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How do I explain feminism to my sister?
July 13, 2006 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Feminism Filter: How do I explain feminism to my sister?

I am a feminist and so is my mother. My sister thinks that because I talk about feminism and feminist theories (I just finished a lib arts degree with a focus in woman's studies) this is indicitive of my hating men. Furthermore, whenever she hears about me doing anything traditionally feminine, such as washing the dishes or doing the laundry she mockingly accuses me of being a slave to the patriarchy (to echo a phrase I've used in describing some much more serious and egregrious historical situations), despite the fact that me and my (male) SO share the domestic resposibilties equally. How can I teach her about the validity of feminist arguments and feminist theor(ies) without her interpreting everything I say as evidence that I hate men?

(Note: This question is posted for the Significant Other of 1024x768 and any responses will be hers.)
posted by 1024x768 to Society & Culture (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
With all due respect to your question, why do you feel like you have to teach her about the validity of the arguments? You have your opinions/feelings on these issues, and if she chooses not to share/be interested in them without mocking you then why waste the effort?

I understand it if it's something you feel like you want to share with her/get her opinions on - but sometimes you have to wait for the other person to come at you with a genuine question/interest on their time.
posted by jcummings1974 at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2006


Ask her if she likes being able to vote, own her own property, live as a single woman, use birth control, and marry whomever she chooses.

If she does, she's a feminist.
posted by schroedinger at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Suggest that she read this (it's nice and short).
posted by Gator at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2006


er, no offense, but maybe your sister's problem is not that she has a caricatured understanding of feminism, but that she doesn't mind her own business!

Try and teach her that first, then you can proceed with the rest... and I'd say a little history recap is much better than any possible improvised argument.
posted by funambulist at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2006


Feminism has to do with expressing your own identity rather than playing a role. Your sister wants to express her own identity by being different from you, rather than taking her sister's advice. She's acting just like you in a different arena.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:50 PM on July 13, 2006


When she gets her period, make her go sleep outside in a tent until she's done.

Also, stone her if she has any sort of premarital relations.

And? Female circumcision.

Or, you can just explain these things to her.
posted by clairezulkey at 12:51 PM on July 13, 2006


There are really two tasks here, the explaining and the convincing. You can explain yourself all you want, you may never be able to convince your sister of anything, though you can demonstrate, through action and words, what your own feelings are. You don't hate men, so if your sister thinks you do, she's wrong. In fact many feminists don't hate men, they love men, marry men, enjoy men, work with men and have general good relationships with men. Other feminists don't. Your sister is probably intelligent enough to understand the difference, just find good examples, stick to them and ignore her when she talks her smack.

I find that the things that are most useful when discussing a feminist perspective are either sticking to politics [what is going on with the ERA, what is going on with family leave and health insurance, what is going on with equal pay, what is going on with legislation int he workplace that affects women -- now how would these things be implemented, do you think, if there were a system in place where the contributions of women were valued as equally as those of men? really?] which for some reason seems like a neutral area, or sticking to philosophy and keeping it out of any one person's domestic routine.

Unless your sister is some sort of misogynist, she has likely read books by women authors, perhaps even with a feminist slant. Consider using their words to discuss the topics with her, words that you know she's already impressed by, and talk about how feminism influences those women. This can also work well for female athletes and other females who have accomplished a lot in non-traditional roles. You might also want to look at particular advances for women that were spearheaded BY women, like suffrage, co-education, equality in sports facilities (that can be a touchy one) and access to birth control and reproductive choice. Just like we all benefit from the roads and other systems of government, women benefit from the groundwork laid by early and present day feminists. Your sister doesn't have to share their beliefs or even agree with them, she should just know that there's a long tradition of women getting things done by being agitators and wanting a better deal for themselves that can't be ignored.

I'd also consider a little bit of give and take. We all know there are outspoken feminists who are ridiculous, very out there, very man hating, anti-sex whatever. Maybe you need to think about sacrificing some of them in the name of better harmony with your sister (if you haven't already) and have some discussions about some of the more negative sides to feminism that go hand in hand with the good parts. We do this about politics and democracy and free speech or whatever all the time, so think about that as part of your approach.
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on July 13, 2006


how old is the sister? that matters a ton.
posted by soma lkzx at 12:53 PM on July 13, 2006


You could take the Metafilter Tactic™ and rather than explain it, mock her ruthlessly. Next time she says "I was driving to the store when..." interrupt her and say "You? Drove? What are you, some kind of man-hating feminazi?"
posted by adamrice at 12:56 PM on July 13, 2006


Also: It's possible your sister is trying to get on your nerves.

I was once the super-lecturing type, one of my favorite topics being feminism, and my brothers responded by mocking me incessantly. Once I stopped lecturing, started discussing, and didn't make women's lib issues a 24/7 topic of conversation (GRAAARGH The Man Show is a tool of the patriarchy to oppress women GRAAAARGH that character in that game you're playing forces unrealistic expectations on women GRAAAAARGH don't look at women or you're objectifying them GRAAAARGH), I found them not only more responsive to my ideas, but in agreement with a good number of them.
posted by schroedinger at 1:00 PM on July 13, 2006


"Ask her if she likes being able to vote, own her own property, live as a single woman, use birth control, and marry whomever she chooses."

Those are great reasons for feminism, circa 1906.

But those battles have been won.

So much of what passes for feminism today is shouty and angry - its easy to come across as man haters when you use angry rhetoric, even if you're not man-hating.

Definitions of feminism vary - try explaining your brand in ways that don't involve negativity towards anyone or any thing.

You'll get a much more sympathetic hearing and I think that's all you can expect.
posted by Jos Bleau at 1:00 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe she has a point. Phrases like "slave of the patriarchy" are a bit over-the-top. Sounds like she might be reacting against that or just declaring independence from you. Maybe chill or joke about things, recognize the truth in her arguments, recognize her right to have a different opinion. She'll come around.

(I'm speaking as someone who is trying to have a sense of humor about the upcoming ecological apocalypse. :) For the same reason. More persuasive when you can appeal to the not-yet-convinced.)
posted by salvia at 1:01 PM on July 13, 2006


Good luck. That's a tough attitude to change. It's a possibility that because of your educational background and your mother's similar outlook she's simply tired of hearing of you all discuss it often and so has decided to take the opposite view.

I spent years with a mysoginistic bf and his best friend who took every chance to slam me with the word 'FEMINIST!' (in the tone of voice people used to say 'leper') anytime I spoke up for any woman's views/issues. Makes ya wanna pull your hair out.

Nevertheless, if her mind doesn't want to be changed, it won't be. People can be stubborn creatures like that.
posted by CwgrlUp at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2006


Furthermore, whenever she hears about me doing anything traditionally feminine, such as washing the dishes or doing the laundry she mockingly accuses me of being a slave to the patriarchy (to echo a phrase I've used in describing some much more serious and egregrious historical situations), despite the fact that me and my (male) SO share the domestic resposibilties equally. How can I teach her about the validity of feminist arguments and feminist theor(ies) without her interpreting everything I say as evidence that I hate men?

Here's a question to ask yourself: what things have you done that give your sister the false impression that you hate particular men, or men in general? How often do you use phrases like "slave to the patriarchy"? I don't think that your sister would use a phrase like that to mock you unless you've used it quite a bit. Who do you hurl that phrase against? Women who were doing things against their will, like slaves? Or women who made personal choices to do certain things? Somewhere inbetween?

How can I teach her about the validity of feminist arguments and feminist theor(ies) without her interpreting everything I say as evidence that I hate men?

Exactly which feminist arguments and theories do you want her to understand/appreciate? It may be that she's reacting to the way/frequency that you talk about these ideas, rather than the ideas themselves.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:14 PM on July 13, 2006


soma lkzx she's 21
posted by 1024x768 at 1:14 PM on July 13, 2006


weapons-grade: I believe that's known as the "anything a woman chooses to say or do is a feminist thing just by virtue of her being a woman" new-agey definition of feminism which is not quite on target... There are in the world many different strands of feminism, but that's another thing from stretching the notion to make it so meaningless.

If you, say, are a libertarian and your sister is a communist, you don't say "well I believe libertarianism is about personal freedom so even my sister is actually a libertarian because she has the freedom to be a communist" - bad analogy but you get the point!

if her mind doesn't want to be changed, it won't be

Yep, and again, I wouldn't be as bothered by the sister's ideas as by the fact she doesn't keep her annoying judgement about the other (posting) sister to herself.
posted by funambulist at 1:15 PM on July 13, 2006


"Ask her if she likes being able to vote, own her own property, live as a single woman, use birth control, and marry whomever she chooses."

Those are great reasons for feminism, circa 1906.


As recently as 1986, single women still needed a man to co-sign for any property loan, and as recently as this year, women were denied access to birth control by "activist" pharmacists. Those reasons for feminism are still great reasons in 2006.
posted by headspace at 1:15 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I was going to suggest the same Tomato Nation column Gator linked to.
posted by MsMolly at 1:16 PM on July 13, 2006


Why is it that you feel it's your job to teach her that your views are correct? Has she expressed interest, or are you just angry that she's mocking you? Why not just live your beliefs (I'm thinking of schroedinger and 23skidoos replies) and let your sister's opinions sort themselves out on their own.

The urge that "if only I could say it the right way she'd understand..." is an understandable one - but sometimes you have to know when to let things lie.
posted by canine epigram at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2006


You know, there's a big ol' problem with the word feminism. My "feminist" SO tells me I'm a feminist. WTF? I'm a man. I can't self-identify as "feminist". Duh. It is an angry, exlusionary term.

Sure, you can tell me all the nice and pretty things that feminism means to people, and I can identify as humanist, so I align with a lot of that. But the name Just. Doesn't. Work.

I don't think gender is a reasonable thing to worry about unless you're trying to procreate. That means I don't care if you're male, female, transgendered, or neuter—I'll treat you the same. Therefore I'm a "feminist"? WTF?

Yes, I understand why it is called feminism, but that doesn't make it a good or proper name.

In a way, maybe your sister is more of a feminist than you if she rejects the term.
posted by trevyn at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2006


The line "indicative of hating men" when you clearly don't, being the SO of 1024x768, is indicative of being a twirpy little sister. It seems to me this is more about watching Mom and Big Sis rise to the bait than anything else. Arguing back just makes it more fun for Little Sis, so pretend it's MetaFilter and don't feed the trolls. An offhand comment about birth control, property rights etc is OK, but anything more than that is a "gotcha!" for Little Sis.
posted by Quietgal at 1:30 PM on July 13, 2006


On three successive Sundays, take her to church services at the three largest megachurches within 50 miles of your home.
posted by jamjam at 1:34 PM on July 13, 2006


How do I explain feminism to my sister?

"Feminism" means different things to different people. For example, I think schroedinger's definition is meaningless because it essentially defines the negative: "If you're not a misogynist*, then you're a feminist." If the definition is that broad, the term becomes useless. And I'd argue that most people agree with me on that point: When you find the word "feminist" used in print or in public, it's usually accompanied by connotations far beyond schroedinger's vanilla definition.

So you're really asking, "How do I explain my idea of feminism to my sister," which presupposes that your idea is more correct than hers — presumably justified in your mind by the insistence that, "I just finished a liberal arts degree with a focus in women's studies, whereas she's only 21."

You might consider that, whatever the consensus on MetaFilter or your college campus, most people probably would indeed interpret someone who goes out of her way to identify herself as a feminist and to preach about "feminist theories" as being hostile toward men. And since that's how language works, by evolving with common usage irrespective of whatever abstract and rhetorical arguments you might supply for a favored definition, in that sense your sister is right and you're wrong. So maybe instead of focusing on redefining your sister's concept of feminism, you could set aside the terminology and focus on simply explaining what you believe.

MetaFilter Pet Peeve: "misogynist" is not a synonym for "sexist," although it's often misused that way on MetaFilter.
posted by cribcage at 1:44 PM on July 13, 2006


DON'T go with the straw man stuff of assuming that everyone who doesn't call themselves a feminist (or doesn't make an issue out of it) is stuck in the middle ages. It's not relevant and it's really on the same level as saying "haha feminists are lesbians" Someone who thinks that women should be allowed to vote, own property, and marry whoever she chooses isn't a feminist, she's one of 99.999% of people in the first world.

Instead, if you think she really wants to know (because nothing you say about feminism will stop argumentative little sisters from being themselves), just tell her that if you get three feminists in the room you have five different opinions, because it's true.

Feminists think that sex is wonderful and feminists think sex is rape, feminists think men are pigs and feminists think men are equally opressed by unfair gender roles.

I think it's a bad term, for that reason, because some people use it to mean "Everyone who isn't a total misogynist retard" and people use it to mean various things that are in oppostion to each other and have no relation to the "not a retard" definition.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:46 PM on July 13, 2006


As recently as 1986, single women still needed a man to co-sign for any property loan

I'd love to see a source on this.

I bought my house in January. While I got my own loan, one of the pieces of paperwork, I think for the city, has me listed as pieoverdone: AN UNMARRIED WOMAN.

Yes, it was in all caps.

I think your sister's age has a lot to do with it. Even at 30 I can't really comprehend feminism. It's more like taking birth control to not get pregnant and going to college so I could work and have a place to live were more steps into not being a LOSER instead of being a 'strong liberated woman'.
posted by pieoverdone at 1:50 PM on July 13, 2006


Hey, my sister keeps taunting me for being left wing, and says like all lefties I must be a baby-eating communist pro-terrorist Mexican gay fiesta loving moral relativist decadence apologist, maybe she's really more left wing than me by refusing the term! ;)

Here's another suggestion - since it's too easy and convenient for anti-feminists to get stuck at the most pointless exaggerations, self-referentiality and solipsism of some so-called 'radical' feminists (the kind obsessing on non-gendered language or quotas in anything or the neo-puritan kind who would want all porn and prostitution outlawed outright) - if you really want to give your sister some food for thought, I think the pages from Amnesty International on Women's Human Rights (and the campaign against violence on women) are a great start and a good antidote to all that solipsism - both of the afore-mentioned 'radical' fringes of feminism, and of the equally solipsistic kneejerk backlash caricaturing all feminism

(unsurprisingly, both attitudes tend to manifest themselves in the wealthiest Western democracies like the US where women's rights are so much more advanced than elsewhere they may naturally be taken a little too much for granted, and you end up hearing even women saying "yeah yeah I'm all for this and that but just don't call me a feminist" as if it was an insult!).
posted by funambulist at 2:01 PM on July 13, 2006


trevyn: sorry buddy, but i'm a man who self-identifies as a feminist. it works!™
posted by soma lkzx at 2:02 PM on July 13, 2006


Anecdotal cite on 80s co-signer requirements, and Equal Credit Act of 1974, specifically because:
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed to abolish credit discrimination waged against women, particularly married women, whom creditors traditionally refused to consider for individual credit. Under this law, the creditor may no longer require that the woman's spouse's signature be on an application for credit if she qualifies individually under the creditor's standard of creditworthiness.
And was written to include everyone, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or age.
posted by headspace at 2:09 PM on July 13, 2006


I bought my house in January. While I got my own loan, one of the pieces of paperwork, I think for the city, has me listed as pieoverdone: AN UNMARRIED WOMAN.

It's not a gender thing. I bought my house in 2000, and mine also says "AN UNMARRIED MAN" on the deed transfer.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:15 PM on July 13, 2006


As a woman who's identified herself as a feminist since eighth grade, I've found that because I'm so well-versed in the arguments and issues, people will view my arguments as hostile and angry not necessarily because they would disagree with me if they had the same evidence I had, but simply because they don't have the same evidence I do.

The EC thing's a good example. If you're reading tons of feminist blogs, on the NOW and NARAL mailing lists, and a subscriber to Bust, you heard about pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions around the country, you know how that disproportionately affects poor and rural women because they don't have other pharmacies nearby, you know that refusing to fill EC is likely to increase the demand for abortions in areas where there may not be abortion providers, and on and on and on. I, at least, hear "Pharmacists are refusing to fill EC prescriptions" and I immediately connect a lot of dots, and I immediately see how hugely burdensome that becomes for a lot of women.

Someone who's not aware of how truly hard it is for a woman in a rural area to get an abortion is not going to make those same connections. She's going to hear that pharmacists aren't filling prescriptions, and she's going to think, "Well, go to another pharmacy. It's not that big a deal."

So, if you really want your sister to understand why you're what you're saying, then connect those dots for her. Not in a rant, not in a "how can you not know this" way, just in a matter of fact "this is what's happening, and why I am concerned" way. It can often be effective.

Also, "patriarchy" is a widely misunderstood term. Properly it means something like "a system in which men hold more political power than women," and I see all of us, regardless of gender, participating (in some way) in the patriarchy. Many other people, however, hear "patriarchy" and they think I mean "men." It might help to explain the definition and how you're using it to her.

On a larger scale, I also find it helps to turn the debate into how patriarchy also limits men. The examples tend to be more obviously stupid -- Why should men who want to stay at home with their kids be considered weird or unmanly? Why should men be forced into jobs they don't like simply because they need to support a family, when we say women can do that whenever they like? Etc. -- and can open up the idea of gender roles in a new way.
posted by occhiblu at 2:21 PM on July 13, 2006 [4 favorites]


DON'T go with the straw man stuff of assuming that everyone who doesn't call themselves a feminist (or doesn't make an issue out of it) is stuck in the middle ages. ...Someone who thinks that women should be allowed to vote, own property, and marry whoever she chooses isn't a feminist, she's one of 99.999% of people in the first world.

Exactamente. Still, assuming a level of familiarity and willingness to discuss or argue as there is usually between two siblings, and since the poster feels it's worthy to pursue such discussion, it's not a contradiction to point out to the younger sister that maybe the reason she hates the word so much is because of a slanted or narrow notion of it.

I'm reminded of an interview I saw on tv with poor Kylie Minogue, I don't remember the question or how direct or indirect it was, but she basically said something about women being independent and standing up for themselves and all and then, "oh but I'm not a feminist, I love men!".

You see her sponsoring gay rights events all the time, being proud of being a gay icon, yet she feels it's unsafe to even associate herself with feminism. Now of course they're different issues, yet not so totally unrelated, so why the contradiction? Why is one thing celebrity cool, and the other isn't? I'm not singling her out on this (and I even like her), it's just a silly and ironic example of that widespread conceit the poster is describing.

Ok I've spoken my mind too much now, back to the kitchen now.
posted by funambulist at 2:22 PM on July 13, 2006


(oops - the '99.999% people in the world' is a little optimistic though)
posted by funambulist at 2:27 PM on July 13, 2006


To raise a point that was implied by schroedinger's post: maybe you're annoying. Or at least, maybe she finds you and your earnest discussions of "serious and [sic]egregrious historical situations" annoying. I'm an honest-to-god, card-carrying, abortion-clinic defending, self-identifying feminist, and I still find long diatribes about subverting dominent patriarchal paradigms extremely tedious and off-putting. If I had to spend every Christmas holiday listening to my older sister and my mom lecturing me about feminism and cultural bias, I'd make fun of you too. (And because I'm also a card-carrying beeyotch, I'd be a lot meaner than your sister.) Instead of giving her another lecture on why she ought to think and talk like you do, why don't you lighten up on the rhetoric and set a better example of how feminists can respect a variety of viewpoints, including those that aren't their own. You're trying to force her to think in a certain way, and that's decidedly anti-feminist.
posted by junkbox at 2:36 PM on July 13, 2006


She's going to hear that pharmacists aren't filling prescriptions, and she's going to think, "Well, go to another pharmacy. It's not that big a deal."

Or she might think, "If those pharmacists have a religious or moral objection to providing that particular pill, it would infringe upon their rights to compel them to provide that pill." She might add that between refusing to help a person act and compelling a person to act, the latter constitutes the greater infringement, and that even the most liberal interpretation of a woman's right to have an abortion should not entitle her to compel the assistance of those unwilling.

To put it another way, she might think that people who describe themselves as "feminists" often display far greater concern with the rights of women than with anyone else's rights — which is perfectly logical but goes a long way toward explaining why "feminism" is often equated with selfish hostility.
posted by cribcage at 3:07 PM on July 13, 2006


And given that EC doesn't cause abortions, and in fact does not in any way harm an implanted fertilized egg, your response goes a long way toward showing that most people don't seem to understand the facts of the issues at stake, let alone their ripple effects.
posted by occhiblu at 3:11 PM on July 13, 2006


I've found that being in that 21 or younger range and deliberately labeling oneself as "not a feminist" is pretty popular these days. Whether it's a symptom of the so-called "backlash" or just a good way to annoy boomer moms, I don't know.

I agree with others that the most important thing to do is just live the example. Feminism is complicated, but having a strong woman in your life to admire is simple. She may not act like it, but if she's anything like my family, she respects you and your mom deep down, perhaps more than she realizes at 21. But I imagine she respects you--the way you live--much more than your feminism--specifically, how you talk about it.

Secondly, but perhaps more importantly, being a woman is the only thing that can really convert someone to being a feminist. And every day she lives, she's been a woman one day longer. She's at about that age where she'll be having more and more experiences that make her think about her identity as a woman, experiences that show her there are still people who want to keep her down just because of her sex, that will make her want to rise up against the patriarchy, but in her own way. "I'm not a feminist, I like men" is the most ridiculous statement, and yet so many woman say stuff like that. Soon enough it will naturally become painfully obvious how ridiculous it is. I guess what I'm saying is that feminism doesn't need be explained, it needs to be discovered.

She also may realize that there's this whole group of pompous men, and it's even more fun to annoy them by being a feminist (and doing whatever you want) than it is to annoy your mom and sis are by not being one. Heh.

As a side note, trevyn: little sis is not rejecting the term "feminism"--she's rejecting and mocking the philosophy. So your personal grudges against the terminology aren't really relevent here.
posted by lampoil at 3:16 PM on July 13, 2006


trevyn: I'm a man and a feminist. I believe it is the correct view and I will convince everyone I can. I believe it is a fairly minimal standard, that women should have equal and/or in some cases more rights and opportunities as men. The battle is far from over and I believe any daughters I may one day have will have a harder time than getting said rights and opportunities than they would today.

1024: tell your sister how anti-feminist forces have taken every opportunity to demonize the word "feminist" (no doubt helped in part by some of the more stupid feminists) and that they use this tactic to minimize the very basic principles that feminists have fought for over the ages (like schroedinger's excellent list). When one sides with the troglodytes who want to demonize the term, one does far more harm to basic feminist interests than one does to the feminists who are unreasonable extremists. Have no doubts, the main players of anti-feminist hatred are waiting for the day when they can argue, "You're against birth-control? You mean you want to throw your hat in with feminists?!"

But probably your sister will come around by herself when she gets out in the world. Numerous students I've presented feminist ideas to in college reject them, only to email me after a couple of years in the workplace with apologies.

Gator: thanks for the Tomato Nation page!
posted by ontic at 3:19 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


[please continue the EC discussion on metatalk or email, not here]
posted by jessamyn at 3:27 PM on July 13, 2006


I vote that your sister is simply being annoying and getting on your nerves because you've just finished your degree and you're a bit over-full of your subject. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with feminism as such.

Somewhere in a bunch of parallel universes, the other-you that did fine art is being called "Picasso" every time she picks up a pencil, the other-you that studied civil engineering gets "Cross at the lights? Whyncha just build an overpass?" and the one who discovered a cure for cancer is constantly being needled about not being able to fix the common cold.

And as to exactly why she's being such a pain, perhaps her own academic career is going badly and being constantly reminded that you've been successful and completed your studies is actually a little painful for her?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:42 PM on July 13, 2006


pieoverdone, your deed would have described you as A MARRIED WOMAN or A MARRIED MAN or AN UNMARRIED MAN as appropriate. They don't single out unmarried women for all caps.
posted by Quietgal at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2006


Two quotes:

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people"

"The fundamental right of civilized people is the right to be left alone"--Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis

These are how I define my feminism.
posted by brujita at 11:56 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


The core of Feminism is that gender is not the same as sex.

This means that what physical sex you are, male or female, doesn't make you any particular kind of person, doesn't mean you have to have any particular values, or act in any particular way.

You should explain to your sister that Feminists believe that people get to define themselves and their gender, their sex doesn't.

You should also explain to her that Feminism is a movement made up of people with lots of different values, like the Conservative movement. Many Conservatives want to reduce the size, cost, and power of government. Many Conservatives want a bigger government that can enforce the values they believe in.

Similarly, many Feminists believe in advancing the equal treatment of all people on an economic basis. Other Feminists believe that a segment of the population, gay/lesbian/bi/transgendered people, should be the focus of the Feminist movement.
posted by ewkpates at 3:57 AM on July 14, 2006


Just say, "hey, lighten up" or simply give a friendly smile next time she gets on your case. Let it roll off your back. If she wants to grow up and develop desire to learn, she has to do that on her own. If having two feminists around her her whole life hasn't done much yet, as rational and well-planned your arguments are they'll do more harm to your relationship than help for her knowlege of the issue.
posted by saffron at 9:54 AM on July 14, 2006


As a side note, trevyn: little sis is not rejecting the term "feminism"--she's rejecting and mocking the philosophy. So your personal grudges against the terminology aren't really relevent here.

OP: My sister thinks that because I talk about feminism and feminist theories...this is indicitive of my hating men.

Perhaps not intentionally rejecting, but I maintain that the terminology substantially clouds what little there is of a definition, assuming that the OP has not given any other reason for hating men. At the very least, the terminology gives the sister something to mock. Remember, she, like me, does not splooge over gender issues. I feel that there is something of a communication gap and holier-than-thou problem between people who get worked up about this stuff and people who don't, and this is a core issue when trying to debug such relations. The sister is simply returning this attitude back on the source, in an attempt to show the absurdity of it.

Feminists believe that people get to define themselves and their gender...

Most people are born with a sex. Some would be eager to trade their birth sex for another. So when they see someone intentionally giving up the advantages and disadvantages of thier birth sex, they have a difficult time sympathizing.
posted by trevyn at 12:54 PM on July 14, 2006


A brilliant woman friend of mine once asked me to refrain from describing her in a way I found both perfectly innocuous and meant endearingly. She asked me (more than once, I am ashamed to say) not to do so. When I told her I didn't understand her reasons for being bothered by it she said something that still sticks with me.

"Isn't it enough that it bothers me and I'm asking you not to?"

You're asking about explaining feminism to your sister and relating some jackass-like behavior where she denigrates/mocks your beliefs. If you really just want her to knock it off, tell her next time that it hurts your feelings when she mocks your beliefs and you'd appreciate if she'd stop.

Then shut up.

If she wants to have a conversation about it, fine, tell her you'll be glad to talk about it and try to not be judgmental or pedantic(*) but no matter how the conversation turns out you would like her not to run down something that's important to you. If she wants to go on about how she's just kidding with you tell her you're sorry but it's just not something you have a sense of humor about - it's something important to you and you just can't laugh about it.

(*)If you can't stick to your end of this bargain in this then you might consider that your sister is right and you -are- a lecturing pain in the ass. Which is your right, and it doesn't make it okay for your sister to be a jerk too, but you can't expect to be a ranting obsessive and not catch some hell about it.
posted by phearlez at 2:12 PM on July 14, 2006


I feel that there is something of a communication gap and holier-than-thou problem between people who get worked up about this stuff and people who don't, and this is a core issue when trying to debug such relations.

Ha. I think this statement is correct, but not in the way you mean it. Anyway your entire rationalization is a stretch at best. You seem to have some personal issues on this subject, and from what I've read here, it seems to me that your problems with feminism as so vastly different from the OP's sister's as to be almost opposites. That's why I don't think your comments help to answer the question. Also, speaking of communication gaps, I'm not sure what you meant by your last statement there, but you should know there are ways to interpret it as extremely misogynistic.

1024, I think phearlez's comment is right on. I like the idea of offering an open invitation to calmly talk about this at your sisters convenience. So if/when she wants to hear your sincere point of view, she can. And otherwise you'll lay off her. But also explaining that you're not going to stop being a feminist in your daily life and you'd appreciate her laying off you, too.
posted by lampoil at 11:54 AM on July 15, 2006


from what I've read here, it seems to me that your problems with feminism as so vastly different from the OP's sister's as to be almost opposites.

There is virtually no information about what the OP's sister's problems with feminism are, and we're all taking shots in the dark. (The OP's sister never actually replied, presumably not wanting to participate in the discussion.) Yes, I'm trying to communicate what my problems are in the hopes that maybe we have similar issues. Maybe we don't. But I'm genuinely trying to offer a perspective that I think may apply. I think that it may be useful for the OP to put herself in her sister's footsteps, if she can find them, and understand her perspective before trying to initiate a "discussion about feminism".

This is exactly the kind of problem I'm talking about. I'm trying to be as open and honest as I can about my issues, and I just get beat down and nearly accused of being a misogynist. And I essentially agree with feminist philosophy.
posted by trevyn at 9:33 AM on July 16, 2006


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