I've gotten so many questions from women who date men about the current dating landscape and how to navigate it as a feminist. These ladies are feeling disappointed by their interactions with men (in general), and their disdain has hit an all-time high in the wake of #metoo.
When I get asked how to date men in an era that is supercharged with an anti-male sentiment, it’s not enough for me to say “don’t worry, there are some great guys out there!”It’s true, but it feels like that response falls short when what we really could use is a much bigger conversation about what needs to happen for women to start feeling like they have more choice out there in the dating world.
This portion of the Feminist Survival Guide explores what it means to be a feminist online dater right now and how to find romance when it feels impossible. Below are some things to keep in mind when you are swiping around for potential dates.
Supply and Demand
I’m going to be real with you: the demand for men who understand the basic tenets of feminism and who strive for equality in their romantic partnerships is far greater than the supply right now. But all of that can and should change. How? We keep demanding it.
The classic model of heterosexual courting is a man showing how strong, wealthy, and sexually capable he is and a woman demonstrating how pretty, docile, and in need of protection she is. This model is useless for so many people, but folks are still hanging on to old patriarchal ideals when they online date. So much of online dating is sifting through profiles of people peacocking instead of taking the opportunity to share their values and what they look for in a partner.
If you want to help change this, put that you are looking for a feminist man somewhere on your profile. Tell the whole Internet that you do not fuck with (or fuck) men who subscribe to traditional gender roles. Make feminism your demand. The more of us who do so will signal to men out there that this isn’t just a passing phase. I believe that this will cause an inevitable shift in perception of what women are actually looking for, and men (especially the ones for whom the old model was failing as well) will shift as well.
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Your Truth is Your Filter
When I coach women who are online dating, and I tell them to put their feminism and their demands upfront, I see the fear in their eyes, and they tell me how anxious the thought makes them. When we dig into why this is scary, most of them say that they are afraid of limiting their options. My response: You are only limiting the bad options.
Women not proclaiming what they want is also a by-product of patriarchy — remain small, keeps your needs manageable lest you seem too demanding. This is an area that we can directly affect by standing firmly in our truth. I say this to those ladies who have a pretty good idea of what type of relationship they’re looking for but are afraid to say it. It is, of course, perfectly fine to not know exactly what you want or if you just want to date around until you find it; even that is a desire you can benefit from stating explicitly!
Putting your desires out there may feel like you’re ruling people out, but putting what you want front and center actually acts as a handy filter. This will be intimidating to the kinds of men who are a terrible fit for you. You get to filter out guys whose ideals and values don’t align with yours, and they will (mostly) leave you alone.
You may see a downtick in your number of likes or matches, but I hope, like my clients, you see an uptick in the number of guys who are ready to be the kind of partner you want.
You Don’t Have to Educate
A big concern right now is figuring out how much you have to educate potential dates about feminism. My answer to this question is always “it depends.” The truth is that you don’t have to educate anyone if you don’t want to or if it feels like it will be a burden on you and the relationship. But if you see potential and your interactions with a person suggest that they’re decent human beings who just didn’t learn about feminism, then, by all means, feel free to share resources and personal experiences.
Mistakes and miscommunications will happen along the way, and that’s okay. If you get rubbed the wrong way by something a date says, an excellent place to start is by asking “what did you mean by that?” If they use an insensitive word or phrase, express your displeasure and ask them not to use the term giving a reason why it’s inappropriate to you. The way they respond to this type of feedback will tell you whether they are someone who you can communicate openly about issues that are important to you.
Meeting men who will be able to meet you where you are in your feminism may not be an easy feat, but it is possible. Especially if we collectively show that we’re seeking partners who understand systemic sexism and gender-based violence and who can not only act as allies but actively participate in destroying the structures that keep us from equality. Feel free to use part of that last sentence in your online dating profile.