It’s bad enough that women have to deal with sexism at work, school, and in everyday life in general. The fact that we’re also impacted by it in our dating lives sucks. While we call ourselves feminists and attempt to empower ourselves as women, we’re all guilty of falling prey to internalized sexism sometimes. Here’s how it may seriously be destroying your love life:
- You’re constantly dieting in an attempt to reach an unattainable beauty ideal.
You hold a looming belief that the next diet, cleanse, fitness routine, or lifestyle change is going to finally get you to the place where your body is worthy of love. My dear, this is sexism eating away at your self-esteem. I have news for you: your body is perfect just as it is. Right here and now without exception. The person worth having in your life will not walk away because your belly has stretch marks. I promise.
- You believe you aren’t good enough. No matter what you weigh, how much you accomplish, or what number of compliments you get, you never feel good enough. A perpetual feeling of scarcity plagues your every move. In your eyes, you’re not pretty, smart, strong, funny, or successful enough. This attitude is a result of generations of female oppression, years and years of being told that we aren’t enough. Awareness of having this lurking notion is the first step in making a positive change towards believing in your innate worth.
- The “cool girl” phenomenon has taken over your actions. One of the most covert ways sexism creeps in is when you’re trying to be the “cool girl.” You claim to be one of the guys who doesn’t like drama, you go with the flow by not making a fuss of anything, and you definitely aren’t a feminist because that’d be uncool. This phenomenon is so painful because you’re burying parts of yourself that are dying to breathe. Maybe you want to rock obnoxious pajamas in public. If your partner has a problem with it, tell him to piss off. You don’t owe it to anyone to be “cool.”
- You act like someone you’re not on dates. Sexism tells women who they can and can’t be. Most of the time, this takes the form of encouraging us to be super feminine. Maybe you actually hate lipstick but you’ve been told that red lipstick looks hot on you. So, you wear it anyways. Further, last year an ex-boyfriend told you your laugh was annoying, so you find yourself stifling it on a first date. You might even pretend to like something that you don’t. You don’t have to bow down to men; your interests, quirks, and looks are totally lovable just as they are.
- You don’t speak up because you fear being seen as a bitch.I bet you’ve been on dates where the dude says something really sh*tty. Maybe he comments on your butt when you hardly know him or he makes a sexist joke. Almost robotically, you quietly giggle because you don’t know what else to do. It takes time and practice to work through the thousands of times we’ve been told to “smile” when we didn’t want to or when it was inappropriate. Keep reminding yourself that you aren’t responsible for preserving any guy’s ego.
- You feel anxious when your makeup and outfit isn’t perfect for a date. There’s nothing wrong with being girly, dressing up, and putting on lots of makeup. In fact, I’m super femme myself. This attitude becomes problematic, though, when you become paralyzed by fear if you aren’t able to properly put on makeup or find a perfect outfit. It’s great to embrace your femininity, but if you feel unworthy without it, sexism is rearing its ugly head in your life.
- You feel shame around sex. Chances are, you have overt or covert shame surrounding sex. It may look like feeling awful about yourself after sleeping with someone, not being able to relax into your partner going down on you, or feeling ashamed of the number of people you’ve slept with. The shame you’re carrying was placed on you. It’s bullsh*t. You don’t have to carry it anymore. My favorite feminist author, Jessica Valenti, calls out this BS double standard by saying “He’s a stud and she’s promiscuous.”
- It’s common for a man to get off during sex with you while you do not have an orgasm. Another super ugly side effect of the focus on male pleasure is that likely every single woman has experienced a man getting off during sex while she does not. Unfortunately, this phenomenon, also known as the orgasm gap, is an epidemic and it leaves you feeling like there’s something wrong with you, or worse, you grow to see the imbalance as normal. Girlfriend, you do not have to settle for dissatisfaction. Find a guy or girl who will tr(eat) you right.
- You still have weird gender role expectations. Gender roles are the worst. We should be past the whole housewife garbage, right? Unfortunately, we aren’t. Chances are you have expectations for your male date to ask you out, pay for dinner, and do other chivalrous crap. I’m not saying these are inherently bad things. In fact, I like some of these actions myself. Gender role expectations are problematic though because they’re just that: expectations. When expectations aren’t met, resentment surfaces and you think that a guy doesn’t like you when maybe he just couldn’t afford to pay for your half of dinner.
- You regularly feel guilt. Guilt may be the sneakiest symptom of internalized sexism. It’s so easy to say, “No way! I don’t have guilt.” But, watch how many times throughout a single day you apologize, explain yourself, and let yourself be interrupted by a man. Centuries of oppression have sunk the message into our bones that we are less than our male counterparts. We are not good enough. We can’t take up space and if we do, we better be damn sorry for it. This is crap. Take up space, don’t apologize for manspreading, let your voice be heard, and show up unapologetically. The right man or woman will be attracted to you just as you are.