It is straight up gender anarchy in our house!
My fiancée is a dedicated feminist.
When we first met, I thought I was a feminist. I mean, I knew the language (everything is problematic because of our suffocating, heteronormative patriarchy) and I was pretty clear on the third-wave message (don’t be a tool), but I was ignorant on many gender-defined issues. She patiently, yet firmly, helped me become a full-aware advocate for not only gender equality, but equality of all kinds.
Here are the biggest lessons she’s schooled me on.
1. Men are allowed to (and in fact, should) have other emotions besides anger.
Boys are taught that they have to be strong; that they can’t cry; that they have to tough it out and hide pain. As a result, boys wind up (also thanks to movies, music, sports, and advertising) using anger as a catch-all response.
I can’t say that I wasn’t, in some ways, similar. My fiancée taught me that anger isn’t the only option. She taught me that the world and its problems are multi-dimensional and that one-dimensional responses are inadequate.
I can be sad. I can show glee. I can use the word glee and not feel ashamed!
2. As a couple, we don’t have to adhere to stereotypes.
She deals with moldy food (I am nauseous just thinking about it) and bugs. I vacuum, dust, and take bubble baths. It is straight up gender anarchy in our house!
Seriously though, we each have our strengths and weaknesses and we don’t let gender determine them. It makes for a lot less resentment.
3. Women are as tough as men, maybe more.
Don’t ever tell my fiancée that she can’t do something. She stares down hard work and dirty jobs and makes anyone who doubts her toughness and stubbornness apologize for questioning her in the first place.
Oh, and women push little humans out of their vaginas. Check. And mate.
4. Just because you’re a guy, you don’t have to act tough.
Similar to number one, my fiancée has taught me that I didn’t have to pretend to be things I’m not. She said to me one day something to the effect of, “I don’t like spiders and you don’t think any less of me, so should I think any less of you because you refuse to go in the basement without me and several flashlights?”
Sometimes I’m tough, sometimes I’m not. That’s okay.
5. My body, my choice.
What women (or anyone, for that matter) do with their bodies and how they do it and with who, is entirely up to them; we, as men, have absolutely zero right to dictate what our partners, or any women, do with their bodies.
How fierce would the backlash be if men started telling other men what to do? Oh, that’s right, we have a word for that: War.
6. Being male affords me a lot of privilege.
My partner and I have similar professions and the similarity in occupation makes for some very telling comparisons.
Recently, we were discussing the fact that some of her students (which happen to be some of my students as well) address her by first name, while all of my students call me professor. And though it may seem trivial, it’s a symptom of a much more malignant problem. Despite our identical professional positions, my partner isn’t afforded equal courtesy simply because she’s a woman. And this is a slippery slope in a classroom environment as students are more apt to dismiss her knowledge and publicly challenge her authority—it happens all too often.
7. My partner’s gender puts her at a disadvantage.
As superpowered as my fiancée is, there are some things that are so ingrained into women in our culture, even she falls prey to them.
I have seen my partner get overcharged and not say a word, because she has been taught that women are supposed to avoid confrontation. And that aversion to confrontation, that hesitation to rock the boat, becomes dangerous when it comes to one’s health.
My partner knew that she had a sleep disorder, she was falling asleep at work, in meetings, and behind the wheel, but her family doctor kept dismissing her concerns, telling her that she simply needed to manage her time better. It was only after two primary doctors and two specialists (all men) and her insistence that something was wrong that she was diagnosed with Hypersomnia.
Meanwhile, I complained to my brand new primary that I wasn’t sleeping well and I was immediately referred to a specialist who immediately scheduled a sleep study. WTF?
8. The patriarchy sucks.
The patriarchal system in which we participate is to blame for a whole host of problems that both men and women have to deal with—football players at all levels would rather scramble their brains than take themselves out of a game after a concussion, while women are starving themselves to meet a beauty standard that is not only unrealistic, but impossible. Both sexes are governed by a complex set of oppressive gender roles that do harm on both sides.
9. Sexual assault isn’t something that happens to other people.
I had always assumed that my fiancée had never been harassed or assaulted. I said as much to her one afternoon. She patiently informed me that she had, on several occasions, been catcalled, groped, and propositioned—as if that was an inevitable fact of life.
I always knew that sexual assault was a reality, but I had always thought it happened to other people, people I didn’t know and love and care about, and definitely not me. I’m an idiot.
10. I appreciate my mom even more than ever.
I have always loved my mom, but after being in a relationship with a feminist, I can appreciate my mom in a whole new way.
My mom is 72 years young, raised five kids, and went back to school after her children were almost grown and got a B.A., an M.A. and her Nurse Practitioner’s license before practicing at a nursing home. Oh, and she was a nursing instructor at Michigan State University at the same time. I love you mom!
11. We are in a partnership, not a relationship.
In the circles we run in, it is fashionable to refer to your significant other (heterosexual or otherwise) as your partner. After a while, it sounds super pretentious, but it’s an honest attempt to not only distance one’s self from heteronormative labels that aren’t flexible enough, but also an effort to signify that we are a cohesive unit.
We depend on each other equally. We are the Key and Peele of romantic unions. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This article was originally published at SELF. Reprinted with permission from the author.