"Do you know how hard it is to date a feminist?" My jaw dropped as the words spilled out of his mouth. I couldn't believe it was a serious question. How could this possibly be a question?
No, but I do know how hard it is to date a misogynist, is what I should have screamed back. In that instant, I suddenly felt that I wasn't 100 percent respected.
Instead, I sat there in disbelief, convincing myself it was okay: these were the people I'd have to face for the rest of my life. I wasn't wrong for thinking that – fighting for what you believe in is hard, and if we want to achieve Gender Equality, it's going to take everyone's effort. However, my experience as an activist and heterosexual woman has taught me that the most effective way to advance this cause is to date someone who doesn't cringe at the word "feminism."
The lack of education and ignorance surrounding the beauty of feminism can fog many people's worldview. I can hardly claim myself a feminist without receiving suspicious glares and assumptions that I'm a "man hater" to which I'd like to settle the score: just because I label myself a "feminist" does not mean I hate men. It means I believe women have every right to be respected as men do without question.
So, how do you know if your potential significant other is afraid of the "dirty word?" For one, they refuse to call themselves a feminist. How familiar does this sound: "I'm not a feminist, but I believe in equality."
Yes, my eyes just rolled too.
Someone that understands feminism knows that, by definition, it refers to the equality of cisgender and transgender people. The person you date shouldn't be nervous or scared of the word "feminist" because inequality affects all genders. If the person you're with doesn't make an effort to understand the wage gap, rape culture, and the social inequality of women to men, then it is evident they do not respect you. This lack of respect can quickly take a turn for the worst. This can lead to your partner dominating your relationship. When one person dominates a relationship, the other inevitably feel submissive and oppressed. Relationships are built on compromise, love, and trust. Not domination.
Examples of dominance include anything from criticisms about your outfits to isolation from friends. Because of the dominance of the perpetrator, one might feel the only person they have in their life is their partner. No relationship should ever feel this way – it's emotional and psychological abuse. If you fear aspects of your relationship and your anxiety heightens when you think about things you wouldn't normally worry about, this is a red flag that your relationship could show signs of having an unequal balance of power. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 48.4 percent of women have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior by an intimate partner. To follow, 4 in 10 women have experienced coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This dominant behavior is more common than people realize, and is behavior that is the exact opposite of feminism.
Another way to tell if your partner doesn't respect you is if you feel guilty for voicing your opinion. While partners don't have to agree on everything, but one should never feel guilty for standing up for themselves or having faith in their beliefs. A partner who makes you feel weaker or less intelligent because you say something they disagree with is not making your relationship an equal partnership. Relationships should never undermine a person's confidence or sense of self-worth. The NCADV says that this kind of psychological abuse leads to long-term damage to a victim's mental health. One may experience depression, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), low self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, or even a higher chance of suicidal ideation.
In my past relationship, there was a power struggle because we were both dominant people. I felt as if my voice was never heard or respected because my partner didn't take the time to understand the oppression that women face every day. He was controlling, manipulative, and made me feel inferior to him. His false pretense included the behavior of pretending he was more intelligent than me, telling me what clothes I should wear, and even went to the extent of saying he was turned off by the idea of me not shaving. Even for one day.
These comments came from him daily, and made me feel like I wasn't good enough for him, lowered my self-esteem, and triggered my PTSD from a past that I worked so hard to recover from. I suffered through a love that sometimes nourished me, but more often than not broke me down.
Just as love is defined by respect and trust, so is feminism. But the stigma around feminism has prevented far too many people from seeing this. I'm not a man-hater. I just want to be equal and have my voice heard in my love relationships.
In the feminist community, there are many debates about what equality looks like. This is not only limited to society, but also extends to the relationship between two loved ones. Feminism advocates for a balance of power, a concept that shouldn't intimidate people. It doesn't advocate for "man-hating" in any possible way.
Too many times, potential lovers do not see the benefits of dating a feminist. A feminist will work as hard as they can to show equal amounts of effort, love, and respect for their partner. Because of the modern stigma, this idea of equality is largely lost in the sea of accusations of the feminist being a “man-hater."
But feminism, by its very nature, fosters an unbreakable love because it is rooted in equality, empathy, and respect. And if you can't respect that, it's safe to say you're not worth my time.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.