#653: “Help, I’m dating a Men’s Rights Activist”

Samuel Jackson from Pulp Fiction
“That had better be one charming pig.” – Jules, Pulp Fiction

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a problem. I am a feminist. Why is that a problem? Because my boyfriend, as generous and thoughtful and funny and sweet as he is, doesn’t get it. At all. We’ve been dating for over a year and I love him, which is what makes this so hard. About three months into our relationship, I noticed that when I’d bring up some women-centric issue (i.e, the Steubenville rape case), his argument was “Well, she shouldn’t have been drinking so much.” Which, of course, is awful and, yes, I may have gone to bed angry that night.

I chalked it up to him just “being a guy” and being influenced by the world’s habit of blaming the victim, etc. But then, as our relationship progressed, these things just kept. popping. up. To the point where he told me that he believes in Men’s Rights and he thinks feminists are crazy and damaging. I’ve told him my feelings on this and how hurtful and scary I think these opinions are. He’s told me that he may be influenced this way because of a (really bad) past relationship, a relationship which I knew all about when we started dating.

If I knew he had these opinions and this hate back when we first started dating, I would have walked away in a heartbeat. But I’ve been sucked in. I love him. But every time this comes up, like if there’s a news story that’s big (Gamergate and the Ugly Shirt Comet Guy were big topics) where he feels “feminists” are getting out of line, I feel sick inside.

I’m embarrassed when we go to parties and my level headed friends (both men and women) don’t share his opinions, I feel my stomach tighten when I’m browsing online and see a story about feminist issues – not because the story makes me upset, but because I’m worried about what HE will think about it. I’ve honestly told him ALL of this and he doesn’t want me to change my opinions for him. He says that my opinions and views don’t change the way he feels about me. But do they change the way I feel about him? I think so. 

I know all of this sounds like a laundry list of reasons to break up. But he has so many fantastic qualities and there’s a reason I’ve stuck around this long. Do you have any suggestions for how to… I don’t know… fix this?

First, I guess I should congratulate you on finding possibly the world’s hottest and most charismatic man, the apocryphal Brad Pitt in all MRA arguments about how women are unfair when they have preferences about which men they interact with and how, i.e. “You’d put up with vile and creepy stuff from an alpha like Brad Pitt, just not meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Digging into this more, you’re both “allowed” your opinions, but you’re the one whose stomach is in knots when you see a news story that he might have a different opinion on? You’re constantly embarrassed when he’s around your friends? And one bad relationship with a woman turned him against all women (except for you)?*

Here are some concerns, expressed as questions:
Brad Pitt in a white shirt
Looking more ‘sheveled than usual. Def. has time to follow women into elevators and stand too close to them on public transit.
  • “I believe in the Men’s Rights Movement.” So, like, what parts of it exactly? How deep does his MRA sentiment go? Jerkass comments here and there, vague sympathies, or actually participating in trolling? Celebrating mass murderers who are fueled by misogyny? Reading sites that post personal details of feminists the better to doxx them, harass them, and try to get them fired from their jobs? (these are all real things, though I am not linking them except to send you to We Hunted The Mammoth for the depressing almost-daily rundown)
  • You said if you’d known he felt like this when you started dating, you’d have walked out in a heartbeat. How did this all start coming up? Do you feel like he downplayed or kept silent about these views in the early stages of dating on purpose?
  • Do you find yourself minimizing your own views, not bringing up things that are important to you, because you’re tiptoeing around to avoid the inevitable argument? Or are your days all him ranting about “false rape accusations!” and you being like “those aren’t really a factor, tho” all the time? Sounds sexy.
  • When he says “feminists are crazy and damaging,” you realize, he means you, right? He means you.
  • Does he similarly hold back from discussing topics that he knows might upset you?
  • How does he treat your friends when this stuff comes up when you’re out and about?
  • What will he do if someday youget out of line“? Right now you are the magical exception to all of these other “out of line,” “crazy,” “damaging” women (women like me).

It does in fact sound like a laundry list of reasons to break up (or re-read The Lysistrata), but you do you. Your decisions about your life and your heart are your own. Some people really get off on the whole Opposites Attract/I Have Found The One Good One vibe, or think that systematically destroying each other”s arguments is a form of foreplay, and you two might be those people. The thing you have to know going forward, though, is that you cannot “fix” another adult to make them be more how you want them to be. You can decide to love what’s there, you can disengage, but there’s no fixing them, and as soon as you see the other person as a collection of things that needs fixing, the relationship has a hole in the bucket, Dear Liza.

I guess the most optimistic thing I could say is that many of us go through a period in our lives where we try out extreme views of one sort or another that don’t hold up over time or with more experience and self-awareness. True story: I was a vocal libertarian** for two semesters of college, and I apologize for anyone who was in any kind of discussion-based class with me back then as I tried on the the position of The One Person Who Could Clearly See The Flaws In The System That No One Had Ever Seen Or Pointed Out Before. I do think that some of the young dudes who are very, very concerned about ethics in game journalism right now are going to feel super-sheepish about the whole thing before long, with the caveat that having ridiculous views is one thing, harassing behavior is another, and that no one is required to hang out and be someone’s Humanity Tutor. You do NOT have to be the shining example of womanhood who melts his steely heart and shows him the way. “He might grow out of it” isn’t a ringing endorsement, and if you are both, say, 52 instead of 22, your Nope Rocket awaits you.

This rocket goes to "nope"
Destination: Nopetune
Recommended reading:

*This is the fishiest logic, to me. After millenia of oppression, violence against women, centuries of being legal property, straight women will still find something to love about and root for in straight men. But one bad relationship is an excuse to hate women and think they deserve fewer rights than men? Oh wait. Except for you. You the shining exception to all other women. Until you mess up in some way, of course.

**Apologies to actual libertarians out there in the crowd. 18-year-old me was definitely one of the obnoxious ones who ruins it for the rest of y’all.

January 25: Well, the MRAs have found us, judging from the amount of sexist drivel and “shut up you fat cunt” comments now circling the drain of my moderation queue. FYI, my banhammer is a ball peen hammer, the most hilarious of hammers.  I’ve harvested enough male tears for my morning tea, and I’ve got things to do today besides systematically oppress men and censor their free speech, so comments are closed. Have a good Sunday, y’all.

136 thoughts on “#653: “Help, I’m dating a Men’s Rights Activist”

    1. She did describe him as “generous and thoughtful and funny and sweet” in the first paragraph. It’s hard for me to imagine an MRA who is those things, but she says that he is.

      1. Believe it or not, they do exist – I dated one. He was generous and thoughtful and funny and sweet [to me, while we were in the early stages of datingdating]. He was also very, very shy and non-confrontational, and I was openly liberal and feminist from the day we met. So I didn’t learn his views on things like feminists, liberals, and “those people” until after we’d moved in together. He was the Scott Aaronson type of MRA rather than the raging troll type, but still.

        Like you, LW, I’d cringe (and, years later, still sometimes do) when reading articles about feminist issues or George W Bush’s latest antics, imagining the debates I’d have with him, or imagining what my friends would think if they knew his opinions. I tried to stay with him and just avoid anything controversial, but politics and anti-racism and -sexism are really important to me, so after a while I just couldn’t do it and left. I also figured out after we split up and tried to remain friends that his MRA attitudes were just one symptom of a really inward-focused, entitled view of relationships in general. It turned out the generosity and thoughtfulness was only for exceptions. So there’s that.

        LW, I recommend taking some time to think about how important it is to you to be able to talk about things like feminism. Do you have plenty of other things to talk about? I also think the Cap’n made a really good point about you being the exception…what might happen when you’re not so exceptional anymore? How generous and thoughtful is he with his other friends? If feminism is peripheral to your life and he’s good to you in all other ways, great! But really think about whether you can see yourself still being okay with this 5 years from now.

      2. Given that some “modern gentleman” type advice includes a list of things to do to woo women that would come across as those qualities, but from the outside looks like a checklist approach rather than actually understanding the woman in question, yes I can imagine this. He might also actually be generous etc…. as long as she fits in his exceptions. And as long as she’s willing to not be the sort of feminist who doesn’t put up with MRA crap.

        A ” we both agree to disagree” situation may look equal, but if one of the sides has the status quo power, it isn’t. How much is this guy really tolerating in terms of the LW’s feminism if it doesn’t include pushing back at him?

        Someone who doesn’t care how I feel as long as I don’t act on it isn’t my idea of a partner worth having. Your partner should care that they’re making you uncomfortable, and if they don’t then just how thoughtful are they really?

        1. Yep, there are definitely men who go around saying “I’m really great with women! I give them lots of money and chocolate and have got REALLY good at pretending to listen to whatever bullshit they care about! That’s all women could want, right? What kind of bitch would want anything else?!” They honestly don’t see any problem in that attitude.

          I realise the issue is clouded by That One Terrible Relationship, but if he has any other exes I’d suggest OP think about how he talks about them. If they’re *all* crazy stupid unreasonable whores, then consider that there is very likely absolutely nothing you can do that would stop him from talking about you that way too when things go sour. Don’t be held hostage to his good opinion. You’re only The Exception for so long as you smooth things over for him.

        2. “doesn’t care how I feel as long as I don’t act on it” – yes, this. It really sounds like LW is the one bending over backwards to ‘not make a scene’ while LW’s SO bounds around saying things that make her upset and not caring that he’s done so. That doesn’t sound like the kind of relationship I’d sign up for.

          Think about it like a first date, LW: if someone came up to you and said “would you like to spend your day feeling like this?” what would you say? Take the average of, say, a week. Is it worth it? Because this isn’t the only person in the world who could make you feel butterflies even if you do love him.

      3. I dated a guy who, had he been more politically inclined, I think would have had MRA leanings, and in general he was a pretty nice guy. He had female friends, he treated his mother and sister well, he financially supported his parents because he made a lot of money and they didn’t, he treated me well, etc. With MRA, or being racist, or homophobic, or whatever, if everyone who felt that way were a giant bundle of hate 24/7, who would want to be around them? A lot of times, and probably the most painful times, it’s someone you care about, but then there’s this big ugly spot in your relationship, like a worm in an apple, and then you have to decide what you’re going to do.

        1. But with worm-less apples out there, why eat round that yucky spot? It depends how fundamental the thing you’re giving up is to you.

          1. Oh, definitely. You can, and probably should, find people who aren’t “great, except for.” I mean more that I empathize with LW. That’s not a fun choice to be faced with.

  1. Close your eyes, LW. Imagine yourself 5 years after breaking up with this guy. Is that relief and freedom you feel at that thought?

    You know what to do.

    In time, you will meet a man. He will be tall, dark and sympathetic to feminism.

    1. …in fairness, I was once royally screwed over by a man who was tall, dark, and sympathetic to feminism. So avoid that one guy, LW! But a bunch of the others are great.

      1. My tall, dark, and sympathetic to feminism turned out to be a closet bigot prone to angry rants about marijuana legalization. We aren’t together anymore, and the consensus among my friends old and new has been “thank god.” The sex part made his opinions just barely worth tolerating. And even typing that makes me wince, because I think it’s a pretty shameful way to treat another human.

        It occurs to me that maybe he would say the same thing about me? What an unpleasant thought.

  2. If this is eating your insides but you can’t see breaking up, try just letting the issue come up as often as it would naturally. Read a thing about gamergate? Show him. Share what you think of his belief that it was about ethics in journalism. Don’t let it drop. Either there will be a miraculous conversion, or you (both) will get so sick of fighting you’ll break up. Either one is an improvement over the status quo.

    1. I met Spouse when we were both in our early 20s, and his opinions were rather more conservative than mine. On a select handful of issues, they still are. But some stuff was, as it turned out, a matter of literally NOT KNOWING how things work. And this has been a thing over time, where he was much more on the “RAWR FREE SPEECH!” side of things and not understanding tightly-moderated message board space.

      …and then I showed him Shakesville’s “unmoderated rape thread.” And then he understood. And it was A Thing we had fought over that we suddenly stopped fighting over, completely.

      1. I’m conflicted on that. I’m glad it worked out for you too, but I’m not sure how I would feel if my boyfriend was like that. Like if he cannot care enough to think about how things work, or see things from someone else’s perspective, then maybe he lacks empathy, and empathy is a really important quality for an SO to have in my opinion. I mean I believe in free speech, but I have not seen the ‘unmoderated rape thread’, and I still understand why message boards need to be moderated – I did not need to be shown, to get it. I guess maybe I personally just need to date someone who has very similar values to me, and maybe that isn’t so important to some people?

        1. A few things to add here:

          When we met (through a shared hobby group), he was 20 and I was 24. He’d also spent his childhood and teenage years being fed epic damaging misinformation from people who claimed to love him and have his best interests at heart (tl;dr – his “strict and old-fashioned” adoptive parents were actually abusive as fuck and the “mainline-to-conservative Christian” church he grew up attending had been steeplejacked by extremist fundamentalists and was also actively abusive to the minors attending it, including physically, and he had no context for any of this other than a vague sense of “this isn’t what I want my life to be like”).

          When we were arguing about moderated message boards, it was in the context of him having only shortly before realized just how drastic the misinformation he’d grown up with actually WAS so he was skittish about “censorship” of anything because of that, because “if people are hiding things how do I know they aren’t trying to shape a worldview to fit their own best interests like was done to me?” It took one look at what was actually being “censored” for him to change his mind, mostly because it hadn’t occurred to him that this particular kind of assholery was a thing.

        2. Sometimes people just haven’t had to think about those things and it hasn’t really occurred to them that they should, because of privilege blinders. My partner is a sweet, caring, kind, thoughtful guy, but before I met him most of those qualities had not necessarily expanded beyond individual situations/people/events, because he’s a straight white male and never had to think about it, and also because he is a bit engineer-brained in that he tends to focus on what is in front of him and not ponder the generalities of the world.
          The thing, though, was that when we met, and I brought things up or we argued, the fact that he is in fact kind and thoughtful and generous and empathetic would kick in and he would *listen*, and then he would go out and do extensive research on feminism, or racism, or other social justice issues. He doesn’t always agree with me completely, but now that someone has actually said “hey, there is actually a whole world out there where this shit happens”, he’s paying attention and he understands.

        3. A thing about privilege is a person may not know they don’t know. It may not occur to the dog that there are creatures that aren’t warm-blooded. So it’s not necessarily a question of not caring, initially.

          Which is not to say it’s any other person’s duty to fix the problem, even a partner (or a former partner, or a partner manqu&eacut;)

      2. Yeah, I met one of my best friends in our early 20s, and he had similar attitudes that came more from ignorance (and gamer culture) than anything. (He’s a great social justice advocate now.) I had the patience to educate him back then, but now I’m in my early 30s, and if I met someone like that now, I would just get right in the Nope Rocket.

  3. My husband and I have different political opinions. It works because we support and love each other MUCH more strongly than we feel about any issue. That means my husband has sometimes said things like, “Okay, I’ll watch the kids for you if you want to go get this law changed”. It also means that we talk about politics in general terms and stay away from things like “did you hear what that one jerk did from the other side?”.

    I think the difference is in the way the politics comes up. We know that we don’t agree, so the topic NEVER COMES UP in friendly events. If my husband (or I) said something political in polite company we would be able to count on the other one issuing an immediate polite but firm disagreement. This is because couples are generally considered a unit and are presumed to share opinions.

    But I’m with you, LR. I love a wonderful, kind caring man who has views I don’t hold. He just holds them reasonably, privately, and kindly, as do I (I hope).

  4. “I am a feminist” vs “he thinks feminists are crazy and damaging”. LW, you might want to think about how invested you really are in this relationship. Both of you.

    1. This is the key phrase for me.

      I have friends and family who have a great variety of political, religious and social views. Some of them inevitably believe that I am mistaken in mine and the feeling is mutual. But AFAIK, none of us think the other “crazy” or causing any great harm by holding and expressing my views. Occasionally there’s a heated argument. It can be very frustrating when good sensible people are wrong about stuff but I’ve never regarded those people as “crazy” or “damaging”.

      Whatever the difference of opinion, dismissing an entire category of people on the ground of a position is quite extreme. Many people feel that way about “Men’s Rights Activists” because of what people who adopt that specific label do, as the Captain describes (as opposed to, for example, people peacefully campaigning on men’s issues). I’m sure decent young men get caught up in that stuff. But it doesn’t fit in with the general pattern of agreeing to disagree. He doesn’t think feminists are mistaken, he thinks they’re “crazy and damaging” as people.

      I’d also add that an extreme contrarian position can also be a power thing. An ex of mine really hated on religion, which seemed manageable because I’m not religious.I had to be very careful protecting religious friends and family – he was sure that he could talk anyone round as long as they would listen. However, soon enough, he began to accuse me of having secret religious views. So, I’d say something like, “I didn’t like that movie” and I’d get a lecture about how it was because I secretly believed I might be spited by a vengeful God or some nonsense.

      Thing is, there will come a point in any romantic relationship between a man and a woman, where attitudes towards equality, consent, reproductive rights and parenting really really matter very much. I hate to think of any woman in a position where she knows, in advance, that she’s going to get “You would say that, because you’re a crazy feminist.”

    2. I think maybe the critical point here might be whether his definition of “feminist” is the same as LW’s definition. Because it’s one of those things where a lot of people I know, guys and gals alike, think that the word feminism only applies to man-hating rage-spouting angry women. Which… yeah ok, some feminists are. There’s a few bad apples in every group.

      But I think LW is using the term to mean someone who believes gender inequality both exists and is bad. Can boyfriend agree with this? Even if he doesn’t agree with calling it “feminism?”

  5. Letter writer, I get that you like this guy, I really do. He probably has so many amazing qualities that just make you melt, and obviously they aren’t discussed in the letter because this is about his horrifying opinions. But here is my thing: I would be so worried about a very long term relationship with this guy. He doesn’t want to acknowledge your right to exist in the world without assault, he thinks you using your voice in the world is “getting out of line,” but he’s ok with YOU, specifically, because you are the one good one. Okay.

    But what if something happens to you? What if you are assaulted at a party, or walking home from work or whatever? What if future you develops an illness and needs a lot of care and support? In short: what will you do if a situation arises where you NEED him to be on Team You? Will his support be dependent on the circumstances? Right now, in your life, it’s just an ugly philosophy. But it could turn in to a very bad reality, being dependent on a guy who isn’t actually convinced of your right to be a person.

    I know, it sounds dumb, trying to plan for awful future shit. But bad things happen, and I think it’s really important to surround ourselves with people who will be on Team Us (and of course, to be on Team Other People) when shit goes down.

    And maybe he will change? Lots of young people develop Real Dumb Opinions, but they grow out of it. Does it seem like he might? You’ll have to answer that one. I really hope things work out well for you!

    1. Hey, that’s exactly what I came here to say. What about if you get catcalled and followed down the street? When you get home shaking and furious, is he going to be “Oh my god, that’s terrible. Are you okay? Can I do anything for you?” or is he going to be “You need to be less sensitive. I would love for women to tell me how good my butt looks.”

      What about if, god forbid, your work hires someone who turns out to start harassing you? Will you be “I gotta tell Dudeman right now. He will help me think of what I should do about this.”? Or will you be “Christ, I’d better not let Dudeman find out about this. He’ll think I must be doing something to lead the guy on, and get jealous.”

      I mean, there’s stuff you must know already. Does he do his share of the cooking? Does he do his share of the chores? Does he unthinkingly assume that you’re the one cleaning his toilet cause you know how men are? Are you? Are you okay with that, if you are?

      And finally, I gotta say: I would be extremely weirded out if a partner of mine told me that my opinions and views don’t change the way he feels about me. I mean, like…what *would*? My opinions and views are a very, very important part of me! Are they not important to you? If they are, how do you feel about the fact that what you think is unimportant to him and he thinks that’s a good thing? What about you *is* important to him?

      1. I didn’t get the impression that BW and her boyfriend lived together, but these are good things to keep in mind if cohabitation is ever on the table.

        1. I briefly (not briefly enough) had a boyfriend who would invite me over and assume I’d fold his laundry. She might know already. Certainly if you don’t live together you may make meals together: how does that go?

      2. A lot of MRAs are hypocrites about this. They will rag on harassed or assaulted women in abstract, but if it happens to their partner (or mother, or sister, or even just female friend) they will be supportive and understanding. They can only dehumanise women in the abstract – when it’s a woman they care about, they can identify, but they somehow can’t generalise it to realise that all women have somebody who cares about them.

  6. Only you can know if you should break up with him or not, but I think an important question to consider is: do you feel safe?

    I’m not talking only about physical safety. Do you trust him not to emotionally hurt you? Can you share things with him without knowing it will become ammunition later? If his opinions are already negatively influencing you when you are reading up on feminist issues because you know he doesn’t like feminism, that’s a problem because feminism is a part of you.

    Do you trust him with things about you, since he’s made the feminism part of you into A Thing?

    There are also matters that can come up in the future in relationships, like if move in together, what share of the housework is done by whom. If you are pursuing a career, will he support you? If you complain to him about people you work with, and that person is a dude, will he take your side (because you’re his SO) or will he take that other guy’s (because it’s a dude and therefore correct)?

    Also, if you break up, it sounds like he’s made it clear you are immediately his “crazy man-hating-feminist ex-girlfriend”. So, there’s that.

    1. Feeling safe – this is what I came here to say.
      Every time I’ve compromised my standards to go out with an otherwise generous/thoughtful/etc. guy, it’s come back to bite me. I’ve finally learned to hold tight and wait until I meet a worthy candidate. I can’t put my emotional health at risk anymore when such likely failure is too painful and I’m the one in control.

      No more diamonds in the rough for me, either. Someone else can invest in doing that polishing work – I give up.

  7. It sounds like it’s tearing you up, LW. I’m not sure this is a fixable thing. He knows you are a feminist. Yet feminists are all crazy stereotypes to him. If being with you for a year isn’t enough for him to see a real live feminist, and not a stereotype, there’s a problem.

    Also, I’ve heard more than one MRA dude state they feel the way they do because of a bad relationship. Funny enough, lot’s of people have bad relationships, and don’t turn on an entire gender.

    If this is effecting you to the point where you can’t even read current events without being fearful of him seeing it, and having to hash it out, you might have to do some soul searching on if this is a good place for you to be. That seems to indicate to me that he’s not that respectful of your views.

    1. Funny enough, lot’s of people have bad relationships, and don’t turn on an entire gender.

      My first relationship ended badly. Afterward, I liked to commiserate with a friend of mine who’d had a similarly bad experience. We engaged in lots of fun-filled male-bashing. That period of my life lasted about a year.

      Then I turned twenty.

      I feel stupid about it now.

      And honestly, even when I was gleefully engaging in the behavior, I didn’t really believe all or most men were bad. I was just blowing off steam. I never once told my male friends that they were special for not being an asshole.

    2. If he thinks that his attitudes are the result of a past bad relationship, is he working on trying to overcome that? If not, then it’s just an excuse, and potentially an attempt to train her away from being the next crazy feminist ex. If he’s really willing to have his attitudes so significantly poisoned by his ex, and would rather take this out on the LW (and the world) than try to heal, then this not a sign of someone ready to have a healthy relationship. Baggage from past relationships abounds, but the one carrying it should at least attempt to deal with it (potentially with help) rather than just hand it over.

  8. So I have the fairy-tale ending on this one, and I’ll share it, just because it might be useful…but your mileage is extremely likely to vary.

    Back when I had been with my now-husband for a year or two, before we married, he comes to me one day and says “Do we know any feminists?”

    And I stared at him in blank shock, as if he had said “This oxygen thing, do we know anyone who breathes it?” because until that instant (and we had been living together two years at that point) it would not have occurred to me that he wasn’t one.

    Why? Because–well–he’s really really GOOD. I mean, D&D Paladin kinda good. He rescues kittens. He would give you the shirt off his back and show up at three AM to help someone. When pets got sick, he would sit there patiently changing out IV fluids and telling them how wonderful and good they were. Children and animals like him.

    Plus he spoke highly of his female bosses and coworkers; he had liberal, outspoken female friends (many of whom we shared) and male feminist friends (which we also shared); and when I did the dance, early in the relationship, of boundaries and “Incidentally, if this condom fails, I am getting an abortion, that is non-negotiable,” he responded exactly correctly; he never once said anything that came within a league of “Look how she was dressed, she’s asking for it,”–I mean, dude was so obviously a feminist down at the bone that I was flabbergasted.

    I handled it as well as I handle anything–i.e., not very. I said “Yeah, ME. And [Friend] and [Friend] and [Friend] and [Cousin] and pretty much every woman you know, actually, and it never occurred to me until this instant that you weren’t one too.”

    At this point, he realized that he was on very thin ice and was breaking through rapidly, and uttered the phrase “Well, I just think some feminists take it too far.”

    “Do you believe men and women are equal?” “Yeah.” “Congrats, you’re a feminist. Do you think that we deserve equal pay? Congrats, you’re a feminist.”

    “But some feminists want to kill all men…”

    “Yeah, and some religions think that women should be subservient to men, who are always the head of the household.” (This was a low blow, because I KNOW he hates that.) “We’ve got a couple crackpots and you’ve got the Abrahamic religions, forgive me if I am not impressed.”

    And then I went off and fumed for quite awhile, mostly at myself. Because the problem was NOT that he thought women were inferior, it was that he had never heard the WORD explained properly, and thus the internet had explained it to him, and you know what the internet’s like. And I felt like I had failed because I am a feminist and clearly I had not been outspoken enough using the label, if this was what was happening.

    But Reader, he got it. Not, I think, because I snarled and fumed about it, not because I brought it up angrily for the next few weeks, which made him defensive and upset, but because a couple of weeks later, I mentioned something about wanting to go to the grocery store before it got dark, and he said “Why?” and I said “Uh…so I don’t get attacked in the parking lot?” and he stared at me in shock and I said “Well, I mean, I always park under a light and carry my keys in my hand, but, it’s still safer–” and it landed on him like a ton of bricks that the world was not safe for me the way it was safe for him.

    And that was that. And he went through all the stages of dude-understand-feminism–the “WHITE MEN ARE TO BLAME, FINE!” stage and the “But how can you live in fear like that?” stage (Because nobody gave me a choice, this wasn’t opt-in) and the “But shut up and listen makes me uncomfortable!” stage and (god help me) the final “But how do I FIX THIS?!” stage where he was desperately trying to find a solution that would make the whole world better, as if it was a line of faulty code.

    But he got there. And every time one of our female friends would mention in passing that her inbox was full of rape threats, he got it a little more and a little more and eventually I married him. And he is the staunchest ally you can imagine. He’s not always good at talking about it, but if you call him on it, he gets it and he genuinely does better.

    And as we speak, he’s doing security at a gaming convention and hoping like hell Gamergate doesn’t pull any crap because it’ll be his job to throw them out and he doesn’t want us to get doxxed and SWATed and all the rest. But he’s still doing it.

    So, at the end of a long story–if he is already absolutely good and dedicated to equality and just the word feminist is scaring him because internet, you’ve got hope. If he’s an MRA douche in thought and deed, though, I wouldn’t give you a snowball’s chance in hell.

    1. I’m curious about how long it took him to get it? I am in my late twenties during dating, and I dont stick around if I have to explain feminism to him too many times, because it’s important for me to be in a relationships where we share a core value system. I dont have the patience to sick around for months to wait for him to get it – am I being impatient?

      1. There I cannot help you…I think that’s like “how long does it take to get over a breakup?” As long as it takes, sometimes longer. In his case–and this was years ago–I think it was under a month for the initial Aha! and then a few more months to work through Stages of Feminism. It’s not like we talked about it daily or anything, though. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      2. Even if the person you’re dating would come around eventually, though, it’s by no means your job to stick around and make sure that happens. I’ve definitely lost patience with that kind of thing as I’ve grown older. Like maybe when you’re younger, you’re still figuring out your values and learning about the world, but at this point I feel like I’m a grown-ass adult and I don’t have time to give every dude Feminism 101 and hope that he gets it.

        1. I agree on this one–you get to choose how to spend your energy. I chose one way, but I was already pretty invested and too stubborn to contemplate failure–it is totally fine to choose another way because yeah, not at all your job to hold hands.

      3. I’m in the camp of ‘if it feels like work, don’t do it’. If you’re early in a relationship and he doesn’t get it, it’s not your job to fix him up into a datable person. If you meet a guy like RedWombat’s whom first and foremost you like enough to put in the effort and secondly who clearly demonstrates he has all the same values but maybe not the same words, you can point him to a dictionary.

    2. “and it landed on him like a ton of bricks that the world was not safe for me the way it was safe for him.”

      Sometimes, this is what it takes for people to GET IT.

      This why I don’t completely mind the “she’s somebody’s daughter” message – because sometimes, that’s the vital linking step between total cluelessness and realization.

      1. I’ve known teachers who explicitly did this exercise where they got everyone to write down the steps they took to be safe when they came out of a shop and the carpark was dark. The girls all start madly writing and the boys get confused as hell.

        1. That would be me, as a woman – I would be confused as hell and would have to turn to the popular legends of carpark dark behavior to know what to write. I grew up in a town known for its violence, in general, and was not afraid. I moved to “big dangerous city” and didn’t understand the fretting my friends would do when I went across the street at 2am to get munchies from the convenience store. I never experienced a moment of threat or fear. I think there is a counter-issue with the meme of “attacks in ever parking lot as soon as the sun goes down” that is equally falsely based on the interweb tales. I happily shop whenever I need to, I live alone without a moment of fear, I have never felt the need to carry my car keys as a weapon or keep a fishbat in my car. I have never been attacked, and don’t expect to be. I’m confused as hell. But then I really don’t subscribe to the fear-based thinking, and maybe that’s the difference. I truly don’t get feminism that relies on the fear. And I’m a woman and always have been.

    3. p.s. Is the convention Magfest (is he with Dorsai)? They’re pretty explicitly feminist/antiharassment, which is part of why I love going there so much. (Also a safe space for lots of people with kink, people on different parts of the gender/queer/etc. spectrum, and so forth.) (Anyway, if it’s some other convention, then never mind.) 🙂

      1. Yes and yes! Like I said, he was always GOOD in capital letters, it was basically took one whack with the clue-by-four and he did the rest of it himself. I am terribly proud of him. In general, not just for this, but that too.

    4. Although, also, I have dated guys like this who Did Not Get It, even when I was patient, even when I explained in small words why the world is different for me than for them, even when they are kind and well-meaning people who assist the elderly and kittens.

      Because for a lot of people, recognizing that they have privilege and the world is a bad place means that they have to make a choice to give up certain things. The sense that the world is 100% fair and they got everything they have through their own efforts, for example. Their entitlement to extra free time because they might have to take on additional work that they “didn’t notice” before. Their emotional comfort in gaining certain things they always assumed was their right (like passing on their last name to their children, or being the person in the house earning the most money). And, well, most people don’t like to give up those things.

      Sometimes this story has a fairy-tale ending. More often, I think, the ending is going to be “and then I stayed with him a lot longer than I should have because I kept telling myself if only I was patient and reasonable enough he’d Get It, but he never really did.”

    5. I also have about as much of a fairy-tale ending as you can get. He didn’t quite understand what feminism WAS when we met (I was figuring it out too, but I had already been well aware of the more negative aspects of life as a female-presenting person). He had the whole “I hate women but you’re okay” thing going (a college relationship was made up of two immature people and they hurt each other badly- there should be a licensing system before you can be handed the heart of another person.) He went to therapy about the bad relationship, which made a huge difference. He also went through this phase that I found particularly distasteful the “How Can You Think A Person Like ME is Like THAT?” (No, sweetie, but when you gripe about how your professor is pregnant AGAIN and how annoying that is, you sure do sound a lot like the system that makes it difficult for a woman to produce children and science, and since your fiancée is a lawyer and you hope she has your children, maybe that’s not a system you want to be echoing?)

      Now, Mr. Celette is ACTUALLY Mr. Celette (his last name was also used as a first name and that first name happened to be the name of my high school stalker/ assaulter, so not only did he not throw a fit when I didn’t want his name, he suggested changing his to mine.)

      Still, we occasionally get into an argument when I point out a New Aspect of how the world isn’t fair. Because it requires an adjustment of his way of thinking, AGAIN, and he inherently cannot see the implications unless I point them out. Partly because it’s not his lived experience, so he doesn’t see, for example, that complaining about a professor being pregnant AGAIN is different than complaining about a professor going on a vacation AGAIN, even if they’re both planned things that will inconvenience him. And partly because he personally doesn’t think from local to global, so he doesn’t look around to find other analogous examples when faced with a new piece of information.

      What makes him different? Even back then, he recognizes that I’m telling the truth when I talk about what I experience. When I tell him that I got cat-called again on that corner by the Chipotle’s, his response is something more like “What the hell is it with that corner, exactly? The sidewalk is narrower? The light is long?” Never “Oh, it’s a compliment” or “What were you wearing?” (And no, I don’t know what it is with that corner, but it happened there five times more frequently and not just to me, we ran a study.) Someone who will accept your testimony of your life experience (and doesn’t it sound awful when I put it that way) is someone whose opinion can change. It can be equally hard for me to understand that he doesn’t see all this (the idea of going someplace alone at night without worry is unfathomable). We have to be willing to accept what people tell us is true, and if we can’t, we can only base the world on what we see. And if you’re a man who can’t accept that women’s realities are different than yours, you are going to think feminists are a bunch of whiners.

      So maybe tell him about being cat-called? (I would personally hesitate to admit to someone like that that I was a survivor, but if you can’t tell your boyfriend things like that without worry, maybe the DTMFA comments are spot on?) Or about the classes where you were the only girl in the room? Or about walking to your car with keys in your hand. See what he says. You’re not trying to change his mind with these casual mentions. You’re just trying to see if he believes that you are telling an accurate depiction of how you see the world. If he minimizes, or if he says “well, you’re being irrational” or if he says “that’s a compliment” or if he says “girls don’t like math/science/etc” that will be a bad sign.

  9. How much do you love this guy? How many issues are you gonna “compromise” over? And by “compromise” what is actually happening is that he gets to keep being shitty, and you accept his shittiness and walk around carrying the weight that this guy doesn’t want to understand that there is a gender problem and that he is a part of it, doesn’t want to understand that the issues that you get passionate about are the ones that reflect your own lack of safety in society. You are not “compromising” – he is doing him, and you are trying to internalise your discomfort and fear, and it’s making you feel bad because it is a bad situation. Get out. Put all of the distance between you and him. Do not live with this dude. Do not lend him money. Do not let him know your online pseuds. Leave this house.

  10. Just DTMFA and make sure he can’t doxx you. You don’t need to tiptoe around some guy who’s decided that your beliefs are “crazy and damaging” but carved out some Special Exception ™ for you. You’ve been dating for over a year, but he’s still using his bad prior relationship as some pretext for believing in some MRA/Red Pill sewage?

    How long are you willing for things to be exactly the same?

  11. I mean, you can absolutely have a relationship where you don’t agree on everything, it happens all the time. Buuuuuuut there’s one thing that stood out to me big time. His blaming his attitude toward all women on *one* past relationship? That’s a bigger red flag to me than “*all* my ex(boy/girl)friends were crazy” (which as we all know, always brings up the question “so what’s the common denominator in their lives? Oh right, it’s YOU.”) I mean, man or woman, while I will certainly not argue that a destructive relationship can leave you with some emotional and mental damage, it would certainly cause me concern to see someone using the behavior of *one* other person of a certain gender (or five, or ten, etc) as some sort of “get out of empathizing free” card to let them make sweeping judgements on total strangers who just *happen* to be that gender as well.

    1. Here’s a thought experiment on this topic. Imagine that when you were 12, you had your appendix out.

      Fast forward 15 years, and you meet a very nice, funny, charming man, and awesomely enough, you are both attracted to one another. You start dating, and find out you share a lot of interests and have really great conversations. You take him to a couple parties and your friends like him and think he’s great. Things progress, and now it’s time to get naked. You have a great conversation about voundaries and consent and sexual health and contraception, and you are totally on the same page with all that stuff, too. Clothes come off.

      And then he sees your scar. “Is that an appendix scar?” He asks, in a slightly aggressive way. “Yep,” you say. “Wow. I really hate people with appendix scars. They are crazy and damaging to those around them.” You are, of course, a little taken aback. On further inquiry, it turns out he once had a bad relarionship with a woman who had an appendix scar, so that’s why he now believes that appendix scars crazy badnss (or at the very least are strongly correlated with said badness).

      Is that even remotely okay with you? Because this is similar in many ways. Your feminism is part of you, and he has rejected that part. Not just in an “I disagree” way but in a blaming and disrespecting and attacking way. He’s also boxed you into a corner where he can now blame anything you do that he doesn’t like on this “crazy and damaging” thing about you. And if the relarionship ends badly, he will blame your feminism, and let himself off the hook for his angry, blaming, disrespecting, attacking ways.

      I want to reiterate what a bumch of other people have said: being “the exceptional one” is not a safe place to be. If you ever do anything that suggests to him that you are not, after all, exceptional, he will turn all that anger on you. And it will, inevitably be just when you need his support the most. My heart is breaking at the thought that you might someday be the victim of a sexual assault, and he will blame you. My heart is breaking at the thought that right now you are carrying all this tension about what you can talk about, and what your friends will think if they find out.

      If you told him the fantasy story about the chick with the appendix scar, would he think that was okay? If not, then he should not think what he’s doing is okay. But he does think it’s okay, and given the centrality of feminism to your identity, that makes him a scary person for you to be with. You and he don’t have to agree about ecerything, or even most things, but if you don’t respect one another, then it’s toxic. Fact: he doesn’t reapect your ideas. At all. And you are scared of some of his ideas.

      Since I know you love a lot of things about him, I’d say give him a chance to see how his closed minded, blaming every feminist for one bad relarionship is hurting you. If he doesn’t make steps towards learning to blame the bad relationship on the people on it instead of on an external fact about his ex, and at the same time make steps towards treating your opinions with respect even when he disagrees, then DTMFA.

  12. There are a lot of fish in the sea.

    The very generally describe positive qualities of LW’s dude pale in comparison to his MRA views. Breaking up is rough and it’s scary to be lonely, but seriously. This guy isn’t worth LW’s time.

    Is LW staying in the relationship to try to change the dude? People don’t change. I mean, they don’t change because a partner tries to make or help them change. He’s not going to have an epiphany and renounce his MRA ways through LW’s influence. Maybe he’ll cross over from the dark side sometime in the future, and maybe he’ll do it after reflecting on his relationship with LW. But he’ll do it on his own initiative, not because of LW.

    I hope LW cuts her losses, breaks off the relationship, and takes care of herself until she hooks a better fish.

  13. Hi LW: Cap has a point, there are people who get a lot out of being in a relationship with someone who disagrees with them. I’m not personally one of those people, and I had to learn that the hard way, so YMMV regarding what I have to say. As a feminist who dates guys, and as someone whose political identity has evolved from liberal to radical socialist over the course of my adulthood, whenever I’ve dated a guy who wasn’t on board with feminism, or was a libertarian, I felt like that relationship was holding me back. I felt like I had to put too much energy into compromising my identity, or that my opinions weren’t welcome or respected. In retrospect, those relationships were really only worth the life lessons I gained from them; I didn’t feel they enriched my life otherwise. Of course, people are complex and you can’t just boil it down to feminism vs. MRA, but if the core of the issue is “I’m asserting what I need to feel safe and respected and that’s being dismissed,” then that’s going to translate into more problems if it hasn’t already, as arcya and AnonButNotInThatWay pointed out.

    You don’t have to agree with your partner on everything, but you deserve to be with someone who supports your values and priorities.

  14. So, I know a sweet, earnest, highly-educated woman who has, several times in the past year, sent me & other friends frantic apologetic emails about how her husband is totally not a racist/misogynist/general jerkface. How he’s really sweet and gentle and wonderful and oh god please don’t think he’s those things, I’m going to catch hell for this, he’s going to think I’m not on his side because I don’t come into these arguments on his side, I just–

    And in my head I’m going, “GIRL, CAN YOU NOT HEAR YOURSELF?” because you’re so frightened and torn up about what he’s doing — his behavior is embarrassing and humiliating and scaring you SO BADLY that you need to defend him this way. (And also, these messages have convinced us that her husband is emotionally abusive.)

    So part of the question is: if you’re already in knots, and cringing, and embarrassed by what he’s doing around friends…do you want to be like that all your life? Because if you don’t break up with him, it’s entirely possible that is what you’re signing up for.

    On the other hand, if you decide you want to keep him, it’s OK to have a partner your friends don’t like. If that’s the case, it works out better if the partner doesn’t come with you to parties at those friends’ houses and whatnot. Like. Not everything has to be done as a couple. It’s much easier to keep both the friendships and the romantic relationship if you keep those people separate.

    1. It can also work if the bigoted person understands that their opinions are not welcome to be discussed – that can calm the waters a lot of the time. It’s not perfect, but, well, if you’re already married, and the bigoted topic literally was not even on your radar until after you were married, then…damage control can be better than a divorce.

      But if you’re not married yet? Sheesh.

    2. “Not everything has to be done as a couple. It’s much easier to keep both the friendships and the romantic relationship if you keep those people separate”

      Sounded to me like this hadn’t even occurred to LW. She’s still in the “our hearts and minds must be As One!” stage. It also sounded to me like LW, and maybe her friends, value conformity to the group values. She’d be just as embarrassed and stomach-knotted if he didn’t fit in in some other way. She’s very light on details on exactly how he’s an MRA. I’ve been a feminist for decades and totally disagreed with the ‘progressive’ line taken on Matt Taylor’s shirt so I don’t accept that boyfriend is necessarily an abuser-in-waiting mysogynist MRA because of that. Boyfriend doesn’t identify as an MRA, that’s a label she (or rather the Captain) has stuck on him. He just said he believes in Men’s Rights and that encompasses a wide range of stances, often on totally legitimate issues.

      So much for the obligatory devil’s advocate. Why I think she should break up with him is because she refers to his ‘hate’. That’s a strong word, one that doesn’t fit in with the ‘he’s so sweet and thoughtful and there’s a reason I stay with him’ tone of the rest of the letter. If he is nursing hatred in his heart then he will turn it against her sooner or later. If he isn’t and she’s just assuming it’s there because he holds different opinions to her, then they’re too incompatible in their world-views to be happy together.

      1. Oh, man, your comment took a path I was not expecting but we ended up in the same place. I definitely don’t think it’s safe to assume that conformity is the problem, that she would be embarrassed if he really sincerely liked Rush or ICP or something similar. Women are usually trained to overlook men’s faults and doubt their own instincts, feelings, and preferences, so implying that she’s the problem because of basicness* is not v. supportive or fair. But you nailed it with the ‘hate in his heart will be turned against her’ idea. I hope she flies free soon.

        *exaggerated for effect, I know you didn’t call her basic

      2. Whether not he is an MRA, believing in men’s rights independently from women’s rights is, to me, a warning sign. It doesn’t sound like he has any idea about women’s rights, and men’s rights stuff is awfully light on the context of how men came to be in some of the situations they are now having trouble with to do with gender roles (pressure to be masculine, etc). Even the mildest men’s rights stuff is like this. It would not be someone I’d want to date who was into this stuff, even if he wasn’t a capital letters Men’s Rights type. (I kind of hate the term ‘women’s rights’ because I feel like it has some implications of the ‘original’ suffrage movement that focused only on white upper-class women, but I needed to use this term as a counterpoint to men’s rights.)

  15. I think that if you are getting a bad feeling about his reaction to things that are this important to you then maybe you need to rethink this relationship. People can have different opinions about certain issues and still make their relationship work. I am not sure if your relationship is one of those that can survive this different. Ask yourself if you can respect his opinion on this. If you can’t, then it might be a good idea to walk away from him.

  16. I had a very similar experience to this, except that it was with a friend and not a romantic partner.

    Said friend and I didn’t have any problems at first, but one huge argument in which he tried to dismiss All The Feminisms revealed to me his MRA status. We started to have really big fights after that, because he would claim that he believed in equality but then respond in a frustrating and upsetting way to discussions that brought up female equality. If I mentioned feminist issues that focused on men, such as allowing men to express their emotions more freely, acknowledging men who are raped, etc., he would be all on board, but the minute I mentioned catcalling, gaslighting, etc., — bam! Too far! And because his personality type was abrasive (i.e. loud/obnoxious) I would often be unable to get a word in throughout these discussions.

    And he had this wonderful narrative constructed, where we could continue to be friends because he would tell me he didn’t believe that I could actually think this way, except that I was indoctrinated by those horrible feminist-monsters, and I just had to be educated in the proper, right way to think & it would all be okay. And I stayed even though I had a nagging sense that this was complete BS simply because he was one of my few remaining friends at the time and I thought it would maybe make me more ~worldly~ to be friends with people from all points of view. Unfortunately, it just ended with me being shouted at a lot.

    Long story short, his viewpoints became gradually more and more toxic to the point that I finally openly acknowledged the bees and got the hell out of there. It got to the point where he was calling feminist activists gendered slurs, insulting my family when they participated in obnoxious, large-scale arguments he would have on my Facebook feed, making sexist comments at women passing by when we were hanging out together and ultimately revealing that he was not a Men’s Rights Activist but a misogynist — which, is, of course, what MRA’s typically are.

    Of course this is your decision and your boyfriend may not really be like my friend but please be careful. It is so much more painful to watch someone you care about turn on you and ideologically damn you than it is to leave the moment you realize someone is destructive.

    1. Oh god, this is happening to me right now. My “friend” in question seemed like a cool dude when I met him when we were both in high school – he reads comics and we used to have really nice discussions about writing – and then he went off to college and…I don’t know WHAT happened but suddenly he was rarin’ for a fight about anything to do with the problems women face. He’s one of those “but MEN” guys, and it would be funny if it wasn’t so obnoxious. Like once at a party the conversation turned to Marvel movies, and I mentioned Thor (my personal favorite), and he said “I didn’t like that movie, he spent like half the movie shirtless! It made me feel insecure.” And I explained to him that Thor spends like 30 seconds shirtless and it was ridiculous of him to fixate on the ONE instance of male objectification in a movie that is very good about not objectifying its female characters, which is all too rare in comic book movies. (Besides which, he loves Wolverine, who literally does spend half of the X-Men movies shirtless, I’m pretty sure.)

      Then somehow it came up again later via Facebook comments, and when he started complaining about Chris Hemsworth’s physique being an impossible standard for men (which, you know, I’m not going to tell him his experience of feeling inadequate is invalid or that he doesn’t have a point, but he was being such a whiny jerk about it I lost sympathy for him pretty quick), a friend of mine who is larger commented about how hard it is for HER to watch movies with stick-thin women in them all the time, in the hopes that it would help him understand how much worse the standard is for women. He proceeded to invalidate/ignore her points for something like five more back-and-forth comments before she got too upset and gave up arguing with him.

      I tried to have a private, reasonable discussion with him to explain why it was uncool of him to be doing that, and then had to spend 3 hours debating every MRA point in the book (but paternity leave! but the draft! but child custody!). The derailing was astounding – as soon as I would rebut one point, he’d come right back with a new and completely unrelated topic. I hear from friends who have to spend more time with him that he’s like this in person too, and has also gotten more aggressive about blaming women for not dating him, and that the crowd he hangs out with at school is super toxic and MRA-y. At this point, every time I post anything vaguely feminist on Facebook, I am basically baiting him, which isn’t very nice but there you are. The only reason I haven’t cut ties is that it would make things awkward within the friendgroup we both belong to, but you’d better believe I’m not talking to him unless he talks to me first.

      Anyway. Point is, people who espouse these views can be (or seem like) really great people, but you are probably better without someone who thinks of you and people like you as “crazy,” LW.

    2. And he had this wonderful narrative constructed, where we could continue to be friends because he would tell me he didn’t believe that I could actually think this way, except that I was indoctrinated by those horrible feminist-monsters, and I just had to be educated in the proper, right way to think & it would all be okay.

      Oy, I hate it when people do this. Yes, my beliefs are basically socialist. Yes, I know what that means. No, just because you are older than me and we’re sleeping together [past] or related does not mean you can tell me “you don’t really believe that!” Disagree all you want. But don’t tell me what I think.

  17. “Do you have any suggestions for how to… I don’t know… fix this?”

    The Cap’n’s response was good overall, but especially relevant to your question is where she asks what parts of the MRA movement he believes in, exactly. Like, there’s a huge difference between “She was asking for it” and “Yes, rapists are the ones we should hold responsible for rape, and women can follow all the safety rules and still get raped, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for school administrators to advise women that they put themselves at higher risk if they get drunk at frat parties.” Is there any common ground between your beliefs and his?

    Also, what is his exposure to feminism aside from you (the one he deems uniquely rational), his ex (the one he’s decided is the antichrist), and his fellow MRAs? Feminist blogs and such are often more than a little hostile to opposing views and the people who hold them. That’s not because feminists are especially hostile; it’s because we’re human. Look at social conservative blogs, libertarian forums, and (jeebus) MRA writings and you’ll see the same thing. The in-group tends to feel comfortable insulting and being dismissive toward members of the out-group.

    If … IF … your boyfriend is open to reasoned arguments, you might point out his fellow MRAs also come across as “crazy and damaging” to those who don’t hold their views. They may think they’re reacting sensibly to an unjust world, but so do the people they disagree with. Bearing that in mind, can he take feminist arguments on their merits, without getting all defensive because his feelings were hurt when someone told him to check his privilege that one time?

    1. I agree. It’s important for the LW to get at the details of what she and the boyfriend really believe, which you don’t get from trading labels like “feminist” and “MRA”.

  18. I’ve been reading the whole comment thread before I tried to comment myself, because my own feelings are very mixed. And despite the fact that the comments are wildly split, it seems as if there are some common concepts here.

    -If he is a REAL MRA — if he’s the type of man who truly believes that women *like you*, women who are trying to get basic rights, fair treatment, and the kind of safety he takes for granted, are extremists who are wrecking the world, then you don’t have a chance. DTMFA, and cry a little, and find an ally, because he isn’t one.

    -If he is basically a confused man whose instincts are to treat you and those like you decently, support you, and who would WANT you to have basic rights, fair treatment, and the kind of safety he takes for granted, then he probably doesn’t understand the facts behind why feminism exists, and what the MRA movement is actually trying to do. In that case, it may be possible to teach him.

    I agree with both of these points, but the caveats are that 1) he may not be willing to learn (if he’s convinced beyond repair that acquaintance rape is really just caused by bad communication or a woman who changes her mind; that women are safe if they take sensible precautions and they’re treated fairly if they behave reasonably; and most of all, that you’re not REALLY a representative feminist because everyone knows that feminists are demonzillas who go around protesting dates and eating men for breakfast), and 2) you may not want to teach him.

    Both of these are very possible. And both of them are likely dealbreakers. If he responds to your efforts to explain what you mean to him with one-line brushoffs taken from the online MRA community, or you get sick inside at the thought of having one more conversation with him about why you really are representative of what feminists look like, because all feminism is really is a desire for women to have the same rights, safety, and fair treatment that men have, then you are probably not going to be able to have a long-term relationship with this man. He will continue to do and say things which make your stomach knot up… and you won’t be getting through to him. Either because he doesn’t want to listen, or because you can’t cope with talking this through one more time.

    And it’s OK not to want to teach. You shouldn’t have to teach your boyfriend how to be a decent human being to women. Even if he’s already, on a day to day basis, decent and good to *you*, you shouldn’t have to teach him what his genderpolitical viewpoint is doing to the world, and persuade him to stop. If you love him and you want to keep him, though, teaching him is probably the only solution. Only you can decide whether he’s worth teaching… or whether it’s likely to work.

    So *IF* you think he’s just a confused type who’s picked up the wrong ideas but would be willing to put them down again with a little guidance, and *IF* you’re prepared to offer that guidance in order to keep this gem of a guy who’s worth it in every respect other than the fact that he thinks your rights (and those of half the species) aren’t important, then feel free to stick around and give teaching a try. It might work. There are guys who learn, and the ones with the potential to learn can make the best allies in the long run, because they approach feminism with the zeal of the convert once they’ve been converted.

    But it’s not your job to convert him, and if you don’t want that job, then I have to say DTMFA. You’ll spend too much time stressing, and you’ll have to work harder and harder at the cognitive dissonance needed to maintain respect for him. You’ve already seen some of that happen, from what you said in your letter.

    Or, if you don’t see him as someone who *can* be converted — if you wouldn’t mind teaching, but don’t think it’s simply that he hasn’t learned; it’s that he’s learned a way that works *for him* and he has no interest in putting it down and no willingness to listen with an open mind to what you have to tell him, then I also have to say DTMFA. Unless he respects you enough to make a real effort to hear what you have to say and examine for himself, research and all, whether it might be true, then he doesn’t respect you enough to make a good partner. He’d be effectively saying, “I think you’re cute, but you’re irrational and prone to hysterics like all women, and what you say isn’t important enough to consider seriously.” He might say it more politely, but if he’s not willing to try his best to listen seriously and objectively to you, then that’s what he’s saying in practice.

    I wish you luck, whichever path you take.

    1. To add to this excellent comment, LW if you are interested in teaching your partner about feminism, I would really recommend talking about the demands of MRAs and how actually feminism is trying to do something about these things, that these are often associated with patriarchal toxic masculinity norms. Lindy West wrote a good piece which included this on Jezebel quite a while ago called “If I Admit That ‘Hating Men’ Is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?”.

      I know that approaching feminism like this with men can be quite contentious, like the “what if it was your wife/daughter/sister/mother” approach, but I think it can at least be useful in curbing some of the worst MRA tendencies if people are ignorant, rather than outright hateful.

      1. I don’t know how someone can be thoughtful and sweet, and also not care about a young female rape victim just because she was drinking too much.

        …Ok, I do really. The Captain has mentioned before how people often feel a tremendous amount of empathy for a wrongdoer in a privileged position when they happen to share that privilege, but can summon up none for a victim in a marginalised position that they do not share. And if one day there is a popular news story concerning a wrongdoer in a marginalised position…hooo boy! But people who reserve their empathy for the people who are in the same privileged groups as them still get to be the ‘nice’ people. It is totally possible for someone to be nice and lovely and still have HORRIBLE views. That’s part of their privilege, that it can be hidden.

        (cw- domestic abuse)

        It’s not your job to ‘fix’ him. I would not blame you if you didn’t try, whether or not you stay with him. And I’m glad I don’t know him but I can totally understand how you like him. I have friends who I love and care about and still am shocked when sometimes their ugly side comes out. Like when an old friend of mine and I were talking about UK comedian Justin Lee Collins who emotionally and physically abused his girlfriend. I said something like ‘he’s a shitty abuser’. My friend said ‘he’s a cool guy. She’s probably lying.’ Well, that was the end of that conversation. I did not want to sit down my male friend and have to explain to him that this is a shitty thing to say, who cares if his friends and his fans think he’s cool that is not relevant, and guess who is an emotional abuse survivor herself? Your friend Mossy! Well no, that wasn’t happening. We can be friends but we don’t talk about anything abuse related. (Not that it would usually come up but that’s the trouble with just talking about light topics like comedians and musicians, some of them are abusers.) I’d always kind of known he had these views because you pick stuff like that up but I’m not going to cut my friend out…yet. There’s a possibility he may get worse and I get just too tired Though I don’t see him that much right now.

        I also had a close male friend a few years back, let’s call him D, the amount I loved him and wanted him to love me was unreal. I think it was half platonic and half romantic, though he was gay so no chance he would like me back in that way. But it’s only looking back that I realised how fucked up some of the things he used to say were. A mutual friend of ours left their home in their mid-teens and went into foster care to escape their abusive mother who used to beat them and be emotionally abusive. D would say ‘my mother was beaten by her father and kicked out when she got pregnant and she turned out fine! It’s not so bad!’ D was NOT beaten by his mother, just to note. Looking back I really wish I’d told him to shut the fuck up. And I wonder what his mother would have felt if she’d known her son was using her experiences to shut down others who were abused by their parents. D would also comment on my breasts, saying they were too small and comparing them to his bustier female friend, and would throw small bits of litter in her cleavage. I never found out if she minded this but just because she never said anything doesn’t mean she didn’t. D and I are no longer friends and yet I STILL care for him. He is very charismatic and when you first meet him he is very loving and makes you feel amazing, though he had difficulty maintaining friendships and would spend long conversations with me picking faults about his older friends, which was very uncomfortable. These people are often really magnetic, drawing others too them. Our mutual friend, who moved away and lost touch with most of our group including him (though not me), still remembers his birthday every single year and writes him a facebook birthday message.

        So yes, I TOTALLY get why you love this man. But I am concerned that being in a relationship with him is very different than the friendships I described because relationships get closer. You will share almost all of your time with this person. These problems will become bigger and more unbearable with time. For now, strength and love to you.

        (By the way, I personally believe that the right to choose to ignore somebody’s bigoted comments is the right of the person who is part of the group targeted. Like, if you’re a woman dealing with a sexist man like the LW. But, for example, me as a white women ABSOLUTELY has a responsibility to stand up to racism from my friends. Hope that makes sense.)

    1. yyyyeah, like that could set her up for a shitload of pain in the long run. it’s horrifying.

  19. What do y’all do together besides a) screw and b) (not) argue about feminism? Is it enough to base a relationship on? Sooner or later, sex will fail you. One of you will get sick, one of you will get bored, you’ll have lonely children or bad knees or … something. And if (when) that happens, you definitely need to be able to talk to the person on the other side of the bed ….. and if everything in your life is a subject that can’t be raised, what on earth will you do?

  20. However funny and sweet he is, you don’t feel safe around him – you don’t feel safe to be yourself, you don’t feel safe to bring up topics that are close to your heart, you don’t feel safe bringing him to events involving your friends. And anyone who responds to ‘I find this hurtful and scary’ with ‘well, I have a perfectly logical reason to be hurtful and scary, let me mansplain to you’ *isn’t* safe to be around, so listen to your instincts.

    1. This was my main concern from the initial letter. I’ve known some truly decent dudes who have some really problematic political beliefs, because they’re so compartmentalized in their thinking that they really can’t connect the dots between political arguments on the internet and real, live people who are affected by the actual political practice. That’s pretty immature, but I hold out a lot of hope for these guys to grow up a bit and eventually connect their empathy to their theories. (I also don’t date them, though.)

      My brother is one of these dudes. He thinks MRAs/PUAs are gross, and gets angry at how ignorant and harmful GamerGate was, but he still somehow holds to a handful of proto-MRA ideas. I love him a lot, and we’re pretty close. We talk a bit about some of these ideas.

      A while ago, there was one particular issue we clashed over, and I got pretty upset. He recognized that this topic hurt me, and he backed off, and has been careful to sidestep that one around me. Because while he still disagrees with me, he cares enough about my feelings to not shove it in my face again.

      Not knowing specifics about LW’s boyfriend, the thing that really alarmed me was that she has expressed how much this scares and hurts her, but he is continuing to have those conversations at her and around her anyway. If he can’t deal with saving those debates for places where she won’t have to deal with the fallout, that’s not a particularly encouraging sign.

    2. This comment is exactly what I wanted to say. I haven’t (to my knowledge) dated an MRA, but I have dated someone who my inner wisdom knew was not safe for me (withholding affection and respect, and gaslighting). I felt anxious around him often, didn’t feel comfortable having him around many of my friends, and felt sad a lot at his behavior. I also adored him and breaking up was really hard, but I immediately stopped being anxious and crying all the time and I knew it was a good decision.

  21. This is a perfect example of the sad fact that love cannot conquer all. For all this guy’s virtues, he has some very ugly flaws. And you can’t fix them, LW, just live with them. But will you wind up hating yourself for doing so? And how long before his toxic ideas start destroying you?

  22. Hi, LW.
    Your letter feels kind of familiar. :-\
    I once had a husband. We got all the way to “approaching our second wedding anniversary” before we ended the marriage. But he told me, on our third date, that he thought women should have to get approval from a board before being able to have an abortion. And I thought “That’s some very problematic thinking there, guy-I’m-rapidly-getting-attached-to, but you probably only think that because you’ve been brainwashed by The Patriarchy and haven’t really thought this through. Well. I can totally fix that.” And he proceeded to become first my fiance, then my serial rapist, then my husband, then the guy who told me that, if I didn’t let him knock me up within the next 14 days, he’d have to conclude that his marriage to me had been a waist of time, and then (finally, after an amicable but still expensive divorce), my EX.
    And, years later, I don’t get knots in my stomach if I’m not home and by the phone by 7pm anymore.
    But here’s the thing: He TOLD ME, on date #3, that he didn’t believe I had bodily autonomy, and that he didn’t believe I was capable of making my own decisions. Oh, sure. He may have believed that I wasn’t “the type” (whatever that is) to get/need/want an abortion. But it was also Date #3. He didn’t KNOW I’d never had one. And what he said was “women”. I am that thing that he thought had no bodily autonomy.
    You are that thing, a feminist, that he thinks is crazy and damaging.
    And that’s not something you can fix.
    And, forgive me, but I don’t think it’s something that he’s going to fix, either. And he’s the only one who can.

    There’s a thing… I can’t remember which Team Awkward Member’s Rule this is, but: If you knew this situation was concretely going to be exactly the same in a year, would you stay? In five years? In ten?

    Take care of yourself, first, my dear.
    Ms Syren.

  23. Anecdata: My boyfriend is Compassionate Wants To Do The Right Thing Guy, but he literally doesn’t understand the world I live in.

    I had to tearfully explain to him early in our relationship that him staying friends with predators to “bring out the best in them” is, uh, terrifying to a survivor like me. Every time I talk about the complicated dance I do to present myself as assertive-but-not-threatening, the way I feminize my appearance so I can get away with more “masculine” behavior without being punished, he’s shocked at how much energy I put into what is, for him, “how cold is it outside?”

    I’ve gotten the best outcomes not from arguing about macro concepts, but saying, “Here’s the 8 ways that this directly or indirectly affects my physical, emotional, and economic safety, specifically because I’m a woman,” or “I get that you think X is innocuous, but to me that means that the person saying it is likely to rape me.”

    I believe that men who are not linked in with feminist language can still be good partners to women. I believe men who have bought into misogynist ideology cannot.

    So the question is, do you feel comfortable sharing/explaining gendered experiences to him? When you do, is he more likely to listen or dismiss you? Does his support of you in those situations make you feel supported? If the answers are yes/listens/yes, I think there’s hope that the MRA community is filling some need in him other than a need for violent misogyny. If the answers are no, it sounds like this is not a partner you really trust, wonderful qualities notwithstanding.

  24. Hey writer–I’m in a marriage (just passed 7.5 years, 12.5 together) with a guy with whom I hold different views (not feminism/MRA, but different views). Sometimes we argue. Sometimes my positions annoy him. Sometimes his annoy me. It’s possible we both Godwined each other back in the 2008 election season (but didn’t in 2012!). I used to hold positions more like his, but haven’t in a decade now.

    And here’s the thing for me reading your letter. When I read stories online about things I care about or he cares about, my stomach doesn’t get into knots. I’m not afraid to bring him to parties. I’m not scared about the depth to which he believes these things. I’m mildly embarrassed sometimes that he thinks certain things, but that’s the end of it. It’s not a situation that has me evaluating my love for him vs. the positions he holds.

    It’s not that opposites can’t attract or be in a long, loving relationship with each other. But it has to do with the kind of person you’re with an exactly what kinds of opposites are going on. There are wonderful guys out there who are not this guy. There are wonderful, imperfect guys out there who you may end up with who won’t think exactly the same things as you but who will be willing to listen to you and respect you and your friends on things.

    For example, my husband still doesn’t “get” how people are transgender and he finds the subject a bit confusing. But he’s respectful of names and pronouns (including “they”), never raises the subject as one of those awful uncle at Thanksgiving kind of things, It’s hardly discussed. And over the years, he’s gone from a “this makes no sense but I will respect your friends as people” when the topic comes up to “I still don’t get it, but I don’t understand every human experience and I’m glad our church is working on being more welcome to trans people.” One of his favorite students recently came out as genderqueer and he’s the person they called to have coffee about it, twice. He would have been respectful of their decision 5 or 8 or 10 years ago, but he wouldn’t have known how to talk to them then. Now, they can have conversations with him and feel safe and positively reinforced in coming out (I’m friends with them too in a smaller way).

    Maybe that’s what it is underneath it all. A willingness to respect non-destructive points of view (I’d say MRA doesn’t deserve respect because it’s much too destructive…I’ll respect it when they start building men’s shelters, speaking out for men of color, etc.) even if you don’t understand. And a willingness to grow and listen and learn. These men exist. I know others like him. Some hold positions identical to mine. Some hold positions even farther away from mine than his but are still respectful and willing to grow and learn. I believe you can find one like that.

  25. My husband’s a long way from an MRA, but he still struggles at times to work with the word “feminist” as a positive descriptor. He doesn’t get – not really, not viscerally – why gendered slurs are an issue, or why it is that people who are read as women not only feel, but are, less safe overall, online and IRL, than people read as men. He often veers very close to the shrugging “just ignore it, it’s just words” school of male privilege.

    What makes it work for us, though, is that he’s unequivocal on the things that matter most to me. He believes, and frequently vocally expresses, that sexual violence and harassment are 100% the fault of those who perpetrate them. He believes women are equal to men in capacity, intelligence and worth. He believes the full participation in society of all people is the only way forward. He’s vehemently anti-homophobic and anti-racist.

    So, I guess, I’d say I agree with the commenters above who advise unpicking exactly what your boyfriend means, and where his beliefs start and stop. Does he have some hurt feelings and bruised privilege going on regarding surface manifestations of feminism (which is what I think goes on with my partner when he whinges about people “toughening up” about online stuff) or is that the visible face of much deeper-rooted problematic attitudes?

    1. I’ve got a similar situation. My partner isn’t a feminist,I am. We argue about issues occasionally, but at the end of the day we agree on the important ones. Women should have the same rights as men. Boys should be allowed/encouraged to pursue feminine interests, girls should be allowed/encouraged to pursue masculine ones, etc. He just doesn’t wear the label, and he doesn’t have the history with the word that I do, so while I am not a huge fan of him not being a feminist, we have the same core beliefs and he supports me in my feminist decisions.

      1. I’d like to add my voice to the unsurprising number of feminist identifying women with male partners who don’t want to attach themselves to the word feminist. (YMMV, of course) He comes from a position with a good deal of privilege (straight, white, cis male from a well-to-do family, oh my!), all of which was fairly unexamined privilege until we started talking about it. He didn’t even like the word privilege, which bugged the heck out of me, and also confused me. How can someone be such a thoughtful person and acknowledge that systems exist that systematically give one group advantage over another but not accept the word? – he was just uncomfortable with it being called, say, “white privilege” or “male privilege,” and he would say things like “yes, X oppressive act was terrible, but it’s in the past isn’t everything fine now?”. This is the sort of thing we talked about that for hours, on many different occasions, occasionally at some volume. Eventually things resolved themselves somewhat – he does not totally agree with me (which I appreciate, actually, because talking to the uninitiated reminds me to slow my roll and think things through sometimes, and seems to make him think outside of himself and I adore that he can do it) but he understands what I think, why I think it, and he can acknowledge that discrimination can and does still exist in ways both subtle and awfully obvious, and that they are things that he is not likely to notice or understand as a person against whom those things are almost never directed.

        I had a similar, much shorter lived relationship with another person (same physical chemistry, similar consideration, funny and interesting) and he believed some essentially similar things to my current partner. He was more than willing to tell me about those positions, but when I expressed disagreement no matter how calmly I presented my opinions, no matter how factual my rebuttals, no matter how impassioned my personal anecdata, no matter how kindly and compassionately I suggested that his white, straight, cis male ass was unlikely to see the whole picture or be in a good position to “dispassionately judge” a system set up almost entirely to work for his benefit, he treated me the same way. He dismissed my opinions as things that I would of course say, as a feminist who didn’t know any better (he was also older than me, and patronizing with it in retrospect), and refused to engage respectfully.

        I think, LW, that the essential difference between someone you can work with and someone you might regretfully have to move on from, is how (or, whether) they are willing to engage with you. If someone can listen to you talk, and consider it, and care about you and your experience of the world enough to try to understand, then you can probably work with them if you are up to the effort and it is occasionally tiring and occasionally really amazing to be someone’s partner through that kind of journey. If they dismiss you, if they ridicule you, if they don’t bother to even try to experience the world the way you do, though, then that suggests to me a certain fundamental disrespect. I could be wrong – 2 dudes is not exactly a representative sample – but think about the way he treats your thoughts and opinions and experiences, because there is a really meaningful difference between someone who disagrees with you but wants to understand, and is willing to work through those disagreements respectfully, and someone who has decided that they are correct and does not care about your disagreement. However you end up dealing with your charming(?) pig, LW, best wishes!

  26. Oof. This is a tough one, because I can hear from your letter that you love this guy, and he has some great qualities. Maybe I’m being optimistic, but it sounds like he doesn’t *treat you* like an entitled dickwad, and that may be because he views you differently than all other women, but it also may be because, at heart, he’s actually a lovely guy who holds some problematic views that could change as he gets older and more mature.

    Case in point: back when I was dating the man who would become my husband, I made a comment about a highly respected religious leader in our very conservative Christian evangelical world, and what his thoughts were on domestic violence. I.e., women lie about it to their friends to have a good excuse to divorce their husbands. And he said, “Well, he might have a point. Some women probably do that.”

    Cue incredulous expression and record screeching. I think I said something along the lines of, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!” It didn’t turn into an argument, but I was aghast. Who was this person I was dating?

    But him dating and then marrying a feminist, who has been hurt in very real, and very obvious ways by the patriarchy, has had a profound impact. And a few years later, he was the one ushering me out of a church while I had a breakdown over a really nasty thing said by one of my in-laws’ friends, (about women lying about being raped so they can get an abortion), and holding me when I cried, and telling me that it was horrible, and that if I wanted to leave, we could leave, right then, he’d tell his parents to fuck off if they got weird about it.

    So, here is the thing to ask yourself: is he willing to listen to you? When you say, I don’t feel safe walking home alone after dark, what is his response? Does he understand? How does he treat the other women in his life? Is this a matter of him empathizing with men who feel as though they’ve somehow been hurt by women (which may be how he sees the MRA movement), or does he actually believe the crap they spew?

    And I ask those questions, because there was, for a period of time, things that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about with my husband, but his political views have changed tremendously over the years, mostly because he’s a good guy with a good heart, and he hates it when people are hurting. And when he sees harmful social policies and that sort of thing, he thinks about it, and he eventually gets it, and is willing to change his mind. He might say some really dumb shit, but then he goes away and thinks about it, and he does the right thing.

  27. You realise that in order to make this work, you’re going to have to shove all that you believe and know to be true about the world into a tiny, dark closet in your mind, so that you can keep being with this awesome guy.

    He thinks gang rape is okay. He told you that three months into your relationship. What did it cost you, mentally, to rationalise that away?

    You’re the one suffering and justifying and rationalising and annexing bits of yourself and beliefs away from this guy so you don’t have to stop loving him or think less of him or whatever because this struggle is you and your life and it is real. But you know what this guy is doing? He is not biting his tongue and hoping the subject won’t come up and thinking oh my god my MRA-ness is going to drive this girl away or oh no what if we break up, or I better not talk about this because holy shitballs I don’t want to mess this up. He doesn’t have to do that because he just doesn’t care that much. Not about you, LW, but about the things you care about.

    Your struggles and the things you care about and the things about this world that hurt you is nothing to this guy. If it comes up at all, it’s in a not-all-men paroxysm. His inner life is probably totes not in turmoil because he thinks his beliefs are okay. He’s not writing Captain MRA because he’s worried his partner’s feminism is going to break up the relationship. He has the luxury of having it not matter.

    He must have some really great qualities. Some really really great qualities. I bet you do too.

    Your choices are:

    A. Stay and twist yourself into a pretzel rationalising his shitbird beliefs and your decision to stay with him
    B. Stay and stop rationalising and start having the fights and discussions until he realises you are just like those feminists who go too far that he disdains, or he has an epiphany and realises that his opinions are shithouse
    C. A wizard changes him?
    D. You decide you don’t want to change yourself for the worse to be with him and you can’t change him for the better to be with you

  28. As someone who only six months ago left a four-year-long relationship with a Men’s Rights Sympathist, let me just say: it’s just not worth sticking around.

    I know how totality not black and wrote this seems, and I think the wonderful Captain is really focusing on the red flags she sees. Let me emphasize: I know that it can be fantastic, fantastic, fantastic … *except* when feminist issues come up. I got to know his family, his many brothers and sisters. We watched our favorite TV shows together and nerded out about tech and science news. We went traveling together. I even moved across the country to be with him when he got accepted to grad school.

    Not worth it. The only arguments we ever had were about feminism and feminist issues. So I thought I would just about talking about that stuff with him and we would be fine. But a couple years into our relationship, he would protest when I cut my hair short, and again when I stopped shaving my legs. I cried a lot and we were never able to talk through our differences unless I apologized for “forcing my ideology” on him.

    So, so not worth it. The longer you’re with someone, the harder it becomes to break up (for various reasons), so just cut your losses now. I am now with a dude who loves my hairy, farting self, and when we have strong disagreements or misunderstandings we actuality talk through them without either of us staying sour for days on end.

    Coming from a relationship that was “great! Except…..”, I didn’t know that it was possible to be in a relationship that was “Great!” No exceptions about how my partner actually has secret weird hangups about women. Maybe this is the case with you, too?

  29. “When he says “feminists are crazy and damaging,” you realize, he means you, right? He means you.”

    Tangent: This sounds an awful lot like hearing one’s relatives rant about “The Liberals” and realizing it means you, and they’d know it if they just stopped to THINK for a second (or worse, they know it already and don’t care/actually do hate you).

    It’s hard to cut out relatives, even toxic ones.

    It’s easy to cut out a bad boyfriend. Think about it, at least, for your own sanity and safety.

    Good thoughts to the LW.

    (And, while I’m at it, good thoughts to her bf; I hope he can get his head on straight soon. Some guys really do come back from that sort of attitude.)

  30. I find it really concerning that you spend a fair amount of time with your stomach in knots and hoping that he won’t have heard about news stories just so you don’t have to discuss them. That says to me that whatever the differences in your opinions, you don’t feel comfortable talking to him honestly. That is a miserable way to live. Really think if want to live that way forever. If you want to stay with him, start stating what you think and don’t duck the issues It’s the only way to know if you guys can work it out or not. You can’t spend you life hiding what you believe just to keep the peace.

  31. Holy crap, dude, that kills the romantic glass of wine at dinner. Different political or economic philosophies are one thing, not knowing the legal line of consent, let alone the moral one, whooooolllleee different ballgame. Run.

  32. I think it is very, very important to undercover exactly what “type” of MRA he is.

    I would never call myself a Men’s Rights Activist, and I absolutely call myself a feminist. However, over the last few years, I have come to believe there are issues that effect men in our society very negatively… issues that belong to men alone, that feminism may not be able to adequately help with (and that maybe shouldn’t be its focus, anyway.) Toxic masculinity; lack of social support networks; mental health issues, male-on-male violence, the rare occasions when there are false rape reports… these are all “men’s rights” topics that I believe DO deserve more critique, commentary, and attention. And I have met a few men who call themselves “MRA’s” and believe passionately in helping other men *without* needing to tear down feminism or women’s rights.

    It can still be difficult at times to have a relationship between a feminist and a genuine “MRA,” but if your boyfriend has all of these wonderful qualities otherwise, it may be worth a shot to figure out if he’s the kind of activist who genuinely cares about men’s issues, or the kind who just wants to hate women.

    1. I wish the MRA movement *would* focus on those problems, because they are very real, and very damaging to a lot of men. Feminism does what it can, since it’s about gender equality in general, but as you say, that’s not always the central focus.

      1. Absolutely. In my opinion, one of the less recognized awful things that the MRA movement does is to poison the well for those of us who actually do work on those issues.

  33. Dear LW

    The Captain’s point that it matters which opinions he has is the one that spoke to me most, but then I thought, “wait! I would use that as an excuse to stay!” So I think you should keep that in mind.

    There were two other points I’d like to make.

    1) You said you wouldn’t have gotten involved if you’d known his opinions then. Please remember that.

    2) What if the two of you stayed together, and had children. Is he a man you’d want your sons to model themselves after? Is he a man who’d support his daughter in all her endeavors?

  34. What you don’t say is whether he believes the fundamental precepts of the MRA “movement”- that women are out to screw over men. Does he trust you? And I mean really trust you? Are you the “exception to the rule”, and can you live with that rule? Do you see him ever changing his mind? Does he let you speak your mind? Because if he laughs you off or gets angry, or you find yourself swallowing words for the sake of keeping the peace, that’s a big flashing red alert complete with console explosions and redshirts flying around in the background. Any guy you find yourself stunting your own beliefs for is not worth the time on any front, let alone the issue of your fundamental equality.

    I know some perfectly charming, generous, friendly, loving sexists, too. It’d be so much easier if they came with big flashing neon signs that say WARNING: HATEFUL BELIEFS INSIDE, but they don’t.

  35. Well, ideally, Feminism addresses those issues too. The Toxic Masculinity stuff, male on male violence, and mental health things have a lot to do with the way we perceive gender which affects everyone. When men are demeaned, or made to hide “weakness” they are done so with homophobic or misogynistic slurs, for example.
    I am sorry but you are mistaken about false allegations of assault, however. Where I am from, the statistic is one in five women who have been sexually assaulted, and that was not and inaccurate ratio of my friends, relatives and colleagues, so doubt it is so very different for you, but obviously it is very difficult for people to speak up. Less than two percent of perpetrators ever spend a day in jail, and part of it is this myth that false allegations are wide spread. They are not. We know they are not.

    1. Oh absolutely. The idea that false reports are “widespread” or that the system somehow rewards women for punishing innocent men is absolutely absurd. It is NOT a problem that effects even a sizable minority of men; there are still far, far, far more occurrences of rape victims being treated horribly than false accusations greatly impacting men. However, I think rape as a topic (male victims of female rapists, that albeit very small amount of situations where false accusations could have a very negative impact) is something that “genuine” MRAs do care about, and can have a dialogue about without unilaterally dismissing the 98% of rape reports that are true, or that women still don’t get the very short end of the stick much of the time. (I think the article in Slate by Cathy Young did a good job of explaining the issue in a sensitive and fair way.) Apologies if it seemed like I was suggesting it was at all widespread.

      As far as feminism addressing issues of toxic masculinity… I agree that changing gender norms can do a lot to undo toxic masculinity. However, I feel uncomfortable with the idea that feminism should either take on responsibility for men’s issues, or that it’s totally appropriate to do so. I think there are some aspects and some areas of toxic masculinity/mental health/male violence where men should be the primary voices. I can’t speak for you, but it makes me very uncomfortable when men-even very good feminist allies- take about women’s reproductive rights. That’s a topic, I feel, that should have a predominantly female voice. Similarly, it makes me a little uncomfortable when feminists-even awesome feminists with every good intention-discuss men’s issues. I’ve been in a couple of conversations with A+ feminists who still don’t totally understand/sympathize/relate with male victims of rape when perpetrated by a woman.

  36. I’m really sorry. It sounds like this is going to be very painful either way. Either you’ll have the pain of spending your life with a guy who feels/thinks these things (and, if you have children, wants to pass those feelings/thoughts on to them), or else you’re going to have to go through a break-up. I think the way I’d think of it is, “In the long run, which type of pain is more tolerable to me?”

  37. I have to echo the Captain’s question about what parts of the MRA movement he agrees with and what his level of involvement with it is. It is hard for those of us who pay attention to these things to remember because we see the depth of the shit they pour out but on the surface the MRA can actually appear to be a male-focused edge of feminism.

    Many moons ago when the earth was young, I was taken in by them on things like equalizing treatment in family law and increasing access to mental health and domestic violence services for men which aligned with my budding feminist awareness and areas that I personally had experienced and recognized had significant issues for men. Because I didn’t get involved on any deeper level than the surface I occasionally noted that it was a real shame that some guys let (what I perceived as) their hurt from the way the system and their former partner had treated them and unfairly projected it onto all women. It wasn’t until I became more actively interested in following feminist issues and reading the roundups on what these misogynistic cretins were actually doing that I became aware that the blackened tumorous heart of the movement wasn’t the same as their reasonable surface face that I saw merit in.

    I say this, not to excuse him (or me), but because most people (and especially most men) are not familiar with a lot of the things that those of us who are involved in online progressive circles take for granted. If he is just puppeting the whole ‘feminists are scuuury’ line without actually evaluating what all the feminists he actually knows are about and is sympathetic to the what the MRA’s claim to be about (rather than what they actually do), then things might have a reasonable chance if you are either willing to put up with his ignorance and insensitivity or have the patience (and willingness on his part) to do the feminism 101 thing with him. Otherwise, if he knows about (or worse participates in) the harassment and doxxing, you need to take a really hard look at your future and decide why what was non-negotiable for you (had you known) before the two of you started dating has become something you are willing to compromise on now. Are you willing to keep biting your tongue, self-censoring, and being less than your best self for the rest of your life?

    1. I think the problem with ‘this guy might develop a more balanced insight later’ is that he’s holding toxic beliefs NOW. I’m perfectly happy to accept that in a few year’s time, if he should work at things and think them through and listen to women in good faith he will be a perfect partner for _somebody_ – but the guy he is *right now* makes her feel sick when a possibly contentious topic comes up.

  38. hey lw. i used to have a friend who was an mra. i didn’t know that when we met, but he said, and i agreed, that it would be fine because “we could have a discussion about it like adults.”

    “having a discussion like adults” turned out to mean he’d rant for half an hour or an hour at a time about Bitches Who Done Men Wrong while i just kind of sat there and listened. but i thought this was fine because other than while he was ranting, he was thoughtful, he was sweet, and he stood up for me, so our difference in opinion* didn’t really matter, right? meanwhile, the list of safe topics gradually shrank until i could barely mention women in conversation at all.

    so what happened with the guy who, given the slightest provocation, would go on rants about how all women are crazy bitches? eventually he decided i was a crazy bitch too, and dropped me. lw, i’m sorry, but one day your bf’s gonna decide you’ve gotten out of line too – you’re not gonna be the exception to that rule. leave now, if you can. best of luck.

    *a difference of opinion, incidentally, is what toppings are good on pizza. no one gets to have a “difference of opinion” on whether i’m a full human being.

  39. Everyone else has addressed the specifics, better than I could. I’m going to tell you one (hopefully) helpful thing:

    If you’re seriously thinking about leaving, it’s probably time to leave.

    Because right now, you’re uncertain about this relationship, maybe even scared. You don’t like several things about the situation and you don’t know how to fix them. You are worried enough to spend a fair bit of time writing to captain awkward explaining this. My experience is that in relationships that are coming to an end, “should I break up with them?” begins to come up more and more on your radar – even sometimes early on when you still think you’re happy.

    I’m getting married, and thoughts of breaking up have been idle and incidental at most – and quickly followed with “uh, no. Where did that come from?” If you’re seriously thinking about breaking up with someone, it probably means that there are enough problems in the relationship that it’s. Time to break it up.

    Because you’re not happy, and you deserve a relationship that’s not full of you worrying about whether or not it’s worth it to put up with the bad bits. Life has enough worries. Go forth and find someone lovely that you don’t contemplate breaking up with a lot.

    PS: It’s late where I am, and I’ve just read over what I’ve written and it sounds a bit…abrupt? But it’s probably bedtime because I can’t figure out how to fix it. Jedi hugs and happiness to you, LW.

  40. “If I knew he had these opinions and this hate back when we first started dating, I would have walked away in a heartbeat.”

    I’m not the most careful writer myself, so I don’t want to make too much of word choices that may not have been deliberate. And I know nothing of relationships. Still if my sister asked me if she should continue in a relationship with someone who has hate, I would tell her I had already made up the futon for her to come stay with me if she wants out.

    Certainly even the professionally hateful have successful relationships. But from my outside observation, shared values are essential. And of course people can share core values while not sharing political opinions or hobbies or taste in snack foods. But I suspect in, say, a K^3 home, people aren’t describing one another’s views as hateful, because they all agree.

    I think it’s one thing to live with a Green supporter when you’re a Republican. Or to disagree on states’ rights or cap and trade. I think it’s another to try to live your life, in its full complexity and richness, next to someone who hates.

    I don’t think there is such a thing as a compromise point between hate and non-hate. Of course people will disagree with which views are hate and which aren’t, but in the end, certain ideologies are about devaluing others and that causes actual, measurable harm.

    Maybe your partner doesn’t really have hateful views. Maybe it’s a matter of education. Maybe your own anti-hate values are not so important to you that you ARE able to work around this.

    If you were my sister or my best friend I would remind you that there are people in relationships where they don’t have to wonder about any of those things. They don’t wonder about any of the questions you raised in your letter, because they wouldn’t describe their partner’s views as hateful–even off-handedly.

    You are the one who knows what this relationship is like on the inside. And maybe there’s enough there for you. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe there is for now and later there isn’t. Whatever happens I hope you have real, solid, awesome feminist support. I hope things turn out really well for you.

  41. The Captain has excellent advice. Echoing Mrsmorleystea, I’d add one question: Could you raise a daughter with this man? Could you raise a son?

  42. LW, here’s the thing about loving a jerk: love can go away. You can love somebody with the fire of a thousand suns and then you break up and a couple of years later you’re all, whoa, what the hell did I ever see in that dude? Thinking about loving them will be like thinking about how when you were five years old you used to love spinning in circles and getting dizzy, whereas now that would be no fun at all and make you vomit.

    “Yes, but I love him” is not a counterpoint to weigh when you are deciding what to do about this dude. Love is a feeling that can come and go and you will love other people in your life to varying degrees. Love is not a reason to throw good money after bad.

  43. I’m embarrassed when we go to parties and my level headed friends (both men and women) don’t share his opinions,

    The phrasing you use here is… odd. If you’re at a party, and no one shares your opinions, that would make you feel lonely, right? And if your partner saw you standing all alone, by yourself, with no one to talk to at a party, they would feel bad for you, and want you to feel better. So let’s cut through the fog here: you’re embarrassed by his opinions. This is important to acknowledge.

    I’ve honestly told him ALL of this and he doesn’t want me to change my opinions for him.

    Wow,LW. Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page here.

    You: “I find your views offensive, and I’m embarrassed when you talk about them with my friends. Whenever feminist issues are in the news, I dread my next conversation with you, because of what you might say or how you might act.”

    Him: “Babe, I don’t want you to change yourself just to make me happy.”

    He says that my opinions and views don’t change the way he feels about me.

    Him: “What’s that babe? Hey, believe whatever you want, I still think you’re sexy.”

    But he has so many fantastic qualities and there’s a reason I’ve stuck around this long. Do you have any suggestions for how to… I don’t know… fix this?

    There are certainly some awareness-raising efforts you could make. Help him set up a fake OK cupid profile using your photo, and have him read the responses. Have him play Call of Duty with a female gamertag, and listen to the chatter directed at him. But these stunts aren’t guaranteed to change his perspective.

    So how else can you “fix this”? Well, you’re embarrassed when he talks MRA nonsense to your friends, so stop bringing him to events with your friends. Do things with his friends, or just the two of you. (but do keep hanging out with your friends on your own!) You feel upset when you think about discussing feminist issues with him, so don’t have political discussions with him! Don’t bring up the topics, and if he does, change the subject.

    This means that your relationship with him is capped at the stage it’s at now. (or perhaps where it was a few months ago…) As long as you’re OK with things not moving forward, as long as you & he are having a good time and feeling fulfilled, that’s great. But if you want more than that,you have to accept that it’s going to be with someone who doesn’t hold your views, and your gender, in low-grade contempt.

  44. Ok, I put this on twitter but I have to put it here, too, because:

    Really thought #menenism was going to be about this 30 sec 1984 vid. Also, holy innuendo, batmenen: http://youtu.be/daG-0KkirDI

    Now back to read the comments which I’m sure are full of wisdom and empathy and also other funny jokes about tedious dudes.

  45. Props to everyone who recommended untangling what, actually, he believes, you’re all very kind and fair, but I think you’re wrong. LW, pretend you are advising a friend who is, oh let’s say, Latina, and is dating a guy who maybe doesn’t use racial slurs, but thinks the Mexicans are taking our jobs, and will totally tell her friends that they should have followed the rules and they probably should be deported, and tells her privately that he’s glad she’s not lazy and dirty. What would you tell her? Would you advise she take him on a magical tour of her home county and inculcate him in the ways of her people? Would you recommend really sussing out how racist against her people he is before making a move?

    People make exceptions for all kinds of things in relationships, but if the fundamental basis of your self is that exception, it’s going to end very badly. For you.

  46. This reminds me of something that happened to a housemate of mine. She was an active member in the left wing faction of one of the two main political parties here, she was a student rep, and she took politics very seriously, both on campus and off. One summer break, she met a guy out at a club and one thing lead to another, and after a while they started dating.

    Now the thing is, that this guy had not been active in politics, or even been around people who were very politically motivated before. But like most of us, he had opinions, and he had a social and family background that gave him a tendency to see things a certain way. So as time passed, and as they progressed from having conversations about who was the prettiest (“No, you are!”), my friend started talking about the things that she was interested in, and it turned out that he did not agree with her at all. On almost anything to do with politics or economics.

    The crunch came when semester started again, and all through orientation week my friend was busy running around doing student union things. Then one day he came over and announced he had signed up for the campus club for the more right wing of the two major political parties. My friend could not believe that after everything they had talked about, that he would go and join the opposition. His explanation was that until he talked to her, he didn’t know where he stood, and she had convinced him that it was important to be more active in politics.

    Reader, she left him.

    Now, LW, this may not exactly mirror your experience. But I told this story because it sounds to me like you and your guy were busy having new relationship energy, and didn’t consider one another’s political views until one of you brought up something that you reacted to from a feminist point of view, and he did not. Now in your case, it might be that he was already engaged in discussions where the MRA point of view was the norm, or even identifying himself as an MRA before he met you. But, like what happened to my friend, it might not have come up if you hadn’t explicitly identified as a feminist and wanted to discuss feminist issues when they were in the news.

    Personally, I think it’s a good thing that it did come up sooner, rather than later. Only you can decide whether the good things in this relationship are worth the cost of knowing that you will continue to come up against one another’s political convictions on a regular basis.

  47. Hey LW,

    I’m sorry, and this sounds like a really rough time for you! Jedi hugs to you from over here, if you want them.

    I’ve recently come out of a 7-year relationship that started with him handing me an MRA book in the first year (I didn’t know what MRA even was back then, but I sure as hell knew what feminism was). I read it. It terrified me. I explained to him the parts that terrified me about it (belief that women are a monolith, “The Sisterhood” as a huge organized network, etc etc). He explained the parts to me that resonated with him (feeling rejected due to his appearance, the pressures to be hyper-masculine, the socialization of young men to deny having feelings ever). We talked about it a lot and I was pointing out where all of this was covered under feminism but could understand why some of this rang true, and the book didn’t go to utter extremes (although it went terrifying places — MRAs should have a uniform and badge that identifies them and NOPE). I sent him a book on feminism in return, he read it, and went “huh”.

    There were a lot of conversations about it. A lot of fights. A lot of him denying the experience of me and others. At one point, talking about discrimination in the workplace, he said his sisters had never been discriminated against. I asked him if he’d actually ASKED them that. He said no. I insisted he do so. He did. Surprise! Both had loads of stories.

    I want to chalk a lot of it up to him not being aware of a lot of this — he had some friends who were women, but not many who were close friends, and apparently wasn’t someone his sisters felt okay talking to about that sort of thing (meanwhile it is my go-to story). We both work in a really sexist industry on a GOOD day (it is not a good day) so he didn’t see women in the workplace, or get why that might be a problem.

    We had arguments about things like why there was no “compromise” to “I want to have sex but the other person does not” because that compromise always involved… having sex.

    It took years, but he finally started to get it. He’s now a very outspoken ally of feminism, but is careful to lift up womens’ voices and is always happy to not make the only woman in the meeting have to point out that the idea someone just floated was really sexist (actually, the entire rest of the team was happy to speak up!).

    He had other problems, and I honestly haven’t been able to disentangle the abuse that happened in the relationship as being a result of Things That Are Problems (but you can’t make someone get help) and His Mindset Being He Was The Only Person Who Mattered. I don’t know. I’m still sort of teasing that apart. I spent a lot of time crushing myself smaller and smaller, trying to be the Most Perfect Fiancee, not having my feelings heard or respected, not having my experiences or knowledge matter (but if other people said identical things, well then, that was true!). I spent a lot of time trying to hit moving targets on what he wanted from a relationship, but my needs from the relationship (such as NOT POOPING IN THE BATHTUB) were met with dismissal and was told they were completely unreasonable.

    Anyhow. That’s a lot of talking.

    I guess my question is, do you want to take 7 years of fights, slamming doors, crying, yelling, hanging up the phone, and even then there’s no guarantee he’ll be open to listening? +/- several years because everyone’s mileage will vary. Also involved is: him not believing you, believing your experiences, believing that it is important to you, that it is a topic that significantly harms you. Are you okay with not having your experiences matter, and him not respecting your experiences?

    I think a better question is: how do you feel when he says these things to your friends? If it upsets you, does that matter to him?

    If you someday want kids, how do you feel about him teaching kids this? What will the impact be on them, and how will their gender matter?

    And if the answer to any of these questions is “I don’t feel good about it, actually” then ask if the difficulty of breaking up — the logistics involved, the fact that CHANGE is involved and change is hard, of maybe having to go back to the dating scene — is what is making you hesitate more than the actual decision itself. Because oh, I have been there too, for a very long time. It is hard. But oh my word, it is so, so worth it to not be in a relationship you are not enthused about being in, and I can finally breathe. I’m smiling all the time. I’m HAPPY, and it is a thing I was definitely NOT for a long time, even when I said things were “okay” or kept telling myself “well maybe it will get better”.

    You deserve to be loved and respected the way you want to be loved and respected. You absolutely do not have to settle for someone who has some positive qualities (I think most people do!) but others that actively harm your self-esteem, harm your ability to occupy space, that cause you stress when you read something online and mentally brace for a potential upcoming blow-up, and threaten your equality in the relationship.

  48. Oh. Oh no.
    I am so, so sorry for you, LW, because I have a feeling that no matter what you do, it’s going top hurt, and it’s possibly going to hurt a lot and for a long time.

    Because that clutch in the belly? That nausea you feel when you read about things that are important to you, and imagine his reaction? That’s dread. And in my experience, dread-constant, predictable dread, brought on by specific circumstances that happen frequently-is the Beginning Of The End.

    In the very best outcome, you unpack his views, realize they are somewhat skewed but ultimately not all that far from yours, and you manage to prove to him that not all feminists are Crazy Bitches (Except You).

    But I think it’s more likely that your gut is trying really hard to bring something important to your attention. It’s working against your heart and trying to get your head to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong. That you are not safe. That, even though this guy makes you mostly happy now, you will probably be much unhappier if you stay with this guy.

    Take your time. If you can, take a few days away from your BF and take a good hard look at the excellent advice given here, and compare that to what your gut is trying to tell you. Decide whether you are comfortable putting in the work to educate this man. You don’t have to, but I understand why you might want to.

    If you DO, and the effort fails, it won’t be your fault. If you don’t even try, don’t beat yourself up about it. But do be prepared for the day when he decides that you are not, in fact, the exception to the Rule. Be prepared to be really nice to yourself, because he will probably hurt you quite badly that day.
    Or, you can decide that you’d rather hurt for a while now, and tell him that you just can’t stay with him.

  49. 18 year libertarians, and also all libertarians who run for office ever. Because putting side the scary factor, they’re also sort of the height of hypocrisy. On the spectrum there’s little enough to choose between those two, huh.

    Also, major DTMF going on here. The MRA ideology is toxic and probably does cause cancer.

  50. OK. So, long long ago when I was in my teens and early twenties I did a great line in “one of the guys” and I was quite happy to be friendly with guys who expressed some pretty anti-feminist views even though I myself was a feminist. I even dated one for six months. I also did a great line in “I’m the exception, I’m not like those other silly women who are silly” because internalised misogyny is a thing (I hated the colour pink irationally until my 30s when suddenly I realised that actually there’s nothing especially innately crappy about traditionally femme things, there’s just this societal presentation of anything associated with femininity as silly and trivial and dumb). So anyway. I could sit with the dudes and laugh at sexist jokes and try my hardest not to be one of those women (you know, those women who set boundaries and ask for respect and don’t take crap…).

    But slowly I’ve come to realise a thing. Those men, being sexist, were being dismissive and disrespectful of me. Even when they thought of me as one of the guys and weren’t directing their sexism at me personally, they were contributing to a world that directly limits *my* opportunities, my safety, that undervalues my time and effort, that treats me as less than men. Actually, by making me an exception they got to keep me in line – don’t be like *those* terrible women. Those man hating feminists. Those terrible exes. At its worst comparing you to a terrible ex is the start of emotional abuse, certainly it’s a tactic that’s common in abuse situations. At first you’re the highly flattered exception, then one day you’re just like her, or don’t do that it reminds me of her. And you pull back because, gasp, oh no, not her! You’re not like her!

    How can I put this. There’s a difference between holding different opinions and bigotry. It’s entirely possible to date someone who disagrees with you about the merits of Game of Thrones or who loves gardening when you hate it, or who thinks a holiday is best done on a cruise ship whereas you prefer camping on mountainsides. But dating someone who thinks you’re less intelligent, less capable, less worthy of safety, less worthy of freedom of choice? You, LW, are a woman. Your dude thinks that women who want equality are sick and dangerous. Even if he’s created some kind of mental exception for you he still thinks the rest of us, your fellow feminist women, are sick and dangerous.

    Hell even if this wasn’t about you bigotry is still over my ethical lines. I won’t date a racist, even though I’m white and am not a victim of racism. Because that shit genuinely hurts people, and I just can’t love and respect someone who perpetuates it, especially if they’ve not open to being educated on the problems with their beliefs or behaviour.

    So, I’ve definitely met guys who say negative things about feminism, but are basically just misinformed and ignorant, but are actually good people. But the difference is, when they learn about stuff they didn’t know before they listen and change. They’re shocked and appalled and when they see evidence or listen to what you tell them (because they respect your opinion) they change. They walk the walk of being feminists even though they’re not talking the talk. Like the manager I used to have who wore pin up girl shirts and made crude jokes but also promoted me to a very technical IT role (in an area where women are vanishingly rare) on the strength of potential, and before you ask who never so much as flirted with me.

    You would know by now if your dude is one of the good ones who’s just ignorant. But from what you’ve written he doesn’t really sound like it. What does it say to you that he doesn’t believe the stuff you tell him? That he’s willing to deride a class of person that includes you?

    These days I find sexist men sickening. Because I’m not actually one of the guys. I’m a woman. And that shit they spout is actually about *me* and it has consequences in my life. He might treat you like an exception, but actually, you’re not.

  51. My spouse and I have differing opinions (and worldviews) on some big topics, such as religion, politics, and LGBT issues. We argue (not full-on fight, because we’re both adults and know when to take a break if we can’t keep civil) about these much more often than I’d like to admit. But they’re healthy discussions. We both are comfortable talking about these things to each other (and do so all the time). It wouldn’t be a healthy relationship if one or both of us were uncomfortable doing so. And the main thing is this:

    We both are intelligent and empathetic enough to realise that every single person has as many rights as every single other person. My spouse doesn’t “get” LGBT stuff, he doesn’t understand how a person can be like that, etc. but he would (and has) fight tooth-and-claw to protect a person of that group against abuse or mistreatment because they’re a person first and foremost. I’m a complete atheist, and personally think that religion has possibly done more harm than good to humanity, but I’ll always support and help anyone who is religious, even about religious stuff if I’m able. Because again, a person is a person.

    It is 100% possible to have a happy, long, healthy relationship with someone whose views are completely opposite your own… as long as you agree on some basic human things, like being civil to each other, treating each other with an acceptable level of respect (even and especially when I want to throttle him sometimes), and, you know, treating other people the same way.

    Actually, I guess it just boils down to not being a jerk. It doesn’t matter what your opinions are, as long as they aren’t the kind of views that leave you with no other option than to be a jerk. And any kind of racist, sexist, anti-whatever group beliefs will always make you a jerk (or, a jerk will identify with those beliefs).

    And I fail to see how someone who thinks that drinking too much is justification for sexual abuse (and the other many horrible things mentioned) is not a jerk. Maybe not a jerk directly at you (yet), but still a jerk. I know that I couldn’t stand the sight of my own spouse if I knew that he was, say, anti black rights. Neither of us are black, but the knowledge that that kind of ill-treatment/disrespect of another human is sitting comfortably in his head is infinitely repulsive, even if it doesn’t happen to involve me.

    The problem isn’t that you both have different beliefs on an issue. It’s that he doesn’t think of 50% of humanity as human as the other 50%, or not deserving of the same basic rights like personal safety and respect. That sort of opinion is incompatible with any reasonable person, because frankly, being a jerk is incompatible with reasonable people.

  52. Dear LW, can you honestly say that you see a point in the future where you discuss a feminist issue with him and he says “shit, I never thought of it that way, I see your point?” Is this point anything other than “maybe some day if I’m a good enough girlfriend and skirt round things that bother him and magic pixies completely change his personality”? Groovy, maybe things can work out for you two. Otherwise, I’m sorry to say it, love is sometimes just not enough.

    He’s saying that your opinions don’t change his feelings for you because you’re meant to say the same thing. That way he doesn’t have to address his issues. Does he actually listen to what you say about feminism, I mean really LISTEN rather than “yes dear”? Is he interested in why you feel certain ways, and open to the idea that his views might be wrong?

  53. So basically, you like everything about him, except for the way he thinks and feels.

    That’s a big one.

    I think the real question is why would you want to date someone who believes that someone should have and deserves less because of their gender?

    He deserves women deserve LESS.

    Less dignity.
    Less respect.
    Less of a voice.
    Less than what he deserves.

    Because that’s what he’s afraid of. He’s afraid that somehow you, a woman, will get more from life than he will. This is what drives MRA, not “My rights are being violated. I should be able to say and do what I want, no matter who gets hurt” but “I am a man, and therefore, should get the most out of life by virtue of being born a man. And I don’t want anyone to take that from me.”

    Oh, but he doesn’t mean YOU? Bully for him for making a special exception for the person he’s sleeping with. This is right up there with people who tell racist jokes in front of people of other races and then, “Oh, well, I don’t mean YOU.” Does that make it any less racist? NO.

    Bottom line, you shouldn’t date someone if you feel like you have to overlook a major aspect of their personality. There are other guys out there whose views line up with yours. Guys whose behaviors you won’t have to explain at parties. Guys whose thinking you won’t have to excuse with “Oh, but he had such a toxic childhood.” Go find one of them.

  54. Yeah, I dated this guy. In retrospect (notice all the past tense stuff) it was fairly easy for him to intellectualize it all. “Feminists” are a monolithic hivemind. They pop into the world fully formed scraping their harpy claws over keyboards and disappear screeching in a puff of sulfur if you scream the magic incantation NOTALLMEN with true conviction. But you you! You’re not a feminist! You’re a fully human but misguided young woman who just needs some man-logic to keep you off the dark path!

    I’m always leery about people who view groups they don’t belong to as an inhuman mass off opinions and internet comments but make exception for the people in the group they actually know. It’s intellectually dishonest at the very best. People who cannot conceptualize strangers as fully human are unsafe people.

    A lot of crap gets glossed over in the interest of “fairness.” I get to have my opinions, so he gets to have his. I’ve fallen into this trap time and time again for most of my life, and even now I’m still a bit nervous saying what I believe: not all opinions are created equal, and some of them are just plain wrong. Even on a purely rhetorical level, you can’t grant fairness to someone who thinks the world should be unfair in their favor. Well, you can, but it comes at a very high cost. In my opinion, and my experience, those who would argue that other people (who aren’t them, no, never them!) deserve less rights than they want and need do not deserve the advantage of good faith and fair consideration. Because their CORE ARGUMENT is that it’s totally cromulent to want unfairness and dominance. Take them at their word. People who believes the world should be unfair don’t argue fair.

    This may just be me, but one of the traits I couldn’t do without in a partner is intellectual honesty and compassion. Everyone gets to decide for themselves how much of that they need, if any at all. But I dated a guy who had neither. And being the Shining Exception got very demeaning, tiring, insulting and exhausting. After a while you do start censoring yourself. If one of the things he likes about you is that you’re not like those other women, that becomes prescriptive after a while. You love your partner and you want their love too, so you avoid the topics that make him look at you with a frown or an eye roll. It becomes Not Worth It. It stifles your intellectual development, it prevents you from being fully human, it makes your world smaller, it gnaws at your ability to have compassion for strangers, and try as you might, over the course of the years you start to absorb it. The 500th time you decide you’re too tired to push the boulder up the hill that day, your brain starts trying to protect you. “You’re not letting him waltz all over you! He’s being reasonable and you’re just seeing his reasonable point!” Trust me when I say your brain will do astounding things to protect your sanity and dignity and it will conjure up an entire parallel universe where you aren’t in a relationship with someone who think you deserve less rights and safety than he does. It’d be fascinating if it wasn’t so goddamn dangerous.

    Anyway, your boyfriend thinks some people, including you, deserve less rights, safety and fairness than he does. That seems to be the salient point here. You can do with that what you will.

  55. LW, do you seriously think this guy is good enough for you? ‘Cause he doesn’t sound like it.

    It sounds like you’re lowering your standards because you’re already invested. You can make these decisions yourself, of course, but through all the suggestions of unpicking his beliefs, pointing him towards things that may educate him…is he worth that time from you? Why does he deserve your coaching to be a basic level of decent human being? Why shouldn’t you be in a relationship with someone who respects you, jives with your views and interests, doesn’t make you feel knotted up inside?

    You’re better than this and you deserve to be happier than this. You deserve a boyfriend, not a fucking educational project. You deserve someone who isn’t embarrassingly stupid.

    ‘Cause we can all be super-polite about it and try to be understanding but honestly? His views make him a stupid dickhead. Not all opinions are equal and his are scraping the bottom of a barrel of shit.

    He is *not* the best you can do. You could be in a relationship with someone far better, or single without knots in your stomach. I think you could be happier than this, LW, and you deserve to be. Base your decision on your happiness, your goals and what you want your life to be – not on fear of being alone or this guy being the best you can get. I can’t help thinking that you may have some issues around low self-esteem, because you describe him as someone who makes you feel bad and yet here you are in this relationship. Don’t think like that.

    Relationships need compromise and negotiating to work. But they shouldn’t *be* compromise and negotiation. Staying should never feel like a compromise. Don’t settle. The compromise is about practical shit, not how happy and comfortable and safe you are.

    I’m sorry, LW. You are more than entitle to decide how to proceed, how much effort you want to put into unpicking and educating, how much more of a chance you want to give him. But you are also more than entitled to say ‘fuck this, this isn’t good enough for me, he isn’t good enough for me, and I am out of here.’

  56. I have become a very firm believer in taking people at their word. Student: I don’t have time to read the textbook. Me: Ok, I believe you. So then you are unlikely to pass this class (rather than trying to help them figure out their schedule when they really just want to blame me*). Former partner: I am really bad at relationships, plus I think it’s reasonable to talk about “babysitting” my own daughter. Me: Ok, I believe you! I don’t really want to be in a relationship with someone who is bad at relationships (and not working on getting better). Random person on the internet: I think these rape things are way out of proportion! Me: Ok! I believe that is what you think, and I am OUT OF HERE!
    Obviously, YMMV like whoa, but I think, dear LW, that it might be worth taking him at his word about his beliefs, even if just as a thought exercise, and see how you feel and react to that.
    Possible example from your letter: Him: I think feminists are scary and damaging! You: I believe that you think that, and wow… that scares me because I AM A FEMINIST, you are talking about me.
    Him: This Steubenville stuff, geeze, I think women lie about rape! You: Ok, I hear you saying that you believe it is more important to speculate that women lie about rape than to have empathy for someone who has been very badly hurt. That is… very not much like how I see the world.
    I think that you really have already the information that you need to figure out what to do here, but sometimes this type of thought exercise can help.

    **I really will help students who really come to me for help… this is a description of a specific case where taking them at their word rather than trying to cajole them out of it was very revealing.

    1. Once upon a time, when I had known someone for about three weeks, she said to me, “You are going to get hurt in this relarionship, because I am selfish, manipulative, and dishonest.” I said to myself, “It will be different with me becuase we love each other and she won’t have to be those things with me.” Seven years later, she left me, and after I got over the initial pain, I was relieved. Because you know what? She was right, she was all those things.

      When someone tells you who they are, believe them. He has told you he thinks women are to blame for being raped and that gang rape is okay if the woman is drunk. Believe him. He has told you he thinks some of your most cherished beliefs are “crazy and dangerous” — believe that this lack of respect for your beliefs is real. Believe what he says about who he is.

      1. This, so very much, plus echoing what the Captain said: “When he says “feminists are crazy and damaging,” you realize, he means you, right? He means you.”
        What really stood out for me in your letter was references to occasions where “he feels “feminists” are getting out of line”. OUT OF LINE? Not “wrong”, not “extreme”, but out of line? Is that really what he thinks? That Women need to be Put In Their Place? Because again, he means you.
        If I sound extreme it’s because I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around the idea that anyone could date someone who thinks women who write articles about video games should be threatened with rape and murder.
        I’ve found this article helpful by the way.

  57. Long time lurker coming out of the woodwork because…I dated this guy. Well except mine wasn’t actually that generous, funny, sweet or thoughtful aaand he looked like a duck.
    But anyway, the point:
    the best thing about ditching him was getting rid of the weird mind control I hadn’t realised I’d started conforming to. I’d actually shut up when he told me I was being “too feminist”. I did the self-censorship thing the you’ve started doing. The ‘oh god what would he say if I brought this up’ thing. The ‘let’s not tell my friends all of the things he said about X’ thing. The ‘let’s hope nobody starts discussing Y while he’s there’ thing.
    Obviously different situations and in mine it came with a fun side salad of manipulation and all round awfulness. And once I’d escaped I had to process a lot of anger at self for dating him for longer than 5 minutes. But I’m getting overtones.

    But in short I’m not sure you can “fix this” especially if like duck face a rational discussion about his bigoted views is off the table…

    LW I hope you figure it out but I fear you already have…

  58. Just to give a different side to things (although I’m not sure this would apply/work with this guy) – my husband used to be pretty anti-feminist, not in a pro-MRA kind of way, but just in a ‘feminists want things to be weighted towards women!!1!’ kind of way. Then he got a job working with teenagers. Now he is not only super feminist, but also teaches them about feminism, rape culture, etc. Seeing how the world disadvantages/messes up teenage girls and has overly fixed ideas of gender roles really changed his mind, far more than anything I could say. So people who say ‘I’m not a feminist/I don’t like feminism’ can definitely learn to “see the light”, no matter what gender they are.

  59. “If I knew he had these opinions and this hate back when we first started dating, I would have walked away in a heartbeat.” This really resonates with me. LW, please don’t stay – sunk costs will get higher over time. This guy has given you the gift of telling you who he is early on. Of course he waited until he hooked you, that was no accident IMO. I suspect you are only going to be “special” until the hook is sunk even deeper. “I love him” is not a reason to stay. You will love many people in your life. When someone makes you unhappy and sick inside on a regular basis, that is not a healthy loving relationship. And when you do feel sick inside, are you still speaking up to him, telling him your thoughts? Or have you already begun to keep those to yourself to avoid angering him? Some controlling people are also very subtle, patient and manipulative, especially the ones who are so sweet, generous, and otherwise charming.

  60. I was once that sortof man. I would understand if you broke up with him. I think this issue is that he is not yet self aware. Maybe someday… but not now.

  61. Some things to consider:

    1- How do you think things would go down if, a month from now, you had an unexpected pregnancy? Would you want to keep or terminate? How do you see him reacting to the news and the subsequent discussion of How We Are Handling This?
    2- How do you think things would go down if, upon moving in together, you had to negotiate a housework schedule.agreement with each other? Consider how often, in what ways and to what level he is an equal, contributing member of the household he currently lives in – whether it’s with parents or friends or whatever. If he lives with both men and women, who in that household does the bulk of the housework? If say, you were both working and then he lost his job for a period, do you see him stepping forward to take on the bulk of the at-home work while in between jobs?
    3- How do you think things would go down if, and I hope this never happens, you became a victim of sexual assault, harassment or sexual violence? Are there any circumstances under which you would not feel comfortable going to him for support? Or under which you would not tell him about it at all? How would you see him handling things if you were assaulted by a friend of his, for example? What if you had been drinking at the time of the assault, or otherwise doing one of the Endless Things The Victims Should Not Have Done?
    4- How do you think things would go down if a mutual friend or relative of yours, currently in a relationship, came out as a survivor of spousal abuse and needed your help and support to handle the clusterfuck of danger and hardship involved in breaking free of that?

    It is entirely possible to happily be in a relationship with someone who has fundamentally different beliefs to you on things. It’s not always easy. But it can be done – people date and find love across religious and political lines all the time. But it is essential that both people be on the same team on the fundamental things that matter. That they be able to work together on the hardships they face.

    I don’t know if an MRA and a feminist can do that – there are some massive and fundamental differences to reconcile there. But you know your dude better than I do. so that’s a question for you to answer.

  62. I don’t have much to add, but I just wanted to thank the Captain for tackling this letter. It is so timely for my own life that it’s almost crazy. I couldn’t have written it yet, but I can see where I might have written it in a year or so. And now I won’t because it’s just confirmation of what my brain already knows about my friend. That we can maybe be friends, but relationship is OUT and would be a disaster.

    Thank you.

  63. Sometimes labels can confuse the issue unnecessarily. When he says he doesn’t like “feminists”, it’s possible that he means, “I’m totally in favor of gender equality, but I have a negative association with the word ‘feminist’ based on the ‘angry feminist’ trope that’s often seen in the media.” But it’s also possible that he means, “I am against gender equality and I don’t respect women.” So the LW may want to look beyond the label and try to understand the essence of what he’s expressing to her. To try and understand his character, not just his stated political alignment. LW, if I were you, I would ask myself – does he see women as being equal to men, with equal right to their opinions, equal right to feel safe, equal right to healthcare access, equal right to equal pay – etc etc. Or does he not? And regarding his character – does he treat other people with empathy and compassion, EVEN WHEN things aren’t necessarily going his way? Is he honest, even when honesty is hard? Is he loyal? Does he practice forgiveness, or does he treat people who wronged him with a ‘scorched earth’ policy? Is he humble or does he generally think he knows best at all times? Does he hold one narrow idea of how a woman is supposed to act, or does he allow that a woman can act in a variety of ways, just as a man can? Does he have a basic level of respect for people who are different from him, or does he think everyone needs to be EXACTLY like him in order to deserve his respect? These are the types of question I would ask myself, if I were you, and I would also confront him with questions that get at these issues, to try to understand what he really thinks and feels, and not just what political group he aligns with. If it turns out that his views and his character are basically decent, but he has aligned himself with repugnant politics because he enjoys that self image, or he’s misunderstood their meaning, or somesuch, then that may be one things. But if (as I suspect) it turns out that nope, it’s not a matter of misunderstanding, it’s a matter of him genuinely holding views that you abhor, a matter of him genuinely having what you consider to be massive character flaws, then – I think this relationship is DOA, and you should probably break up with him. In my opinion, if you don’t respect the essential nature of the person you’re dating, then you cannot have a relationship with them. That may seem obvious, but it can be hard to think about it that way when, for example, you’re attracted to your partner, or perhaps excited by them, charmed by them, etc. Those things are all very important too, of course, but again – if you don’t respect their essential character, you can’t have a (good) relationship with them.

  64. It looks to me as if on one side of the scales you have his MRA beliefs, and on the other side you have your love for him. Not his actions which are at odds with his stated beliefs, not a binding commitment that would make it complicated to split, not something about the way he treats you. Just your love. The thing is, unless you’re on the grey-aromantic spectrum, love is not something that’s hard to find.
    Love is not rare. Men who are attracted to women are not rare (in fact, isn’t that something MRAs like to complain about?). You are not some spectacularly difficult person to love, or, judging by the way you’re trying to be considerate of your partner here, appalling at relationships. You can and will find love again, with someone who DOES think you’re actually a person and values what you have to say.

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