Sunday, October 30, 2011

Regarding Tonight's Family Guy

Now we can't pretend like Family Guy hasn't "gone there" before with its offensive jokes. It's been racist at times, sexist at others, and it's probably offended every group there is. But tonight's episode took things too far when it acted like domestic violence was a huge joke.

We're not talking about one little domestic violence joke in a flashback, the whole episode was about two people in an abusive relationship - the guy, a typical jerk, and the woman, a weak, sodding idiot. I'll address that later. If you didn't think domestic violence jokes were funny, chances are you wouldn't have laughed at all during the episode, that's how much of the humor was based on the abusive relationship.

This isn't just poking fun at a group, this was probably psychologically harmful to abuse survivors watching the episode, and probably struck a chord with their friends and families as well. The truth is, everyone knows someone who's been abused - either sexually, physically, or at least emotionally - if you say you don't, you probably just don't know who it is. Yet. Not everyone likes to come out about their experiences, because they may be labeled as dramatic individuals trying to get attention.

The problem with this episode is that it only reinforced a lot of problematic assumptions we make about domestic violence. Aside from the humor going too far, the episode did speak some truths about how we treat domestic violence in this society. We assume that the victims are all weak and stupid individuals who are incapable of asserting themselves and therefore deserve what they get, and we only encourage them to leave, rather than try to get the abusers to stop beating their partners. We act as though abuse is an unstoppable force of nature, that some people are just sick individuals who don't care if they hurt others, and there's nothing we can do about it except keep the ones we love away from them, and scold our friends and family members for dating them. At no point in the episode did anyone try to intervene in the abuse - they all heard it, saw it happening, and no one tried to stop it, or call the police, or take the guy aside when he was calm and say "you really need to stop beating her." If anything, Peter validated the behavior. Nice.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Clothing Options

As I think on the availability of women's Halloween costumes, and the fact that when it comes to store-bought costumes the only option is sexy, I realized that shopping for a Halloween costume isn't that much different from shopping for a dress for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It may be an exaggeration of the phenomenon, but it's not exactly isolated to that one holiday.

What am I talking about, you ask? Go into a store that sells young women's dresses any time of the year, and most of the dresses are cut above the knee and either strapless, one-shoulder, or have very thin straps. Yeah, when it's time to cut the turkey, I'd like a little more fabric than that. Ignoring the fact that my Thanksgiving and Christmas apparel has to be family appropriate, I want to be warm! What's the point of throwing on a sleeveless dress when I know I'm just going to throw on a sweater before dinner is even served? And that wouldn't be such a problem if stores had those cute boleros and shrugs - I'd love a white bolero to wear with my Christmas dress - but even those are hard to find. I tried looking for cute sweaters last year, but I couldn't find anything I liked, and even in December most of the fashionable clothing is short-sleeved or sleeveless, and ankle-length skirts are usually nowhere in sight. Look, when it starts snowing outside, what I wear has less to do with my sexuality and a lot to do with staying warm.

And it really does seem as though the kind of clothing available speaks volumes about what sexuality is currently acceptable. Fashion isn't just about what colors, cuts, and styles are "in," fashion also dictates how much skin you should be showing. It also dictates whether a women should be wearing heels or flats. Last year when I went boot shopping, it seemed like all the flat boots were frumpy or looked like something you'd wear in a stable, and all the cute boots happened to have heels. Funny.

I'm not saying that someone who wants longer skirts or longer sleeves is completely SOL, of course they can go online, find small niche clothing stores, or make their own clothes, but it says something when women who prefer to cover up, either for modesty purposes or so they don't freeze their butts off, can't find what they want in mainstream clothing stores. It says to them "you're not normal."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Don't Call It Slutty: Changing The Launguage Surrounding Halloween Costumes

"In the regular world, Halloween is when little kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In girl world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress as a total slut, and no other girls can say anything bad about it."

If only. Many young women show skin on Halloween, to be sure, but their peers aren't exactly keeping their mouths shut about it. There's plenty of girl-bashing and slut shaming surrounding Halloween as well as sexualization and sexual liberation, which I'm sure Ariel Levy would have plenty to say about. People call Halloween "Slutoween" as a clever joke, referring to the number of "sluts" running around in "skanky" costumes. When my mom and I used to shop for costumes, she would call many of the ones I picked out "slutty." Last week, as I mentioned previously, there was a piece in my university's newspaper entitled "Trick or Tramp."

This. Needs. To stop.

Seriously, it's only contributing to our culture's horrible trend of slut-shaming when you call a girl in a skimpy costume a tramp, or a whore, or a slut, or a skank, or any of those words. It doesn't help to refer to the costumes themselves as slutty. The word "slut" is a funny word, it can have a positive or negative connotation depending on whether you think being sexual is a good thing or not. Feminists have the SlutWalk, where they try to take back the word slut and, more importantly, insist that no matter how much of a "slut" a woman is, or how slutty she's perceived to be, it's not okay to rape her (honestly, the latter reason is the only reason I'm okay with the name of those demonstrations, knowing the history of why the walks started in the first plce). Jenna Marbles did a "pro-slut" rant on YouTube where she dissed the trend of girl-bashing, and good for her! But her constant use of the word slut was, to me, problematic. However, "slut" is still largely used as a judgmental word, used to diss someone for being too sexual.

I'd rather see people who criticize these costumes use words like skimpy and revealing when referring to the costume, and inappropriate when talking about costumes for teenage girls. I'd like to see the judgmental girl-bashing to come to swift end, as soon as possible. If someone truly and genuinely wants to use Halloween as a time of sexual liberation when they can unleash their wild side and show a little more skin than usual, why is it anyone else's problem? Trends can be problematic, the rampant sexualization surrounding Halloween is a feminist issue to be sure, but individual behavior is really only a problem when someone gets hurt as a result.

And guys, I'm sure you love seeing cleavage and thighs on Halloween, but maybe consider the idea that Halloween isn't really about you getting a boner. I always thought that's what Mardi Gras was for anyway. Personally, I wish we as a society would scrap the sexy trend on Halloween in favor or a return to scary costumes on Halloween - for everyone, not just for guys. Sometimes I wonder if women were ever socially allowed to wear scary costumes. I know I'm going as a sexy jellyfish this year (originality for the win), but I think next year I'm gonna scrap the glitter and tights in favor of old, torn clothing and lots of fake blood and zombie makeup. A zombie usher, perhaps. Covered in popcorn. With a broom "fused" to me somehow! Yeah . . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Believe

(this has a lot of references to religion and spirituality. if you think religion is stupid, you don't have to read this post. there's really nothing scholarly or academic or critical in here, just me realizing something about how and why I became a feminist)

I have a Pagan spiritual identity, and gender equality is a big part of that faith. Another part is the belief in the idea in fate, or the idea that a higher power has a hand in acts of chance.

Sometimes, like now during midterm season, I feel hopeless. I feel like the dumbest, most incompetent student in my classes, with no real future in what I'm studying. Then I realize, perhaps it was a higher power that led me here.

The personal is political, and I believe that a higher power allowed many personal events to happen not to torture or punish me, but to open my eyes and inspire me to fight. Somehow.

Maybe it's not poor decision-making that led me to date all those douchebags. Not only could it have been a way for me to find the one who is actually meant for me, but perhaps the gods sent them to me, and me to them, so that I may learn the dark side of sex and relationships, and learn firsthand the awful ways in which women are still being treated by men. I was to learn that relationship abuse is not a series of isolated incidents, but a gendered behavior pattern ingrained in society and interlaced with the patriarchy that still exists whether we want to admit it or not.

Maybe it was an act of fate that led me to Joe, who showed me the Foamy cartoons, which featured a gothic feminist character named Germaine, whom I'm beginning to realize was another one of the big reasons why I became a feminist at such a young age.

Maybe it as another act of fate that had me placed in Mr. Shuman's junior year US History class, where I began to realize my passion for politics, especially laws and public policy matters relating to the public interest. That class is why I'm here, studying politics and wanting to one day run for office, though people laugh at me.

Sometimes I think there's no way I can succeed in what I want to do. But then I realize that the gods would not have led me here if I didn't have the strength and the intelligence to succeed in the field I was inspired to study through a series of events I can only attribute to fate, and to following my instincts in many occasions. Perhaps by being a student of politics, sociology, gender studies, and possibly law someday, I am training to serve a higher power as well as the general public.

No Such Thing as a Bad Excuse

I'm tired of people saying that having a headache is not an excuse not to have sex. Look, I get that an orgasm can relieve a headache, but all that means is that if I want to have sex, a headache shouldn't stop me. If I don't want to have sex, for any reason, I shouldn't have to have sex. The idea that there are bad or invalid excuses only reinforces the idea that you need a "good reason" not to have sex, and if you don't, you'd better spread 'em for your guy.

Now, there's traditionally been a missing discourse of desire in our society - basically, it's been assumed that women do not want sex, and merely have sex out of obligation or wanting to please her partner, or because she's pressured. We know that some women still have sex mainly for those reasons. In order to combat this, many sex-positivists instead assert that women actually really want sex. A lot. All the time. Now there's a myth that women are really horny little monsters who are ready and willing all the time, unless they adopt a pure lifestyle, in which case they really need to be liberated because they must be oppressed. Because a healthy, sane woman would never choose abstinence, right? This new myth assumes that if a woman doesn't want to have sex, there must either be something wrong with her, with the guy she's with, or with the relationship - and if that's fixed, she'll fuck away!

This only opens the door for coercion. If it is assumed that all women want sex all the time, it only gives merit to the idea that a woman saying "no" is only trying to play hard to get, or trying to get the guy to work a little harder, or just following a social script - she doesn't really mean it. And if she does persist, a little work on his part to get rid of whatever problem she's having is really all it takes. Once the problem's resolved, her excuse is gone, right? The new myth that women are extremely sexual beings also poses coercion as a favor to the one being convinced. Often someone will legitimately believe they know what's best for the other person, they "know" what will feel good for them even if the person insists they have no desire to do it. There are men, my ex included, who feel that a woman rejecting sex doesn't fully understand what she's turning down, and that she'll thank him for talking her into it later. Women are actually encouraged to talk their male partners into trying anal play, even if they vehemently reject the idea.

I'm gonna get a little personal here. I get that anal play does feel good for a lot of men, and it's a shame so few are closed to the idea because they feel such sex acts are gay and emasculating. However, if my partner says he doesn't want anything in his butt, I'm not going to try to coax him into trying it, nor am I going to stick my finger in there when we're fooling around, sure that once it's in there he'll change his mind. Why? Because I know firsthand how it feels to have someone penetrate you without asking first. It's not fun, the words "disrespected," "violated," and "raped" are among the first come to mind. Also, I can understand that just because a sex act feels good for a lot of people doesn't mean it's right for everyone - for some, even a mainstream sex act can be more painful or just more weird than pleasurable. To each their own, leave it at that and move on. If they change their minds on their own, they can say so themselves.

Coercion is never okay. Even if you mean well, even if you really think your partner will thoroughly enjoy whatever you're trying to get them to do, it's not okay to coerce them. No means no, it doesn't - it at least shouldn't - have any other inherent or assumed meanings. No doesn't mean "try harder," it doesn't mean "I really shouldn't," it doesn't necessarily mean "I don't like you" or "I don't want to date you" or "I want to break up," it just means "I don't want to have sex." And it's entirely possible for a sane, emotionally and sexually healthy person to simply not be up for sex once in a while. Once we recognize that everyone's sexuality is different - that some people want it more often than others - we will understand that the word "no" needs to be taken much more seriously than it is, and that one need not give a "good reason" why not.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Slut Shaming in My School Newspaper

This week's edition of my school's newspaper, the Huntington News, had a column that seriously pissed me off. The piece, entitled Trick or Tramp, decried the tendency of young women to wear slutty costumes, and did so in a very judgmental manner. The author insisted that wearing a skimpy, store-bought costume was a waste of money and dignity, and encouraged readers to get off the stripper pole and go the creative, homemade route.

Now, let's get one thing straight. I'm not a fan of Halloween costume options for young women either. The majority of costumes are supposed to be sexy, and the ones that don't go the sexy route are crazy expensive. I don't like that women feel pressured to be sexy on Halloween either just to fit in. I did like that the author posed some more creative and clever options, though honestly I've seen better suggestions in Reddit.

However, the author ultimately pissed me off by saying that women shouldn't choose sexy costumes, period, and that she had harsh, judgmental words for women who did. There's nothing wrong with showing skin on Halloween if someone wants to do so. There's also nothing wrong with opting for a store-bought costume if you're so inclined. Let's face it, not everyone has the time and mental energy to put a unique costume together. Yes, it's cheaper, but it also requires a lot of thought during a time when many people are bogged down with papers and midterm exams, and it also takes time to go out to various stores looking for the necessary pieces of the costume. Not everyone can just reach into a vast closet and put together a costume. I commend people who are able to pull off something creative and funny, but I don't judge people who settle for a trip to iParty two days before the Halloween party.

That said, because some people do resort to store-bought costumes, it's a downright shame that all costume options for women are skimpy. Growing up and browsing the teen costumes, I remember growing increasingly frustrated as my mom vetoed every costume I liked because she thought they were too slutty. Even when I fell in love with a gothic ballerina costume (though I was dismayed that the costume had a tiny tutu rather than a full tulle skirt), my mom didn't want me wearing it to school. So yes, I've worn Halloween costumes that showed a little more thigh than necessary, but I don't think that warrants judgment from a self-important university columnist.

The answer to the trend of sexualization during Halloween isn't to call women who wear sexy costumes "tramps," or do hold up the option of quirky homemade or put together as the better option. Rather, the remedy is to encourage young women to choose whatever option is best for them, and to frame either choice as valid in its own right. Another remedy is to encourage designers to come up with women's costumes that are actually scary, or funny, or powerful, and not just sexy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Evil Slutopia: Cosmo's Guy Guru Doesn't Understand Consent

(this isn't my work, I just really wanted to share it)
Evil Slutopia: Cosmo's Guy Guru Doesn't Understand Consent: There's a regular column in Cosmo called Ask Him Anything that features sex and relationship advice from "guy guru" Ky Henderson. We're generally not fans of Mr. Henderson's advice (or 99% of the other advice that appears in Cosmo), but one answer that he gave in the November issue really set us off.
(click the link to read more)

The "Women As Victims" Assumption

One big criticism I hear about feminism, especially from the men in my life, is they perceive feminism to be painting women as victims of society. To them, it looks like feminism degrades women by assuming that women as a whole are weak-minded, weak-willed individuals who cannot take care of themselves or hold their own against what society throws at them, and therefore they need to be protected and given extra support.

These men probably know strong women, and thus assume that all women are strong. The women in their lives either live up to people's expectations, seemingly taking it in stride and making it look effortless - OR they manage to stand up to society and telling it to fuck off. Perhaps these men are able to resist all the pressures and expectations society exerts on them, or are even unaware that these pressures even exist, and they can't understand why some women can't do the same, thus perceiving women who cannot hold their own against the bullshit expectations society has for them as weak, and exceptions to the rule rather than the rule itself.

Feminists don't assume women are weak. We don't assume that all women are strong either - expecting every woman to be Superwoman and "do it all" is counter productive, and only makes women who fall short of that expectation feel like crap. Unrealistic expectations for any group of people - whether the expectation is to be unerringly polite, to be stick-thin, or to get straight A's and excel academically - is unhealthy to that group. Rather, feminism believes women are human. Thus, not only do we believe women should have basic human rights at an institutional level, but that they should be treated like humans at the societal level as well. As humans, women have weaknesses, they aren't perfect or infallible.

Feminists not only acknowledge that women are human, but that the societal pressures put on them are too much for any human to be expected to bear, and that those pressures shouldn't exist in the first place - at least not to the extent to which they do exist.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why Women Don't Run for Office

On last week's episode of Modern Family, Claire Dunfy - a stay at home mom - decides to run for local office. This isn't so much driven by personal ambition, she just hates the guy in office and wants to replace him. Anyway, at one point in the show she realizes that she has too much to do at home, and that her family falls apart when she has to step out for a few hours to fill out some forms at town hall (because her husband doesn't know how to handle the tasks she normally takes on), and she decides she can't run for office after all. Someone finally talks her into it, but it's fairly accepted that she won't actually win.

Now I realize the show is fiction, but I think Claire's struggle is one many women looking to run for office relate to. Despite how far we've come, many families rely on mom to run the family - make breakfast, pack the lunches, drive the kids to school, make the costumes for the school play, drive the kids to soccer practice and ballet class, make dinner, do many of the household chores, the list goes on and on. Even women with jobs are still expected to work the second shift (taking on the housework after a full day working outside the home). Being a mother is still a tasking, thankless job, and many people don't even realize how much they rely on mom until they have to somehow make do without her for a day or so. That said, I think it's common for women to feel like they can't run for office because they have too much to do at home, and they can't just up and leave their families to fend for themselves.

Another, related reason - one big reason keeping women from running for federal office, is the feeling that a wife and mother cannot uproot her family. Holding office in the executive branch requires one to live in Washington, and it also requires one to travel all over the country during the campaign. If a woman were to become president, her whole family would need to move to Washington with her, and I think many women feel like they cannot make the family move like that. What about the kids? What about her husband's job? Certainly, men have to ask themselves this too before moving for work, but such a move is generally acceptable for men because they are assumed to be the family's primary breadwinner, whereas his wife's occupation - if she has one - is often seen as secondary income, a job she holds just to make some extra money, rather than a career she's invested in. I know I often try to consider a career I can do anywhere, so that when I get married we can go where my husband needs to be and I can do what I want to do there. Sometimes I date a guy who wants to live and work in a specific region and I think "if we get married, I can't be president, because I have to be where he is and I can't expect him to move for me."

Maybe that's just me, but I can't help but feel like there are plenty of other women with the same dilemma. I'm sure many women don't feel like they have the right to move their families, or even their husbands.

Then there's the economic reason keeping women from running for office. A campaign costs money, and public service doesn't pay well at all. You need money to run and many women, single or married, can't afford it due to the still-present wage gap. Married women, again, don't feel like they have the right to that much of the family budget. That's for the husband and children. It's for family vacations, dance classes, Christmas presents, and of course dad's business trips.

In short, running for office is a selfish thing. It requires money and resources; it requires one's family to support you in the campaign, make television and live appearances, even go on tour in some cases; and running for and holding public office is a huge time commitment many women don't feel like they can make because of all the responsibilities they have at home. While men are still encouraged to go after their career ambitions and that it's okay for their family to be a close second to work, women still feel pressure to put their wants and needs last, behind those of their husband and children - they still feel that they exist to serve others before themselves. This may not be true for all women, and of course we see that many women run for office either despite these sociological obstacles, or because they are a non-issue for them - these issues are true for enough women that they need to be examined and addressed.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Still Frustrated

I wrote about this before, albeit briefly, but it's still frustrating me to no end so I shall write about it some more!

I'm tired of being called a "bad feminist," or a "fake feminist," because of the decisions I make and the insecurities I feel as a woman and as a human being. This time people criticized me for planning to wear a sexy outfit for Halloween. First I said I'm going to be sexy jellyfish, which I am, it's a plan I've had for months - to me it's more funny, almost satirical, than a strict adherence to a patriarchal norm - but not everyone saw it that way. They really didn't like it when I even suggested an even "sluttier" Halloween costume, something I wasn't really planning on doing but I thought the idea, the play on words, was pretty funny. No no, I'm a bad feminist for being sexy on Halloween.

It's not as though I'm doing this as any sort of real statement. I'm just having fun. I don't think that everything I do has to be some big feminist action, I don't have to "stick it to the man" every second of every day, it would be exhausting as hell to even try. Sometimes I do wear high heels, I wear sexy panties, I wear pushup bras, I wear makeup, I go through extensive skincare routines trying to make my face look more human and less like the surface of some undiscovered planet. I don't do all of those things all the time, but I don't make a point of keeping such "tools of oppression" at arm's length. There are some things I won't touch, like Cosmo - I might pick up a friend's copy if a cover story really interests me or I'm just really bored, but I can't remember the last time I bought that magazine, or one like it, with the intention of actually reading it instead of cutting it up to make a collage. There are also things I avoided, TV shows like Mad Men and Big Love, then I caved and got addicted to them, knowing that they weren't entirely feminist TV shows but loving them anyway.

I could list a whole lot of things I do, and things I have done, that don't qualify as "feminist" actions. And to me, that's okay. I don't kid myself into thinking that those are empowered choices, because I know they're not, but I don't think they make me the anti-feminist or a "bad feminist" either. Again, not everything I do has to be a statement. I pick my battles, I guess.

The problem is that society has this view of what a feminist is, what a feminist believes (and this assumption goes beyond a belief in gender equality), what a feminist is supposed to love and hate, what a feminist wears, what a feminist eats, how a feminist dates, how a feminist feels about herself - and when a woman who declares herself to be a feminist strays outside the boundaries of that stereotype, she runs the risk of being attacked as a poser or a hypocrite, mostly by non-feminists who know little about what real feminism is. Now, there are some women who really are "fake feminists" like Sarah Palin, but I don't think that choosing to show my knees and cleavage on Halloween (le gasp!) puts me on the same level as her.

Now, when this happens, when I am attacked like that, I know a "good feminist" would defend herself, and take the time to argue and debate and tell people to back the fuck off when all else fails, but I don't always have the energy or the time - I'm a college student, people, my days consist of class, club meetings, homework, errands, trying to stay on top of the housework, and usually falling short in one or more area because I'M NOT SUPERWOMAN; I'm running on chemicals I know are bad for me and will probably make me sick (nothing illegal), but I don't have time to get enough sleep, so excuse me if engaging in a heated, intelligent debate on gender issues isn't always at the top of my priority list - a lot of the time I just let it go. Walk away. Go do something productive, or relaxing if that person really steamed my clams. It's not always worth it. I have one friend in particular whom I've been butting heads with for years over the topic of feminism, and I know he's probably not going to come around anytime soon. Sometimes it really is like talking to a wall, you're not going to get through to everyone.

I think this really links back to what I wrote earlier about us being in a complacent lull or a regressive period rather than a wave. The difference here is legitimacy - First and Second Wave Feminism may not have had sweeping public support, but they did have legitimacy in the public eye as a real social movement. Right now, we don't. We're seen as a joke, an unnecessary "movement" that has served its purpose, a bunch of angry women who complain about everything but aren't getting anything done. And you can direct your criticisms about feminism at me all you want, but I can't rev up the feminist movement single-handedly, or at all really. I'm doing some feminist work on my campus but I don't really have the time or resources to fix things beyond that right now. Someone actually accused me of not caring enough about a particular abortion-related bill because it passed and I wasn't able to stop it. The bill wasn't even passed on my state, it was passed in middle America, what did he want me to do, fly over there and storm the legislature? By myself? I am one very tiny human being with little influence, what do people expect me to do? Excuse me if I haven't changed the world at 22, to do so would be a remarkable, if not completely unrealistic feat. I want to change things for the better, that's why I'm going to school, but give me some time and stop jumping on me when I fail to live up to crazy expectations about what I, as a feminist, am supposed to be doing.

I got a little off topic. This was more of a rant than an intelligent, well-thought out and researched post, I'll admit that. I'm just very, very pissed off these days.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm a Feminist, and I Like Monogamy

That's right, I like to be monogamous. With men, no less! I've seen lots of feminists rail against it, and I don't get it. I see nothing anti-feminist about only being with one man. I don't like the idea of dating multiple people, really. While it works for some people, it doesn't feel right to me.

I can understand not wanting monogamy to be the only acceptable choice for men or women. I can understand not wanting marriage to be compulsory, and I certainly wish people would stop nagging unmarried women to hurry up and get a ring on their finger. But while I don't think women who choose to have casual sex, or opt for polyamory and open relationships should be judged as sluts, I want monogamy to remain an acceptable choice as well. I get irritated when people put down women who want monogamy as either old fashioned, prudish, or worse, just plain selfish.

And there's nothing wrong with choosing to be old fashioned. It may not be the most empowered or feminist choice out there, but it's not inherently a bad one either as long as it's an informed one. Being monogamous doesn't have to mean being submissive or letting someone own you, and the decision to be traditional and monogamous isn't always one made out of obligation (doing something because you believe it's how all women should act).

Feminists judging a woman for wanting a monogamous relationship is just as bad as people judging a woman for choosing polyamory.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Feminist Dating Advice #4: The Feminist Approach to "Who Pays"

(This one is for men and women)

The debate on "who pays" still rages on, and for feminists, it's not as simple as "the man" or "the woman." Feminism gets a lot of heat from men who are unhappy with the discourse that demands that men pay for most or all dates they go on, despite the fact that feminists aren't the ones perpetuating it - if anything, feminists are more likely to pay on dates than non-feminists. No I don't have an official statistic for it, but it's pretty fair to assume that someone who believes in gender equality for women also believes that men shouldn't be shouldered with all the financial burdens in a relationship.

First of all, it's important not to assume that just because someone's a feminist, they definitely want to either go Dutch or pay for everything, just like it's important not to assume that all feminists want to be dominant in their romantic and sexual relationships with men in general. Gender equality means that both parties in a relationship pay on dates. Being on a date means that, for the most part, one person pays for both people for each transaction - rather than each person pay for his or her self, which is something friends do when they're hanging out.

Now, if you ask someone on a date, whether you're a man or a woman, you should be prepared to pay for that date. Don't ever take someone somewhere, and then expect them to pay or say "by the way, you owe [X amount of money] for this." If you're expecting someone to pay for something you initiated, you should tell them in advance.

Douchebag story time: this summer a guy took me to the mountains for a weekend, and it wasn't until we got there that he said "oh yeah, you owe $20 in lodge fees for the weekend." Umm, what? I was a bit peeved for two reasons: 1) he hadn't told me that, and probably just assumed that despite being a full time student on a part-time hourly wage $20 would have been nothing; it wasn't a huge expense for me, but it was a substantial amount that I would have liked to have known about before going. 2) I felt that because he had initiated it, he invited me to go with him to a place that was practically his territory (property of a school club he, not I, was a member of), he should have at least offered to pay the fee. Being a feminist, and one who's constantly called out on less-than-feminist behavior, accused of not being a "real" feminist or being a "bad feminist," I didn't ask him to pay lest I risk sounding like a hypocrite. It wasn't a sexist move on his part, but it was a dick move, and one that I'm sure a lot of guys make in their attempts at more egalitarian dating dynamics. But guys, don't do this.

If two people agree to go somewhere in a "what should we do tonight" conversation, who pays for what is a little more up in the air. It can be decided based on who paid last and who has more disposable income at that moment, among other things - it's reasonable to have a dynamic where the person with more money, regardless of gender, pays more than the other. I've been in relationships where I paid more (almost all the time) because I had more money than he did, it just made more sense.

If you feel that you're paying more than the other and you want to make things a little more equal - guys, pay attention - sit the person down and have a conversation about it. Maturely. Without getting mad or making accusations. Before you go out on another date. Do not call the person out while on a date, get grouchy about having to pay, or murmur some hostile, passive-aggressive comment that's only going to bring down the evening for the both of you. This isn't something that should turn into a public argument.

In short, if you want gender equality in the relationship, you need to take gender out of the equation when deciding who pays.