Feminism often gets a bad rap. We hear people say that feminists are all ugly, hairy-legged, man-haters and some casually throw out the term feminazi as though that wasn’t a horrifically manipulative thing to say. Even some women who act in ways that some would deem feminist, refuse to take on the term because of how heavy it feels.
Anti-feminists love equating feminism with homosexuality. They blame feminism for turning people gay and I’m here to say that they’ve got it exactly backwards. It is not feminism that makes me wary of dating men anymore. It’s the patriarchy.
“Sure, blame the patriarchy. It’s always the patriarchy.”
As much as everyone loves to blame the patriarchy for everything, even when it doesn’t make sense (though it does cause A LOT of problems), my desire to stop dating straight-cut men reallycan be directly related to the patriarchy.
What we call the patriarchy is a complex structure of beliefs, biases, and priorities enforced through socialization and norms. We can receive these messages from person to person, audio and visual media, and even laws. Every part of our culture reinforces these subtle rules and it often takes a long time to wake up to the reality that these rules are imposed through culture and not just ‘natural’. It often isn’t until you start breaking the rules that you begin to understand how tightly bound you were to patriarchal values.
Feminism expresses itself in many ways and has evolved a lot since its inception, but essentially it is the core belief that women are equal to men. That women’s lives matter. I say that in the spirit of the black lives matter slogan. It has been clear that some lives matter less than others under the current patriarchal (and white-supremacist) domination. Feminism exists to address this imbalance of power and as it has evolved to be more intersectional, we are destroying more and more forms of domination.
A note on sexuality
To be clear, I am not saying that sexuality is a choice. We’re all wired in mysterious and unique ways. What I am saying is that as someone who is attracted to people regardless of their genitals, I am not eager to pursue relationships with straight cis men.
Throughout the history of the oppression of homosexuality, there have been people who have chosen not to pursue homosexual relationships, even if it meant denying themselves their only chance at love and happiness (though certainly, this isn’t an option for all). It has been at a great cost, but it has been possible for survival.
My sexual orientation has not changed, and probably won’t, but my choice in which relationships I will pursue has.
Woman: Two more letters, yet still somehow less than a man
When I try to date straight cis men, even ones who think of themselves as progressive, I still end up feeling less worthy of love and attention. Men have been told that they are the main characters in life and that women exist to support them. As a result, when I date a man, or heck, when I spend TIME with a man, I usually realize at some point that he hasn’t been listening to me. At all.
Not only am I not heard, but I am not seen. Sure, my appearance is registered and sometimes commented on, but I am not seen for who I am. Because I haven’t been listened to, I have also not been understood. I will not allow myself to be degraded in this way, and I’ve found there are significantly more women and trans-spectrum folks who actually take the time and spend the effort in getting to know me so that I can feel fully seen.
The patriarchy enforces gender norms that I don’t identify with and, in that context, I know I don’t really “fit” as a woman. I spent a lot of time trying so hard to pass as a woman in this binary world. It wasn’t until I allowed myself the freedom to explore my gender expression that I really started to feel liberated and began experiencing gender euphoria.
I sometimes feel very far from what’s expected of a woman and it can throw me off for days when someone makes assumptions about my gender. But I can’t help but wonder if I would feel so distant from the gender I was assigned at birth if the patriarchy didn’t oppress female and diverse bodies?
Truly equal relationships are hard to come by
I value equality in my relationships. I need to know that my partner and I are on the same level. That simply is just so hard to find in a hetero relationship. Even if you have equal personal power, economic power is usually hard to possess in equal measures. Even if both of those measures of power are equal, it is unlikely that the equal dynamic would be respected and reinforced by society at large.
Strangers and acquaintances will make assumptions based on our perceived genders because we live in a world where it is still relatively reasonable to make those assumptions. A lot of the time, they’ll be correct.
No matter how great your relationship is, at some point there will be patriarchal effects that will lead to resentment. The patriarchy will always tear us apart. So, why put yourself in that position? Dating someone who appears to be your gender and who is as similar to you as possible can minimize unequal treatment by society and make your relationship a bit easier to navigate.
Who’s got the time?
Having a man of patriarchal persuasion in your life is like having a very demanding pet. You have to make food for him, clean up after him and entertain him so he doesn’t get bored. Sure, that’s fine and dandy if you had nothing better to do, but I do have better things to do. At least, more important things like paying bills and pursuing my own interests.
Despite sharing the load of employment pretty equally (though still not always getting paid equally), women are spending almost twice the amount of time on domestic chores than men. In my personal experience, women are also much more efficient in their use of domestic time as well so the amount of domestic work done and done well is probably even more dramatically disparate.
In the capitalist dystopia we inhabit, we simply don’t have time to work, do our regular domestic chores and also take on the extra chores caused by having a man to look after. It just doesn’t make good economic sense to date men anymore.
Capitalism has never existed without gender oppression, and it has finally reached a point of gender exploitation that has made it impossible for women to continue to supply the patriarchal capitalism machine with workers from their wombs. There simply isn’t time.
It’s a man’s world
Putting men at the top of the social hierarchy, as the patriarchy does, has had some consequences that may have inadvertently supported women’s attraction to other women.
Because stories are usually told from a man’s perspective, or written by a man, they often excessively sexualize women. The audience is made to empathize with a man and to view women as conquests; objects. In movies, much attention is paid to the delicate little details like women adjusting their clothing, or throwing a flirtatious look straight into the camera. The audience then starts seeing these women through the male gaze, yet the audience is not all male.
If I was exposed to a broader variety of stories, would I be so inclined to chase after women? If it wasn’t quite so obvious who had all the power in the stories I did see, would I favor one gender over another? Would I be more attracted to men if I was exposed to more stories told by straight women? We may never know.
The vast majority of advertising out there relies heavily on the sexualization of women to sell just about everything from soft drinks to vacations. Every day, we are inundated with women who are delicately pointing their toes and showing off their bare skin, biting their lips or fingers. The sheer volume of women looking suggestively into the camera is obscene, though I think it’s getting a *bit* better…..I hope?
Sexuality is great and I’m all for freedom of sexual expression, but sexual exploitation is different and has been the norm for female-bodied people for a long time in show business.
My childhood had a lot of it, and my adolescence was at the same time as Dirty by Christina Aguilera and Slave for You by Britney Spears. Hoo-boy! It was a TIME. I remember spending a lot of time being unsure about whether I was attracted to these women, or just wanted to be them, but I think the answer was yes.
(Truly) Feminist men are sexy
I have only really met a handful of truly feminist men. And by ‘truly feminist’, I mean men who not only identify as feminists and aspire to be allies, but who also proactively educate themselves and change their behaviors to accommodate what they learn.
Too often I’ve had cis men in my life who are quick to say that they are feminists yet still expect women to educate them in all the ways in which their privilege leads them to hurt women. Educating people is a job. It takes time and energy and is incredibly draining. Expecting others to educate you not only shows your privilege, but it exposes your lack of investment in addressing the inequalities in our society.
Yet, proactive self-education in the feminist struggle is QUITE the turn-on!
I remember meeting a very odd-looking man who had a mild speech impediment and eyes that looked in different directions. Not exactly the prince charming type. But he went out of his way to be a nurse who did everything the woman nurses did and was constantly improving himself to be a more supportive man in the feminist struggle. His character is what made him super sexy.
However, this kind of man is so much in the minority, that it just doesn’t make it worthwhile to bother dating cis men, especially when there are so many women in the world.
Equality for all
There are lots of reasons we choose the partners that we do. If there was more equality, we would have more freedom to engage in equal partnerships with a broader range of people.
The patriarchy breeds inequality. As long as we adhere to patriarchal life, hetero relationships are doomed to be inherently unequal. Perhaps our best hope for happy, oppression-free straight coupledom is to embrace intersectional feminism with open arms and open hearts.