I'm A Feminist, But I'm Done Asking Guys Out

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strong woman at a bar

By Estelle Fortier​

My feminism is central to my identity.

I call out gender discrimination wherever I see it. I donate to Planned Parenthood. I teach my non-female friends and colleagues how to be feminists themselves.

I’m also a naturally assertive person, and I view living my assertiveness as a feminist act. If there’s something I want, personally or professionally, I’m going for it with everything I’ve got — even though, and especially because, society labels such behavior as unfeminine.

All that said, in my dating life as a feminist and a straight woman, I’ve decided it’s time to dial back my proactiveness and let the men do the heavy lifting for a change.

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Let me first explain what I don’t mean by this.

I don’t mean that I’ve stopped putting myself out there at parties, on apps, and so on. If I see someone who looks interesting, I introduce myself and engage him in conversation because why not?

Nor do I mean that I don’t seek parity in a romantic relationship; I want a partner with whom I can equally share responsibilities — emotional, financial, and so on.

But I’m no longer pursuing men in the early stages of a relationship: asking for their numbers or asking them on first dates (both of which I used to do all the time). I’ll demonstrate my interest, sure, but the guy has to take the step of asking me out and planning what we’ll do. 

On the face of it, this is a decidedly unfeminist choice — and, trust me, it’s a pragmatic decision, not an ideological one. Yet, paradoxically, being less forward as a dater is saving me from romantic experiences that are inauthentic to my feminism.

I’ve had a few terrific flings in my day, almost all of which I’ve initiated myself. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Seducing a man is exciting, empowering, and really, really fun. (It’s also not that hard, which is rewarding in its own way.) 

Over time, though, my goals have changed, and I’m now less interested in a crazy one-night stand than a long-term relationship. So for the past year or so, I’ve been going on a zillion dates, many of which I initiated.  

Why wait for someone to ask me out? I reasoned. If I want to spend time with him, I should make it happen. 

In practice, though, the dates I ended up making happen took one of two courses. Either the guy across the table turned out to be insecure — and therefore completely intimidated by my confidence — or else deeply immature, and therefore definitionally incapable of giving me the kind of relationship I want. 

Either way, there was a good reason he hadn’t asked me out: he wasn’t ready to play on my level.

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A guy we’ll call Sam hit this point home for me a few months ago. Sam was everything I wanted in a partner: kind, intellectually curious, spiritual. There was just one problem: Sam had been hurt in a past relationship, which he apparently believed made him different from everyone else in the entire world. 

I pursued Sam relentlessly; we had amazing chemistry from the get-go, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get to know him better. 

Nonetheless, every two or three amazing dates would be followed by a week of Sam ignoring me.

“I’m just scared of being hurt,” he whimpered when I finally asked for an explanation.

“Well, you’re hurting me,” I replied. 

Sam answered that I was being needlessly confrontational. 

Needlessly confrontational because I wanted him to respect my feelings and my time.

Needlessly confrontational because, having worked tirelessly to overcome the pain and fear of having been in a psychologically abusive relationship, I expect others to own their baggage as well.

Needlessly confrontational because I value myself too much to tolerate the last-minute canceled plans, the unexplained bouts of radio silence, the suggestion that there’s something wrong with me for being angry at being treated as an afterthought.

The societal project of shattering, or at least undermining, traditional gender roles was and still is a worthwhile endeavor. But what have we replaced them with? Tinder. Unanswered texts. The large-scale commodification of sexual partners. 

If that’s what you want, great — and I mean that sincerely. There absolutely must be space in society for women to date and have sex casually — and enjoy it, just as men always have.

I, however, want a committed romantic relationship, and I refuse to allow anyone to negate that wish by offering me insulting half-measures instead. 

While I can’t guarantee that only going out with men who are mature enough to take the initiative will lead me to someone great, I am certain that it’s saving me from a whole lot of BS.

And between being with a jerk and being on my own, I will always, always choose to be on my own, because I love myself that much.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and I hope that if I’m given a worthwhile opportunity to break my new pact with myself, I take it. But as I said to Sam when I finally cut things off, “I have zero interest in being manipulated by a man-child.”

And if that’s not feminism in action, I don’t know what is.

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This article was originally published at The Gloss. Reprinted with permission from the author.