Does Feminism Mean That You Shouldn’t Want A Man?

black woman standing, hands clutched

I thought this Modern Love piece from the New York Times was a really well-written, reflective piece about how one can be a feminist and still want to have a man.

Says the author, Alexandra Franklin, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, “I don’t mind being a part of a whole when Dan is the other part. I don’t feel like less of a feminist, or less of a person, or less in any way. I feel more complete, but not necessarily because of him; it is just because I have found a friend who makes me laugh and also happens to love me even when I’m not very lovable.”

This is great wisdom about what’s important in relationships. In laying herself bare, the author also briefly touches on how difficult it must have been to date her. Her fierce independence. Her ambivalence. Her intensity. Her work ethic. Her preference to join the Peace Corps and not have kids for a long, long time. Her bulimia and anorexia.

And that’s the thing that often gets swept under the rug by smart, driven, successful, women… There’s no crime in being any of those things, but there is very much a tradeoff for men who choose them. Most men choose to opt out because while the relationship is invariably interesting and challenging, it’s also tiring and difficult. The author seems to own this and is appreciative of her very patient boyfriend. (By the way, this is not a gender-based observation about smart, driven, successful people – there’s a similarly HUGE tradeoff for dating the alpha men of the world).

The question I have is whether you own your flaws or you expect men to not be bothered by them at all?

Personally, once I owned my flaws, I found the humility necessary to be a good husband. It’s a great improvement on thinking how lucky anyone would be to marry me, dontcha think?

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  1. 1

    What a lovely story from the New York Times! Thank you EMK, for sharing that. Her relationship with her boyfriend (I think they are in a relationship now!) reminded me of all the implausible but romantic things that happen in youth, sort of like a modern day The Notebook.
    Is it really possible to have a man be so patient and selfless, especially when he loves you but doesn’t know if you will ever come around? It also seems like there was something about him that she loved, but she had to reconcile with all her other priorities and values and dreams first. That is a complex psychological premise. I guess the beauty in the story is that it all worked so well.
    I understand that we can’t change other people, we can only work on ourselves. But is it possible to find someone willing to have that same patience to stay with us through the journey between first introduction and relationship, especially when dating at stages of life older than a sophomore?
    Can I have that patience when I don’t even know where things are going with me and anyone else? I don’t know.

  2. 2

    I wonder if it is actually easier to be with her because she is not demanding to be called or feel connected and she is not wondering where the relationship is going? Just sayin….

  3. 3

    @ Kate-yes you can, its called  living in the present. This is what AQ is alluding to  in #2.

  4. 4

    It’s a lot easier to see and work through all of those issues and admit to all of your faults, when you have the evidence that someone is present and loving you as you are and in spite of yourself. I wonder if the author would’ve felt the same way if she was getting rejected by guys when she revealed her true feminist self?
    I’m sure this happens with some men too, but what I see more often than not with a lot of strong, independent women is if they don’t fit what a man thinks she ought to be, he just moves on without trying to understand her or accept her as is, men don’t build a case for a woman and why he should get to know her, (either he’s interested or he’s not) even though she admittedly is not making him a priority in her life. He will likely just move on to a woman he finds to be “less challenging and complicated”.
    This is the challenge for today’s modern woman, wait for a man who will accept what she may consider to be essential components of who she is (this could be a really LONG wait) or perhaps placate and back-peddle with a man so that you don’t end up alone.  

  5. 5

    @Trenia (4) –
    “what I see more often than not with a lot of strong, independent women is if they don’t fit what a man thinks she ought to be, he just moves on without trying to understand her or accept her as is, men don’t build a case for a woman and why he should get to know her, (either he’s interested or he’s not) even though she admittedly is not making him a priority in her life. He will likely just move on to a woman he finds to be ‘less challenging and complicated’.”
    Your presumption has not been the case as I and two of my close single male friends have experienced it. We have made the effort. I know in my junior, sophomore, and senior years, I spent just as long as the guy in the story. And I also did that in my 20’s and early 30’s. It didn’t work. It turned out to be a big waste of precious little dating time I had in that window of age opportunity.
    When she’s just not into you, sticking around isn’t helpful, even though I naively thought it would.  
    In the story, I see that she gave signals that she liked him, and she likely reciprocated in some of his efforts. That’s not the case in the vast majority of situations.

  6. 6
    Germaine Raquel Beuviere

    I’m like she is and I have no problems owning up to all my flaws =) Once I also owned up to them it put my dating experience in a whole new and positive light. I’m enjoying the journey and also working to help others find what they’re searching for with my own AMBW group.

  7. 7

    @Kate She interprets “Is it really possible to have a man be so patient and selfless, especially when he loves you but doesn’t know if you will ever come around?” how a man interprets this is that he is crazy about her even with her signs of “i am not that interested in you” he still went on and on until she fell in love with him.

    Men who are patient/crazy enough about her to stick around is getting  thinner  and thinner.

    To me the women sounded impossible to deal with not just for men but for women too.  

  8. 8

    Thank you for introducing the topic of feminism and what it means in relationships, Evan. I have noticed that women steer clear of calling themselves feminists because they fear it will alienate men. These same women still want to pursue their education and careers, to have their bank accounts, to vote, etc. Feminism is the reason we women have all these things in the Western world.

    Feminism is not a handicap. It is the reason you as a woman don’t have to put up with sexual harassment or quit your job to get married. Feminism doesn’t take anything away from you as a woman, it gives you the freedom to choose how you want to live and what being a woman means to you, without having to conform to rigid gender sterotypes — but also with no obligation to renounce traditional femininity.

    I am going to repeat what I have said about feminism and relationships elsewhere in this blog:

    Being a feminist means that I get to CHOOSE how I position myself regarding gender roles. I can totally be a feminist, and have a partner (a man) who is a feminist too (or at least feminist-friendly), and we can decide that within the relationship we are going to preserve SOME ASPECTS of traditional gender roles, if that is what comes to us naturally. I still have my bank accounts, my career, my vote, you understand. And he has a substantively equal partnership with an educated woman who can take care of him financially should he need it.

    Within the context of a fundamentally and substantively equal partnership, my feminist man and I may very well decide that we are going to have nights, or indeed whole parts of our relationship, that are going to look very much like an old-fashioned courtship. This is all by negotiation, not something I can impose. He cannot impose anything either. Feminism is not about reversing traditional gender roles, it’s about all of us being individuals and consciously positioning ourselves along the gender spectrum and its attending roles.

    1. 8.1

      Fair enough Maria.

      Have you read the post where Evan talks about Venn diagrams? I think what you’re saying is fine if you also bear in mind what the man wants from a relationship. Where his and your Venn diagrams intersect is the sweet spot.

      Imho, the most frustrating commenters on here spend inordinate amounts of time & energy banging on about what they want, deserve, won’t tolerate, find objectionable etc in the opposite sex. With no or little consideration of their dates’ needs, wants etc.

      Whenever I get frustrated with dating and the opposite sex, I picture that Venn diagram and try to remember: it’s not all about me.

    2. 8.2

      Maria, I love so many of your comments. However, I don’t see how a man can be “feminist friendly”, because it sounds more like he is just a “feminist.”   Like my fave politician said, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

      I want to start with what feminism is not.   Though feminists repeatedly insist that their goal is gender equality, critics continue badgering them with accusations of hating men.   Feminism acknowledges  more than two genders, so the movement is not just about advancing women. Is it not just about accepting lesbians, either.   Feminism is not about thinking women are superior.   It simply believes women should have equal opportunities to succeed in life.  


      You never lose friends in your fight for social justice.You lose racists, homophobes, misogynists,but not friends.


      Only 23 percent of women and 16 percent of men consider themselves feminists even though 82 percent of both genders believe “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals,” according to a 2013 Huffington Post/YouGov poll. Why this huge disparity? Maybe because many people think feminism means something more than gender equality.

        Being a woman means  being economically disadvantaged, being at  higher risk for sexual abuse  and  intimate partner violence,  being denied basic human rights  in many places, and a slew of other negative things.

      Since feminism is against gender stereotypes, generalizations like “men are bad” would actually fall under the category of “anti-feminist,” since it is itself a gender stereotype.    In fact, the cultural views of men as more aggressive, impulsive, and cold are just a few of the stereotypes feminism aims to combat.    Feminism  is recognizing that traditional gender roles in general serve to stereotype and limit people. Identifying as a feminist  not  saying that being a woman is great or better than being a man. It’s saying that being a woman or gender non-conforming person should be  as good  as being a man, but currently, it isn’t.




  9. 9

    @Marika. Thanks for the tip. I will definitely check out the Venn diagrams.

    Yes, I agree with you that considering what the other person wants and needs is very important. I mentioned in my post the importance of doing everything by negotiation, not imposing our needs and wants on the other person without their consent.

    I took a Negotiation class in university once, and they really drilled into us the importance of giving to the other party as much of what they want as you are able to give. Some people found the approach counterintuitive, but it made sense to me. No negotiation or relationship will ever go very far unless there is mutual good will and a reciprocal investment in each other’s needs.

    By the way, where are you in Australia? I’m in Perth.

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