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Called out FIL for offensive comments

(39 Posts)
UngratefulMoo Sun 11-Jan-15 12:56:26

Just need to get something off my chest, as I'm feeling a bit wobbly about it all. DH's family are very close and they have been wonderful to me since we married and had DD. FIL is a successful, opinionated man who I get on with quite well, but has a lot of what I consider to be very old fashioned, bigoted views (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc).

I know I can't change his views, but he has a habit of dropping offensive terms into casual conversation and making jokes that I don't think are on and I've been getting increasingly worried about DD picking up on this and thinking these are normal views and ways to behave.

Anyway, last night at family dinner I called him on it. I wasn't planning on doing it then, but we got into a debate and I just felt like I had to say something. Big row ensued, with him accusing me of saying that I didn't want him to see DD just because we didn't have the same views. That is NOT what I meant, and I do want him to see DD, I just don't want him casually dropping words like 'poofter' and 'wog' into conversation around her!

I'm feeling a bit shaken up about it all as there will definitely be some fall out and I have no idea how it will affect relationships moving forwards, but I think I had to say something, didn't I?

Interestingly, the rest of the family seemed to be supportive of me and I didn't get the feeling that any of them were upset with me for saying something, although SIL in particular got quite upset at the row, so I will apologise to her for making her have to witness it.

I have been very worried about upsetting everyone, and about what happens now, but I don't think I can regret it - I had to say something sometime and if it hadn't been last night it would have been some other time. Not sure I'm asking for advice, just feels better to write it all out!

tigermoll Sun 11-Jan-15 12:59:33

You did the right thing - it's not appropriate for a child to be exposed to hate speech. Sounds like your FIL makes a lot of people uncomfortable with his vocab, and that you did the family a favour!

SunshineAndShadows Sun 11-Jan-15 13:00:55

Let the dust settle a little. I think your concerns are valid. The words you mention are vile and good on you for calling him on it - I'm sure it was a shock to his masculinity to be challenged at dinner but it sounds like it needed to be done.

What does your DH think? Perhaps wait things to calm down, and you and DH together have a calm chat with FIL/MIL to explain that you find those attitudes and words offensive, and that you wnat your DD to have a positive relationship with her grandparents which is difficult when FIL projects such negative attitudes.

Nomama Sun 11-Jan-15 13:03:51

And don't apologise to SIL, you did nor make her witness it, FIL did.

Let her make of it what she will... she may find she can emulate your behaviour.

ShadowSuperNova Sun 11-Jan-15 13:07:20

I think you need to keep firm and maintain that while you do want him to see your DD, you don't want him using this language around you / your DD. She's likely to think that these are acceptable things to say otherwise.

You're right to say that you won't be able to change his views, but I'm pretty sure that most people with bigoted views are capable of refraining from coming out with offensive terms to anyone and everyone if they try.

HolyTerror Sun 11-Jan-15 13:16:29

Of course you were right to challenge him. You can't change his mind, but it's important for him to see that ordinary people, including his own family members, find ugly insults about race or sexuality unacceptable, and that his use of them has consequences.

I wouldn't apologise for the 'row' - women are still socialised into thinking that responding with anything other than silent acquiescence to a troubling situation is wrong because it 'creates an atmosphere' - and present a united front with your husband after things have calmed down slightly. Keep the focus on how you simply will not have your daughter hearing such words bandied about, and how a situation needs to be arrived at where she can be in his company without hearing them.

defineme Sun 11-Jan-15 13:17:51

I told my pil that the dc would have it put on their school file if they used terms like that at school and I was worried they would get into trouble.
I did this in a quiet concerned way because thry are lovely adoring grandparents and their language was more reflective of their 80 years age and background. They never used that language again from that day.
Your fil sounds a lot worse tbh, but I still think I would challenge with a cheerful but calm 'you really can't say that'
I was of the opinion that I couldn't change their views but I could make sure they didn't share them withdc.
my mum just explicitely used to tell me that my grandparents talked a lot of nonsense about that sort of thing and to just ignore them.

emotionsecho Sun 11-Jan-15 13:22:01

His issue, apart from having his views challenged by a mere woman, is probably that it was done in front of people.

Let the dust settle, but I would reiterate to him calmly that you are not prepared to have him use such language around your dd and either he stops it or he has made the choice not to see your dd.

Nerf Sun 11-Jan-15 13:29:44

Well I think you were wrong. Without warning, you either humiliated him as he was offering hospitality or when he was a guest, and tbh he wasn't directing his language at a person who needed defending there and then. Much better to direct your concerns to him one to one rather than without warning show him up.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 11-Jan-15 13:29:58

People with strong opinions are going to offend someone at some point. That's not a reason to stay quiet, it's just a fact of life. Carry on being assertive.....

UngratefulMoo Sun 11-Jan-15 13:39:32

Nerf, that's interesting. I had been thinking about this for a while and definitely planned on doing it in a quiet, one-to-one way. But he instigated a debate at dinner (our house) and then sat there telling me that as a parent one of my responsibilities was to protect my child from negative influences (he meant gay people) and I just felt I had to say then that the biggest negative influence I was worried about at the moment was his offensive language!

It definitely was heated, which was not my intention, but we did not insult each other or raise our voices, and at the end he told me that he respected me for being honest with him, although I had hurt his feelings.

DH has been completely supportive of me and told me that he is very proud of me. He didn't say much during the row, but sat with me the whole time and I asked for his support a few times which he gave immediately.

What do you think we should do next?

Humansatnav Sun 11-Jan-15 13:43:16

You absolutely did the right thing op. I would wait for the next move to come from him tbh.

Nomama Sun 11-Jan-15 13:43:19

Nothing, imo. Just carry on as though you had a conversation, sorted out a little niggle and came to an agreement.

Next time he comes out with an unwarranted comment in front of your kids you can say 'we have already discussed that, please don't'.

His hurt feelings will heal. Move on!

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 11-Jan-15 13:44:22

Tell him if he is going to be in the presence of your kid/s again he need to stop the nasty racist homophobic language - when the topic comes up of course. Although obviously it should be your husband that tells him that.

Nerf Sun 11-Jan-15 13:46:58

In not sure. If things are awkward id be tempted to say something like 'I'm really glad we cleared the air, it's a different world we live in and I need DS on board with how we think now' to make it easier and really, to get what you want.
I would probably have steered away at the table tbh, I can't believe he was really telling you to protect your dd from gay people.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 11-Jan-15 13:50:13

What do next.... Nothing specifically. Pick your battles but be consistent about what you will and won't tolerate. It's a power thing. People like your FIL get away with being offensive or intimidating others because they go unchallenged. That's why people said they were proud of you. If he knows you're not going to roll over he'll get the message eventually and might even learn tocurb his tongue.

AnyFucker Sun 11-Jan-15 13:53:44

Good for you

Don't back down now or it will be for naught

Carry on politely standing your ground. The ball is in his court now

I had a similar thing with my MIL a few years ago. She saw sense after a few weeks when I withdrew my usual fully engaged presence. Whether she actually now agrees with my stance is not relevant, but she has changed her behaviour around me at least.

UpNorthAgain Sun 11-Jan-15 13:57:57

OP, you were right. My brother used to come out with comments that are so racist I would be embarrassed to repeat them here, but pretend he was joking, as if that made it OK. His daughter picked up on them and laughed along. When my daughter was getting old enough to understand, I remember commenting to my dad (with whom I have a very close relationship) that DB had better stop making those comments in the hearing of my DD as I didn't want her growing up racist. My dad tried to brush it off, saying I was being too sensitive, but I know he must have had a quiet word because my brother stopped.

UngratefulMoo Sun 11-Jan-15 13:58:08

(Nerf - he was telling me that he thinks gay pressure groups like Stonewall are trying to 'turn' young people gay and it was my responsibility as a parent to protect her from those kinds of negative influences.)

avocadotoast Sun 11-Jan-15 14:04:54

I think you absolutely did the right thing.

I have an uncle (related by marriage - my mum's sister's husband) who often drops racist terms. He was talking about someone's baby at Christmas and said "you'd never know he was half p**i". My mum called him out on it and the rest of us backed her up. I dread to think what he says around my cousin as she's only 4 - and as pp have said, if she repeats stuff at school she'll be in trouble.

pointythings Sun 11-Jan-15 14:11:02

You did the right thing. The situation may not have been ideal, but given what he said at the dinner table re 'turning people gay' - that is absolutely unacceptable language and therefore he created the situation by saying it. At that point, waiting for a one to one moment was no longer an option. Ultimately he brought this on himself.

ShadowSuperNova Sun 11-Jan-15 14:13:02

What to do next?

Personally I would carry on as normal - i.e. no apology for the disagreement.

If he uses offensive language in your presence again, or brings the row up, I would repeat that I don't want offensive language being used around me / DC. The argument about DC getting into trouble at school etc if they parrot the offensive language might also help him to see he needs to watch his language.

Branleuse Sun 11-Jan-15 14:14:47

you did the right thing. Hideous language

OnlyLovers Sun 11-Jan-15 14:16:58

at the end he told me that he respected me for being honest with him, although I had hurt his feelings.

To me that sounds like quite a good and harmonious outcome, TBH. Will there still be negative fallout despite it ending like this?

NB I apologise if that sounds as though I don't believe you or am minimising or anything: I do NOT mean to do so AT ALL and am 100% on your side regarding calling him out.

Nerf, IMO there are times when challenging unacceptable language outweighs politeness or etiquette and this sounds like one of them. If anything, the person who should have worried about etiquette is the FIL –by the sound of it, most of the others present were supportive of the OP and therefore the majority of people at dinner were probably the ones offended by the language, not him.

lemisscared Sun 11-Jan-15 14:17:04

We don't see BIL anymore partly because of his racist views and the fact that he would happily use racist words in front of my DD. I didn't want to have to explain the N and P words to her hmm

Its no loss, BIL is a cock

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