Feminism and friendship: How it works for me

feminism and friendship

Experiencing sexism sucks and it’s something every woman will come up against at some point in her life, but what do you do when you experience sexism in your friendship group?

Feminism has been in the news a lot recently, due to things like GamerGate and the highlighting of gender-specific toys in supermarkets. It could be that, for some of your friends, this is the first time they’ve seen how being a woman can be a crapfest at times. There will be men and women who read this that who think we’re already treated equally so any “fuss” we kick up is unnecessary. Or perhaps they subscribe to the idea of “what’s wrong with saying certain toys are only for boys? They’re boys’ toys!”.

We’re not treated equally….yet.

The idea that women have won the fight and have gained equality is horseshit. We still earn less than our male counterparts in the same field, we are expected to not only want children but to give up our jobs in order to raise them, little girls get mutilated, young girls are married off and become pregnant before their bodies have matured which leads to the ONE MILLION teenage girls who die or suffer serious injury every year thanks to these forced pregnancies…

“The issue of children having children and dying because their bodies are too immature to deliver the baby – is a global scandal,” said Save the Children’s Chief Executive, Justin Forsyth.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We are judged by what we wear and have been and continue to be objectified; you only have to look at the Page 3 controversy in recent news to prove that. Our opinions are ignored or made fun of, and we’re often condescended to… and sometimes this is coming from someone in your friendship group.

I’ve struggled a lot with sexism and anti-feminism in my friendship group recently. I felt ashamed to call these people friends because they clearly don’t care when it comes to feminism or equality. At times they seemed to go out of their way to proclaim just how little they care. I found it immensely upsetting.

These days we have more interaction with our friends via Facebook and Twitter, and the internet makes speaking without consequence an easy task. I have spent many a day in tears after posting something on Facebook, only to have it torn to pieces by my “friends”. I’ve questioned whether I should even post certain articles… but it’s at that point that I realise just how much it’s affecting me, to the point where I second-guess myself, self-censor myself.

I never expected to have to justify my feminism to my friends. I had naively assumed that my friends would be on my side, but I was wrong.

Feminism has become a dirty word again, misunderstood by the masses and is swiftly followed by the ‘calm down love’ brigade when you get annoyed that some people are still knuckle dragging behind the rest of civilised society.

Some of your friends might be resistant to the idea that you’ve had a totally different life experience based solely on your gender. They share articles written by women claiming “I’m proud to not be a feminist” and seem to be under the impression that feminists hate men. How often do you see the phrase ‘feminazi’? I see it almost every day and not just from men.

As a rule, feminists hating men is not true. Of course if you want to find an article written by a woman who does in fact hate men, it’s easy enough to find – this is the internet after all – but the few voices of hate are drowned out by those of women who don’t hate men. Believing feminists hate men is ignorance, pure and simple.

So, how can you deal with sexism in your friendship group?

It’s actually quite simple, I’m going to break it down into two instances:

Scenario A

A friend of yours has said something that you find objectionable

Step One: Do they know that what they’ve said is problematic?

Step Two: Speak to that friend. Sometimes it just takes pointing out the error, or else asking them to explain why they feel a certain way is enough for them to see sense. Some people don’t know that gender bias can be so ingrained that you’re not even aware you’re biased until someone talks to you about it and exposes the prejudices.

You don’t have to go in all barrels blazing, although that is my default reaction, but turning a blind eye to the everyday sexism that exists is going to get us nowhere.

I would hope that after you’ve talked to your friend they’ll see sense. If they do, great! If they continue to stick to their guns, ask yourself if this person’s opinion is enough to stop your friendship. What are you willing to accept from a friend?

But what if…

Scenario B

A friend is consistently making sexist, offensive comments and they know it

Step One: Take a deep breath

Step Two: Delete that dickhead

Step Three: Get on with your life

Seriously, these people are not your friends. Especially if they know that their behaviour is upsetting you.

I spent a lot of last year thoroughly depressed by what I saw in some of my friends’ behaviour. From rape apologists to mind-boggling Facebook statuses like “No-one in the shop knew what electrical tape is, even a woman knows what insulating tape is!” Both blatant and insidious examples of sexism kept cropping up and I would get seriously upset and angry.

I think more than anything I was upset because I value my friends. If something is unfair or upsetting them I would have their back. I would stand shoulder to shoulder with them and raise my voice, but they can’t or won’t do the same for me. It’s one big joke.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I’m not putting up with it anymore. I am not going to self censor my posts. I’m not going to let someone else’s screwed up idea of how society should work ruin my day. NO MORE!

Trust me, it’s hard to do but once you’ve cut these people out you’ll find that your Facebook or Twitter becomes a safer and much nicer place to spend some time.