Ask Jono: Dudes And Feminism
I need advice from a guy, and since my dad and guy friends are causing the problem, I turned to the man with the plan, man of the year, and all around good guy—you!
Okay, here goes nothing or possibly everything.
I'm a feminist, like full-blown. If this were the '70s, I'd probably be the one hosting the... uhhh... under-garment *cough, cough* burnings. But my guy friends say all these little sexist remarks and digs. I try to tell them off, but I run into an issue. I'm not a lesbian, but if I declare my feminism like Harry declared his allegiances during HP5-7, I'm probably going to be labeled as a lesbian (which I'm not) like Harry was labeled Dumbledore's Dude and get booted off the dating island permanently (not that I was ever going to be declared winner of *Survival Show* in the first place, I'm NBK and 16.5). Anyway, how do I tell them off with out turning them off?
I also run into a similar issue with my father and my feminism. I believe in love and partnership, yet I don't believe in marriage. My dad says I'll change my mind, but I know I won't. I don't know how to tell him off, either. Ugh, and he teases me about my feministic tendencies! He doesn't understand that I'm really lucky to be living where I live, and that my fellow women across the globe have it way beyond suckish!
I know I ranted a little, but in the name of Merlin's saggy left—*cough, cough,* I'll stop there—can you help?
Here's the thing, FiT: there's a tactful way and a blunt way to make any ideological point. The tactful way is to present such convincing arguments that you win everybody over, bit by bit, without them even realizing you're arguing. If you want to argue gender theory—for example, how culture literally conditions us to view women as objects—the tactful way is to do it without ever sounding like you're accusing your friends of any such thing. The blunt way is to go "Here's my gender theory: you are made of smelly gross man garbage. FEMINISM, AWAY!" and then fly away in a hot air balloon with the Venus symbol on it.
The latter is the only way anyone's going to equate your feminism with lesbianism. I always liked having discussions about this kind of thing, but on the other hand I was willingly taking critical theory classes, so it's entirely possible that I have Brain Problems. Anyway, here's how I would argue your point, if I were you.
1.) Be understanding.
The first step is always to put yourself in the other person's shoes. For example, here is a true and inarguable fact: every single study always shows there's a male-female wage gap. But if just you walk up to some high school dude and go "FACTS! KABLAMMO!" and shove that information in his face, he's going to respond like he's under attack, because from his perspective, you just told him he has it easy, while you have to work harder in life, because girl parts. Nobody, anywhere, likes being told he's from a group that's privileged, even when it's true. On top of that, he's going to try, and fail, to imagine a sinister manager down at Taco Bell going "Nya ha ha! Take that, sweet cheeks!" and docking some teen's paycheck 15%, then scribbling "REASON: IS A GIRL." (Obviously the gender-based wage gap is real, but the reality is more complicated than that.)
The situation with your dad is similar. He's probably been picturing you at your wedding for 16.5 years, imagining the part where you arrive on a unicorn, in an idyllic meadow, and he tells you how proud he is, and you immediately hand him ten grandchildren to play with. Now it's like you're going "Hey, dad! PTTHTBT," and sticking your tongue our at his stupid dad dreams. You are, of course, totally allowed to do that—all I'm asking is that you understand where the other people in this situation are coming from.
2.) Be clear about your discomfort.
As for the part where you tell them off: don't. Well, you can, but they're probably just going to tease you more. Here's something I've consistently found to be true about human beings: they tease and joke and act like gigantic children, but if they actually believe they're bothering you, they will usually stop. So the goal is just to establish that for them.
Good Way: "Guys, it honestly upsets me when you (do specific thing)."
Bad Way: "Guys, WAAAAHH."
I'm not sure how your group of friends works, but in mine, there was kind of a thin line between asking for consideration and inviting mockery; you'll have to figure out where that line is for yourself. (Hopefully your dad will be more mature about this, and won't respond to your request by hopping from foot to foot and going "NYAH-NYAH, YOU'RE A GIRL!")
3.) Give them an objective.
People are better at fulfilling a well-defined goal than they are at just being more accepting, or more considerate, or whatever. They'll do some specific thing for you if you ask them to, but if your only request is "respect my feminism!" you're probably going to be disappointed, especially if you can't make it clear to them what you want.
Good Way: "I know you guys are just kidding around and don't mean anything by it, but please refrain from making comments like "that haircut is as stupid as a woman," and please don't do things like sabotage the steering column on my car, so you can then make a joke about how girls can't drive, as we hurtle into a ravine. Thanks!"
Bad Way: "We should grow all babies in clone labs, to liberate ourselves from the male-o-cratic manocracy! We should abolish the patriarchal meal of dinner, and instead of drinking lemonade we should drink lewomanade! Wait! Where is everyone going?!"
I'm not telling you that you can't have strongly—even unconventional—feminist beliefs; you absolutely have a right to. I'm just saying that sometimes you have to tell people what exactly you want, and maybe meet them halfway. Sometimes it's more mature to let people have their happy fantasies even if they're wrong (e.g. your dad). And sometimes you get farther telling people what you personally believe, without establishing whether you believe those things as an A++ Level 100 Feminist or just as regular you.