Does romance kill feminism?

On my way to the station this morning, encumbered by my gym kit and sizeable handbag, I walked behind a man and a woman. Both in their mid to late twenties they were obviously in love. Not in an icky ‘eww get a room’ kind of way, just touching finger tips, walking closer than necessary… you know what I mean. I had followed them for about 5 minutes before I spotted that the man was carrying the woman’s handbag.

My first instinctive thought? How sweet – a gentleman.

My second consciously formed thought? Hmmm… is that anti-feminist? Can she not carry it herself? It’s half the size of mine, is she letting the side down?

It’s a question I am still toying with, and have been all morning. I am in a new relationship myself and pretty loved up. He calls me his Feminist Girlfriend, but insists on paying for everything. I fight the good fight enough to make my point without seeming rude and reckon that when it all boils down we probably end up paying for half of everything each. But he still believes he should be buying my lunch each time, not the other way around. He also carried my gym bag to the station last week (in my defence I had two bags, and he had none….)

So should women let themselves be treated like this? Is it acceptable to demand equality on one count and enjoy being spoilt in our own time? Can feminists expect or accept gentlemanly gestures without in some way undermining the larger quest for equality?

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – both from men and women – so please add them in the comments section.


12 responses to “Does romance kill feminism?

  1. Simple.
    Accept, yes.
    Appreciate, yes.
    Expect, no.
    Feel entitled to, no.

  2. I don’t think romance kills feminism. I think it can impact on the strength of your own personal boundaries, however.

    That aside, I think you’re getting caught up in details instead of looking at the larger picture. You say “treated like this” as if it’s a bad thing for a man to want to extend a courtesy to a woman. How is this a bad thing?

    The larger picture is not just equality. The larger picture is living in harmony together. This includes equality of the sexes. Equality of the sexes does not preclude the art of courtship.

    I think perhaps you need to worry about more glaring examples of chauvinism/sexism such as the language of derision. “You big girl’s blouse” “Don’t be such a girl about it.” “You’re such a woman.” When did it become a bad thing to be female and why do we ascribe negative connotations to that? That’s what I’d like to know. I don’t care about the issues you’ve stated above.

  3. @pixel8ted good points. I was mulling over “you run like a girl” yesterday… shall give it some more thought and write about it soon.

  4. You ask is it acceptable to demand equality on one count and enjoy being spoilt in our own time? My answer? Absolutely YES 🙂
    I don’t count myself as a feminist and I don’t advocate sexism either. But this is simply a man being courteous and nothing more sinister. End of.

  5. Have to say I am rather pleased with the opinions on this one. My guilt is gone and I shall greatly enjoy letting The Boy take my bag/let me through doors first in future 🙂

  6. On a whole it’s a very interesting arguement, but I’m all for my husband carrying the heavy backpack when we are travelling or the heaviest of the shopping bags from the car to the house. I don’t think it is an indication of how feminist I am.

    It’s not that he thinks I can’t do it for myself and I certainly don’t expect that he does it. It’s all about being courteous of each other I think, it’s just one of the ways that he shows me he cares.

  7. Can someone please explain to me how I can get Mr Kitty to carry my handbag?! He’ll hold it for a few moments if I’m putting on a coat or something, but holds it at arm’s length like it’s something evil!

  8. I believe feminism is about women helping each other (and themselves) find their voice, their strength and to support each others’ contributions in society and in their communities.

    It’s about protecting women from unhealthy conditions & making sure their liberties are not diminished.

    Men have the same rights – if their good qualities are not respected and nurtured (protecting his woman and/or family, supporting and helping them – including carrying her bags), then woman are doing to men what we are accusing them doing to us.

    You take away some of their purpose, and you either 1) turn a man into a woman (by emasculating them) or 2) turn them into selfish mean people. Who do you want to date/marry/be friends/work with?

    Men and women both need a voice and each have and important role in the community. We need hunters & gatherers & we each need the right to decide who we will be.

    I like it when my husband carries my bags, just like I like to cook dinner for him – but he listens to my thoughts and respects me. He likes that I’m strong, smart and an advocate for women’s causes.

    I don’t think romance kills feminism. Look at Gloria Steinem. She found a wonderful man and I don’t think it diminished her role as an advocate for women’s causes.

    Another great post!

  9. Question back from Feminist to Feminist – why can’t we accept that sometimes guys who love us just want to be nice (or do something romantic) because they want to be nice – (or do something romantic), without thinking we’re weak?

  10. So, I don’t think there’s a problem in principle with this. I think there’s a difference between “he offers to carry my bag, how sweet” and “he thinks I can’t carry my bag”. Though I think I would feel slightly patronised if he kept insisting on doing it.

    On the paying for stuff front, I totally agree that paying half is right for all sorts of reasons, not just feminist ones. If it was me, after the first few times having to “fight the good fight”, I’d be saying “look, I want this to be an equal relationship and for me that means paying equally – so can we agree to take turns?”.

    I guess I would differ from Kristin (and I may be reading more into her position than is fair) in that I wouldn’t see bag-carrying as a particularly male role or cooking as a particularly female role. Sometimes I carry bags for my other half, sometimes she carries them for me, and we share the cooking, including cooking romantic dinners. So maybe the question is: would you feel happy carrying his bag for him? If so, there’s no sexism involved.

  11. Interesting question. Here’s another view… injury? I consider myself an activist (does that make me a feminist?) but, I have a very badly injured back. You can’t tell by looking at me, but my husband (or daughter!) carry things for me all the time. Does my injury make me weak? I think living our values makes us humanists – whether feminist or whatever – we hopefully live in our communities doing ‘with’ and ‘for’ each other, not ‘to’ each other.

  12. It would be a great shame if feminism meant that you couldn’t help your partner out every now and again. Or all the time.

    I bet the lady having her bag carried does loads to help her man.

    And hey, great that he had no objections to carrying what was obviously a lady’s handbag….

    I liked Tom’s comment right at the start of this, about appreciating but not expecting. Same goes for help from any party.

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