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I am a college student and I've always been intrigued by sociology but this is the first semester I've taken a sociology class directed specifically at gender. My professor is a feminist and it has been a great class that has made me think of things that I never really thought of before. We just got finished reading Egalia's Daughters. I highly recommend it to any of your readers. It draws attention to things that whenever think of as women because we are exposed to them so much that they become normal.

Anyway, my question is about my boyfriend. I have been sharing some of our class discussions with him because I find them so fascinating and I think it is important for him to think about too.

The problem is, although he doesn't come right out and say it, I can feel his resistance when we talk about it. I think he gets a little defensive and doesn't really want me to talk about it anymore. I try to reassure him that I by no means hate men, I just want him to understand that society is not as cut and dry as we are brought up to believe. I am an extremely stubborn and opinionated individual and I always make my opinions known to him. Normally he is happy to discuss controversial things with me, but with this topic, even though he doesn't come out and say it, I can tell it freaks him out a little.

My question is this, How do we discuss things about women's oppression and the expectations society puts on women with men without making them feel as though we are putting the blame on them or making them feel as though they should be ashamed of themselves? I do not blame my boyfriend for the fact that women make 76 cents for every dollar men make but I just want him to know about it. I would really like to be able to communicate these ideas with the important men in my life but I feel like no matter how you say it, it's going to cause them to go into defense mode in some way or another.

I think men don't even realize sometimes how deeply inequality effects women and sometimes I don't think they even know things aren't equal at all. I think it would be wonderful for feminism if there was away to discuss gender without men immediately shutting down at feminist discussion.

Any suggestions?




I can totally relate to your note. I think that most people can. I know that I personally made the mistake of making too many generalizations when I was first coming to feminism. Though I probably didn't say this exactly, I do think I said some version of "men oppress women" and then didn't understand why men would be offended. I have learned to be much clearer about what I am attempting to say and also realize that what I am advocating can't be boiled down to one v. the other.

This is all to say that you seem leaps ahead of where I was. I think that you just have to be specific about what you are talking about and also I think let others know how they can be helpful and how they are probably participating in things good and bad that they didn't even realize. For instance, I think I did a lot of advocating for "others" and then realized that I was raped, sexually harassed, discriminated against, but as a white, privileged women, I had been so focused on those that had "less" that I ignored how I had experienced similar oppressions in my life. There are also things you can't control -- I know that I don't even say things and people bring so much interpretation to my life. For instance, so many people say to me "you are so creative" when i make cards or plan a dinner party or something and the underlying text of their comment is "you are a feminist, so I didn't expect you to do these things." It's not that they really thought about whether or not I was creative, but they thought about the expectations for and stereotypes of feminists.

There are also more serious interpretations of this -- for instance, I know that people interpret the fact that I am not married, though I live with and have two children with my boyfriend, as a rejection of marriage, because I am a feminist, but that's not it at all, but no matter how much explaining I do, people just assume this and so I am let it go and learned to just not care -- once I explain myself there is only so much more that I can do.

There is also another related experience, which is that people think feminists are motivated by some politically correct approach and for me and most others I know it's so much deeper than that and thus it's an insult to have "our loved ones" only understand it as us having a gut reaction. I think this is more serious and though we can't make others understand what we are experiencing, we should help them to know the true nature of our motivation. I hope this all helps.

-- Amy