What are your favorite feminist resources?
March 3, 2012 1:36 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite resources when arguing with someone who thinks feminism is "silly, stupid, and obsolete"?

He's bringing up things like the draft, divorce settlements, and organizations dedicated to women. I'm pretty sure anything I say will fall on deaf ears, but I'd love to hear about the best feminist resources, anyway. Thanks.
posted by jingle to Human Relations (34 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I don't feed the trolls (and I minimize my contact with people who feel this way, to be quite honest). Silence and a dismayed, disapproving "Wow" might do the trick.
posted by mynameisluka at 1:38 PM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

"Hey, that's funny. I think the same about the patriarchal norms in our modern society."
posted by Kerasia at 1:43 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

My favorite resource in that case would be my ears.

"That's interesting, what makes you say that?"

and continued listening to whatever the guy's points may be, followed perhaps by sharing of your own experiences that make you feel that feminism is useful.
posted by emilyw at 1:43 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

That said, the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College has a great collection of images that cover the history of feminism. To me, the fact that so many images from the history of feminism seem topical, fresh, and revolutionary today is reflective of the movement's continued worth and relevance.
posted by mynameisluka at 1:45 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Definitely don't want to threadsit, but this person is a relative that does not troll. He is also relentless about this. I've tried "Is that so?," "Wow," and other attempts to let him know I think what he's saying is crazy and disengage. I'd like this thread to be more about facts and sites I can point him to rather than ways to make him feel like a confused asshole.
posted by jingle at 1:47 PM on March 3, 2012

Try pointing him in the direction of a site like Geek Feminism - the wiki in particular. They might not set out to explain feminism to the uninitiated, but they do list concrete instances of extreme prejudice against women in specific sub-cultures or industries. I know the kind of guy you're talking about (one who says 'Well I haven't seen much sexism lately, so clearly it's not a big deal any more!"), and pinning him down with clear examples might do the trick.
posted by anaximander at 1:49 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he mentions the draft, you could respond that feminists don't believe men should be seen as disposable tools of government (see also the census view of males involved with childcare) and that everyone should be treated equally. Instead of saying feminism is just about women, say it's about everyone, making sure we're all equal.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:53 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

None of the stuff he's complaining about has to do with feminism, but with sexism and gender essentialism. It wasn't feminists who decreed that women wouldn't be eligible for the draft; it wasn't feminists who created a cultural norm that saw mothers as the default parent and fathers as basically wallets that could mow the lawn. Feminists and womanists are trying to get rid of this stuff, not perpetuate it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:59 PM on March 3, 2012 [38 favorites]

Just point him to any news article about Rush Limbaugh's recent remarks that a Georgetown law student was a "slut" and a "prostitute" because she testified about the need for contraception coverage in insurance plans. When he was called on his remarks, not only did he not apologize, but he said that since she wanted to be paid to have sex, she should do it on video so we can all see. Here's an article about it that includes one of his listeners defending him because he was just exercising his right to free speech. Can you argue that we live in a society where men and women are totally equal when (1) access to contraception is a controversial issue and (2) a national figure can get away with calling a woman a "prostitute" because she dares to speak out about women's health?
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:01 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

He's bringing up things like the draft, divorce settlements, and organizations dedicated to women.

Well, as far as the divorce settlements go, you can point out that actual scientific studies confirm that divorce makes women poorer and men richer:

Research conducted in Australia during the late 1980s suggested that mothers (and their children) were financially worse off than fathers following marital dissolution (Weston 1986, 1993). In particular, sole-parent families headed by mothers, and older divorced women living alone, typically experienced a drastic fall in financial living standards. Many of these women and their children became, and remained, financially disadvantaged. By contrast, men appeared to be as well off, or better off, than before they separated. Similar findings were evident in other developed countries (Holden and Smock 1991; Weitzman 1986).
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:23 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sidhedevil is totally right about the source of what's bothering him. I'm not sure what you mean by resources, exactly, but it seems there are so many obvious examples right now with the presidential primaries going on. Contraception, abortion, military service. Plus wage gap stats, domestic violence stats, rape stats. Horrendous treatment of rape trials. Lack of representation in various careers. Lack of representation (as central character) in popular movies, fiction, franchises, &c. Oversexualization (of girls, particularly). Sexual double standards. Comments from the president of Harvard (I mean, c'mon). How many women were up for Best Director at the Oscars this year? Ha, ha.

Maybe if you frame feminism not as a movement aimed at equality (I don't quite understand this definition because "equality" is so difficult itself to define, and is vague to the point of sometimes being inaccurate), frame it as a movement which foments for change on issues that disproportionately negatively affect women, or as a movement which aims to provide resources for women which society lacks. I mean, that's why there are some great domestic violence shelters out there-- because women created them. Should those women stop and go home now because domestic violence is solved? Society will just pick up the slack? Is that silly, stupid, and obsolete? Should feminists ignore bills that would deprive women of health care, because society's so on the ball and awareness will raise itself? What about racial prejudices about women of color that anti-racist movements ignore? Women are still working for women, all the time. The reason things are getting better is that there are still people working and fighting against ignorance and assholes with power.

Honestly though, if he won't listen, just shame him. Shame the hell out of him.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

NOW fact sheet on pay inequality. Might be a start.
posted by Cocodrillo at 2:53 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Try to find an umbrella site for domestic violence resources for your site? For example, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women does an annual femicide report that now includes men and children killed in the home. Ask him if he thinks feminism is "silly" in light of the number of women killed every single year by husbands, boyfriends, and exes. The numbers for murder are very reliable, btw, because of course there's a corpse. Point out estimates for rates of sexual assault as well as estimates for how much underreporting does go on there.

As Sidhedevil points out, the things that he's bitching about (and really, the draft? Not relevant unless WW3 happens, and p.s. it's never been great to be a civilian woman in a conquered area) are because people think "boys are like THIS and girls are like THAT." In the meantime, women are being murdered and raped.

It would be nice if the wide-eyed "wow" ever worked on men's rights sorts of people, but unfortunately it doesn't. You have to be SUPER direct and let your anger show, in my experience.
posted by kavasa at 3:03 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

A swift kick?

It sounds like you are dealing with an MRA, or someone who has been exposed to MRA material. Depending on his involvement in it, you may not be able to change his mind much. MRAs are about as dug-in to their "anti-" position as radical feminists are to their "pro-".

You can certainly try presenting hard numbers, if he's honestly amenable to reason. I mean, the classical MRA position of "men have it just as bad or even worse" is factual nonsense, so possibly some facts will help? You might also point him to one of the feminism 101 reading lists of the internet. There are a bunch.

Personally I feel MRA-think is deeper than just an absence of facts, but an emotional/psychological issue concerning the speaker's conception of his own gender, person, society, power, etc. As such, I'd suggest possibly this speech, from Robert Jensen, or similar introspection-by-men-on-masculinity material.
posted by ead at 3:07 PM on March 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

why do I read youtube comments aaggghgghfdgdfdgsf



Anyway! I just wanted to add that I get into fights about this sort of stuff with my (63 year old) father on a monthly basis, and it never goes well face to face because he employs every stupid rhetorical trick on the book, lots of non sequiturs, often ad hominen in nature and also just wrong ("obama is a communist!") and frequent tilting at straw men. It's infurrrrriating. So he tends to get a couple long emails peppered with cites a few days afterwards. That approach may help you if, like me, you have trouble with the standard derails in spoken conversation.
posted by kavasa at 3:16 PM on March 3, 2012

Please don't say "wow!" or, worse yet, "just...wow." The wow bit has been done to death.

I'm pretty sure anything I say will fall on deaf ears...

Now this is the definition of a horse's ass.

...sites I can point him to rather than ways to make him feel like a confused asshole.

[Bette Davis voice} But he is, Blanche! He is a confused asshole! There are websites galore out there for the searching; he can do that work if he's curious. You don't owe him reasons, explanations, Nexus-Lexus or anything else. Why waste your time on him? Personally, I don't spend time or attention on anyone who doesn't "hear" me.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:19 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

My feet.

Which I utilize by walking in a direction away from the person in question.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:31 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

How about recent events in Republican politics? Trying to force women to have invasive ultrasounds, the fact that hormonal birth control is "controversial" but providing boner pills for men doesn't even merit discussion, the Limbaugh "slut" thing, etc.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:37 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Feminism doesn't stop at the edges of the USA. A classical feminist feels concern for the fate of oppressed women everywhere. You can mention the overt repression of women in Saudi Arabia, girls being "circumcised" in Africa, women being mistreated in the sex trade from Asia and elsewhere – the list is too long to continue.
posted by zadcat at 4:08 PM on March 3, 2012

I have told people like this that they're not allowed to talk about it with me any more until they complete a reading list. (You can e-mail it later on the strange occasions someone says, "okay!") If they actually complete the reading list, they're usually less-ignorant and less-annoying even if they're still busy being Really Wrong About Things. Plus you get months and months while they work their way through it when they're not talking to you.

And in the alternative, you just keep refusing to discuss it until they do their reading assignment.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:47 PM on March 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

This is not about reality and facts, this is probably more about his feelings. No amount of resources are going to sway him or convince him - certainly not directly anyway.

In my experience people only ever change their minds about something when they see a practical application/example of it in real life. Until then it only exists in the abstract and they cannot fathom a view different to their own.
posted by mleigh at 5:08 PM on March 3, 2012

For me, these kinds of argument depend a lot on the other sorts of commitments a person has and also on what the person thinks feminism amounts to. Could you say a bit about the general character of your relative? Is he otherwise conservative or progressive? What are his thoughts about race and the the civil rights movement? How does he usually argue -- both on this issue and on other political issues? Is he otherwise open to facts? What is his opinion of you personally? Does he think highly of you? And (sorry to make this so question-y), what is the rest of the family like? Are there family members you might recruit as allies?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 5:13 PM on March 3, 2012

I'm assuming that his quarrel with divorce settlements is that it's not fair for men to be required to pay alimony? So why do we even have* that system? Because women's earnings have traditionally been less than men's. While the men were getting their education and starting their careers, the women were busy having and raising babies, and maybe working for ~60% - %80% of what they would earn if they were men. So after a divorce, a woman was left way behind in terms of being able to support herself financially, and usually with children to raise. So that's how the alimony situation got to be the way it is. So, if he wants divorce settlements to be less "onerous" for men, first we have to get to the point where employment opportunities and compensation are more equitable for women. So this must mean he's already in a position of total support for the goals of the women's movement, right?

*actually, we mostly don't have that system of alimony anymore. Most states have eliminated or severely restricted traditional alimony. Sounds like this guy hasn't been paying attention to how the world has changed in the last few decades.
posted by Corvid at 5:27 PM on March 3, 2012

Feminism is for Every Body by bell hooks is a great primer in the basics of feminism.
posted by spunweb at 5:29 PM on March 3, 2012

You're basically asking, "What are the luckiest lottery numbers? And please, don't lecture me about probability; I've got my heart set on winning."

Congratulations! Your relative has succeeded in accomplishing The Easiest Thing in the World. He's made a bunch of bad assumptions about something, and refused to accept evidence to the contrary. There's no way to win this game, because it's a game that only exists in his head, and he's the one who decides who wins. Don't play.

My suggestion is to flip him, and say, "What kind of person tries to engage a family member in a conversation he knows is going to upset her?" Or, "Well, there are a lot of really smart people who believe in this stuff... Why do you think they buy into it?" Or, "What was the last thing you read by a feminist?"

Or, "I've already got my mind made up about this, but I bet the people you deal with professionally would love to hear your opinions. How about emailing your boss, your coworkers, your suppliers, and your customers with these interesting ideas of yours and CCing me? I'd love to see what they have to say about it."
posted by alphanerd at 5:53 PM on March 3, 2012 [16 favorites]

Hoyden About Town is a great blog and resource for understanding all manner of social injustices. It might be better for you to check out and through it be directed as its focus is quite broad, but it's proven invaluable for both examining current and historical instances of sexism and providing really eloquent expressions of feminist sentiments. I read this post about confusing an expression of contempt for taking offense (may be helpful in those convos) and thought "YES!!!! She's put into words that deeply frustrating inner rage that I can't articulate when talking to assholes!" One that may better suit your purposes is this one, with it's many links to various definitions of feminism. It's written by an (many?) Australian(s?) who may or may not be currently in the states, I'm not sure on that part, but they do an excellent job of covering issues around the world.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 5:54 PM on March 3, 2012

I'd like this thread to be more about facts and sites I can point him to rather than ways to make him feel like a confused asshole.

I'm going to question your premise. I have a conservative relative who can back up her tea party politics with facts and sites. We can't talk politics: we always fight, and we always end up slinging our "facts" at each other, assuming the worst of the other's side. If she referred me to a website meant to persuade me of her views, it really wouldn't matter what facts were there. On the other hand, I have another conservative relative with whom I can have a civil conversation: he and I manage to keep things on the level of our own personal beliefs and opinions. I think that's key.

My approach would be:

"Uncle Joe, do you really think that, as a feminist, I believe that women should have special rights and advantages over men? Do you really think that I'm agitating for policies aimed at ruining men's lives? Do you think I hate men?"

--"Well, I don't know about you, but The Feminazis want..."

"Uncle Joe, I'm willing to talk to you about my feminist beliefs. I'll answer any questions you want to ask. But I'm not willing to talk about a strawman (or woman). Do you want to talk about this some more, or should we change the subject?"
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:12 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

For dealing with some guys, the easiest and quickest thing to do is find another man to explain it to them. Everything you just said, patiently, 200 times before, now coming out of the mouth of a man? Ohhhhh, suddenly it all makes perfect logical sense!

I really wish this was not true, but this is my real advice.
posted by stockpuppet at 6:27 PM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

Exchanging facts with him is not going to help. There is no fact that will change his mind. This isn't about facts. For him, it's about contrarianism, and a sincere belief in his own victimhood.

The best strategy I have found, when encountering this particular sort of siege mentality, is to hop inside the bunker.

Him: "Feminism is useless! Women have advantages now!"

You: "Clearly women have the advantage in some areas, but not all. Men have the advantage in some areas, but not all. What I'm about is equality. Leveling the playing field. We* need to fight for equality, whether it's among race, gender, or class lines. The world is still a really unfair place, and we need to make it MORE fair."

If he continues to push back (which he might), introduce him to the concept of "kyriarchy." Kyriarchy is what third-wave feminists use instead of "patriarchy." Kyriarchy means "the people in power," not "the men in power."

Sometimes women outrank men, according to our society's power structure. For example, a rich white woman is (according to our society) better than a poor black man. This is an example of the kyriarchy in action.

Then slide it on over to a discussion of all the many ways in which our society also subjugates people according to disability and social class, and presto: you've got yourself an ally.

(When he eagerly hands you a stack of MRA leaflets, as he surely will, take them politely and say you will read them later when you have time to really focus on them. Discard them as soon as you can. They will only make you angry.)

* Use the word "we" often, and make it clear that you mean "you and I."
posted by ErikaB at 9:16 PM on March 3, 2012

Is he single?
"You're single, right? Tell me something, how's that tedious world-view of yours working out for you?"
posted by blueberry at 9:20 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since what you are actually advocating is equal rights would it not just be better to talk about egalitarianism. That is what most fair-minded people believe and it doesn't come with all the "baggage" (and particularly the perception of shrill-ness that some men have about feminism).

Once you have made the case for egalitarianism (which is much less likely to raise his hackles), then you can bait-and-switch into feminism.

I personally would stick with just egalitarianism, it is a much more generic philosophy and allows you to say you are opposed to sexism, racism, homophobia etc etc in one fell swoop and doesn't give the impression that gender bigotry is somehow more offensive than other forms of bigotry.

Also the Rush Limbaugh calling that student a slut example is a great one to demonstrate how prevalent sexism still is. And if he actually agrees with Limbaugh then I would suggest the situation is irredeemable and you're better off without said relative in your life...
posted by inbetweener at 2:05 AM on March 4, 2012

sociological images has some great stuff
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:29 AM on March 4, 2012

"Who cares about men's rights?" post. Via No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?, another feminism/masculism resource to poke around.
posted by neda at 7:55 AM on March 4, 2012

People are social, and when someone voices ideas, it influences others. You probably can't convince Uncle Rush, but you can show your disapproval, and you can influence others around you. "Uncle Rush, I totally disagree with you. I believe women should have equal rights." and be prepared to call him on false statements. You can say "When you say X about women, that's offensive to me and disrespectful to women." Mostly treat him as a troll - express disapproval, then ignore him.
posted by theora55 at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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