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Pre-2008 Posts

Radical Feminists Partnered with Men

Nectarine at From Anger to Activism has started an interesting thread asking for comments on how committed heterosexual feminists who are partnered with men can be to feminism.  I commented there, but thought I'd post it here, too, because I think it's a good question, is important, and I don't want anyone to misunderstand any of my comments here or anywhere else.  This is what I said, edited some for clarity.

I think het feminists, partnered with men, can be every bit as committed to feminist causes as unpartnered het feminists or lesbian feminists and sometimes more so. I've met plenty of lesbians who identified as feminists and yet who weren't at all committed, either to feminist causes or to women, that I could see.  I've also met plenty of feminist women without partners, male or female, who were pretty noncommittal about many feminist issues and about women, just in general.

I don't think the issue is the sex of your partner– I think the issue, so far as feminist commitment is concerned, is whether or not you are woman-centered. I think you can be woman-centered and yet be partnered with a man. What I also think, though, is that more often than not, your (generic "your") woman-centeredness will cause problems in your relationships with men. There aren't too many men who can really support a committed radical feminist woman, no matter how good their intentions are. Ultimately, that generally becomes evident and you both become increasingly miserable, and then a choice will have to be made, and that can be hell. But again, I don't think the sex of a woman's partner has anything to do with how committed she is as a feminist. 




9 thoughts on “Radical Feminists Partnered with Men

  1. Yes, I agree. I am one of those heterosexual partnered feminists. My partner, for the most part, understands why I feel the way I do. Its hard because I have been on the recieving end of ‘but what does your boyfriend think?’ when I say I am a feminist. He is my partner, and I respect his views and opinions, so he respects my views and opinions.

    It has been difficult in some ways but because our relationship has evolved and changed over time (we’ve been together for 5 years so far), I think as our opinions and passions have changed we have adapted to each other. For the most part, I think I am extremely lucky to have found a guy who is not hostile about feminism, who supports me and tries hard to understand my point of view. It far!

    Posted by Liz | June 21, 2006, 11:46 pm
  2. I, too, think that hetero feminists can be every bit as committed as non-hetero feminists. You can always break up with a partner or divorce him. Most will.

    It’s women with sons who I have my doubts about. You can’t divorce your son. It’s understandable that women want the best for their children. So I think it would be near impossible for women not to use the patriarchal privilege bestowed upon her son to give him every opportunity she can. Chances are she will be blinded by love for him and will not be able to see him as a patriarch. And she will sell out other women and feminism in a heartbeat for him.

    Men don’t have that problem. They’ll give their daughters away to some brute for 2 cows and a pig.

    Posted by Luckynkl | June 22, 2006, 3:37 am
  3. Yeah, Lucky– very true. Sons are tough.


    Posted by womensspace | June 22, 2006, 4:37 am
  4. Interesting point about sons. I do not have children, but have known feminist women who will tolerate behaviour and attitudes from their sons that they would otherwise find quite unacceptable.

    I’m not suggesting that women ditch their kids, but it’s the complete blind spot around the idea that they are in a position to do something other than blithely allow the prevailing cultural misogny to direct their boy’s development.

    Posted by anon99 | June 22, 2006, 8:01 pm
  5. I agree with you 100% here, Heart. Absolutely and fully. I could have never said it as well but it’s what I believe. Totally.

    I don’t see how your words could possibly be misinterpretted or misconstrued. You’re clear, concise, that’s it.

    If I might add also~

    There are various levels of ability, among women, to act upon their support of feminism…. especially depending upon at what point in time the decision to support it came into being. Some can leave their het world behind, divorce their male husbands, and totally commit themselves body and soul into the work. That level of ability does not take away or undermine the ability of a woman who can do nothing more than donate $25 here and there, to the work, behind her patriarchially abusive husband’s back as she carries her load in her current situation. Some can support feminism in their hearts and minds only, in the current place they find themselves in, but even that contributes to the whole I believe.


    Posted by LearningOne | June 23, 2006, 12:00 am
  6. What exactly is a “male husband”? Is there another type?

    Posted by Branjor | June 23, 2006, 11:02 am
  7. And I agree with Lucky. 100%.

    Posted by Branjor | June 27, 2006, 1:38 pm
  8. I’m a feminist. And I’m hetero. And you’re right, Heart, it’s damn hard. My “woman-centeredness” certainly causes grief in my relationship. I can relate much, much better with women than I can with men … I suspect it has something to do with my boyfriend’s/men-in-general’s inabililty to not only empathize but sympathize with my righteous anger at the way things are. Also, my awareness of the symbolism behind many traditional heterosexual practices make it QUITE difficult to be close to my boyfriend. Sometimes, when thinking of, as you so aptly put it, Heart, ” the politics of groping” and the symbolic importance of body language, I actually bristle at my boyfriends touch. Is he, if subconsiously, exerting dominance/displaying ownership of me or my body? Does he feel entitled to said touching of my body simply because we’re in a relationship? Why the hell does he always grab the dang remote? I’m constantly analyzing other things, as well: If I compromise, sexually, and pleasure him when I’m not totally into it, am I selling myself out? Would it be the same in a homosexual relationship? Would he do the same for me? Am I “taking care of him” and giving more than I expect when I call him and wake him up in the mornings when I KNOW he’d not do the same for me? Is my love for him tempering my helpful, benificial anger at the way men, in general, treat women? Is he harboring, deep down, some unexpressed sexist sentiment that taints his view of me? Is he patronizing me when he calls me honey or baby? Damn. It’s very hard. I don’t know what else to say.

    Posted by Cristy | July 10, 2006, 2:33 am
  9. I guess, to add a semblance of conclusion to above post – I should also assert that, although a strong commitment to feminism and prioritizing women does cause strain on heterosexual relationships for radical feminists, a commited heterosexual relationship does not in any way hamper a woman’s ability to commit herself to her feminist ideals. If a person is in a loving relationship with another … s/he’s NOT going to ask her/his lover to back down from personal ideals/commitments … Hence a worthy man in a relationship with a truly radical feminist is going to accept that he’s always going to play second string to his girlfriend’s ideals….were it not so, the woman wouldn’t REALLY be the(strongly and passionately feminist) person he loves…

    That being said … I don’t think there is any way that a radically feminist woman could successfully pursue a relationship with a man who doesn’t hold egalitarian beliefs. I agree (with whoever asserted such on the other blog)that a man can ‘learn, just as women have learned’ feminism without being mentored by his girlfriend ….. and if he hasn’t already taken action as such, a relationship should be out of the question – because he really doesn’t care about feminism or female equality. So, to refute the assumption that a woman in a het relationship’s female-centricity is challenged by the tendency to try and ‘educate the enemy’, I’d like to assert that a woman who champions feminism(and already has her commitment to feminism solidly formed) isn’t going to attempt a relationship with a man who hasn’t already taken action to educate himself about feminism….. How could such women be attracted to men with patronizing, condescending views of their sex?

    As for the question of lesbianism as an easier way to promote female-centricity in a radfem’s life – heck yeah, it is. If all your close relationships are with females, you’re much more likely to prioritize women/women’s thoughts and feelings and issues. But it IS possible to prioritize women when commited to a man …. it’s the whole feminist thing of embracing your own autonomy and not living for and vicariously through your male spouse ….. So, in conclusion … I think it’s kind of ironic for feminists to pose the question : ‘Does heterosexual partnering(partering with a MALE – read dominant, demanding partner) diminish a feminist’s commitment to her ideals?’ in that it’s like asking whether or not a radical feminist would give up her ideals to snatch/keep a guy …. and automatically assuming that she would.

    And anyways – speaking from what little experience I have as a nineteen year old college freshman – a het radfem isn’t going to be particularly attracted to the kind of man that would(even indirectly) ask her to renig/compromise on her commitment to the most ironically integral part of her personal ideology – her feminism and commitment to total female autonomy…

    She’s(read – I’m) more likely to be attracted to the kind of spouse(be s/he male/female) that’ll stand supportively on the sidelines(if not at her side) and say ‘Hell yeah!! You go, you amazingly strong womyn, you!!”

    Posted by Cristy | July 10, 2006, 8:32 pm

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