Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: On dating while ‘woke’

In February, I wrote about my struggles in the Atlanta dating scene and while my mental issues haven’t been a problem as of late, my latest escapades have caused me to do some reflection. Anyone that knows me or reads this column knows that I have strong feminist leanings. I don’t take any crap and I don’t think a person’s purpose in life can be defined by their genitalia and outward appearance. That said, as I was mulling over the last person that caught my eye, I had a realization.

I typically take a traditionally feminine role in my romantic relationships. I love the idea of getting dressed up for my boo and them telling me how pretty I am. I like the idea of cooking and cleaning for them. I like the idea of someone willing to take the lead and let me lay back, at times. There, I said it.

Writing that passage was painful and admitting this to myself was a lot. As an unapologetically Black feminist, I should be resistant to this type of role. I should be balking at the idea of being traditionally feminine. But, I’m not and for some reason, that bothers me. Heteronormative behavior is an issue in the LGBTQ community and I don’t want to promote it. As a queer woman, I have interacted with women that believe femmes are just around to serve them and be quiet while act out every toxic masculine behavior they learned from their daddies, brothers and uncles. As someone who likes masculine of center women, one of my biggest fears is falling for someone that hasn’t abandoned toxic masculinity. Domestic abuse is an oft ignored issue in the community and I’m not willing to be its next victim.

At the core, I think this boils down to vulnerability. As a queer person, I don’t want my sort of traditional femininity to be used against me. As a Black woman, I don’t want to be made into a mule and not be allowed to inhabit that femininity. I am proud of my intersectional existence but at times, it becomes a burden. Dating while “woke” is hard because you care if every move you make or preference upholds an oppressive system.

I talked with my friend about this and she summed it up for me. The roles themselves aren’t the problem. The issue begins when people are forced into them. When masculine people are pressured to spread toxic masculinity or femmes are forced into domestication, no one is truly happy. People should be allowed to do whatever comes natural for them. Balance is key, y’all. Wanting to learn my family’s biscuit recipe and possibly be a stay-at-home parent doesn’t mean I’m any less of a feminist. My choices might not be necessarily feminist but the fact that I’m able to choose is the blessing. Are my feelings about this settled? No. The word “submissive” still makes me want to puke. However, nothing is definite. But as a recovering control freak, I’m learning to enjoy the journey.