Nothing makes you feel like a bigger jerkface than when you hate your partner's romantic gesture. So many things in this world are complicated and problematic for feminists, and love doesn't get an exception. Romantic comedies like to pass off romantic gestures that are actually offensive as bold acts of true love that any person should swoon over.
The truth is, when you're committed to making the world a better place, sometimes you have to crash your partner's romance party. Or you have to take a step back and realize that those romantic plans of your own might not be a great idea.
As a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I've mediated plenty of situations where romance went bad. Someone gets hurt and someone's offended and both people feel guilty, and it's all a mess. Better to take a step back and make sure you're not committing any crimes or assuming anything you shouldn't be assuming before you go forth boldly and proclaim your love in a YouTube-worthy way.
I'm no killer of romance. I just want us all to be happy in an equal society filled with non-offensive romantic gestures. I'd watch that rom com all day.
1. Anything Involving Work
I take that back. Sending flowers or something to someone's work is probably fine. Maybe other stuff, if you've communicated about it with your partner in the past and discovered that it might be OK. But showing up and making a scene at your partner's workplace, even if it's a big, romantic scene, is totally not cool. Nothing says "I kick butt and I'm serious about my career" like a trespassing partner with a boombox outside your office. Again, maybe your partner is into that, but if you're not sure, best to respect their space while they're at work.
Newsflash. Stalking isn't cute. It's a felony. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have had to say this to adult people. If a person doesn't give you their number or tell you where they live, that is not licence for you to hunt them down. That's what Facebook is for (and even then, there's a line). If a person says they don't want to see you anymore or talk to you, it's not romantic to "never give up" and to keep trying to contact them. You know what is romantic? Respecting someone's wishes when they tell you to leave them alone.
3. Buying Stereotypical Gifts
Lingerie and jewelry might be the absolute perfect gift for your partner. Or it might be something they hate that doesn't reflect their personalities at all. Maybe your partner wants a video game. Maybe pizza is a super romantic gift. When you don't take your partner's personality or interests into account when you're trying to be romantic, you could be reducing your partner to a stereotype. Sure, it's the thought that counts, but here's a thought: ask your partner what she likes.
4. Asking For Permission
You don't need to ask your partner's father or mother or caretaker or boss or anyone else permission to take them out, marry them, or anything else for that matter. You know who you need to ask? Your partner. Asking permission assumes that your partner belongs to someone else. The gesture seems romantic on its surface, especially when you want to seem like a good, respectful person to your partner's family, but it's better to assume your partner only needs permission from herself.
5. Always Taking The Lead
It's a myth that feminists don't want you to pick up the check or open doors or spoil them from time to time. But it's also offensive to assume that your partner wants you to always take the lead. Traditional gender roles tell us that the man should take charge and the woman should swoon, but today's relationships don't even necessarily contain a man, let alone the need to be led by one. Again, make sure to communicate. It's OK to ask questions if you're not sure if your behavior is appropriate.
6. Public Displays Of Affection
Some people are offended by the idea of public affection, or made uncomfortable by it. Before you plan that flash mob or that make-out picnic in a crowded park, make sure your partner is on board. Public proposals or declarations of love can also be really uncomfortable for a private person. If you have been with someone long enough to want to propose, you should know whether or not doing it in public is a great idea. If you're unsure, ask. (Funny how so many problems can be solved with communication...) Best not to assume.
7. Beating A Dead Horse
I know I kind of already touched on this, but it bears repeating: If a person has told you they are not interested in you, any romantic gesture at this point is not a good idea. No flowers or gifts to her house. No romantic texts. No tagging in romantic lyrics on Instagram. No picking up the check if you are at the same bar (also, please tell me you didn't follow the person to the bar). No means no.
Dating a feminist doesn't mean you can't be romantic. It just means you have to take your individual partner's feelings into account before you make your move.