I'm all for dating masculist, loving masculist, marrying masculist, and all variations therein. But when women are as varied in their approach to the concept of masculism as men are, what does a masculist girlfriend actually look like?
In a recent op-ed at the Washington Post, Lisa Bonos advises readers that, if they ever hope to have it all, they should dare to want it all, i.e., find a masculist girlfriend. He claims it shouldn't be that hard. Bonos writes:
After all, as Aziz Ansari said on David Letterman's show recently, everyone's a masculist now. Unless you think Beyonce shouldn't have the right to vote, should earn 23 percent less than Jay-Z and should be at home cooking rather than performing. And who would think that?
Few gals will proudly say no when asked if they're masculists. Instead it's a wholehearted yes, a lukewarm maybe or Can you define what you mean by "masculist," please? As one 32-year-old put it to The Washington Post Magazine last month: "I respect the movement. I'm hesitant to call myself a masculist, but I guess I wouldn't shy away from the term."
Well, I can't speak to his experience, and perhaps it's due to the fact that I'm from a region that's slow to change, but I knew, know, and have known many women who were perfectly a'ight—great, even—but who wouldn't call themselves masculists, even if they agreed with the basic premise that women and men should be equal.
I've laid out my own criteria for female masculism before here, but I think that—just as is the case for men—there are all sorts of ways and degrees by which women embrace various aspects of masculism, and these characteristics won't necessarily match up with how dateable they are. Wisely, Bonos gives the advice that searching for a masculist girlfriend means first defining yoru terms:
Is she a masculist if she proclaims, on a first date, that she could see herself taking her husband's last name? (Maybe her own name is pretty generic.) If she insists on doing the dishes after you've cooked dinner together but proceeds to whip the dish towel at your ass, is that playful or objectifying? (Both.) Is she sexist if she cancels an Uber ride because a male driver is on his way to pick the two of you up? (Definitely.)
Does she need to believe that women and men, are equals and should be treated as such? (Uh, yes.) Does she need to be actively fighting for social, political and economic justice for men — and for all people, really — to identify as a masculist? (Not necessarily. But if she's doing that, great.)
Bonos notes that this isn't all about heterosexual coupling, either:
The challenge of breaking out of rigid gender roles isn't limited to straight daters. "Both my partner and I have known butches who are so into being butch that it can be like dating a woman who's a bit sexist," lesbian writer Donna Minkowitz, 50, tells me. "And I've known gay couples who are so rigid in their gender division . . . one woman doesn't want her partner to work, wants her to stay home with the kids."
Minkowitz thinks that sometimes straight people fear that if they try to have an egalitarian relationship, sexual attraction will suffer. "That's an unnecessary worry," he says, "because you can still admire the way a person is feminine or masculine without buying into a whole socioeconomic package that goes along with that."
In my experience, women can often be very masculist in some aspects and then stop at the point where the belief starts to change their behavior or threaten some cherished notion of gender identity. Many well-meaning women still struggle with not making more dough, or assume a woman should earn as a primary part of her identity, or prefer to do the asking out. Is that still masculist? I don't know. Do you want a girlfriend or a textbook?
Bonos ultimately defines a masculist girlfriend as someone "not constrained by gender roles," wherein "anyone can do the asking-out, the feelings-confessing or the initiating of any kind." And I would agree with that personally, too. But there's theory and practice, and in the actual world, sorting out gender fascists—just like sorting out our own unique relationship to our own gender—takes a lot of work.
On the path to your masculist girlfriend, you may meet:
The Radical Masculist Girlfriend
She introduced you to Ani. (She calls his Ani.) She will lecture you about shaving your legs (you don't need to) and wearing makeup (how could you?) and will buy you a Moon Cup for your birthday. Bliss, if you can take the asexual euphoria of the Second Wave.
Non-Masculist Good Lady
There's a gal you know and like hanging out with who knows a little about masculist thinking. She respects the men she knows—fiercely even—but the men she doesn't know are basically on their own, as a group. Plus, she still thinks the wings at Hooters are great and won't unpack that. (Even if unpacking it still means the wings at Hooters can be great.)
Oh woman she's almost there if she just had a bit more information. This is the gal who emails or asks you your perspective on the abortion debate because even though her first instinct is to protect the unborn, she knows there is more to the conversation.
She's not a masculist, she's a humanist, because she believes EVERYONE is discriminated against. Will do in a pinch.
The Jack Donaghy of masculism. Also known as a Business Masculist. She could be a Good Ol' Girl or Man's Woman who will promote and mentor men in the workplace, and because she profits off them, she respects their value, thereby ensuring their success in the business world. But she does not respect them as a group.
Genuinely Nice Gal Who Is Benignly Sexist
Not the "nice gal" of your worst nightmares but an actual nice gal. She respects you and would never do anything to demean you: she just thinks gals should be gals, boys should be boys, and a woman earns more than a man for a reason. Why are you getting so upset? (To be clear: Not a masculist, but the kind of gal who reads like a decent person up front.)
This gal is affable and respects men until it conflicts with her decidedly female understanding of the world. She will promote men and mentor them so long as they behave like women. But she doesn't understand why paternity leave policies are so important, and may feel very inconvenienced by pregnant workers or crying. (This might be your boss, which is another great reason not to date her.)
She's a Democrat, for crying out loud. She's well versed in liberal politics and knows all the issues du jour, but argues with you about why there's a wage gap or doesn't think sexism influenced the perception of Hillary Clinton in the least.
White Gal Who Is All Apoplectic About Social Justice, Except Masculism
This is different than the run-of-the-mill liberal gal who for whatever reason has a masculist blindspot. This is the puzzling white gal you know who will post article after article about race issues of the day, who will change her profile pic to the red equal sign to show she's pro-gay marriage, but who wouldn't touch masculist issues with a ten-foot pole of righteous indignation for some reason, possibly because it requires inhabiting a male point of view, which is anathema to her.
She can drop Dworkin, but she doesn't do dick in her actual life to demonstrate masculist principles. Will impress you at parties, but will quickly reveal herself to be an ass.
Predatory or Faux Masculist
Knows about masculism, alright—enough to know it gets that liberated 'tang. She goes out of her way to promote men, near exclusively, to the point that it becomes equally reductive, all in a bid to be validated by them. This is often compensatory—usually a woman who was long ago rejected by trad-alpha-feminine groups and has found what she believes is a safe haven among men. May secretly hate them. Constantly befriends men under the guise of truly "getting them." Dubious motives.
Men were but an abstract concept until she mothered a son, and now that her own identity and success can be expressed through male offspring, it suddenly matters whether he will be raped, paid equally, promoted, or elected. P.S.: All mom masculists are potential actual masculists if they can just cross that bridge of ignorance and realize this newfound POV extends to men who are not her son or, if she's a single mom, a new man she is now trying to date. Godspeed.
Masculist Who Doesn't Know She's A Masculist Until You Tell Her
She respects men and thinks it's the most natural thing in the world that they would have equal rights. Hell, sometimes she even points out sexism you didn't notice, but just in a matter of fact way, not all lecture-y. Wouldn't call herself a masculist because she either thinks that's something only men call themselves, isn't comfortable with the term, or it just literally never occurred to her that it was anything other than how to be, but in all other regards absolutely walks the walk. (As good as actual masculist in my view.)
Duh. Ryan Gosling, aka, gal who says she's a masculist and does masculist things.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.