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How to date like a feminist: Experts explain

Learn the signs that you’re dating a macho man and why it is empowering to recognize them and steer clear of them by respecting your own boundaries and values

Los actores Leo Woodall y Ambika Mod en la grabación de la serie de Netflix 'One Day'
A scene from the Netflix series 'One Day.'Netflix/ Courtesy Everett Collection / Cordon Press

Does a feminist woman handle dating the same way a non-feminist does? Robin Clark, dating coach, believes the approach is completely different. She offers a course called Date Like a Feminist in which she teaches her students to “reframe the patriarchal template we’re all born into,” reclaim their power and identify the signs that it’s time for them to walk away from their partners or dates. “Stop trying to teach them. Stop acting like a parent. Stop smoothing things over. Stop accepting apologies without changed behavior. Stop giving a dozen chances,” she tells them.

“RIP your entire identity as an EMOTIONAL SHOCK ABSORBER. Stand up for yourself. Prioritize your needs. Make clear requests. Set boundaries. Put yourself out of harm’s way. And start pouring all the energy you’ve been pouring into them back into the person it’s meant for: YOU!” she painstakingly explains on her social media pages. That’s where she explains some of the signs that we are dealing with a macho man.

Red flags: He’s the textbook misogynist

Bárbara Zorrilla Pantoja, the director of the Psychotherapy Center and founder of Integral Psychotherapy for Women, tells S Moda the red flags she finds most worrisome when it comes to detecting a macho man. She highlights that he has a stereotyped discourse and rigid ideas about what each sex’s roles, functions and attributes are. “Of course, he is not equally responsible for caregiving or household chores, because ‘it is what has been done all our lives and we have done it very well.’ He also attacks women’s self-esteem, with degrading and humiliating comments, belittling their opinions. For example, he insinuates that if a woman has reached a position of power, it is not because of her talent,” she observes.

Another sign that should set off alarm bells is that he needs to maintain the power imbalance in a relationship, flaunting control over his partner, violating her personal boundaries, prioritizing his own needs and ignoring hers. “He also doesn’t take charge of contraception: he leaves the responsibility [for that to] the woman, because ‘it’s her problem.’ He says your single female friends are a danger, because every woman’s purpose is to find a man. Of course, he criticizes women’s sexual freedom and feels threatened by strong, confident women,” the psychologist warns. “Of course, he will criticize the feminist movement, either openly [by] talking about feminazis, distorting its meaning or equating it with misogyny, saying that he wants equality, or with less overt comments, such as [statements] that gender equality already exists and the battle is not necessary because women exaggerate nowadays, or that violence has no gender,” she says.

Saving yourself (not the other person)

According to dating coach Robin Clark, dating as a feminist requires being true to oneself, being able to see potential partners’ red flags early on and changing the question from “Does he like me?” to “Do I like him? Is this connection healthy for me?” She says that one of the most empowering moments is when women decide to stop trying to be saved and take care of themselves instead. “Men are taught to look for someone to emotionally & domestically care for them. Women are taught to look for someone to financially & physically take care of us,” she warns. Clark believes that trying to “fix” another person is a serious mistake. Eva Campos Navarro, author of the book Y te doy mi corazón [I Give You My Heart], agrees wholeheartedly. “If not lying is a basic and non-negotiable value, you cannot create a healthy couple with a compulsive liar and try to teach them that with love and affection, they will change. This is just another trap of toxic and macho romanticism that positions the woman as the one who has to sacrifice herself so that the frog becomes a prince or, perhaps, a reflection of the fact that we need to be saviors of lost lambs, because our self-esteem is so damaged that we only have value if we turn wolves into lambs,” she explains.

She notes that as a feminist, it is essential to establish boundaries and non-negotiables. “If we meet a man who claims to hate feminism or who does not know how to differentiate between equality and hate — or misandry — and says he hates feminism — equality — all signs point to the fact that, sooner or later, those values will come out. In relationships, it is essential to have the same values or, at least, to be open-minded enough to get to know other ones and be able to accept them if we see that these new values are more aligned with us,” she explains.

María Esclapez, the author of the novel Mujeres que arden [Women Who Burn], delves into the importance of knowing how to recognize blackmail and manipulation. “It is also crucial to establish what is non-negotiable. Two examples: One, if they ask to look at [your] WhatsApp, claiming that it is to protect or because he does not trust this or that friend. The second: he doesn’t want to put on a condom, even though for the woman it is essential, and throws [her] supposed lack of trust in her face when she insists that he use it,” she points out.

What to do if red flags appear on a date

“We can start by pointing out what is offensive and naming that behavior, explaining the reasons and giving [them] the opportunity to change it. But I recommend not wasting time, or at least assessing whether it is worthwhile for us to carry out this social education work, and thinking about whether we want to invest that time and energy, when it is easier to be clear about what we want in a relationship and assuming that, if someone does not meet those requirements, there are men who do without us having to teach them how to do it,” says Bárbara Pantoja Zorrilla. However, she points out that if a man is sexist, there is some hope that he will be willing to listen, learn and change as long as a series of conditions are met. “The first of these [signs of hope] is that he recognizes that he is misogynist and wants to change it. It is necessary for him to engage in an exercise of self-criticism and in recognizing himself as a man socialized in a macho society. He must begin by assuming that this society puts him in a situation of dominance over women, which entails that he has a series of privileges that he must be willing to renounce.” That’s when change can begin; it involves questioning socially imposed gender mandates and identifying the different forms of misogyny that we see every day.

For her part, Robin Clark says that while we can support those who want to change, they must do the work themselves. The empowering thing is to be able to see who we are dealing with so we can make the right decisions.

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