Jennifer Maidment is an intersectional feminist who’s very active within her local community and also very single, so figured she’d would write about her experience/struggles. She’s an aspiring writer and is currently on leave from studying international law as an undergraduate at University of Birmingham.
What does feminist dating look like?
Meet Jennifer, a Gemini, Londoner, hopeless romantic, and a ‘good’ feminist?
I’ve been single for well over a year, which has forced me in to the urban surfari, known as the dating scene. It’s left me wounded, unsatisfied, still single and with a question. Is it possible to be a feminist and navigate the dating scene to find “the one”? Honestly, I think it is very possible, especially if you are dating liberal queer people who all live in your utopian bubble of veganism and sexual liberation. However, I cannot date all my friends. So, I’m left to wade through the dark and murky world of tinder;a hell hole of misogyny, dick pics and perhaps my soulmate. Can I be a ‘good’ feminist and conquer the single life?
Upon making my tinder bio, I included two things, a photo of me at a protest against the DUP and the word ‘feminist’. The reactions I got varied, but I can sort most into three distinct categories:
- The Problematic Meninist
- A Whole Bucket of Confusion
- The Millennial Feminist Bro
The Problematic Meninist
You’ve definitely seen or at least heard about this guy before. There are Instagram accounts dedicated to documenting the crazy and terrible things (usually) men say – these vary from almost innocuous “get back in the kitchen” to outright threats of violence. Meninists took the red pill and don’t plan on returning to the real world anytime soon. As soon as the word feminist is brought up, it has to become about them and their ‘struggle’. Their ‘struggle’ usually is women not immediately wanting to bed them (I mean how dare women have bodily autonomy or choice?) and then having the audacity to want the same human rights. These men do not make me want to get rid of the word feminist from my bio. Instead, I’m given a sense that I am weeding out the weak. I know my peers may feel differently though; is online abuse worth 8 characters in your bio?
If I didn’t include that word, maybe even went on a date with one of these men who hadn’t shown their true colours, would I be a bad feminist? Am I responsible for the behaviour of a partner? Isn’t that pretty sexist that it is up to the woman? Or I am I complicit in upholding the patriarchy and sexism if I don’t change their views? Entertaining the views of these men makes my skin crawl and entertaining these views can get women hurt. Feminism is and isn’t as simple as believing men and women have human rights, its political. I cannot physically be responsible for every slimy man who swipes right for me on tinder but surely I can be responsible of my own voice in conversations with them, especially as feminism is the only reason I have that voice in the first place surely?
A Whole Bucket of Confusion
The second man you will encounter is confused. There is a sliding scale of confusion, from “do we still really need feminism?” to “what’s intersectionality?”. I realise that I am also confused in this scenario, also about feminism, but in a very different context. Is it my job to educate this man?
The men I am dating are either in higher education such as a university or are completely out of education, therefore the only way they can independently learn about feminist theory is if they opt-in. They have to choose to go and google for hours, read articles or sign up for that gender studies class. Admittedly, asking a random girl on tinder does seem like the easier option.
Men don’t inherently experience sexism, as much as they are affected by the patriarchy, they have a level of privilege that is not afforded to women. I started to take an interest in feminism when I first got cat-called at 10 years old, even if I didn’t know exactly what feminism was. I felt compelled to find out why I was being treated differently and worse than the boys in my class, cis men don’t share that experience. So, I am left with two burning questions, do I put in my limited emotional labour and time to explain complex, nuanced theory to a random man or do I tell them Google was invented for a reason? And, are both of those replies incorrect, making me the bad feminist? What really is my duty as a feminist?
These questions are similar to those I asked about the problematic Meninist. They boil down to whether it’s up to us as women to educate, and honestly, I don’t know the answer. There must be a line between infantilising men and being a gatekeeper of knowledge rendering the movement inaccessible. I thus engaged with my friends and peers to form some sort of answer. Women of colour in my life have a similar take on white people, they should know what is racist without having to be told why that’s racist. As a queer woman, I have a similar problem with straight people, I shouldn’t have to explain why bisexual representation IS important but alas I am expected to. The question of education goes far beyond the online messages of tinder but is truly epitomised in these private and intimate settings.
The Millennial Feminist Bro
Lastly there is our feminist bro. He asked you which wave of feminism you believe in and didn’t even need intersectionality explained to him. The dream partners. Now the questions I have surrounding them, are far less about them and more about me. How should I, as a feminist, be behaving? I find myself not messaging first, dressing for the male gaze and being more submissive on a date. I know part of this is to do with the way we socialise and teach women, when it comes to relationships, but as an out and proud raging feminist shouldn’t I have gotten rid of these patriarchal shackles?
I have come to the unsurprising conclusion that there is no obvious and correct way to be a good feminist when dating, but that doesn’t help with the everyday. We shouldn’t be expected to educate, but if we can, we should at least endeavour. At some point down the line we chose to actively engage with the system to help fight the patriarchy to better the lives of not only ourselves but women around us, so at this point, whether it be at a bar or sitting on the toilet swiping back and forth, we have the engage. “Fight the power” can’t just end at love’s door. I guess this article is truly to start the process of trying to question what, in the most basic aspect of everyday life, we are doing to tear down the system. Personally, I doubt I will stop dressing for the male gaze on a date, but I also think I’ll be telling myself not to let myself be quieter in an effort for ‘him’ to like me. It’s in the little things. It’s sad we live in a world where intersectional feminism isn’t the basic requirement for human decency, but I don’t think turning away all those who haven’t accessed the same political education is going to work. Won’t it just lead to a lot of inbreeding in that liberal bubble, which we’ve already seen the consequence of over in the US with the election of Trump; the unapologetically anti-PC figurehead becoming the hero of white working-class people. I don’t think those people deserve my sympathy or effort but if I don’t put in that effort, especially as an educated person, who will? Being that ‘good’ feminist means self-reflection, and perhaps by addressing our own actions, we can achieve the feminist goal, changing the world, even if that’s one tinder date at a time.
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Or, you could post a link to this essay in your profile. 🙂