7 Relationship Habits That Don't Make You A Bad Feminist
As a feminist, I know the guilt surrounding doing "unfeminist" things. After all, I watch The Bachelor, wear makeup, and sometimes let my dates pay my half of the bill. But the latter is just one of many relationship habits that don't make you a bad feminist in reality. They just make you a person who, like all people, has interests and preferences that are sometimes influenced by the society you live in. And that's nothing to be ashamed of.
I used to feel like I had to apologize every time I enjoyed something that is arguably degrading to women. But soon, I realized that if I did that, I'd be apologizing all the time. It's not my fault that there aren't a lot of super progressive reality TV shows. It's not my responsibility to make sure my dates all understand the power dynamics implicated in chivalry. And it's not my place to decide what fashion or styling choices are most or least empowering.
It's also not my place to tell any individual how to conduct their relationship, even while I criticize the larger societal ideas that certain romantic conventions come from. Here are a few relationship habits feminists never have to apologize for, because your politics shouldn't compromise your personal life.
1. Accepting Chivalry
Yes, there's a long history of men opening doors for women and paying for their dates because they believed women were incapable of doing these things themselves. But that doesn't mean everyone who offers these gestures believes women are incapable, and it doesn't mean you're endorsing this view by accepting these offers. There's nothing inherently wrong with opening the door for someone; it's the underlying assumptions about gender that are problematic. Better than rejecting all door-holding would be for us to hold doors for everyone.
2. Compromising Your Career For Your Relationship
Most feminists would agree that women should never feel pressure to let their relationships influence their career choices. But sometimes, we have to make tough decisions, and there are situations when someone of any gender might rather, say, take their second-choice job and live near their partner than take their first-choice one and live far away. This isn't exclusive to women, and it's a personal decision that shouldn't be influenced by what anyone else will think about you.
3. Being Crushed Over A Breakup
Breakups are the worst, and completely falling apart over one doesn't make you a less strong, independent person. Even the fiercest feminist should have room to grieve over a breakup, even if that means feeling "incomplete." Of course we're always complete people, but losing someone you love in any manner can leave a hole in your heart and your life. Your friends should be there to empathize with you, not give you a lecture about independence.
4. Being Sexually Submissive
Sexual submission is a common fantasy for both men and women, according to a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, and it doesn't mean you want to be dominated outside of the bedroom. We can speculate about where our desires come from, and they're certainly not immune to societal influence, but they're still our desires to indulge and enjoy. Even if your propensity to be submissive were related to gender norms, acting out that fantasy in the bedroom won't perpetuate those norms. You shouldn't have to compromise your sexual satisfaction in order to make a point about gender equality (as long as everyone participating in the act enthusiastically consents, of course).
5. Getting Married
Marriage may have a history tied up with viewing women as property, but its meaning is different now for many people. For lots of couples, it's a way to gain certain legal rights. For some, it's a symbol of commitment. For others still, it's a way to make their families happy. Whatever the reason, you don't have to carry the weight of the tradition's history on your shoulders. Your wedding can mean what you want it to.
6. Changing Your Last Name
As Bibi Dietz points out in another Bustle article, changing your last name can have whatever meaning it has to you, just like getting married in the first place. People of all genders might choose to change their last names because it's easier than giving their kids hyphenated names, because they like the sound of their partners' names better, because they want to distance themselves from their families, because it's a symbolic merging, or for whatever reason. It doesn't make you a slave to the patriarchy.
7. Having Kids
Occasionally, you'll hear about people being exclusionary toward moms or looking down on women for valuing their families over their careers. But true feminists don't judge women for anything they wouldn't judge men for, including being parents and devoting time to their kids. Feminists should support the right of other feminists to do what makes them happy, because what's the point of feminism if it's not allowing women the lives they want?
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (7)