Feminism, At Home for the Holidays

As eszenyme shared yesterday, it is hard to believe this will be our last week of official blogging for the semester.

I, for one, am super excited to put this fall behind me. After taking a year off school, the challenge of getting back into the habit of writing papers and reading multiple novels each week took a lot out of me. I am tired, like sleep for a week, eat lunch, and then take a nap tired, and I can tell by all the kids that have been sleeping in Carrier these past few days that you guys are right there with me.

However, as much as I hate to be a Debbie-Downer, I am here with a warning about something I have noticed over my six years as a college student – sometimes going home can be less than the relaxing experience you had hoped for. There have been many times I went home eager to share the things I was learning in college, and finding that not everyone wanted to hear it was a hard lesson. How could my aunts not be interested in feminist women writers like Audre Lorde and bell hooks? Why didn’t my granddad understand when I used the term “double bind” in passing conversation? Would my sisters ever see the sexism embedded in their music? The more I tried to explain, the more it sounded like I was preaching, cementing their view that I was a crazy, soap-box happy feminist and drawing us further from a point of understanding then we were before the initial conversation began.

MsXmas

So, how can you share your feminism with your friends and family this holiday season without turning them away? Is even possible?

I’m not really sure yet, but I keep trying with the people in my own life, and throwing out what doesn’t work. Telling my sister that I “don’t read trashy misogynistic writing like 50 Shades of Gray and that is she wanted to read a real sex scene to hit up Sarah Waters” equals a bad approach. Showing my dad a copy of Sister Speak and allowing the articles to speak for themselves? Score one for the feminists, they’ve got my old man on their team, and he is a loyal player.

My dad is great, but even he doesn’t immediately know what I’m talking about when I say “othering” or “heteronormative” or any of the other words my computer always marks as wrong. I don’t know how to explain to my Microsoft Word that feminists sometimes have to make up words to traverse a language written by males for male concerns, and it’s certainly not something your friends from high school will be able to grasp while half-tipsy at a holiday party. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about women’s issues over your wine and hor dourves! My best advice is to take the Ryan Gosling approach and keep it simple – a sort of “Feminism for Dummies.”

Instead of talking about how “the male gaze renders women commodities that in turn encourages unnecessary female competition rather than unity,” just say:

don't call our sisters bitches

By taking this approach, your point remains the same, minus the bad reputation of  academic language or anger that many outsiders consider integral to the feminist movement. Contrary to popular belief, anyone can be a feminist, regardless to education, class, race, or sex. And yelling will not make our voices heard – although patriarchy is enough to make anyone scream.

I feel like I am preaching a lesson I learned in Bible School as a little kid, based on the song “This Little Light of Mine.” My teacher explained that people don’t have to name drop Jesus all the time to show that they are Christians, but rather that they should let their beliefs shine through their actions.  I am not saying feminism is a religion, but I think reappropriating the ideas of my Sunday School teacher totally works for our needs.

This holiday season, you don’t have to exclaim to your whole family, “I AM A FEMINIST, HEAR ME ROAR!” but if you hear something sexist, state your alternate view. Speak simply, kindly, and in a way that opens discussion rather than closes it. Ask questions and don’t make assumptions. If people in your life are anti-feminist, find out why, and let’s come back to the blog in January and start brainstorming ways that we change it. And speaking of blogs, why not print out and pack a few of your favorites? They make great stocking stuffers!

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