I find it difficult when I believe I’m right, especially about a gender relationship, only to find that someone disagrees. My strategy so far, which has been wildly unsuccessful for the most part is to bombard people with examples that indicate that they’re wrong. I want people to believe that women’s success, strength, diversity is the rule, rather than the exception. I want to make everyone feminist.

Often, I’m preaching to the converted and get positive feedback. Feminists are supportive of other feminists, as we have to be. But, what I’ve begun to realise is that I need a strategy change if I’m really going to make a difference. I’m not very good when I’m not talking to the choir.

Nobody likes to be told that they’re wrong, especially when they think they’re right. It makes them defensive and closes down their minds to what you’re trying to say to them. Telling someone they’re wrong isn’t an effective strategy in getting them to believe you’re right.

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about how the most powerful social norms that are dangerous for women play themselves out at home and in the personal conversations we have with other women and with men. I’ve been wondering how we begin to challenge those most private examples of inequality.

I’ve always been someone who sees gender based violence as part of a spectrum of problematic norms and social relations. I see the way sexist jokes are often accepted, the unequal division of work at home (the cleaning, the cooking, the parenting, the dishing up of food to men first), the way women are harassed in streets, domestic violence, and rape as different manifestations of the same thing. The private examples of inequality are tied to the big public examples of inequality.

But how do I try to challenge those interpersonal manifestations of gender inequality without alienating the person doing them altogether? How do I challenge them when sometimes I do them myself? For example, I got home after a long trip last week to find that the car wouldn’t start. My first instinct was to message my boyfriend, even though my sister probably knows more about cars than both of us combined. It was instinct – instinct fed by a society which tells me I know nothing about cars, and that he should.

Believing that a man can do something just because he’s a man, or that a woman can’t do something just because she’s a woman, is a dangerous belief. It keeps women away from exciting work that they’d be brilliant at. It teaches men not to take women seriously.

I guess that there is a need to begin thinking about how people can imagine themselves as part of a world where those norms don’t work if we are going to have real change. People don’t like to give up beliefs that make their lives work. But, I think people are motivated by wanting to fit into an idea of the good life.

Perhaps I need to start thinking about what that world would look like. An equal one. It’s hard, because we’ve never seen it.
But we do need to start thinking about what we want, what the good life would look like, and not only what we don’t want and what sexism looks like. Otherwise, we won’t win any new support. We’ll only anger and hurt people along the way.


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