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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Can you be a feminist and an old romantic?

33 replies

Jazzicatz · 16/06/2010 11:13

I have just watched Bright Star the film about Fanny Brawne and John Keats, it is truly beautiful and very romantic. But I know as a feminist, the notion of romantic love is viewed rather negatively. Therefore I ask the question can you be a romantic and a feminist?

OP posts:
blackcurrants · 16/06/2010 11:22

I don't think that my feminism gets in the way of my idea of romantic love. In fact I get pretty soppy about my partner.
What I don't do is think that he completes me, that I needed him and only him before becoming a real or valid person, or that my life was meaningless without him. What I don't think is that my life is subsumed into his, that either of us is 'in charge' of the other, or that there's anything romantic about violence and abuse in the name of passion...

Doesn't stop me plotting cute surprises, paying him compliments, snuggling up to him, declaring my adoration, or jumping his bones, though... I feel like the most romantic relationships I've been in have also been the most feminist, because the feminist men I've known and dated have been the ones most willing and able to talk about how they feel without fear of censure or being thought 'a bit gay.'* Also there's nothing romantic about ending up someone's drudge/housekeeper/substitute mum. Give me a feminist man any day, who wants to go out with real person with her own ideas, rather than wants his home nice and his arm-candy oggle-able!

*(seriously, how did we get to the point where a man telling a woman he loves about his emotions is suspected of being homosexual? Our notions of masculinity are SO messed up!)

mrsruffallo · 16/06/2010 11:24

Of course you can Feminists are allowed to be happy!

ElephantsAndMiasmas · 16/06/2010 17:58

Oh blackcurrants I totally agree, with all of it. My DP is a feminist and has no issues about talking about his feelings, or being seen as "unmanly" for spending hours making me an amazing birthday cake for example. I have never thought that a man should make my life worth living, or that I should devote my life to bringing another adult food and cleaning up after him. That is not romantic though. Nor is giving up your own family/friends/self-respect to prop up someone else's ego. What is romantic IMO is looking after each other, trying to think of big and small ways to make each other's lives better, and planning adventures together.

I loved that film OP, and for once it was nice to see a love story without any misogynistic crap in it TBH. She is not obsessed with getting married and having baybees while he just wants to drink beer with the boys, for instance. I'm not afraid to be soppy when I'm watching something like Bright Star, it's not unfeminist to be moved by other people's experiences. In fact it's empathy, which is pretty important to making the world a better place.

blackcurrants · 17/06/2010 00:51

I loved Bright Star, btw...

tortoiseonthehalfshell · 17/06/2010 01:48

I've never seen Bright Star, but where does this idea come from that feminists hate romance?

I have issues with a lot of the ways in which popular media portrays "romance" - men harassing and persisting and basically stalking women who've said they're not interested, for example. And like blackcurrants said, the idea that true love means subsuming yourself into someone else.

But I've been with my husband since I was 20, and 12 years on we are still romantic. We dress up in nice clothes for a romantic dinner, we light candles and drink wine, I always bake him a really elaborate, sickly-sweet cake for his birthday because it makes him happy, he sends me flowers at work if I've had a tough week, sometimes at night he'll snuggle into me after we've both showered, sniff my hair and tell me he loves me.

Always intrigued to hear what feminists are thought of by people who don't identify that way. But it's just wrong.

Sakura · 17/06/2010 02:16

EandM, he made you a b-day cake! YOu see, for me the sexiest thing is a man who is so confident that he doesn't have to prove anything by being hyper-masculine. Hyper-masculine men are such are turn-off. WHereas confident men appear more masculine because they've got nothing to prove.

Of course you can be an old romantic and in love forever and be a feminist.

But I don't believe that the best thing that can ever happen to a woman is meeting mr. right and getting married. No, I don'T believe that at all.

SkaterGrrrrl · 18/06/2010 16:14

I think you can. I am a committed feminist, but also very deeply in love with DH and we are really quite mushy after 6 years together.

The key for me is that our relationship is equal, we take it in turns to look after each other and be looked after.

If he has a job interview I will iron him a shirt and cook him a special breakfast, but then when I get a promotion he'll make me dinner (actually he makes dinner most nights but he'll make my favourite meal, say).

He respects me utterly (as I do him) and has zero expectations that I should look or behave in any stereotypical female ways.(He doesnt give a toss whether I shave my legs or armpits, he just tells me I'm gorgeous).

Our ideal of marriage is this, and in fact we had this as a reading at our wedding:

"What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality, similarity of powers and reciprocal superiority in them?so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and of being led in the path of development?I will not attempt to describe. To those who can conceive it, there is no need; to those who cannot, it would appear the dream of an enthusiast. But I maintain, with the profoundest conviction, that this, and this only, is the ideal of marriage; and that all opinions, customs, and institutions which favour any other notion of it, or turn the conceptions and aspirations connected with it into any other direction, by whatever pretences they may be coloured, are relics of primitive barbarism."

  • John Stuart Mill, Subjection of Women
HerBeatitude · 18/06/2010 17:04

I would quibble with Mill on needing to be identical in opinions...

dittany · 18/06/2010 19:27

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AMumInScotland · 18/06/2010 19:37

I'm pretty sure my father didn't marry my mother in order to rape her The fact that the law gave him that right would not have been something which either of them assumd would have any relevance to their marriage, nor, I would assume, for the vast majority of people.

In law, parents have the right to smack their children. Is having a child taking on a contract to hit them?

For a lot of women for a lot of history, there has been no romance in marriage, even as a pretence in the run-up to it - in writers like Jane Austen, the romance is unexpected by the women because they don't actually exect to marry a man they fall in love with, so the outcome is a wonderful surprise. They expect a practical contract, ot romance.

dittany · 18/06/2010 19:43

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AMumInScotland · 18/06/2010 20:05

In all honesty, I probably wouldn't even think about it, if it wasn't something that was generally talked about or campaigned about. If it was just a vague anachronism that nobody thought much about, then I wouldn't have worried.

dittany · 18/06/2010 20:39

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edam · 18/06/2010 20:57

I've been a feminist all my life - as was my mother before me, etc. etc. etc. - but still manage to enjoy Georgette Heyer. Although her heroines are women of independent minds.

Romance IRL is about two people who love each other being nice to each other, isn't it? Nothing wrong with that as far as I can see. The type of 'romance' that's sold to us on Valentine's Day in order to make money for Thorntons or Hollywood or whatever is pants, mind.

Sakura · 19/06/2010 03:53

Yes, dittany, I totally agree that romance is sold to women. I mean, if women have economic independence, how else are men going to convince us to settle down???!!!

I believe in passionate, overwhelming love, but that does dampen down eventually, and although men feel that love equally it's sold as being something that's mainly good for women, the knight in shining armour etc. I think that's a con.

HerBeatitude · 19/06/2010 07:10

I think one of the best books I ever read on this subject was Jill Tweedie's "In the Name of Love". It analyses how the concept of romantic love is sold to women to make them lose their sense of self - that is what I think is the big danger of the way romance is sold to us, the expectation that women are sitting there passively waiting for a strong handsome man to come along and sweep them off their feet and make them whole and everything that has happened in their lives up to that point, is null and void and meaningless.

So they are expected to overlook men's faults, blind themselves to dodgy behaviour - the flowers, the chocolates, the shmoozings, the sheer bliss of it all, means that the fact that he spends his days selling arms to repressive regimes/ thinking up new ways of getting a new generation of children hooked on smoking/ being an estate agent ) is irrelevant, he's larvely to me. And similarly, the odd disrespectful sexist remark, the attitudes which give away that he doesn't respect women, the odd racist remark - all of them are somehow supposed to be irrelevant, because he buys roses and enables orgasms. And women feel they're somehow "spoiling" the romance of it all, if they allow their true selves to come to the surface and notice things that aren't right - they're encouraged to shut up about it, because after all, you've got this dream come true of romance, so wtf more do you want?

Bonsoir · 19/06/2010 07:19

Feminism and romantic love go hand in hand, IMO.

dittany · 19/06/2010 09:57

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upsydaisysexstylist · 19/06/2010 11:09

I think you have more chance of romance if you are a feminist, unless wuthering heights is your idea of romance.

Surely if your self esteem is not tied up with the idea of a man completing you, you will be more likely to expect to be treated well. The portrayal of what constitutes romance by the media has not moved on since Mr Darcy ( whom I privately suspect of just being prone to sulking and not the silent, dark hansome stranger reguritated in so many other romances).

ImSoNotTelling · 19/06/2010 12:39

To answer the OP, DH and I are extraodrinarily soppy

I have found an interesting theme on these threads

Thinking about tortoise's DH baking, and about marrying feminist men. My DH has never said he is a feminist, I think he would look a bit if he were asked. But he bakes too , he loves looking after the children and his shift pattern means that he is home a lot. He does nappies, crafts, baking, you name it. He is generous and kind and loving, to all of us. That's what I expect TBH.

Also on anotehr thread, it turned out that quite a lot of us were married to massive rugby player types

And it occurs to me to wonder whether men who are very comfortable in tehir masculinity (due to their physical appearance) are more open the idea/more likely to be involved with doing things which are perceived as traditionally "female"?

Also it is true that as a bunch of opinionated feminists, we are likely to have selected mates who fulfil our criteria in a partner ie they aren't sexist tossbags.

Anyway just a few thoughts there.

I agree BTW that romantic love is "sold" to women as the be-all and end-all. I know people who have had the "dream wedding" to people they don't love - or indeed like very much - as they want their partner, their "big day", all of that. Then afterwards they realise they've stuck themselves with an arse, and once teh honeymoon period os over, it's not much fun.

tabouleh · 19/06/2010 12:53

Yes I think that you can be a feminist and a romantic - but I am breathing a sign of relief that I accidently? chose a fairly feminist type of man for my DH.

I don't like the whole Disney princess/searching for your husband thing - and I know that I was influenced by this.

My DH and I met at university but after than did the long distance thing for 3 years (well ok it was only 80 miles!).

It is only really now that I have stopped feeling sorry for some of my friends who have not got long term partners . I really was totally sold on the romantic ideal - I mean FFS it's so patronising that I would think that their life is not as good/fulfilled as mine. I have stopped womdering whether/if they will "settle down" (bloody awful phrase).

Part of the reason by DH appears to be so Feminist is sharing chores/childcare is actually I think not equality lead but he just has this inbuilt sense of responsibility and he is is much cleaner and tidier than me!

Anyway he has taken DS out for the day and on to his parents (hence the Saturday MNing..)

Sakura · 20/06/2010 02:21

MY H is a nappy-changing rugby player

Ex was also a 6 foot rugby-playing student nurse...I finished it because he wanted to follow me to uni, settle down, buy a house and support me financially through my course


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Sakura · 20/06/2010 02:28

"that pregnancy was a serious risk for women then"

With the onslaught of obstetrics

Sakura · 20/06/2010 02:31

"that pregnancy was a serious risk for women then"

Off topic, but..
Even with the onslaught of obstetrics and the invasion of women's bodies by hospitals I don't think the maternal death rate has changed much in the twentieth century. America's maternal death rate ranks at 42 in the world after Kenya.
It's true that now pathology and complications in pregnancy can be helped by modern medicine but in fact complications can also be caused by unecessary interference and meddling in the birthing process, especially unecessary c-sections.

Sakura · 20/06/2010 02:35


"The USA spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this, women in the USA have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 40 other countries"

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