Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adventures in Feminist Dating

Photo reprinted with permission by Alexandra Tweten

Studies show that feminists have better sex.  But studies also show that women hesitate to identify as feminists when they want to be seen as attractive.  The constant scrutiny surrounding women's rights and romance prompted Cristen Conger at the Huffington Post to ask, "What heterosexual woman in her right mind would dare broach the topic of feminism on a first (or second, or third...) date?   

Well, how about Alexandra Tweten for starters?  This feminist launched a three part online dating experiment for Ms. Magazine--an assignment that resulted in some hilarious (but necessary) rejections, a few life lessons, and finally, a serious relationship.

Episode 1 gave us what we were all expecting-- a list of trolls.  After posting an explicitly feminist ad on Craigslist, Ali estimated "Out of 68 replies, only four were spam, two included pictures of penises, and two or three were anti-feminist," including the one who responded, "I hope you wrote that ad from the kitchen, where you belong."  Ah, douchebags.  Where would feminism be without its unworthy opponents?

Episode 2 countered with good news.  And feminist readers everywhere let out a sigh of relief.  Social democrats and pro-choicers had our undercover subject swooning.  And besides the fourierist, whom she suspected only began using the title after googling feminism, Ali was meeting compatible men and even went on a few enjoyable dates.  "They didn't all say that they were feminists, but for the most part, they agreed with it."  Ali noticed that many of them were interested and willing to learn more, which also made feminism a great conversation starter.

Episode 3 took us to OK Cupid.  At the urging of Jezebel readers, she left Craigslist and entered a new forum for hip, young online-daters.  It was at this point that I met Ali at the Ms. office and, intrigued by her research, stepped in for some first-date-third-wheelage.  Nobody seemed to mind.  And I'll never forget what I learned as I tagged along.

After making a commitment to being forward about her personal politics, she couldn't turn it off.  Whenever, wherever, Ali described herself in terms of feminism.  Her confidence was unshakable, even when the feedback was less than positive.  I listened to potential suitors talk circles around issues like sexual violence and ask incriminating questions about what was left to fight for-- one guy even asserted that he was down with the f-word because he worked with women.  In the same building?  How very progressive.

Eventually, Ali met Mr. Right and while I promised not to disclose the details of her personal life, I can assure you that they are in a serious, happy and healthy relationship-- shall we say, Facebook official?  And while his gaydar may be a little off (a skill most feminists pride themselves on) Mr. Right passed our litmus test with flying colors.

After reviewing the empirical evidence yielded by her very scientific experiment, Ms. Tweten said she won't be wasting any time skirting the issue ever again.  So neither should you.  And don't get discouraged.  Ali found "there are indeed many pro-feminist and feminist men looking for dates."  It's not like she bagged the only one.

Empowering moral of the story?  Never keep your motives for world domination a secret. 

Gotcha.  The real lesson is, even though "dating while feminist" can be difficult, it's totally worth it.  Always be open and honest about your hopes for a more egalitarian society.  Otherwise, you might find yourself faking it for a troll.


  1. I love this story. Way better than most Disney productions.

  2. I love this blog. This blog rules. So very much.

  3. Thanks, Leora. You also rule. So very much.

  4. @Megan-- I love a happy ending that doesn't require the sacrifice of one's autonomy, beliefs, or personhood.