“You can’t curse, it’s not lady like.”
I was so stunned by the statement, I actually took a moment to think carefully about my response. I’d been seeing this guy for just over two months and this wasn’t the first battle of wits we’d had. After a pause I calmly explained that, as a person I was free to curse at will and that if he felt it was offensive he was free to state that, but at no time was he going to tell me that I couldn’t curse because I was a girl.
“Seriously? What are you, some kind of feminist?”
I didn’t answer. There was that word: feminist. At the time of the argument, I chose to avoid the word and instead argue my case without a label. Needless to say, my “relationship” didn’t last more than a week or so after the conversation, but when I look back on it I question my decision not to claim feminism. I’ve watched it scare off more men than it’s attracted, and at 22 that’s just not the object of the game for me.
One of the biggest misconceptions about feminists and activists is that we don’t actively seek love because we’re just too busy “hating men.” While I can’t speak for all young feminists, I can say that having a relationship is definitely on my mind. Contrary to popular belief, we want love too, and more often than not, circumstances sometimes make me feel as if I have to downplay my position as a feminist and activist just to keep from scaring men away.
What makes it worse is the way that men lump stereotypes and stigmas together when they realize that I claim both activism and feminism. As if my decision to identify with feminism is linked to an underlying “Angry Black Woman” complex or an over-assertion of “Strong Black Woman” mentality. Any way you slice it, dating while young, opinionated, and female is sticky.
Sometimes I wonder if I should just avoid the mention of activism and feminism in its entirety when it comes to dating. But when I step back and think about it, I realize that I’m truly passionate about these things. They are a part of who I am. As badly as I may want to date Malcolm, who wears a suit and tie to the office and leads weekend marches for social justice, I can’t just toss off my feminism because it’s convenient for my desires.
When I dream up perfection in my head, I want someone who I can cuddle with at night and plan the revolution from the comfort of my bed, but with feminism in tow that fantasy can be a trap. It’s easy to assume that since feminism and activism cross paths for me it would be the same for a man who considers himself an activist. However, the unfortunate reality is that a man who fights for #BlackLivesMatter isn’t necessarily one to care about #YesAllWomen.
Some men will even try to use your feminist stands for their sexual gain. Time and time again, I’ve had men attempt to coax me into bed, by pointing out that my “liberal, feminist beliefs” dictated that I didn’t need a commitment to sleep with them. And time and time again, I’ve had to point out to these men that I simply had no desire to sleep with them.
I’ve come to realize that I don’t always have to come out with guns blazing when in search of companionship. Being a feminist and activist is a part of who I am, but it is not all that I am. I don’t feel the need to write feminist as a bullet point in a dating profile, but I also don’t feel the need to hide it. Men have tried to make me think that I deserve less in a relationship because I choose to claim feminism, and while it’s taken a few mistakes, I’ve learned that my feminism is not a restriction on my relationship desires.
I know that as a person I am entitled to be happy, to say no to what I don’t want, to healthy and loving relationships, and to celebrate my claims to feminism and activism. If the idea of my feminism is taboo to a guy, then I need to know that he’s not who I want to plan my revolution with anyway.
Ariel Leconte blogs about lipstick, heels, revolution, and more at Revolutionary in PinkPumps.
Originally published on BlogHer