The more settled and comfortable I've become in my feminist choice, the more frustrating I've found the dating scene. So in the midst of it all, I made the conscious decision to opt out of dating for a while, to avoid awkward conversations, debates and unsolicited advice from people who are convinced men don't date "women like me". After a while, it gets tiring trying to explain my position to people who choose to disrespect it.
It's not that I mind people critiquing feminism, because they're right to consider all its historical baggage, but having to constantly justify my point of view gets exhausting, so I just don't – especially since the majority of the guys I've come across are convinced that I am using this as an excuse to be difficult and unnecessary.
I am sure "#NotAllMen", but I would be lying if I said I've met a stream of men in the past few years who really understand the whole feminist thing. There are very few who really get it and don't just pretend to, in the hopes that it will get them laid or give the impression of being "woke". The woke ones are especially quick to dismiss the feminist agenda because, to them, the race thing (being black and all) trumps any gender issues.
All I am saying is that it's hard enough being a woman, without identifying with the feminist or womanist movements. Doing so unleashes a whole other series of complications. I get that (apparently) men can be feminist, but for me, unless you've lived the tiring experience of being the mythical "difficult woman", you can't begin to understand what women go through. For me, the best a man can do is empathise, fight for women's rights and issues, and be allies of the movement (for lack of a better word).
The reality is that the men who identify with the feminist movement get celebrated as the cream of the crop – meanwhile, the women get butchered for it. Being a feminist as a man is a nice-to-have; for me it's a necessity. Being a feminist man most likely doesn't drastically affect your dating life as much as it does for women in the same position.
Feminist men don't get accused of being men haters, but we do. Nobody accuses them of trying to be women just by virtue of standing up for women's rights, but feminist women are called out all the time for "trying to be a man". This is what some men call it when you refuse to be silenced and rendered invisible. So I imagine a feminist man's dating experience is quite different to mine, but I could be wrong.
Dating for me feels like a challenge I haven't yet found my way around, and I will be the first to admit that I am an acquired taste – and that's okay. I generally don't feel inclined to be seen as nice or likable, so I have very few friends. I am set in my feminist ways, so I can't be changed or "tamed". I am done arguing and explaining to men who have no desire to hear, nor understand, where I come from.
I've been single long enough to be comfortable with my own company, so I am not too worried about being seen as "undatable". I have the makings of a perfect cat lady.
I am blunt, a little rough around the edges, with a very strong, occasionally petty personality, when the occasion requires it. I am very loud, a tad dramatic when a moment calls for diva tactics, and comfortable with my sexuality. I don't care for gender roles, and I am not afraid to call you out when you're being a prick, because I have no patience for your ego. I am very ambitious and don't care about being liked, so I wouldn't do things to impress someone. I've been single long enough to be comfortable with my own company, so I am not too worried about being seen as "undatable". I have the makings of a perfect cat lady.
Although like everyone else I have a desire for companionship, it needs to make sense in the context of the life that I live. I refuse to settle just because I am afraid of being lonely – the reality is, people get lonely even in relationships, so my "sacrifice" will be worth nothing. I care very little for relationships that force me into a position in which I am expected to compromise myself. I've lost count of the number of times men have asked: "Who hurt you?" when I introduce myself as feminist. I would be rich if I received a rand each time some guy accused me of being an angry black woman with daddy issues.
I don't care if some guy thinks I'm uptight because I don't think sexist or homophobic jokes are funny. It's not my hope to ever be "one of the guys" at the expense of the integrity of all women. I've reached that dangerous level of feminist where even female acquaintances introduce me to their male friends as "Rebone the feminist" as a precaution (so they'll tread carefully in my presence).
It hasn't occurred to me to worry that some men categorise me as "a man-hating lesbian" (apparently my short hair gives me away). In fact, I am offended that some men think calling me a lesbian is offensive. The reality is that if you are the kind of man who thinks that way, you're automatically not my type.
Borrowing the words of a foreign male acquaintance, "the men in this country are shamelessly aggressive..." He came to this conclusion a few days after landing in the country, when he observed a pack of men aggressively try to pick up a group of women sitting together, only to then pursue another group of women sitting next to the group who rejected them.
So I have concluded that it is safer and healthier for me to continue to pursue all the endless possibilities that feminism has opened for me – maybe along the way, this dating thing will sort itself out. I don't have it in me to betray a feminist way of life that has liberated me by giving me the courage and power to take back what I deserve instead of waiting to be given permission. The choices I make in my dating life must align with my feminist choice, or else I will simply be submitting to misery.