Once you become exposed to feminism, it has a way of infiltrating every area of your life. So, while anybody at all can engage in these behaviors, there are certain things a feminist does in a relationship — and there are things a feminist does during a breakup, too. Our actions matter not just while we're in the middle of a romance, but after that romance is over, as well.
While no feminist should be expected to live every moment of their life with confidence, assertiveness, self-love, body positivity, and other feminist ideals, feminism can inspire you to strive toward your most empowered self. It makes you examine whether you're making decisions to please yourself or someone else, rethink what you are and aren't willing to compromise, and challenge assumptions about what your relationships should look like. Since feminism rejects prescriptions for behavior, it leads you to consider what you really want. That's super liberating and super scary.
Breakups are some of the toughest things people deal with during their lives and therefore some of the times when we most need the inspiration and wisdom feminism can provide. When you're dealing with something that difficult, whatever gets you through it is worth practicing. So here are some ways feminists deal with breakups that can hopefully make the process a little less trying.
1. They Grieve
Contrary to narratives of women's independence that claim we can never feel as if our lives are lacking without another person, feminists believe in accepting all emotions without judgment. After a breakup, it's normal to feel like you're missing your other half, even if you have high self-esteem. Two people in love become part of each other. That's what makes a breakup so painful: It feels like you've lost part of yourself. That has nothing to do with feeling incompetent, weak, or uninteresting, and everything to do with the fact that you were so close with someone that losing them is like losing part of you.
2. They Practice Self-Care
Feminism is about both demanding respect from others and practicing self-respect, which means taking excellent care of yourself in times of hardship, whether you're sick, feeling down, or dealing with a breakup. That's why I endorse the strategy of doing whatever it takes — except maybe hard drugs or, you know, anything that might cause another person bodily harm — when your heart has just been broken. Go shopping, take a bath, fly home to your parents' house, eat more than you normally would, drink more than you normally would — whatever makes you feel better. In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, your goal should be to distract yourself until the pain fades enough for you to start piecing your life back together. Until then, this is your time to be self-indulgent.
3. They Spend Time With Their Friends And Family
Since our culture teaches women to be reliant on their significant others, it's important to remember that so many other people are on our side and to maintain our relationships with those people whether we're single or in relationships. Relying not on a single person but on a whole network of people makes us more resilient to the loss of relationships. Feminists strive to maintain this network while they're in relationships so they have more well-rounded lives and breakups don't disrupt their social lives.
4. They Get Reacquainted With Themselves
Part of feminism is cultivating independence, which means that even on the days when your friends, family, and romantic partner(s) aren't giving you what you want, you can still provide that for yourself — and even when they're critical of you, you can still feel good about yourself because you trust your own opinion more than theirs. When you enjoy spending time with yourself, singlehood presents an exciting opportunity to get to know your own personality and preferences, from what your hopes and dreams are and what makes you happy to what time you like to wake up and what foods make you feel best. Feminism teaches us that a single woman is nobody to pity. While being in a relationship can be a profound experience, our lives are just as complete when we're alone.
5. They Challenge Self-Blame
Studies have shown that women are on average less confident than men, which can lead to a lot of unwarranted self-criticism. When a relationship doesn't work out, it's all too common for women to blame themselves: Were we not sexy enough to keep our partner's attention? Were were too "bitchy"? Too demanding? It doesn't help that relationships are considered women's territory, so women often feel responsible for keeping a partnership going. If it doesn't work out, we can feel like failures. Feminism fortunately gives us the understanding of gender dynamics to challenge this perception. It helps us be easier on ourselves and realize there's usually nothing we could have done to fix a broken relationship.
6. They Turn To Empowering Songs, Books, Movies, Etc.
Speaking of realizing it's not your fault when a relationship ends, Shakira's "Don't Bother" (above) helps me see that. I have my go-to playlist for dealing with breakups, while others have their movies, books, and TV shows. A feminist might turn to media meant specifically to remind women of their independence, but anything that makes you feel empowered is feminist.
7. They Know It'll Be OK
Even when everything feels like it's falling apart, there's a faint voice in the back of every feminist's mind that reminds them they are strong and resilient and will not only survive this breakup, but also thrive in its aftermath. We remember what we've learned from our past breakups and how they made us even stronger people, and know that, maybe not yet, but one day, we'll learn to love again — and to love our solo lives in the meantime.