Feminism isn't just about demanding equal treatment from others. It's also about treating ourselves with respect. This struggle comes up constantly in our everyday lives. So, there are a few unique things a feminist does in a relationship — or strives to do, because we're all works in progress — aimed toward viewing ourselves as full humans and demanding that others acknowledge our humanity as well.
Unlearning the misogyny we have internalized and behaving as if we truly are valuable is an ongoing process on the path of any feminist, especially in our interactions with other people. It's also one of the hardest parts of being a feminist. It is one thing to believe in equality and another to reflect that belief in our actions, even when that means cutting ties with someone we love or speaking up for ourselves when it could make someone unhappy.
Here are some relationship habits of feminists that facilitate the process of learning self-respect and promoting gender equality in our everyday lives. If you practice them, props to you for sticking it to the patriarchy, and if you don't, I understand — we've all been there — but maybe these suggestions will give you ideas for how to incorporate feminism into your relationships.
1. We Offer To Split The Bill
Couples' financial situations vary, but when we're first getting to know someone and don't have a particular arrangement worked out, feminist women will offer to split the bill and feminist men will allow women to pay their half if they prefer. Don't get me wrong — it's nice when anyone offers to foot the bill — but men shouldn't have to, since that expectation has roots in a problematic model of love and sex as economic exchanges. However we end up dividing the cost of dinner, we understand that nobody "owes" anything to anyone based on that decision.
2. We Take Time For Ourselves
Feminists understand that self-love is the best love. It's empowering to depend on nobody else for enjoyment or approval. We learn to enjoy taking ourselves on walks or to dinner or just sitting at home reading or making art alone. When nobody is able to give us satisfaction that we can't give ourselves, nobody can manipulate us into making sacrifices we don't want to make. If someone isn't giving us what we want, we always have a backup plan: our own company.
3. We Take Time For Our Friends
The idea of "girls' nights" is outdated — there's no activity that exclusively women can or should participate in — but feminist do value nights with people other than our significant others. Like taking time for ourselves, this prevents us from losing ourselves or defining ourselves by another person. We meet our basic needs ourselves, and everyone else is extra. They're still important, though. And since we don't put all our eggs in the basket of other significant others, friends and family are equally important.
4. We Say "No"
Feminists won't be pressured into anything they don't want to do, whether that's going on a date they're not excited about, spending time with a significant other's friend whom they despise, or attending a social event that conflicts with their work schedule. We give others our time on our own terms and believe that if we need to say "no" to an invitation now, another opportunity will come up again if the person really cares about us. If they don't, they're not worthy of our time in the first place.
5. We Speak Up When There's A Problem
Since we know we deserve fair treatment, feminists will try to do something when we don't get it, whether that's cutting someone out of our lives altogether or confronting them. We don't all live up to this ideal, since confrontation is hard to begin with and women in particular sometimes have trouble speaking up for themselves, but we are at least developing the courage to advocate for ourselves when something's wrong. Our partners deserve to know it so that they can stop hurting us, and if they don't want to stop hurting us, again, they're not worth our attention.
6. We Ask For Sexual Pleasure
If we are in a relationship that includes sex, we know that we deserve pleasure as much as our partners. We don't pressure them into anything, but we make it clear what we want, and we expect our partners to care. We are so over the idea that sex is an activity designated to please men while women just put up with it in order to get something else, like money or affection. Nope! This is our time, too.
7. We Ask For Consent
While we voice our desires, we by no means demand that anybody else fulfill them. We make sure before we enter into any sexual encounter that the other person is not just okay but happy with what's happening. This goes for anyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
8. We Let Our Partners Cry
This is an especially feminist statement for women who date men, since men are taught to avoid crying and always be strong, particularly in order to protect women. In general, feminists encourage their partners to follow impulses that defy gender roles, whether that's crying, taking up a hobby stereotypical of the other gender, or wearing something unconventional.
9. We Question Our Preferences
It's not uncommon for even progressive people to have problematic dating preferences, such as the preference for people of one race or for tall men, thin women, or others who fit a traditional gender role. We can't always control these and shouldn't date people we're not attracted to just to defy them, but I have found that it helps to expose ourselves to unconventional representations of relationships and carefully consider what is actually important to us. We can often be attracted to a wider range of people than we expected if we open our minds.
10. We Value Our Careers — And Expect Our Partners To, As Well
Feminists want to be acknowledged as more than just our partners' accessories. We're multidimensional people, after all, with full lives that often include career ambitions. We don't want partners who will expect us to put our careers on hold when we have children or ever. We also want partners who will ask us questions about our jobs and other aspects of our lives and remember things about us that don't have to do with them. In short, we want relationships where both people are treated as people. All relationships should be feminist ones.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy(10)