I’ll Be Swiping Left On Dating Matches With ‘Apolitical’ In Their Bio. Here’s Why It’s An Astute Choice
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” I read these words of Desmond Tutu long after I chose to be outspoken about my politics. And I chose to be outspoken about my politics because the last few years left me with little choice. (Do you see what’s happening in our country? In the world?) This decision to be outspoken about my politics also left me with little choice in matches on online dating apps. Why? Because when it came to swiping left or right in the direction of political ideology, a lot of men chose inaction. They chose to remain apolitical.
And while it might seem like a trivial thing to become a dealbreaker, I’ve realised from ample personal experience that dating someone whose political views are diametrically opposite yours might be difficult. But dating someone with zero political opinion or interest is just frustrating. Not to mention, I found it to be quite revealing about their character too.
I know many of you at this point want to echo my mother, and say “Hey Bhagwan! Aa chhokri nu hun su karun?” or some of my friends, who like to remind me, “Bas, isiliye tu single hai.” But hear me out on why I will be swiping left on dating matches that have ‘apolitical in their bio. It’s important.
The personal is political
I am a woman, and therefore, automatically a member of an oppressed group. This gives me a default subscription to feminism and women’s rights movement, should I choose to avail it. And if I raise my voice against even a single cause under that umbrella, I am being political. There’s no two ways about it. If I say that as a woman, I want to wear whatever I want, including ripped jeans, I am going against the ideology of Uttarakhand CM who thinks women wearing ripped jeans have questionable character. And right there, I have entered a political discussion.
Also Read: Women Rip Misogyny A New One With #RippedJeansTwitter After Uttarakhand CM’s Remark. We Call That Sending A Message!
I could refer to you Carol Hanisch’s essay and more reading material about how ‘The personal is the political’ was a rally cry of second-wave feminism. But to give you the CliffsNotes version, the smallest, most personal issues in your life are connected to bigger political implications. You live your life in politics.
Women’s rights movements aren’t in isolation. In fact, when you speak up for the rights of one marginalised group, educate yourself on the history of their oppression and the ideologies of their oppressors, it’s like a tinder sparks inside you, lighting up the dark corners of your mind. You see the similarities and you sympathise. And you want to speak up as much as you can on matters that need to be discussed.
Once you have an ‘awokening’, there’s really no going back.
When being ‘woke’ broke the connection….
I used to think men writing ‘sapiosexual’ in their dating bios was annoying. Because when you actually got down to talking, they seemed to care most about everything south of my brain. Little did I know, their political opinions, or lack thereof, would actually un-hinge me a lot more.
Take, for example, this one guy, let’s call him A. This was early 2015, back when we were happy that we broke the chain of dynastic politics in India and made way for the dynamic leader whose speeches and social media tactics had the youth enticed. I matched with A, we dated for a couple of months, during which we both had Na(thing) Mo(re) to say about our views then just wait and watch.
Cut to a year or so ago, when A, who continues to follow me on Instagram, sent me angry DMs because I was dissenting with the government. I tried to reason, show him fact-checks, and was all keen on having a very educated and incisive political debate, the kind that you won’t seen in our Parliament now. But dude wouldn’t listen. and ended the argument with a cop-out—“Whatever you lefties say, par aayega toh….”
I was angry until I realised, I dodged a bullet.
But at least, the man had some conviction in his beliefs. In another instance, I found out that—let’s call him B—was apolitical. Which means he didn’t care at all, and thought talking about politics was a waste of time. This, when the CAA-NRC protests were burning up in the North. But B was not bothered. “Apne ko kya hai? The common man has to suffer only every time, no matter who sits on the Iron Throne,” said this guy who claimed to be an ardent Game of Thrones and House of Cards fan.
I tried to make peace with it. We’d talk about other neutral things. Food. Travel. The works. He was down with Netflix & Chill. But when I tried to discuss the rising concerns over internet freedom and censorship of media and OTT platforms like Netflix, he told me, “Chill babe, you get too riled up over all this. Kya ukhaad lenge hum tweet karke?” He called my posts expressing solidarity with the BLM movement pretentious because it wasn’t happening in India, was it? We began arguing over things that he shouldn’t have been arguing about if he was as apolitical as he claimed to be. I tried to get him to own up what I suspected his leanings were, and pick a side already, but he wouldn’t. And that meant I couldn’t voice my opinions either without him making a sour face, like I was boring the hell out of him.
Naturally, we didn’t last either. How could we, with all that patronising?
The third specimen, Mr. C, was probably the worst of them all. We weren’t even exclusively dating. But still in the early stages of our ‘getting to know each other’ phase, he thought it would be okay to tell me why I needn’t have an opinion about everything. “Thoda thand rakh le. Har cheez mein tumko takleef hai?” Oh and as if to make sure his chances weren’t ruined, he’d add a cheeky laughing emoji at the end, which had quite the opposite effect on me. Was that supposed to be funny? He was bothered when I called out problematic behaviour in men, because apparently, men are allowed to think all wives are nagging and all women are vain. But women aren’t allowed to say all men are trash.
Eventually I realised that he was a closet #NotAllMen. Basically, “I respect women par ye feminist waali bohot extra hoti hain” school of thought. Erm….
Also Read: What Women Really Want: Is Men Doing These Things On Women’s Day To Become True Female Allies
Picking a side > Being apolitical
I know, you could say that I probably didn’t know how to pick ’em. And my girl friends would concur with you on that. But do you see the problem here? Not only did some of these men not have any political views themselves, they refused to either respect mine or let me have any. They’d be patronising about it, or shoot any broaching of politics down, like it was an inconsequential extra question in the exam, and its weightage depended on how well they wanted to score with me—hookup, date, or fall in love.
It wasn’t even that I wanted these men to pick the same side as me. To cite the great Race 3 quote, your politics is your politics, none of my politics. It would be hard, I’ll admit, but I’d still respect him If he picked a side that was different than mine, as long as he was making conscious effort to be aware and educated about what was happening around us.
There are some who say they choose not to talk about politics because they’re still unsure about what is what. And even those men, I could cut some slack, because I didn’t voice my opinions until I did my research too. Even now, I am not rigid in my beliefs, and instead choose to be a skeptic, who questions everything and is open to a healthy debate. Just because I am a liberal, I don’t blindly believe every critique of the government, or trash them whatever chance I get. So sure, if you say that you choose to wait and learn before picking a side, that is valid. Heck, I’d suggest you reading material and fact-checking websites to help you out with your quest for learning.
But apolitical? Really? In this time and political climate? How can you afford to? Are you living your life in silo? You put up these ‘I voted’ selfies on election day, but say you’re ‘apolitical’? How does that work?
Some of these men pompously said to me, “Ya ya I am a feminist,” and then dropped the “apolitical” bomb. Do these men not realise that you can’t be one while being the other? It got me thinking, would they be as indecisive in other matters too? Would they ever stand up for anything? I know it sounds very ‘rom-com’ heroine type thought, but if this got serious between us, what kind of a family would I be raising with this person?
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Why men being apolitical is even more frustrating
On a dating app that gives users the option to indicate their political leanings, I came across social media influencers, ad men, investment bankers, IT guys… educated men who were well-travelled and had some clout to influence thought, who put ‘Apolitical’ on their dating profiles. It made me wonder if they chose to declare that on purpose, so as to say, “We can talk about anything but not politics.” Or was it supposed to be some snobbish declaration of privilege? Like saying, “I am too busy making money and living my best life to care about what happens in the country or the world?” I don’t care if all you’re looking for is mindless hookups. Does it have to be this mindless that you can’t even have interesting conversation for a buildup and politics can’t be a part of it? Do you know that things like contraception and abortion and child custody, all things that are directly or indirectly tied with sex, are also deeply tied up with a country’s politics?
When would you care? When your business is affected by the lockdown because a super-spreader religious gathering left more than 100 people infected? Or when oppressive patriarchy hurts the women in your life? Or when your city is burning and your petrol gets pricey or when your vegetable market is shut because of a farmer’s protest?
When men say things like “I’m apolitical because politics doesn’t affect me, I don’t have time for it, or because I don’t care enough to educate myself enough to form an informed opinion” all I can hear is wasted privilege. Men’s voices are heard. And we need men—privileged, well-connected, educated men—to speak up for those whose voices are not being heard. To have that privilege, especially upper class/caste men, and to not use it by choosing to remain ‘apolitical’ is just a very sad and disappointing existence. You think I am being too harsh on you. Well, get with the programme, the world is getting crueler by the second. And if women, with all the patriarchy and misogyny holding them back can find a way to be political, then so can you.
Also Read: SXSW ‘Trapped’ Review: Watching These Egyptian Women Fight In Political Revolution Despite Patriarchal Shackles Should Make You Angry
I’m thinking about the future. And the future, if you’ve been paying attention to politics, is about to go nuclear.
If you think our country or this world is going to the dogs, then you might be shocked at what the future holds. I don’t have a machine that can predict it all, but I can assure you, it doesn’t get any easier. And so, it is a very astute decision to pay attention to your date’s political views before you take things further.
Here’s some advice. A lot of dating apps now have an option to declare your political inclinations. Use it. Just as you would add disclaimers like “Not here for hookups” or “Not looking for anything serious” in your dating bios. Because your clashing views could become a very nasty bone of contention between the two of you. If your political views are something that you cannot shy away from expressing, or even holding, that is. If inaction bothers you, definitely do this. Because after you’re done with all the cutesy stuff, and the sex, and the initial discovery of who you both are, what is left but to talk about the world. And the world is talking about politics. You’re going to get super bored if you don’t.
On the off-chance that you too are apolitical, then you’ll realise you are a match made in privilege heaven, and you should snatch that match before he goes on to ruffle feathers of girls like me. See? It’s a win-win.
Melissa Hobley, CMO of OkCupid, has said, “Surprisingly, women care more about their partner’s political leanings than men.” And why wouldn’t they? The long-term relationships are when the personal becomes political. The society gets involved. And that tests political ideologies more than you can imagine right now. So perhaps, an informed decision and an open discussion might be a good idea.
Me, I have decided. I can’t be with someone who chooses to remain apolitical. If you can’t pick a side, I won’t be picking ya.