Feminism | Posted by Julie Z on 10/9/2009

How do young feminists make relationships possible?

I want to try a new type of post today. Usually, your comments are invited simply by the implications of the blogging system (yes…I did just say that) but today, reader Tinnie has a question for the many readers of the fbomb. Now, it is my personal opinion that the fbomb has the most kick ass, brilliant and wonderful readers in the history of blogging, so I know you’ll all do a fabulous job of answering.

Tinnie asks:

So...i was just wondering...are you a sexist pig, perchance?

"So...i was just wondering...are you a sexist pig, perchance?"

I’m sure this has crossed many young feminists minds. When I say, “young feminists”, I mean younger then 25 (very young I guess). How are we supposed to date men (specifically), when in the back of our minds we have that caution tape? We are so aware of the crimes men have caused to our gender, so aware of how men think and treat females, how can we possibly not only begin to perhaps tell them not only that we are feminists but to see if they are those sexist pricks we have been fighting for so long?

I find it so incredibly hard just to talk to other women who are completely ignorant about feminism and the idealogy of it, I don’t even want to try to pursue relationships anymore. I don’t know how to gently lay out my cause or even a sneakier way–how to test a guy. This may just be basic courting skills, but my mother never taught me how to test a guy for closeted sexism or male supremacy. I want to know if any of you younger feminists have a theory on how to address this and if it worked.

I’m sure there must be a ton of fbombers with an opinion on this one.

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  • Amy CT @ at 12:54 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I’m at a pretty left-wing high-school in the UK where I’d guess that most of the sixth form (junior and senior year equivilants) would vote Labour, or Liberal Democrat. My history teacher has the “Encyclopedia of Feminism” on her desk, and the guys in my classes *MOSTLY* accept that most of the female population of the sixth form is (or is ALMOST) feminist…

    (Bare with me, this story is going somewhere!)

    So, I guess that a relationship with a guy at my school (ha ha yeah… right.) would probably prove alright-ish. Most of my guy friends know I write for feminist websites, and they take that in their stride. Some of them even respect me for it.

    I guess it just depends on the social and political background of where-ever it is you are…

    At my old school, I’d probably have been lynched for my views; at my current one, I’m accepted, and liked for them.

    By both genders.

  • Amy CT @ at 12:55 pm, October 9th, 2009

    Also – I always wondered – what’s with the colours that these comments appear in? Is it random? Or is there a reason?

    Sorry, totally irrelevent.

  • Helen H. @ at 1:15 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I’ve always wondered about the comment’s colors too.

    Anyway. Being an f-bomber all the way from the Middle-East, I can’t say I can help with this. The idea of male-supremacy here is the norm, especially among the guys. And dating here isn’t too popular, either.

    It’s sad.

  • Jadis @ at 2:01 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I have found that men who are generally fair and honorable to be very open to thinking about and understanding things from a feminist point of view. They may not have thought about it much before meeting me, but once I pointed out some very unfair things in society’s treatment of women, they were quick to agree and to look for those things themselves, a lot of times offering valuable insight, or things I haven’t considered before.

    I think feminism is really, at the core, about freedom and fairness, and any man or woman who has that kind of moral tendency will be open to learning and growing.

  • toongrrl @ at 2:07 pm, October 9th, 2009

    Girls, find love if you wanna. Just make sure he respects you as a human. All you lesbian sistas: I love you all, I hope things will get better for us lezzies and bi’s.

  • toongrrl @ at 2:07 pm, October 9th, 2009

    Make love! Not war!

  • shuga @ at 2:38 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I too would like to know the answer to this question, but moreso in the context of an established relationship. I am married to a pretty good guy, but since I’ve gotten more feminist, he’s been quick to find the “flaws” in all the feminist ideology. I know he’s a critical thinker and that’s part of it, but it’s frustrating that he can’t seem to step beyond his gender and reason on my terms.

  • Amanda @ at 3:08 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I don’t really know if I can contribute anything to this discussion because I kind of realized my inner feminist because of my boyfriend (while in the relationship). But, I think that its easy to make some important observations based on his hobbies (is he associated with a fraternity – if so, what type is it? does he drink a lot? how does he act around other women? Does he let you speak? Does he respond positively to your opinions? Is he respectful of what you want to do (especially sexually)? I would drop some *hints* about your political leaning, about your interest in women’s rights – see how he responds. etc,etc,etc.

  • Zoe @ at 3:41 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I think part of what helps weed out the good guys from the bad guys is who your guy friends are, since they are most likely the kind of person you would date. And most of my guy friends are awesome.

    Other things help too. I go to a school that has a huge huge huge Greek scene. So, in general, I avoid frat guys. They drink alot, act all macho and douchey, and are after ass, and that’s it. I’ve honestly come to the conclusion that I need to wait until I’m out of college and the guys have grown up a bit. Considering that I naturally avoid jerky guys, I don’t think it would be that difficult to find someone who’s open to my beliefs.

  • ACW @ at 3:41 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I’ve been married ten years and still don’t have the answer. How does he treat his mother? Does he have at least one sister (which goes a long way toward his understanding women his age)? Assuming his mother worked outside the home during his childhood, what are his thoughts on it? Does he understand that just because you might hold the door for him out of common courtesy, it doesn’t exempt him from doing the same for you? – it’s about equality, after all. Does he compliment your body more than your thoughts? What are his political leanings? What are the lyrics to his ten favorite songs (do they denigrate women)? What are his ten favorite books (hint: if it’s that sci-fi author with the rapist space captain protagonist, run away!)? What are his views on religion (interpret as you will)?
    I don’t think there’s any one criterion, but many of these cultural influences can either dictate or indicate views on equality.

  • Shannon @ at 3:56 pm, October 9th, 2009

    Honestly, it depends completely on the guy and his views and experiences. For example, a great, caring, smart guy I know recently posted on Facebook that he was having issues with feminism. Turns out he had to sit through a meeting with some of the “anti-men” element. He believes in the end goals of feminism but not these tactics. I encouraged him to find a mainstream group and get involved. It’s not about the gender, it’s about the guy
    As for dating, talk with dates about stuff. Current events, causes you spend time on, experiences. Don’t force the point, though. I’d bet that most young women who read this blog desire a politically active and informed mate, so debate and discussion will probably be a natural part of dating. If they are a good person who you like or love and who treats women fairly, you can probably convince them on smaller issues, just like they may change your mind on other issues outside your life experience.
    There’s no litmus test for this. Judge the whole package, and don’t miss the forest for the trees. Looking only for certain traits could cause you to miss a great match. It is possible that you could end up in a relationship that you’ll have to end because you’re not compatible long-term, but that could happen for many reasons that won’t be discussed on the first date- kids, marriage, career, lifestyle. It’ll suck, but you’ll be better off having had that person in your life.
    Also, women can be anti-feminist just as much as men, just like there are many men who are awesome feminists. So don’t forget LBGTs in this discussion

  • Alice @ at 4:02 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I live in London, and I find that most of the guys I know have absolutely NO IDEA about equality. Women can vote and have good jobs so it’s therefore ok to make sexist jokes because hey, we got what we wanted so what’s all the fuss about? Half the boys in my year hold on to the idea that women and their poor, unfortunate mothers/sisters/girlfriends should spend their lives obeying their every command.
    Luckily, I do have some older or more mature male friends who are well educated and have been taught by their mothers and female friends about what it talkes to have real relationships with girls, and who will ALWAYS speak out against sexism.
    So yes, it can be difficult to find sensible guys, and I agree with ACW’s guide for finding male friends, but, basically, stick with gut feelings and USE COMMON SENSE.

  • frl.zucker @ at 6:22 pm, October 9th, 2009

    we date A MAN, not men as in the institution “men”.

    it’s funny because a friend of mine ist just starting to take gender studies classes at uni and a few friends of us already aked her whether these aren’t the manhater girls. i don’t know why ppl still think feminists are manhating when it’s so obvious that feminism is good for all genders?! it’s not about being anti male, it’s about being pro female. why is that so hard to understand!

  • Steph @ at 6:42 pm, October 9th, 2009

    Hmm. Good question. Dating, for me, is kind of a minefield at the moment, but I think that has a fair amount to do with how uncomfortable I am with my body. (I know, I know, everyone should be able to love their body, and I’m getting there, I think.)

    As to the original question – whatever works best: get to know them first, see whether they only have guyfriends or a mix of genders, how they act around girls, etc. Boys really are a complete mystery to me, I’m afraid. Spent a few years as one, failed horribly and kind of stopped there.

    @toongrrl: ROCK ON, babe. Gay and bi girls are awesome, and while not EVERYONE who identifies as lesbian/gay/bi/pan/whatever is going to be a feminist, I’m willing to bet that a lot of them are.

  • Steph @ at 6:43 pm, October 9th, 2009

    Also, with regards to the font colours: I think that if you list something in the website box, the text is black, but if you don’t, it’s red – probably an HTML glitch somewhere in the piping.

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 7:55 pm, October 9th, 2009

    I agree that frat guys are almost guarenteed to be bad news, not only do they pride themselves on their stupidity, they encourage it via peer pressure. Many military guys are just as stupid, if not worse and religious/traditional/conservative guys feel it’s their gawd/cultural right to be sexist focks, so you are best off avoiding them as well.

    But a fair amount of the sorting process depends on what type person , relationship and feminist you are as well. I’m a very aggressive, non-traditional polyamorous bigurl,so what works for me, might not work for more introverted traditional girls looking for traditional relationships. Ariel Levy’s brand of feminism refers to girls like me as “Raunchy” or “Female Chauvinist Pigs”(we think even less of her clique btw) so it’s not like all feminists can agree on what acceptable male behaviour/attitudes are either. I’m fine with some guys looking at me as a living breathing blow up doll, but they shouldn’t be surprised or get mad if I decide to use them as a dildo replacement. Fair is fair after all.

  • Brooke @ at 12:17 am, October 10th, 2009

    It isn’t as hard as it seems. I know being a young person, especially in high school or college, there is this 4 year dating isolation that makes you feel like you will never meet anyone who shares your views. My overall dating advice to everyone I know has been to only date men you know. Men you meet at work or school that know other people you do, men who are friends or friends of friends. Know them, then date them. Don’t date a guy who you meet online or meet randomly that you have an amazing sexual chemistry. That way when it comes to who that person is, you can get various point of view.

    Thankfully being younger many men in our generation are more open to feminism and equality. There is nothing wrong with being completely blunt about, like “feminism is something that is really important to me and I really believe in equality” and see how he responds.

  • Sophie @ at 4:35 am, October 10th, 2009

    You find out his views on feminism in just about the same way as his views about anything else.

    I normally make sure that he knows I feel strongly about gender equality right from the start, so if we go on more than one date, I assume that he is willing to go along with that and “worth” the trouble of explaining to him every time why we have to split the check, etc.

    I don’t behave differently on dates and I don’t stop saying what I think, maybe I’d phrase it differently so it doesn’t sound “anti-male” to someone completly unfamiliar with the subject. If tells inappropriate jokes, if he’s patronising, etc. I call him out on that.

    If he stops and maybe takes on board some of the things I say, then he’s welcome to stay, if he doesn’t then he’s not worth my time.

  • harriet @ at 7:52 am, October 10th, 2009

    It’s never been much of a problem thanks to spending most of my life around pretty intelligent and thoughtful people, and normally going for left-wing guys. I’m unlikely to get into any sort of relationship with someone before I know their politics, so that tends to sort things out. Also generally I’m not quiet about my feminism, and I’m becoming more vocal about the ways in which I don’t meet the norms expected of women (particularly the body hair thing).

    Overall I find your question a little weird, since I’ve been lucky enough to live in a part of society where sexism is frowned upon. I can only imagine how tough it would be to lack this supportive environment. My tactic would probably still be to talk about the things that really matter to me before I get into anything too deep. With female friends, it’s often easier to disagree about these things, but with a partner it’s essential that you have a lot of respect for each other. For female friends who were totally ignorant/negative about feminism, I might try asking some pointed questions.

  • Allison @ at 10:25 am, October 10th, 2009

    Relationships are not between feminists and anti-feminists. They’re between people. If you find someone you really like and want to get to know, that should be enough. No need to hand out quizzes or tell a guy you might be interested in,”Just a warning, I’m a feminist” when you meet him.

    I dated a guy for a few months who didn’t get my “feminist” thing. He was also from a South American country where the machismo culture is much more ingrained. So be it. The relationship didn’t work out, but there’s nothing wrong with tolerating someone whose views on the sexes don’t line up exactly with yours, as with any other issue. It doesn’t mean they’re a date rapist. You’ll also learn a lot about the “other side” and maybe pass along your own enlightened ideas.

  • Amy CT @ at 11:02 am, October 10th, 2009

    @Steph Thanks for explaining!

    I could never get my head around the American frat system – from what I’ve read and seen, it seems only to encourage elitism and sexism… Correct me if I’m wrong – I’m an ignorant Brit ;)

  • merlin @ at 2:40 pm, October 10th, 2009

    ignorant brit pride madame!

    of course that depends on what you are ignorant of.

    To my knowledge I am the only male feminist in my year in high school. The opinion on feminism there ranges from completely opposed (references to “shaven headed man hating lesbians” are not uncommon) to utterly indifferent. sadface for anyone who wants a feminist girl/boyfriends, no matter what the team they are batting for is.

  • dirce @ at 7:00 pm, October 12th, 2009

    The best way to find someone who shares your values is to let your values be known. I am a feminist; those who know me know that I am a feminist. New people soon discover that I’m a feminist, not because I force my beliefs on others but because I just AM a feminist. Boys who aren’t interested in dating a feminist need not apply. There’s no test for sexism that I’ve found except having a discussion about the things that are important to you. I usually ask about his favourite books, movies, TV, etc. and talk about mine. I talk about WHY I like or don’t like them. It tends to come out pretty quickly if we’re not on the same page.

  • Nina @ at 7:39 pm, October 12th, 2009

    Hmm. It’s usually just a matter of knowing the guy and his personal views, political and religious and what have you.

    Of course, you could just shout “I LOVE ABORTION” really loudly somewhere and see who comes to talk to you.

  • Ashlin @ at 9:31 pm, October 12th, 2009

    first off, i think this is a wonderful topic, worthy of further exploration… I can relate, I find myself wondering all the time – is my boyfriend sexist? Are his assumptions about my abilities based on my personality, or my gender? I am currently unemployed and getting by primarily on his assistance (as well as that of my mothers) and throughout our resulting struggles it’s become increasingly clear to me that personal and political issues are inseperable. On to the question at hand, ultimately it comes down to this – does he expect you to cooperate with his notions of gender roles? ex. pick up my socks, ask permission to do things, submit to supposed “authority”? Is he posessive of you, assumptious of the things which matter to you? As mentioned in other comments, a huge indicator is how he treats other women – his mother, your female friends, co-workers? I could go on for days… I am very pleased to have found this blog! Keep on keepin’ on!

  • Robert @ at 10:16 pm, October 12th, 2009

    As a man just let me say that there are many pro-feminist college age men (I am one of them). It’s my belief that relationships can most definitely work between feminists and men; however, it has been my anecdotal experience that feminists who have bad experiences with relationships tend to still subscribe to an older (and rather un-feminist) model of dating in which the woman waits for the man to make the first move, and here’s just a helpful hint, the guy’s who are going around hitting on girls like crazy probably aren’t the equality-friendly men that you’re looking for… That’s not to say that a pro-feminist man won’t make the first move, it’s just that in my experience, since pro-feminist men don’t view women as an exploitable resource or sex-objects, we tend to be a shyer, less assuming lot who looks to form friendships with women before jumping to the next level. And it’s an unfortunate truth that, all ideology aside, relatively few women in modern society (feminists included) seem to have truly embraced a modern model of dating. I can’t tell you how many times my (female) feminist friends have complained to me that a guy they are interested in won’t make a move on them, but they refuse to make the first move themselves for a variety of reasons. So yes, there are pro-feminist men out there, but they’re just probably not the ones hitting on women left, right, and center.

    Also, in a more general vein, I’d like to mention my own thoughts on why a great many men seem to be so anti-feminist. First of all, let me say, that I have met some men who are truly misogynistic; however, with that said, I have also met a vocal minority of women who are clearly misandristic. Just as men vocalizing insults at and deprecating women inspired much of the feminist movement, and hatred towards men, the small, but exceptionally vocal, minority of feminists who are true “men-haters” do much to turn men away from the movement. I have personally been told by some women that, as a man, there is nothing productive or good that I can do to advance the feminist cause. So I think it’s a good thing to keep in mind when dealing with men who may appear to be anti-feminist that not all such men are, it may be that all they know and are familiar with in the movement is people telling them that men are worse than useless and terrible. Just as many American’s and European’s only real exposure to Islam may be videos and news reports of terrorist attacks, “man-hating” is all some men know of feminism, so if you come across an anti-feminist man, it may be worth a moment of your time to do some positive education.

  • KSM @ at 11:08 pm, October 12th, 2009

    The best test is if he treats you like a person; feminism isn’t only about women, it’s about men too, because ultimately it’s all about equality. If he not only treats women with respect but men too than he is more than likely more aligned with your feminist beliefs. Think of your beliefs too – your desire for women to be treated as equals probably also extends to equality for many other “minority” or otherwise underprivileged groups. If he shows advocacy or tolerance of them then he’s probably open to many different ideas, even if feminism is an alien concept to him.

  • Jamie @ at 11:16 pm, October 12th, 2009

    I think I may be able to help *a little* by using my own personal relationship as an example. My guy and I started out being best friends. It evolved into a relationship. We both see the other as being on the same level (as in, we’re both intelligent, funny and all around ok people). I’m not sure if this is really going in the direction that you’d like to help answer your query, but the best thing I can say is look for guys who understand that you are both equal. A guy who is your friend and close confidant before he is your partner or lover is going to have more of an understanding of you, and you will both feel more on the same page. Hope that helps.

  • Nonny @ at 11:31 pm, October 12th, 2009

    I have always been friends with my partners first, and I am not the sort to shy away from frank discussion. Religion, politics, womens’ issues, etc, are all things I would bring up if I was bothered by something. If they were misogynistic jerks about it… not someone I want to be involved with at all. (Or be friends with.)

    The general model that women and men are given is to find someone that is attractive to them (usually physically) and ask them out on a date without even knowing. That’s walking blind; you have no idea what you’re going to get out of that trick bag. If it’s someone you know beforehand, though… you have a much better gauge on personality and opinions.

  • Genie C @ at 12:09 am, October 13th, 2009

    I guess for me, it helps that I am incredibly picky when it comes to men. I won’t be even remotely attracted to someone who reeks of chauvinism, and if someone who I previously found attractive drops a sexist, racist or homophobic comment, they are automatically out. That might seem extreme, but I just could not begin to imagine being intimate and developing trust with someone who doesn’t respect women. This does rule out a lot of guys my age – I’m 18. My last “relationship” (I still feel weird calling it a relationship though, long story) was with a 23 year old, and most of my close male friends are at least 2 or 3 years older than me. I can get along with guys my age on a superficial level, but there is so much disrespect for women in the college age group that I just do not enjoy spending time with them. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, I am just not attracted to guys my age. Give me mature men please – guys who understand that women are more than just sex objects.
    So to actually answer the question, the only way to tell is to talk. Listen to how they talk about women, about previous relationships (“my ex is such a slut” etc is probably a warning sign), how they speak to you, etc. Generally if they are a sexist pig, they will show it without too much effort.

  • Rose @ at 12:42 am, October 13th, 2009

    I often find myself running into the same problem with guys. It’s worth keeping in mind, also, that the younger you are, the less guys you are going to have identifying as “feminist.” I’ve met precious few (maybe about three, total) close in age to me who actually use the label. A lot would call themselves feminist or pro-feminist if they understood what it means, as they believe in the ideals of feminism, but they’re faced with so many misconceptions about feminism (like the whole “man-haters” thing) that they have no idea what it actually means.

    As such, I wouldn’t make it immediately clear that you’re a feminist, as it will send a lot well-meaning guys running and just because, in general, it’s rude, in the same way that a guy proselytizing to you on the first date would be rude. But you might want to make it clear that your dating expectations are a bit different than others, and perhaps talk about views on specific issues if they come up. You might want to wait to drop the actual f-bomb until a ways into the relationship. Not because it’s a shameful thing, but because so many guys don’t get it, and by that point he’ll be more hesitant to cry “manhater!” because you’ll have shown through your actions what a feminist REALLY is.

  • Sarah @ at 12:56 am, October 13th, 2009

    I live in a generally very liberal city, where sexism is (for the most part) called out. Most girls I know agree with feminist ideology, even if they don’t realize that makes them a feminist themselves. Guys, on the other hand…honestly, the only guys I know my own age who aren’t complete chauvinistic pigs are the gay ones. Straight boys/men get a certain leeway no other groups are allowed. Because it’s fine if a boy thinks girls were placed on the planet for their own pleasure? “Boys will be boys”, right?

  • Brenna @ at 1:30 am, October 13th, 2009

    I don’t know about “testing” a guy with any specific questions… and I’ve only had one boyfriend. But I did talk to him about my political views before we got together, and was pleased to find him as politically liberal and skeptical of bullshit as I was. I think you can just generally look at how a guy talks to and about women and judge his attitudes. Is he respectful? Does he group women with generalizations, or treat them as individuals? Does he have female friends? I think that last one can be a good indicator of a guy’s attitude towards women.
    I also think you can really love and depend on a boyfriend while remaining a feminist as long as there’s great communication and both partners’ needs are addressed. Obviously, if the man is controlling the relationship, that is neither female-empowering nor healthy. Feminists don’t have to ‘wear the pants,’ though; equal partnership is important. And if you find out the guy you’ve been dating is a closet chauvinistic douchebag, you dump him.

  • Yekaterina @ at 2:47 am, October 13th, 2009

    I think talking about these issues is absolutely required (and not only w potential bf’s, but also with friends – I mean, would you really want a friend who is a misogynist pig?)

    And for those who are wondering “so how do I bring up this subject?” I think life provides more than enough chances – if you go see a movie, I guarantee you there will be more than one scene in it that brings up gender concerns – regardless of what the movie is about. Or, you can open up the door for him and see how he reacts. Who pays for dinner/ (how does he feel about splitting the bill). Discuss a recent news story. Something that happened in school (calling girls sluts, for example. that happens in school all the time). Or just straight up ask. Why look for a roundabout way of finding out what he thinks about it? Just ask.

  • pointenoirexpat @ at 8:21 am, October 13th, 2009

    okay, I’m too old to really be responding, but have faith, I am a feminist married to a highly evolved guy. he has never batted an eye at my hairy pits, my lefty views or my political preoccupation, because he feels the same way as I do. Give them a little credit, the good ones are out there, you won’t have to “break” anything to them about your views, or trick them in any way. Hang out with good people and you’ll find a good guy.

  • Beks @ at 11:00 am, October 13th, 2009

    I don’t think you need to test anyone – there are so many ways in which non-feminists are obvious in day-to-day life that you’ll spot sexist people easily. I agree with pointenoirexpat – hang around with good people and feminist men will appear.
    Beware of chivalry. In my experience men who open doors and insist on paying for things and seem like “gentlemen” don’t want an equal – they want some kind of pet. The feminist men I know are the ones who want to go 50/50 on a meal out and expect the door-opening to work both ways (sorry).

  • Bela @ at 12:08 pm, October 13th, 2009

    HI! Glad to be reading this blog. I remember visiting when Jezebel published something on this back in July and I’m glad the blog has picked up some steam!

    I usually just start a discussion on something related to feminism; most recently it has been the Polanski debacle.

    During my study halls, I can be found reading something related to feminism. So people see me reading and come up and ask me what it I’m reading. “‘Outrageous Acts and Everything Rebellions’ by Gloria Steinem.” I say. I tell them it’s about feminism and general issues of gender equality… Fortunately, everyone I’ve talked to has been open and accepting and has actually wanted to learn more.

  • Tinnie @ at 1:49 pm, October 13th, 2009

    Thanks a lot everyone who took the time to answer!
    I would just like to point out, could you guys post where you are from? I’m from California, “supposedly a liberal feminist state” but so far I am surrounded by chauvinistic right radicals. (Born in San Diego, lived in SF for a year *not as liberal as u think*, moved back to San Diego and moving to LA probably)

  • Austin @ at 2:51 pm, October 13th, 2009

    While there is obviously no single question to reveal a potential date’s inner thoughts on the subject, I find asking, “What do you think is my best characteristic?” to be pretty revealing. The ambiguity of the question leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and will show what immediately pops into his head. If he says something about your body…ugh. If he says something about your face, then that’s better because you’ve moved away from the realm of T and A. And if he says “your brain,” or something about your personality, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

    Not to say that the first two answers render a boy completely hopeless. My boyfriend, who had just never thought about feminism before, has completely taken to it since the first time we discussed it. For example, he thoroughly enjoys pointing out sexist things to all of his male friends, even when they criticize him for it. Ignorance is not always the same as anti-feminism, and sometimes people (especially young men who have never felt the pain of dealing with sexism) need to have these things pointed out to them. Its how they react when that happens that shows you their characters.

    All in all, if you really like someone, the advice given above of just having a discussion with him/her is the best. Instead of trying to guess a man’s (or women’s) thoughts, just ask.

  • Janna @ at 6:04 pm, October 13th, 2009

    Hey guys– your site is awesome.

    I’m 20, and I’ve been dating my boyfriend for just about a year. Well, i guess, first of all, i never get involved with a guy who doesn’t respect my boundaries, physically. my boyfriend has always been really great about that– there’s never been any pressure to do anything, which makes doing everything fun ;-)

    but as far as feminism as a broader theoretical thing as as a context to have a relationship it, getting him engaged and interested was very important to me. we had a lot, A LOT, of very tense conversatons about feminism’s relevance, whether we still need it, about patriarchy, about gender roles and how fucked up they are. Even though we didn’t always agree, and even though it took me FOREVER to explain to him that THE PATRIARCHY IS REAL AND IT’S ALL AROUND US, he was always trying. He really wanted to understand where I was coming from.

    I asked him to read Michael Kimmel’s cool book “Guyland” and that was a turning point. Guyland comes at feminism through the back door– by studying masculinity and man-culture (or, as I call it, bro-culture) and just breaks everything down in a great way that guys can relate to, because it’s their culture and the pressures on them (and through them, on women). It’s a baller read for anybody.

    and, let me tell you, the hard work was worth it. Feminist boyfriends rule, and feminist sex is the best sex.

  • Loobyloo @ at 7:55 pm, October 13th, 2009

    (in Oregon)
    I’ve tried the “getting the door” trick and think it’s entertaining at least :) See how he reacts if you open a door for him. Does he get uncomfortable or walk right through and say thanks??

  • Colleen @ at 8:23 pm, October 13th, 2009

    I am so happy that somebody brought this up. For the past two years I have prided myself on being an independent girl with a number 1 no boyfriend rule because it just complicates my life and males just don’t respect my ideals. That worked great for me! Until I met this boy. We’ve been together for 5 months now and I keep facing this issue with him not accepting me as a “feminist.” I put quotes around it not because I don’t consider myself one, because i DO. Its because ALL of my friends including my boyfriend have this stereotype in their minds of feminists being crazy man hating overly masculine women! And I’m sick of it! In my opinion, every woman is a feminist in her own right if she respects herself and expects the equal respect and opportunities from males that she deserves! Why is it that these stereotypes have been planted in so many adolescents minds? Is it the media, politics, or is it just fear? Fear of women being seen without labels, without double standards, just as PEOPLE.

  • Mara @ at 9:42 pm, October 13th, 2009

    I would definitely recommend being friends with a guy before dating him as a way of judging whether or not he’ll be a nice feminist boyfriend. If you’re friends and he treats you as an equal, doesn’t make sexist jokes around you and his other friends, and especially if you can have discussions with him about feminist issues before you start actually dating him, you’ll be at a real advantage. Must better than going on a date with a misogynist pig who treats you like some sort of “prize” and not realizing it beforehand. There are good guys out there, of course, and the best way to find them is to get to know them before actually getting into a dating relationship. My current not-boyfriend (we don’t like the terms boyfriend/girlfriend, they don’t suit us) is great: I got to know him before I dated him, he totally respects me and my feminism, and I’m not only glad that I got to know that he’s a male feminist beforehand, I’m also glad that we have a strong friendship as well as a physical relationship.

  • Lizzie @ at 12:57 am, October 14th, 2009

    As a woman who is happily married to a very strongly pro-feminist guy (I’m typing this as he is cleaning up the kitchen – it’s his turn because I made dinner!), there is some good advice on here so I won’t repeat it.

    The single simplest piece of advice I can give you is to watch out for any of these words or phrases.

    “Such-and-such woman is crazy/shrill/hysterical/emotional/irrational/psycho/stalker/needy” – ie ‘I don’t see her point of view as equally valid to mine and dismiss it in particularly gendered terms’. If he disagrees with a woman it should be with her opinion, not the fact that she is a woman who has an opinion. If he thinks she is wrong it should be because the facts are otherwise, not because she is too damn female to get it right. It may be that the woman in question IS insane or horrible, but there are non-gendered ways to say so; he should use the same language if he is talking about an insane man.

    “X throws like a girl” or similar – ie doing something like a girl means doing it less well.

    “That’s gay” – or any other homophobic slur used to describe something as being crap. Men who are afraid of being seen as gay are insecure, and vulnerable to being pushed by macho culture into other ‘manly’ pursuits such as getting drunk, talking trash about women, and treating woman inappropriately when it comes to sex, such is their determination to be seen as virile.

    “X (a girl) is a slut/whore/slag/trash/used” – only watch out for this if he does not ALSO call boys sluts. If he only uses it about girls, he is pushing the double standard and he may act hatefully toward any woman who lets him sleep with her, because he will see her as diminished, as used. If he also uses it about men, it may be that he is just conservative about sex, or thinks X person was irresponsible (ie a slut) because say, they didn’t use a condom, not because of the sex itself.

    “X is frigid/lesbian” – 99% of the time this means ‘that bitch refused to shag me’. It means he can’t gracefully accept a woman’s right to reject him, and again, he believes his right to be with her trumps her right to turn him down. He’s probably not a rapist and he can’t buy her from her father like in the olden days, so he takes his powerlessness out by trash-talking her. Not a good sign.

    Also as well as the women others have told you to watch how he treats (his mother etc), watch out for how he talks to cab drivers, waiters, cleaners at your school or if there’s one at his house, etc – people who society says are below him. If he is kind to them, makes eye contact, thanks them, and recognises they are individual people, then he is aware of his privileged position and not abusing it. If he doesn’t, he may simply be unaware, and that’s OK as long as he is open to learning.

    Good luck. There are some great boys out there, and I’m sure you’ll find one.

  • Taylor @ at 3:21 am, October 14th, 2009

    I have no idea if there’s really one answer to this, as I think the above responses have shown. I mostly tend to agree with the assertion that a decent person (male or female) will probably be open to hearing your views and reconsidering their own privilege.
    I was disheartened to see so many girls dissing frats, though… I date a guy in a frat, and while I agree that at his school, the majority of frats fit the description given, these guys describe theirs as a “frat for guys who never expected to join a frat”… yes, we met at a party, but we spent that whole night talking on the front porch, and then for our first date we did not just get drunk at the house, we went out in a group with his friends. He is extremely respectful of women, as are most of his frat brothers. The number one criteria they have in inviting nonbrothers to parties is how they make the girls there feel – they have summarily banned a creepy guy who hit on my and many others simply because of that, instead of making excuses for his behavior.
    Admittedly, the alcohol-soaked parties cause problems no matter how nice the guys are, but they are working on addressing that with more sober activities. We as feminists do not write off sororities as vapid and silly, so we should not write off fraternities as full of douchey “bros.” Quality guys can be found everywhere, just as jerks can, too.

  • SarahC @ at 10:28 pm, October 14th, 2009

    To start with, I have absolutely zero experience dating men, women, or farm animals. Why does this matter? Because the foundation of dating is a relationship. And the vast majority of my friends are male.

    I’ve known these guys for a long time. We have similiar intrests, a similiar sense of humor, and the knowledge of when to agree to disagree. Do I worry about hanging out with them? no. Crashing on one of their couches when I’m too tired to drive home? no.

    Granted, these guys are pretty remarkable. They don’t actually call girls sluts, hos, or anything demeaning. Actually, we mostly call guys whores, when we call people whores. That’s gay–I won’t say we don’t use it, but we only use it in a context where we know everybody’s cool with it.

    The truth is, I trust them because I know them as people, not as Generic Men. The one who’s the closest to wanting a stereotypical relationship, wants a wife who’ll work outside the house, so he can play 50’s housewife. It’s kind of cute, really.

  • Anna @ at 11:33 am, October 15th, 2009

    I find that, like most people, most of the guys I encounter have a skewed view of feminism mandated by what society says a feminist looks like. While one ex got his ass promptly dumped when I explained my feminism and he laughed and said equal rights happenedyears ago, many guys are just surprised to find that you’re not wearing Docs and burning your bra. A lot are even more surprised when they learn that they’re actually feminists too…always a pleasant realization for me!

  • ella @ at 9:16 pm, October 15th, 2009

    bottom line (and I can’t believe no one has said this): the only *sure fire* way to tell if he is sexist is to NOT SLEEP WITH HIM (surprise). if he still likes you for you and not just *the goods*, then he cares about you more than just your body. really girls, its a lot simpler than we’re making it.

  • Friday Feminist Quick Clicks, 4 « Cook & Hook @ at 6:33 am, October 16th, 2009

    […] teen feminist website “The FBomb” asks how young feminists can ’screen’ potential dates for misogyny before dating. Possibly […]

  • i'm sick of words, let's act! @ at 6:16 am, October 22nd, 2009

    i am really shocked this question is here and more shocked no one else has thought it was absurd. you go on about how you’re this uber-conscious womyn, but you’re stressing out about telling some guy you’re a feminist? that is insane! you seem real proud of your feminism online…are you so weak you can’t channel your pride to where it really matters?(every day life!) if you really care about this person why wouldn’t you just ask them how they feel and tell them what pisses you off? the very notion that you want to sneak around to find weird motives is creepy. no person, regardless of their sex wants to feel like they can’t trust their partner. it really pains me to think that there are womyn here who are in relationships of any kind where you don’t feel comfortable engaging in really good arguments with your partners. that is how you know if people are worth spending time with, you talk to them!
    and as a p.s. what is with the gloria steinem obsession? it’s been 40 years and there’s been alot of amazing womyn who have said some pretty rad stuff. oh! and they’re not privileged white womyn either!

  • Taylor @ at 11:46 am, November 13th, 2009

    I just want to have an emotional moment and say that this thread was extremely helpful!
    I’ve always found myself steering away from relationships, afraid no man would get it, I finally “gave in” and find myself lashing out feminist opinions at almost everything he says! Now he’s kind of mad and I wonder if I’m too feminist? But really, I don’t think there’s too feminist, just “too closed up to see there’s no

  • Bo @ at 2:51 am, March 30th, 2010

    my partner knows that i’m a feminists and support me. But the movies, comic books, and images that he finds appealing are exploitive and completely tears at what i beleive in. i struggle with that and its frustrating. i’m so stuck!

  • Natalia K @ at 9:12 pm, August 5th, 2010

    It’s all about the guy being open-minded. That’s the key. He may not know much about feminism, but if he’ll willing to listen and to actually understand and change his views, then your relationship has a chance.

  • Donwaw @ at 9:58 pm, September 16th, 2010

    ey true that ma man this post is so right!

  • Claire @ at 3:21 pm, October 18th, 2010

    I appreciated Bo’s post. I am dating a wonderful man who is proud of how much he’s learned (about feminism & sexism) from knowing me. Sometimes I think I take my anger at patriarchy out on him and it’s stressful on our relationship. For example, recently he commented on an actress who got a boob job. He said he thought they looked wierd so he looked it up online. I got so irritated at him, not b/c of jealousy or body issues but b/c of the male obsession with the female body, with the constant critique, dissection, etc. of females. He never comments on my body in a negative or hurtful way, nor does he “adore” it as if it’s the only part of me, etc. This was a clear example of me getting pissed at him b/c of the world we live in, that’s he is also a part of as a male…I’d appreciate more posts on these types of struggles…

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