How Do I Deal With A Potentially Sexist Boyfriend? Dear Betch

Dear Betch,

I have a boyfriend who I very much love, but there is one very big problem–he hates when I talk about feminism.

I'm a self-proclaimed feminist and never shy away from letting people know. I get a lot of heat for this–from both men and women–but I have never let that stop me from speaking my mind on feminist related issues. Because after all, feminism is about speaking the 'unspoken'…and yes, maybe sometimes even yelling the 'unspoken'.

The other night my boyfriend confessed to me that his friends are always asking him how he “deals with it” (my outspoken feminism) and how he can “take it”. This is something that I'm used to, but when I asked him how he responds, he said: “I agree with them. I don't want to date a feminist. I want to date you. You need to learn how to separate the two, otherwise you're going to drive me away.”

My boyfriend is a wonderful guy and a very respectful and supportive boyfriend, so I wasn't even sure how to respond to this. Feminism is something I'm so passionate about that I don't even really know that I could 'separate the two' even if I tried. I don't want to lose him, but I also can't believe that he's so unwilling to learn about something that I love. Maybe I'm making the mistake of assuming that something that is so obvious to me, must be obvious to everyone else…or maybe not. Basically, I don't know what the fuck to do.

Is it possible to still be a feminist and date a man who doesn't believe in it?

– Confused

Dear Gloria Steinem,

This is sort of tricky because on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with being a feminist and identifying as such. You want to be treated with respect, and support equality of all genders? What’s not to like, right? Unless you’re the type of “feminist” who trolls Tumblr all day posting shit like “If you don’t respect women I will chop your balls off #maleprivilege #allstraightwhitemenmustdie,” in which case, you need to get off the internet and step out into the real world.

I think you being a feminist is less of an issue than your constant need to, as you put it, “speak the unspoken—and yes, sometimes, even yell the ‘unspoken.’” I’m just imagining you and your bf at a pizza place or whatever, and he goes, “Hey, what kind of toppings do you want–” “I AM A STRONG, INDEPENDENT WOMAN WHO CAN MAKE MY OWN CHOICES, DAMMIT!”

Look, there’s a time and place for everything. If, say, you’re confiding in your bf about being sexually harassed at work or something and he covers his ears and starts yelling “LALALALA I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT SEXISM,” that’s one thing and you should certainly consider finding a new guy who’s not a tool. But if it’s date night at a fancy restaurant and all you want to do is rail against the patriarchy over $15 tapas, then it’s time you tone it down.

To me, this is not about the nature of the topic, but more about the frequency. Take something less “controversial” than feminism, like sports. If all your boyfriend talked about was sports, and every single conversation with him somehow linked back to sports, and you couldn’t even go grocery shopping without him turning the whole experience into an extended baseball analogy, wouldn’t that get on your nerves?

The bottom line is, you said yourself he’s a “wonderful guy, very respectful and supportive,” and aren’t mutual respect and support from men what a lot of feminists are after? It sounds like you have all you need already. If feminism  is that important to you, you have every right to look for your own radical feminist counterpart. But imo if it’s really that hard for you to go a day without recounting everything you read on Jezebel, then you should find a way to develop your own identity–not just as a feminist, but as a human being–for your own good.

Best of luck on the soul searching,

The Betches


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