Earlier this week, I had a conversation with my female friends about dating in college. It came to my attention that most of them recoiled at the idea of having a boyfriend. Now, to some extent, I completely understand this. Who wants the hassle? Who wants the stress of being in a relationship? (Also, college men are not always the most refined individuals.) However, it dawned on me that my friends’ repulsion to the concept of a boyfriend was rooted in fear. To them, having a boyfriend meant being “possessed” by a man in some way, or “belonging” to one. They lead their lives with the mentality that they don’t need a man for anything, a rhetoric that is echoed in Twitter pipelines and minute-length videos on TikTok’s infamous “foryoupage,” where progressive women reiterate the many reasons why it is better to stay single. (In the case of this article specifically, I will only be addressing heterosexual relationships, though I do want to acknowledge that this conversation has more nuance as it pertains to relationships within the LGBTQ+ community.)
As a feminist myself, I found myself shrinking in my seat during this conversation, not wanting to admit that I, in fact, wouldn’t hate to fall in love. I wouldn’t hate the idea of a man being slightly protective of me, or even thinking of me as his (*gasp*) girlfriend. Does the fact that I would like to have a man in my life make me less of a woman-supporter? Even my friends who do have boyfriends don’t like referring to them as “boyfriends”— in fact, they wrinkle their noses at the word —because again, it suggests a feeling of possession when spoken aloud. What about the feminist movement makes us feel as though being in a relationship with a man is the antithesis of female strength?
To me, feminism is all about choice. For some women, feminism means being a stay-at-home- mom. For others, it means not having kids at all, nor getting married. Both decisions are completely valid, and neither one should be viewed as “incorrect” just because it might be less conventional. In the case of dating in college, a woman shouldn’t have to choose between being a feminist and being romantically devoted to someone. Although my friends wouldn’t have laughed at me if I had voiced these concerns in our conversation, I did feel severe embarrassment at the thought of doing so. One might wonder if in the future, the subject of love will become a more mainstream discussion between students on college campuses.