How do I date feminist-leaning women online?
August 30, 2015 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm single (straight male, 32) and starting to date women online again. I tend to have much better relationships with feminist-leaning women than with women that believe in traditional gender roles because they match better with my personal feelings about gender. How do I represent this in either my online dating profile or messages without coming across as awkward? I tend to overthink these kind of things.

I identify as straight but generally have had the most successful relationships with women that identify as Bisexual for whatever reason. I've been primarily dating on OKCupid, haven't tried Tinder or other apps because they seemed more focused on physical attractiveness than personality. I have two questions:

1. Does it make sense at all for a guy to say that he's feminist somewhere in his dating profile? Because I'm a programmer, I worry that the rest of my profile may make me sound like a "typical male computer nerd" and put off women I'm interested in, but I'm not sure how to phrase it. Writing "I believe in women's rights and fluid gender roles" in my profile feels weird and inauthentic.
2. When do you bring up something like this in messages? If someone strongly identifies as a Feminist in their profile, is asking about that in an initial message a good or bad idea? I'm never sure when to bring politics or personal philosophies up when exchanging messages, but I am genuinely interested in other people's views on gender.

Yeah, I'm probably overthinking this. Anyway, any related advice is welcome as well.
posted by JZig to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Saying you are a feminist is a huge plus.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:23 PM on August 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

As a feminist dude my take is, yeah, you're overthinking this. Put feminism as one of your interests or call yourself a feminist somewhere on your profile. Ideally, find a way to say "I believe in women's rights and fluid gender roles" in a way that sounds authentic to you; find an articulation that represents your beliefs.

Failing that, recognize that a dating profile is almost always going to feel somewhat awkward and inauthentic — you have to say things outright that you may not necessarily say in person; you have to phrase things directly that might otherwise come out as part of your personality or as part of your everyday life choices. In a case like this it's better for your profile to reflect who you are but sound kind of clunky than it is for it to sound smooth and miss this big important thing.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:25 PM on August 30, 2015

I'm pretty wary of guys who say they're feminist because they're often not being honest and using it to manipulate and gaslight. There are a lot of jerks who use feminist as code for "I don't want to open doors/pay for dinner/want to be asked for help" or they want to use it as a means to criticize your taste in music or your job or anything you do.

I think you should probably elaborate on what you mean about being a feminist in your profile, to be honest. Too many guys are using that description as a means to manipulate women into trusting them and hiding their misogynistic tendencies.
posted by discopolo at 2:34 PM on August 30, 2015 [32 favorites]

OKCupid has a section to talk about books and other media you like, you could list some of your favorite feminist writers there.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:46 PM on August 30, 2015 [10 favorites]

Saying you're feminist will attract some people and put off others. I used to do a search on "feminist" to weed people out, but discopolo is 100% right that it's a red flag for a lot of people -- many, many men call themselves "feminist" as a way to get out of actually DOING any feminism. I'd recommend instead demonstrating that feminist principles are important to you. I respond well to men who mention social justice (maybe as a thing you spend a lot of time thinking about?), and who respond in an appropriate way to questions about gender roles, "obligation" to shave your legs, etc. (Explanations are great here. Not just "no, there is no circumstances under which someone is obligated to have sex with you" but "also, don't message me if you said yes to this," or something like that. I don't know if everyone reads the "explained answers," but it's the FIRST thing I look at, and social justice bona fides are exactly what I'm searching for. The deciding factor with my current boyfriend was that his response to one of the more sexist questions was "Down with patriarchy!")

Basically, you know the concept of "dog whistles," which in my experience is usually referring to conservative politicians finding a way to be racist without being outright racist? There are feminist dog whistles -- words that indicate that you actually THINK about and VALUE feminism, and work to combat misogyny in yourself and others -- that will work better than the word itself. And as internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 points out, the thing you just said about gender is one of them.

posted by babelfish at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2015 [21 favorites]

Oh I totally missed your question about messages, but my recommendation is: message people you think you'll click with, and then talk about things you think will matter to both of you. That is, instead of questioning her about her commitment to feminism ("so, you're a feminist, huh? What does that mean to you?" would put me off foreverrrrrrr), talk about the things you care about and listen to her responses. "I was reading this great piece about {latest outrage} -- did you see it? What did you think? I can't believe some people are such idiots."
posted by babelfish at 2:52 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've gone out with guys who said they were a feminist in their profile. I'm aware that there are some men who think saying they are feminist is an easy way to score chicks, so while it's a plus I'm also a tad cautious about taking it too seriously.

If you reference feminist literature or other media in your profile that would be a stronger indicator for me. Especially if you talk about it in a way that makes it clear that there's a personal significance to you, without laying it on too thick.

I don't know that it's necessary to bring it up in a message specifically, though there's not really anything wrong with doing so. But I appreciate it when guys notice a feminist writer I mention in my profile and let me know that they are familiar with them.
posted by bunderful at 3:04 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses! I had a suspicion that writing "feminist" in a profile would send conflicting messages because it's been abused by assholes, and this confirms it. I'm also not particularly up to date on formal feminist theory, so I'll leave the word itself out of my profile, and probably go with the phrase internet... quoted.

For messages, I agree that I think it'll work better if I focus on something specific, now that you mention it discussing it in general is something you would do as a prelude to an argument about how stupid it is, which is definitely not my goal.
posted by JZig at 3:14 PM on August 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Only thing with phrasing it as:

"I tend to have much better relationships with feminist-leaning women than with women that believe in traditional gender roles because they match better with my personal feelings about gender."

Leads me to believe that you may be trans or gender fluid yourself. Not sure if that is the case. Personally, I would love to date a feminist guy but not someone who is gender fluid so up to you if you want to clarify that (if that is not the case).
posted by pando11 at 3:29 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Step 1) Go read Little Women.
Step 2) Put that you love Little Women in your profile and that Jo is your favorite character.
Step 3) Profit! Date feminists!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:57 PM on August 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

This recent FPP about the use of "feminist" in online dating profiles is directly relevant to this question, both the main link and many of the comments. In particular, this comment by divined by radio seems applicable here. In case you didn't see it when it was posted, I think you will find a lot of useful and thought-provoking reading there.

Personally, as a man I don't call myself a feminist though I know many men do, but if I were online dating I would absolutely include "feminist" in the list of attributes I was looking for in a partner, as well as signal it more implicitly in the ways people have suggested.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:25 PM on August 30, 2015

Dip Flash makes a great point -- I'd trust a man more if he said "what I'm looking for: a feminist" than "about me: I'm a feminist."
posted by babelfish at 6:50 PM on August 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm male and het, include it as a thing I'm looking for in partners along with mentioning an interest in gender and politics and answering generally feminist-socialist on all the questions along with marking them as important to me. Magic matching algorithm does the rest.
posted by ead at 8:10 PM on August 30, 2015

I don't mean to be dense (and haven't read all of the answers) but -- when you read someone's profile, when you get to know someone, when you look at someone's descriptions, you know if they're feminist.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:14 PM on August 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I run into a similar dilemma dating queer folk. Some cuties look for descriptors, they wanna see social justice buzzwords. OK and valid, but not my style — that feels fake, weird and overt to me, cuz I generally don't trust the adjectives people list about themselves.

But, I know from experience that I'd click IRL with a fair number of these lip service listers! Many of my good friends and dates talk this way.

So, very casually, low in my profile, I place my adjectives. No title, no explanation: queer, poly, kinky, feminist, ally, class+, sex+, sex work+

In the rest of my profile I walk the walk:

+ Propose equitable dates. "I'd love it if we took turns planning adventures. I'll pay my half ;) "
+ Shut up so other people can talk. "Think we'd click? Message me first!"
+ Even in messages... wait three seconds, talk half as long, ask twice as many questions, and give twice as many bids for interaction as you think you should.
+ I center media and projects by women, POC, queers, disabled folk. My interests reflect a wide variety of experiences! If asked I can wordvomit on these in depth because I care about them. I drop phrases and cues you only pick up from deep immersion in a subculture.
+ Subtle acknowledgements that the system is fucked, but I'm certainly not gonna spend our whole date whinging about it. Misery is one fact among many.

Ricky & Morty reference: "Go, son, go!"
posted by fritillary at 8:42 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

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