Discussing feminism with friends/family - your sticking points?

(74 Posts)
LRDtheFeministDude Tue 04-Dec-12 17:58:37

I wondered how you find it when you end up discussing feminism with friends/family, and if you reckon you've changed how you debate as a result of feminism (ok, I know some posters have been feminists for decades, but I'd still be interested to know if you reckon you've changed your style of talking to people as a result of anything to do with feminism).

Two things got me thinking. One was talking to my mum. I was mentioning how several friends who've recently got married/into long-term relationships seem to have changed their feminist principles quite noticably, eg., a mate who used to be adamant that for her, not changing her name was important, has changed her name, and another who wanted to finish her degree is now unsure because her DP wants a baby and she's tempted too. Obviously these are individual decisions and I get why people make them, but I'm interested in the fact that quite a lot of women I know are making decisions all in the same 'direction', towards what you might call a traditional married-woman lifestyle.

My mum's constant refrain was 'oh, but don't say anything to her!' - No, mum, I wasn't planning to. 'But you mustn't say anything, it's her decision!'

She doesn't seem to get that I might be interested in these things as social trends, rather than decisions someone I know has made. I ended up being puzzled that we were talking so much cross-purposes.

The other thing is talking to an old friend whom I've not spoken to for a while, I realized I was do a lot of saying 'I don't agree, but that's fine' rather than pretending I did agree or feeling I had a responsibility to explain my point of view instead of just stating it and moving on. I'm not sure if this is influenced by feminism but I'd like to think so!

HalloweenNameChange Tue 04-Dec-12 19:16:12

In the past couple of years I have become quite lets see.. proud isn't the right word..more like unashamed of my feminism. I am much more honest about why I am saying what I am saying.. and i will refer to my self as a feminist as though it is obvious that I would be.. I used to believe myself to be a feminist but be quite embarrassed about calling myself one.. So I used to avoid debates that involves "lesser feminist issues" like the page 3 thing.. I would only discuss obvious human rights violations (FGM and the burqua) as those are "ok" to talk about and for the most part unlikely to alienate anyone I know personally. Things that could affect women where I live and things that are perpetrated by the patriarchy that we actually live under I would avoid..as that would be calling out my male friends/family.

GalaxyDisaster Tue 04-Dec-12 20:24:28

I think having two daughters has changed me as a feminist. I used to be generally quite feminist, but having children spurred me on to read more, and prompts me to pick up on more day to day sexism.

I find myself trying to find lots of non confrontational ways to say I don't agree. I don't always want a 'feminist debate', but I'm not willing to let things slide as a I would have in the past. So, for example, a woman whose son charged into my daughter at toddler group said "I'm sorry, he's such a boy" and I said "Oh, it's not, my daughter is just the same" and laughed. So we didn't have to talk about it further, but I didn't just smile and nod IYSWIM.

LRDtheFeministDude Tue 04-Dec-12 23:45:04

That strikes a chord with me too halloween. I have got much more inclined simply to say, yes, I am a feminist and yes, this does inform what I say. I'm part of a group, not just an individual.

galazy - I know what you mean! I don't have that experience but it reminded me of when someone said 'oh, she's such a tomboy' about my niece - I didn't argue but I just said 'she certainly loves cars' rather than agreeing she was a tomboy. And when people comment that her mum dresses her in green and blue I just say how those colours suit her (they do! And her mum knows exactly what she is doing! As does her dad who also chooses her clothes ... grin).

MrsClown1 Wed 05-Dec-12 19:22:03

I am so ashamed to tell you this but I never discuss feminism with anyone unless I am at a fem meeting/march. I feel alienated at work because of my opinions and have almost been told to shut up. I know I dont fit in. So I have given in and keep my mouth shut now and dont really get involved in any conversations unless they are about work. My close friends are a different matter. They may not feel my passion but they understand how I must feel and appreciate my opinions. One of them even went on the Sheffield RTN with my just out of interest. She said it certainly opened her eyes and would love to go on other marches Im sure. I was really proud to take her - I wanted to show her what a lovely bunch of women she would meet and she did. Sorry to go off on a tangent but I just wanted to get that off my chest.

DoingItOntheRoofTopWithSanta Wed 05-Dec-12 19:27:59

Oh that's so sad you feel that way msclown sad it is shit when you can't even feel angry that you're being treated badly.

MrsClown1 Wed 05-Dec-12 19:31:07

Thanks for that doingit - thats why these boards are so important - they keep me a bit sane!

namechangeguy Thu 06-Dec-12 10:39:43

We discuss politics a fair bit at work. Since being on here, I have introduced various aspects of stuff I have read on here into the chats. It's surprising how many women are either unaware, or shy away from feminism as a movement. It appears to have an image problem - not so much with issues such as equal pay, equal rights etc., but more to do with identifying oneself as a feminist, and the negative connotations that has.

ThinkAboutItOnBoxingDay Thu 06-Dec-12 10:56:52

I've defined myself as a feminist for 20 years and am only 37. I've always been quite strident with my views and tend to spend time with people who agree.

Since having DD I have become even more vocal in a general population sense but on a one to one basis I find myself friends with a lot of people less inclined to feminism. Baby groups etc. I am finding it tricky to be honest. I'm doing a nanny share and the other mum said she wanted someone older who wouldn't go on mat leave! I was inwardly horrified but outwardly stayed calm and just said 'I'm a bit more inclined to sisterhood. If my company felt like that my career would have been stuffed!'

So I have definitely mellowed. Time was I'd have really taken her to task for it.

FrothyDragon Thu 06-Dec-12 11:52:03

I tend to find that when I discuss feminism with my parents, I don't explicitly tell them it's feminism. That way, I get them on side a little easier. My mum in particular, despite a misogynistic streak, does have some strong feminist qualities, but won't identify as such.

That said, I focus mainly on domestic violence on a lot of things. And I've found (as those who know me through my RL id have noticed) that I do tend to get a lot of support for what my mum jokingly calls "getting on my soapbox". She pokes fun at it, a little. But she also commends everything she's aware of me doing.

I do find myself toning down my feminism slightly around my brother and his family (there's no point, it won't get through to them) but will stand my ground when they try to say that allowing DS to wear pink wellies/nail varnish/play with dolls means he'll turn out gay or opting for a sex change. That said, it's sunk in with DS. My darling brother tried telling DS that boys were better than girls the other day. To which DS replied, without thinking "No, everyone's equal". DB was too shocked to say owt else. grin

LRDtheFeministDude Thu 06-Dec-12 12:23:23

MrsClown - oh, gosh, I certainly didn't mean to imply you should be discussing feminism or feeling guilty if you're not in a position to!

There are people with whom I'd never discuss it because it would be just far too much like bashing my head against a brick wall. It's not always worth it IMO. It is shite that you're feeling like this at work though. angry

frothy - I do that! Especially with my dad - I will just describe a situation rather than saying it's a feminist issue. I hadn't thought about it before.

I love your DS. grin

WilsonFrickett Thu 06-Dec-12 13:40:31

I have to keep things really simple and clear for my DS (SN) but it's really changed the way I talk about feminism. I don't label or over explain any more, I just say 'no, that's wrong, I don't agree.' Whereas before it would have been 'well, a more feminist point of view would maybe be...'

I find I apologise less and state more clearly.

notcitrus Thu 06-Dec-12 14:03:08

My friends, no problem, as they'd all sign up to feminism anyway - we can then argue about whether things are consistent or supportive of feminism or the common good for hours.

With my parents I tend not to mention any -ism as they are very anti following any ideology, but in practice are fairly supportive of feminism. I remember my dad was a bit put out that I was planning on keeping my surname, worrying about how he could explain that to his colleagues. I pointed out that the name (his!) would die out if I didn't. What a good idea, he said! By the time I got hitched he was telling everyone 'of course' I was keeping my own name...

One of my best friends did marry another friend who is incredibly socially conservative - I take the piss out of him to an extent but figure it's better to remain friendly and expose him to a non-scary intro to feminism etc, rather than ditch him and leave no-one challenging his views. And whenever he isn't in the room I challenge their kids when they come out with stuff like 'I can't use the pink toy, I'm a boy'.

FastidiaBlueberry Thu 06-Dec-12 16:30:25

Oh I try and avoid talking about feminism to most of the people I know.

Not worth the paperwork, Doreen.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 07-Dec-12 11:25:00

Yay for mini-Dragon.

MmBovary Sun 09-Dec-12 14:28:04

My experience is that in my twenties or early thirties, I could talk to many of my friends about feminist issues, and we would mostly agree on issues like chaning your name, the necessity of have your identity defined by having a man in your life, how patriarchal the message of big church weddings was, how awful to have to be financially dependent on men was etc etc.

However, as the years went by, I found those same friends changing their names, going for the big white wedding, becoming financially dependant on their banker husbands etc etc., in one word, having their identities completely defined by their marital status.

At first, I was shocked and quite angry that their feminist stances could be so feeble, but now I don't even bother to talk about these issues any more. I always feel that you end up being looked upon as the weird one, the one with a chip on their shoulder. Why disturb the peace? If they're happy with the situation and they chose it, I guess that's the end of the debate.

I do find it worrying though, that feminism seems to be the "philosophy of choice" of young women when they haven't found their men yet. Once they've found "the one", got into a relationship and married, feminism doen't hold any appeal to them anymore.

Very disappointing.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 09-Dec-12 17:30:33

Aren't we all a bit more idealistic when young, MmB? They may come back to feminism after children, esp if they have DDs.

TerrariaMum Mon 10-Dec-12 08:58:23

Just to reassure you that we don't all lose our feminism upon marriage , MmBovary. I want to say that I found my feminism once I had DD. And through discovering through this board that one can be a SAHM and a feminist. So some of us actually come to it once we marry and have children.

Or what Doctrine said.

MmBovary Mon 10-Dec-12 10:49:01

Terraria, please explain how can you be a SAHM and a feminist? You're completely dependant on your husband for survival. Where's the equality and the independence? To me, the two are completely incompatible. It's like saying I'm a Christian atheist.

Feminism requires a level of commitment and life style choices that now I realise are very hard, and that most women are not able or willing to achieve. It's easy to do the talk, but not walk the walk.

namechangeguy Mon 10-Dec-12 11:03:53

'Feminism requires a level of commitment and life style choices.....'

And there was me thinking it was just another political philosophy. It sounds more like a religion.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 10-Dec-12 11:08:40

MmB, I strongly disagree with you. A SAHM can absolutely be a feminist.

Children require care and nurture full time for many years. Our options are: one or both parents do it, a relative does it, someone else is paid to do it, or some combination of the above.

SAHM-hood is loaded because of the history but it is always going to be a factor because of the above limit of options (it would be great if there were as many SAHDs as SAHMs, though).

MmBovary Mon 10-Dec-12 11:17:47

namechange, feminism is a political philosophy, but why call yourself something that you are not preaching with your example?

Do what you want with your life, just don't deceive yourself and others.

Once again, it's easy to do the talk and philosophise and moralise, hard to live your life by your beliefs.

There are many Christians out there who do exactly the same. They go to church and when they come out, they do as they please, without any regard for the doctrine they so much advocate.

Just don't claim adherence to that philosophy or religion if you're not going to follow it. As simple as that.

MoomieAndFreddie Mon 10-Dec-12 11:22:45

oh god i had an ACTUAL argument with a friend the other day as she was giggling about how men are just not as Good at xmas shopping / cooking / cleaning / childcare as women

i was absolutely angry and really had to curb myself

i am sure some of my friends think i am some kind of nutty man hater

the worst thing is, before discovering mumsnet i would have had the same opinions as my friends sad

so am watching thread with interest.

MmBovary Mon 10-Dec-12 11:25:42

Doctrine, you're very welcome to strongly disagree.

Just provide a logical explanation of how you can be financially dependant on a man and follow a philosophy that fights for women's independence and liberation from patriarchal values.

I've thought about this one a lot, a to me, it's just not possible to combine both.

namechangeguy Mon 10-Dec-12 11:32:16

What happens when cold, hard economics come into the equation though? If one partner can significantly out-earn the other, and they both want children, it is common sense for the lower earner to be the SAH parent. If that is the woman, are you seriously going to criticise her? Do you sacrifice better finances purely so your feminist conscience is eased?

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