5 Comments From Your Friend That Don't Seem Anti-Feminist, But Are
It's hard out there for a feminist, and not just because all the sexism and discrimination in the world is enough to make a gal develop an eye twitch. Sometimes, you have to field anti-feminist comments from your friends, too, which presents a pickle: Do you sit back and let them do their patriarchal thing for the sake of your friendship, or do you talk to them about their prejudices for the sake of your sanity?
There's no easy answer to that one, but it's worth noting that sometimes, anti-feminist comments don't seem that way at first. If your friend tends to speak without thinking, they're might not realize that they're perpetuating patriarchal values. In fact, you might not even notice it at first. As feminism becomes more mainstream, overtly sexist comments tend to be more frowned upon than they were in the Mad Men era. Although they certainly still exist, modern anti-feminist comments tend to be a little more subtle. Rather than actively putting down women, they might uphold rigid gender norms — everyone's least favorite phrase, "boys will be boys," comes to mind — or reinforce heteronormative standards.
It's hard to define what makes something anti-feminist, especially when feminism itself means different things to so many different people. However, it's safe to say that anything that reinforces patriarchal norms or disempowers anyone could be considered anti-feminist. Although these kinds of comments can be subtle, they still have a tangible effect on those who experience and perpetuate it. Let's look at five notable offenders below.
1. "I Don't Get Along With Women."
Ironically, I've heard this from a significant portion of my friends who are women: They befriend men because they just don't get along with women. If you ask them about it, they'll usually tell you that women are too dramatic, or they don't have the same interests (usually, the interest in question is sports). Feminism won't get anywhere unless women support each other, and needless to say, reducing all women to a dramatic, sports-averse stereotype — and by extension, all men to stoic, athletic stereotypes — doesn't exactly help gender equality.
2. "Your Ex Really Downgraded With Their New S.O.."
It happens to everyone: One of your friends sees your ex has a new significant other, there's a flurry of group-texting, and everyone commences Facebook stalking. Soon, your phone blows up with sympathetic comments comparing you and your ex's new beau — you're prettier, smarter, cooler, and infinitely superior in every way, shape, and form.
It might make you feel better in the short term, but over time, it just fosters a sense of rivalry between women. Particularly in heterosexual relationships, women are encouraged to see dating as a competition, but in reality, that's not how it works. Rather than judging someone you've never met, focus all that negative energy on the person who's really at fault: The jerk who dumped you in the first place.
3. "Do You See What She's Wearing?"
Similarly, what's the point of judging other women for what they're wearing? Whether it's too revealing or not revealing enough, clothes don't reflect on anyone's character. Furthermore, the obsession with how women present themselves reinforces objectification and has implications in rape culture; as you're undoubtedly aware, one of the most common questions asked of rape victims is what they were wearing when they were assaulted — even though an outfit is never an invitation for assault.
4. "Men And Women Are Just Different."
There are biological differences between sexes, but our culture and how we're socialized plays an enormous part in how we perceive gender and develop our own identities. Many of the stereotypes surrounding aptitude and gender can be traced to cultural causes: Girls aren't terrible at math; they're discouraged from showing interest in STEM fields. Men aren't naturally stoic; they're taught to hide their feelings. Over time, these stereotypes come together to lock people into a rigid patriarchal structure.
5. "Trans Women Are Cool, But They're Not Real Women."
Despite the progress made in how we treat cisgender women, transgender women are still the subject of harassment, abuse, and interrogations about their identities, even from people within the feminist community. However, trans women are real women — their gender identity is nobody else's business in the first place.