Dear Sexist Ex-Boyfriend,
Do you remember me? It's OK if you don't. A lot of time has passed, and you've probably said sexist things to any number of women by now. It's been eight whole years since we first crossed paths. Can you believe it? Almost a decade ago! I hadn't even joined Twitter when we had our first date. We were so young we still thought 30 was old. Now I am 30. I think you're 33?
When we first met, I was 22. You told me I was cute before you even asked my name. Cute is such an interesting word. It's non-threatening, like a baby kitten who can barely walk. I was completing a master's degree in gender studies at The London School of Economics when we started talking at a party. You teased me about studying gender, as though joking about how you should start a "meninist" movement were original or clever. I was young and insecure. Your negging worked on me. I temporarily mistook your misogyny for witty banter. It's a mistake I wouldn't make today.
You were a tall, privileged white guy. You wore only collared shirts and dress pants, like the parody of an Ivy League student in a bad movie. Your loafers always looked as if they had recently been shined. You studied international relations, but it didn't "speak to" you. You wanted to work for a hedge fund. Money spoke to you. The only reason you hadn't studied economics was because you weren't very good at math. For some reason, you didn't think that would get in the way of your career in finance, though.
You kissed me for the first time at a Tesco. We were getting snacks on the way home from the party where we were introduced. We were hungry because the only food our host had served us was stale crackers. I was trying to tell you a zany story about getting lost while trying to find my hotel on a trip to Thailand. You interrupted me by putting your lips on my mouth. I'm still not sure if you really wanted to kiss me, or if you just didn't care enough to listen to me.
For the next few months, I dated you because you made me think it was a compliment that you wanted to date me. You made me think you could have your pick of girls, and that I was privileged you'd deigned to spend time with me at all. You didn't even give me a birthday present, but somehow you convinced me your presence in my life was my present.
Our three-month relationship was a bit of a bore. You refused to watch any movie with a woman in the lead. You even chided me for having a regular Coke one time — not because you knew of Coca Cola's problematic labour practices and felt I should boycott the product, but because it had too many calories. After I chided you for policing my caloric intake, your poker buddies referred to me as "the feminazi." They didn't care that label was both sexist and anti-Semitic.
Eventually, we broke up. It wasn't anywhere near the most painful breakup of my life. I didn't love you, so I knew I could cope with your absence. Perhaps you knew I'd get over you quickly. Perhaps you didn't like that, because as you were leaving my home, you got nasty.
"Sarah," you spat during our final conversation, "Please stop being a feminist." You paused for effect before you added, "No man will ever marry you if you continue being a feminist."
You seemed to think my feminism was a phase, like that time I wore headbands every day for a year. You acted like my feminism was an outfit I could take off and discard. You didn't realize it was impossible for me to stop being a feminist. In order to stop being a feminist, I'd have had to stop being me.
I wasn't even sure I wanted to get married when you threatened me with an unmarried eternity. As if being a wife to a man is the most important thing a woman can be! Your heteronormative view of the world was so limited, so bloody unimaginative! To this day, I still fervently believe a woman does not need a husband (or a spouse of any gender) to be happy. I've always believed I could make a perfectly good life for myself all by myself. Nonetheless, I balked at your suggestion that feminism made me unmarriageable to any man I'd meet. I knew I could have a husband if that was what I wanted.
I resented that you thought you could change who I was by threatening me with spinsterhood. Singleness doesn't scare me for a minute. But a life without feminism does. I've always known a life based on gender inequality isn't worth living. I wanted a partner in crime, not a master to serve.
Well, my dear sexist ex-boyfriend, I'd like you to know I am still the sort of feminist girl you believed wasn't worthy of being a man's wife. I go to rallies protesting rape culture. I sign petitions about tampon taxes. I do not believe the wage gap is a myth. I didn't change myself to be more attractive to a man, but that doesn't mean I couldn't find one who was attracted to me.
You may be surprised to hear I am engaged now. We're getting married this October at a venue we chose together. There will be dancing and a cake. I bought a gorgeous dress with a train, but I will not be taking his last name.
My feminism is actually one of the reasons my fiancé fell in love with me. He adores my snarky commentaries about the objectification of women on popular TV. He's proud when I attend anti-racism rallies. He shares my intersectional critiques of Hollywood movies on social media. He would never expect my career to take a backseat to his.
Of course, while I would have been content to live as an unattached person with her feminist beliefs intact, I am happy to be marrying someone who shares my values. I'm happy I found someone who supports me, with whom to watch Netflix in bed for the rest of my life; however, I'm happiest that I did not have to give up any part of myself to find him.
I'm just writing to let me know you couldn't bully me into abandoning my feminist identity. Your sexism only hurts you, it could never break me.