7 Ways To Build A Bridge With People Who Don't Understand Feminism
Although feminism has been around for generations, it remains misunderstood — which is why it helps to know how to reach out to people who don't understand feminism. You'd think that in 2017, gender equality wouldn't be seen as a political issue anymore, but if you pay attention to how some people talk about it, it's clear there's still a long way to go before all genders are on equal footing. Here's the funny thing, though: Unbeknownst to some, they might actually be feminists after all. Besides, we're all stuck living on the same planet, so we might as well get along while we're here, right?
It's no secret that feminism has something of a PR problem in many circles. Last fall, a poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics showed that even many young adults still view gender equality and feminism as separate ideas. Just so we're clear, Merriam-Webster defines feminism the "theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes." So... gender equality. It's not a terribly difficult concept to grasp, but that hasn't stopped people from equating feminism with misandry, claiming its goal is to create a matriarchy, and all sorts of other misconceptions.
Rather than writing off someone who doesn't understand feminism, though, it's worth trying to see where they're coming from — and attempting to build a bridge between the two of you. Here are seven ways to do so.
1. Clear Up What Feminism Means
If someone fundamentally misunderstands what feminism means, the two of you aren't going to have much to talk about. If they think feminists intend to create a matriarchy, or that it's an archaic political movement with no use in the modern day, it's no wonder they may not support feminism. Explain what contemporary feminism means and why it's important in the modern day.
2. ...And What It Doesn't Mean
I won't lie to you; burning bras and refusing to shave are fun ways to reject the patriarchy. However, it's not a requirement to join the feminist "club" (and feminism isn't a club, anyway; it's about inclusivity). Gender equality is about, well, equality, not looking down on people — whether you're a housewife, a bodybuilder, or a political activist, there's a place for everyone in feminism.
3. Break Out The Dictionary If You Must
If you have to get pedantic, go for it. Break out the dictionary definition of feminism, which clearly states that it's about gender equality.
4. Describe Why It's Still Relevant
Like I mentioned above, feminism has been around for a while now, and some people assume this means it's irrelevant. Unfortunately, that's anything but the case. The gender wage gap isn't expected to close for decades to come, and strict gender norms aren't doing us any favors. Instead, whether you're a man or woman, these self-imposed "rules" just limit what we can accomplish. Then there's rape culture, street harassment, privilege of all sorts, and a whole range of other problems that come down to the white, cis-normative, heteronormative patriarchy in which we live. Feminism is still wholly necessary.
5. Listen To Their POV
Whenever someone is diametrically opposed to your own views, it's all too easy for conversation to turn into an argument. As I'm sure you've experienced before, ignoring someone's point of view just alienates them, and it certainly won't change their mind. Basically, don't approach them like they're stupid or your mortal enemy, because that makes anyone disinclined to listen.
6. Recommend Reading
Don't just rely on your own experiences to help build a bridge with people who don't understand feminism. Recommend reading from feminist authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or bell hooks, who are literally known for their way with words. If they can't support your case, nobody can.
7. Introduce Them To The Internet (Outside Of 4chan)
Some far-right corners of the internet are terrifying to feminists — even on Twitter, harassment and death threats against famous feminists are known to happen. If someone spends most of their time in these types of places, they're just reinforcing their own perception of feminism and the status of gender equality. Introduce them to the parts of the Internet populated by everyday people discussing the need for feminism today, whether it's the Everyday Sexism project or notable male feminist Matthew McGorry's Instagram account.
There's no guarantee any of these suggestions will turn someone into a feminist, but it might get them thinking about gender equality differently. It's not your job to educate others, but if you stay calm and respectful, you can say you've done all you can.