Contrary to popular opinion, feminism and romance are not incompatible and feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships, according to Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan, from Rutgers University in the US. Their study1 also shows that unflattering feminist stereotypes, that tend to stigmatize feminists as unattractive and sexually unappealing, are unsupported. Rudman and Phelan’s work is published this week in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.
It is generally perceived that feminism and romance are in direct conflict. Rudman and Phelan’s work challenges this perception. They carried out both a laboratory survey of 242 American undergraduates and an online survey including 289 older adults, more likely to have had longer relationships and greater life experience. They looked at men’s and women’s perception of their own feminism and its link to relationship health, measured by a combination of overall relationship quality, agreement about gender equality, relationship stability and sexual satisfaction.
They found that having a feminist partner was linked to healthier heterosexual relationships for women. Men with feminist partners also reported both more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction. According to these results, feminism does not predict poor romantic relationships, in fact quite the opposite.
The authors also tested the validity of feminist stereotypical beliefs amongst their two samples, based on the hypothesis that if feminist stereotypes are accurate, then feminist women should be more likely to report themselves as being single, lesbian, or sexually unattractive, compared with non-feminist women.
Rudman and Phelan found no support for this hypothesis amongst their study participants. In fact, feminist women were more likely to be in a heterosexual romantic relationship than non-feminist women. The authors conclude that feminist stereotypes appear to be inaccurate, and therefore their unfavorable implications for relationships are also likely to be unfounded.
1 Rudman LA & Phelan JE (2007). The interpersonal power of feminism: is feminism good for romantic relationships" Sex Roles (DOI 10.1007/s11199-007-9319-9);
The full-text article is available to journalists as a pdf.