Feminism, Relationships, and The Rule of Reciprocity

Below are my three guiding principles for greater equality in a relationship.

There’s a lot of media going on around me right now. Nick has gotten in the habit of playing Fortnite while watching YouTube and TikTok videos. Outside in the back patio, it’s an instant relief as far as noise, only light rain, and the air conditioner. In Coatepeque, Guatemala, every afternoon, around 5:00 pm, lightning would crack nearby, and buckets of rain would crash onto the roof of the patio restaurant, a barrage of white noise such that you couldn’t hear the person sitting across from you. But it’s not that loud here. Not yet anyway.

I recently read Dear Ijeawelle, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Of the different books and articles I’ve read about feminism, Adichie offers advice which has become something of a guiding principle as I navigate what equality means to me. Adichie offers two Feminist Tools:

1. The basic feminist premise: I matter, equally

2. Can you reverse X situation, and get the same results?

These guiding principles need not only apply to women, of course. Both men and women can find themselves in relationships with an unfair premise based on a twisted interpretation of gender roles, and both genders can find themselves suppressed by these roles. It’s typically the woman who is down and out either because she’s a woman or because she’s taken a back seat, expecting the man to do all the heavy lifting. Neither situation is fair, and applying Adichie’s rules can be helpful for bothe men and women.

As Adichie wisely points out, equality is not about keeping score of who does the dishes or who drops the kids off at school. Or who earns the money. It’s about respect for one another’s effort, time, and attention. It’s about playing by the same rules.

To Adichie’s Feminist Tools, I will add one more thing:

3. Decide on a basic premise for your partner.

If the basic premise is, ‘I think my partner is responsible and acts in good faith,’ then it’s fair to expect the same vote of confidence, reciprocated. Of course, this implies that a negative premise for your partner requires some investigation. If you think your partner is truly irresponsible, for example, that’s a problem. A negative basic premise means there’s a lot more work to do before anything like fairness can exist. Where there is no fairness, there is no peace.

Captain Marvel and Fun with Extended Metaphors

I have now arrived at what has become my favorite activity during the week. For about an hour, I get to sit outside in my lawn chair underneath a colorful open sky in what has lately become a cool Florida breeze all. At the same time, B and P partake in the joys of dribbling, passing, and kicking soccer balls in a field of about fifty kids wearing bright orange shirts. It might be time for me to quit wearing shorts—I don’t know? For all the deliberating we did about whether we allow the kids to participate in soccer because of COVID, at this point, I’m very, very glad we didn’t miss another season of fun team sports.

I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately. More on that later. I have also been wanting to want to write. Does that make sense? It means I haven’t wanted to write, but I’ve wanted to want to write. See, writing is something I must do every day. The tricky thing is we all write every day, I technically write every day, so I will go beyond the canned “write everyday advice,” and say that I must do the kind of writing counts, for me. It’s like running. Every week I plan to run 15 miles. It used to be 30, and when I need to prepare for a Physical Fitness Test, that’s what I’ll do. But for now, it’s just maintenance. Just 15. But it can’t be a brisk walk. And it can’t be zero for me. Zero miles is not maintenance. Zero miles is just me getting out of shape.

I watched Captain Marvel this weekend for the second time since seeing it in theaters, and I was pumped and amazed at the extended metaphor woven into the storyline of Carol Danvers. I suppose when I first watched Captain Marvel, it was obvious to me that this was a story packed with pro-woman, girl-power vibes. Still, this second time around in the final scene, where Captain Marvel faces off against the Supreme Intelligence, the details of the extended metaphor became more apparent in this bad-ass way. Here’s the scene in Captain Marvel. Below is some context:

1. Carol Danvers is an airforce pilot who absorbs the power of the tesseract but is abducted by an alien people (the Kree) in search of this technology.

2. The Kree people manipulate Carol, giving her a new name and identity, and convince her that she needs to control her power because it’s dangerous.

3. Her Kree mentor (played by Jude Law) installs a device on her neck so that whenever Danvers’ power threatens to overpower, he can subdue her. She allows this because he is her mentor, and it’s for her good.

Many other features are baked into the story, but I thought all of it was just incredible. And fun. Many movies try to speak to feminism, and many miss the mark being too on the nose (see Incredibles 2). And while there’s no mistaking what Captain Marvel creators are aiming for, the experience is still fun and validating. It’s just a lot of fun to watch her crush all those Kree and discover her true potential.