Not the ivory tower…feminism in everyday life

11 02 2009

One of my main struggles as a feminist is how to live feminism and how to stay true to my feminist beliefs and values in my everyday life and relationships, be they platonic relationships, romantic relationships, familial relationships, professional relationships, etc. Imagine these two scenarios:

1. Thanksgiving dinner. Back home with the good old fam to celebrate the holidays. Everyone’s talking around the dinner table and your strange uncle who you never really liked repeatedly tells racist jokes that he thinks are hilarious. Do you sit there, bite your tongue and just silenty explode with rage inside your head? Or do you call him out on it? And if you do, how do you articulate yourself without being offensive or starting drama at a family dinner?

2. You are hanging out with your friends who you haven’t seen in a while. You start talking about various things and you mention how you are a feminist. Some of your friends start laughing and making fun of you, asking you if you shave your armpits, hate men, that whole thing. Someone makes a joke about “rounding up all those feminists and putting them where they belong.” You begin to get upset and you want to enlighten them and tell them what feminism is really about, but you don’t have the words. How do you start to explain what feminism is and why it is so important to you? Or do you just sit there silently and annoyed, waiting for someone to change the subject?

I tend to surround myself with like-minded people who share similar progressive beliefs and values. I’m not used to having to assert and explain my opinions because most of the people I hang out with understand and agree with me. Therefore when I encounter someone who does not know about feminism but is quick to negatively judge feminism and write it off, I never have the words to articulate myself with. Do people have similar experiences? What do you do instead? What advice or suggestions do you have?



2 responses

13 02 2009
Linda Khalil

I know what you mean, I feel like this happens so often, and not just with feminist topics (although feminism is regarded so negatively that this happens with feminism without fail). We are cultured to think or act in “modes;” when we are in our scholarly mode -ie.) in the classroom, at a discussion- we regard topics intellectually, and when in “friend” mode, it is as if all bets are off. People seem to forget the ideas they have discussed or written about, or respected in class, and act in a completely different manner. It makes me wonder why things are this way. Do the things we learn really not infiltrate our lives and instead remain in a scholarly bubble that we leave behind? This defeats the purpose of an education, so hopefully it is not true, or at least not universal. I have no advice, but can commiserate. This happens to me all the time. I know how to “find the words” when writing a paper or an essay, but in a social setting, for SOME annoying reason, it is as if everything leaves me and I am at a frustrating loss. Even when I do choose to not let offensive situations pass without a word, I fail to verbalize all that I am thinking and seem only able to eek out a weak (and lame) -“hey guys, not cool.” Why is it that in a social situation we can not get past the social barriers that we are learning to break down in the first place? Why can we not bridge the intellectual and personal spheres of our lives at all times? If the two remain separated, then we haven’t at all had the effects that we wish to have, and this makes me feel defeated.

13 02 2009

mmmm, p.s. …
optimism!! 😀

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