I Feel Like A Bad Feminist When I’m In A Relationship
I’ve always been passionate about justice. From punching bullies on playgrounds to writing my thesis on the cracks in our international justice system, I’ve always been a bit of an ethics vigilante. Equality and respect among individuals is the definition of heaven on earth in my mind.
So that also makes me a feminist. I am an advocate for the “social, political, and economic equality of the sexes,” to quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie #flawless.
People say I am a “strong woman.” First off: I hate that term because why the EFF is such a qualifying term even in existence…but I guess in some eyes, I am one. I’m 25 years old, have a degree from a top ten school, and am hardcore career-driven/borderline perfectionist in my work. I also rarely wear bras, just discovered eyeshadow a year ago, and have the fashion taste of a gender-fluid 90’s child. I am Determined. Focused. Uncompromising. And definitely not “feminine.”
Until I am dating somebody. And then, I become a bad feminist. I…uh…hell, I embrace a relationship with a power dynamic based on traditional gender norms.
And I don’t mind it! I know, I feel like a BAD FEMINIST. I’m the worst. And this dynamic certainly isn’t forced on me. My man doesn’t look at me and say, “As the man, I will now pursue you, lead this relationship and plan our dates”—he just does, and I love it.
I let him pay for my dinners. I begin to dress up for him. Suddenly I’m showering more often (I’m normally a gross human), spending as much money on makeup as food, indulging in domestic tasks to show off, and clenching my sphincter so I don’t pass gas around him. I take on some more traditionally gendered female behavior.
I put stress on myself to look good and smell good around him, but I don’t hold him to the same standard. And whereas normally I enjoy pummeling my opponents in a debate, I don’t like all-out brawls of opinion with him. In fact, I usually just try to find what we agree on. In a relationship, I like him taking the reins, guiding us, and looking out for me; protecting my needs and cares. I find myself comfortable with letting him be the leader. Some women reading this probably want to punch me in the face right now.
The worst blow to my goal of establishing equality between men and women in every domain? I start recognizing that our needs in the relationship aren’t even equal. I need respect, but if I’m not receiving love and feeling pursued, I hurt. He needs love, but if he doesn’t feel respected and looked up to, then he hurts. As a man, he prioritizes his relationship needs differently.
WHAT IS LIFE?!?
So how do I live out the truth that social, political and economic equality is essential for the sexes? How do I become a better feminist in a relationship? I think it starts with recognizing what feminism really means, more than just objective equality of the sexes.
Being a feminist means believing that the best version of you does not have anything to do with “gendering” your behavior or speech.
Being a feminist means empowering humanness over gendered identity. Being a feminist means believing that the best version of you does not have anything to do with “gendering” your behavior or speech. You can be a feminist and hardcore love nail polish, the color pink, wearing heels and cooking pot roast. You can also be a feminist and never shave, love pink, love sports, and want to be a stay-at-home mom. And you can be a feminist who hates sports and loves beer, shopping and weightlifting. You can be a good feminist and love/hate whatever combination of “masculine” or “feminine” things you want. You are only a bad feminist in a relationship if you conform to an idea of femininity that is not your own, just because society or others tell you to.
Because gendered behavior and terms like masculine and feminine are a marketable illusion. It’s just behavior, guys, and picking and choosing which behavior you want to ascribe to is YOUR prerogative — that’s what good feminism is all about.
So I do shave now more than I used to. I do try to look pretty for my man and let him pursue me. But he also loves to cook. And I prefer action thrillers over rom coms. He is grossed out by everything, but come poop, blood or gas, I’m fine. But I still let him lead. Because he listens to me. Because I am not a woman to him first—I am his partner first. I am not his girlfriend, I am his best friend. He would do anything for me, and visa versa. And that’s equality to me.