The Feminist

The Feminist

One thing could not be denied: he was a feminist through and through.

He never missed a social media debate about gender inequality. He made sure to like and comment on as many #MeToo posts as he could. And he prided himself on getting into some pretty heated arguments in the Buzzfeed comment section.

He called out sexism and misogyny everywhere; occasionally even in his own family. Once, he stunned his mother by explaining how she had been the victim of domestic abuse.

“But,” she had feebly protested, “It was my choice to stay at home! Your father never pressured me into staying—”

“You don’t understand,” he told her. “He manipulated you into thinking you wanted to stay home. That was his way of keeping you under control. He was a textbook emotional abuser.”

With this, he left the kitchen.


In his free time, he liked to bike, hike, or relax with a beer and the occasional joint. In fact, craft beer tasting and bike repairs were among the primary subjects of his conversations with friends—unless you counted his activism, of course.

He never held doors open for women, conscious of the physical bias against them. Nor did he help with heavy bags, except maybe when his mother asked him to. Even then, he made it clear that he was helping because of her age, not gender.

Outraged by pay inequality, he vowed that he would treat women as his equals. Hence, whenever he went out for a meal with a woman, he would split the bill down to the last eurocent. He even surprised a friend once by having her pay for half the petrol he’d used to drive them both to a conference.

His only regret was that women frequently became part of the problem.

One night, his date said she wanted a burger for dinner. “Come on,” she joked, twirling her hair and batting her eyelashes, “Treat a lady!”

He shot her down: seizing the teachable moment, he explained that as an equal member of society, she couldn’t expect things to go her way just because she had female reproductive organs. It took a while, but eventually she relented, and they went to his favourite Italian place.

She stopped replying to his texts after the dinner, and, though surprised and indignant, he ultimately congratulated himself on dodging a bullet. She was a dumb flirt.

He was interested in a different kind of girls. He yearned for someone who would share his values: a fellow activist, perhaps a scholar of gender studies or climate change.

So it came as an absolute shock when he fell head over heels for a ballroom dancer.


Initially, he had scoffed at his mother’s pedestrian taste, but in the end she wheedled him into going with her. The show started predictably: mindless entertainment, inane, consumerist pop music that he despised; lots of glitter and dimmed lights, and middle-aged women with nothing better to do. He gritted his teeth—despite his best efforts, some women still resolutely set feminism back.

Then the lead dancer stepped on stage, and his mouth fell open.

She wore a glittery dress with a diagonal hem that only covered one of her legs, leaving the other one tantalizingly bare from the thigh down. Lithe and graceful, she moved across the stage like a bird in flight.

He couldn’t take his eyes off her. All the girls he had dated in the past—with their high-waisted jeans, their annoying prudishness—suddenly seemed bland and mundane compared to her. Anodyne when it came to sex, they would often back out of it; and even when they gave in, their performance was lacklustre at best.

As this divine creature glided on the stage, all curves and passion and sinuous movement, he suddenly understood why his past experiences were so abortive. The girls he had met before were mousy and sexless! This woman was their antithesis—the epitome of femininity. Long hair, high heels, stage makeup (slightly overdone for his taste, but that could be remedied with guidance from a caring boyfriend. His heart leapt and his nether regions stiffened at the thought).

The excitement of the evening turned into a slight struggle to walk on the way home. He could hardly believe that she was real.

He combed through her Instagram that night, to check if she was seeing anyone. Miraculously, it looked like the goddess was single. She had a dance partner though, a hunky, regrettably muscular fellow; he stalked the dance partner for a bit, too, but it looked like they were just friends.

He couldn’t stop watching her. Here she was in a resplendent ballgown, dark hair twisted into an updo, glittering jewels on velvet skin. There she was in a corseted Spanish dress with a fan in her hand, castanets pulsing rhythmically like a heartbeat. He even watched some of the interviews where she spoke about her passion for dancing.

But he found himself skipping through the parts where she talked: he liked it better when she was silent, listening. Then he could better focus on the curve of her neck, her sensuous mouth, the gentle rise and fall of her breasts.

He came to her concerts four more times, and on his fourth visit, he went straight to the stage door. He recoiled when she emerged, in high-heeled leather boots, her hunk of a partner holding the door for her. But it was now or never: throwing out his chest, he invited her for dinner.

To his immense relief, she said yes.


He gulped more beer. At first glance, it looked like the date was going well, but something was wrong: his built-up anticipation was evolving into a definite feeling of anti-climax.

For all her allure, the girl turned out to be painfully ordinary. She spoke about her work, about her family in some obscure city far away, about a film she saw recently—a romantic comedy of the kind he could not bear to watch.

He told her all about the causes he was passionate about, but she wasn’t nearly as interested in gender equality as he was. She kept going on about her widowed father, and how she worked to pay for his healthcare.

“It is cold where I’m from, and his health is not strong,” she said, “I send all my money home, but it is difficult. When I came here, I had a tourist visa. Now I have a work permit, but it expires soon.”

He seized the opportunity to talk about climate change.

“It’s all about emissions,” he said, swishing the remnants of beer in his glass, “From transport and unsustainable agricultural practices, but also fast fashion. I bet your dress was made in one of those Third World countries where they use child labour. And it will end up in a landfill somewhere, and that will increase GHGs—that’s greenhouse gas emissions,” he added, “You know, carbon dioxide, and—and um—the others.”

“Actually, I made this dress myself—” she said excitedly, but he was too riled up to notice.

“It drives me fucking mad,” he said loudly, “This senseless consumerism. No one understands the value of things anymore. No one has an informed opinion about anything. Even the academic articles I read are amateurish at best. A collection of meaningless soundbites. Honestly, it feels like I am the only one who really thinks these days! We are living in a society of tweets and TikToks! That’s what’s wrong with the world.”

She finally stopped trying to butt in and fell silent, nodding in all the right places. By the time the waiter brought coffee—he had waved away the dessert menu—he was feeling the old rush of attraction towards her again, increased significantly by the beer. He even paid for her meal, feeling confident and masculine.

Outside, in the cold air, he took her by the waist and pressed his mouth forcefully against hers. She froze a little, and he pressed harder, prizing her lips open and slipping his tongue into her mouth. Then he pulled her to the string of taxis parked down the street.


Back in his apartment, his elation proved to be short-lived: she wouldn’t let him go past unzipping her dress and lowering her bra straps.

He was taken aback, and annoyed too. When she danced, sensuality dripped from every movement of her body. Locked in an embrace with her partner, it looked like they were about to start undressing each other then and there, so much heat radiated from them.

And yet here she was, one hand firmly pressed against his chest, the other trying to pull her bra strap back up.

He felt a rush of blood to his temples.

“You know,” he said loudly, “You meet a nice guy. You refuse sex—no, wait, hear me out! You refuse sex…”

She turned her face away, saying something about the late hour, about rehearsals in the morning. He pressed against her. A tantalizing thought swirled in his head, brought on no doubt by copious amounts of beer and his raging erection. She is in his apartment, alone… her permit is about to expire, and she’s scared they won’t renew it…

Then he suddenly thought of her dance partner, the athlete with the square jaw.

His fingers stopped digging into her waist. There was a bitter taste in his mouth—maybe from the beer, maybe from the painful reality of his idol being just like every other woman he had known, or perhaps from something else that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

“Ok,” he said, “Go.”

She had the audacity to look relieved.

“Um… where is the bus stop?” she said.

He jabbed his finger in the direction of the dark window. “About 15 minutes that way. At this time, the bus only goes once an hour, so you’ll have to wait.”

He rolled a blunt.

“Before you go,” he said, “We should split the restaurant and taxi ride bill. You had a pizza for 15,50 Euros, and a glass of red for 6. And the taxi ride was 20, so that’s… 41.50 from you.”

She nodded and took out her purse obediently, handing him 45 Euros. He rummaged in his pockets for change, but only found a 2-Euro coin.

“I’ll pass by tomorrow and give you the rest,” he said wearily.

“No,” she said, “Please don’t bother. I had a coffee, too.”

“Right. Well, bye.” He turned his back. A few seconds later he heard the front door open and close again.

He inhaled the smoke and felt his body and mind relax. Grabbing his laptop, he fired it up for some porn.


About the Author

Läilä Örken has a PhD in law and works in the field of international relations. In the evenings, she writes fiction and is working on a novel. Her stories appear in the Eunoia Review, Hobart, Bright Flash Literary Review, Grim & Gilded, and elsewhere. 


Photo by Marko Zirdum: