Being a feminist in the dating world sometimes feels like the kind of elaborate, masochistic torture that wouldn't be out of place at the end of an ancient myth about women who got bored with their place in society. As a result, the things a feminist does on a first date tend to be a little different than the seduction techniques some people might rely on. Feminism may not be a dirty word in the way that it used to be, but dating culture remains deeply rooted in gender norms. This is especially true on a first date, where you may not know each other well enough to flout old-fashioned traditions — and so you're stuck in a candlelit restaurant, wincing every time your date says you're "not like other girls" and wondering whether they paid for dinner out of politeness or some secret sense of chauvinism. (Here's hoping it's the former.)
Unlike the life-size Zayn Malik cutout you keep tucked away in the back of your closet, however, feminism isn't one of those odd quirks you try to hide on a first date. It's something that affects your whole life, including (and maybe especially) your choice of romantic partners. Here are five things most feminists do on a first date.
1. Testing The Feminist Waters
If you're a feminist, you probably want to date someone who also believes in gender equality. Thanks to the unhappy convergence of a bunch of cultural factors, however, not everyone who supports gender equality calls themselves feminist. As a result, you might test the waters by talking about your own ambitions or current events surrounding feminism. If they don't start talking about women's place in the home or declaring their love for the toupee-clad wax figure masquerading as the Republican presidential candidate, you can probably relax and enjoy the date.
2. Paying Attention To How They Discuss Women
As lovely as it is to hear your date talk about what makes you unique, there's a world of difference between praising someone for their own attributes and doing so by putting other people down. It's been said before, but if you're a woman, being told you're "not like other girls" isn't a compliment. More than anything else, it speaks more about what the speaker thinks of women — that we're all dramatic, vapid, manipulative, or some toxic combination of all three. Once your novelty wears off, they'll probably impose the same stereotypes on you, which is why feminists pay attention to the way their dates talk about other women.
3. Agonizing Over Who Pays
There's absolutely nothing wrong with letting someone of the opposite gender pay for dinner. If it makes your date happy, take the free food. Things start getting weird when someone won't let you pay or expects something from you in return for covering the bill, but most of the time, it's totally cool. Besides, do I need to reiterate the importance of free food?
On the other hand, that doesn't stop you from agonizing about everything. Why won't your date let you split the bill? If you let them pay, will they get weird about it later? Most importantly, will the ghost of Betty Friedan come haunt you for being a bad feminist? The answer to the latter is, obviously, a resounding negative, but you can't help your nervous internal monologue. First dates are terrifying, period.
4. Ending The Date However You Want
Feminism is often about allowing people choice; you can move as fast or as slowly as you want in a relationship. If you feel like sleeping with your date, go for it! If you want to kiss them on the cheek and run away before you lose your nerve, also go for it!
5. Being All About Consent
Of course, your desires aren't the only ones that come into play at the end of a date. Feminism has many definitions, but I've yet to come across one that doesn't stress the importance of consent in any relationship — not just once, but whenever something new comes up. Who knows? Once you and your latest partner are on the same page, it might just be your last first date.