how to stand up to your anti-feminist tormentor
When I was in high school I often found myself the subject of unwanted male attention. Guys would sit near me in class, watch me avidly during debates and assemblies, follow me around at lunchtime.
While I would love to say that it was because I was the cutest girl in school (would I love that, though?), it was actually not that kind of attention. Nope, it was the other kind – the slightly aggressive, but mostly ‘all-in-good-fun’, teasing kind of attention that outspoken girls often get from guys who love to ‘get a rise’ out of them.
Guys in high school liked to tease me because I was guaranteed to react, and they just loved annoying the shit out of someone who never failed to get annoyed, frustrated, and genuinely upset about it.
Even better for them, I was the most opinionated girl around, and had strong stances on pretty much everything from animal rights to school uniforms, and best of all I was (and am) a vocal feminist. It was such an easy thing to annoy me with – taunts of ‘get back in the kitchen’ and annoying ‘how many women does it take to *insert stupid task here*’ jokes followed me down corridors and into classrooms daily.
Pretty much any girl who considers herself a feminist would have found herself the target of some merciless teasing at some point. And, worse, found that if she tries to stand up for herself, she gets labelled as a humourless bitch who can’t take a joke.
This teasing is not, as my mother often tried to assure me, harmless. It is not just meant as a joke. Perhaps the individual teasing you thinks they’re just joking, but the attitude that compels them to pick on your opinions is grounded in something far deeper than just a desire to poke the dragon, so to speak.
It’s about shutting us up – making fun of our opinions so they aren’t taken seriously, so their actual meaning is lost in the plethora of stupid jokes about hairy legs and bra-burning. It’s about creating an air of ridicule so that we are less and less likely to open our mouths for fear of being mocked.
I have spent years trying to find a balance between voicing my opinions and laughing at myself, so as to avoid becoming the girl who people don’t want to talk to because she ‘can’t take a joke’. But after a while, putting on a self-deprecating face every time I say something about gender equality gets really tedious. Why should I have to put a disclaimer of ‘I’m not trying to ruin the fun..’ or ‘I know you don’t mean it that way, but..’ whenever I come across a sexist statement?
Why should I have to put a self-mocking voice on when bringing up feminism just because I know that if I don’t, someone else will start the mockery for me?
I’m somewhat tired of trying to sugar-coat feminism so that it’s easier for the sexists amongst us to swallow. Gender equality is not a difficult concept to grasp, and I’m sick of dumbing it down as if my peers are too immature to get it without a joke attached. I’m also tired of trying to preserve my reputation as a reasonable person from people who aren’t treating me reasonably.
Feminism isn’t funny to me. And my opinions are not amusing either.
It’s tough trying to stand up to your anti-feminist tormentor. Most of the time the people who make fun of you have no idea how truly frustrating and upsetting it can be to be the brunt of their jokes all the time.
And a lot of the time the people who joke about you are close to you in some way (my brother is one of my biggest tormentors, and I doubt he has any idea how genuinely upset it makes me sometimes).
My advice to you is to be firm, polite, and serious when telling them to stop. A simple ‘You know, sometimes I find it really difficult to talk to you when you make fun of what I’m saying’, or even just a ‘I’m actually trying to make a serious point, and I’d like it if you would listen’, might go a long way.
And if worse comes to worse, just refuse to laugh when they start ‘joking’. It’ll make it clear that you don’t find their teasing amusing, and hopefully make them realise that you are frustrated by their behaviour.
Most of all, remember that your opinions are worthwhile and worthy of proper attention. Never give up the good fight.