(Day After) Wednesday Weigh-In: Dating While Feminist

two figures in front of a heartDating seems to be on everyone’s minds lately. Perhaps it’s part of the new year, new me, new boo energy still lingering in the air. Even here at Feministing we’ve been talking about “Crazy Blind Dates” and the challenges to Darwin’s dating ideas. And much of what I hear about dating in hip hop revolves around Christian Louboutins. All of this is wonderful, for someone who isn’t me.

To put it simply, dating while feminist, black, queer, polyamorous, broke, and loud means not dating, kind of. I find that people who compliment any one of those traits too well completely fail in regards to the others. Thinking about feminism specifically, I’ve found that it’s cute and sexy to my partners when I’m abstractly theorizing about gender inequities. But the moment it becomes evident in my life and relationship practices, I’m a bit too extreme for them.

Much of our internalized sexism manifests itself in how we perform and navigate our intimate relationships. And even I can admit that it’s hard to let go of some of the ideas about dating and loving when those things secretly, and sometimes publicly, make us feel good and desired. For me, the struggle to either be honest or feel sexy is real.

It’s a topic feminists will surely be discussing until the end of time. I’m interested to hear other people’s feminist adventures in dating. Care to share?

Related: The Wednesday Weigh-In: Online Dating Edition

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

Read more about Sesali

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/tkalenb/ Kalen T

    For myself, I find that being explicitly clear that I’m a feminist has led to some interesting meet-ups. For the most parts, I think it weeds out a lot of the people who I don’t want to be dating/meeting in the first place if they’re intimidated by a label backed up by their own stereotypical beliefs about what a feminist looks/behaves like. To some folks, they don’t really care.

    I’m comfortable going dutch and prefer it among friends, however, among dating relationships my bias leans toward thinking more highly of the person who asks *and* pays even though I will always offer to go dutch. Not necessarily because of expected gender norms, but rather, I understand that they’re being generous (and hopefully not basing they’re behavior off of expected cultural norms). I’ve found that in some dates I’ve been on, folks want to split 50/50 on the bill so as to take advantage of going dutch (i.e. they get something ridiculously expensive to eat and whereas I get something well within my means, and they want to split down the middle, citing my own feminist stance when I just want to “go dutch” in the sense that we each pay for our own).

    In many of my relationships, I’ve tried my best to cordon off the feminism because I recognize that it is both a philosophy I try to practice in my daily life as well as a strong personal interest. I’ll talk with other folks who are interested in the subject, but if they flatly aren’t interested — for example, I’m not interested in hearing about the latest developments in neuroscience and biochemistry as intriguing as those are — I’m not going to force the people I’m dating to take an interest in it, but they need to know as well as accept that feminism is very important to me. However, if their lifestyle conflicts with mine to the point where egalitarianism is sacrificed (i.e. rigid gender roles, incompatible values, etc.), I find myself a lot more unhappy and know when it’s time to leave.

  • http://feministing.com/members/lindsey/ Lindsey

    I can definitely identify with your experiences – I am queer, non-monogamous (or monogamish as I like to say :)), and feminist and these identities very strongly shape who I am as a person and what I want my romantic life to look like. When I explain preferences or the lenses through which I see dating at first some people seem to feel that they are refreshing or a mark of someone who has thought deeply about cultural constructions of gender, gender roles, romantic love, etc, etc…. But when it becomes evident that these identities mean that my dating practices or roles within a relationship may mean concrete differences relative to normative practices, that is when people start to feel anxious and these become the ‘make or break’ moments. I am in a long-term relationship with a queer, male partner who also identifies as feminist, and this has been a great source of strength and a re-centering force in tense moments where we have disagreed or seemed to have stumbled on an issue that seems very difficult to resolve. At the same time, even with both identifying as feminists we have spent mannnnnnnyyyy hours discussing what this means for our romantic relationship preferences and how to highlight our strengths and build bridges between our differences and our own interpretations of feminism, dating, and romantic love have grown as a result. Self-growth is not an easy road, but feminism has definitely played a big role in that for both of us in our dating lives together (and now with other people that we have opened up our relationship).

  • http://feministing.com/members/smsintexas/ Sarah

    I try to pay my fair share into a relationship – whether it’s dating, more serious, or just friends. I don’t feel right about someone else footing the bill for all of my meals, entertainment, lodging, etc. Lots of guys have a really hard time with this. I try to not make it a big deal but I know it makes many guys I’ve dated uncomfortable. At that point it’s like – OK who should be uncomfortable, me or him? Because I’m uncomfortable having some guy I barely know pay for me all the time like I’m his kid or client.

    Same with driving… I once had an ex boyfriend tell me that my driving us places was emasculating. I like to drive, too! Why should he get/have to drive us everywhere every time we go somewhere?

    And finally, strip clubs, which I know is a very controversial subject and not a feminist issue. But I do think it is a huge sexist double-standard that somehow society has convinced everyone is totally acceptable. I know that no man I’ve dated would be happy with me paying another man to take off his pants. Yet a lot of them found it odd that I classify that behavior as infidelity and unacceptable. “But it’s SO acceptable to my friends! Their girlfriends are fine with it.” Who cares. I’m not. If you want the freedom to hang out with other naked girls, you can date someone else.

    • honeybee

      Interesting what you say about strip clubs – my husband and past partners never had a problem with me going to them. None of my friends partners did either. In fact in my experience alot of guys get excited at the thought of us going to a strip club (hoping we will come randy and/or hoping we’ll go Lesbian on each) which I’m fine with.

      I’ve never heard of a double standard in this regard. If anything I’ve found it’s more acceptable for women to go then men, since no man actually considers it cheating but I’ve heard of a handful of women (you being one) that do care. For me I don’t care if my husband goes as long as it’s infrequent like a bachelor party or something.

      • http://feministing.com/members/smsintexas/ Sarah

        The double standard I was referring to is that I know my boyfriends would not have approved of me paying money to other MEN to take off their clothes (since I am a heterosexual woman and attracted to men).

    • http://feministing.com/members/jakswim18/ Jen

      I second all that!

  • http://feministing.com/members/jasminem/ Jasmine

    I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for approx. 3 years and I’ve only really discovered my “loud and proud” feminist side within the past year or two. I think I got lucky because my partner has really embraced it and in some ways become a bit of a feminist himself. For me, guys who dig feminism are the best ones!!

    In terms of relationship nuances, we’ve always gone “Dutch”. That’s partially because we’re broke students and also because as others mentioned, I don’t feel right expecting a man to handle all of the responsibility. The same goes for driving. If a man thinks a woman is incapable of driving or paying for her own things then there are probably some control issues going on…

    For me, my growing interest in feminism has actually improved my relationship. We can have more open conversations about societal/political issues that I previously would only talk about with other girls. It’s been really nice to be around someone who supports my thoughts and encourages me to challenge them, as opposed to someone who treats you condescendingly for being a woman with strong views. So, ladies, hang in there! There are partners out there that will embrace and appreciate our feministing ways :)