There's nothing like some good old feminist guilt to ruin a dating experience. Like many feminists, I've found myself wondering on dates, "Is it OK that he paid for that?" and "Should I not be wearing makeup?" But these are dating behaviors that don't make you a bad feminist. They just make you a regular human being trying to navigate the often complicated world of dating, and that doesn't have any bearing on your feminism at all.
It's taken me a while to come to terms with this, though. After all, dating as a feminist is no easy feat. You have to wade through a lot of misogynists, and often, people expect you to wear makeup for dates or never pay for your own meals (if you're a woman), and that can get frustrating. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't follow these conventions on your own accord. The important thing is that it's your choice. That's the whole point of feminism: You shouldn't feel any pressure to do something because of your gender, whether that's to conform to gender norms or to defy them.
So, in case you were anxious about being a bad feminist, here are some dating habits that don't actually make you one:
1. Letting Your Date Pick Up The Check
I'm an independent, working woman who can pay for her own meal, and I don't believe men should pay for dates any more than women should. But if somebody offers to treat me to a meal or movie, whether that's a date or a friend, I think that's nice. It doesn't have to be gendered — I can do the same for them. I figure that as long as someone's not sexist, I can already tell they're not sexist. I don't need to split every bill down the middle to know that.
2. Sleeping With Someone Quickly
I've heard feminist pushback from both camps on this issue: While some say it's anti-feminist to wait to have sex, some say women aren't respecting themselves if they have sex early on because they're letting men define the playing field. I call BS on both. Assuming a woman can't make this decision herself is itself sexist, and this is an individual decision that has nothing to do with how much you respect yourself. The only measure of how much you respect yourself is whether or not you're doing what you what, regardless of what other people say.
3. Waiting To Have Sex
As I mentioned, some feminists can also be harsh toward women who wait to have sex, as if we're just doing it because of slut-shaming and the patriarchy. But there are plenty of other reasons women turn down sex in the beginning of relationships. Maybe they don't want to get too close to someone too quickly. Maybe they have concerns about sexual assault, pregnancy, or STIs. Maybe they just don't want to. It doesn't say anything about their level of feminism.
4. Getting Really Infatuated With Someone
If feminists — particularly straight women — get too obsessed, we're often afraid that we're just letting men take over our lives. And I'll be the first to admit that excitement over a love interest can reach unhealthy proportions sometimes. But that doesn't make you anti-feminist. It makes you a hopeless romantic. And if you happen to be a straight woman who's a hopeless romantic, that's cool! It only gets unhealthy if someone else is dictating your self-esteem or giving your life meaning.
5. Seeking Someone With A Stable Job
Thanks to feminism, we no longer value men's work over women's as much as we used to. But that doesn't mean caring about a man's (or any partner's) job or financial stability is a problem. It's understandable to want someone who can support themselves rather than depend on you. And not wanting someone to depend on you doesn't make you a bad feminist. It's important to many people that both members of a couple be financially independent. You have the right to assert whatever boundaries you have, financial or otherwise, full stop. And that's feminist.