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I'm a devoted feminist and I also happen to be married. My in-laws happen to be very conservative and very anti-feminist. Whenever I visit they say things to put down women. Like referring to a losing football team as girls - this is said to insult women. They say these things in full knowledge of the fact that I am a feminist. They also treat my husband as if he is the head of the house, even though they are aware we have a totally equal marriage. My question is: What are things I can do when they do these things? How am I to respond? I don't like to sit and hear them insult women - it is very hurtful to me. Thank you so much for reading my question. - Stephanie

Thanks for your note to FEMINIST.COM--and especially for reaching out, there is nothing like feeling alone. My boyfriend's aren't as bad as your in-laws, but I have felt the need to over-justify my work as I think they view it as "unnecessary." Some of this may be internal feelings on my part--feeling like I constantly have to justify who I am and reading into what they say, but I think some of it is also real. I say this as a way of offering another way to look at this.

However, I do the reality is that they want to reject your feminism because they have a sense of what it could produce, which they foresee as a challenge to their roles in life. For instance, they may be wrongfully assuming that you are judging choices they have made--choices that perhaps weren't informed by feminism. Given all of that, it seems like you have three options:

1.) to keep taking it, but that doesn't seem to solve anything and perhaps only inflates their assumption that they are "right."

2.) You can be sarcastic--but again, I don't think that will work in the long-term, but in the short-term it might produce some results. For instance, the next time they make such comments, you could say, "I thought you were strong enough to not let my beliefs hurt you, but it seems that they have touched an insecurity within you." Or more to the point, perhaps point out what freedoms they might have in their lives as a way of saying--wouldn't that be great for everyone. Or on the other side, pointing out what is missing in their lives as a way their not wanting other people to enjoy what they didn't have--self-hating gets you no where.

3.) You could try for empathy or sincerity.

Actually, there is a 4th option, actually, I'm sure there are many options, but a 4th could be that you could play along and do as some Girlies do--and reclaim girl things. For instance, when they say she kicks like a girl, you could say--girl is good--you go girl--or something to that affect.

I hope that helps--good luck.


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