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Feminism: chat

Sexism Vs racism

19 replies

justabigdisco · 27/07/2022 15:39

Hi, haven’t posted on this board before but genuinely interested in the views of other mumsnetters, particularly women of colour.

I’m white and my husband is Asian. We have 2 primary aged daughters. We do our best to help them understand their position in the world and the effects of both sexism and racism on their lives.

My issue is the feeling that my husband constantly feels the need to ‘trump’ my explanations of sexism with his experience of racism. For example - the other day I was explaining the concept of patriarchy to them and how they are living in a world designed by men for men. And he follows up with ‘and usually white men’.

Now I know that his statement isn’t wrong. I know it’s not a race to the bottom. I am fully aware of my own white privilege and try to also explain this to the children (they are pale skinned so ‘white passing‘ and likely to be in the somewhat odd position of experiencing both racism and white privilege in their lives). However it sometimes feels as though he is minimising the effect of sexism and misogyny by constantly bringing up his own experiences of being a man of colour (with a privileged upbringing I might add).

It annoys me because I feel like I do my best to understand where he is coming from but he doesn’t do the same in return. I know that my girls will experience both racism AND sexism and we are trying to educate them about both but he somehow always needs to interject on my explanations of what it is like to be a woman. I hope I have explained what I mean! Happy to be told I need to wind my neck in.

OP posts:

ldontWanna · 27/07/2022 17:19

You are both "lucky" enough to have mostly dealt with just sexism or racism. You need to sit him down and explain to him that your girls will get both, even if they "pass". They need to be prepared to deal with and handle both. Sometimes it will be because they're female,sometimes it'll be because their heritage and sometimes it'll be because they're both. Each on their own can be hurtful,discriminatory,annoying,even dangerous. While they might be able to "hide" their race,at least for now, they can't hide that they're female.

Tbh whether he'll be willing to understand or not,depends a lot on his mentality and views. If he's the type that thinks some women asked for it, that banter is fine, that women can't take a joke, that touching/whistling/comments are just a compliment etc. he'll never get how serious sexism is and racism will always be a lot worse for him.

Talk to him. See where he's coming from and if you can find a middle ground.


justabigdisco · 27/07/2022 17:25

Thanks for your reply. He isn’t that kind of man which is what makes it frustrating that he seems to think that his experiences ‘outrank’ mine as it were.

OP posts:

ldontWanna · 27/07/2022 17:30

justabigdisco · 27/07/2022 17:25

Thanks for your reply. He isn’t that kind of man which is what makes it frustrating that he seems to think that his experiences ‘outrank’ mine as it were.

Don't make it into a fight. Things could be hard enough for your girls without their parents playing top trumps over who had it worse. Like I said talk to him, tell him how you feel and that his dismissiveness upsets you, plus it might leave your girls unprepared or willing to put up with (sexism) shit because "it's not as bad as .....(insert racist thing here)". This is about your girls,their future and the possible difficulties they might encounter in life simply because of who they are.


justabigdisco · 27/07/2022 20:13

Thank you. Unfortunately he doesn’t generally respond to how his behaviour/words make me feel.

OP posts:

ldontWanna · 27/07/2022 21:21

You can always talk to them when he is not there , and maybe let him do the work on racism and you focus on sexism. If head's happy to encroach on your "teaching" then he can be solely responsive for the other side of it. I don't know your family set up but I have loads of opportunities to talk to DD just me and her about serious stuff.

Depending on their age, you can watch Hidden Figures with them. It's about 3 black women working for NASA and being dismissed as less both for being women and black. While it focuses quite a lot on racism, I think the sexism in it gives plenty of opportunities to talk about too.


justabigdisco · 27/07/2022 21:57

Thanks. I guess I feel like I’m happy to do the sexism bit while he does the racism bit but he always seems to want to jump in when I’m saying stuff. It feels like whataboutery. I will try and do more when I’m on my own with them but tbh I feel like I want him to hear it too. Perhaps that’s how he also feels

OP posts:

YesJess · 28/07/2022 23:22

Well, tbf white women aren't exactly a minority in this country and are extremely unlikely to be seen as outsiders. I don't know the situation so I could be wrong but is it possible you go on a bit about it and this is his way of gently drawing attention to it.

To put it another way, I don't think it can be particularly surprising that a POC might comment when a white person keeps talking about how oppressed they are.


YesJess · 28/07/2022 23:24

Sorry, if that sounds like I'm minimising, but the way you talk about needing to 'do the sexism bit' makes it sound almost like you want to. I think with POC it's not something they really have a choice in (unlike myself who doesn't really feel the need to 'do the sexism thing' for the most part).


justabigdisco · 29/07/2022 08:34

Thanks YesJess I did wonder if this was part of it

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NonnyMouse1337 · 30/07/2022 07:57

For example - the other day I was explaining the concept of patriarchy to them and how they are living in a world designed by men for men. And he follows up with ‘and usually white men’.

I would really, really, really struggle to contain my anger if an Asian man said that in my presence. But that's because I'm an Indian woman who was born, raised and lived in the Middle East and India, and I actually know what the men are like over there. I am not susceptible to 'white guilt' so I won't accept bullshit spouted by men under the excuse of 'but racism...'

What they are actually trying to say is that racism is always much worse because men are also affected by it. They don't think male violence against women and sexism and misogynistic attitudes are as important because it is deeply embedded in their minds that the concerns of women should come second because ultimately women are second class to men. (These are 'women's issues' you see.......)
If anything also affects them as a man, it will always be more important than anything a woman might face and they will make sniping comments to minimise her pain and experiences. I've heard about this behaviour among men from minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK. I think maybe they feel they can get away with such statements because if they have a white partner she will feel hesitant to challenge him knowing he can always wave the racism card in her face, so to speak. I don't think they would dare say those things to a woman who has first hand experience of living in cultures where men like them are the majority. They can't use that excuse on us.

In my view, sexism always trumps racism because as a woman, it doesn't matter where in the world you are - you can never escape the impacts of being a woman in a world dominated by men. It shapes our lives in so many ways. Whether it is being raped and murdered, or groped, stalked and sexually harassed, to low level stuff like all the stupid, shitty expectations heaped on women from birth to death - these are (sadly) universal experiences. Yes, wealth and coming from a 'high class' family can shield some women from many of these issues. But I have met women from so many cultures and countries - and there is a depressing bond that transcends our differences and nationalities.

The split second, heart stopping, deep fear when you walk down a street at night and hear something behind you or see a man walking behind. (Or the fear/anxiety if you're in a taxi and the driver suddenly takes a different route than the one you know.)
Or the abusive father who treated your mum like shit. (Or treated you like shit but showered your brothers with praise.)
Or the husband who beat you and threatened to kill you and the kids if you ever tried leaving. (Or a favourite tactic of abusive Arab and Asian men in places like the UK - they will kidnap the children and take them abroad to their home countries where the mothers can't get them back.)
Or the guy in the night club or college class who just won't take no for an answer.
Or the boyfriend who keeps going even when you say 'no, stop...'.
Or the bloke who rubs his crotch up against you on a crowded bus or train. (I stayed awake all night during an overnight bus journey once because I was travelling by myself and a man sitting directly behind me kept sneaking his hand from the side of the seat to grope and stroke my breast. I was in my early twenties and more embarrassed about 'making a scene'.... Sigh....)
Or the boy in your class who tried to stick his hand up your school uniform on the playground. (Or the uncle, school coach etc sticking his hand up your school uniform.)
Or the male colleague who keeps interrupting and talking over you in meetings, or tries to take the credit for your hard work. Or the mediocre man who gets promoted over you.

I could go on and on and on. Sure, not every woman will have experienced everything I've listed (and it's a combo of stories from different women), but many women will have experienced some of these things at least once, if not over the course of their life.

Yes racism is horrible, and sometimes it's really brutal. I've had some racist experiences in the UK and Middle East (much worse in Middle East btw - it's a lot more deeply embedded. Most Brits are shocked when I tell them stuff I've grown up with).
But they don't compare to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and violence that I've either experienced or was at high risk of experiencing simply by virtue of being born female. It's much more visceral to me.
Racism never affected me deeply on a personal level - sure I get angry, frustrated, but ultimately I view such people as small minded and I pity them. Their behaviour is a reflection on themselves and doesn't affect my sense of self worth as a human being - I move on with my life, find a better job or opportunities etc. At the end of the day, I don't care what someone thinks about me. I once worked with a guy who was frank with me that he supported the BNP. I think he thought I would get shocked or upset but I didn't care. He was professional at work, answered my questions and helped out when I needed it. That's all that mattered to me at the end of the day. He even gave me a glowing reference when I left. 😂


Pickanameforme · 30/07/2022 13:11

Just get him to read Bonny's excellent post


Pickanameforme · 30/07/2022 13:12

Sorry nonny - that was autocorrect


Luredbyapomegranate · 30/07/2022 13:30

I think as @YesJess and @NonnyMouse1337 have just ably demonstrated, there are a lot of diverse and valid points to be made in this area. ( I’d also add it’s not possible to exclude economic status, your DP comes from an affluent background and that is a privilege.)

So I’d talk to him focusing on the fact that you do not want your daughters to see a woman being silenced by a man in their own home.

If you are talking to them about X, you do not want him taking the conversation to Y, by playing top trumps. There is not a shortage of time, both topics can be discussed. If he does it again, pull him up after the event - if he does it again after that, firmly tell him that you are currently taking about X.

And do get him to read Nonny’s excellent post. Not to prove your point, but because he’s the father of daughters and if he doesn’t get it, he fucking needs to.


WaveyHair · 30/07/2022 13:39

Racism is often more visible than sexism snd is condemned more strongly.

Sexism & misogyny is much more subtle and even well meaning men who would not consider themselves sexist are often completely unable to see it. Which is why I suspect your husband speaks out more strongly about racism.


Anothernamechangeplease · 30/07/2022 13:45


I have a similar family set-up to you, OP - Asian DH, I'm white and dd is mixed. I came on to say that you're over reacting a bit and that it's fair enough for him to chip in with his experiences, as the sad reality is that your dds will experience both racism and sexism through their lives.

However, having just read @NonnyMouse1337's very powerful post, I think I will shut up, keep quiet and let others with more experience of both issues share their take on this.


justabigdisco · 30/07/2022 14:34

Thanks so much for the insightful posts. If I’m being completely honest, I admit that when I’m explaining some of the problems encountered by women and girls ‘to the children’, I’m also explaining them to him. He claims to understand - and I really feel as though I do my best to understand what experiencing racism must be like, but he doesn’t seem to offer the same back to me.

OP posts:

Avaynia · 30/07/2022 14:56

I have always been impacted more by racism than sexism. Sexism generally comes from men. The racism comes from men and women. I’ve encountered people who treated the white women around me just fine while I was treated with disdain. So the notion that I can’t escape sexism but I can escape racism doesn’t apply to my life whatsoever. And white women tend to be very quick to gaslight, minimize, and dismiss racism in the same way men do about sexism. They say “not all white people” (not all men) or “you can’t say anything these days” (it’s too dangerous to talk to women these days) or “I’m not responsible for other white people” (where are all the supposed good men standing up to the bad ones. Doesn’t seem to apply to them and racism though.) Or they’ll be passive aggressive and self centered during conversations about race and talk about how you can totally be racist against white people (but also complain about the menz and how they make everything about them and their feelings and never let a conversation be just about women’s experiences without trying to derail it and how you can’t be sexist against men because the Patriarchy) I’m allowed to say there’s no such thing as a good man but I know what would happen on here if I said there’s no such thing as a good white person.

Although frankly there is no relief. I’m four times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. Is that a racism problem or a sexism problem? It’s both. Perpetuated by, as I said, both women and men. You can’t always separate the two and that’s the position your daughters are in. The stereotypes about my womanhood are different than the ones about it white women. Which is why reacting to them the way white women think you should isn’t the right answer. As universal as a white woman’s experiences might seem because we’re all women, it’s not that simple.


Namenic · 30/07/2022 15:12

When growing up my E Asian culture was more sexist than western culture. I’m lucky not to have had sexual harassment and can count on 1 hand racist incidents. Now things are improving but you kinda just know with the older generation - waiting for a boy to carry on the surname, girls should not sit like that, blah blah blah… I mean, I used to get angry about it, but now I just accept it exists and try not to perpetuate it and get on with my life. Personally I found that expending too much energy getting wound up was a waste. However this may be because my experience of racism and sexism has been relatively mild.


YesJess · 30/07/2022 16:43

I'm often surprised by how racist my Indian mates are. Defo don't like 'p*kis' as they call them. And this is coming from successful well educated guys.

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