5 Reasons To Talk About Feminism With Your Friends
Depending on your social circle, talking about feminism with your friends might be par for the course or downright unthinkable unless you've girded your loins for political battle. Although gender equality has come a long way since the days when women were unable to vote or own property, feminism has had its ups and downs in public opinion over the years. Just a few years ago, many public figures still made efforts to distance themselves from the movement; before "are you a feminist?" became the favored question to ask actresses during interviews, it was often brought up in a disparaging context. (Slate ran an in-depth look at the obsession with celebrity feminism last year, which is well worth checking out.)
These days, feminism is having much-needed time in the spotlight, but that doesn't mean it's well-understood. Despite the support of politicians like Bernie Sanders and celebrities like Beyoncé, many people still consider feminism synonymous with misandry, or they believe it's not necessary in a "post-feminist" culture. Spoiler alert: I hate to say it, but patriarchal nonsense is so entrenched in society that we aren't even close to achieving true gender equality any time soon.
With so much misinformation out there, it's important to pick your feminist battles — arguing about gender equality with everyone you meet is approximately as enjoyable as slamming your head in a car door. Furthermore, nobody has to talk about feminism to consider themselves a feminist; it's great, but there's no contract signed in menstrual blood saying you have a duty to shout down every Men's Rights Activist you come across. If you support equality for all genders and say you're a feminist, then you're a feminist. It's as simple as that.
On the other hand, feminism isn't going to get a better reputation unless we talk about it openly. Let's take a look at five reasons to discuss feminism with your friends below.
1. You Might Build Better Friendships
Let's get this out of the way first: Living in a conservative area doesn't negate the possibility of feminism, and vice versa. If your friends haven't brought it up before, there's no way to know whether they're staunchly conservative or secretly carry around a copy of bell hook's Ain't I a Woman? in their bag. The only way to know is to ask — you might be surprised by the answer. You may even end up with a new friend with whom to share feminist rants.
2. We're All More Likely To Listen To Our Peers
Generally speaking, it's harder to dismiss the experiences of one of your peers, especially considering feminism's generational differences. The issues facing women in the 1970s were different than those facing women today. If someone is already disinclined to support gender equality, they might dismiss feminism as a thing of the past — something that their mothers needed, but which women don't need today. However, that might change if your friend sees someone their age openly supporting feminism.
3. Anecdotes Can Sway Opinions
Research has shown that when it comes to actually changing someone's opinion, people are more inclined to respect anecdotes than facts and statistics. With the current coverage of feminism in the media, chances are your friends are well aware of the figures most people cite to support gender equality, but there's a world of difference between reading statistics about the wage gap and hearing someone talk about how she makes far less than her male coworker for the same job.
4. It Can Deepen Your Own Understanding
Feminism is constantly changing, and that's a good thing. Without discussion among feminists and non-feminists alike, feminism would still be a movement for white, upper-middle class women and ignore the struggles facing anyone who doesn't fit that particular category. In short, inclusivity is the key to progress.
5. Every Bit Counts
It may seem like an uphill battle, but people's minds do change — for one famous example, look at self-proclaimed intersectional feminist Matt McGorry. The actor has made no secret of the fact that he wasn't always a feminist, thanks to a flawed understanding of the term, but today, he's an avid supporter of gender equality. Not every change is going to be that drastic, and you don't have to pose in front of a giant sign proclaiming your feminism à la Beyoncé. But if you support feminism when and where you can, gender equality might just get the support it deserves.