Sometimes I pretend like I am not a 100% people person, but let’s be real I learn, love and am interdependent on my friends and family. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a few weeks ago I was talking with my roommates about feminism in our relationships with men and started thinking about something I only seldom thought about before. My friend Marissa, who identifies as a lesbian, says to me and some others, “Wow, our relationships are so different.” We ask her to expand and she explains that for her relationships with female partners, it is vital that her partner’s advocacy for women’s rights be central to their life. Where as, the others in the conversation who primarily or exclusively date men, feel like we are ecstatic if our partners echo the slightest sentiment of feminism.
This makes me wonder. Am I being too easy on the men I date? What should I expect them to know about the everyday experiences of women? How much am I expected to educate them on the issues that women face and do I have the responsibility to do so?
A few months ago there was a guy I was potentially interested in and the topic of gender roles emerged. He spews out some rhetoric around men being protectors and women falling into the role of caregiver and lover. I push back on this idea and have a very long conversation with him about why I disagree, etc…. I felt somewhat frustrated with this conversation but kinda justified my not writing him off quite yet on the notion that he was listening and was being receptive so perhaps it’s not a lost cause? Should I have simply rolled my eyes and stepped away or is that creating too high of expectations for men?
Privilege is privilege because you don’t have to think about it as much as a person who is the direct recipient of negative results of that system. As a white person I am not placed in as frequent of a position where I need to think about my race, so I obviously think about it less than folks that face experiences everyday that interact with their race. I hate to do the race vs. gender parallel because it’s not that simple but I truly believe it is similar for men. Obviously men think about gender less than most women because they are not impacted in the same way by our society’s sexism as women are. So my question is, is it fair to hold men to the same level of understanding regarding sexism and feminism as we do to other women?
I obviously had to bring this question of what standard of feminism do we hold the men we are dating to, to my community here in DC. All said they expected the men they are dating to be fully supportive of feminism and be anti-sexists. Some said they didn’t want to be constant educators, implying that a level of prior knowledge was desired. Some said prior knowledge isn’t a requirement but what is required is an attitude of listening to the experiences we have as women and respecting that they do not have those experiences as men.
How do I feel about my question? I would like to date a man who at least somewhat “gets it.” I’ve dated guys who I would definitely call feminists whether or not they label themselves that way but there are just some things that might take them a while to fully comprehend. Like stated earlier, I do not expect a man to fully understand the role sexism plays in our world but I do expect them to be quiet and listen when I tell them my experiences. When your body doesn’t live those experiences, your ears need to do the work for a while.
Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay