My Husband Thinks Feminism Is a Whiny Trump Card


Am I Being Too Pushy?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

A couple walks away from each other in front of a wall with the words Ain't Easy painted on it
Q:Is it okay if your husband does not consider himself a feminist? What if he believes in equality, but feminist buzzwords set him off for some reason? How do you fight fair when he feels like when you bring up feminism at all it is like playing a trump card that will make you automatically win every argument, and you feel like not being allowed to bring up feminism is like pretending your relationship takes place in a vacuum and systems of oppression do not exist? Is his resistance a sign that he’s a privilege-denying white guy who needs to be educated, or that I’m a pushy harridan who needs to back off? Is it enough for him to be a feminist in deed, if he refuses the title? Should I be content that he does his best to help us balance our lives equally when it comes to careers, division of labor, and other personal-is-political issues, or is it necessary that he also parrot, or at least tolerate, feminist ideology?

—GENERATING REAL RELATIONSHIP RUCKUS

A:DEAR GRRR,

In truth? Only you are married to your husband. I don’t have to live with him, so I don’t really have a say in what’s a deal breaker and what isn’t. Nobody’s partner is perfect, and we all individually decide what stuff we can tolerate and what we can’t. You aren’t going to have a hundred percent of the same interests across the board. Some things will be your passions alone, and that’s natural and healthy in its own right.

But, there’s a big difference between having a personal passion of your own that he doesn’t espouse, and having a personal passion that he disagrees with or dismisses. That second one raises a red flag for me only because it seems to tell of deeper issues (partners not supporting one another, loads of arguments in your future), and I only bring it up because you mention “fights.”

Using the word “feminist” is important to me. It represents solidarity to other women who are enduring sexism in painful ways I’ll never understand. It begins a conversation about what “feminist” means and broadens the definition outside of tired stereotypes. It clearly differentiates a specific fight for a specific kind of equality, emphasizing that sexism is still around and still impacting people. But, you know. Fine. I understand that some folks are reluctant to use the word. I’ll argue with them, but not condemn them for that. And in a way, guys get a bit extra of a pass with me because how many men have been forced to consider the issues of sexism? Before meeting me, my own thoughtful, observant husband never considered half of the stuff that I think about on a daily basis.

So your husband doesn’t use the word. That’s varying levels of fine.

What’s NOT fine is that this is clearly causing arguments. What’s even less fine is that it sounds like you aren’t necessarily fighting about using the word or other terms (patriarchy, slut shaming, etc.), but instead that sexist things are happening, and you feel unable to call them sexist. When you talk about using “feminism” as a trump card, it makes me worry that your arguments aren’t just about things that are happening in the world, in politics, outside of your relationship, but that you’re instead pointing out things within your relationship. That’s trouble.

Listen, it’s fine to disagree about stuff and have different passions and even slightly different values. That just depends on you and what you want from your relationship. Differences of opinion about the value of a specific term? That may or may not be a big deal. Just depends. But, if instead you’re asking what to do when your husband doesn’t recognize sexism and acknowledge that it’s a problem? That speaks to a bigger issue.

—Liz Moorhead

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This post originally Ran on APW in October 2013.

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Katharine

    It seems to me that your husband is not very interested in activism or talking about the underlying structural causes that shape particular people’s experiences. That’s a bummer if you are very interested in those activities, because those are activities that you won’t get to share with him. But it seems like your husband is putting into practice the feminist ideal of equality and works to understand your wants, interests, and needs as you create your life together. Now that is fantastic!

    My job as a professional philosopher involves me teaching and researching about social and political phenomena. I love that I get to talk about feminism, justice, and how to better organize our living together in common with my students, colleagues, and fellow professionals at conferences and in research. My husband isn’t interested in these topics or in figuring them out from a theoretical, systemic perspective. But he’s a fabulous human being nevertheless and we organize our lives together in line with our understanding of the values of freedom, equality, and care.

  • ManderGimlet

    I think I would feel very alienated and lonely in a relationship in which discussing systemic sexism or unfair gender roles in our partnership would be construed as “pushy” or as a way to just “win” discussions. I’m confused by the description of him as a “feminist in deed” but the previous lines indicate that he does not even recognize that sexism exists or that feminism is a necessary movement in achieving gender parity. While we all have our own personal definitions of “feminist”, I think not calling yourself one is one thing, but to deny the validity/necessity of feminism at all is a whole other issue.

    • Zoya

      Your last sentence. Yes. This is what I’ve been trying to say, and you put it very eloquently.

  • Quotable

    “To those used to privilege, equality often feels like oppression.”

    This is such a personal question. Many of us probably wouldn’t have gotten to the “husband” stage with someone like that, but you did. Welcome to the victim burden of educating those with privilege that they have privilege. Sounds frustrating, but you married it so to a degree you’re obviously okay with it.

    • S

      I both agree and disagree here. The truth is all people are an ongoing project and “you knew what you were getting into” can only take us so far. What if she was kind of mostly ok-ish with it when they married (maybe several years ago – and we all know even three years can feel like a lifetime when it comes to personal development), and/or just so wildly in love that she could overlook it, but isn’t ok with it now? I’m willing to bet almost everyone on this site wasn’t born a raging feminist, and probably said/did some dubious things when they were teenagers. Are you comfortable with the idea of someone rooting through your past and pulling out an example of something you did that was anti-feminist, and saying that it proves you’re obviously okay with misogyny? Does she just have to suffer and internalise the guilt and feelings of being a “bad feminist” that you seem to want her to feel? Or is there maybe an alternative, where we don’t just throw up our hands and say, “Sorry lady, guess you should have cared more”? Because she does care. She isn’t okay with it. Someone that’s “obviously okay with it” doesn’t write in for advice.

      • S

        Also: I find the idea of point scoring and judgement when it comes to people’s choice of spouses RE: feminism really counterproductive. I get it: I feel that same thrill of superiority when people complain about certain problems with their partners not pulling their weight. This whole comment section has been filled with complaints (as many APW comment sections have been) that I cannot relate to at all, because I do not tidy after my partner, and he is very clued in about emotional labour. It’s easy to feel that sense of superiority. It’s much harder to step back and examine that feeling. The truth is that most women have to do a form of educating in their relationships. The truth is that we live in a culture that encourages us to marry, and to stay married, and in many places, encourages us to marry early. The truth is that the ways we all choose our spouses are varied. Some of us have less choice than others, for different reasons. Some of us don’t know what we’re marrying into. Some of us do, but have to prioritise other factors like family and children and financial support. Some of our husbands are good at putting up a good front for a long time. Some of our husbands are good at saying the right things. Some of us just grow into ourselves and find our values not entirely matched with our spouses and have to figure out what to do about that. None of us stop learning and growing when we get married. The idea that we and our spouses are frozen in time and will be the same exact person forever as we were when we said “I Do” is nonsense. Come with kindness to your understanding of others.

        • AP

          I <3 this entire comment.

  • Zoya

    Hoo boy. I made a comment about this on the garter toss letter, about the gulf between “supports my feminism” and “shares my feminist values.” I feel like this is a situation where walking the walk is far more crucial than talking the talk. He doesn’t need to use the feminist buzzwords, as you say, but he does need to acknowledge what they mean and that the issues they describe exist. He needs to listen, honestly listen, when you describe experiences that frustrate or scare you. He needs to not dismiss what you’re sharing with him just because you’re using the wrong language. I would argue that, if he does what you describe, he’s not really a “feminist in deed.” He’s got some work to do before he gets to that point.

  • Rose

    If invoking feminism is seen as trump card, that suggests to me that there may be sexist patterns going on that are causing the fights. If a very simplified example of an argument is something like “I need you to wash the dishes or otherwise do half of the chores because household labor and feminism,” and he says “You’re just using feminism as a trump card to make me do the dishes!”, what that tells me is that he wants that sexist pattern to persist so that he doesn’t have to do the dishes. If that’s the case, then the fight over the word is one issue, but not the biggest one (imo). It might be worth thinking about whether that’s the pattern you’re seeing in the conflicts.

  • rqued

    I struggle with this “trump card” concept, except unlike the LW, my husband is a proud feminist and cares outspokenly about women’s issues. Sometimes I bring up things like emotional labor and household task equality and he’s like “low blow! I DO pull my weigh on chores” and then I can’t really tell what’s fair or not. Cuz he does do plenty of chores… I want to make the systemic issues known but I also wonder whether I spend so much time steeped in empowered women feminism on sites this one (yay! Thanks!) that I’m starting to get TOO critical. Anyone else experience this?

    • Laura

      I sometimes have to check myself: is this something that I, personally, find concerning about our relationship? Or am I getting into an argument for the sake of womenkind and feminist principles when it doesn’t really apply to my specific relationship?

      To be clear, answering “yes” to the latter doesn’t mean I won’t have the argument; I just choose my battles wisely :) For example, name changing wasn’t really a big deal to me personally. I could have taken my husband’s name without personally feeling too much angst about it. But I feel that name changing is a feminist issue, so I chose to fight that fight for the sake of feminist principles. I feel no regret about that, and we came up with a solution that feels right to both of us.

      • ManderGimlet

        Yes! This was one that took me a while to parse out, to be able to look at my feelings and see where they were actually stemming from. Some things I dismissed as political, but really, I just needed to ask my partner to wash the coffee pot lol!

      • Abs

        This is a really good point, although I personally feel a lot more strongly about the name change issue. It can sometimes be such a gray area though! Like, I don’t care that my husband deals with most of the car-related stuff, because I feel like we’re both competent and he just hates it less than I do. But I care passionately that I’m always the manager of the house-cleaning and tidying, even though we’re both competent and I just have a lower tolerance of mess. That feels like a gender-work disparity issue in our relationship, where the car thing does not. I genuinely do not know if I just pay more attention to work that I do than work that he does, or if there is an important difference between the two chore areas.

        • Laura

          Ugh, cars and related “man things.” Apparently this *is* a gender-work disparity issue in my relationship, as I found out yesterday after getting back from a vacation. My husband unloaded the car (requiring several trips) while I just did one trip and started doing “home things” (feeding the cat, putting away vacation stuff) like I usually do. Turns out, this drives him nuts because his parents always had the gendered arrangement that his mom would immediately go inside and take care of household things, while he and his dad were always responsible for unloading the car.

          Apparently we both hate unloading the car and unpacking our camping stuff (something else that is always traditionally “his job”). We both would prefer to do household things. So I guess this whole equality thing works both ways, and I have to pull my weight when it comes to car things. LAME.

          (Seriously, though, this whole thing took about three minutes to hash out, maybe because I know how shitty it feels to be on the reverse end of this with a man assuming that I will do certain household things because I’m a woman. He said it bothered him, I said I didn’t realize he felt that way, and we figured out a more egalitarian system for the future. Three minutes flat. Whereas the reverse situation when I’m feeling frustrated about gender imbalances favoring the man have sometimes taken WEEKS of arguments to solve.)

          • MC

            Wow are you me?! Husband and I literally had this same conversation after the last camping trip – I was like, “You never ask me to help you with unloading the car!” and then was like, “….oh.”

          • Laura

            I knowwwww. But it rained and our camping stuff was soggy and I don’t wanna!

      • emilyg25

        This is how I generally feel about the emotional labor stuff. Yes, I do more of the emotional labor in our home. But my husband does more of the actual chores, has a longer commute and works longer hours. I just happen to better at the former and he at the latter.

        • Ros

          On one hand, that’s mostly how we’ve got things structured too (also because sometimes there’s enough to be managed that if it’s going mostly ok you don’t rock the boat, yknow?)

          On the other hand, I “just happen” to be better at emotional labor and household management/mental load stuff because I’ve been trained at it from childhood and he hasn’t, and I think that we need to acknowledge the weight of social training that makes people “just happen” to make the choices they make.

          Not to say that those choices are wrong (like, at the end of the day, you can’t fight every battle and there’s something to be said for doing what works for everyone). But also, for us? It has led to conversations about WHY we structure our labor this way, HOW people become good at this stuff, and an explicitly stated effort to teach both our daughter and our son all the things. Because, as per Heinlein, specialization is for insects.

    • Emily

      As I said to a friend once, often I’m not sure… is this the patriarchy, or do I just need these dishes done right now? HAHAHA

    • Eenie

      There’s a mismatch in perception between you two. It’s often worth discussing why there’s a mismatch in how you view something. If he thinks he pulls his weight on chores, why does he think that? He should be able to discuss that with you without accusing you of insulting him. My guess is he doesn’t realize he’s being dismissive of you when he says things like that.

    • Zoya

      But is he actually pulling his weight on chores? Including the emotional labor and household management part? That, I think, is the difference between overreacting and hitting a hard patch in the uphill slog.

      This is an area my husband takes *very* seriously. We had to do some serious household hashing-out when we first moved in together. On the one hand, I was working from home and doing more than my fair share of chores; on the other hand, we’ve sorted most of that out and sometimes I do think I overreact. But he never ever tries to deflect the question or put me on the defensive. He knows that, even if our chore split is roughly equitable, I have to deal with a lot more feminine-socialized shit around housework and stuff. So if that means he ends up carrying more of the chore load for a few weeks, and I still get mad at him for leaving dishes in the sink, then it’s time to listen, not get defensive.

    • Liz

      Yep. I get trapped in my head. My perspective of the situation can change wildly, depending on what details I’m focusing on. But to be fair, sometimes you don’t realize something is bothering you until someone else puts words to it. So, if after reading, you start thinking, “Wow, I really do way more than he does,” it’s worth hashing out why you feel that way (and being open to being wrong and corrected). Maybe he DOES the same amount of chores as you! But the ones you’re doing require a lot of brain space, prep, etc (meal planning, why can’t I quit you) vs him just scrubbing the toilet on the first of every month.

      I forward every good article about emotional labor, task equality, yada yada yada, but we’re always talking about it from a framework of “this is how the world is and we need to make sure we’re not slipping into it by mistake” rather than a me vs him thing, a “you’re doing this wrong” thing.

      • Zoya

        Yeah, the framing thing is huge. We definitely fight less and brainstorm more now that we’re thinking about it in terms of, how do we figure this out together?

      • Jan

        For sure! For me it’s about having compassion generally for my spouse. He grew up in the world like every other person, and in our world we are taught to approach things in a specific way (men bacon, woman home). I for SURE do more of the work to manage our relationship and home, even though I consider mine to be an extraordinarily present and thoughtful partner. We have frequent conversations about this stuff, and they are usually loving, thoughtful, and productive conversations because it’s not about the blame game, but about how we can work together to address these things that are ingrained in us both, that neither of us like.

    • Greta

      Yes, I struggle with this too!!!

    • ManderGimlet

      I have these same discussions with my partner and often come to the same impasse. When trying to explain emotional labor and he counters with “what am I not doing that you want me to do?” or “I do XYZ chores”, I illustrate that
      A) *I* had to identify all the work that needed to be done
      B) *I* had to go out and buy all the supplies necessary for the work
      C) *I* had point out to him (sometimes multiple times) that the work needed to be done D) *I* still have to show effusive appreciation every time he does work that I do constantly with absolutely no recognition.
      I also correct him every single time he says he “helped” me with a domestic task and point out that we are both equally responsible for having a clean, livable home and clean clothes and food to eat and healthy pets. It’s fucking exhausting.
      He also has a habit of equating earning with work despite the fact that I work more hours than him but earn less, so I finally came around to the option of paying for things he doesn’t want to do. So we eat out/get delivery 3-4 nights a week since he doesn’t want to grocery shop or cook, and we’ll probably end up hiring a housecleaning service once I start my side business and no longer can/care to spend an hour or more every day on cleaning.

      • overitatx

        Are you living my life? These are the same issues FH and I have constantly it seems and it can be EXHAUSTING having to deal with it.

      • Lisa

        So much yes to the effusive praise. My husband will sometimes catch me at the door when I come home before I’ve taken my shoes off or put my bag down to drag me to the bedroom and show me that he made the bed. AFTER I’ve begged him for years to make the #(%*& bed when he gets up in the morning, reminded him almost daily when I leave for work that I like the bed made, and reiterated that one of my lowest, baseline standards for the bedroom is that I would just like the bed to be made when I come home since that’s where I have to be for a couple of hours until he finishes teaching.

        The bed making scenario has become the Hill to Die On regarding household chores, emotional labor, and the discussion of equal distribution of work.

        • Abs

          That battle ended at an impasse for us. It makes me a little sad every time I see the bed unmade, which is every day, but he refused to take the initiative on it and I refused to do it for him. On the other hand, the silver lining to when he’s out of town (like this week) is that I can make the bed by myself, for myself without feeling like a servant.

          • Lisa

            I keep telling him that, if he would just consent to getting out of bed 5 minutes before I leave for work, he wouldn’t have to bother with this argument. I care about the bed being made that much. But he would rather stay in bed until 8 or 8:30 than get up, which results in the perpetual cycle. I refuse to back down because I’ve given him an out, and he won’t accept what I thought was a very reasonable compromise.

          • Zoya

            Man, I need to go give my husband a hug. I hardly ever make the bed myself, but I asked him a couple of times to please rearrange the sheets after he pulled them in a ball around himself in the middle of the night. Not only did he full-on make the bed right away, but now if he knows I’m going to have a busy day (or if he notices I’m having a bad day), he’ll make the bed while I’m not looking and not say a word about it.

            THAT’S what emotional labor looks like, folks.

        • toomanybooks

          Wait but making the bed requires literally no thought/planning/stress and takes like two seconds

          (This is coming from someone who never makes the bed unless, idk, I’ve just put fresh sheets on or gone on a cleaning spree and want everything to look extra nice. My wife and I are both messy lazy people, so 🤷🏻‍♀️)

          • S

            My partner and I are both messy lazy people, and I can promise you that making the bed for us would require a LOT of thought and planning! And way more than two seconds, if we were doing it right and not just pulling the doona up to cover everything. I’d probably have to set a daily reminder on my phone if I suddenly wanted to become a person that made the bed. It’s just not something that’s natural to me. It would never occur to me to do it, even if repeatedly asked (aka my childhood). I’d just get up and start my day and just not think about it. It wouldn’t be malice, it’s just such a forgettable task! I just don’t really get why it needs to be done, either, since you’re just going to get into it again that night. I like a made bed, sure, it’s very visually pleasing. I just don’t like it enough to bother with except when I do a whole bedroom tidy or change the sheets. Not having it done doesn’t negatively affect me or my partner or my parents, when I lived at home, in any way, which is why I find it so forgettable – it’s not like dishes, where you do need to clean them, or vacuuming, which is hygienic. It literally does not need to be done for any reason except aesthetics. Trying to make myself care AND remember to do it on my own would be almost impossible. That being said if it was important to my partner, with whom I share a bed (as opposed to my parents!) I’d set that reminder alarm every morning until I started remembering to do it. (Which would probably take two years, knowing how foreign the concept is to me.) (I should also add I’m an army brat, which makes all of this funnier.)

          • AP

            “That being said if it was important to my partner, with whom I share a bed (as opposed to my parents!) I’d set that reminder alarm every morning until I started remembering to do it. ”

            This is my whole problem with the bed-making thing. Sometimes we do things because the people we love ask us to, even if it’s annoying as hell. My example: my husband has an app that he uses to track the gas mileage in our cars, so every time I fill up the tank, I send him a text with the number of gallons I put in and the miles driven on the last tank, then I reset the trip meter. I find this incredibly annoying and time-consuming, and it’s not something that comes “naturally” to me AT ALL. But he’s a mechanic, he does all the work on our cars himself, so for him having that data is really helpful- a sudden change in fuel efficiency can signal that something in the engine needs to be checked or it’s time for an oil change. And because it’s important to him, I take the extra 3 minutes at the pump to send him a text and reset the trip meter, even though I hate doing it. That’s me, loving my husband. I think that’s why I get so pissed when I hear stories like @disqus_ShkBoOhlEN:disqus’s above that he won’t do this one thing that’s she’s repeatedly said is important to her. It’s total bullshit.

            (Sorry, my pregnancy hormones have no time for male bullshit today, apparently.)

      • topscallop

        Yep. And it’s not only related to chores/household maintenance. I also remind him repeatedly to communicate with his parents about making or solidifying plans. E.g., the holidays: we’ve gone to my parents’ homes for every holiday since we started dating. He wants his parents to have a turn. Great, what are their plans? I don’t know, I’ll have to check. Cue me asking every few days if he’s asked them, and then if he’s heard back yet. If they don’t decide soon I’m just buying tickets to visit my family for Christmas.

        • NolaJael

          This. I realized this summer that my “leadership” is really just having less of a tolerance for uncertainty than my husband’s family. At X weeks from a trip, I need to have a hotel reservation, not a “I haven’t heard back from them on what the plan is yet.” The plan then becomes NolaJael made her own damn reservation.

        • emilyg25

          My husband (and his family too) take a long time to make plans, whereas mine (including my male sibling) typically start talking about Thanksgiving in like January. What I did is just plan our Thanksgiving and leave Christmas open. Around Dec. 1, they got their shit together and planned something, but I didn’t have to do any nagging.

          • Abs

            OMG this is my life. Last year was his family’s turn for Christmas, but we made plans to see my family after Christmas, for a number of reasons. This year it’s my family’s turn, and he said that he wanted to see his family as well, and then I asked, “ok, but that’s an extra 16 hours in the car to go there ‘on the way’, and also we bring our cat to my family and your mom’s allergic, so what happens to the cat?” And he had no idea.

            My problem is that once I see a logistical problem like this, that’s what I think about at odd moments, so if I attempt *not* to figure it out for him it feels really passive-aggressive. But if I do sort it out for him he thinks it happens by magic.

          • NolaJael

            YES. Or it’s like I’m grilling him. Did you think of this? And this? Because I have already, automatically.

          • Darlingpants

            I get why that feels passive aggressive, but what you’re doing is training yourself out of solving problems that aren’t your problem to solve. I’m getting better at it after taking deep breaths and reminding myself that it’s not my problem every time I find myself turning over issues we’ve decided he’ll take care of.

          • Abs

            You’re so right. Which of course is part of the problem–I’m really bad at letting go because I also love the sense of control that comes from being the problem solver. He would absolutely step up (not do exactly what I would do, but get the thing done), if I could just let the thing be his problem.

          • Ros

            Oh, man, the passive-aggressive not-figuring-it-out-for-you I AM AN EXPERT.

            … what works for us/our relationship is to explicitly state it. “Look. The current plan that we had agreed to is A, B, and C. You want to change it, and need to take into account issues D, E, F, G. Until you actually figure out those issues, I’m assuming the plan we initially discussed is what we’re going with. Let me know if that changes and I need to shift my vacation days at work, k?”

            Because if it’s assumed that “we” are finding a solution and then I don’t it feels like a test I’m setting him up to fail. If HE is supposed to make it work then… it depends on him. If he wants help on it he can ask me and I will, but it is Officially Not My Responsibility.

          • Ros

            Also because the more he actually steps up to do the problem solving, the better he gets at it. And the more he gets used to not having the family life rearrange itself around his whims with no effort (which also means he gets better at evaluation how much he cares in relation to how much effort is needed, which is so important)..

            And once I’ve explicitly made it Not My Job then I’d be stepping on his toes if I did it, which trains ME out of being the only household manager and problem-solver and cuts my habit of taking on all the tasks ever. Also helpful.

          • We’ve been having to teach my husband’s family that if they want to see us for Christmas, they need to tell us their plans at least 2-3 months in advance because we always fly to visit my family also around that time (they are all local/driving distance) and if they are too late, we are just going to book flights and do our own thing, then see them whenever (we live in the same city as they do, so we see them for minor holidays). I also do nothing about it because if we spend every Christmas with my family, I’m perfectly happy about it.

      • Zoya

        Ooh, the emotional labor illustration is real. My husband’s pretty on the ball (as I mentioned below), and yet I had to explain to him the other night that if he wants to have a bunch of friends over for dinner until 8 PM, and then leave the house at 8:15 to go to an event that I’m not attending, then I get stuck with all of the post-party cleanup. It genuinely hadn’t occurred to him that this might be an issue.

        • ManderGimlet

          YES! It’s like they really do think things happen magically? My partner will say things like “I just want to relax and have a good time, things always work out.” And I have to point out that “things” don’t work, *I* work and that is why things seem so easy and relaxing and effortless to him.

          • overitatx

            This. We have a few wedding details left to sort out still for our wedding next weekend and FH keeps telling me it’ll all work out. No, honey, it’ll work out because I put the effort and work into it to make sure it worked out. Things don’t just magically happen. And this goes for daily life stuff too not just wedding fun.

          • Cellistec

            “It’ll all work out.” Ha. Ahahahaha. AHAHAHAHAHAHA. *weeps*

          • overitatx

            Seriously. It took all I had in me at that moment to not scream.

          • Eenie

            My brother has this philosophy on life. Everything DOES just work out for him (even with no one behind the scenes putting the pieces in place). It’s one of the single most frustrating things for my mom and me to watch as we are both people who have contingency plans for our contingency plans.

          • overitatx

            I’m a worrier by nature so I try to always have a back up plan. Obviously FH and I differ in that regard.

          • Abs

            Whenever I get frustrated about this I think about a story my husband told me about when he was studying abroad in college, and ran out of money at the end of his trip and so spent the last three days sleeping on the floor of Fumicino airport eating raw pasta that he steeped in water in an empty Pringles can. That was his contingency plan. And fundamentally, he was pretty fine with that plan, and I would not have been fine with that plan, and that is the difference between how we make plans.

            I have to keep telling myself that sometimes what feels like the other person totally slacking off at life or not being an adult is just that they make calculations differently. If they’re willing to deal with their plans falling through, then it isn’t exactly that they’re wrong, it’s a matter of compromise. If that makes sense.

          • ManderGimlet

            I think that’s a great perspective. And also my fiance will recognize how different his life is now as to when he was single. He remarked the other day that he has eaten a larger variety of vegetables in our 5 years together than the entirety of the rest of his life to that point LOL!

          • Mrrpaderp

            Show him that It’s Always Sunny episode where Charlie runs around like crazy to pass the health inspection while the gang is all, why are you stressed we always pass.

          • Another Meg

            OOOOH Emotional labor is Charlie Work!

          • Jess

            This reminds me of that Australian video a while back about the magic table… put anything on it and it gets put away! (because the woman is putting it away)

          • S

            argh hehe I just linked to the video! I love it.

          • S
          • Jessica

            Nice! I was reading the thread late and also put this up.

          • S

            Haha, great minds. I mean, I’m pretty sure I only know of this video thanks to APW anyway, so that explains it.

          • Jessica
          • Ros

            OH MAN. The “it doesn’t just all work out BY ITSELF” conversation. Yeah.

            If there’s something that makes it feel like my work has been done in a void, it’s that conversation.

        • kazeegeyser

          That reminds me of the time in college when I ran a recruiting event with someone who thought it was appropriate to head to a bar before it ended since it was “basically over”, which meant his job was done, not even considering the cleanup or the fact that I would have joined.

        • sofar

          Are you ME? Are you guys US?

          Because I’ve had this discussion with my husband, only it’s usually, “If you have friends over and they stay late and you’re too tired to clean the dining room table/kitchen/sitting area up that night, it needs to be done before noon the next day.” It makes me sad enough to get up for work and have to eat breakfast in a messy kitchen. It makes me LIVID to have to return from work at 6:30 PM to the same mess.

          But if I then decide to clean up for my own sanity (because I can’t live like that and need to use a clean plate), then all of a sudden it’s, “Oh sweetie! I was going to clean up!” as soon as he hears the dishes clinking in the sink as I wash them.

          The idea that he could start cleaning while his friends are still there, kick them out 30 minutes early, stay up just a little later, or rise earlier to clean just doesn’t really occur to him naturally.

          He’s gotten better, but he has to actually TRY to remember. Whereas, if I have people over, cleaning up at the earliest possible moment is a reflex to me.

      • Eenie

        Yup. Just yup.

        I think my husband finally understood all the shit I did when I did not have time to do the shit. He’s been fully in charge of pet care, mail, and garbage the past couple months (our three biggest daily time sucks). If he can’t do the task, he has to remind me to do it for him. It’s worked so well. I’m travelling a bunch for work now, and I can’t wait to slowly let him take on more and more emotional labor because I’m just not there to do it for him.

        • AmandaBee

          “I think my husband finally understood all the shit I did when I did not have time to do the shit.”

          YUP. This is exactly what happened to us too. I eventually reached the point where I did NOT have the capacity to keep the house clean or feed us, and once I just stopped doing shit he realized how much was getting done that he didn’t even notice. We’re still working on an equitable split, but at least we’re on the same page now.

          • Eenie

            I’m so looking forward to this new job bringing us a more equitable split in terms of emotional labor. In a couple years we are thinking about kids, and I think this will be a much better foundation for starting the parenting journey. I think he’s warming to the idea of being the primary parent! And he understands what that means now!

        • Angela’s Back

          My husband is newly (as of about 5 months) responsible for dinners in the week because with my new job and commute, I get home too late to have dinner on the table when we like. A few weeks ago we were talking about what we were going to have for dinner that night, or maybe we’d go out, and he says, making dinner every night is a lot of work! FACEPALM. Yes. yes, it is. And it’s not even every night, he cooks a meal from scratch twice a week because we have the leftovers the other three weeknights. I love him and he’s great about cooking and household stuff most of the time but man… I had a moment.

          • AP

            “Nobody knew dinner could be so complicated.” ;p

          • Ugh yes. Cooking is hard work and a skill that I have learned over time. I’m slowly working on getting my husband to cook more (including figuring out what the meal is!) although we are limited by work schedules. And every time he says it’s so hard, it’s just…. I already learned these skills and they did take work and the only way you are going to learn them is by actually doing them!

          • Angela’s Back

            Yeah, I’m still on full time meal planning duty… but my husband *has* started doing the grocery shopping, and frankly, I’ll take making the list and not doing the shopping any day of the week.

          • laddibugg

            I love lists…shopping not so much

        • Darlingpants

          For anyone interested in this technique, Tiffany Dufu’s “Drop the Ball” is a self-help/how-to on this method of creating equal domestic labor. I really enjoyed it.

      • Sarah Jane

        Ahh, this thing. My husband is really good about not ‘helping’ or ‘babysitting’, he cleans the house and he parents. But if I’m going to class on Saturday and say ‘hey can you take care of some of the house stuff while I’m at school’, he first says ‘the house doesn’t really need to get cleaned, does it?’ followed by ‘ok, just tell me what you want me to do.’ Ugghhhhh. Can you not just look around the house and not be ok with the floor that needs vacuuming and the dishes in the sink?? This is our struggle – he’s really good about doing his share of chores, but we have different acceptable standards of cleanliness, and I almost always end up ‘being the boss’ or ‘deciding’ that something needs to get done. Sometimes I feel less like a ‘wife’ or ‘partner’ and more like ‘bossy boots’ or ‘nagging mom’.

        • Abs

          Partner and I have a relationship check-in scheduled this week, and HE actually put this problem on the agenda! Which feels like such a breakthrough after 3 years of living together. I think the strategy is going to involve agreeing on a cleaning schedule and then putting it automatically into our shared calendar, so it’s not me saying when we need to clean, and then giving him a time of day when he has to get in the habit of looking around the apartment and picking shit up. We shall see how that goes.

          • Sarah Jane

            Good luck!!

    • Abs

      I also struggle with this, because I sometimes feel like a side effect of being feminist is that I have the words to articulate when I don’t like something in our relationship and relate it to larger issues, and my partner doesn’t. He does automatically listen to me when I bring up feminism, and I do sometimes worry that that means that I win all the discussions regardless of their merits in context. So his not helping me plan the cleaning schedule is a feminist issue, but my not wanting to deal with anything in the basement and therefore leaving the hammer on the basement stairs where he stepped on it and cut his foot and bled is not.

    • Jess

      I often read articles and be like, “YES! This is saying the things I’ve seen! BAN MEN!” and prepare to rage into my marriage and be like, “THINGS HAVE TO CHANGE”

      Then I think through things that R and I do and realize, actually, I’m personally fine? So I say, “I read this really interesting article on [Emotional Labor], and it made me really glad you’re so supportive in that area. It brought up X, Y, and Z points, which I thought were interesting/I’ve noticed in Friend A/I totally see in the dudes I work with.”

      Because there’s something to be said for positive reinforcement, but I *really* want to talk about that article I read, too.

      • Eve

        Ha, are you me? I totally do the “This article I read is fanning the flames of my feminist rage and obviously I need to make a Big Effing Deal out of it tonight when Fiancé gets home even though we’re actually fine in this area!!!!” It’s been a process of learning how to talk myself out of doing that, and lo and behold our conversations end up being way more productive now that I’ve stopped doing that. It’s funny how when Fiancé doesn’t see me bringing things like that up as an attack on him or our relationship, more often than not he brings the conversation around to our relationship and how we can do better his damn self.

        • Jess

          YES! And now R will find things online too! So now we just sit and rage at how awful the world is together.

      • Gaby

        Omg yes. Husband usually drives when we’re out together and he has this habit of handing me whatever he’s holding when we get in the car. Last week I pointed out that he could’ve just put the thing in the cup holder… as I had just done. A couple hours later I realized this was not a feminist/emotional labor issue and that he probably automatically does things for me that I *never* notice also. Oops.

    • ssha

      I’ve been staring at this comment and Jess’s comment below trying to think of how to reply because yes, I relate. and sometimes I wonder if I want to be immersed in feminist media if it’s going to make me this angry all the time. When I really don’t have a good reason to be angry at my husband, since he’s pretty good about this stuff? But we have had a few actual fights about feminist topics and it’s made me see that he does have some blind spots in regard to feminism.
      When I do bring it up, I feel like I’m arguing from emotion, and he’s arguing from logic- and there’s nothing that makes me feel more traditionally gendered and a silly woman.
      Obviously I am not done parsing this.

      • Jess

        Regarding the emotion, just to maybe make you feel less traditionally gendered and silly…

        It’s totally reasonable that you get emotional (read: angry, sad, and fearful) because this is stuff that has affected you and will continue to affect you in the real world.

        This is closer to you than him.

        • ssha

          Thank you.

      • Darlingpants

        Totally agree with Jess, and if you need more info on this google “tone policing” for why saying true things while having emotions doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
        Also, in a tangent, someone on my Facebook write an interesting post about how the elevation of “logic” before “emotion” is an extremely Western philosophy that was developed around the same time that Western Europe was colonizing most of the world, creating chattel slavery, committing a lot of genocide and generally doing things that should make them feel bad, but made “logical” economic sense. I’m not well versed in philosophy so I’m not sure how the timeline holds up but it’s another support of using emotion to make decisions and arguments. If the patriarchy makes you mad that’s actually totally logical, and your husband is the one who is being irrationally calm in the face of injustice. (My husband has the same arguing/debating style and this is what I tell myself at least).

    • Mrrpaderp

      This isn’t directly to you just a comment on the emotional labor discussion – having an equal division of labor in your household does not mean your male SO is a feminist. It means he’s an adult. Men carrying their own weight should be a baseline (just like fathers actually being parents… but that’s a whole nother issue).

      I say this because I think people (maybe like LW) get confused by the anti-feminist guy who nevertheless cooks and cleans. Then he tells you a “funny” story about that one time his friend got his ass kicked for groping a guy’s GF in front of him and you tell him not only is that story not funny but actually really rapey and scary and you don’t want to be around that friend anymore – and he looks at you like you just grew a second head…. The fact that the guy cooks and cleans means absolutely zero. NOT cooking and cleaning would be a red flag. But doing it is not a green flag (if that’s a thing). Believing in equality requires a whole lot more.

      • AP

        And…I think the inverse is also true. Like, I definitely pull more weight around the house because my husband works long hours and travels a lot, but I work from home. But there are other ways he’s very feminist- like he’s advocating for salary transparency at work and coaching his female teammates on how to position themselves for raises. He’s taking a full 12 week parental leave when the baby is born, even though he’s definitely going to catch shit for it with his coworkers. He’s got some work to do on calling out sexism from other men (he’s kind of shy and conflict-averse) but all in all, I think he “gets it.”

        • Katharine Parker

          Doing equal amounts of housework is not the measure of a feminist man or a feminist relationship.

      • Jess

        “Men carrying their own weight should be a baseline” YES. YES. YES. YES. YES.

    • Another Meg

      Hell yes.
      Also everything to Liz’s response below. Add to that a huge breakthrough for our conversations about emotional labor. I finally realized what kept bothering me. I don’t mind doing extra work like managing holidays (decoration, presents, etc) or thank you notes. What really bugs me is when he shits all over it. Gems like “you don’t need to do those things. They don’t actually matter.” Fuck that, I’m the one who gets a call when his great aunt doesn’t get a thank you note for a gift. Besides, it’s important to thank people who take the time to send you a gift. Ugh.

      • AP

        So…I haven’t made this announcement here on APW yet, but I started a podcast a few months ago with a friend called Kindreds (it’s on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts, or go to kindredspodcast.com) and we talk about issues at the intersection of faith, feminism, and friendship. (I’m pretty proud of it, actually.) Our next episode releases Monday on emotional labor, and in it I tell a story that’s almost exactly what you describe. In my case, it’s about the emotional labor of pulling off Christmas for both our families when my husband is like, “why don’t you just stop doing all this stuff if it stresses you out so much?” I TOTALLY feel you.

        • ssha

          thank you for sharing! Gonna take a listen!!

          • AP

            Yay, please do! Our most recent episodes are our best, I think. Took us a little while to hit our stride;)

          • ssha

            wow this is relevant. I’ve been thinking about faith and being really disillusioned about the religion that is home to me and wondering if there is a space for christianity that doesn’t hate women or women’s bodies. is this gonna make me really super sad?

          • AP

            I hope not! We try to keep it light, even through talking about heavier stuff. Mostly the feedback we get from listeners is that they’re happy to hear women talking about things they’ve thought or experienced on their faith journeys. Also we have a lot of resources for progressive Christians in the show notes for each episode. Check out our website!

          • ssha

            Awesome! I’m really excited!

        • rqued

          Subscribing right now!

  • Eenie

    “How do you fight fair when he feels like when you bring up feminism at all it is like playing a trump card that will make you automatically win every argument, and you feel like not being allowed to bring up feminism is like pretending your relationship takes place in a vacuum and systems of oppression do not exist?”

    This makes me think the issue is less around feminism and more about how you two argue and disagree in your relationship. I hear couples counseling can help a lot with this!

    I don’t need my partner to call himself a feminist (he does), as long as he understands the disparity on his own level and is open to talking about how this affects the world and our relationship. This is really important to me. And even if he doesn’t agree with my assessment of “the world”, he takes my concerns about our relationship seriously. That does not mean that he agrees 100% of the time. But I feel heard by him, and the end result is something we’re both happy (or unhappy) with a compromise of some sort.

    • Zoya

      +1 to feminist open thread!

    • Jess

      I dunno… calling anything a trump card or seeing at as discussion/argument ending is kind of a flag for me.

      It’s something I hear a lot in “Pulling the ___ card” format, dismissing an entire point of view because it comes wrapped up in an accusation of sexism/racism/otherism that the person sees in themself.

      Like… if somebody says, “Well, I don’t see why you have to pull the gay card” when hearing a story about a friend being harassed in some way for their butchness, I’m pretty sure they’re not really ok with gay people.

      It’s hard to say what’s really going on without better context for how feminist things get brought up, but, my general rule is if you say something’s just a trump card, you probably feel called out by it for a good reason.

      • Eenie

        I’m not saying that the feminism angle isn’t an issue, but that the communication and arguing style may be the root cause – calling something a trump card is a red flag for me for their communication skills. Fix that, and perhaps the discussions related to feminism are more productive and less frustrating for the LW.

        • Jess

          I agree with that too, you’re right! Fixing the way conversations happen can help reach people.

  • Laura

    “Believes in equality” does not always translate to “fights for equity in our relationship, even when shit gets hard.” I’ve personally become very wary of a watered down version of feminism I sometimes hear endorsed by men and women alike — “feminism just means you think men and women are equal!” Well, sure, I guess that’s a starting point. But it also means constantly examining systems of oppression and pushing back against them. That’s exhausting, and in heterosexual relationships, it’s work that’s done primarily by women.

    In my own relationship, my husband absolutely values equality. He considers himself a feminist. It started with him listening to me talk about my experiences as a woman. It progressed to him becoming more aware systems of oppression, pointing them out when he encounters them, and actively taking (sometimes unpopular) stands with his family, friends, and workplace.

    And yet we still have fights about this stuff when things get tough. We’re constantly challenging our assumptions and navigating new ways of existing in an egalitarian partnership. Kids, aging parents, careers….all of that stuff will strain a relationship. If you don’t have a partner who understands that larger systems push women into “choosing” options that are oppressive, it’s going to be awfully tough to maintain that egalitarian balance as your relationship progresses.

    • MC

      +10000000

    • uggggh

      I’m also so frustrated by the liberal “feminism is about equality/any choice a woman makes is a Feminist choice/does this thing I did make me a Bad Feminist?” because it’s so incredibly individualistic and narcissistic. Feminism is about female liberation from male domination.

    • Katharine Parker

      YES. You can’t claim to support men and women being equal if you’re not examining and challenging the ways in which women are oppressed on the basis of gender and how that intersects with other systems of oppression, including racism and homophobia and transphobia.

      • uggggh

        I really think “men and women being equal” is a mischaracterization of feminism, which should be about the liberation of women from men. I don’t want to be equal in exploitative power to men. I want to be totally, 100% free of them. I want them to stop having any power over our lives. It’s hard to even imagine what that would look like.

        Women could only make an informed, consensual decision about whether or not to involve men in their lives if we collectively saw a viable alternative. Otherwise, we’re all just going along with a coercive system that we didn’t get a choice in.

        • Katharine Parker

          I disagree with you in a number of ways, one being that feminism isn’t a monolith and has meant and continues to mean different things in different historical contexts. But more importantly, I find the idea of women’s liberation from men to be uncomfortably gender essentialist and non-intersectional. Liberation from the patriarchy? Sure. Liberation from oppression on the basis of gender? Sure. Liberation from men? Like, actual individual men? No.

          • uggggh

            …who created the patriarchy? Who benefits from the patriarchy? Men as a group and a class are made up of actual individual men and it is individual men who perpetuate violence and abuse against women.
            What do you have to lose by having the option to not ever engage with men if you didn’t want to? By building a world where they have no power over your life whatsoever? What about other women wanting that makes you defensive?
            Of course feminism has meant different things across time and place. Currently in North America, for example, mainstream feminism seems to mean “do exactly what men want and tell yourself that it’s empowering”.

          • Katharine Parker

            I don’t support choice feminism, but I still find the idea of feminism being freedom from men to be biologically deterministic and gender essentialist, as well as non-intersectional (my feminism is also anti-racism, for example, and getting rid of men doesn’t address that). Gender is a construct and sex is a construct, constructs that the patriarchy supports but that do not need to dictate the structure of our society, as “freedom from men” would also do. To misquote de Beauvoir, one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman or a man. I support a world without oppression rather than a world without men.

            What about women liking men makes you defensive? Losing half of the world doesn’t appeal to me.

          • uggggh

            I’m getting so much second hand embarrassment for you right now.
            Freedom from men doesn’t require “losing half the world” or “a world without men”. I’m not arguing for getting rid of men. Just for engaging with men to be something that is optional, not required, for women. Right now, we don’t have any choice, and without free and uncoerced choice, there is no informed consent. We don’t know how many of us would choose to not engage with men, because it is not something most of us can even imagine.
            You are not only misquoting de Beauvoir, you’re misreading her entire argument, which is about how a child is born, and then raised through an abusive process called “girlhood” to condition her to serve men, thus becoming a woman. Of course I support the abolishment of that socialization process.

            I didn’t say anything implying defensiveness about women liking men. I just said that we should have a true choice about whether or not to engage with them. So I’m going to ask you again why you’re so defensive about women even having the possibility of choice.

          • Katharine Parker

            This is pretty rude and condescending. I understand de Beauvoir’s argument. I was using a purposeful misquoting to illustrate that, just as womanhood is constructed, so too is manhood.

            You write about gender as biologically determined in a way that I find problematic and disagree with, in your discussion with me and with Liz elsewhere on this thread. “Freedom from men” doesn’t make sense as the goal for feminism to me because that reifies an immutable gender binary which, again, I disagree with.

            You not wanting to engage with men doesn’t bother me. Making “engaging with men to be something that is optional, not required, for women” as the aim of feminism does nothing to dismantle a gender binary, which I object to, or dismantle intersectional systems of oppression, which I object to. It suggests mechanisms of sex-based segregation that I find problematic, and implies superiority for choosing not to engage with men, which I see throughout your comments about women who do engage with men as their partners. So suggesting that liberation from men should be the goal of feminism does make me defensive, for the reasons that I’ve expressed.

          • uggggh

            lol, why not just call me a Mean Angry Man-Hating Dyke and get it over with?
            Look, sex and gender can be socially constructed and half the population is still capable (and frequently takes advantage of this capability) of forcibly impregnating the other half. This is the origin of patriarchy. Does your intersectionality not take this into account? Does the fact that the extreme majority of rape victims are girls and women and the extreme majority of perpetrators are men not give us the right to get away? If not, what would men have to do to us for it to be acceptable for us to say “no thank you” and spend our energy on ourselves instead of catering to their needs?

            I also think that gendered socialization (the gender binary) should be abolished! I think that all children should be encouraged to run and play and pursue education and play sports and chess and develop strong communication skills and kindness and compassion and express themselves in ways that make them comfortable.

            So your objection is to making interacting with men optional for women. You think that it should be compulsory, required, inescapable for women to be forced to interact with men. You think it should be impossible for us to get away. The liberation of women makes you defensive. I think that’s pretty sad.
            (I’m not even going to touch the implied homophobia in this post – how often do lesbians get told that they’re not nice enough to straight women again?)

          • Katharine Parker

            I’ve been debating whether to respond to this comment. I don’t want to rehash how I disagree with you again–it’s clear that you and I aren’t going to agree on this. I do want to say that I did not intend to tell you that you needed to be nicer to me and I was not trying to contribute to a culture that tells lesbians to be nicer to straight women. I’m sorry that I did.

  • emilyg25

    Hmm, I have a lot of thoughts on this. tl;dr: No, it’s not okay.

    “How do you fight fair when he feels like when you bring up feminism at all it is like playing a trump card that will make you automatically win every argument…”

    I don’t think it’s cool if your spouse says “X” is a trump card that makes you automatically win every argument. Doesn’t matter what X is. Because they’re automatically dismissing your feelings and perspective. Also, I don’t like the idea of “winning” arguments in a marriage—when one person wins, the other loses. But guess what. When your spouse loses, you lose too because it’s a partnership. Compromise, of course. But not win/lose.

    “Should I be content that he does his best to help us balance our lives equally when it comes to careers, [etc.]…”

    Does his best or actually does? Can be a pretty big difference.

    Did he assume you’d take his name? If you have children, does he assume you’ll stay home with them? Or be the one to leave work and get them when they’re sick? How does he support your career? Would he quit his job and move to a new city because you got an amazing offer? Would he be okay working for a female boss? Does he think birth control should be free? Will he get a vasectomy if you decide you don’t want children? Does he think women need to wear bras in public or should always shave their legs? Does he recognize intersectionality?

    There are a lot of little ways that people, even those who call themselves feminists, perpetuate inequality. Beyond the feminism discussion, how does he approach other modes of oppression?

    ETA: Oh, another one! When he sees a dad taking care of his kids solo, does he call it babysitting?

    • Abs

      Yeah depending on the circles you run in, cis-men calling themselves feminists is not really an indicator of anything–most of the loudest self-proclaimed “feminists” I know are that loud because they’re talking over women.

      • AmandaBee

        Your last line. *mic drop*

      • ssha
      • I saw a line recently about how men being feminists isn’t about them finding space in feminism, but them making the spaces they exist in more feminist and I really liked that (and am trying to apply in the myriad areas where I reap unfair social advantages)

        • rg223

          This is amazing.

      • toomanybooks

        Yeah, sometimes it’s a red flag when a guy (cis or not) is like, TOO into how much of a feminist he is. (See: Joss Whedon)

    • Lisa

      I don’t like the idea of “winning” arguments in a marriage—when one person wins, the other loses. But guess what. When your spouse loses, you lose too because it’s a partnership. Compromise, of course. But not win/lose.

      Oh, I really like this. My husband tends to frame arguments as winning vs. losing, but that kind of thinking has always upset me and made me sad. I frequently say that I’m not trying to win, I’m trying to be heard and make him understand. I might bring this idea up in the future.

      • Jess

        I’ve had a lot of fights that midway through I have to stop and say, “I’m not trying to make you feel bad for what you did. I’m trying to make you understand how I felt and work toward a resolution to make it not happen again.”

        This is… part of our apology work which I’ve talked about on APW before (1- I’m sorry for doing X. 2- I understand that it affected you in Y way. 3- I will do Z next time instead/What would you like me to do differently in the future.)

    • Brigid

      So, just to volunteer: my husband has baggage around the word “feminism”, so we call it “dignitarianism,” ie the intersectional principle that all humans are entitled to dignity, respect, sovereignty, equality, etc. Talking about systematic oppression and emotional labor requires a little more time than just mentioning the usual phrase, but we do it. For instance, he got mad at my mother because she requires a lot of “management work” when she comes to help. Cool, now we can talk about management work, and he respects the management work/emotional labor I do. I sometimes have to point it out, but he’s in awe.

      He did assume I’d take his name, but I didn’t for the first year, and he took my name as a middle name. Dunno if he assumed I’d stay home because I told him I planned to work part-time (and do), he supports my career even when it requires sacrifices, he’s had mainly female bosses, he handles family planning, I don’t shave my legs and he’s fine with it (but knows his opinion is irrelevant), and he’d never call it babysitting. Kid duty, maybe. He DOES get uncomfortable when I ask him to examine his privilege, but he does it anyway, and he deeply listens to me. Then he acts. He actually makes changes to his behavior based on our conversations.

      All that to say: I’m married to a guy who doesn’t like the word “feminist”, and he would be OUTRAGED at how OP’s husband is treating her. There’s no such thing as a trump card in marriage. There’s deep listening, there’s sacrifice, there’s gentleness, there’s vulnerability, there’s compassion, there’s compromise.

      • uggggh

        you…renamed a political movement for the liberation of women…because it made your husband uncomfortable?

        • Brigid

          I hardly have the power to rename a political movement, I’m not the Queen Fairy of Names.

          I offered up a codename so my husband could set aside his baggage and engage with said political movement, because I wasn’t going to marry him until we were able to have deep conversations about feminism, and this is the crutch he needed at that time. As a result, he’s been able to work past a lot of that baggage, and he’s a pretty good feminist (and a really good husband). So yeah, I did, and it worked.

          • quiet000001

            Some people have really strange ideas about what feminism is, and you have to banish the word so they can hear what you’re saying. I had a conversation like that with a woman the other day – it sounded like her entire idea of feminism was TERF type people and she understandably had Issues with that feminism (I also have issues with TERF types quite often) and we had to kind of go piece by piece until she realized that there is more to feminism than TERFs and that feminism is a thing that has a place for her, too.

            If you have to temporarily fiddle with the language to have the conversation, but the meat of the conversation is on point, I’m okay with that. Our brains are weird, they make connections between all sorts of things, sometimes you just work with what you’re got.

  • uggggh

    I’m cringing so much at the response to this article. Men “get a pass” because they don’t have to deal with systemic sexism and therefore don’t think about it? Men create, daily, systemic sexism. Sexism is not the weather. It does not appear from nowhere, to no one’s benefit. It is specifically created by men to maintain their domination over women.
    Feminism is a political movement for female liberation from male domination.

    I think it’s interesting when women argue that men can be educated out of their sexism. They benefit from it and they know it. They continue to exploit and destroy women because they enjoy it, not because they don’t know it’s wrong.

    • Jess

      I cringed a bit there too. There have been decades and decades of feminism (admittedly problematic) calling attention to sexism. It’s not news and men (and many women!) are active perpetuators of it.

      This said, I have a really hard time saying men can’t be educated out of their sexism. Men as a group? Agreed, 100%. But I think we *can* work on individual men. (which I guess is may be #notallmen-y, but there we are)

      Maybe it just seems so hopeless to say it out loud…

      • uggggh

        yeah, that is pretty #notallmen-y. But I don’t think that’s unusual, I think it’s super normal to really want to feel like individual men (husband, father, brother, friend, etc) can change, because the alternative can look so depressing. But the feminist project of educating men has been in full swing for 50 years and it doesn’t look like it’s accomplished much.

        I worry about the amount of energy women waste on trying to educate men, as a group or individually. It strikes me as a sort of collective sealioning, where every time we say something obvious about our lives, we have to take time to explain it to them, cushion their feelings, explain it again the next day, etc.
        Imagine what we could do if we put that energy into other women instead. If instead of spending a single second on arguing with men about whether we are full human beings, we focused on building strong communities of women.

        • AP

          “Imagine what we could do if we put that energy into other women instead. If instead of spending a single second on arguing with men about whether we are full human beings, we focused on building strong communities of women.”

          I love this.

          But I don’t think the solution is either/or, I think it’s both/and. Men exist, and they have power. There’s no getting around that. And both in my personal life and in the work I do in the reproductive health/rights/justice space, I do a lot of *both* educating the men around me *and* lifting and amplifying and empowering the women around me. I don’t see these actions as mutually exclusive.

          • uggggh

            I see where you’re coming from! And I’m so glad that you’re doing important work in reproductive health.
            I don’t agree with resigning myself to the idea that men will always have power over us. The divine right of kings to rule used to be a given thing, until it wasn’t. I have to believe that women can and will be free one day. It’s a hard thing even for me to imagine, and I deliberately and intentionally spend very little of my personal time or energy on men.
            But the work won’t get easier if women continue to think that male power is inevitable.
            I am so sad and frustrated for all the women whose comments I’m reading here about their struggles to get their husbands (their husbands! men who should theoretically love them and prioritize their happiness!) to treat their concerns with basic respect.
            Imagine what the world could be like if every woman in the world put the time and emotional energy that they spend/waste on men into other women. Imagine the kind of world that could be created if we all just ignored them, stopped inviting them into our lives, and put all of that work into each other.

          • AP

            Yeah. I hear you. I really do. One of my favorite colleagues (and mentor) says pretty much the same thing.

            Where I struggle is that accepting that men have the power *now* and working within that system as it exists now doesn’t necessarily mean I believe it will always be this way. I also believe that women can and will be free one day. My vision of that freedom might be a bit different from yours, maybe. But until that day, I’ll keep working to get there the best way I can:)

          • uggggh

            Well said!

        • Jess

          “Instead of spending a single second on arguing with men about whether we are full human beings, we focused on building strong communities of women.”

          I’m so ready for that world. Sign me up.

    • Liz

      I do feel you’re taking that snippet out of context a bit. That paragraph is about folks unwilling to use the word “feminist.” No one is saying anyone gets a pass for being sexist.

    • I’ve been thinking about this comment, and I agree with your originating opinion, but don’t agree with where you end with it. Would you say the same about racism? Certainly there are people who perpetuate the system for their own benefit. And then there’s another group that subconsciously perpetuates it for their own benefit. But there has to be room for a third group of people who are born into existing systems and because it’s comfortable, live an unexamined life, but can be educated by a gentle, “hey that’s racist.”

      Perhaps educating individual men is slow progress in the grand scheme, but it feels vitally, personally important when you’re marrying one. If I felt this way: “They continue to exploit and destroy women because they enjoy it, not because they don’t know it’s wrong,” I wouldn’t be able to marry a man.

      • uggggh

        yeah I can’t imagine marrying a man and am so grateful that I don’t ever ever have to do that. I wish that marriage was not constantly put forth as a goal for girls, from the time we are literal infants. It’s a form of cultural brainwashing, when I believe most women would be much happier without men so involved in their lives. And men know it – thus the pressure.

        I do think that it’s a bit different from racism, because there’s such a strong biological component to sexism (not always, of course – trans people exist, but transition itself is a relatively recent phenomenon). There is a power disparity between a group of people that can forcibly impregnate and those who can, or are perceived to be, impregnable by force. That’s the origin of patriarchy, if you go way back, men exploiting women as reproductive resources. I don’t think there’s a similar component to racism.

  • Abs

    I think it makes a big difference exactly what the fights are and what the dynamic is. If it’s about “I don’t want to be the household manager because women always are,” that is a totally legit feeling to have, and ideally your partner would hear that from you, but might feel like that isn’t a reason on its own to change what seems to be working for the two of you. Which isn’t ideal but is a question of values, and if his aren’t aligned with yours on that you just have to decide if you can live with that.

    If it’s “I don’t want to be the household manager because I am actually spending a whole lot more time and energy on the house than you are and that doesn’t feel fair to me,” anyone who wouldn’t hear you on that is pretty majorly suspect in my opinion.

    I feel like it’s on you to try to articulate what you want to say primarily in reference to the dynamics of your own relationship, but it’s on him to hear you out in good faith and not stop listening when you mention feminism.

  • AmandaBee

    So this is a more extreme version of something my husband and I have struggled with. In his case, he’s not anti-feminism and he does seem interested in considering feminist ideas/conversations. But he sometimes tends to interpret conversations about systemic gendered issues as a personal attack and he gets defensive. And once he gets defensive, he shuts down the conversation, which makes me more frustrated, so then my approach gets more aggressive. Enter destructive cycle of arguing about feminism.

    After cycling through that pattern for a bit, we’ve identified that it’s not so much a difference in our ideals and it’s more of a difference in how we approach the conversation. So we’re working on approaching it in ways that feels accessible to both of us.

    I won’t pretend that was smooth or easy – it took and is still taking a lot of effort and a lot of conversation. But I would ask yourself: does this seem like a defense mechanism that he’s able to recognize is wrong and work on fixing, or does he legitimately believe that you should not bring up gendered issues in your relationship? If it’s the former, you can do some work around that if you want to. If it’s the latter, for me that’d be a dealbreaker.

    • AP

      “But he sometimes tends to interpret conversations about systemic gendered issues as a personal attack and he gets defensive.”

      Yeah…my best friend and I are pregnant at the same time, and a few months ago we were talking about how complicated it is to raise a feminist son and all the emotional energy it takes when the whole world is pushing back against it. (She already has a toddler son.) We were talking about this in front of my husband, and he took it personally as us saying we’d rather raise girls than boys or that he/his family would raise a misogynist.

      We’re not finding out the sex of our baby, and it turns out the feminism piece of this is kind of a complicated thing to talk about with my husband. It’s not that he has a problem with the word or concept of feminism, it’s more like he doesn’t want to examine how his upbringing might have shaped his view of the world/contribution to patriarchy and understand which patterns he might not want to repeat with a son…I think he feels like if we reject the way his parents raised him, it’s a rejection of him. Which I can understand to a degree, but there are things about my family I don’t want to repeat, either. It’s not really personal, I’m just trying to think critically about how we might approach parenting.

      • Jess

        Nobody likes to see themself as the bad guy.

        • Amandalikeshummus

          But having that luxury is also a privilege. We’ve had to think about this stuff our whole lives.

          • Jess

            Oh totally – I really don’t want to seem like it’s an excuse for not doing better or examining privilege, because it is super-not.

            More just an exasperated sigh in the face of a big uphill battle?

  • RNLindsay

    I use this Rachel Wilkerson Miller quote a lot on here, but to paraphrase – “behind every woke man is an exhausted feminist you need to thank”. My husband is definitely a privileged white guy (who hates the word privileged) but has come a long way since we first started dating. It takes a lot of work, a lot of talking about the subject, a lot of little nudges in the right direction (that maybe don’t scream FEMINISM if he’s so put off by the title) but it can be done. As someone quotes below, equality feels like oppression at first to those who are used to being the privileged. I don’t know your relationship, or how feminist in deed your husband truly is, but if you haven’t found this to be a deal breaker yet, I would say there’s hope to keep working on it.

    • Amandalikeshummus

      I actually have other feminists to thank for my partner’s feminism. He taught me the term, “gender essentialism.” Not to say we don’t have a lot of discussions, but with us, it’s a lot of the internalized stuff that we’ll be dealing with forever.

      I’m rather lucky.

      • quiet000001

        Same. He isn’t super into the academics of anything, but he got the ideas in his head well before we were in a relationship. It’s nice.

  • CMT

    I just have no patience this week for educating men about feminism and sexism while also tip-toeing around their feelings and egos.

    • emilyg25

      For real.

    • Very much same.

    • Jess

      Truer words have never been spoken. I have no time for man-feelings.

      • As a person who has had “I don’t have time for woman-feelings” said to her multiple times, I would be careful about using phrases like that one.

        • uggggh

          it’s almost like there’s a different context between these two phrases! it’s almost like men have historically and continually dismissed women’s concerns as being too emotional and used that as a pretext to deny us actual rights. It’s almost like women have no history of doing that to men!

          • I agree with you there (about context). It’s just not furthering our cause to have a history of condescension. But, as you realized when you said it, you were speaking to an ally and not an opposer :)

          • uggggh

            I don’t really think of people who are into coddling male feelings as my allies.

          • You misunderstood what I said. I said that Jess was speaking to an ally (user CMT) when she used the phrase… I don’t want to assume you are implying anything about me with your second comment. What is important is that Jess understood what I was saying to her.

          • uggggh

            Ah, I understand what you were saying now.

        • Jess

          Thank you for the reminder that words used mostly in fun have really serious implications in different contexts.

  • Mrrpaderp

    I agree with Liz that his dismissiveness is a bigger red flag than his hangup about the word. He doesn’t have to call himself a feminist if he’s uncomfortable with that term. But he has to not eye roll you calling yourself a feminist. That’s a matter of basic respect.

    He also has to recognize that inequality is, like, a thing. Is he denying that systems of oppression exist? That he, like everyone, has been socialized to accept gender norms that harm women and help men? I mean it’s one thing for him to say, this doesn’t directly affect me so I don’t spend time thinking about it; it’s quite another for him to say, I don’t care to hear about your experience – or worse, I don’t believe you when you tell me about your experience – because I refuse to accept that sexism exists and anyone who says they have trouble getting ahead because of sexism is really just lazy/whiny/looking for a handout.

  • Meg

    “Using the word “feminist” is important to me. It represents solidarity to other women who are enduring sexism in painful ways I’ll never understand. It begins a conversation about what “feminist” means and broadens the definition outside of tired stereotypes. It clearly differentiates a specific fight for a specific kind of equality, emphasizing that sexism is still around and still impacting people.”

    Brilliant! Because of the cultural communities I grew up in, it took me a long time to be comfortable calling myself a feminist. Luckily, I have expanded my community and ditched the toxic parts.

    Proud to be a feminist!

    • Amandalikeshummus

      There’s also important history to why feminist is a “bad word.” There was a targeted campaign to make it so, in order to dismiss the concerns. Not using the word, to me, is bowing down to that patriarchal system.

  • Jan

    The LW is pretty vague in their description of what’s actually happening… but… I’m… struggling… to envision how one can be a feminist in deed, yet balk at the mere mention of feminist concepts and decry any attempt at a conversation about them as being “pushy” or play a “trump card”. I just… that’s not a thing. Like, at all.

    Agreeing with feminist ideology and generally trying to act as a feminist, but at times falling into the common traps of the patriarchy (not pulling your weight when it come to emotional labor, pushing household chores onto your wife, etc.) is one thing. Especially if you are willing to reflect when it’s brought to your attention. But outright refusing to acknowledge your wife’s concerns about gender roles and the dynamics of your marriage, and somehow you still get to be all about equality, or whatever? Nah. Hard pass.

    • toomanybooks

      Yeah, his sounds like a real “all lives matter” philosophy :/

      • Jan

        Merp. :(

    • Amandalikeshummus

      Yeah, I really don’t like when people say they believe in equality, then when equality is specifically requested, call it special treatment.

  • toomanybooks

    Pretending sexism/misogyny doesn’t exist and acting like feminism is a whiny trump card is, I’m gonna say it, gaslighting. Maybe dude’s gaslighting himself too! Maybe he’s ignorant! But he’s gotta learn. The willingness to listen and learn is what would make him NOT A MISOGYNIST.

    Honestly, I think you tell him he has to learn. Maybe you guys do counseling together, maybe he like, I don’t know, takes a class or a workshop or something. Maybe he gets cracking on a reading list. I don’t know what it’s going to take.

    The reason he doesn’t like feminist terms is that he finds them threatening to his supremacy. So no, he doesn’t get to be married to a woman and dismiss feminism (I know misogynists are frequently married to women, but hi, the women don’t deserve that and I say it has to change). Make an effort to have any empathy for your wife/half the population, dude.

    And it should be clear by now, but LW, you’re not being a nagging harridan or whatever you’re worried about being.

    • Jan

      Yes.

      Also, and I freaking hate suggesting that women do the work to help the dudes in their lives learn how to not be assholes, but perhaps LW should broach this topic outside of an argument, away from the subject of their own relationship, and just as a general conversation about women and feminism. Then work their way up. Sort of like how one might imagine Barney the Dinosaur teaching a child about the patriarchy.

    • Spot

      Exactly. I have a very hard time believing that someone who plugs their ears and shrieks “LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU” when there’s any perceived criticism of the powers that be or his identity (cuz let’s be real, that’s what the knee-jerk derisive reaction is really about) is a “feminist in deed.” But then, the bar can be so incredibly low.

      On a more basic level, engaging with someone on such a level of bad faith–that it’s all just made-up social currency you’re using to “win” over him, “buzzwords” are meaningless and exist to annoy him–sounds exhausting and demoralizing.

  • Kara E

    A thought: Sometimes language and labels (and generalities) can undermine the conversation one really wants to have. It sounds like maybe language is getting in the way for you guys too. And while your relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum any more than anyone else’s, are the “fights” in terms of of problems and their impact on you? Or as an example of bigger societal patterns? I can easily see how one would feel like one was being blamed for millennia of others’ bad acts and that just undermining the issue you really want to resolve.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Yesss!!!!! On one hand, being aware of systematic influences on our lives and the lives of those around us is important. On the other hand, if every time I didn’t refill the water basin in the office Keurig, my Hispanic co-worker started lecturing about white privilege, I’d probably tune her out pretty quickly.

      I think that same concept applies here.

      Because you know, maybe white privilege DOES make me blind to the Keurig’s water levels. Maybe male privilege DOES make my husband think it’s okay to eat the last bowl of cereal without adding it to the grocery list. But bringing all of that in to the discussion is a little like bringing up the time that someone forgot your birthday in 2003. True or not, it’s going to derail the topic at hand pretty quickly, and the person at the other end is going to be way too busy feeling browbeaten by something they can’t do anything about to listen to the thing that they CAN do something about.

  • Anon

    So now I feel super un-domestic because my partner is the super-clean one in our relationship. He does the dishes immediately upon finishing eating- like he’ll eat his last bite and start cleaning. I, on the other hand, would rather do anything OTHER than the dishes within an hour of eating. I know, I’m terrible.

  • Anna

    I agree that he’s your husband, so it’s none of our business. Everyone’s their worst during an argument. How is your husband when you discuss feminism outside of an argument? Feminism is such a large concept, so even if your argument could be categorized as feminism, it’s much more helpful to tie the behavior with the individual reason instead of with the greater cause. It’s like if you said, “I can’t eat cake – America’s getting fat.” Yes, we’re earning 70 cents on the dollar, but you might need to talk at his level & explain instead of saying one word which says it all (to some audiences). For instance, here’s a recent conversation fail I had. Husband, ” I can’t get groceries this week. I’m busy.” Me, “I’m busy too.” I got the groceries anyway & was so mad. Later, we had a conversation, and I stated that I didn’t have time to get groceries b/c I had enough on my plate, do enough house work and have a very busy job. He said he’d get the groceries from now on, and he could have gotten them later in the week if I had waited. Clearly, this was a communication fail on my part. This could be categorized as “feminism,” but using that one term would not explain to him, “By putting an unfair amount of house and family tasks on me, you’re causing me to not have enough time and mental energy at work which is part of the reason it’s hard for women to have big careers.” Also, I’m not offering him to be a part of the solution. If I added, “by getting groceries (and other household tasks), you’re allowing me to do well at work and be balanced, happy and enthusiastic at home. You are being a fantastic husband and helping reduce gender inequality!” I’ve invited him to be part of the solution instead of saying one word which blames/shames him and which I expect him to fully understand.