There are a lot of things that go along with being a feminist, from the political to the personal. Which also means there are some things feminists don't say to their friends. Because how are we supposed to make a better world if we can't even break sexist patterns in our personal relationships?
Feminists aren't perfect. We don't always say or do the right thing — after all, a lifetime of living in a patriarchal society means that we all have a lot of sexist assumptions and perspectives that we need to unlearn, and that takes time. In fact, sometimes we don't even realize how sexist something is until we take the time to think about it. But even though it's not always obvious, there are some things that feminists really should not say to their friends.
And that's true no matter what gender your friends may be. Feminists can be friends with people of any gender — and indeed, feminists can also be any gender, too — though since most of the obnoxious sexist things in the world disproportionately affect women, it pays to be especially careful when talking to your female friends.
So here are eight things feminists just don't say to their friends.
1. "That Makes You Look Fat"
Fat shaming — or really any kind of body shaming — is unacceptable, regardless of gender. We live in a society that tells people — especially women — we have to live up to certain, very narrow standards in our appearance, and it's harmful in a lot of ways. Part of feminism is about allowing people to let go of those harmful messages and embrace our bodies as they are. Which is way harder if our friends are reinforcing harmful messages, too. Support your friends; don't body shame them.
2. "You're Right About [Insert Unconsciously Sexist Comment From Friend]"
A lot of times your friends, especially the male ones, will say things that you know are kind of sexist. Maybe they're policing someone's appearance or judging their sex life or even trying to say something nice but going about it all wrong. Whatever it is, it can be tempting to just agree with them since, after all, they're your friend and you're used to agreeing.
Maybe you also don't like the person they're talking about, just for other reasons. Maybe you know they're trying to be nice and don't want to turn things serious. But co-signing sexism is still not something you should be doing with your friends.
3. "That Is Way Too Much Makeup"
Women are expected to wear makeup, but we're judged for wearing "too much" — which is so vaguely defined that it's really just another way of giving people license to judge your appearance. Feminists don't play that game. Feminists support women's right to do whatever we want with our appearance, including wearing as much or as little makeup as we want. We especially don't try to police our friends' appearance — and that goes for more than just makeup. (And it's not just for women, either — guy friends can wear makeup if they want to, too.)
4. "But Don't You Want Kids?"
Women get so many pressures to have kids from all corners of society, we definitely don't need it from our friends, too. Similarly, it's generally not a good idea to try to make your guy friends conform to society's script of what their life should be like, either. Support your friends in their choices, whether they live up to society's idea of what they should do with their lives or not.
5. "Don't You Think That's Pretty Slutty?"
The whole concept of someone being a slut is pretty anti-feminist. Women should feel free to have or not have as much sex as they want without judgement. Using terms like "slut" in any context is probably a bad idea. Using it with your friends is especially bad.
6. "[Anything Racist, Homophobic, Or Xenophobic]"
Feminism is about supporting women — all women. That includes women of color, women who are part of the LGBT community, women who are religious or ethnic minorities, poor women, women with disabilities, and any other variety of woman that exists. So no matter how feminist you think you are, you can't be supporting all women if you're also perpetuating any form of oppression that affects women. Support all aspects of your friends' identities. Support all women, everywhere.
7. "I'm Sure He Didn't Mean It Like That"
Often, when women speak up about things that people — usually men — have done that made us uncomfortable or made us feel disrespected or unsafe, people's first impulse is to try to make excuses for the man, or to try to make us doubt our own experiences. That can involve serious gaslighting, or just not taking our concerns seriously. And it's not really OK when it comes to any person, but it's especially bad when it's a friend who trusts you.
8. "I Don't Believe You"
Even worse than trying to downplay someone's experiences or make excuses for someone who's hurt them is actually telling someone you don't believe them when they confide in you. And yet many people — especially women — who come forward with stories about abuse or sexual assault have people refuse to believe them. That hurts no matter who is doubting your story, but it's especially damaging when it's your friends. We often don't want to believe that one of our friends is capable of hurting another of our friends — but even if it's hard to consider, when someone is brave enough to confide in you, believe them.