I am a feminist. I don’t hide it and I don’t shirk away from the label. Recently it has come to my attention that because of this, I think my dad thinks I hate men. Sigh.
For the record, I most definitely do not hate the menfolk. I am quite fond of a huge number of them. I also dislike large quantities of people who annoy me, but that has nothing to do with their sex or gender, and everything to do with their shitty personality, willful ignorance, or utter stupidity. While I cannot claim that sweeping generalizations about men (and women) as a whole have never escaped my lips, it is not something I make a habit of, and it is most certainly not how I frame up any argument about gender equality.
I was upset when this realization dawned on me around Christmastime. He made a few comments about feminists being man-haters in a roundabout way, but then made a few more pointed remarks that got my mind spinning. Somebody brought over Cards Against Humanity, and while I was outside doing something, he made sure to pull out two cards that “I would find absolutely hilarious.” I don’t remember exactly what they said, but both revolved around some pretty fucked up shit happening to dudes. Even though I don’t mind being the feminist killjoy (this hangs in my office and is one of my most prized possessions, after all),
I didn’t really want to ruin the rowdy fun that everyone was having, but I did say, “Why would I think this is funny? It’s actually pretty fucked up.” It really started to bother me that he thinks this is how I feel.
I am definitely the most liberal member of my family. A “bleeding heart socialist,” if you will. My dad is more conservative and old-fashioned about many things, but I am the way I am in large part because of him. He always made it clear to me that I could do anything I wanted, achieve any goal, and nothing could stand in my way. He encourages my assertiveness and has never told me to act more like a lady when I swear like a sailor or fart on my husband. He is proud that I am independent, strong-willed, and confident in my positions. He never expected stereotypical gender norms out of me.
All that being said, somehow there is an underlying feeling he has, whether it is conscious or not, that my outspokenness about equality for women translates into disdain or ill will towards men. Is it because I don’t cook for my husband? Is it because I don’t want children? Is it because I call out sexism (and many other -isms) when I see it? Is it because the media portrays feminists as a bunch of shrill, humorless harpies? I think it’s the latter, but it has made me start to wonder.
As a group here at P-Mag, I think we all do our best to check ourselves on various things. I try to be mindful of my privilege as a white, heterosexual, cis-gender woman. I try to be mindful of being inclusive, I try to be a good and responsible ally, and I try to make things a little bit better instead of being a jerk. In being honest, though, I’ve never thought to check my feminism rhetoric in regards to how it comes across to men. I would never want someone, particularly someone like my dad, who I care about more than almost anyone else on the planet, to think I harbor ill will towards men. I’m not really sure what it is I have done in the past to leave that impression, but it’s something for me to think about going forward. Not as a “make sure the men’s fee-fees don’t get hurt” sort of way, but in a way that makes my arguments and positions heard instead of dismissed.
Do you run into this situation with family and friends? Have you been able to trace it back to anything in particular? Is it upsetting to you to think your being perceived that way by someone whose opinion you value? To the comments!