Feminism can be a scary topic to delve into for some people, even in this day and age. Even those of us who consider ourselves full-fledged feminists can get flustered at times (or frustrated) when trying to to explain feminism to friends who may be non believers, or who just want a little more information.
I’ve run into my fair share of ignorant souls over the years (this comes with the territory of living in a very small town for ten years), and believe me when I say, I know how hard it can be to keep your cool and calmly discuss the effects of sexism and importance of feminism in the world. Some people are combative, some people are unwilling to listen, some people don’t believe in feminism... the list goes on, making the struggle very real. It's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and lose your mind trying to explain a concept as simple as equality to someone, but trust me, it happens.
Even with the likes of Beyonce, Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, Matt McGorry, and other famous feminist favorites (say that five times fast) in your pocket — it's good to have a backup plan and a few self affirmations ready for when the going gets tough. If you find yourself in a conversation about feminism with your friends, try to keep these nine tips in mind to make the conversation flow more smoothy.
1. Dispel Common Myths
The idea that all feminists are man-hating, bra-burning women who are trying to take the government down with their tatas is more than a little far fetched, don't you think? Try explaining to your friends that not all feminist are identical, and that the idea of feminism is not a cookie-cutter ideal. Just like every other human on the planet, feminists vary in their strengths, weaknesses, and ideals. Some of us like to burn our bras to prove our point, and some of us really like the idea of that extra 23 cents on the dollar. We are multifaceted human beings, and we are not simply man-haters.
2. Explain The Difference Between Feminism and Misandry
Feminism is not misandry. I repeat, feminism is not misandry. Just because a woman is a feminist does not mean she hates men. I know plenty of feminists who are mothers, wives, have taken their husbands last names, and still believe women deserve equal rights. None of these ideas are mutually exclusive.
3. Provide A Definition
Emma Watson, professional feminist boss, puts it in layman's terms for you and anyone else who might be confused. "Feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." Equal rights and opportunities. It's that simple.
4. Educate, Don't Lecture
Anyone who took a gender studies course in college could easily launch into a diatribe about how anyone who doesn't believe in feminism is hindering the progress of society and thereby contributing to the downfall of civilization (not that I've suggested that or anything.) But when explaining feminism to friends, it's important to educate without falling into a feminist rant. Most people respond much better to simple conversation than they do to a pointed rant.
5. Emphasize Why We Need Feminism
Why do we need feminism? Because rape is still being excused. Because girls in developing countries are still fighting for education. Because women are still being told that they can't succeed as politicians and engineers. Because women are still being slut-shamed for their looks, being sex-positive, and wanting more for themselves. Just to name a few reasons.
6. Respect Different Beliefs
You cannot make everyone a believer. Some people are set in their ways, and regardless of your carefully constructed talking points (complete with a works cited), they will not budge. It's important to respect different beliefs. You don't have to cave to their beliefs, but you should respect them, even when you'd rather give them an eye roll.
7. Stay Calm
Remember to stay calm. It's easy to get defensive — I mean, you're just talking about your body, your worth, your rights — but it's important to stay calm, regardless of how frustrating your conversation partner might be.
8. Encourage Inquisitive Minds
Do not scoff or talk down to someone asking you questions about feminism. Encouraging them to ask questions, to educate themselves, is so important. Nothing turns someone off from learning about feminism like a woman who is too high on her horse to hold someone's hand in the learning process.
9. Support Thy Sisters
Above all, support women. If you're explaining feminism to a woman who doesn't understand or believe in it, remember that bringing her down will not make you feel any better. The same goes for your cohorts and colleagues — do not let society pit you against other women. We can all break the glass ceiling together, gals. Support thy sisters, and keep fighting the good fight.