After dating way too many men who were subtly (or blatantly and unapologetically) sexist, I can now safely say that a guy who isn’t a feminist has no chance with me. He doesn’t necessarily have to campaign for women’s rights on a daily basis, but he should definitely defend and support them in any way possible. If not, I won’t bother. Here’s why I need this kind of guy:
He doesn’t feel the need to compensate or be hyper-masculine. Whether he enjoys manly pine soap or feminine floral wash, his preferences don’t define him. Comfortable in his own skin, he doesn’t bash other men. He also isn’t jealous of my male friends and doesn’t get worked up if someone in public is talking to me. Conforming to society’s idea of a man isn’t a concern because he trusts he’s good enough just as he is.
He accepts me for who I am. I like my legs shaved, but I’m also really lazy about it, so they’re often fuzzy! If he’s a feminist, he knows the status of my leg hair is totally unimportant in our relationship. He lets me do what feels right for me from small things like grooming to big things like career choice.
He has examined his male privilege. He openly calls himself a feminist because he’s peeled back the layers of his male privilege. He isn’t deluded about the fact that men are exempt from the misogyny women face. He knows that women are interrupted far more frequently than men, so he’s working on being mindful of his interactions and makes room for women.
He speaks up even when I’m not around. More important than him being comfortable telling me he’s a feminist is that he unabashedly acts like one when I’m not around. When his friends or coworkers make sexist jokes or say something totally inappropriate about me, he isn’t afraid to call them out their BS.
He treats me with unwavering respect. On our first few dates, he won’t put his hands on me without asking. He doesn’t feel entitled to sex, and he cares about what my wants and needs are. As a feminist, he’s tuned into what it looks like to be a decent human being by respecting me and every other woman he meets.
He tr(eats) me right. We’re on the same page about the golden rule: we should both feel satisfied after a night of fooling around. He knows that intercourse is virtually never enough for a woman to have an orgasm, so he goes down on me regularly without needing to be prodded or asked. He knows how to treat me right.
He fully understands the nuances of enthusiastic consent. From the start, a man who is a feminist will know about the nuances of consent. He knows that consent happens through communication with words, body language, and emotions, so I don’t have to worry about being violated on any level. I wish enthusiastic consent was a given for all men, but it’s unfortunately not. He’s sensitive to this fact.
He doesn’t judge my sexual history. As a feminist, he’d never slut-shame me. He isn’t fazed by the metaphorical notches in my bedpost, as he knows it doesn’t define me. I’m honest, clear, and choosing to be with him now, and that’s all that matters. My sexual history is virtually irrelevant unless we’re explicitly talking about our preferences and experiences.
He and I share the same values (like, uh, equality). When we’re on the same page with the importance of equality for all humans, this usually means he comes with a great value system. I can count on him to know what’s important in life, like showing up for me both when I’m lots of fun and when I’m having a messy mental health flare-up.
He subscribes to the “eff your beauty standards” movement. Tess Holiday, a size 22 model, coined the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards. If he’s a proper feminist, he understands the radical body acceptance movement. He doesn’t make insensitive comments about my weight or food choices. Instead, he knows “health” is all-encompassing — including mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional — so he’ll be supportive and lovely. And he’ll help me smash traditional standards of beauty, of course.
He doesn’t chalk my emotions up to “being on the rag.” He’s comfortable with his own emotions and he’s aware enough to avoid saying something totally insensitive about periods and emotions. This isn’t to say he doesn’t sometimes ask kindly if it’s that time of the month because let’s be honest, I personally can be a real bitch before my period. But that isn’t used as a scapegoat or a way to shut me down. He gives my emotions and feelings space to breathe.
He’s down for forgetting gender roles. Gender roles are overrated. From the start, I have the rule that whoever asks for the date pays. If that means me, he’s totally okay with this and doesn’t think it saying something about his masculinity. In the future, gender role forgetting could even mean he stays home with our child while I work, if the pay and situation are appropriate.
He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he’s willing to examine his blind spots. He’s not perfect and neither am I, but we both know we have room to grow, especially to make our feminism more intersectional. He’s willing to admit that he has blind spots and doesn’t assume that his work is finished because he identifies as a feminist. We can both apologize when we make mistakes, and we’re ready to grow together.
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