This is a guest blog post by Ari Winter
One of the many ways I describe myself is open. I will practically tell anyone anything when they ask and always let people know what I’m thinking, without always thinking before I speak, which I know many others do. This can include telling someone point blank that they are wrong.
This is not always an effective way to carry out a conversation. It can lead to anger, frustration, anxiety, and distance in relationships; few benefits, if any, come from telling someone what they think is wrong without dispute.
I will be addressing how one can hold beneficial discussions about feminism with misogynists, though with many other conversations you may have in your life you may utilize these recommendations as well.
5 Tips for Discussing Feminism with a Misogynist
1. Remain calm.
I have had to work on this myself, and it is incredibly important for many reasons to do so. Not only is it going to limit the effectiveness of the conversation and ability of a respectful tone, but you may also put yourself in danger dependent on who you are with and how they personally handle difficult discussions. This is the most critical piece of the conversation and maintaining your safety.
2. Do not go into the conversation with the expectation of “winning” or changing minds.
You have sources and statistics and bold statements running through your mind. You know why you call yourself a feminist and want to share that with another person and give them a piece of your mind for their lack of acceptance of your views. Try not to go into the discussion ready to spit out numbers to prove your case. You may use statistics; in fact, it is one of the best ways to inform someone and sound credible. Just make sure you do so without the intention and expectation of winning them over.
Doing this sets up the conversation to be more of a debate, which will cause both parties to avoid actually listening to the other side and learning more about their experiences and them yours. You don’t plan on leaving with your ideals changed, so you can’t expect them to either with just one conversation.
3. Consider their past.
My father is staunchly conservative and I accredit my grandmother to this. She and my dad were raised in a time and community that tends to be more right leaning. Consider that the beliefs of someone you are speaking with may have been accepted because of where they are from. They likely feel the ways they do about other people because their early life was heavily influenced by their community and family. Keeping this in mind will allow you to see more about them as a person and find common ground if there is any.
4. Respect that they do not see the world the same way as you.
As a student within my graduating class at my university commented when I asked for perspectives from students on this issue, “a lot of men become intrigued upon finding out that feminism is for men as well, and is for embracing feminine characteristics as strong and equal instead of weaker than masculine characteristics.” Whether it be a lack of understanding the point of feminism or utter disagreement with the equality of all humans, you cannot change the thought process of another person without respect. Think about it; there would be no feminist movement if there had been no disagreement or rebuttal for women’s rights in the 20th century. Not everyone is going to participate in the same movement.
5. Know when to walk away.
If there is no possible way to have a respectful conversation, it is time to let go. Not only will this save you time, but may also keep you safe if the person you are with has aggressive tendencies. Gloria Allred, Gloria Steinem, and Hillary Clinton, all when faced with aggressive use of the first amendment have expressed their gratefulness that these people have spoken on what they believe, as it is the first step to having a conversation.
While approaching a topic such as this can be intimidating, no change occurs without discussion and going against the norm. The movement would not be where it is today without the rise of Gloria Steinem and Gloria Allred, who were born into a “pre-feminist world,” as Steinem called it in Seeing Allred, a new documentary on Netflix. Without them, we may not have seen Hillary Clinton become a presidential candidate, Malala Yousafzai speak out about female education, or the number of women lash back against the nomination of Donald Trump in January of 2017.
The world is changing, and being able to discuss the challenges we face with those who do not fully understand is on the path to gaining intersectional equality.
About Ari Winter
I am a proud intersectional feminist studying political science at Western Washington University with a focus in American politics and public policy. With my degree I plan to be a campaign manager and hopefully run for office when I feel I have enough experience. This will allow me to fulfill my dream of having regular dinners with Hillary Clinton and wearing custom pantsuits every day.
As a member of Amnesty International and Western Votes, a voting regimen which registered 3,500 students during the fall of 2017, human rights and social justice are my passions within politics. Discussing the world around us and how to find solutions that work for all people is my favorite activity.