Last week, a Design Mom reader named Jessica sent an email with a great question:
I was just reading the comments on your What Are Your Thoughts on a Female God? post and got to thinking about something I wondered if you could address, perhaps in a post. While it’s obvious you’re a deeply feminist person, do you have a feminist husband? From what you’ve mentioned about him in the past, I have the sense that he too is a feminist, but also know that diverging views even within the same moral construct are possible. (I also thought you might have a take on this because I would imagine you have to level with this to some degree with your church’s views as well.)
My long-term boyfriend *is* a feminist, but hesitates to label himself as such. We live a life that eschews gender norms for the most part. And he’s quite pleased to have found a self-sufficient, independent partner. However, when a topic surrounding feminism comes up, he is reluctant to view it through a feminist lens initially (to some degree out of contrarianism, feminism having such a cultural moment) but ultimately, through discussion, he comes around. But I see the deeply rooted patriarchal biases are hard for him to level with, and it can be difficult for me to navigate without sounding preachy, or like I’m unable to see another viewpoint besides that of the woman in the situation.
I would imagine many women encounter similar situations with their husbands/boyfriends/
My Feminist Husband
I’m so glad Jessica wrote, because I think it’s such an interesting topic. My first thought in response is simple and immediate: Yes. Ben Blair considers himself a feminist. I also consider him a feminist. And though I don’t think I would have articulated it when we were dating (23 years ago), it’s really important for me that he is a feminist husband. Based on what I know of marriage so far, I can see that for me, it would be really difficult to be married to someone who is not a feminist, though I realize for other people, this may not be a critical issue.
My second thought in response is: why do I consider Ben a feminist? I would say there are some clear indicators that would be apparent to anyone who interacts with Ben — like he attended the Women’s March, even when I was out of town, and he is careful to talk about God in a gender-inclusive way. There are probably other indicators that maybe only I’m aware of — like of his own accord, he wanted to make sure our home library has a good ratio of feminist voices and bought books along those lines (Shrill by Lindy West, Women & Power by Mary Beard, and My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem) as a Christmas present to the family.
If I think back, for the first eight or ten years of our marriage, I don’t know if the word feminist came up much. We definitely tried to set up our marriage and household as an equal partnership, but I wasn’t concerned with Feminism-as-a-movement. And really, it was Ben who ended up helping me see that so many of the issues and concerns I was seeing in the world were connected under the umbrella of feminism. In fact, I’ll bet he openly called himself a feminist before I did. : ) Ben also does a lot of reading on justice, and holds a deep belief that the world improves for every human being (for his sons, and his daughters, and for everyone), if women gain true equality.
My third thought is regarding the line Jessica wrote about contrarianism — and how her boyfriend may be reluctant to view things through a feminist lens because it seems almost trendy. I’ve seen this too, particularly among some of my nephews (who are now in the late twenties/early thirties). Their actions and beliefs can be very aligned with feminism, but they wouldn’t label them that way. I also find they are eager to play devil’s advocate and take an anti-feminist angle during a discussion — even if they don’t really believe it. It seems unusual to me for their generation, and I definitely connect it to their particularly conservative upbringing in the Mormon church.
What about you? Do you and your significant other align as feminists or non-feminists? Is it important to you that you do? If it’s not important, are there other areas where you align that are more important to you? Maybe guns, religion, politics, or education? For those of you who identify as feminist, but have a spouse are partner who doesn’t, do you have any tips on how you manage those kinds of discussions? Does your alignment or non-alignment affect how you parent your kids?