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How do you reconcile having a relationship with a man and your feminism, are they fundamentally incompatible?

(69 Posts)
Scarletohello Thu 23-Oct-14 21:46:29

As I get older and more feminist I find I'm less able to tolerate even casual sexism in a partner. I look back at past relationships and wish I'd had MN to help me leave dysfunctional relationships. I'm currently single and feel like my standards are so high now in regards to what kind of behaviour I'm prepared to (not) tolerate that I despair of ever being able to have a relationship with a man again where I can feel equal, respected and with someone who can understand female oppression. Am I setting my sights too high? How do you square being a feminist with having a relationship with a man who has been raised in a world of male privilege and entitlement..?

makeminea6x Thu 23-Oct-14 21:47:15

My husband is a feminist. As are both his parents.

SevenZarkSeven Thu 23-Oct-14 21:59:14


I wouldn't say mine was "a feminist" nor that he really understands female oppression. But he is a kind, patient and gentle man, who listens and tries to understand, and knows that it is very important to me.

Totally honestly - I have quite a strong personality and he is more easy going so we fit well in that respect - he doesn't tend to argue with me grin or do "devil's advocate" about things which he knows are important to me like he might do on things that are less fundamental IYKWIM.

I asked him yesterday "what's it like to be married to a feminist then does it feel a bit weird sometimes when i go on and on" and he said "well it's fine, and you're lovely" so I guess he meant that he loves me and if that comes with me going off on 15 minute rants about stuff from time to time then so be it grin

Also we have 2 DDs who are little at the moment so really it's all pretty relevant for him in that he sure as hell wants things to be better for them.

Oh and also, I mean, I meet quite a lot of nice blokes. I mean some of them might be horrible / casually sexist on the quiet but I meet enough who "get it" albeit in a small way to think there are perfectly decent ones out there. Of course no-one's going to be perfect though.

Do you even want a bloke? It's not compulsory grin

greenbananas Thu 23-Oct-14 22:07:32

My husband is 50 and was raised in a very traditional home. His mum (grammar school educated) gave up a promising professional/scientific career when she got married, because that's what was expected of her in the early 1960s.

I am a sahm, and my husband is comfortable with that. We both want that for our children. I don't think he looks down on me in any way for not earning - especially as one of our boys has severe allergies which would have made early years childcare very unsafe for him.

My husband knows that his mum is a clever woman, who has held his family together over the years. He also respects the fact that I am just as clever as he is, and with a better education my lack of earning power.

I am planning to run a childcare business from home, and my husband is fine with that. I know he would also support me of I wanted to work for an employer (so long as our children were kept safe - and if I was able to earn enough to support us all I know he would happily give up work to let me work instead).

Oh dear, I might get flamed because I am new to this board and don't know the first thing about current feminist issues really. I know that mutual respect is the key, whether your partner is male or female, and whatever decisions you make about your own family.

SevenZarkSeven Thu 23-Oct-14 22:09:33

" I know that mutual respect is the key, whether your partner is male or female, and whatever decisions you make about your own family."

I agree totally smile

elportodelgato Thu 23-Oct-14 22:14:12

My husband is a feminist, my dad and mum are feminists, as is my stepmum. My DH was raised by possibly the strongest most inspiring woman I know. It's no accident I have married a feminist, it was an absolute pre requisite. Feminist men exist in increasing numbers, and I don't understand why anyone would settle for anything less.

I am daily horrified by the blatant sexism and misogyny which I see on the 'relationships' board in particular, women who put up with all sorts of shit and think it's normal.

TheWanderingUterus Thu 23-Oct-14 22:18:55

I married a man who recognises the need for feminism and is willing to listen.

He takes his principles into the workplace and is actively working to change things in his male dominated environment. Since we had our daughter nine years ago he has intensified his efforts.

I can't think of a time when he has ever been sexist, he doesn't 'other' or objectify women (which is one of the reasons I was drawn to him in the first place).

In general we muddle on as best we can under a patriarchal system.

SevenZarkSeven Thu 23-Oct-14 22:20:23

"In general we muddle on as best we can under a patriarchal system"

This too! smile

dreamingbohemian Thu 23-Oct-14 22:20:37

Nothing wrong with high standards. No, I don't think there's a fundamental incompatibility. I've never had a problem dating non-sexist, enlightened types of guys, although I have had the benefit of living in really big and lefty kind of cities.

My DH might not personally understand the oppression but he listens to me and supports me and does speak up when other guys are being idiots. I also feel like he contributes in actions, not just words -- he's been a SAHD, he refused to do the strip club thing for his stag do, he does cleaning and cooking equally, etc. He does come from a very social justice kind of background so it seems to come to him a bit naturally.

So I think you're doing the right thing to hold out. I think actually a big source of sustenance for oppression is that we are socialised against being on our own and told that most guys are at least somewhat sexist -- so guys can continue to be awful and still find women. It's hard having high standards but it might be the only way things will change.

PumpkinGordino Thu 23-Oct-14 22:29:29

i agree that high standards are no bad thing.

dp and i have been together since we were teenagers, so a lot of my feminist development has progressed at the same time as his, though not quite at the same speed

however, he did start from a fundamental position of being kind, thoughtful, respectful and not assuming that the shitwork should fall to me automatically. it is important to him not to be sexist so it is something he thinks about a lot, though he is not free of socialised male entitlement, but he listens, discusses and takes on board when it is pointed out. he is a secondary school teacher and feels a strong responsibility in terms of setting a good example to the teenagers he teaches

the muddling through in a patriarchal system is probably the best description here too!

PumpkinGordino Thu 23-Oct-14 22:31:44

the other thing to add is that we don't have children yet. obviously you don't have to have them to prove yourself a feminist or a feminist ally, but it is a big test of socialised behaviours and assumptions which can draw out sexist behaviours which previously flew under the radar

PuffinsAreFicticious Thu 23-Oct-14 22:35:22

As seven says, there's no rule which says you have to have permanent man about, you can always window shop if you like.

I am insanely lucky, I suppose. I am quite a forthright person and my DH is much more easy going. He'd not describe himself as a feminist, but he is an ally. He agrees that women are oppressed and says that he can see it more and more. Occasionally he will come out with something that makes my toes curl, but we discuss it and normally he'll end up agreeing. Sometimes not, and actually that's ok too, it would be a dull old life if we lived in some sort of echo chamber!

He is going to work to support me through university, he is immensely proud that I am going back to study and is happy to be my back up. I was his support through several operational tours and he wants to pay that forward.

He's a good man. Kind, clever, funny, non violent. I have had 2 previous violent relationships, so the non violent is huge. He backs me up when my mother kicks off on one of her weird rants.

I don't know if the perfect man is out there. My DH is as close as I think I'll get. We live under patriarchy, the fact that he sees that and actively helps to combat it in small ways is probably a good start?

MadameLeBean Thu 23-Oct-14 22:38:07

Yes kids in the picture tends to bring out those socialised behaviours which were previously able to be consciously overridden by many an enlightened man!
However if he is self aware and not too proud to address those issues it can actually be a great thing that they come out...

LynetteScavo Thu 23-Oct-14 22:41:24

I despair of ever being able to have a relationship with a man again where I can feel equal, respected and with someone who can understand female oppression.

Then I think you have a low opinion of men. Maybe you need to change your social circle?

whatdoesittake48 Thu 23-Oct-14 22:43:42

My husband did struggle with my feminism for a while as he felt I was too militant and ranted to often. He may have been right that at times I felt like i hated menand that came across to him. Obviously that isn't going to make him feel that positive about feminism in general.
But in recent months I have felt like he has turned a corner and actually gets it finally. He tells me that his main concern is that change will come so slowly that it will eat me up inside. He wants me to enjoy life without having the woes of being a woman destroy my everyday joy and achievements. He won't call himself a feminist but I would because he does get it and accepts his privilege and recognises my lack of status compared to his.
Now we just need to work on some of the other crap i have to deal with in regards to him and we are sorted. ...

TravelinColour Thu 23-Oct-14 22:43:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MadameLeBean Thu 23-Oct-14 22:49:58

But yes OP I totally get where you are coming from and if dp and I ever split not sure I could be arsed (he's not perfect but gets feminism and it has affected the way he leads his life which I think is important but I do think being with any man is a challenge in maintaining equality, they are so used to being the boss & getting to speak, getting their way etc).

I'm not sure I would ever put myself in a situation where I was financially or practically dependent on a man for this reason. I wouldn't trust any man not to slip into the default of treating women as inferior, so I would never give them structural power in the relationship. No matter how enlightened they were on feminist issues, that stuff is ingrained. Maybe I am just jaded and cynical though!

Eg if we have our own kids (I already have a DD9) I've said I won't go part time unless he does too, & we will share mat leave. He earns about 2/3 of what I do so I guess it's me who pays the piper and I intend to keep it that way.

MadameLeBean Thu 23-Oct-14 22:53:10

& I would never be with a man who watched porn or went to strip clubs or had misogynist friends. So rules out 99% of the male population for me I guess?? blush

Nojacketrequired Fri 24-Oct-14 09:30:11

MmeLeBean, would you also rule out female friends by the same criteria? Or are you differentiating between friends and 'partners'?

PumpkinGordino Fri 24-Oct-14 09:56:58

what do you mean nojacketrequired? confused

this thread is about having a relationship with a man

MadameLeBean Fri 24-Oct-14 10:20:05

Yes I think there is a difference between friends and partners but no I wouldn't have friends who were misogynist either!! And it's not as relevant since women do not tend to do those things so much. If my female friend watched porn I'd try to educate her about it but yes the point of this thread is about romantic partnerships not friendships

MadameLeBean Fri 24-Oct-14 10:21:05

& it's more my business if it's my partner who is doing it rather than a friend ..

Nojacketrequired Fri 24-Oct-14 10:29:07

I realised after I wrote that that it might seem intrusive or accusatory, and it wasn't mean to be. Sorry. I was going to ask something else, but it would get away from the OP slightly. Back to reading only!

MyEmpireOfDirt Fri 24-Oct-14 10:59:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ElliotLovesGrub Fri 24-Oct-14 11:52:57

The major stumbling block I've found with relationships since I've had my eyes opened to feminism is the attitude a lot of men seem to have towards porn. One of the men I got to know recently said watching porn made him a feminist because he was supporting a woman's right to be sexual. Um, no.

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