When you're a feminist looking to date likeminded people, it can be tricky to spot the signs the person you're dating isn't a feminist. While the most obvious sign may seem to be that they say outright that they're not a feminist, it's also worth noting that some people may say they're a feminist when they aren't really; furthermore, sometimes, you might not feel comfortable bringing up the question in the first place. However, there are a few subtle cues that make it pretty clear that if you're looking to date a feminist, you may want to look elsewhere.
It can be a huge disappointment when you're really starting to like someone and they show some of these signs. That's why it's usually best to get the "are you a feminist?" conversation with over with as soon as possible, before you get attached. That said, you can usually tell from someone's overall behavior whether they're respectful toward women and other marginalized people, and one slip-up doesn't necessarily constitute a deal breaker as long as they're willing to learn. Not identifying as a feminist isn't the same thing as being an outright sexist.
Here's a rough guide, though, to a few behaviors that may indicate the person you're dating isn't a feminist.
1. They Make Jokes At Marginalized Groups' Expenses
Sometimes, we don't really think about the jokes we're making because we've heard them many times ourselves, seen people get positive reinforcement for telling them, and bought into the idea that jokes don't have serious consequences. If someone hasn't questioned the roots of rape jokes, dumb blonde jokes, and other forms of humor with misogynistic undertones, they may not be outright sexist, but chances are they haven't exactly had their feminist awakening, either. In this case, it may help to point out that sexual assault, stereotypes, and other problems people joke about are actually very real issues faced by women regularly, and see how sympathetically they react.
2. They Don't Have An Opinion On Current Events
It wouldn't be fair to expect someone to keep up with everything in the news, but most feminist will have some idea of what issues are affecting women, gender minorities, racial minorities, and LGBTQ people today. If you bring up anti-trans bathroom laws, for example, and they don't know what you're talking about, they're probably not staying on top of these issues. Again, this also doesn't necessarily mean they're sexist, but it means they may need to be brought up to speed on feminism.
3. They Use Sexist Language Unthinkingly
Another indicator of how much gender equality is on someone's mind is what words they use. For example, after dating a number of guys in the tech industry, I've found that one verbal habit has proven very telling: When they talk about people in their field, do they use the word "he" or phrases like "IT support guys" by default, or do they account for the possibility that engineers can be female? Other words that might indicate sexism — or at least a lack of feminism — are slurs like "bitch" and "slut" that are sometimes viewed as gender-neutral but in reality are disproportionately directed toward women who buck gender norms.
4. They've Complained About Social Justice Movements
If you hear someone complain about "liberals," "social justice warriors," "political correctness," or college students "impeding free speech" by protesting oppressive campus speakers, events, and policies, that's a sign they may not align themselves with feminism and similar belief systems. This may pose more of a problem than mere ignorance, since it does indicate a pretty significant disagreement in values.
5. You Don't Feel Like You Can Talk About Feminism Around Them
Because of the stereotype of feminists as man-hating, angry, and lacking a sense of humor, it's understandable to be wary about identifying as a feminist in front of anyone. But if you find yourself particularly wary in front of the person you're dating, maybe that's because they're not making you feel comfortable with your feminism. Ultimately, though, the only way to find out if the fear is coming from them or you is to talk about feminism and see how they react. You don't have to do this right away if you're not comfortable enough with them yet, and you don't even have to ask them outright — you can just make a general statement about feminism and see how they react. If they react positively, you'll be relieved. And if they react negatively, at least now you have more information before you get too invested.
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