A Seat At The Big Boys’ Table
I love the men in my life and they are very close to me, but calling out their sexist, misogynistic behaviour has proven to be a very difficult process, whether it's my father, my uncles, or other family members. While I have to remember that not all of them are necessarily bad people, sometimes it sure does feel like they are. How can you claim to love me unconditionally, while simultaneously being oppressive towards me?
It's easy calling out the problematic behaviours of people who don't mean as much to us because we can tell them off and be on our way. However, navigating through the identities of people who we love and care about is complex.
"we make excuses for them. He's had a long day at work, he doesn't know how to cook, I don't want him to get hurt. "
It's difficult for many reasons. For one, we make excuses for them. He's had a long day at work, he doesn't know how to cook, I don't want him to get hurt. These excuses work as an incubator for sexism, as they perpetuate the same misconceptions generations have been following for ages. Two, we fear being disrespectful. Trying to reason with problematic behaviours is translated as backtalk and being rude. While we may very well just be trying to make him a better human being, it comes off as disregard for authority.
Lastly, sometimes it's just easier to pick your battles. I find myself letting daily, mundane sexism slide, such as the expectation of filling in my mother's role as the caretaker when she's absent, while fighting hard obsessively against the larger, prevailing sexism embedded within my identity as a woman in my family.
When we're not preaching to the choir, getting our message across can be tough. But then again, unpacking decades and decades worth of sexism isn't really an easy task.
"Ignoring my dad for days because he didn't throw his laundry in the basket won't help. Telling him how his oppressive behaviour is a bad model for his younger son will."
While it's been tough, I've learned that I have to be smart about it. Trying to lecture my thirteen-year-old brother about how he perpetuates sexism while he's zoned out and watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air isn't going to help. Making him pick up and wash his own dishes will. Ignoring my dad for days because he didn't throw his laundry in the basket won't help. Telling him how his oppressive behaviour is a bad model for his younger son will. Telling him how it makes his daughter feel small and insignificant will. Yelling at your uncle when he berates his wife in front of others won't help. Empowering her and proving to him that her contributions to conversations are important will.
I haven't mastered it yet, but I've acknowledged that doing this is hard. I've also realized that my end goal is far more important than being momentarily uncomfortable. While I may come off as disrespectful, hurtful, and even rebellious, I've come to terms with the fact that either I wallow away in fury and spite, or I call out the good, wholesome men in my life on their sometimes problematic behaviours. More importantly, I've had to learn that they're not bad people, just good people with bad habits.