“I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
As influential feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft once wrote, the ideals women really have when they advocate for feminism is the power to be themselves and make their own choices, not to dominate or emasculate men.
Wollstonecraft and other feminists started the movement because of the rigid structures patriarchal society imposed on them. They did not have the freedom to openly express their thoughts, feelings, or aspirations, and most if not all heterosexual relationships in their time were death sentences, for their identities and existences as authentic, individual people. They simply wanted the platform to be true to themselves and enjoy the liberties men did.
Heterosexual relationships now are not as imposing as they used to be. Women now have more power and freedom to get a good education, choose their own career paths, and make independent choices not concerning what any man wants or thinks. Although the world is not perfect and women on average still get paid less than men, they are more likely to be sexually assaulted and more than half of human trafficking victims are women and girls, women can now enjoy more liberties for themselves and in their relationships because of the pioneering feminists before us.
“I consider myself a feminist,” first-year PCC psychology major Fernanda Garcia said. “In my relationship, I feel a sense of freedom because I know I have a voice. I no longer feel that the male in the relationship makes all the choices.”
Feminism is epitomized in Wollstencraft’s words. As a self-proclaimed feminist that defines the movement as fighting for the equality of the sexes, I believe one can be a feminist and believe in the empowerment of women and also commit themselves to a monogamous, heterosexual relationship where a man and a woman are complete equals and completely respect each other.
In contemporary society, the concept of feminism has become grossly misconstrued.
Instead of hearing the word feminism and picturing influential women such as Wollstencraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and all the struggles they went through to pave the way for greater freedoms for women today, many people scoff and disregard feminism as a futile and insignificant movement led by full-frontal, man-eating “feminazis” who only wish to castrate men.
I was at one time guilty of perpetuating that misconception to an extent, as well.
Before meeting my current boyfriend, I always figured I would live alone and die alone, too career-oriented to ever share my time and attention with a man I thought would only slow me down.
I assumed that as a feminist, I had to give up the notions I had of love, and saw relationships as constraining institutions set in place by men to hold women back and use them for their personal gain. I feared falling in love and forgetting my ambitions; I feared that falling in love with a man would give him power over me and I would lose myself in the desire to make him happy no matter the cost.
After meeting my current boyfriend, my perceptions on what romance, love, or even feminism is changed completely. Instead of holding each other back or making our relationship revolve around each other, we put each other’s ambitions and dreams before ourselves. We have each others best interests in mind. We study together, talk to each other about our studies, and prioritize each other’s and our own successes before our relationship. I always feel like he has my back and is listening to what I say earnestly.
“I can say what’s on my mind without fear of being criticized,” Garcia echoed.
I always assumed a relationship had to be passionate and intense and suffocating which did not mix well with my ideas of feminism, but after meeting a man who is an actual feminist (although refuses to call himself one because he believes the word “feminism is dead”) who desires the best for himself and his partner, I’ve realized feminism is necessary in healthy relationships where partners can truly be themselves as equals.
More importantly, I learned that I can be a feminist and independent within a relationship. Relationships should be freeing, supportive, and comforting, not anxiety-inducing, restrictive, or manipulating.
As long as both sides of the relationship have that, then both parties can flourish by having each other’s back in every conceivable way. Feminism means empowering both men and women in order to coexist and be truly happy and in love with each other.