANDATORY for the “best match” to be FORCED to give up a kidney at someone else’s need [after all, 90% of our kidney’s are redunant – so losing 1 shouldn’t be an issue, right? even for a complete stranger you’ve never met before…] i don’t see how it can be MANDATORY to insist a woman give up not just the specific organ [her uterus] but her ENTIRE BODY. pregnancy is NOT SAFE – the US has THE worst maternal and infant death rates in the 1st world. and even if one doesn’t die, there’s a thousand and 1 things that can ruin one’s life.

            all because it offends someone who doesn’t even KNOW you that you are able to “escape” the “punishment for sex”. that *IS* what it’s about – if they REALLY “cared about babies” then there’d be a LOT more programs to HELP those babies. here in the US, they’re slashing funding in MAJOR ways, funding that goes to FEED those babies they INSIST be born.

            abortion is, as you said, a decision ONLY the pregnant person can make. her body. her choice.

            there was something else, on a different topic, i was going to say, but i lost it 😦 sorry.

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            For a long time the church’s position was that the soul entered the body at ‘quickening’, so until the mother felt the baby move it wasn’t a person. You’re right, it is only very recently that the church decided UNBORN babies were people with souls that needed saving (babies that died young are another matter).

            I completely agree that the medical ethics are inconsistent. It’s like saying that just because someone is a registered organ donor we can come and take their organs when they’re alive. Nobody is obliged to give up their own body for someone else, you can think all you want that they’re a terrible person for NOT donating that kidney or incubating that fetus, but it’s still their decision.

            I always wonder how all those pro-life advocates feed all those children they must have adopted, since they’re so into women giving birth to unwanted babies. *eyeroll*

            I mean, as a religious person I’ve thought about this a lot, and decided the best thing I can do to help is to improve education, birth control and the care system, because if I dislike abortion rates, I need to help make it GENUINELY unnecessary by helping reduce unwanted pregnancy rates and making sure children given up to the care system actually have a good childhood. And I’d still want it to be a legal option just in case. (I particularly want to be a foster carer when I’m older, I’d like to foster teenagers because it’s much harder for them to find homes.)

            It makes me so angry when I hear my fellow Christians insisting that women should be denied abortions as punishment for daring to have sex, it’s right there in the BIBLE that it’s not our place to judge. We’re just supposed to make our position clear and then help as best we can, not browbeat other people into miserable lives. (Which is why I support the Abortion Support Network, because by the time the unwanted pregnancy has started and the woman’s decided she can’t have the baby, the damage is already done. The only choices available to us as observers are to be needlessly cruel, or be kind and helpful, and I don’t think Jesus was into needless cruelty.) It’s also interesting that the Bible says everything is a choice, so you can’t say ‘not my problem’ and opt out, because doing nothing is still a choice. And according to this holy word of God they’re all supposed to share my fondness for, the ONLY correct choice is to be kind and loving, including to people whose own choices you disapprove of.

            Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant. >_< It just bothers me to see other members of my faith using it to justify being cruel and judgmental, when that's the exact opposite of what it says to do.

          • denelian said:

            it amazes me, how many people are pro-life, and so are pro-abortion 🙂

            you are EXACTLY correct – the only way to cut down the number of abortions is to have effective BC and education ABOUT it. that’s what we MUST do [note how we’re not? sigh]

            i used to mentor teens – there’s a reason teens have trouble finding homes – young kids and babies generally won’t remember trama – teens will. worse, many of them have been in the system for years, and have been further tramatized by THAT.

            i know VERY few rabid anti-abortion people who adopt – why, that child will have it’s parents’ sins, and we can’t introduce THAT into our lives! hypocrites!

            there ARE good Christians [like you] i treasure every single one i meet.

            GOOD Christians, as you say, don’t judge. or at least try REALLY hard not to [and it can be hard – hell, *I* do it all the time. but i do it in my head and try not to and never let the other person know.]

            one of the things i’ve always admired about Britain was how rational the BC policies are. i’m praying and hoping THOSE don’t change!

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            Fortunately our BC access and sex ed seems all right for the moment (someone is trying to push through abstinence-only education for girls, but it’d be in addition to the normal stuff, so it’s being opposed more on ideological grounds and to make clear that we’re happy with our comprehensive sex ed.)

            I’d heard teenagers were more likely to be traumatized, that’s sort of why I’d like to foster them. I think it’s a really important time, because they’re still young enough that a good home can really help them, but it’s too hard to find one because they take more emotional work than a three-year-old who doesn’t even remember why they’re in care. I keep watching interviews with teens in care, and it breaks my heart to see them saying nobody wants them because they’re not little and cute any more.

            Awww, thanks. I’m not that good a Christian, but I am trying to be. ^^

          • denelian said:

            but… but… i mean, abstineince is already TAUGHT in comprehensive sex ed! it’s taught as THE best way to not get pregnant/stds – why would you NEED “ab-only” on top of that?

            oh – right – to make SURE those schoolgirls know that they horrible dirty slutty GIRLS, and any/everything is THEIR FAULT, that thier ONLY choice in life is to be a good wife and mom, anything else is evil.

            i hope to gods you guys can stop it!!!

            you are absolutely right about teens – and you’re old enough to start mentoring, even if you aren’t old enough [or maybe it’s “not married enough”? i don’t know foster rules for Britain]. and it would be good training 🙂

            that whole “trying to be” is what MAKES you a Good Christian. especially by Christian theology. but i do understand – the second you say “I’m a Good Christian” you AREN’T anymore. again, by Christian theology – now you’re being, at the very least, proud [sinful pride not good pride] and shaming people – at worst you’re a Pharisee. but trust me, you ARE a Good Christian – it’s the TRYING that matters!

          • littlemiseryguts said:

            I remember that being taught in my sex ed lessons, so it does seem redundant. I wouldn’t have such a problem with it if it wasn’t girls only. All that does is reinforce the ‘gatekeeper’ consent model and the idea that sex is a thing that girls have and boys want, rather than an activity that both participate in. It’s hard to argue against something that sounds so harmless to the layperson, but we’re trying!

            I’m not in a settled location right now, but I would love to start mentoring once I’m sure I’ll be in the same place for a few years. Foster rules in this country are… confusing. I might need to have had children of my own first, I’m not sure.

            Haha, yeah, the church’s position on more or less everything is that you could always stand to be trying harder or doing more, even if you’re a monk. Thanks though, it’s really encouraging to know that all this trying is actually improving my behaviour, at least a little bit. Especially since I sincerely believe that the most important thing about a person is how they affect others. Like, I could be the most pious and godly person in the world on the inside, but if I’m still hurting people by the way I behave then THAT’S how I’ll be judged. And there’s really no fairer way to judge someone than by what they actually DO.

          • denelian said:

            ab-only taught to both girls and boys is WORSE – because it teaches the BOYS that girls are the gatekeepers [it also teaches them that sleeping with a girl is “sleeping with another man’s future virgin bride” – so then there they are again, dividing us into madonnas and whores…]

            mentoring is… i can’t even BEGIN to describe it. it’s wonderful.

            i didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable with praise [and hope i didn’t!] it’s just – it’s so hard to *remember* that the good Christians really DO outnumber the bad ones [Patriarchy, Quiverful, Fundamentalist literalist creationists…] that i feel i MUST encourage those who are good. it’s a Thing 🙂

  3. k said:

    This is a really interesting question because it’s all about having a good theory about how to approach the world, and then going out and dealing with what happens when the rubber hits the road. So, here is some general advice on that type of situation:

    * Realize that while your theory may explain or help with some things that happen commonly or systemically on a societal scale, it may not be as accurate or helpful when you are dealing with a relationship between specific people.

    * Find a good balance between leaning on your theory, and trusting your gut instincts.

    * Don’t be surprised if people who aren’t well-informed about theoretical constructs don’t “decode” the world the same way that you do. This doesn’t mean that they are wrong, they just aren’t looking through the same lens as you are.

    * Be extremely cautious when it comes to people who are the subjects of your theory. Don’t assume that your theory knows more about these individuals than they do themselves. If you have to choose between what the theory tells you, and what an actual subject of your theory tells you, go with what the subject of the theory is saying.

    * Most theoretical frameworks aren’t 100% consistent anyway.

    OK, so that was probably a bunch of claptrap, here are some concrete suggestions. If I were you, no I wouldn’t trot out “I am Feminist!!!” explicitly. Instead talk about your volunteer work when hobbies come up in conversation. Also, you don’t want to make your feminism all about your personal views of and expectations for women. I’m assuming that as a male feminist, you also know a lot about how restrictive gender roles adversely affect men, too. Why not be up-front about the ways you perform masculinity in your own unique, non-restrictive, positive way? Or demonstrate that you are totally ok with women who are assertive?

    I guess what I’m saying here is that *doing* feminism is going to be a lot more helpful to you in finding feminist women to date, than *being* feminist or *saying* you are feminist. This may be my Catholic roots coming out… works, not faith will get you where you want to go. Good luck and HAVE FUN.

    Wow, longest and most rambling comment ever.

    • JenniferP said:

      Brilliant response as usual.

  4. I agree with the general consensus that it’s not necessary to “come out” as feminist, or to expect one’s partners to do so. But I do think *why* one claims the word feminist or not is a super interesting conversation to have. If I were out having a drink with Jeff, I’d want to hear about why he identifies as a feminist; I would think the discussion would tell me more about him than the word does.

    I like to talk with dates and partners about why I claim the word feminist – and why it works for me even though I know it does work for everyone for legitimate reasons (then I launch into a mini-lesson on womanism, because I am a pedant). This conversation helps me know where I stand with these guys. One dude told me he was 100% behind the concepts of feminism, but really thinks we should change the name because it alienates men. (Noted: don’t bother dating this dude.) Another guy said he used to be feminist but is not anymore; his reasons were vague but seemed to pivot on the fact that he wasn’t having as much success dating as he’d prefer. (Noted: was am already dating this dude and found him otherwise kind and thoughtful; proceed with caution.) My current beau listened, asked me questions, noted some of his own observations, and basically took the opportunity to have an interesting, non-competitive philosophical discussion. (Noted: Keep dating this dude.)

    tl;dr: A good date is inquisitive and a good listener, exactly as the Captain said. Incidentally, a feminist should also strive to be inquisitive and a good listener. Coincidence?

  5. Lucy Looseleaf said:

    Side note: I laughed out loud when I finished reading Solnit’s piece on “mansplaining” that you referenced and read this auto-generated ad at the bottom of the page:

    What Really Attracts Men
    9 Dangerous Mistakes Women Make That Men Find Totally Unattractive. http://www.CatchHimAndKeepHim.com

    • JenniferP said:

      Perfection!

      CatchHimandKeepHim keeps trying to get me to let them advertise here. NO THANK YOU.

  6. Lucy Looseleaf said:

    Ew. I just clicked the link. Ew.

  7. Emma said:

    I followed this to your response on your blog too, Jeff, and I love what you said about newly feminist men getting excited that you “know” things you once didn’t and sometimes being overbearing. I experienced this too being new to feminism, and it was (and still sometimes is) hard for me not to react to people as if they’re being mean-spirited or clueless just because my new theory explains everything so well to my satisfaction. I’d never subscribed to any similarly all-encompassing theory before– and I wasn’t raised and have never been religious either– so it was new and awesome for me to find a body of thought that explained things I had never had a satisfying explanation for, fit with my values, and yet continued (and continues) to challenge me. It’s certainly hard for me, too, not to think of it as a central part of my identity that people really need to know to get me.

    I will add, though, that my two *worst* conversations in recent memory about feminism have been with feminist men who thought that working on a degree in women’s and gender studies (no, really) meant they knew more than me about ladybusiness and their place in an even broader set of liberal concerns. They both chose to call me out about douchey stuff, significantly, in totally inappropriate public ways that were un-feminist, embarrassed me, and probably offended our hosts. The friend who had the most influence on me becoming a feminist, and who I ended up dating, sent me occasional Pandagon threads relevant to my hobbies because we are both from the Internet and he thought I would like them.

    • JenniferP said:

      It’s one of those good life rules that we nerds forget sometimes – if given a choice between spouting stuff you know and asking questions, ask questions! I fail at this pretty much every day, of course, because I am a nerd, but it’s a good aspiration.

%d bloggers like this: