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What Feminism Means for Our Dating Lives

What do we think of when we hear the term “feminist?” A strong, independent woman who doesn’t need to rely on a man? Or is it more along the lines of a woman who resents male power and therefore resents all men? The common misconception that feminists hate men has not only created a backlash against feminism, but has also created a tricky paradox for the women who choose to date men. The stereotypes and definitions in place in our society surrounding the word “feminist” often place women who identify as one at a crossroads between taking a stand against male dominance and wanting a love life. The truth lies in the words of feminist writer Naomi Wolf, “You can hate sexism and love men.” So, what then does feminism mean for our love lives and relationships with the opposite sex?

The misconception that feminism means hating men has the potential to cause significant problems for feminists who choose to date, well, men. With many negative stereotypes still in place, proclaiming yourself a feminist doesn’t exactly seem like the best way to score dates. We imagine that a man might be reluctant to date a feminist for fear that he will be personally criminalized for society’s perpetual—and present—gender inequalities. A feminist therefore might be reluctant to express her beliefs for fear that men will think that she is going to blame them individually for injustices such as sexism. However, we know that as feminists, we are not going to blame every man we date for gender inequalities. We also would never date a man who is a sexist in the first place. We are way past the old idea that feminists are man-hating, bra-burners, and it is time that we stop letting these old stereotypes make us feel like we have to choose between feminism and a love life. As feminists, we are just women looking for some fundamental rights and maybe a man to have by our side while we change the world—and yes we are allowed to have both.

Getting past the man-hater stereotype is not the only issue that feminists face when entering the dating scene. Many feminists may feel like they have to leave feminism at home in order to have successful love lives because typical gender roles still tend to control the world of heterosexual dating. For example, the man is still supposed to pick up the check, even if the woman should attempt an offer to pay. Men, for the most part, are still expected to make the first move, to be the ones who call first, and the ones to make the plans for the date. These expectations exist because men and women are still thought to be inherently different, and therefore need a specific set of guidelines when dealing with the opposite sex. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? Romantic comedies such as “The Ugly Truth” starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler show us how men and women theoretically have very different mindsets when it comes to dating and love. The movie suggests that women think with their heads and men think with their…you know what. Now we understand that gender is not just the binary of male and female; rather, gender is a spectrum where people can feel free to identify themselves however they choose. Feminists support the idea that men and women are not stuck in a gender binary that renders them distinct and separate. The supposed fundamental differences between men and women are actually not that fundamental after all. As feminists, we reject the idea that men and women are intrinsically different in order to see all human beings as equals—economically, politically, and socially—with the same opportunities and rights. Therefore, the stereotypical rules of dating are unacceptable because they perpetuate the idea that the gender binary and fundamental differences exist. However, with these guidelines still in place in the heterosexual dating world, playing by the rules feels like we are going against everything we stand for as feminists.

So in the pursuit of a healthy love life, how exactly do we go about hating sexism and loving men? It is in fact possible to engage in the heterosexual dating world without having to give into the typical gender expectations because we have the power to eliminate them. In order to get rid of the paradox between feminist ideals and heterosexual dating, we need to give up both the gender expectations we have for men and the gender expectations we have for ourselves. Although this solution sounds simple, it is not as easy in fruition. Giving up our gender expectations means rethinking nearly everything we have been taught about dating. However, believe it or not, getting rid of these guidelines and promoting gender equality is actually good for our love lives. Without expectations of what men and women must do when dating, we can be free to really be ourselves and get to know a member of the opposite sex as a person instead of as a man or a woman. Viewing men and women as equals gets rid of all of the crazy rules and schemes of dating that can get in the way of developing actual healthy relationships. It is time we realize that feminism does not have to be a dirty word in the heterosexual dating scene. In the pursuit of gender equality, we must acknowledge that it is not a contradiction to be a feminist and love men.

What's up Collegiettes! I am so excited to be one half of the Campus Correspondent team for Bucknell's chapter of Her Campus along with the lovely Julia Shapiro.  I am currently a senior at Bucknell studying Creative Writing and Sociology.   
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