We live in a society of inequality, and — let’s be honest — probably always will. It’s a little too ingrained in us to “be the best,” so we try to maximize the qualities that we see in ourselves as “better” than the competition. To some people, that means enhancing their skills and talents to make themselves indispensible, which is good. To others, it means using their status to oppress those below them out of fear of becoming obsolete, which is chicken-shit.
Unless you’ve been trapped under a rock for the past, oh, half-century or so, you’ve probably noticed that women feel marginalized by the opportunities available to them and are looking to be treated as equals with their penis-sporting counterparts. If you’re the type of guy who takes issue with that, then you probably want to check out now and go back to looking at Cheerleader Fail videos on YouTube. Enjoy.
If you’re still around, then odds are you’re already a feminist whether you identify as such or not. All you have to do to qualify as a feminist is support equal rights and treatment of women. That’s it. It’s not about bringing men down, it’s about helping women raise themselves up to the social and professional level you currently occupy and enjoy. That means supporting equal pay, not applying double-standards, not objectifying them, etc. Basically not believing having a dick automatically grants you a sense of entitlement and superiority.
If it’s surprising to find out you’re a feminist, that’s because it’s easy to get distracted by the rhetoric of far-right assholes like Rush Limbaugh who throw around oh-so-clever terms like “feminazi,” or ultra-feminist bloggers who try to make you feel like having a set of balls qualifies you as an evil, oppressive piece of shit. This is extremism. This is weak people making loud noises. Most people don’t feel that way. So let’s get past that.
Okay, so now that you’ve accepted the fact that you’re a card-carrying feminist, how does that translate into how you should behave in the dating/relationship world? Well, first you have to understand that “equal” does not necessarily mean “same.” It does if you’re talking about being paid equally for doing the same job, but it just doesn’t apply in a lot of social situations.
When it comes to dating and courtship, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that men and women are different. In fact, it’s kind of the point. You can’t treat a woman you’re dating the same way you treat your drinking buddies, because the relationships are different. You want and need different things out of them. So if you’re treating a woman you’re dating like she’s “one of the guys” in hopes of impressing her, you’re walking down the wrong path.
Basically, the trick is finding a way to be chivalrous, but not disempowering. This is not hard, and the majority of women will appreciate it. All you have to do is use your fucking head. Hold the door open for her. Walk on the street-side of the sidewalk. Give her your coat if she’s cold. Walk her to her door at the end of the night. If she feels diminished by these types of gestures, then take a look at how you’re offering them. If you can honestly say that you’re not being condescending in your methods, then it’s her fucking problem, not yours. Maybe she’s not the woman for you. Oh well, plenty of fish in the sea and all that.
Basically, those kinds of things are manly, but harmless. Old-fashioned? Maybe, but so what? Older generations got a lot of shit wrong, but you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.
What you need to be careful about is demonstrating your manliness in ways that diminish the female gender as a whole. This gets kind of tricky, because you may be doing some of these things without even being aware of it. For example, pointing out that someone “throws like a girl” may not seem like such a big deal (let’s face it, everyone knows what that means, and a lot of girls actually do throw that way). You might feel that it’s unreasonable for a woman to get outraged by a comment like that, but is it really a battle worth fighting? If you dropped saying shit like that (at least in the company of women) would you really miss it? If so, then what are you doing still reading this? I told you to go back to YouTube.
But being a feminist gentleman is not just about small gestures and being careful not to say something stupid. You can let her know you support her empowerment by making small adjustments to your conversation. Instead of trying to impress her by bragging about how successful you are and detailing your five-year plan to become king of the world, try taking an honest interest in her hopes and dreams. Ask questions, express admiration without calling her ambition “cute.” Support her right to try to be whatever the fuck she wants to be.
Basically, no one’s asking you to channel Gloria Steinem or Susan B. Anthony. There are plenty squeaky wheels of feminism already. It’s a man’s job to practice feminism without neutering ourselves. Men do not have to become weak so that women can be strong, and if you’re threatened by women’s equality, you’re probably not much of a man, anyway. So take the high road here. While sexism is hopefully going out of style, being a gentleman doesn’t have to.