“We … think that someone big and bad has to happen to us for it to be patriarchy. But sometimes patriarchy is a phrase, a name, a stereotype.” –Ananya Roy
It’s always going to be just a little uncomfortable to stand up to someone that you love and respect, and tell them that they’re being offensive or ignorant. Let’s throw that idea right in the center of this bull pin… But, what if you’re the only person challenging their rhetoric? I think that they would rather hear it from you than from a stranger, and there are many strangers that feel empowered to do so.
Over the past few weeks, I spent some time with people I haven’t seen in quite a while. We have very different values and personalities, but are all generally kind-natured people; a great quality in a great friend. I had forgotten how toxic the language often turns, though. It’s the simple things, the things I often forget that people still keep in their vocabulary.
“Grow some balls.”
“Don’t be a pussy.”
From a feminist, anti-patriarchal lens, phrases of that genre are objectively toxic. Why, then, do so many people still use them?
We’ve all felt those conversations in which we did not want to speak up, and often for very justified reasons. If you’ve ever been in a place in which someone with greater experience or power than you, such as a professor or potential employer, say something of the toxic genre, it feels impossible to say something. But… what about those times when a friend says something?
First off, being combative and aggressive in your advocacy for equity and equality for all genders is very off-putting to people who are not as open minded or educated about the issues. If we approach all conversations with care, we can be much more successful. Power and privilege allow us to put our blinders on and not feel the effects of such acts that further perpetuate exclusivity, and a patriarchal society, however polarization from either side is not helpful. Everyone has to participate in the language change – not just the marginalized group, so let’s not polarize those people we need to reach.
Lori Britt, a facilitation professor that I truly admire always says that, during dialogue, if someone says something potentially offensive or problematic, just “oops then educate.” The sentiment here is that we should take things in stride, but provide reasoning and education for why something could be problematic. Often individuals just don’t know that their comments are problematic. Assuming good intent is at the core of this process.
Kathryn Williams of Her Campus writes that humor is a great tactic in education as well. If your friendships and relationships are generally good natured and funny, then be that! There is no reason to be unjustifiably aggressive, for that just pushes people away. Tactful confrontation is key, because being a bystander is never a solution.
Language and diction are very important to me, but not just because I am a woman and a communication studies major, but because language and diction write our stories. Our communication cultivates our adventures, interactions, and experiences.
So, let’s start challenging more, questioning tactfully, and empowering ourselves and others to watch their language as to not perpetuate patriarchal experiences.
Remember, you are in control of your own actions and words. Rock on, feminists. I hope this post leaves you feeling empowered.