I love dating as a feminist, and here’s why

jojo lambdin
6 min readJun 26, 2019
Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Women’s Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. My classes in this course of study overlap between different disciplines,applying a gendered or feminist lens to that field. These disciplines include history, philosophy, literature, activism, culture, society and so on. The varied amount of study in one discipline goes to show that gendered expectations of behavior exist everywhere, so studying the ways in which gender impacts one area of study is why feminism and women’s movements have been so important.

I find myself going on first dates frequently. Men whom I have struck up a conversation with for some reason or another around my college campus, coffee shops and among groups of friends will ask me out. I almost always go on a first date with anyone who asks, although they are far from guaranteed a second unless I have a compelling reason to continue to see them. I recently went on a series of two first dates and one with a man I have known for some time now. Each left me with a new realization about myself and the ways feminism and feminist theory make their ways into my romantic relationships.

One of the first-dates I went on this week was with a man a few years older than myself. One of his first questions to me was “Do you enjoy history?”. We met at a coffee shop in Downtown Reno and walked along the Truckee River, sipping and talking — beginning with our favorite decades of history. I answered the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, because of the amount of public sphere social activism which took place. Several of my personal heroes began their activism during that time including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Angela Davis and Bayard Rustin, among others.

I launched into the history of public sphere activism in the United States. I talked for a good 10 minutes about the importance of learning the history of activism and social movements. Soon after I completed my monologue, I wondered what kind of impression this type of speech leaves on someone meeting me for the first time. In what ways do my passion for feminism and social activism impact the way that people view me and what I have to say? Do they render a positive or negative impact on their impression?

The anxiety of possible bad or overwhelming impressions flood my brain. Studying Women’s Studies, which is rooted in histories of feminist activism and theory, has taught me that many people consider most or all feminists to be radical, bra burning and man hating. It is a connotation which comes with the territory of saying “I identify as a feminist and support feminist movements.” I am not bothered by these associations, though they do not represent the wide array of types of feminism that exist.

I try not to worry about the ways people view “radical” movements; if I really cared about what other people thought of “radical” social activism and feminism, I would not be a Women’s Studies major, and I would not write about feminism so openly. The label of ‘radical’ associated with feminism emerges from a fear of change. The goal of feminism is the social, political and economic equality of the sexes to which our current society falls short of. I look to the existence of pay gaps, rape culture and the sad reflection the United States government has in its representation of the people, among other social problems, to know feminist activist work is far from the goals of feminism. Because the goal and current society are still so different, worrying about a “radical” label is not worth the energy. Studying theory and practicing feminism is what brings the goals of both into reality.

My second first-date of the week was with a granola man the same age as myself who is very involved in the theories of microbiology and the importance of cells. During our hour and a half together, we shared our favorite theories, their backgrounds, authors, and possible application. As I was driving home, I realized we shared our favorite things, as two nerds will, but our areas of study were so different that neither of us were able to benefit from sharing this knowledge. What was the point of talking about feminism with a man I will probably not go out with again? Am I talking to myself? Will anything I say be analyzed or comprehended by someone not as interested in feminist theory as myself? What is the point of talking about it?

In Charlotte Bunch’s piece of literature “Not By Degrees: Feminist Theory and Education” she brings together the importance of combining feminist theory with activism. She makes the argument that without theory, activism does not have a goal which it is trying to put in place. The same applies to the reverse: without activism, theory is just writing into a void. It is the combination of the two which brings together successful social movements. My dating life has encouraged me to be engaged in feminist theory enough to know what I stand for and what I agree with the most. I have learned that if I am not aligning my morals with my actions and performing feminism in my everyday life and decisions, then I am merely speaking into a void. Action is as important as theory, and I plan to take responsibility for my own. If I want to make a positive impact, I have to start with how I conduct myself.

My third date this week was with a man a few years older than myself. We met at a small concert venue in Reno a little over half a year ago, and meet up every couple of months or so and otherwise stay in touch, and the relationship has grown comfortable enough that we share updates on most aspects of our lives. On our most recent date, he asked my advice on ways to include strong women in pieces of art he hopes to begin in the near future. I believe he asked this because of my academic knowledge of feminist history and theory, but also because he has observed the ways in which I perform everyday feminism.

I am very touched by the way he has observed my actions and reached out to me. He is very receptive when I talk about the things I learn about in class or the pieces I read, which I enjoy and appreciate. I have continued to reach out to him because he makes me feel heard and understood without the pressure to have a serious relationship. As a result, I seek his advice as well about how to write without turning those who are not “radical” off to writings about feminism. I have learned several things from my time with him about myself, relationships, the applications of feminism in my writings, and the practice of feminism in my everyday life.

Reflecting on my actions and anxieties of this date filled week, I am reminded that each action we take should have the intention of a positive impact. Our individual actions dramatically affect whether or not our society is in a state of positive or negative peace, as Charles P. Webel contemplated in his piece “Thinking Peace.” He explains that there are several kinds of peace and states of harmony, and that in order for a state of harmony and outreaching community, there must be constant action by every person. From this I take that if I am content with myself, my actions, and the people with whom I spend time then I will be able to contribute to a cycle of harmony and tranquility. Dating often reveals more about yourself and the ways you express yourself to strangers than about other people. My dating life has many times been a mirror of myself and my actions for my own contemplation.

I have knowledge and stances which I love and are important to me and I enjoy sharing my experiences and viewpoints. However, there is only so much I can tell people about myself and my favorite parts of feminism without their draining my energy. I enjoy my areas of study, I enjoy talking about them, and I enjoy diving deeper into theory and literature.

Feminist history, theory, and application are relevant in all areas of my life, but it is in my dating life that they become particularly evident. When I explain feminist history, theory, and application to others who have not thought a lot about them, I look at things from all sides so the person opposite me has a thorough understanding. Teaching others is one of the best ways to learn something, and while I do not consider my dating life a classroom for others, both the men I go out with and myself learn a lot about feminist history, theory and, application on these dates.