Many feminists have dated or been in a relationship with someone who didn't quite understand feminism. While someone who's altogether anti-feminist may not be the best match for someone who is unapologetically feminist, people who are more agnostic can be open to learning about and understanding the movement — if you know how to explain feminism to your partner. It can be a frustrating process, and of course not every strategy is going to work for every relationship; since I've gone through it several times, though, I'll tell you what's worked for me.
First of all, know that it's not your duty to convert your partner into a feminist, make them understand something they haven't made an effort to learn (or simply don't want to learn) themselves, or put up with sexist behavior or comments from them. If someone isn't willing to change and you don't want to date them as they are, it may be better just to end the relationship. After all, if you're in a relationship with someone, it should be because you like them now — not because you like who they may one day be. And turning them into that person isn't your job.
At the same time, it's OK to do something that's not your job — if you want to. If your partner is open to discussion (and likely criticism), and it's worth the effort to you, here are some ways to help them understand feminism.
1Share Your Personal Experiences
If someone hasn't experienced sexism themselves, they may feel disconnected from the topic (or even think it doesn't exist). But if they learn it affects someone they love, they'll be more invested. Share your experiences with sexual harassment, workplace sexism, or anything else you're willing to talk about. Once they understand that feminism helps make the world safer for you, they're more likely to care about it.
(It's worth noting, of course, that it's unfortunate that our culture is still at a place where frequently, an issue that doesn't necessarily affect one person needs to affect someone they personally care about in order for the issue to be considered seriously. But sometimes, that personal lens can be helpful for opening someone's eyes — and once those eyes have been opened, there's a chance they might want to help make real and lasting change in the world.)
2Point Out How & When They Benefit From Feminism
Regardless of your partner's gender, there's probably some way feminism has helped them. Maybe they're a man who has stereotypically feminine interests. If you're a woman with a male partner, he might be expected to financially provide for you were it not for feminism. It should go without saying, but you may even throw in a reminder that feminism isn't anti-man; in fact, it avoids stereotyping men, or anyone else.
3Break Out The Statistics
Another reason someone might not identify with feminism is that they don't believe there's a problem. Facts may not always do the trick, depending on who you're talking to — but for some people, data and statistics resonate. Point out that women make less money than men (yes, even in the same jobs), the majority of women experience street harassment (and no, it's not a compliment), and employers are less likely to hire someone with a female name on their resume (even if another one with a male name is identical). If someone is willing to deny facts in order to defend their anti-feminist stance, that's a sign that they're not open to changing.
4Let Them Know How Much This Means To You
Somehow who cares about you will also treat the issues that matter to you with respect — but they'll only know what matters to you if you're transparent about them. It's better to let someone know exactly what you need from a relationship than to avoid asking under the assumption that you won't get it even if you speak up. Tell them why it's important to you, too — that it's not just an abstract ideal but something that affects you deeply and personally. If they love you, they'll recognize that respecting something that important to you is a small price to pay to preserve the relationship.
5Appeal To Basis Morals
Even if your SO isn't familiar with feminist theory, they'll likely understand the basic principles behind feminism: Everyone should be treated fairly, nobody should be left out, respect your differences, don't judge people by their looks, etc. We learned this stuff in preschool, after all. Once they see that women and gender-nonconforming people aren't treated as well as men, the idea that they should be treated as well is a no-brainer.
6Say It With Love
Even if your partner's lack of awareness is driving you nuts, be as understanding as possible. Tell them you see why they may have gotten inaccurate messages about feminism. Maybe, you can even relate their situation to your struggle to understand some form of privilege you have. Remind them that you like or love them and you wouldn't be having this conversation if their opinion didn't matter to you or you didn't see a future together. And while you're at it, ask them if there's any area in the relationship where you can improve. Make it clear you're trying to have a productive conversation, not an argument.