“I hate feminists,” he’d say. “It’s a load of rubbish, women always moaning." I’m not quite sure how long I tolerated his ignorance, but I know that it was far too long. At first I could just sort of laugh it off, like he must be joking. Of course he doesn’t think feminism is ridiculous. Shouldn’t we all be feminists at the end of the day? He must agree that I should be paid the same as a man who does the same job as me. He must agree that rape culture is real, that a man probably could never understand the daily harassment women face. Surely he knows that equality still does not exist. After a while, it stopped being funny. Does this person who is supposed to love and respect me really not think these things?
Evidently not. I partly blame myself. I had never been very vocal with my beliefs. Maybe because I wasn’t very educated on the subject until recent years. I didn’t like confrontation and I didn’t like arguments, so it was easier to avoid talking at all than to stand up for what I believe in. I remember once telling him a story I had read about a girl being sexually assaulted after falling asleep on a train. He responded with a question, something along the lines of “What was she wearing?” I thought, what an odd question. “Why would it matter what she was wearing?” I said. “Well, if she was dressed like a slag then she probably brought it on herself.” He must be joking. He can’t really be serious. And this, for me, completely summed up the problem.
Needless to say, I am no longer with the person I am referring to. I am a very open-minded person and can appreciate that different people have different beliefs and different values. But to devalue feminism is to devalue women altogether. I suppose I could say I have always been a feminist, because a feminist is defined as a person who believes in social, political and economic equality of the sexes. If that makes me a feminist, then I guess that's always been true. However, I was not really passionate about feminism until my ex tried to undermine it. Undermining feminism is undermining me.
At first, I decided we shouldn’t speak about the subject, as we clearly felt differently about it. Looking back, I think to myself, how could you have stayed with someone who didn’t take you and what you believed seriously? He didn’t necessarily have to completely agree, but he should have had the decency to respect my feelings towards feminism. I let him get away with his ignorance for far too long before I started fighting back, but it was too late to bring him back from him stubbornness. I also blamed the other women in his life, namely his mother. How could you bring your son up to think this way? My ex had very little respect for his mother, and therefore little respect for women in general. I had never seen anyone speak to their mother the way he spoke to her. I was honestly disgusted. I should have escaped then, but of course I was blinded by love. Unfortunately because of this, he will probably never respect women, and if he ever has a daughter, god help her. Writing this, I feel relief more than ever that I am no longer in this toxic relationship (which I was in for six long years).
I was not really passionate about feminism until my ex tried to undermine it. Undermining feminism is undermining me.
It’s amazing what clarity can come with a breakup. I would never have described my relationship as toxic. We loved each other for a while, we had fun and we didn’t argue much. But the toxicity doesn’t need to be on the surface, in fact it was very much underneath the surface. I look back and see the manipulation and how I let someone make me feel to blame for his mistakes. Madness.
If you knew me, one of the last words you would use to describe me is weak or naïve. My friends would say I’m headstrong, independent, smart, the list goes on. I would never let a man tell me what to do or make me cry. Ever. But I did let a man control me, without even realising it was happening. I wanted to end our relationship for about a year before I actually managed to do so. In that year, we went travelling and moved to another country together. All the while hoping that one of these adventures would make everything okay again. After almost 9 months of living together, I had reached the end of my tether. I no longer loved this person. He undermined everything that I cared about. I know that I am a strong, smart woman and he tried to make me weak.
I remember literally feeling the weight lift off of me as I decided to end the relationship. Freedom. And there was no going back. The manipulation continued after we ended things, however, I was much more aware of it, and he no longer had any power over me. Around six weeks after splitting up, we attempted to continue a friendship. This was going okay, until I met someone at a friend’s birthday. My ex went into meltdown mode and proceeded to follow my every move and ask me inappropriate questions after being out with my friends. He even privately messaged one of my friends to ask if I had gone home with anyone the night prior. As well as this, he decided to announce his love for me and that he was desperate to get back together. How convenient, I thought. You had six years to love me, and you decide to do so now. Lucky enough for me, I no longer loved him and had absolutely no desire to backtrack. I realized that I deserve so much better, and while I may a while off from finding that, I am content with being my own boyfriend for now. I know what I want and I can give it to myself without the need for acceptance.
I know now that I could never be with someone who doesn’t take feminism seriously. I know so many people have this misconception that all feminists are man-hating, bra-burning, ugly old women, and but a vast majority of us are just normal girls looking for a fair chance. Respect is so underrated. A man who doesn’t respect you is not a man. I can only hope that my children, boys or girls, will grow up with the right attitude, and not end up like my poor old ex and his ridiculous misconception.
I would like to end this by saying thank you. Thank you to him for making my passion for feminism come to life. Without him, I would not have realised just how important it is, and how important it is to stand up for it. Maybe we were together a little too long, but his ignorance has made me wiser and stronger. I can now strive for the best and not settle for anything less. Thank you.
Top photo: Mad Men/AMC
More from BUST