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January 14 2015

Why Most Women Don't Want a Feminist Boyfriend

Huffington Post - Women
Karin Agness

Opinion pages brim with self-help advice this time of year -- from dieting and exercise to how to make those resolutions stick. Some will even include advice most readers never knew they needed. A recent Washington Post column, for example, offered tips on how to find a feminist boyfriend.

It's unlikely that most Americans--and particularly most women--are hoping to attract a feminist mate in 2015. Only 20 percent of Americans, including just 16 percent of men and 23 percent of women, self-identify as feminists.

There was a day when being a self-proclaimed feminist signaled to society that a person believed women deserved equal rights and opportunities. Today, American feminism has largely abandoned its egalitarian roots to focus instead on debates that pit men and women against each other. Its brand has been tarnished.

While its leaders talk about empowerment, their actions convey the opposite. Take the effort to ban the word "bossy" in the name of helping girls achieve. Or the attempts to sell a "war on women" narrative to scare women into voting for more government assistance. And don't forget Cosmopolitan magazine sending male models in a party bus to recruit women to go to the polls as if women aren't smart enough to vote on issues.

Do women really want someone associated with such insulting efforts?

Today's feminism has become an exercise in groupthink. Anyone who questions feminist orthodoxy faces criticism. Most recently, actress Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, who reportedly earns $1 million per episode as one of the highest paid actresses on TV, joined the ranks of celebrities who walked back their rejection of the feminist label. During an interview with Redbook magazine, she didn't embrace the feminist label. After public pressure, she issued a clarifying statement through Instagram.

Of course, when it comes to finding a mate, many women will hope to find someone who shares their values. And having a feminist boyfriend might sound idyllic to some -- a partner with whom to go to protests, discuss the latest Lena Dunham headline, and strategize how to "lean in."

But many single women are hoping for someone who doesn't view the world through the prism of win-lose struggles between the sexes.

Yes, a feminist boyfriend may have read Lean In and cheered during Beyoncé's performance in front of a large "FEMINIST" display at the 2014 VMAs. But has he studied the scholarship or is he aware of the research on women's preferences beyond just succeeding at the workplace?

After all, not all working moms prefer full-time work. According to a Pew study, only 37 percent of today's working moms and 22 percent of non-working moms prefer full-time work. And that's ok.

Today, most women have the chance to live their lives according to their preferences. Choice doesn't mean all women are going to choose full-time careers. Women should look for a man who believes in truly empowering women in their career choices -- including the choice to slow down or even opt out of a full-time career. And someone who will support her however she chooses to "lean in," whether in business suits leading meetings at the office or in sweatpants pushing strollers at the playground.

To the original feminists fighting for equality for women, America in 2015 would probably have looked like the promised land.

Fewer obstacles than ever before stand in the way of women wanting to pursue careers and climb the corporate ladder at whatever speed they choose. And men are taking on more housework and childcare. The options for women to balance their lives have never been better.

I'd guess that the original feminists -- fighting for women's equality decades ago -- wouldn't have recognized today's gender wars. And even they probably wouldn't have wanted a man who would appeal to today's self-proclaimed feminists.

Karin Agness is a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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