The latest Ask Jessica: getting guys to take feminism seriously

I’m really digging Jessica’s new video series at The Nation. This week she answers the question we’ve all asked ourselves (and each other) many times: “How do I get men to understand that feminism is important?” I usually respond by saying, “tell them that feminism is the reason they have Buffy, two-income families, and really good sex.” But Jessica has a better response.

If you have a question you want Jessica to answer, you can tweet at her with the hashtag #AskJessica, or ask her on her Facebook page.

Big thanks to Feministing reader Emily Mitchell for the transcript (below in comment section)! 

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8 Comments

  1. Posted July 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I wrote a transcript while listening to the video, so it’s not perfect. I’ve done minimal editing and paraphrasing a sentence at points to catch up with the video, but it’s perfectly legible.

    Hi, this is Jessica Valenti and this is our second video in the new nation video series: Ask Jessica: this week I’m not aswering one question from one specific person. A lot of people ask me variations on the same question. its a question I get asked a lot at college campuses. How do I convince my fatherbrothe;boyfriend/roomate that feminism is important and sexisim is a thing and it exists? And generally these questions say this person id a good person and this person sees injustic in the world; they dont’ necessarily see it with women. They thing that women in the U.S. don’t have it so bad; that we should stop compolaining. So this is what I would say:

    The first piece of advice I would give is
    1. Don’t talk to brick walls. I think generally in most feminists lives theres that person thats not necessarily ineresting in engaging but theyre just interesting in pushing your bttons. Dont’ engage with that personl think of that person as a real-life troll. I think that we should consere our actuvust energy which I hink is a precious resource and use it towards the people who are interested in having substantive conversations and debate
    and for those people what I think we can do is
    2. try to meet them where they’re at. Rememebr that not everyone youre talking to has read about feminism has thought about these issues before, ad that’s ok. So one tactic that I like to use is to use popo cultare as an entry point for conversation. so maybe you want to send them a blog post that cirticises the sexism in game of thrones, if thats a show they like. and it doesn’t have to be something thats critical it doesn’t have to be something that points out the sexism; it can be something pointing out the feminism of a singer that they like.
    But I think that starting there can be a fruiful place for concersatoins.
    I would also say
    3/ try not to get angry, which I know can be difficult thing when youre talking abotusuch sentistive and important topics. But I think its important not to put people on the efensive.
    So one way to avoid that is to ask a lot pf questions, ask them abut their life, ask them why the believe pay inequity isn’t a problem, if they believe that. “Really, why do yuou think that?” And the more you ask people questions, the more people believe theyre listened to and the more they will listen to you when you make your point. And oftentimes the more you let people tell you why they believe something, something will click and you can say “oh thats whhy they believe that.”
    And you’ll find entry points to make your arguments
    Also you’re challenging really socially ingrained belief, when you talk about feminism and sexism so you should
    4/ Expect some pushback. it probably means you’re doing something right if it makes people uncomfortable. And that’s something you can say you them, its alright if you’re uncomfortable, these are really intense belief, its something we’re socialized to believe. It’s ok if you feel uncomfortable, and that can put people at ease.
    And this idea thta people in the us fon’t have it so bad compared to the misogyny abroad. But theres a problem in the us that It’s a problem in the us that we think we’re better than other countries We don’t have sexism here like those poor women over there.. I think it’s really condescending and I htink its really untrue.Yes, women in the us have made tremendous progress, and women in other countries (depending on the country) have lost a lot of rights, and that’s true but its important to remember that
    5/ Fighting for justice. are not a zero-sum game. And you can fight for gender justice and you can fight for feminism here wile fighting for it abroad. You don’t have to do one or the other and that’s okay.
    Th last thing I would say is that you have to realize, and this is a hard lesson to learn, its a hard lesson I’ve had to learn but
    6/ You’re not always going to change everyones mind. No matter how much energy you put into it no matter effort, or how much you care about this person theres always going to be someone who just thinks what they thingk, and that s going to suck but it just is what it is. That said even if your not changing theier mind and not changing their position ins= an obvious way I do think that you’re opening that persons mind in a way. So evern if you think you’re not making any headway with a particular person I promise you the next time they hear a rape joke, the next time they hear sometone talk about feminism or sexism, your voice is going to be in the back of theur head saying something. So ever when you feel really disheartened when talking to someone about feminism and sexism remember that what you say makes a difference, even if its a small difference, it does make an impact.

    Thanks very much, I hope that’s helpful and keep talking up feminism to people in your lives. Thanks.

  2. Posted July 3, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi, this is Jessica Valenti and this is our second video in the new nation video series “Ask Jessica.”

    So this week I’m actually not answering one question from one specific person, but a lot of people asked me variations on basically the same question, and it’s a question I get asked a lot at college campuses. And it’s basically: how do I convince my father, my brother, my boyfriend, my friend, my roommate that feminism is important? And that sexism is a thing? And that it exists? Generally these questions say that this is a good person, they see injustice in the world, they don’t necessarily see it with women, they think that women in the US don’t have it so bad, that we should stop complaining.

    So this is what I would say.

    #1: Don’t talk to brick walls.

    The first piece of advice that I would give is to make sure that you aren’t talking to brick walls. I think generally that in most feminists’ lives there is always that person who is not necessarily interested in engaging but they are just interested in pushing your buttons. Don’t engage with that person. Think of that person as a real life troll. I think we should conserve our activist energy, which is a really precious resource, and use it towards the people who really are interested in having substantive conversations and debate.

    #2: Meet people where they’re at.

    And for those people, I think what we can do is try meet them where they’re at and remember that not everyone you’re talking to has read about feminism or thought about these issues before – and that’s okay. One tactic that I like to use that I think can be useful is to use pop culture as an entry point for conversation. So maybe you want to send them a blog post that criticizes the sexism in Game of Thrones if that’s a show that they like. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s critical, something that’s pointing out the sexism of something. It can be something that’s pointing out the feminism of a musician that they really enjoy. But I think that starting there can be a really fruitful place for conversations.

    #3: Try not to get angry.

    I would also say try not to get angry. I know that can be a difficult thing when you talking about such a sensitive and important topics, but I think it’s important to try not put people on the defensive because that often shuts down the conversation and they shut down and don’t listen to you. So one way to do that, to not get angry and not put people on the defensive is to ask them a lot of questions. Ask them about their life, ask them why they don’t think pay inequity isn’t a problem if that’s something they believe. Say “Really? Why do you think that? Tell me more about that.” And the more that you ask people questions, the more they’re going to feel listened to and the more likely they are going to be to listen to you when you make your points. And often times the more you let people talk about why they believe something, something will click with you and you’ll be like “Oh okay, that’s why they think like that” and you’ll find entry points to make your arguments and to make your points.

    #4: Expect pushback.

    I’d also say that you’re challenging really socially engrained beliefs when you talk about feminism and about sexism, so you should expect some pushback. It probably means that you’re doing something right if someone is a little bit uncomfortable. And that’s even something you can say to them, you can say “it’s alright if you’re a little uncomfortable, it make’s sense that you’d be uncomfortable. These are really intense beliefs, this is stuff we’re socialized to believe, it’s okay if you feel uncomfortable with the conversation.” And that can put people at ease as well.

    #5: Fighting for gender justice is not a zero-sum game.

    So the other thing, this idea that women in the US don’t really have it so bad compared to the intense misogyny abroad. It is certainly true that there is a tremendous amount of sexism and misogyny in other countries but I think that there is a problem in the US of thinking that we’re so much better than other countries, that we don’t have sexism here like those poor women over there. I think that that’s really condescending and I think that it’s really untrue. Yes, women in the US have made tremendous progress and women in other countries (depending on what countries you’re talking about) do have less rights – that’s absolutely true.

    But fighting for justice is not a zero-sum game. And you can fight for gender justice, and you can fight for feminism here while also fighting for it abroad. You don’t have to do one or another and that’s okay.

    #6: You’re not going to change everyone’s mind

    The last thing I would say is that you’re going to have to realize, and this is sort of a hard lesson to learn and it is a hard lesson that I had to learn, is that you aren’t always going to change everyone’s mind, right. Not matter how much effort you put into it or energy you put into it, or how much you care about this person, there is always going to be someone who’s always going to think what they think – and sometimes you have to accept that. That kind of sucks, but it is what it is. That said, even if you’re not sort of changing their minds and shifting their position in a really explicit/obvious way, I do think that you are opening that persons mind in a way. So even if you feel like you’re not making any headway with a particular person, I promise you that the next time they hear a rape joke or the next time someone brings up sexism or feminism your voice is going to be in the back of their head saying something. So even when you feel really disheartened about your relationship with someone in terms of feminism and sexism, try to remember that the stuff that you say to them, the conversations that you have, do make a difference. Even if it’s a small difference, it does make an impact.

    So thank you very much. I hope that’s helpful and keep talking up feminism with the people in your lives.

  3. Posted July 3, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for addressing this. As a male I sometimes feel “left out of the party”. I want to understand and learn but often feel that (some) feminists believe that men have no say in their cause. I also read a lot of feminist/ equality based issues that tend to paint all men as oppressors or at least fail to mention that there are MANY supportive men out there AND that we are learning. I appreciate greatly your addressing the issue of how to help us and others enter into the feminist movement and help to be a part of making life equal for all people.

  4. Posted July 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    one thing was forgotten: Explain how feminism benefits men as well. As a dude i feel its important to explain to other dudes how feminism benefits them as well. one of the biggest things is it stands at the forefront of equality for everyone not just women by working to eliminate the social norms men have been constricted to forever and allowing it to be ok to step outside the b.s. “man box” and giving freedom of choice and individuality back to everyone. I think sometimes we have to play on the selfish ignorance we as men have due to the patriarchal focused society we live in. Sometimes with the explanation of feminism you got to get men to connect on their level to expand their view and actually be fully open to something as foreign to us as feminism.

    keep fighting the good fight!

  5. Posted July 3, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    bah i forgot to add that it piggy backs on meeting them where their at!

    • Posted July 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      On that note, I’ve had a lot of success in talking about how men insult one another to illustrate how our culture effects men. Once we start talking about the insults it’s very easy to see the power imbalance and objectification.

  6. Posted July 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Must say, as a woman who has dated feminist men, more often than not they’ll cop to being feminists very quickly. Maybe they don’t self-identify but somehow as soon as I start talking about the issues men get on board quickly (at least the ones I enjoy being around). And I’m sorry, Rob and Steve, if feminism ever seems to exclude men. The way I often explain it to a-holes who say “why don’t you just call it humanism” or “why do you focus on women”? I would say that feminism isn’t just focused on women, its name is accurate: it’s focused on allowing “feminine” traits and people to be seen as equals. It includes men, because feminism is interested in men being allowed to express emotions, to shave their legs, or to do any thing which is “feminine.” One caveat of all that is, of course, that traditional gender roles ascribe feminine traits to women, so we kind of have a lose-lose on that front with the Patriarchy and such.

  7. Posted July 5, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this video! It is extremely helpful.

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