Friday, September 18, 2009

Question of the Day

A friend of mine has a friend from Ireland visiting for a few weeks, and we were out at the bar a few nights ago. The Irish friend starts going in on women's sports, wondering why anyone would want to play or watch it. I defend women athletes and sports, and then my friend leans over and says, "I told him you were a feminist... he's just trying to rile you up." The Irish friend laughs, and we change subject.

But I'm wondering why? Why does my feminist identity cause some people to challenge it? Most of the time it's jokingly, but then sometimes people really do want to argue against feminism. It's not like I bother vegetarians about factory farm conditions or anything.

In the spirit of Shakesville's Question of the Day, here's mine:

Upon finding out a person is a feminist, why do people intentionally (in good humor or not) say non-feminist things?


INTPanentheist said...

You know how fun it is to rile those silly little laydeez, with their harmless but amusing ideas of equality.

It's a kind of condescension that is, I think, more insidious than outright misogyny - they think it's funny that you're a feminist in the same way that I think it's funny that my five-year-old thinks he's Batman, only I don't tease him about it to demean him.

It's gross.

Amelia said...

This sort of thing has happened to me a lot in the past few years, after I started identifying as a feminist.

Sometimes, it seems as if people are disgusted by the fact that I'm a feminist, so they say something sexist/non-feminist in order to try to shut me down. I would say that in the cases I've encountered, this tactic is also employed through humor, as if the people don't like feminism, but they don't want to be blatantly misogynist, so they try some non-feminist humor. Then they use the excuse of wanting to get a rise out of me.

Sometimes, it seems as if people don't really know what feminism is, so they say the first thing to come to mind that may have something to do with feminism, which usually ends up being something sexist/non-feminist.

I get the feeling that feminism will just always feel like a challenge to a lot of people, especially those who don't know much about it. And what seems to be the best way for people like that to deal with something challenging/foreign? Ridicule. Because that's easier than trying to learn about something, right?

Tasha said...

I always like to look at it in terms of jokes, to see what is acceptable to say. I've very rarely heard any of my male friends make a racist joke, but they make sexist jokes with some frequency. I think this is because sexism to some degree is still more publicly accepted than racism and feminism is, for whatever reason, looked down upon.

I have also had the experience of people saying things purposefully to push my buttons. I honestly think they do it because they can and they won't be ostracized by society because a lot of the time it's more okay to be sexist, then to fight sexism.

Rachel said...

I was in philosophy class last year and we were talking about women in philosophy. I said something. I guess it was something that identified me as a feminist, and this guy, whom I thought was more progressive, said, "oh, well, now Rachel's all feminist."

I thought, 'I've been a feminist this whole academic year. Nothing's changed.'

It struck me, and I'm still thinking about why.

INTPanentheist said...

This is what they're saying.

And it's really not funny.

Amelia said...


It's interesting how being outspoken about one's feminism can lead to remarks/acts that aren't always the most friendly or appreciated. Being outspoken about feminism seems to be troublesome to certain people, probably those who the Patriarchy favors. But those same people probably never would notice a feminist unless they said/did something that impacted them somehow (as in saying something in a class), so I can see how it might be frustrating to have it all of a sudden dawn on them that you're a feminist even though you had been for a while.

Amelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lindsay said...

The big one for me was when I suggested to friends we have a study night and I could cook homemade pizza, and one of my friends seemed shocked that I would like cooking since I was all feministy.

@INTPanentheist re: Family Guy quote.

So right.

Anonymous said...

It seems to be the way a lot of people break the ice/ try to be funny. It's not just feminism, it can be anything that sticks out. Vegan, play a certain sport work a specific job... anything really.

Anonymous said...

My dad likes to make 'feminist' jokes... Not often, but he does it nonetheless. Some of the less enlightened boys I know like to deliberately needle women about their inequality. I agree with INTPanentheist here - well put!

quixote said...

Yup. INTPanentheist hit it. It's a power play. That's why it feels obnoxious. You know it's a putdown, even if you're so far away from it you can't see why.

It's especially difficult in an all-friends-together or a work situation. They've put you in a box. If you say, "Must be nice to be so easily amused. Do you find slavery funny too?" Then it's your fault for ruining the atmosphere.

They know there's nothing you can do -- within the rules -- except acquiesce in your own putdown. I'd think that's why feminism calls it out. There's somebody who needs to be slapped down!

Anonymous said...

Well if its a man making the comment then I'd say he fears the control that you have wihtin yourself to stand out. Others just fear what they don't understand.

FeministGal said...

i think it's also to see how far you can be pushed. once you assign a label to yourself (which is a brave thing to do, in general) people will try and push your boundaries to see how much you'll put up with. then when you don't want to take any more shit, they'll say, "wow, you really can't take a joke" - at least that's (unfortunately) what my expereicne of it has been :/

Halla said...

I see all the comments about power play etc. but then, perhaps for some people it's just something else to talk about. How many people identify themselves as having any sort of position on anything these days? Here (UK) it's exceptional to state, and keep stating, that you are an activist of any kind or systematically consider any life situations. It's like flying a flag, so I suppose some people do like to make comments about that sort of thing but they'd be amazed to find that their comments were viewed as anything but mischievous.

That, and the mythical feminist complete lack of any kind of a sense of humour. Obv. (do I need smilies here? :-)