Feminists make the best partners. A feminist significant other will strive for a more egalitarian relationship, and will prioritize your safety and well-being. Not only that, they’ll believe you when you talk about your own oppression and marginalization. But if you’re dating a cisgender guy, they may not necessarily be stoked about identifying as feminist. However, that may very well be because they don’t have a great understanding of what feminism is. Explaining feminism to your male partner can be tricky, but it’s totally doable. And how you go about explaining feminism to your male significant other can make all the difference.
I remember one time at a party, I started chatting up a dude and somehow the conversation went in a direction that caused me to say, “Yeah, I’m a feminist.” The guy literally took several steps back and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s a little extreme, don’t you think?” He had fallen prey to the many misconceptions about what feminism really means, but he’s not alone. Part of the patriarchy’s weapon is to make “feminism” seem wholly unappealing to everyone — men, women, and non-binary people alike. The fewer people who identify with feminism, the easier it is to keep patriarchal structures in place. And so one of the tools we can use, as feminists, to bring men over to the Dark Side is to simply explain what feminism is and why it’s important.
Many men will probably be surprised to find out that they actually identify quite a bit with the principles of feminism. So if you want to teach your guy what it means to be a feminist, here are some tips for going about it.
1. Find Out Where They’re Starting From
Some men have more of an understanding of feminism than they realize, while others may think it’s a dirty word. Finding out what they already know and where they already stand is the first step to figuring out where the conversation will go next. Start by asking them if they know what feminism means, and how they feel about the concept. Their answer will determine what you say next.
2. Define Your Terms
The biggest reason that many men don’t identify with feminism is because they don’t have an accurate understanding of what it means. They might think that feminism means that women want to be superior to men, or that feminism is anti-man. But, at it’s core, feminism is just about gender justice — patriarchal oppression hurts everyone, but it hurts women, trans, and non-binary people disproportionately. If that seems like too much, you can just say, “Feminism is about the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes,” and then play them Beyonce’s “***Flawless.”
3. Start Mythbusting
Many men are scared of feminism because they think it’ something it’s not. So don’t be afraid to mythbust — no, feminists don’t hate men. In fact, feminism means believing men are capable of change, of self-control, and of self-determination. Feminist know men are capable of so much more than they’re being allowed to be. Feminist think that statements like “boys will be boys,” when used to explain away sexual violence, aren’t good enough, that they reduce men to animals who can’t control themselves, and we know that men are better than that. So, no, feminists don’t hate men. What they hate is male privilege and patriarchal oppression that holds us down.
4. Explain Why Feminism Is Good For You
It shouldn’t take men having to see how patriarchy hurts people they love — like a girlfriend, mother, or sister — for them to realize that it’s a problem, but oftentimes, it does. Tell them that when you’re catcalled on the street, it makes you anxious and afraid. Explain how the sexist way your boss treats you affects your work performance. And explain how they can help, simply by helping to shatter the kinds of attitudes that allow this behavior to occur.
5. Explain Why Feminism Is Good For Them
Feminism isn’t just good for women, trans, and non-binary people. If your partner is a man of color, intersectional feminism could be an easy sell for him, since it works to dismantle oppressions of all kind, including racism. But patriarchy hurts men too — and feminism wants to shatter the oppressive and restrictive masculine ideals that so many men are pressured to adhere to, which is tiring and unrealistic for them, too.
6. Teach Them How To Be A Feminist Ally
Giving your partner actionable items is a great way to help make feminism accessible for them. They can practice feminism in small ways in their day-to-day lives. Call out a friend or coworker who is speaking disrespectfully about or to a woman. But perhaps, most importantly, their job is to listen when the women in their lives speak, and to believe them when they share the reality of their lived experiences.
7. Keep On Educating
As feminists, our education never stops. We’re always growing and always learning. So keep having these conversations with your guy, and watch as his world expands. And if, after all this, he’s still not into feminism, sounds to me like you might want to DTMFA — who wants to date someone who doesn’t have their partner’s well-being as a priority? Not me.