#GirlTalk is SheThePeople’s advice column. Have a question? Send it to us girltalk@shethepeople.tv – It can be anonymous if you’d like it that way. Women from different walks of life share advice and their personal experience to help you overcome your own. Today’s question is answered by Sushruti.

Dear Girl Talk

I have a question on first dates. Is it okay to be my feminist self on a first date?

-First Date Girl

Dear First Date Girl

The process of getting to know someone better can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re simultaneously the interviewer and the interviewee. You’re trying to present your most authentic self, hoping the other person is doing the same, and that maybe something clicks. That can be a lot of pressure for a first date, so it is natural that we worry about what we should and shouldn’t do.

There cannot be a one size fits all formula for a first date because every individual is different and no two people connect in exactly the same way at an emotional level. So, the best way to answer questions about first dates is following some general good practices.

The general good practice I’ve found helpful for expressing my feminism is patience.

Feminism is essentially believing in the equality of all genders. That should never be something you have to feel apologetic about or have to hide. It is an admirable quality to have and can often be a deal-breaker for many people if their partners are not feminist.

Having said that, it is also undeniable that feminism as a term carries with it stereotypes and prejudices – the most common being that all feminists are men-haters. Not true, but a popular perception nevertheless.

It doesn’t help that sometimes we’re so wary of men that the first red flag of potential sexism makes us question them or even assume that they are going to be a certain way. For example, if he insists on paying for dinner, it may not always mean that he thinks women are incapable of paying for themselves.

Or if she talks about patriarchy and feminism on the first date, it is only going to “get worse” later and he will never have a say in anything because she’s the woman and therefore always right.

Sigh.

There’s a great deal of friendly misinformation thrown into this mix. Like friends that encourage the man to be chivalrous if he wants to be liked or that expound as gospel truth that all women like to be taken care of and that is what they’re looking for.

Underneath all of these stereotypes, prejudices, and magazine advice is the person you really want to get to know better. The first date, is only a start to the process. What I have found to work over the years based on personal experience and those of the people around me (irrespective of their gender/sexual identity) is to let the first date steer clear of potential misunderstandings.

Find common ground.

Things to discuss that help you learn about the other person but are not confrontational; because we are bound to react differently when confronted by a person we do not know well, but are also trying to gauge while trying to be impressive to them simultaneously. That stress is best avoided initially.

Pick books or music. Or food! (personal favourite topic). Life experiences make for great conversations too. There are many things to talk about that can make you both feel comfortable enough for the deeper and more meaningful discussions that may follow later. There are people who have had their perspectives changed by their partners on many issues, including feminism, because they were open to honest discussions and willing to change for those they cared about. There will be time for those discussions once you have a certain basic understanding of the other person. So I guess the bottom line is that there’s no rush. If he insists on paying the bill, and you like him enough, tell him you’ll pick up the tab next time (also an excellent way to ensure a second date!). Allow yourselves the space to discover the intention behind those actions. It doesn’t make you sexist if you don’t object to it right then.

If there’s a discussion about patriarchy, discuss it. You don’t have to hide your views. Just make sure you leave space for the other person to ask questions or have disagreements that you can both work around later. Agree to disagree on something you find you’re both too opinionated about. Or park it for date number three (it gives you more opportunities to meet and truly understand each other).

You don’t have to worry about whether you’re being feminist or not on your first date. Because you are a feminist. It is a good thing. And not explicitly stating it on a first date will not change it. It will inevitably come across and if that’s a problem for your date later, well, you can part ways and you know you gave it a good shot.

I hope that helps lessen the confusion a little and here’s to hoping you have a great time

Sushruti

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