I went through a breakup last weekend. Now, I'm not going to blog about the intricacies of the breakup, because I'm sure it would please my ex-partner far too much. What I'd like to bring up is this brilliant article I read yesterday, titled, "Dating Tips For The Feminist Man" by Nora Samaran. This article is an amazing read, and helped me to feel even more grounded and empowered as a newly single woman.
Throughout my dating life, I've been with a handful of men who have either self-identified as "Feminist" or "Feminist Allies." During these relationships, I never thought to ask these men about their feminism or their allyship. I used to be one of those women who swooned when she heard that a cis, heterosexual man used "Feminist" as an identity so unabashedly. As Samaran writes notes in her article, "So identifying as a male feminist is a tricky line to walk. It's important that men use the term. But keep in mind that you'll get kudos just for taking on the term as your own; it may even help you gain trust extra-quickly with women you're dating." Back in the day, this was true for me. When a man I dated would call himself a feminist, I immediately felt like I could trust him (and I don't give out trust that easily). However, now I see that all of the "feminist" men I've dated were not actual feminists. This is a harsh realization. Here's the thing: it means nothing to say you're a feminist or a feminist ally, if you're not fully engaged in some form of activism. You need to not only be committed to the cause (ending all forms of oppression), but also committed to and actually be doing something about it. Samaran says, "Actively taking on the identity of a feminist man means you are equally responsible to do your own research and actively notice these things. Help your friends of all genders see them. Realize this is your responsibility."
Later in the article, Samaran discusses the importance of naming feelings, saying:
If your feelings change, simply name the change. If you were interested in a possible partnership or in an ongoing relationship, and then aren’t or are less sure, and you feel bad about that, do not avoid saying so to make your life easier. Just name the emotion and be available and present to the changes in the other. Try things like this: “I felt this way when I said and did that, but things have changed, and this is how I feel now. This is why and when they changed. I feel bad that I let you down or inadvertently misled you. Are you ok, and what do you need?”
It all links back to communication. If you can't communicate what you're feeling, then you probably shouldn't be in a relationship. I've been with far too many communicatively-stunted men who act as though I should be able to read their mind. Guess what? I can't (nor do I want to). People, primarily men (in my experience), don't want to share their feelings. Not communicating greatly hinders any relationship, romantic or otherwise. Even if communicating is difficult for you, keep doing it! Samaran says, "Get used to being uncomfortable and learning to have loving, clear, and interconnected boundaries that honour your internal voices..." Time to get uncomfortable! This is often when learning takes place.
My favorite part of Samaran's article is tip #16:
If you find yourself disregarding something she is saying because she is upset as she is saying it, notice that this is sexism. You may have been raised to believe emotion is not rational and is therefore not legitimate. That is for you to unlearn, not for you to impose on others. Emotion and intuition, when finely honed, serve clear thinking. Don't retreat into logic when you find emotions coming your way. Build up your capacity to feel and to respond to feelings in a rational, intuitive, self-aware way. You'll be more human for it, and a better feminist, too.
This is so immensely important! I can't count the number of times my feelings have been disregarded or not taken seriously in a relationship, because the guy couldn't (or wouldn't) tap into his own ability to empathize. As someone who is unashamed to show emotion, I cry openly and quite frequently. I cry when I'm sad, angry, happy, etc. My tears are not for you; they are strictly for me--to get my emotions up and out. Do not feel flattered if I cry in your presence.
Talking about consent, feelings, and feminism with your partner is important. As I got forward in my dating life, I plan to inquire more about my partner's feminism--what it means to them, what they do for the movement, etc. I plan to show all potential suitors Nora Samaran's 18 tips on how to date feminist-ly.