We all have those folks in our life. The one(s) that, as we increase our understanding, lag behind. We love them, they love us, we are connected to them and see their amazingness. As I grew in my understanding of the marginalization of women, I had so many men in my life that weren’t having the same learning. I was eager to check them on their sexist behavior, but I didn’t. I yearned for the friendship, love and connection with my men. So, I let it go.
My father was my hero and encouragement, though he often infantilized me. My boyfriend supported my ambition and made paths for my success, but his support of equity waned when it interfered with me supporting him. My dear male friends pointed out to me my excellence and never let my accomplishments go unnoticed, but they treated women terribly and excused it by dividing women into good women and bad women, assuring me that I’d never get treated like a “bad” woman. I needed these men to change—they needed to be taught. Have you ever tried to teach your dad that he isn’t supposed to take care of you? Yeah, it doesn’t go over well. My father, who has been a shining example of inclusion since well before I was born, smiled at my efforts and thanked me for sharing and took time to be introspective about his male privilege. My boyfriend and friends did not respond as sensitively. I suddenly became the “sensitive” one. The changes I wanted never came and the discussion was just the one. As years went by I found myself accepting them for where they are at and appreciating that they might only be feminists part-time and when it was about a woman they loved.
But, I find myself, now solid in my connection to them, yearning that they understand the experiences of women and how they contribute. Why am I not having these discussions with them? Why am I not calling them out? My fear is not that they will walk away from me. We have shared so many other fights over the years and remain connected. Instead, I don’t want to see them as bad men. Men that would support the oppression of women. If I don’t accept their part-time feminism then they are the ones I’m fighting against.
Too often we conflate the sexist, racist, homophobic, as an evil person. We excuse the people in our life, we don’t have the conversations. Instead we need to approach oppressive thoughts and actions as the lessons learned by our society. We all must unlearn them every day. Having the conversation is a gift to those we love. An opportunity to help them unlearn the attitudes and behavior. Excuse me, there is a conversation I need to get to.