We all want to support our significant others. But a little-discussed part of being a supportive partner, especially to women and gender-nonconforming people, is being a feminist — and there are many anti-feminist things we often tell our partners without realizing it. To cultivate healthy relationships where both people feel like equals, we need to examine how we talk to each other with particular attention to the way we might be perpetuating oppression. The same sexism that happens in society at large can replicate itself in individual relationships if we're not careful.
If you Google the word "feminism," the definition that pops up is "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." This definition is actually a bit narrow — feminism is really the advocacy of everyone's rights — but it serves as a good place to start. If you're in any way undermining the rights of women or any other group, you're being anti-feminist, whether you intend to be or not. And we all do this from time to time, so saying something anti-feminist doesn't make you a "bad feminist" or not a feminist. It just means you could be a better one, and that you've now learned a lesson to carry forward into the future.
Here are some anti-feminist things we need to stop telling our partners if we want to help them live free from gender norms.
1"Be A Man"
When boys are growing up, comments like "be a man" teach them that they can't show emotion. When they hear it from their partners, it reinforces the belief that they have to be "masculine" to be good boyfriends. Ifthey internalize this message, both people in the relationship miss out on emotional intimacy.
2"Could You Shave?"
According to a survey by Cosmopolitan, two out of five guys have asked their partners to alter their pubic hair. Whether it's between your legs, on them, or anywhere else, telling someone what to do with their body hair violates their autonomy and reinforces gender norms.
3"Are You Sure You Don't Want To Have Sex?"
4"Don't Wear That"
Feminists don't tell feminists what to wear, period. It's not our responsibility to justify our style to anyone else or try to avoid getting sexually harassed.
5"Don't Talk To Him"
Controlling who your partner does and doesn't talk to is a sign of emotional abuse. Doing this to women perpetuates the idea that they're their partners' property, and doing it to anyone is possessive.
Shaming someone for their sexual preferences or behavior perpetuates the sexual shame already unfairly imposed on many people, especially women and LGBTQIA+ people. If you're not into something your partner's into, just say you'd prefer not to do it.
7"I Don't Think That's Sexist"
If your partner talks about experiencing sexism, the kind thing to do is to sympathize with them, not debate whether or not they're allowed to be upset. Our partners, particularly men, don't always relate to the sexism we experience on a daily basis, but they should trust us to talk about them honestly and learn from our stories.