An Open Letter To Dave Hon, Author Of ‘Why I’ll Never Date A Feminist’

Oh, honey. How can you argue against something that you don’t understand?

Dear Dave,

When I first read your article thanks to a wonderful feminist I know who shared it (who is also a devoted wife to a husband and mother to a son—doesn’t that just blow your mind?), I told her that I was torn between writing a rebuttal and blowing a raspberry for 30 seconds. OK, I didn’t say “blow a raspberry.” I said something more vulgar, but at least in this paragraph, I’ll be the lady you’d like me to be.

Oh, honey. How can you argue against something that you don’t understand?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve probably already dated feminists—even if they don’t directly self-identify. Ever dated a woman who votes? She’s exercising a right that the women’s suffrage movement fought for a century ago. Ever dated a woman who studied at a co-ed institution? Oberlin College paved the way in 1833. How about a woman with her very own shiny piece of plastic to buy things with? The Equal Opportunity Act, passed in 1974, finally made it possible for women to open lines of credit.

While you respectfully disagree with the concept of a patriarchy, I respectfully assume that you have lived exactly zero days of your life as female, and that you have no idea what it’s like to exist in the world as such. Since this knowledge gap seriously compromises your credibility, I’ll share a day in the life of a woman with you.

I work in the city, so every morning I walk past rows of men who spit catcalls in my direction. Sometimes, I’m wearing a summer dress. Other times, I’m covered head to toe and clomping away in thick winter boots. Whether I say something back or stay silent, I worry that I will be followed or chased, knowing, as all women do, that the only way to avoid this harassment is to not appear on the street while female.

I arrive at my office where, on any given day, my female scientist colleagues tell me stories of having endured insulting treatment as the only woman on an academic conference panel or having left industry positions because of the strong hostility toward women in STEM. I collaborate with women and men—yes, men, like you!—who acknowledge rampant gender bias in the sciences and enact policy changes to combat it.

I come home, turn on the news, learn that a Stanford rapist has only served half of his sentence thanks to “good behavior” and that a Fox News executive is still gainfully employed after over 20 women testified that he sexually harassed them at work. This lies on my heart with a heaviness I imagine you do not understand, as I think of every woman (and man) in my life who has been sexually assaulted, replay the moment I literally shoved a boy off of me in college because he wouldn’t listen to “no,” and wonder if, at some indeterminate point in the future, we can speak freely and expect justice.

Yes, it is a problem and no, it is not an anomaly.

Do you know what’s also not an anomaly? Another guy who mistakenly thinks that feminists “hate men.” If I tallied up all the time I’ve spent explaining the difference between objecting to a patriarchal society and thinking that all men are terrible creatures, I could exchange it for three credits in a class called I’m Sick of Repeating This Shit.

I love my boyfriend; I love my male friends and relatives. I love the older father figures in my life who have initiated meetings over coffee to discuss and better understand women’s issues, who have invited me into their home for family holiday dinners, and who have used their resources on the police force to make sure that the guy harassing me online won’t try to track me down. I am fortunate to have deeply fulfilling relationships with these wonderful men.

Simultaneously, I hate the system that characterizes women as untrustworthy, hyperemotional, and “crazy” for expecting open communication and proper treatment in a relationship. I hate that well-spoken women will not be likeable; while demure and affable women will not be taken seriously in a professional double-bind. I hate the Madonna-whore dichotomy and the impossible sexy-but-not-too-sexy line it forces us to tow. And I hate the system—and it is the same one—that discourages boys and men from communicating their feelings, pursing traditionally “feminine” interests in the arts or in staying home with the children, and coming forward about their own assaults when “being a man” falsely means always being ready for sex.

Because I am a human being with intricate feelings and attitudes, I can hold all of the above paragraphs to be true. As it turns out, I’m actually not hemorrhaging inside from some profound inner struggle between the men I love and “loyalty to my gender.”

Are you familiar with the expression and tenant of second-wave feminism, “the personal is political?” What we live shapes our beliefs about the world and the issues we prioritize. Personal experience is not throwaway “cultural opinion.” It’s anecdotal evidence, that, when amassed, draws our attention to larger societal problems. Do you think that the abusive boyfriend and the father who tells his daughter she’ll never amount to anything are few and far between? They dot the landscape. They are the lighter gradients of the Elliot Rodger and Robert Dears who, overwhelmed by their entitlement to women’s bodies, unleash unspeakable acts of violence upon innocent people.

I am almost 30, and still have men telling me that I should watch what I say regarding my experiences with sexism if I want to seem pleasant (“smile, girl!”) and make a good partner. If you relegated half of the time you spend defending yourself as a “good man” to showing us, not telling us, through compassionate, egalitarian actions, we would likely find the world that much less dense and exhausting to navigate.

So thank you, Dave, for your “revolutionary outcry” that merely repackages the same tripe that has subjugated us for ages. Your 2016 spin on “women should be seen and not heard” ends with a heartfelt plea for peace between the sexes—an end to a gender war that your revisionist history purports began with the feminist movement. You are uncomfortable with the words “sexism” and “misogyny” because you’d prefer not to acknowledge their reflection of our daily realities. You are inconvenienced when the “hateful culture” of feminist brings “political issues…into the bedroom.” You know what I’m inconvenienced by? People who don’t ask for my sexual consent. Trust me, it makes a difference.

I’m sorry that you’re tired of hearing about it. But to borrow from Jon Stewart: “You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how exhausting it is living it.”

Chelsea Cristene is a communications associate and English professor based in Washington, DC. She has been published by the Good Men Project, Salon, xoJane, and MamaMia, and runs a film review blog, Catch Up, with fellow Role Reboot contributor Telaina Eriksen. Find her on Twitter.

Other Links: