"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.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.