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How to Date a Third Wave Feminist

First, let’s do that definition thing, because most people I know think “psycho, bra-burning hippy” when they hear the word “feminist,” and that’s just not what the third wave is about (fact: bras weren’t actually burned during second wave feminism).  The best explanation of the third wave that I’ve read can be found here on Jezebel.com.  Highlights include:

“To identify as a feminist is to acknowledge that women are people, and, as such, women deserve the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities as other styles of people (i.e., men-people). To be a feminist is also to acknowledge that the world is not, currently, a fair and just and safe place for women to exist.”

“One day, someone had the gall to point out that the term ‘women’ encompasses more than just ‘upper-middle-class disgruntled white housewives.’ Immigrant women exist. Trans-women exist. Entirely gruntled upper-middle-class white housewives exist. Sex workers exist. Third-wave feminism is the idea that women can and should define their own womanhood.”

So yes.  The third wave.  There are lots of women, all different kinds of women, and each woman has the right to define her own existence.  Giving you tips to dating a third wave feminist will get a bit complicated, but I will try to focus on general points of agreement amongst third wave women in the United States.

Tip # 1: She’s not your doll; let her decide how to look!  If she wants to wear makeup, that’s fine.  If she wants to go au natural, that’s fine.  If she wants to study Luce Irigaray by candlelight, that’s fine (I mean, her eyes might hurt, but that’s candlelight for you, and she just might like that burning sensation around her irises! hmph!).  What she does, the way she looks, what she wears is entirely up to her.  So back off with your “you should wear jeans that make your arse look good” or “you should’ve gotten French tips.”  Let her decide what she will wear or do.  A woman’s body is her own, and how she chooses to adorn it is entirely not your decision.  Don’t criticize her choices about her body; they are hers to make and not yours.

Tip # 2: Don’t openly side with conservative politics on the first date. You can hold conservative views on several issues and still get along swimmingly with a third wave feminist (a vast majority of my friends consider themselves Republicans or Libertarians).  However, in general, we are a very liberal lot.  Mostly because conservative politics are actively trying to screw us over (must I mention “legitimate rape“?  I think so).  Let’s not even talk about abortion.  How about birth control?  Why, oh why, Republicans, do you want to make it so expensive for ladies to get birth control?  (And guess what!  Not everyone on birth control is using it for birth control!  Do you have an extremely heavy flow or cramps that literally keep you awake all night and home from work?  Birth control can help with that!).  So, it is my personal opinion that if your personal opinion involves a birth control=whore pills mentality, then you better just keep quiet about it on the first date.  Or don’t even bother trying to date a third wave feminist.

Tip #3: If she holds open the door, walk through it.  This is a hard one for most “chivalrous gentlemen” to grasp.  But it comes down to equality and common courtesy.  If she gets to the door first, she opens it.  If you get to the door first, you open it.  It’s incredibly rude to stand on one side of a doorway insisting that the person who is politely holding it open for you go through first based on their gender.  If a man holds open the door for another man, the second man will go through first without question.  This should go the same way with women and men.  If a man holds open the door, the woman should go through.  If a woman holds open the door, the man should go through.  It’s about mutual respect.  And if you won’t let me hold open the door for you, then you don’t respect me.  So just go through the door already.  It’s not that hard.

Tip #4: Never pressure her about sex (or anything).  Also should be a no-brainer, but it must be said.  A woman’s body is her own, not yours, and you have no right to it outside of what she allows.  Similarly, a woman’s emotions are her own, and you have no right to manipulate them.  Men who pressure women to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable (even sharing about the past) are dangerous.  Pressure is a big red flag, and if you make that red flag go up, then it’ll be hard to make it go back down.  It is dangerous to be a woman in this world.  In the US alone, there are over 207,000 rapes each year, and only 3% (three percent!!!) of rapists will ever see the inside of a jail.  Pressuring someone to do anything with you (whether it’s a sexual act or just unwanted sharing of feelings) is a type of force.  And that force can all too quickly cross the line.  Check out these statistics from RAINN.

Image from SlutWalk Toronto in 2011

Tip #5: If she grabs the check, let her pay.  If she wants to pay, let her pay.  This tip comes directly from my friend Stephanie, who believes that it is unfair to make men pay for everything.  A relationship should be about equality and partnership, so it’s only fair for the woman to pick up the tab sometimes.  At the same time, don’t expect her to pay all the time.  My advice, offer to pay, and if she wants to pay, let her.  Different women are going to be different on this issue.  I know a couple who, due to short funds on both sides, go out and get separate checks, then pay for each others’ meals.  Me personally, I would expect the man to pay for a majority of things, but if I’m financially able, I will likely want to pay (and thus equalize things).

Tip #6: Watch Iron Jawed Angels and In the Time of the Butterflies and Pray the Devil Back to Hell.  These two movies and one documentary are a great starting point for a cinematographic understanding of female empowerment, and a third wave feminist will enjoy them.  The first movie chronicles the life of Alice Paul and first wave feminists’ struggle to pass the 19th amendment (that one that makes us full citizens and able to vote).  The second is about Minerva Mirabal and her sisters as they work to overthrow the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in the 1940s and 50s.  The third (the documentary) is about the women’s movement in Liberia in 2002 to end internal warfare within their country (sex strike!  no nooky until you all stop killing each other!).  These are some great flicks to begin active conversations about both the oppression of women and the power that women hold in society.

Tip #7: If all else fails, treat her with respect.  I have heard some people say that love is the most important thing to a woman and respect is the most important thing to a man, as if the two are different things.  And you know what, that’s just not true.  If you love someone, then you respect them.  And if you respect someone, then you love them.  How much more should you respect someone if your love is romantic!  Respecting her (and respecting him) is pivotal in a relationship, any relationship with anybody.  But a third wave feminist will call you on it if you don’t respect her.  No matter what the situation, no matter what the altercation, if you take a deep breath and respect her, then things should turn out in both of your favors.