family and radical feminism

This is a personal story blog post.

My brother and I have been close every since we were in high school. We grew up in a highly conservative religious family, and so we supported each other through our rebellions, our mistakes, and our successes. We lived together once in college, and now we live together again (my partner and I live with him, to be clear).

My radical feminist awakening has changed my worldview (I was going to say it has *fundamentally* changed my worldview, but that’s not quite right. Radical feminism uses argument and logic to deliver true conclusions. Popular or “fun” feminism uses none of those things. I got my master’s degree in analytic philosophy, which helps explain radical feminism’s appeal to me. Indeed, it should appeal to everyone who takes the time to recognize the global hatred of women in our society. So in that sense, coming to radfem consciousness has expanded, rather than altered, my worldview).

I’ve made the mistake of confiding this new-found worldview with my brother. He does not get it *at all*, and so we end up yelling at each other. I am so saddened that he is entirely unwilling to bend just the slightest bit to what I’m saying. He’s always listened to me before.

I know that radfems who have been around awhile are not at all surprised to hear my story. However, the personal revelation that our loved ones are *a huge part* of the problem is a difficult one to learn for the first time.

I’ve finally decided that he and I will not talk about feminism any longer- it is the only way to save our friendship. But given how much I care about radical feminist topics, this will mean that we will grow apart if we aren’t able to share on this topic. It will also mean that if he laughs at a misogynistic joke, or drinks out of a female-bodied naked headless wine container (true), I will have to ignore his behavior, swallow my anger, and continue on. Either that, or lose him as a friend and brother. Honestly, that will probably end up happening anyway.

Having convictions sucks. It means I’m alienated from the people I care about the most. I’m deeply sad about this.

PS I want to point out that most of the defenses he levies for his views involve his claim that B (a libfem lesbian and probably his best friend- see paragraph 13 of this post for more on her) doesn’t see the problems I elucidate. To him, that means *I’m* crazy and wrong.

About smash
Women's liberationist.

17 Responses to family and radical feminism

  1. Rainbow Riot says:

    I have had to keep my radfeminism secret from my family. I made the mistake of making some pro-woman comments to my father, mentioning that we live in a rape culture, and he went ballistic. Since then I have had to keep my mouth shut. (I don’t currently talk to my father, or most of my family, for other reasons, but not being able to “come out” as a feminist to them is a big part of what makes it hard to maintain any relationship with them.)

    I hate that just speaking our thoughts as women can get us yelled at, dismissed, silenced or even abused or killed. We have to remember that it is a real risk to be “out.” I think that it is a risk that we have to try to take, even if it is only a little at a time. I know that the alienation hurts. Sometimes it hurts so deeply that we cannot afford to let our feminism show.

    I also think that it is interesting how 3rd wave funfeminism involves little to no risk. 2nd wave or radical feminism puts you in a very different position.

  2. lishra says:

    I hear ya, smash. This really reminds me of the “Terrible Bargain” post at Shakesville from a couple years ago: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/08/terrible-bargain-we-have-regretfully.html

  3. Sia says:

    Delurking to say I get this. I really do. The family vs. politics/integrity conflict has broken my heart time and again. I’m proud of some choices I’ve made in that fight, less so about others. There’s never a good answer. I hope you have or can find some real-life support and camaraderie with other feminists; that alienation and isolation is no joke. Thanks for the slice-of-life post.

  4. DaveSquirrel says:

    that will probably end up happening anyway

    Yep really. And you will just end up kicking yourself for trying to ignore it and have a relationship with these people. I had huge problems with my male-supremacist father, even when I was in a radfem-very-lite place of my twenties. The only way to do it is to distance yourself, have very little to do with them. Whilst my father (now in his 80s) has improved over the last 10 years, it was ‘improvement’ from a card-carrying user-of-women, so it is small consolation really. Actually, I have decided just recently to cut him (AGAIN) out of my life. It just isn’t good enough ‘improvement’.

  5. Hecuba says:

    Ditto I too was called a ‘man-hater’ from a very young age by my family because I refused to be the stereotypical compliant little girl! I would ask my family ‘why is the man always the head of household when it should be both the woman and man’ and for that I was told I was soo wrong. My father also hated to be contradicted by me because I was female and more often than not right when I was questioning something. So yes it is hard when one’s family are so opposed and refuse to see the problem.

    Rainbow Riot is correct – real feminism does involve risks and yes there are negative consequences if any woman dares to challenge male supremacists/male supremacy. I found that out when I refused to massage my male boss’s ego and that was years ago now. I was sidelined and my pay reviews were always lousy – just because I refused to flatter a lazy incompetent male boss! But families are even more difficult because the dynamics are different. ‘Global hatred of women’ – nah that too is being denied because apparently men say it doesn’t exist therefore they are right and radical feminists are wrong (again!).

    • DaveSquirrel says:

      Ha! Many decades ago I actually got sacked for not worshipping one of the self-proclaimed demi-gawd male bosses. None of the other male bosses had a problem with me, and I was good at my job (and business polite), even my direct manager who had to sack me was perplexed.

  6. Deepika says:

    Thank you for this. I’m having the same trouble in my family and although my mother agrees with radical feminist ideas with me in private, at dinner table conversations she remains quiet or sides with the men (my father and two brothers).

    What is especially irritating is that the men in my family think they are super-intelligent and yet believe all kinds of idiotic evo-psych bullshit. GODDESS it makes me RAGE!!

    The other day at the dinner table my father said “Of course it’s a FACT that men are biologically hard-wired to want to control women they mate with in order to prevent cuckolding!” and I felt like stabbing myself in the with a fork.

    It doesn’t matter how many links I send my father (especially those refuting evol-psych bs, like Echidne does) — he’ll read it, nod thoughtfully and the entire premise of the argument he just read will completely FLY out of his head like it was never there.

    And they say women are irrational/non-logical…

    • smash says:

      Some men have huge blind spots that are not amenable to correction. I think we may be beating our heads against a dead horse (to mix metaphors) talking to our families about these things.

      Yes, super frustrating though!

      • Deepika says:

        It is! And I forgot to say thank you for writing this post – it’s soothing in a way, as well, knowing there are so many others out there going through this same experience. So thank you. Good to know we’re not alone. Well, not THAT alone anyway :)

  7. The Masked Lily says:

    it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the fact that others can be so blind to things that should be completely obvious.. or seem totally obvious, once one sees them, anyways. my brother and I used to be really good friends, growing up. then, he hit puberty and well, I know he’s changed a LOT over the past couple of years. he’s always held disdain for feminism, but I accidentally discovered (doing some technical fixes on his computer, being the computer geek that I am) that he does use pornography. I know I shouldn’t be surprised but, wow. it does change them. I mostly stay away from him these days. he’s aggressive and condescending. basically, he’s a man now.

    if I accidentally let slip something rad-fem in nature (ie, blaming men for something), I generally get silence from male family members. but my mom gets defensive. “you can’t say that about all men! your brother is nice, and this other boy I know. you should give men a chance.” or “you shouldn’t think that way..” or, “that’s not really fair, can’t you try to see it from their perspective?” my mom considers herself a feminist. sometimes she’ll half-agree with me, back up, and tell me it’s wrong to think that way. but I feel sorry for her, because her lives are entwined with mens’ in a way that I know I could never stand and in a way that I wish I could unravel for her. and other het women. so badly.

  8. truflew says:

    I’d say men are a lost cause in general, but it takes much less to say that than to actually realise it. I still find myself talking to some of them even though I know that there’s really no point. If they got “it”, they’d be diametrically opposed to it. There’s always this feeling that they can’t possibly hate us *that* much. I mean, it *seems* like we share a large part of our political views, so why not this. But I guess we really don’t and they really don’t care.

    And I really have no idea how to not talk about feminism. It’s how I experience reality. So I guess the only alternative for me would be not to stay in contact.

    Just wanted to say that I can relate, actually.

  9. KG says:

    This post intrigued me, partly because I can relate to it in some ways. I also have a younger brother who I am quite close to. He is, however, a feminist, though he does not declare himself one. My older brother, on the other hand, has been extremely misogynistic in the past, and is basically a Pakistani-Canadian dudebro (so not the white kind of dudebro, but close enough).

    Two things I have learned from this that may be useful and relevant to your predicament:

    1. Sometimes it is best to just ignore people’s beliefs. In practice this means not bringing up ideological or philosophical issues unless someone is clearly very receptive or sophisticated, and just limiting conversation to personal stuff. A person’s beliefs do not really define them, at the end of the day: they are just mental formations that lie atop a core personality that I think is what really connects with others.

    2. Some people may not call themselves feminists because they may be apolitical, but they are still good people and in practice feminists. My younger brother would not call himself a feminist (he just doesn’t care enough) but he is not-misogynistic, which is basically what it means to be a feminist.

    I used to have this problem of alienating myself from people by being too opinionated, but I’ve learned to just remain silent and try to understand everything instead.

    Hope this was helpful (and not trying to be patronizing :P)!

  10. Daisy C. Turtle says:

    I’m sorry about your brother, i have a similar problem with my brother. It’s very sad, thanks for sharing your story.

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