The feminist’s guide to dating
Written by Louisa Ackermann
So, you want to date a feminist. Well, contrary to popular belief, we aren’t going to bite anyone’s head off screaming ‘Patriarchy!’ if they dare to open the door for us or pull out our chairs before we sit down. However, it’s important that we do break down some of the stereotypical ideas about gendered roles in dating. The first of which is of course that it’s always the man’s job to foot the bill.
To me, the idea that the guy should always pay reflects more troubling cultural virtues that a woman’s time has a commodity value, and as such, that she may ‘owe’ her date something in return. It’s not that you always have to split the bill, stringently tallying up who had which starter or what percentage of the bottle of wine to be sure it’s fairly weighted. However, if you want to enter into a relationship, it can only be healthy if you’re doing so as equals. In fact, a recent sociological study (unsurprisingly) shows that men don’t want to shoulder the burden of payment everytime anyway – but are often afraid to ask their date for a contribution. Presumably because of those pesky gender norms that we’re trying so hard to break.
Of course it’s nice to treat the person you care about on occasion, but this goes both ways – the same would be true of affection, or communication. If one person is expected to make all the date arrangements, chasing the other up for a gap in their schedule, resentment is bound to follow. Cosmopolitan Magazine might have you believing you’re supposed to wait three days to return his phone-call, or your mother may have told you never to make the first move – but this isn’t the 1950s. We women don’t have to sit at home waiting to be called up and taken for an evening at the diner or the drive-thru (Disclaimer: I have learnt everything I know about the 1950s from watching terrible American films). We can, and should, do it ourselves.
The idea of the ‘thrill of the chase’ has long been a tenet of dating culture. However, all this does is perpetuate the idea that women are something to be put on a pedestal, a prize to be won through perserverence and graft. Playing some kind of mind-game so as not to appear ‘too keen’ is old-fashioned and exhausting.
Taking a feminist approach to dating isn’t difficult. In essence, all it dictates is that our core values should be honesty, mutual respect, enjoyment of each others company… and smashing the patriarchy!
Louisa is a freelance journalist and feminist. She currently works as the Women’s Officer of Warwick University and is the editor of blog Belle-Jar.com
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