Feminism means a lot to me. I've spent my entire life surrounded (almost solely) by strong, powerful women, and that's something I don't ever intend to change. It's not that I avoid or dislike men (which way too many people seem to think is what the word "feminism" means), it's just — women are great, and women's rights are incredibly important to me. So, I definitely wouldn't date a guy who doesn't proudly call himself a feminist, which is why I added "feminists only" to my dating profile.
Well, to be specific, I added, "Feminists only (but seriously, if one more guy asks me for nudes, I'm done with men)." Because I really am. I'm done with the culture that made me feel ashamed when I sexually assaulted at 16. Done with the, "Well, you shouldn't have worn that dress," comments colleagues gave me when I was upset that men had shouted and purred at me as I walked to work. Done with the fact that women make 78 cents to a man's dollar (for women of color, the pay divide is even greater ).
I switched my app settings to cover everyone from age 20 to 55 to see what men across generations had to say on the matter. To me, men who claim to be feminists should be willing to stand right beside me and say, "Hey! I'm on your team! I'll fight for your rights!" And I'd expect nothing less from a potential suitor. Given the current political climate and rise of the #MeToo movement, I was sure that all my matches would all quickly and confidently announce that yes, they were totally on board with feminism — who wouldn't be?
But (spoiler alert!) some men are fools, and many are still crazy blind to the fact that feminism is A) not about bringing men down, and B) So. Freaking. Necessary. Here are six men's thoughts on why they do or don't call themselves feminists. Prepare to roll your eyes ad nauseam.
Jean started by complimenting my dog, which is basically the key to my heart. When I asked if he was really a feminist, though, everything went downhill. Fast.
Jean proclaimed that feminism was B.S., because women can "obviously do whatever they want." Oh, and apparently all feminists have armpit hair (some do, some don't, and now I'm tempted to grow mine out of pure spite).
As I explained to Jean, it's easy to claim something is divisive or unnecessary if you've never experienced, you know, millennia of patriarchal nonsense. But Jean stood by his position that feminism was not the answer. Now, I should note that Merriam-Webster offers two definitions of the word "feminism." The first is "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes;" the second is "organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests." I would love to hear if Jean's got any better ideas on how to address issues like the wage gap, but sadly, I never heard back.
Aadil's profile mostly featured photos of his abdomen, and his bio read "B*tches, beer, and fighting," (yup, really). So, I assumed he was pretty far from a feminist. Turns out I was right.
At first, he claimed to be a fifth-wave feminist (which isn't a thing yet), and then described himself as a "humanist." Personally, I have a lot of issues with the term humanism. From where I sit, feminism is labeled as such because equality can only be achieved by advocating for the oppressed — or, at least the more oppressed of two groups (in this case, women). But I put my own frustrations with "humanism" aside to ask Aadil what it meant to him.
Then he turned around and made a joke about men dominating women, because — as his bio explained — fighting is one of his favorite things. See ya never, Aadil!
Steven was off to a rough start.
One of my middle school teachers once told us that things really "evened out" between the sexes after women earned the right to vote in 1920. He explained that once women's suffrage was granted, men were no longer expected to give up their seats on trains to ladies, that a balance was struck. I remember thinking, "Why is this anecdote about men giving up their seats part of a lesson about women fighting for, and gaining, certain rights?" And Steven's argument feels like the same kind of ridiculous red herring.
Chivalry and feminism are not mutually exclusive, for one, but doesn't claiming that they are feel like a way to detract from the larger issues at play? I think a lot of men are afraid of acknowledging that they're a part of the problem, so they say things like, "Hey, we pay for dinner!" and expect that to somehow make up for the fact that so much of our culture treats women as little more than sex toys. FYI: it definitely does not.
Oh, and P.S., Steven: This may be "my perspective" of feminism, but guess what? As the resident woman in this conversation, my perspective is kind of the one that matters here.
After chatting with Steven, I started pacing around my living room and ranting about burning the patriarchy to the ground. Then Patrice messaged me, and he really turned my frown upside down.
This was my absolute favorite answer. It was honest and candid and just... thank goodness for Patrice. We all have work to do, for sure, but I was so excited that Patrice acknowledged that and proudly explained how his own views had been shaped by the feminine influence in his life.
I decided to switch up my question when I chatted with Isaac. Instead of asking if he was a Feminist with a capital F, I asked how much of a feminist he considered himself to be, on a scale of one to 10. Isaac was confused.
Then he countered my question with this little multiple choice quiz, and like, nope, Isaac. This is not the time or place. (But also, if you can't give me all three, what are you doing wrong?)
Luke was "def" not a feminist, but seemed to expect me to rejoice in the fact that he wasn't going to send me explicit pictures?
Like almost all of the men I spoke to, Luke seemed to deeply misunderstand the meaning of the word feminism.
Ah, yes. The "I don't like labels" argument. Sure that one comes in clutch when it's time to DTR, right, Luke?
Talking to Luke was kind of like banging my head against a brick wall (too harsh?), so I decided to abandon our convo here.
After a million or so conversations like this one (the six featured here are just a small selection), I was getting both nervous and curious — was it a coincidence that the majority of men I spoke to on Tinder deeply misunderstood what it meant to be a feminist, or was this confusion more widely shared? When I asked a few men in my own life — men I know support the ideals of the feminist movement — if they would call themselves feminists, I got the same kind of hesitant replies. They said things like, "I guess you could say I'm a feminist," and "I'm not sure I would outright label myself that way."
I was shocked.
Why the uncertainty, guys? Does it have to do with our culture of toxic masculinity — are you afraid to identify as a "feminist" because the word itself sounds inherently anti-masculine? Are you secretly afraid of a world in which women (and every other marginalized group, for that matter) have access to the same opportunities as men? Maybe I'll never know. But it's a discussion I definitely want to continue having with the men, whether I meet them at bars or on dating apps or have known them my entire life. It no longer feels like enough to accept that a guy acts like a feminist; if you're not willing to say (or shout) that you're a feminist, how can I know you're truly an ally?
So no, I'm still not down to date anyone who doesn't sport the (apparently terrifying) label of "feminist" with pride. No matter how difficult he may be to find.
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