Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to Turn on a Feminist

Blogger has this nifty thing that lets me see what search terms most commonly bring people to my blog, lots of funny things in general or movie titles and the word "feminist", but sometimes they're kind of weird and I google those terms myself to see where how the search brings people here.

The search term "how to turn on a feminist" caught my eye. So I googled it. And it's because of the title of this blog. The "turn" thing. In any case, since people are wondering, I'll talk about it. Like Jill Connor Browne in The Sweet Potato Queens' Field Guide to Men: Every Men I Love is Either Married, Gay, or Dead, I'm going to be talking about this from a heterosexual perspective. I don't mean that to be alienating if that's not what you're into, but switch the pronouns as needed for your personal fancy and I think it'll mostly still apply.

(One of my friends sent me this comic as I was typing this post. Perf.)

1.) Well, I'm pretty sure that most of the rules of like, being a decent human apply when you're trying to get with a feminist. You know, don't be a d-bag. Don't talk about how much you love Anita Bryant. Don't be a Bug a boo. Be honest. Etc. Common-sense stuff.

2.) There is no one way to turn on a feminist because (duh) people have different personal definitions of feminism and what that means for them. Also preferences (duh). There was one night this semester that was kind of like "Drunk Feminism" a la the "Drunk History" videos. I hung out with some straight dude friends, and while I drank a bottle of wine, one of them (who was quite inebriated even before we hung out) (**I also want to point out that I am 21. Don't break the law, it's very bad for brain development.) interrogated me about feminism.
"Are you one of those feminists who likes hooking up with lots of guys or are you a feminist who wants to stay at home and be respected?" he asked.
"Haha! Right, because those are the only two options," I replied. "Um, well, it's different for every feminist and woman."
I'll summarize what my friend was so frustrated about: When he is interested in a girl and is nice, she's not into him. When he's an asshole, he gets some. He doesn't want to be an asshole, but because of his experiences doesn't believe that when girls say they want a "nice guy."
Since I know this guy, I think this may have something to do with the girls that he goes after. In any case, what really matters is respecting the person you want to date or whatever. Respect is kind of hot. You don't have to be 100% nice all the time, I mean, that's impossible, although I think a lot of women do reject "nice guys" because of weird crap we're socialized to believe about relationships. Being nice isn't a bad thing. Sometimes it takes awhile to find someone you're actually good with. Most people are single for periods in their life. Being single isn't bad. Don't freak out.

3.) $$$$! Okay, so the great debate, who pays!? I don't want to get too personal here because this is just going to end up sounding like a weird personal ad posing as a blog post, but this is also a personal preference thing. Some women I know always want the man to pay. It is a socialization thing. Personally, I've been working since I was 14, I really don't mind splitting tabs or switching off on who pays. Or whoever asks pays for that particular date. For me, if a man-friend were to pay for me all the time I'd feel like I was being bought and wouldn't be entirely comfortable with it. But because I'm a feminist and believe in equality, I don't see any reason why both people in a relationship (or whatever), which should be a mutual effort in the first place (duh), can't both contribute monetarily. Everyone enjoys not having to pay for something, so we can definitely spread that love around.

4.) If you're a dude who's into a feminist, that probably means you're not like a horrible person. If a guy seems like he's interested in me and I know he knows about my political involvement and opinions and whatever, I can usually deduce that he has sort of similar interests and that means I can clear him to the next level of consideration. I don't expect every feminist-friendly man (or every feminist-women for that matter) to be well-versed in like Judith Butler and Michel Foucault , but it's usually the case that people like people with similarish interests. And if you're a dude who knows he's into a feminist, then you might be a feminist yourself (whether you know it and acknowledge it or not). And I will confess, I worked with this guy who I thought was really good looking, and I would like, very openly stare at him, and one day I heard him explaining oppressive gender roles to a student (we worked as writing tutors) and I liked him so much more. (I will say, I think I would be able to tell if a guy was saying something just to try to "impress" me. See above comic.) So... just go about it normally. Captain Awkward has some good advice at her column on the subject, and the reader who wrote in has a good discussion of the advice he got at his blog (love the stuff about the "dating Bechdel test") if you want some good common-sense advice about the whole thing.

5.) There's this stereotype about feminists being humorless and no fun. Okay, there are some things that are just not funny. Rape. Domestic violence. Etc. But I am a feminist and I know a lot of feminists, and we're funny people. Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance meetings often involve us making a lot of jokes about men and women and feminists and anti-feminists. You just have to laugh.
But there's a lot of shit that makes us mad, and please do not get huffy when the shitty stuff gets us frustrated and angry. Everyone has a subject that they're passionate about, and when that subject is under attack, you don't usually respond well. When I get pissed about Planned Parenthood getting defunded or guys on the street talking about my ass (etc), I don't hate all men. Feminists are interested and invested in a whole range of topics from equal pay to double standards to universal education rights in rural developing countries. It may not be what you are passionate about, but that doesn't mean it's not a legitimate thing to be angry about. There's a lot of shitty shit out there, but there is nothing more frustrating than when there is a topic that you are worked up about and someone (especially a male someone) tells you it's not a big deal or to stop being hormonal or that our feminist passion is "cute." No one wants to be belittled or dismissed or infantilized. There is no quicker way to get all that anger directed at you and cause an argument for no reason. Listen, and the favor will be repaid when there's something that's really pissing you off. See this post on Feministe for some dating Dos and Don'ts.

6. Reciprocate. Simple. That's the best thing anyone can do in a relationship or hookup or friends-with-benefits thing. Don't be that guy. See the discussion at Coed Magazine and College Candy.

7. Washington City Paper has a really interesting conversation with women about their personal litmus tests for screening guys and I relate to a lot of the things they say as a feminist. You have all kinds of experiences with people. Some are better than others. Ultimately, if you like a feminist that's a great thing and it probably means you have good taste. And if you're not sure of your partner's opinion on something, just ask. There's no reason to be floundering in the dark because you're afraid of offending her, asking is a really simple solution and sets you up to have a simple and honest relationship/hookup/friends-with-benefits-thing.


  1. Hi Liz!

    Guess what? It turns out that I am one of the beings who are led to your site after searching 'turn on feminist'. But since you seem to be an inquiring mind (as I am) who likes to take a look at things like search term data, I thought I would explain: I'm a young woman (who considers herself a feminist), wishing to have a good time, but against the rights abuses and negative imagery of the conventional sources of inspiration (aka the porn industry). Where does a rights- and media-conscious chick go on the internet to get sexily inspired? That was the question that led me here: and I am glad to have met a new blog! But the question remains...

    New data for the set.


  2. Hey! Dug this post. I just stumbled upon it doing a google search for a video my sketch group just made called "How To Turn On A Feminist"! It's more about demonstrating that feminism and sex are not mutually exclusive than any real commentary on the sexuality of feminists (which is of course an impossible task because everyone is different, as you point out!) If you google it you'll find it. I don't want to link it here for fear of sounding like a spammer! Hope you're well!