Ask A Feminist is Stylist.co.uk's weekly column answering your questions on feminism, sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st Century context. Send your dilemmas to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get one of our brilliant panel of feminists to cast a discerning eye on the issue at hand.
This week's question:
"I am a 30-year-old married man. When I’m with my wife, I fully support her feminist views, and I too hold them. But when I’m out with my friends, sometimes one of them will jokily make derogatory comments about women and I don’t say anything. I’ve also been known to join in when the chat turns to our wives nagging / tying us down, even though I don’t actually feel that way. Am I letting the side down?"
Feminist Katharine Busby says:
Your letter concerns me in many ways but the most pressing question I have for you is this: how do you manage day-to-day life without a backbone? (For clearly you are spineless).
I’m not suggesting you should be pulling out a Simone de Beauvoir tome over a pint, but you honestly claim to have feminist views and yet can’t manage to keep a hold of them beyond your front door? Do you think your wife agrees with you about important social issues and then immediately rejects them the minute she’s out of earshot? Exactly.
I do understand that it may be uncomfortable to confront a mate when he opts for some sexist ‘banter’ – but you do have options.
For one, you could think about the fact that you’ve made vows to your wife, rather than him. If he said this kind of thing in front of her, would you still be so slow to pull him up on it?
There’s no need for a full-scale argument but a gentle “Come on, now, mate, that’s a bit much” is enough to show you disagree. Alternatively, maybe a ‘pal’ who starts this sort of mindless jeering could be slowly but certainly phased out of your ‘friends I want to hang out with’ group. You may be surprised to find that others in your circle are similarly weak-willed as you and are grateful to not have the ringleader about to confuse their little minds and lead the poor loves astray.
As for actually joining in with the whole eye-rolling, “Oh-that-ball-and-chain” chatter, here’s an idea: why don’t you not?
For pity’s sake, you even admit to not believing what you’re saying.
I do remember a time when friends (male and female) would go along with a conversation to fit in, to look kind of cool, to not be seen as awkward or difficult. I remember that time with difficulty, however, because it was when I was about 13 years old. You are 30! You’ve been an adult for 12 years. So here’s something surprising for you to hear: it’s OK for you to have your own opinions... I know, isn’t that something?
You really don’t have to be standing on your soap box all day shouting at your friends, telling them their opinions are wrong (again, they can have their opinions, you can have yours).
But while it has already come some way, feminism still has a long, long way to go and if even those who claim to hold its values dear to them can’t resist a bit of peer pressure, it makes that road even longer.
So, yes, you are letting the side down but, without too much drama, you can probably help prop it up again.
What do you think? If we call ourselves feminists, do we have a duty to stand up for our views, no matter the context? Or should we be free to express ourselves as we please, without adhering to an internal standard of moral guidelines? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.