By now we’ve all had the pleasure of reading David Hon’s piece explaining (or is that mansplaining) why he won’t date a feminist.
At first I was like most of the commenters, I read his words, laughed and thought ‘thank god men like him will never want to date me’ and reminded myself to remember that I’m supposed to hate men. But then I looked beyond his simplistic rewording, straw-man positions and an intentional rejection of women’s subjective realities and tried to (I really did) understand what his objecting to dating women who are feminists really is all about.
But I couldn’t!
He states that he couldn’t date someone who saw his genitals as giving him advantage that he doesn’t actually have, because believing in privilege takes romance from a partnership to a power struggle. Which I’m assuming creates one of the complex advantages for women that don’t exist for men – because rape culture doesn’t exist. These advantages are “deeply personal” as opposed to political issues. I think he’s trying to play the “personal is political” mantra of feminism but using in it create the illusion that, what he calls “anti-male or anti-female”, are not as we claim the complex result of social inequity and oppression, but rhetoric rooted in a previous bad experience that are also cultural opinions that reflect our own world views.
He concludes by stating that “Maybe one day, men and women will stop trying to eliminate the lines between us and realize it’s the differences between the sexes that make romance, family and love an enjoyable experience”.
And I have no idea what on earth his actual complaint against dating a feminist actually is. If we take his premise that feminism (anti-male rhetoric) is just a consequence of bad experiences, then don’t we have to apply the same to his anti-feminism (anti-female rhetoric) is just a consequence of his own bad experiences?
But the more I sat with this and stopped laughing at what I see as a pathetic argument from a man who can’t date women who are feminists because they create bad experiences for him, I realised what was a much larger issue for me.
I’m not concerned by his choice not to date feminists (although I do have an issue with him being given such a public platform to share this), there wouldn’t be many women who are feminists who would want to date men with his world view.
My problem with the way that this piece comes across is that his rejection of feminism is important.
The assumption that feminists need their feminism validated by outsiders; especially men. I can’t quite put my finger on why this one piece made me connect to this, but something in the way he positions feminism as an obstacle to authentic and functioning romantic relationships between men and women. An obstacle to be overcome or used as a means to reject women. If we are wanting to be seen as desirable/datable/fuckable then we have to accept that our feminism – however that may manifest itself must be put up to interrogation.
Here’s the thing. I don’t need my feminism and the perspectives of the world it gives me validated by any man. Be that my husband. My father. My brother. My boss. A total stranger writing a poorly thought out, click bait opinion piece.
I know that there is a wage gap. Not just because statistics tell me. But because women tell me they experience a wage gap. And I believe them. I know there is a culture in which the complexity and criminality of sexual assault is routinely minimised – on campus and elsewhere. Not just because research and anecdotal evidence tells me. But because women tell me of their own experiences of rape culture. And I believe them. I know that the systematic and structural expectations, assumptions and rules that come together; created by and for a very particular demographic – men, is real. Not because I’ve read generations of sociological theory and quantitative data that demonstrates a difference between the ways in which males and females experience and/or are punished by the world. Not because I’ve listen and responded to the experiences of other women in this system. But because I’ve experienced it myself!
My personal and my political are one in the same. My political position influences almost all of my everyday decisions. And yes, my feminism has and does influence the decisions I make in my intimate and domestic spaces which will disqualify me from a male gaze centred ideal of desirability. I understand that.
But what I do not understand is this need for men to be seen as some kind of gatekeepers of our feminism. That if they accept and respect what it is that creates our feminist worldview then we are more valid and valued than others – especially when it comes to sex.