Help me out with responding my brother's sexist comments please!

(22 Posts)
mymblenymble Thu 26-Sep-13 12:53:59

I am a regular lurker and reader in this section, I am daily impressed by the wisdom of you fantastic women but seldom get round to posting. I was hoping you might be able to help me respond articulately to my brother...

For a brief bit of background, my brother and I were raised as British expats in Southern Africa, my brother went on to marry my SIL who is from there and lives there still while I returned to the UK. He has, to my mind, adopted uncritically a lot of the trappings of the culture there - considers himself the 'head of the family', talks about his responsibilities towards his 'unmarried nieces', calls our parents' house 'Father's house', talks about 'protecting' his daughter from boys and men (she's 6 FFS!), makes 'jokes' to my partner and I about how my partner needs to pay bride-payment (it's called 'lobola' there) on me, even mentioned (again 'jokingly') the last time we saw them that the bride-paymnet must be higher now that we've had kids and I am therefore 'damaged goods'. He doesn't mean it. But it is tiring and I find it increasingly hard to put up with it, but when I try and respond to it and tell him why it is all so wrong and sexist I'm seen as not getting the joke and being silly.

Obviously tied up in all this is that he is my bullying older brother who I don't muich like, which doesn't help me be articulate in my responses!

Can anyone help me articulate to him why his latest comment is so so wrong:
HIM: (in reference to a Catholic school in his city not having any more nuns teaching there) Will try and persuade one of my remaining unmarried nieces to enroll in the Dominicans
ME: hold onto some remnants of feminism that Mum and Dad taught us and leave your nieces be
HIM: is it not obvious that I'm joking?
ME: I get that to you it's a joke, but I think it's a dangerous joke to make from the position of a dominant male in a society where patriarchy is still very much alive and accepted. Not completely unlike me as a middle-class white British person making jokes about status of immigrants etc. Done in irony but nonetheless...
HIM: (in summary) what the hell are you on about I'm not sexist and my nieces are in control of their lives

My point is that for many young woman in his country someone like him does make the decisions about what they do with their lives.

Maybe it's not that bad and I am over-reacting because of his usual casual sexism and his refusal to see it as such. Anyone?!

BurberryQ Thu 26-Sep-13 12:58:45

hmm..if he is anything like my brother he is just saying stuff that he knows will get a rise out of you...you said yourself 'he doesnt mean it' - and luckily for you and your family you don't even share a hemisphere!
FWIW I knew this old South African who said 'woman (sic) should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen' - I did repeat this to my children with the correct accent and it has become a family joke - and that is what it is, laughable.

BurberryQ Thu 26-Sep-13 13:00:29

how to respond?
either a 'buauauauauauauauah' laugh or just...nothing, as though you had not heard him.

ScrewtapesOppositeNumber Thu 26-Sep-13 13:02:34

As he's your brother, can't you just give him a dead arm? Thought that was how all siblings settle disputes...

mymblenymble Thu 26-Sep-13 13:03:01

Thanks Burberry. I suppose part of me wonders whether he really does mean it! And then I wonder whether I should be trying to change the way he thinks, or educate him, or whatever. He is a prat a lot of the time, but he's my brother and I find myself feeling ashamed that my brother says these things. Maybe I should just ignore it. He is thousands of miles away after all...

mymblenymble Thu 26-Sep-13 13:05:46

Cross-post. Thanks for your replies. Gives me a bit of perspective. Dead-arm is very tempting, having been on the receiving-end of them as a child, but a virtual dead-arm over email doesn't have quite the same impact...

BasilBabyEater Thu 26-Sep-13 13:41:48

LOL.

I don't think you can do anything about nobs like this, brother or not.

Just be glad he's thousands of miles away. grin

Best thing is not to engage or to counter-wind him up.

Every time he says something sexist, just reply something along the lines of "you tell 'em, they need a white person with a penis to explain to them what's right".

If he knows that each time he tries to wind you up, you're going to take the piss out of his privilege, he mgiht stop doing it.

Or he might up the ante of course and get worse. You know him best, what's more likely?

mymblenymble Thu 26-Sep-13 14:26:51

Hmm, yes that might work. I think he really doesn't realise the position of privilege he is in, and thinks he's ever so radical and left-wing. Sadly not an uncommon situation for many men - and women - I have met! He's just sent me what can only be described as an email lecture on how wonderfully free and amazing life is for women there. He really doesn't get it. Perhaps if I can just respond "Stop Being So Sexist (SBSS from now on)" every time and then he'll shut up. I think I need to decide that a) it's not my fault or responsibility that he's like this, and b) I'm probably the last person he would listen to about anything, so what's the point.

It makes me a bit happier that to hang out on this board for a while smile.

You could allow an awkward silence to develop after each of his "witticisms"

Like this...

Keep it going...

And then when it's very awkward indeed, just change the subject completely. I suspect that one of the reasons he's doing it is because he knows he'll get a reaction. So, I'd suggest not giving him one and maybe he will stop finding it so terribly amusing how half the population aren't considered fully human?

Engaging with it is beneath you. If he claims he doesn't really think that way, then great, he can stop winding you up with it.

grin

Bunnylion Thu 26-Sep-13 15:01:53

I'd tell him that his crappy jokes are getting boring now, he's embarrassing himself and that every time he makes them everyone cringes for him.

Fozziebearmum2be Thu 26-Sep-13 15:04:47

Hmm... My db also often says stuff to get a rise out of me angry

The usuals are ridiculous comments about how a man should have a chair in his own house (which is the comfiest, at the best place and they can chuck anyone else out of-even their wives/daughter etc...) Women should iron etc etc

I do agree with pp that it may well just be to get a reaction from you- mine certainly is (v childish!) unless you genuinely think he means it? How is his behaviour towards other women than you?

I tend to respond, because I can't help myself but I don't actually think he means it.

I was once called a 'feminist' as a kind of insult.... hmm I just said 'and...?' He's not said anything since....

BurberryQ Thu 26-Sep-13 15:18:26

oh yes my bro used to called a feminist (his tone was in italics iykwim) and do this kind of twitching thing with his repulsive mouth as though he was holding in laughter?
there are other reasons why we havent spoken for ten years but it didn't help....grin

BurberryQ Thu 26-Sep-13 15:19:01

*used to call me...

grimbletart Thu 26-Sep-13 16:18:26

Personally, when he is with you I would look at him every so seriously, shake your head, go tut tut and say "do you realise what a boring old fart you are? If you want me to laugh you are actually going to have to make your jokes funny. Yours are so old they could pass for penicillin."

I wouldn't answer any of his emails where those comments are. Delete them.

AveryJessup Thu 26-Sep-13 16:27:48

Turn it around on him and make comments about his life as a patriarch - did he catch all the game for the braai (spelling?) himself? Real men hunt their meat, after all. Does he think he should take a second wife, maybe? He has to have more sons and heirs after all... and so on in that ludicrous vein.

He is winding you up so giving him serious answers when he suggests your daughters become nuns is just rising to the bait. Instead say something daft like 'no she's not joining a convent. We've already betrothed her in a child marriage to the son of a business acquaintance so she has her future set out, thanks for asking. How is the big game these days? Kill any lions recently?' etc

NotActuallyAMum Thu 26-Sep-13 16:35:07

"As he's your brother, can't you just give him a dead arm? Thought that was how all siblings settle disputes..."

gringrin

Funniest thing I've heard in ages grin

<unhelpful, sorry>

KaseyM Thu 26-Sep-13 22:37:29

I feel for you as I have a similar situation where to react seriously to something that is posited as a joke (but the fact that he sees this stuff as funny ...) would put you in a position for further ridicule.

The problem is that it's one thing to joke about things that don't actually happen in real life but when his jokes are reflected in reality it can be very confusing.

Next time he does it and says that he's just joking I would accuse him of not joking and being a sexist old fossil. It might make him realise that the image he's giving out isn't the cool jovial one he thinks.

CaptChaos Thu 26-Sep-13 22:50:41

You don't get one with him. He's a sexist git. He's not even a vaguely amusing sexist git.

Go no contact with him maybe?

Probably not helpful, but short of the sterling 'give him a dead arm' advice (arf) anything you do say to him about his shitty attitude to your girls is going to just wash over him.

sashh Fri 27-Sep-13 07:49:45

I thought you lived in Africa not the 1800's?

Or "I've been trying to explain this to a European friend, and I can't. Can you explain exactly what you mean? In the way an enlightened modern citizen of the world would understand?"

Sorry those could both be taken as racist, implying Africa is behind the times when I'm trying to imply that it is him.

On of my friends uses (in lots of situations and can be done with a phone prop) Hello? Ah yes -hand phone to brother - it's 1950, they want to know if they can have their sexism back?

mymblenymble Fri 27-Sep-13 11:40:02

You're all wonderful - thank you for the understanding and the many great suggestions.
The problem is that it's one thing to joke about things that don't actually happen in real life but when his jokes are reflected in reality it can be very confusing. THIS. I have deciced to have one last go and say this to him, and then go for the ignoring / deleting / 'oh shut up you old fart' approach. And be thankful that he's thousands of miles away and I only have to actually see him once a year or so!

Thanks again, everyone.

ModeratelyObvious Fri 27-Sep-13 13:43:59

How about a slightly puzzled, "Why do you think your nieces are worth less than your nephews?"

Sinful1 Fri 04-Oct-13 01:19:38

punch him in the cock. (works best if you're sitting he's standing, then you can do it nonchalantly)

seriously though do it, it's freaking hilarious to watch. (even if it does make us all cross our legs and wince inside)

If you do it right he won't be able to stop coughing.

this is the new "answer" to any stupid question at work i don't know how it started but so far at least three people a day are getting winged in the nads :D

...i may be a bit sadistic in enjoying all this.

oh sorry speaking as a man :p

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