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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!

EleanorGiftbasket Mon 10-Dec-12 16:20:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Is mmbovary a troll? Or just a spanner?

Oh wow. Not a troll! Shocked someone who calls themselves a feminist is so hateful about a huge number of women.

FestiviaBlueberry Mon 10-Dec-12 21:37:18

MmBovary, have you changed your name from Xenia?

If you don't know how you can be a feminist and a SAHM, then I'm afraid you just haven't done the reading.

Some people might have the energy to bother to educate you. I haven't, I just advise you to do a bit more reading of feminist texts. Happy Christmas.

MmBovary Tue 11-Dec-12 10:26:07

Mm Bovary is not a troll or a spanner. It’s just a normal woman who is married and has children and has made certain choices in life – that are not easy, as they never are – based on what she believes.

She believes than “choosing my choice” is not always a positive contribution to feminism and its cause. But mainly, she believes that staying at home for years on end is not a positive contribution to the position of women in our society as a whole. She believes that these personal choices women make have an impact on a broader scale and that’s why we have to be so careful when we make them.

She also believes that whatever our choices are, we should be prepared to be criticised for them, and react to that criticism like adults, not children. I also criticise some men for their choices, for staying at work all day and not looking after their children, for expecting their wives or a female cleaner to do the cooking or the hovering. For not being prepared to change the rules of the workplace so as to be allowed to be present in other areas of life.

I’m not in this forum to make friends or talk about cup cake baking, I’m here to ask questions, to give reasons why I think in a particular way, why I think that your personal, private choices are very important, and why you shouldn’t call yourself something that you are not prepared to live by.

Stepford wives’ feminism is just not appealing to me, certainly not a choice for me either. I think it’s weak and the arguments put forward in this discussion so far is just a sad proof of that.

snowshapes Tue 11-Dec-12 11:37:24

One of the main things I have always struggled with as a feminist is the tension between difference (the recognition that women have different needs as mothers; which has informed campaigns for proper maternity care, maternity leave, the right to breastfeed in public, family allowances, wages for domestic work etc) and the fight for equality, which has traditionally been seen as women gaining equal access to what has historically been seen as the male sphere, through things like equal pay and equal opportunities acts.

My problem with this is that in practice, women have had to adopt traditionally 'male' patterns of work and find someone else to do the childcare and domestic work (or else take on the dual burden, as in practice most men don't do their share). So, I think, rather than direct one's ire at SAHM's, who often make the decision for pragmatic economic, social reasons, I would question the social structures which reinforce gendered social norms, and, as you say, the men who don't question or try to change the culture they (predominantly) shape.

I agree with MmBovary to the extent that one parent at home, the other working silly hours is not in anybody's interests, not least because it leaves the SAHP vulnerable and does nothing to challenge ingrained social norms, but the fact is that with prohibitive childcare costs and the cost of living, for many people, once you have got more than one child, it is just not possible to remain in the workplace - because let's face it, two parents working full-time is stressful, there is not enough time really for the children, and it seems easier to reduce the stress. Plus, two parents working flat out does nothing to change working culture.

What one wants is a pattern where both parents work less than full-time, the domestic chores are fully shared, and both parents can contribute to things like taking children to dentists, doctors, covering sick days etc. In practice, what you get is people doing the best they can one way or the other, and I wouldn't equate that with Stepford Wives feminism, or cupcake baking all day for years on end.

GalaxyDisaStar Tue 11-Dec-12 13:55:45

MmBovary - You may not be here to make friends, but it tends to contribute to PARD if you don't insult or patronise people. You have been rude to posters, and dismissive of other views. I think you'll find no one else on this thread was 'here to discuss cup cake baking' either hmm. Nor is it particularly PAR to passive aggressively accuse others on the thread of being Stepford Wives.

I do actually agree that we need to see more equal division of parenting and financial contribution. In some families a direct split of duties might be ideal, but many more are forced into that choice by societal constraints, especially childcare costs. In our case it was geographical relocation and the fact that my job wasn't portable. For many families, both working 3 days and a small amount of childcare could well work. Or both 4. What I don't agree with is your idea that by just getting your head down and continuing to work throughout you are challenging the status quo any more than someone who may take a career break.

Nor have you answered the question on why you consider me 'dependant'. I am not dependant on my husband any more than he is on me. Currently, he provides finances. I provide childcare. Without the other neither of us would easily be able to operate in our current sphere.

So, regardless of your views, I am a feminist.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 11-Dec-12 16:59:42

A SAHM is not the same as a Stepford wife, MmB.

Writehand Tue 11-Dec-12 17:05:32

MmBovary, you write: 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.

I could not disagree with you more. You've just put the women's movement back decades! It's about choice: feminism. There are a multitude of excellent feminist ways to raise a family. Someone's got to look after the kids, after all.

Are you not a feminist if you look after your own kids? Are you only a feminist if someone else does? Where exactly are you going here, Madame Bovary? (not a great nom de plume for a feminist, as I recall!)

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.

Get over yourself! It's not hard to be equal. Feminism is a straightforward everyday thing that many of us inhabit. We live the way that works for us, as women and as equals.

duchesse Tue 11-Dec-12 17:17:18

Responding to the OP as I don't have time right now to read the whole thread.

I am 44 and have 4 children, the oldest in their late teens. My university friends have children of a similar age or slightly younger. We are all educated women, yet this is a major sticking point. Many of them are toeing the traditional line almost entirely, not expecting their DHs to do anything more than "help out" at home. I find this deeply frustrating and frankly it's not a conversation I can have with them as there is not really a meeting ground between their points and mine. Also I don't want to be responsible for them beginning to feel dissatisfied with their lot- I think that's a process they have to undergo themselves if they want to. I live how I live but marvel at the things they say and the ways they live.

I find myself with more in common with other friends who are becoming more feminist as time goes by.

DoingitOnTheRoofTopWithSanta Tue 11-Dec-12 19:04:15

I am a feminist. I am currently a SAHM. It is short sighted to say that I am 'dependent on my husband for survival' IMO. In fact, DH and I were having a conversation last night about how I needed life insurance of a level pretty similar to his - because if I died, buying in those services so he could continue to work. Or indeed to fund him working less.

I have also had almost this exact conversation with DH, almost because we came to the conclusion that I should be insured for more than him. Funny that.

mmbovary I am a feminist because I decided to make a choice to look after my children, I could have slaved away at a menial job to not cover the costs of child care so that I could prove a point.Though I am not sure what that point is?

I would not have enjoyed it and would be sad everyday that I was missing out on my children while they are still little so I can win at playing a game invented by the patriarchy? confused. BUt yes, I suppose I could have done those things if I wanted to fit in to your very blinkered view of feminism.

Or as my husband out earned me (because he was ten years older and I had spent my time working rubbish jobs to fund me living abroad in countries most of my friends growing up will never even visit) I could get on with enjoying staying at home with my family.

You are absolutely totally ridiculous.

DoingitOnTheRoofTopWithSanta Tue 11-Dec-12 19:07:11

Namechage, you're a vivid example that the kind of men feminist forums attract are never the brightest in the pack.I know why that is, because the brightest ones are in the City, sitting in their big cat chairs, earning big money to suppor their feminist wives at home. Making the whole capitalist machinery move on and on.

So xenia mmbovary how are you finding the time to post on this forum? Or are you also not the brightest?

lisianthus Wed 12-Dec-12 02:07:15

Wow. I am not a fan of the concept of "choice feminism" either, believing that all choices have to be seen in context. That being said, I also believe that it is ENTIRELY possible to be a SAHM and a feminist- the key is to value the contribution of the SAHP equally with the contribution of the WOHP, and to see the income as family income. If the SAHP does the cooking or looks after the children, it doesn't make the food or the children "more" that parent's food or children. Same with the cash. It doesn't belong to the WOHP, it goes into the family budget to be spent in accordance with that. It doesn't give the WOHP additional rights to it.

When my DD's see me at home using my pickaxe to break up the clay in our vegetable garden, using the chainsaw on the rest of the garden, cooking a stew, sewing on a button or fixing the car, I am pretty sure I am not teaching them that women can't or shouldn't do certain things. I am teaching the joy of being competent, just as DH does when he does any of those things.

Writehand Wed 12-Dec-12 13:04:35

My boys are feminists without even thinking much about it. It's how they were brought up. But then, though my mum is more conventional, my dad has always been a passionate feminist. More than that, really. He was a GP and will say openly that in his view women are by far the better, braver sex. He also envies their power to give birth. He did GP obstetrics back in the day, and loved it. I was his first born, and he expected the world to be my oyster.

I run my own business from a posh shed at the bottom of my garden. When it took off & it became clear that (1) I needed to work v long hours & (2) I could earn more than him, my husband was delighted to be able to walk into his manager's office and offer his resignation on the grounds that "my wife is going to keep me."

My DH was a househusband for 2 years. This worked out, by chance, to be a huge blessing because it meant he'd seen so much of the boys when, in the 3rd year, he became terminally ill and - after a year of illness at home - died.

When MmBovary writes "the kind of men feminist forums attract are never the brightest in the pack" she insults all the men in my family: a senior programmer, a doctor, a member of the Royal Academy...I could go on. Are you an example of Poe's Law, MmBovary? You are beginning to look like a parody of the wild hinterlands of sexual politics.

Equality between the sexes is a given in my family. We may be an unusual family but not, I'm pleased to say, very unusual. More and more children are being brought up with feminist views - not that they're taught them like a religion - just that they see equality in the home as normal.

Our domestic arrangements - like those of other posters - were based entirely on ability, inclination and money. My husband never for an instant considered me inferior. We were very proud of each other.

Feminism within the family is less about who earns what but about how the partners - and the extended family are perceived and valued. Men & women aren't the same, but they are far more alike than they are different. All of us respond to respect and courtesy, particularly that profound respect which makes the domination of one by the other quite unthinkable.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 12-Dec-12 13:16:40

Great post, write.

DoingitOnTheRoofTopWithSanta Wed 12-Dec-12 14:24:47

So sorry to hear about your husband write it sounds like he was a lovely man.

VikingLady Wed 12-Dec-12 20:35:13

I am a feminist. Married, we both took both surnames so that the children would have the same names as both of us, for admin purposes (passports, schools etc).

I am currently a SAHM. If DH could lactate, he would be home instead. If he had a uterus, he would take maternity leave. My earning potential is higher than his, but I believe in breastfeeding and DD is 9m. We plan to have our family fairly rapidly, then when they are able to be cared for equally effectively by DH we will assess who has the better earning potential, and who wants to be at home. DH will almost certainly be a SAHD, but shouldn't I be allowed to be a SAHM if his earning potential was higher than mine, MmBovary? If he was, say, a barrister earning £200k p.a. with years of training and experience behind him, and I was a checkout operative on minimum wage?

DoingitOnTheRoofTopWithSanta Wed 12-Dec-12 20:43:14

no, no none of your logic viking.

Mmbovary doesn't want any of that. Apparently the feminism forum is actually for bashing women and their choices. I thought the patriarchy did enough of that for us. But I was wrong well I'm a woman aren't I?

SomersetONeil Thu 13-Dec-12 09:40:10

DH and I have taken it turns to be the primary caregiver or sole breadwinner, and, at times, dual breadwinners with outside help in terms of childcare.

So although my thought processes, beliefs and feminist principles haven't changed over the years - at some of those points in time I have been a feminist and at some of them I haven't. hmm

My beliefs throughout have been absolutely the same, but because my occupation has temporarily changed, I have ceased to be a feminist. Even though I couldn't have identified less with non-feminist thoughts if I'd tried... grin Okaaaaay.

Not quite sure how that works....

I always find it slightly amusing when people get their tannoy out and declare that certain women are not feminists - and yet, on other threads where women are rushing to disassociate themselves from feminism, there'll be people arguing: well, if you believe in equality between the sexes and choice for all, you're a feminist whether you like it or not.

Women who proudly identify as feminists being told they're not, and women eschewing the label being told they are. You couldn't make it up.

Latara Thu 13-Dec-12 11:36:07

I am a feminist - i believe in equality in all areas of life for men & women.

The major sticking point for me is that the majority of my female family members, friends or colleagues will identify themselves as a feminist...

This is difficult for me as you can imagine!

These women are all working class / lower middle class, mostly white British.

The friends of mine who are immigrants from poorer countries tend to identify as feminists more; & ironically the male friends & relatives i have are happier to discuss feminist issues more than the women i know!

The particular problems i have when discussing feminism are the following, & sadly they are true of many women i know:

* they seem to enjoy a traditional female role;
* they are happy to be 'dictated to' by the men in their lives;
* they want to feel 'protected' by a man;
* they are happy not to challenge men in any way;
* they see Christian Grey from '50 Shades' as an 'ideal man';

* they are happy to change their surnames on marriage;
* they are happy for children to take their boyfriends' surnames if unmarried (even if they don't like the boyfriends that much!);

* they don't see a problem with not feeling safe when out at night or not feeling able to go into certain pubs alone etc - 'it's just one of those things that we have to put up with'

* they have archaic attitudes to rape victims - it's mostly seen as the victims' fault STILL

* they see feminists as ''wanting to be 'like men' '' !! (Even though i say i'm a feminist, i'm very feminine - more so than some friends - & make it clear it's equality i believe in rather than being 'like men' ffs)

If i give any opinions then i'm seen as ''too opinionated'' - but the men in their lives are allowed to have many opinions, of course!


Latara Thu 13-Dec-12 11:37:29

Sorry meant to say that the majority of female friends, colleagues & relatives WILL NOT identify as feminists (oops).

Festivedidi Thu 13-Dec-12 12:42:49

I am a feminist (although sometimes I am told I'm not, but only on here) and I have had to bite my tongue on a number of occassions at work.

I have changed the way I discuss things as I've got older. I have always had quite feminist views, it would have been difficult not to growing up in my household with the incredibly feminist women of my grandmas generation (my great aunts were a definite sight to behold).

When I was growing up I was surrounded by young women (at an all girls school) who believed they could do/be anything and the world was our oyster. We all fully expected careers, partners who would share all domestic duties 50/50, we weren't going to change our names, we were going to take on the world. Now fast forward 20 years and I'm the only one left who hasn't changed my ideals. Most of them have changed their names on marriage, have given up their careers to be SAHMs, are financially dependent on their husbands, and feel very sorry for me because we obviously just can't afford for me to do the same (it's nothing to do with me having a career I've worked hard for and am good at which pays the mortgage hmm)

We're still friends but at a more distant level. I seem to be gravitating more towards my colleagues, but even there I am surrounded by women fulfilling the traditionally female roles, they just work full time as well as doing the majority of the childcare and housework.

I don't think I know anyone outside my family who identifies as a feminist. Maybe one or two women at work would call themselves feminists but they don't do it openly.

I have to be very careful when I'm discussing things that I don't dismiss other people's choices as wrong, but I also don't want them to think I agree that their way is the only way. I've become rather diplomatic but I've also had to grow a bit more of a backbone recently so that I don't end up with a houseful of pink to the exclusion of everything else just because I have girls.

Writehand Fri 14-Dec-12 18:36:12

Thank you, TheDoctrineOfSnatch & DoingitOnTheRoofTopWithSanta. Yes, he was a lovely man. Big & funny, romantic & kind. We had 17 years together. He was only 50 when he died. I will always be grateful that he gave me my lovely boys. Another huge plus is that my relationship with him brought me a half-share in my much loved S-D, now 32 & married with children of her own, so I'm a stepgranny with three more people to love.

I could look at it two ways basically:

1.My true love died; what a tragedy; poor, poor me; or
2.Some people never find their true love or have a really happy relationship. How lucky I was.

I chose the second and it comforts me every day. Only downside is that he's a hard act to follow. It's taken me forever to get over feeling married. I only had my first proper relationship this year. It lasted just 6 months, and it was never very serious, but it's got me out and into the swing of life again. So I'm feeling more hopeful about my romantic prospects. wink

LRDtheFeministDude Fri 14-Dec-12 21:00:07

write your DH sounds like such a lovely man.

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