To be or not to be: A Princess or an Equal?

While scarfing down some breakfast in between classes this morning, I read this post at Gender Across Borders. For the link-phobes, it talks about the issue of feminist relationships, and the difficulties navigating an equal relationship. In the comments I noticed a common theme popping up, that tends to pop up in these sorts of conversations. If certain commenters are to be believed, ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement:

Ladies, you can either be a princess, or you can have a completely equal relationship with your partner.

Gentlemen: you can either treat your significant other to dinner, hold doors open for them, or, treat them like your dudebro friends.

Got that?

Because feminism, apparently, has just ruined dating rituals and “chivalry.”

It’s a zero-sum game-either guys can do nice things for the women they are dating, or they can treat them as full equal beings in an equal relationship.

Notice how this idea completely leaves out LGBTQI partnerships. Unless you say that only one person in a relationship can be a “princess.” But that leaves out the assumptions about gender roles and expected gendered behavior in these relationships.

Also take notice of how this idea does not address women’s sweet-nothings for their partner. It assumes that women either “do” nothing for their partners (except put out, but that doesn’t count, of course!), or, it assumes that in an equal relationship, women continue to “do” the things they do (are expected to do? like to do?) while men no longer need to “do” anything.

**note: What I mean by the things men and women “do” in relationship is just those little things that people do for the person that care about. Not necessarily purchase-related things, note that door-holding is one of the Big Examples are used in this conversation. Money isn’t, or rather, shouldn’t be important in a relationship. But showing your affection and appreciation for your partner does help to make a healthy, solid relationship, and is what I’m referring to here.

I feel like I’m pointing out the obvious, but you do not have to choose between having an ‘equal’ relationship or showing affection/sweet nothings/showing common courtesy for your partner. This is not a zero sum game.

What does an equal partnership mean, if one or both parties refuse to do things for one another?

Along the course of this “debate” the meaning of equal seems to have been lost, or rather, co-opted by those that do not wish to put forth effort in a relationship, yet reap the benefits. If the actual definition of an ‘equal relationship’ were used, we would not be having this conversation. In an equal relationship, you do not keep a tally of who does what for whom. In an equal relationship, you do not “owe” your partner for them having done something nice for you. An equal relationship does not mean that you trade action for action, gift for gift, or favor for favor. In an equal relationships, gifts and favors are given freely, not with strings.

Relationships featuring gifts with strings is an unequal relationship–the old fashioned dressed up and garnished with a pretty title: “He Treats You Like a Princess.”


About Brittany-Ann
Brittany-Ann is a proud, self-identified feminist with fictional tendencies. She currently writes for and moderates at My Fault I'm Female. She smokes camels, reads Dumas, and navigates a conservative state as "one of them darn liberals."

4 Responses to To be or not to be: A Princess or an Equal?

  1. JeninCanada says:

    Great post! My hubby and I are trying very hard to have an actual equal relationship but it’s hard to get passed all the gender roles and societal expectations.

  2. Yinka says:

    First reaction of a guy dealing with impotence is to make excuses or avoid sexual circumstances with his partner in an effort to overlook about the condition. This tendency can frequently leave the partner feeling unloved, unattractive and unwanted.

  3. TJ says:

    If it’s truly feminists, it must be gender-blind. So, it should end up being 50/50, whether it be opening doors, paying for dates, being the one to go and fetch and pull up the car for the other person in bad weather, giving the other a coat or jacket, whatever it is. If it’s him doing more of those things, yeah, you’re a princess not a feminist.

    • Brittany-Ann says:

      So are we creating a measuring stick now, for feminists?

      Look, relationships ARE gender blind, in their basic form. Relationships, however, do not occur in a vacuum. Each partner has been culturally conditioned to behave by societies expectations of their gender, race, sexuality, (dis)ability, and religion. That will affect the relationship. One person cannot change the other’s behavior. If you want to gauge whether or not someone is a feminist, you have to go by their beliefs and actions. You can’t gauge someone’s philosophy by the behavior of someone else. That’s absolutely ludicrous.

      This post was heavily dosed with sarcasm. I’m sorry you missed it. If, following the cultural trope, a man holds doors, picks up tabs, to show his affection, that is his choice. A feminist woman, in this case, if she is uncomfortable with it and suspects he is doing only what is expected of him, might wish to talk to him. If after this conversation, he still wishes to do these things, then they are simply a show of affection, and nothing more. Certainly not an indication of his partner’s feminism.

      All aside, who says “princesses” cannot be feminists? Feminism is not a single monolithic movement, with a litmus test to be accepted.

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