April 25th, 2009

planet

my feminist dating rules

So this article made me eye-roll today: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/HomeMortgageSavings/WantSecondDatePayForFirst.aspx

The author basically says, "I'm a feminist but I think men should always pay on first dates, maybe that makes me unfeminist, I'm attracted to men who pay for things, men should show their love by supporting us..."

What?

First, if you feel yourself being naturally attracted to people who buy you dinner, you're not a "bad feminist" or a "natural woman". You're a human. Who doesn't like feeling special?

Second, splitting the check is tacky and complicated and of course I'm not going to go on a date with someone who thinks otherwise. If you invite someone out to dinner you should pay for it. If you somehow mutually agree to go to dinner without either person initiating the idea, just flip a coin. But don't split checks! Even with my girlfriends, I like to pick up the check and figure she'll get next time. Yeah, if a guy asks me out and doesn't pay, I'll wonder what's up with the cheapness.

Always watch out for the the "I'm a feminist but" articles. I'm a feminist but I shave my legs. I'm a feminist but I like dresses. I'm a feminist but I like men buying me dinner." I like it when people self-identify as feminist, but hearing those things makes me feel like there's a wall somewhere. I mean just subscribe to Ms. and read Backlash, you'll realize that real feminists are focused out at the world around them, asking questions and trying to frame questions to get people to think differently about the gender roles around them. There's not this invisible wall between the leg-shaving feminists and the rest of us, that's just not what it's about.

When you look backwards and say "Well traditionally men are providers, and I'm comfortable with that, so obviously I'm GENETICALLY DESIGNED THAT WAY" you're not doing a good job asking questions. When we use biology to explain why gender roles have to be a certain way, we can't go anywhere, the conversation stops, we just have to look backwards and stick in the same ruts we've always been in. In the early 1900s when women were trying to get the right to vote, a lot of their critics brought up the number of women who didn't want to vote. Did they have a point? Was that a good reason to hold us back?

Being a feminist is not that complicated. Are you mad that female human rights defenders in Afghanistan are getting death threats? Are you happy that a girl in little league pitched a perfect game against an all-boys team this week? You're on your way.

Are you able to frame questions to ask why gender roles are the way they are, look honestly at what makes you a woman vs. what makes you a human, think about whether your question could change society for the better? Then you're also on your way.

I'd rather you call yourself a feminist and get it wrong than not call yourself one and get it right. Most of the ones I know get it right, and using the label is a first step in getting help from all of us along the way, opening up the dialog, and learning... which is what feminism is all about. Baby steps.