A few days ago I was catching up with an old school classmate of mine from several years ago, over the phone, when the issue of my feminism came up (we’ve been in touch via Facebook, and he reads my articles for which I’m grateful). We were talking about my current relationship status when he asked me if I was still a feminist to which I answered in the affirmative. Although I have come to expect such words of caution, it still surprises me at times when I’m asked to “tone it down a little.” It, of course, referring to my feminist views. This old classmate is not and won’t be the last person to issue this warning. Even my own father has expressed concerns about my way of thinking.
And while the concern is usually offered from a good place, I can’t help but wonder what people perceive to be so bad about this “way of thinking”. Why do people perceive feminist thinking as a negative in relationships? I’m not oblivious to the fact that my “way of thinking” has been a contributing factor to many of my failed relationships, but why?
What is my way of thinking?
I believe in choices! It’s as simple as that. Those choices include a woman being able to live her life the way she wants to, and not the way society, tradition or culture dictates that she live it. Those choices, among several others, include the right to choose whether or not to marry, whether or not to bear children (and yes, that includes her choice to abort a pregnancy she does not want), whether or not to express an opinion, whether or not to cook, clean, do the laundry and vacuum, whether or not to have sex, etc. In other words, I do not believe in suppressing a woman’s wishes simply by virtue of her status as a woman. I also believe in the founding tenets of the feminist theory: equal rights in all areas where men have rights. I believe that when a person’s right to choose is taken away from them, they essentially become lesser human-beings; children, if you will, incapable of making sound decisions. And it is this fear of being a lesser human-being that has turned many women defensive instead of being supportive and nurturing. We fear that our supportive gestures will be taken for granted as things we’re “supposed to do,” instead of things we “want/choose to do.”
How does this way of thinking affect my relationships?
Some of us saw the limited choices of our grandmothers’ and mothers’ generations and we vowed at 13 or 14 (I may have been younger) that we would never allow our choices to be taken away from us that way. We would build our own lives and live our own lives, even if that meant never being like everyone else. And although, in a sense, being partnered in a relationship takes away some of these choices, feminists like myself still find ourselves drawn to these situations.
The fear of losing ourselves is the reason many women today hold back in their relationships. We don’t want to give a man the wrong idea. And yes, it becomes exhausting because you want to be there for him, to be nurturing and feminine, caring and wifely, and yet you fear that in doing so your actions will become obligatory instead of voluntary. This is a feminist’s greatest fear; to be put in a box and be told what she’s supposed to do because she’s a woman.
Feminists are also very passionate about issues that affect women and children. Rape, poverty, the right to be single, abortion, sexual expression, girlchild education just to mention a few, are some of the burning topics in my general conversations. And of course, my opinions on these issues are not in keeping with the general opinions out there which can make my “way of thinking” scary to some men, and women, who believe in limited rights and choices for women – including how and when a woman speaks.
When I have an opinion, the last thing I think about is to suppress it. And I live with the consequences that others see and warn me about every time I enter a new relationship. “Don’t scare him off with your way of thinking. Keep your equal rights talk to yourself if you want this one to work out.” But pretense will never become me for the sake of a relationship. Learning the art of expression with suppression is not an easy thing to do, and I don’t wish to live under such pressure.
On the contrary, for all the bad things people see in my identity as a feminist, I see so many positives; one being that I do so many of the things many other women do out of obligation out of choice. What greater satisfaction can there be in any fulfilling relationship than to have this kind of respect for personal choice? I fail to see how this is such a bad thing!
I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share them below: