Girl Talk: Could You Date A Man Who Didn’t Call Himself A Feminist?

Men only care about sex. All men are violent and abusive. Women are victims. Women aren’t capable alone and need a man’s help.

Sometimes it seems like the erroneous beliefs attributed to feminism are so negative that only LiLo could have worse PR. So, why is it a surprise when the men we fall in love with are skittish about embracing the term?

I don’t recall how it came up over the weekend, but my boyfriend still managed to raise my eyebrows when he said that wouldn’t describe himself as a feminist.Really?! He dates me. I pointed out the various values he holds which are clearly in line with feminism, and David admitted, albeit grudgingly, that I was right. But, he said, he wouldn’t identify himself as a feminist unless asked because he just doesn’t like the stereotypes that go along with it. To quote David as directly as I can remember, he said: “I guess I am a feminist. But the way feminism sometimes sounds doesn’t make it sound like something I want to be a part of. It needs a better brand.”

True, lots of women won’t use the “f-word” because of the negative associations and, arguably, eradicating the “I’m not a feminist, but…” plague among womenfolk is more important than getting the menfolk on board. But for me, personally, if a guy I dated insisted he was not a feminist and refused to identify at all with that label? Well, I’d probably dump him.

In David’s defense, I see where he’s coming from—to an extent—regarding feminism’s “branding.” Some feminists who are against pornography and holler about too sexy advertising are very vocal, but they don’t necessarily represent the opinions of all of us. And lately, I’ve really soured on the “you’re not feminist enough!” finger-wagging that I’ve seen others doing. I’ve groaned while smart, passionate, dedicated women get ripped a new one on feminist listservs when they didn’t pass someone else’s feminist litmus test. I don’t want to be associated with those people, yet I also didn’t want to abandon the label just because a few bad apples sully the name.

But I know I’m not being fair either, because I’m applying my own litmus test. I know that it is narrow-minded of me, but in reality, my identity is so wrapped up in caring about feminist issues that it would feel like he didn’t accept me. Those values matter to me. I have one male friend who refuses to call himself a feminist, even though he, too, shares my feminism’s values, because he doesn’t want to be associated with any ideology whatsoever. Nothing personal, feminism! he said, But I’m not into -isms. I see his point, but I just couldn’t be with someone who was downright opposed, or even apathetic. Maybe my litmus test is to see if men are just too apathetic about issues that relate to women, or if they’re dumb enough to believe all the smears about feminism.

Even though I know it’s got bad PR, I don’t eschew the feminist label because I’m afraid of what negatives stereotypes people might pin to me. I’d rather just embrace it and show people that this, not that, is what a feminist looks like— and I want to be with someone who is up to the task of doing that, too. My boyfriend came around after a little prompting from me. But it would be cool if one day, he and other guys just say it on their own.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, do you think you could date a man who didn’t call himself a feminist? Or does the label not matter to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!