Over the last couple of months I’ve been getting back into feminist activism in a big way. OK, nothing like as a big as some of the amazing women and men I have been meeting (mainly through twitter), but comparatively, for me, a big way.
I’ve been reading books, blogs, enlightening tweets… I’ve even been to my first feminist conference (Go Feminist, last weekend). And I’ve got to the point where (I think!) I have learnt a bit better how to pick my fights than when I first started out. By that I don’t mean I have *stopped* picking fights, rather I am getting better at which proof points to use to justify the requirement for feminism in a 21st century westernised country (which, let’s face it, is the gatekeeper to any productive feminist conversation if the other party is not already a convert).
So I had a nasty reminder of what it was like for me a mere couple of months ago when talking to a friend of mine this week – one of my latest recruits to the church of feminism. I feel a sense of responsibility for igniting her interest and engagement with feminism (though perhaps I flatter myself).
Since beginning to practice her feminist arguments she has come under quite aggressive attack from friends and family telling her that not only is feminism a big fuss over nothing, but often asserting that it’s the men we need to be worried about protecting as our society is now so heavily laden with privilege for women than the boys are being left behind.
It reminded me of very similar conversations I had with loved ones (often more likely to be female than male). These confrontations hurt, especially when you are new to the arguments and don’t have a watertight defence against “facts” that they throw at you, even when you know how wrong they are.
So I thought, in case anyone stumbles upon this blog post in the early days of their own feminist journey, I would pass on the advice I gave her, to avoid others becoming disheartened.
- The first thing to remember is to use their push back as a reminder of how inherent a subconscious acceptance of the “order of things” is in everyone’s minds. You don’t have to be a chauvinist to accept the current order, it just means you haven’t thought about it. So these friends and family members aren’t the enemy, they just need to be awoken to the situation.
- Arm yourself before entering any situation where you find yourself the sole defender of the feminist movement (whether when talking to your partner, or a pub full of colleagues). I am still massively cautious about starting these sorts of discussions because I am not an expert, however every book and article I read gives me more confidence and, importantly, more examples and anecdotes to prove my beliefs. It’s important to get a basic grounding in what UK laws do and don’t cover, and some stats that show the current lie of the land. This basic grounding doesn’t require a 3 year gender studies degree; a couple of months of interested reading and conversations in your spare time and you will notice how much more knowledgeable and confident you come across in a conversation.
- Find accessible ways in for others. So you’ve made your point and someone is showing the vaguest bit of interest in your philosophy. Don’t lose them now! Keep a couple of films or book titles up your sleeve (not literally… though that’s an idea…) to recommend as a bite-sized next step into feminism. My personal favourites are:
- Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine (great for people who think very scientifically)
- The Equality Illusion by Kat Banyard (short, digestible, shocking)
- Made in Dagenham (film, fantastically enjoyable for men and women, feminists and not… but also really relevant given the recent UNISON equal pay court win)
Three easy tips to get you started. Does anyone else have any others they would like to share?