Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Importance of Talking About Sexism: How My Mum Is Becoming a Little More Feminist

Women sitting on a step outside, talking. Photo taken from behind.

My mum wouldn't exactly call herself a feminist. It's not a generation thing; she had me when she was quite young, and she's only just approaching middle-age now. It's more that feminism and sexism isn't something that she's thought about, or had conversations about, until fairly recently. She was more like I was before I was introduced to feminism; she believed the misconceptions surrounding feminism, about feminists hating men, and didn't think we were actually doing too badly when it comes to equality. She simply hadn't seen the evidence that shows we are.

But as feminism has become a big part of my life, and I've been learning about inequality and sexism, I would talk to Mum about what I'm learning. We're pretty close, and it's just natural for me to talk to my mum about what I've been thinking about lately, or what I'm reading, and so on. I would bring up topics covered by books like Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole or Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, or things I had read on blogs. She wouldn't always agree with me at first, and I would have to share the evidence and statistics I was discovering, or go into more detail about how something was sexist and damaging. Mum is a fan of Loose Women (I know), and if it's on when I'm home and the panelists are discussing something that touches on sexism, the TV will be paused so we can discuss it, I can share what I know and my opinions. I've become more aware of the sexism around me, so I point it out now when I see it - in TV programmes for example. Again, the TV will be paused while I complain about it to Mum.

Over the last couple of years of having these conversations with my mum, which I had simply to discuss something I was interested in and to rant about inequality, Mum has been taking in what I'm saying, to the point where she is now noticing things she wouldn't have before.

She told me yesterday about an advert she thought, at first, that I would like. One of's most recent advert's talks about the imperfections of a "Messy  Girl", and how she's not perfect, but that's why her girlfriend loves her. At first, Mum told me, she thought this was great; it's a same sex couple! One of them is a woman of colour! Hurrah for diversity! And she was going to point it out to me as a really good advert whenever it next came on when I was home. But the more she saw it, the more it didn't seem right to her.

The "Messy Girl"'s room was messy anyway, but to highlight how untidy she is, it has her strip off, throwing her clothes around the room. Then enters her girlfriend, who catches one of the items of clothing she's thrown, before the "Messy Girl" helps her take her top off and going in for a pretty passionate kiss - you know where this is going to lead for the couple.

It wasn't just an advert about a same-sex couple, one of whom is a person of colour, Mum was saying. It was about a female same-sex couple, in their underwear, having a snog. Last week I wrote about how a lot of lingerie adverts focus on how women will look to men in their underwear, and I had talked about it with Mum, too. She remembered this, and saw these two ladies in their underwear, kissing, and, she said to me, "It's meant to be titillating to men."

She said how she highly doubted they would have made the same advert with men; men stripping to their underwear and having a passionate kiss. That she didn't think society, as it is now, would accept it - that straight men wouldn't want to see that - and so it's not an advert that would be made. And it made her mad. The advert wasn't about same-sex couples, she told me, it's all about turning men on.

And I had a little moment of wonderful surprise and such pride. Of course, with my conversations with my mum, I would hope she would agree with me, that maybe it would open her eyes a little, but I didn't expect the conversations to change her, to change how she saw things. It didn't even occur to me that this would be a possible outcome of our conversations. My mum being more aware of sexism, my mum pointing it out, my mum wanting to talk about it. It was just so awesome! And I helped that change to come about.

I still don't think my mum would call herself a feminist - at least not yet. But things are changing, and her eyes are open. And it's really shown me just how important it is to talk about feminism and sexism; talking and educating can make all the difference.

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  1. This is really encouraging! Thank you for sharing. I was lucky to be raised by a feminist, but I could definitely do better about having more conversations about feminism.

    1. Thank you! :) That's so awesome, that you were raised by a feminist. But yeah, these conversations can happen with anyone, really - and hopefully change will come.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)