You were a burgeoning feminist. I mean, you’d always believed in equality of the sexes and were nominally a feminist, but you used to think that it wasn’t such a big deal any more. You were a Strong Woman and men couldn’t tell you what to do and things were mostly equal already, right?
But one too many abuses at the hands of men, one too many instances of realizing that you were keeping silent, one too many times telling yourself “well, it’s just that one guy”, when it all kept happening over and over and you started to realize: you still need feminism. So you started reading and learning and understanding about privilege and marginalization and intersectionality. And you came to the conclusion that the way to avoid those abuses, at least in a romantic relationship, was to date a Good Feminist ™.
Good Feminist ™
You were a little doubtful that they existed but you knew you couldn’t date anyone who wouldn’t treat you as an equal. You told yourself you’d rather be alone than do that again. So you waited and you watched and you dated a few guys but none of them were him.
Then you met him and it seemed like a dream come true. You’d talk media and analyze how men and women were treated differently, and you talked together about how things could and should be better and he was sympathetic. You talked about work and hobbies and how hard it was to be in video games or comic books or any other nerd interest and deal with harassment and being doubted. He told you, proudly, about how all of his exes had learned to raise their standards after dating him, how he’d taught all these women to look for the Good Feminist ™.
how lucky I am
You thought to yourself: how lucky I am! I will never meet another man who Gets It as well as he does. This is going to be the last man I date because no one else will ever measure up.
At the same time, you found yourself convincing him how Not Like Those Other Girls you were. How you were never jealous. How you never expected him to be a mind reader. How you were able to take care of yourself and how you would never be Needy or Clingy or Possessive or any of those other awful things women do. He praised you for what a Good Feminist you were for rejecting the feminine mold society tried to force on you.
Then you started to notice things. You told him you were tired of watching other men play video games and expecting you to be a Gamer Girlfriend and never play yourself and let them watch. He invited you over to watch him play video games.
But it’s okay to say that because he knows that it’s men’s fault & it’s his job to make up for that
He told you how jealous and insecure his past partners were. He hid his relationships with other people to avoid dealing with the jealousy you didn’t feel. He told you how his past partners really needed therapy for their Issues. He asked you to find a therapist. He talked about how dating women in this world of terrible men meant that he needed to be prepared to date women who were damaged, because we all are. He complained about all of his friends complaining to him about the men in their lives.
He’d ask you for your Good Feminist Opinion about the movies you watched and the books you read and then you’d listen to him tell his friends your opinions as if they were his own. You took it as a compliment, because obviously it was because he thought you were so smart and insightful.
You’d talk about articles like Against Chill and All the Men You’ll Meet on the Way to That Feminist Boyfriend and he’d get uncomfortable. He’d express worry that he might be one of Those Guys and you’d rush to reassure him, but you’d also wonder. If he isn’t one of those guys why is he so worried that he might be?
You get tired of being the Cool Girl. You start to think that maybe never being insecure is not only impossible but that trying to do so is making you sick. You’re spending days, weekends, weeks, months, sick with anxiety, smoking too many cigarettes, unable to eat, unable to sleep. You pretend to everyone that you’re fine.
But you’re not fine. You finally seek a therapist because of how Not Fine you are. You want her to make it stop, you want her to make the feelings go away, but she doesn’t do that.
“Your feelings are valid,” she tells you.
Every week you cry because your feelings are valid and no one ever told you that before.
You start to ask your Feminist Boyfriend™ to listen. To care. To validate you.
However you talk about your feelings is wrong, though. You should have said something earlier. You should have used IM, no, you should have emailed him, no, you should have waited. No, you should have talked to him instead of tweeting about it. No, you should have talked to your friends instead of talking to him. No, you should have talked to your therapist.
“I did. I talked to her.”
She told you to talk to him, which is why you are, but it’s never right. You’re always wrong, unless you’re happy, unless you never feel bad about anything he does.
You go back to her and express confusion about why you’re so anxious. She tells you that you’re right to be anxious. She tells you that you deserve to be heard, that you deserve a partner who will listen.
The more you try to talk to him the more he pulls away. He tells you that there are consequences. The consequence of telling him how you feel is hours or maybe days of him sulking. You just have to accept that, he says. You having feelings makes him feel so bad, he just needs time to recover.
Your feelings are valid.
Your feelings are valid. Sexism is real and the Cool Girl can suck it and you deserve a partner who will listen and validate you.
You walk away. You walk away from the Cool Girl and the Good Feminist™ and all of the anxiety melts away because you are finally free to be you. You gave yourself permission to be you.
Your feelings are valid.
Originally published on Medium.