Is it possible for a feminist to be friends with men who are misogynistic?
Daniel Radcliffe's comments raised a lot of questions, comments and think pieces, one of which asked could you be friends with racists even if you yourself aren't one? This got me thinking about similar battlegrounds for feminism and the gender equality movement. Could a feminist be friends with men who are misogynistic, even if it's not overt? I'm not a misogynist, but does remaining friends with people who are, take from the #HeForShe, gender equality movement?
In the last year, I have noticed the indubitable miasma of casual sexism wafting around the friendships I have had since my teens. It's as if I've been wearing beer goggles, being hazily aware of it's existence, but only now sobering up enough for it to be pellucid and recognisable. They're not overtly female hating though, they both have strong, intelligent girlfriends, good relationships with their mothers, female friends and sisters.
A part of me feels as though I should remain friends with them, that I have a duty to the feminist movement to ensure they are getting a "humanist" angle in their lives. Act as a teacher or parent or guardian (or just generally a decent human being ...) figure and tell them that certain things shouldn't be joked about, and that their opinions don't make or break my confidence or what I think of myself as they seem to think, that representation matters and that abortion isn't about killing babies. Placate them with cold, hard facts, bring the evidence to the table, convince, cajole, coax them to a place of understanding and information rather than ignorance and apathy.
A desperate form of empathy with Radcliffe rises in me, these are my friends, I can't throw the baby out with the bathwater just because they are an unfortunate byproduct of the patriarchy can I? It's not their fault they've been raised with these prejudices and maybe they shouldn't be punished for it? It has me questioning the foundation of all my relationships, should this be a dealbreaker? If not what qualifies as one? How far does loyalty extend? Should friendship be accepting someone for who they are, for the bits you love and hate in turn? These are friends. We've been through a lot together, surviving the tumultuous years of school, break ups and unrequited love, new girlfriends ( one of whom I introduced them to), final exam results and college.
This indefatigable question rears its ugly head time and time again. Assiduously trying to convince myself that it's fine, we're friends, and that's the end of that. But nothing changes; I'll meet up with them, have a few laughs, recognise the invidious comments designed to undermine, say nothing, leave the conversation feeling deflated and full of stale self loathing, tell myself we're growing apart, it's just their sense of humour and I have become unaccustomed to it, maybe I'm being sensitive, they wouldn't joke about this if we weren't friends right? Patting me on the head and calling me cute for having opinions that differ from theirs, pontificating about things I can't possibly know about, solid friendships are based on dry humour like this right?
And yet, another part of me feels as though I just can't anymore. The tedium of trying to justify my safe presence on this earth overwhelms me, women shouldn't have to convince people that we deserve opportunity and chances denied to us, by being born. There's only a certain amount of hubris, entitlement and an unwillingness to listen one can put up with.
My appearance being a regular conversation topic, for some reason, everything about me is fair game, open for discussion and public scrutiny. If I agree with them in any way, shape or form, or express a confidence in my appearance, it is ripped to shreds, tumbling down with sarcasm and snide jokes. All in the name of 'banter' of course.
Having to hear jokes about "feeling sorry for the man who tries to rape you!"
And no, I'm not on my period I just vehemently disagree with the initial ruling and no, I'm not even going to imagine the impact the court must have had on poor, little Brock Turner.
Being a feminist and remaining close with misogynists forced me to remain a doormat, willing to be stepped on. My salvo of facts, figures, statistics, even anecdotes, recollections, memories falls at the feet of people who were supposed to care enough to listen with respect, failing to hit a target or even leave a mark. Instead I'm excoriated for being opinionated and loquacious.
It makes me an accomplice in my own oppression. There's only so many times one can turn the other cheek for daring to have a face that isn't male or white. Having to ridicule, undermine and belittle my beliefs just to get people to find me, a feminist, likeable isn't the way to live a life, because I don't think the things I care about ( equal pay for all women, not just Caucasian ones, a female leader of the freeworld, access to safe and legal abortion) are things that can afford to be joked about.