Feminism and Loneliness

August 26, 2009

I recently went through a fairly shitty breakup–a breakup that largely happened because I am a feminist and my boyfriend was not. He said he was down with the theories behind feminism, sure. But when he was actually asked to live it? Well, let’s just say he was not down with that.

The whole thing was incredibly heartbreaking for me, because I really dug the guy. But I don’t have it in me to be a doormat, and he didn’t have it in him to stop treating me like one, so I left.

It’s a painful reality that feminists don’t often talk about, because it plays into stereotypes of feminism ruining relationships (the opposite has actually been well-documented). But being a feminist can be very, very lonely.

It’s lonely because most people do not identify as feminist, and we see the world in an entirely different way than most other people do. It’s also lonely because it sometimes literally means that we have to be alone–forgoing certain friendships and relationships. In my case, the choice was between the aching lonely of being with someone who refused to understand me because understanding me would have meant confronting his privilege, and the honest loneliness of ending things. I’d rather be honest.

There are undeniable benefits associated with living up to the expectations laid out for us as women. If we are pretty and docile and nurturing and play the role we’ve been given, it just gets easier to make it through a million different situations.  If we’re straight, many men will want to build romantic relationships with us, and nearly every social situation gets easier. If we won’t do all that, there’s a much smaller pool of friends and partners out there (On the other hand, the people who like you docile are usually kind of terrible to be around, so pick your poison: bad company or no company?)

Things always get better, and I’m lucky enough to have a really strong community of feminist friends.  But sometimes being honest about how hard it is to take the road less traveled is important.



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