A Shapeling (who wishes to remain anonymous for the purpose of this thread) has some questions she’s been mulling after some of our recent discussions about gender and feminism. What do you do when the men in your life are only partway to feminism — when they agree that, say, women should have equal pay for equal work, and that rape is bad, but they think the rest of it is silly or overreacting? Or when they don’t accept that some of their own behavior — whether it’s as “minor” as flirting in the street or as major as thinking their sexual needs are more urgent and non-negotiable than their female partners’ — contributes to the culture of sexism?
Our Shapeling asks:
So I guess my question is, how do you navigate this type of territory? How do you educate a loved one about their own sexist behavior when they don’t believe they are being sexist? Without any back story, the easy response is that I should just dump him if he can’t learn to respect me and take me seriously… But what do you do about men you can’t dump? What do you do if it’s like, your uncle, or your dad, or your brother? You can’t just dump your family. So what are you supposed to do when you’re dealing with someone who, for the most part, is on board with your feminism, but still has certain sexist expectations about you, and is unwilling to admit or acknowledge that certain behaviors are sexist?
I’m sure we all have some experience with negotiating our own feminism (and other commitments to social justice) with reluctant people in our lives. What do you do when people you care about convinced they’re not sexist — and are wrong?