Newt In A Tea Cup

{December 21, 2006}   Mom calls out sexism!

My mom just called my dad chauvinistic!

My conservative, women’s-place-is-at-home, mom!

She said- “You’re such a chauvinist. When you pray for a couple you only ever mention the husband as if he completely over-rules the wife.”

She picked up on that which I hadn’t noticed (despite my “fem-dar”) and I believe little details are important because our society and our lives our innevitably successions of little details.

She said “I’ve been fighting him on that since we first got married”.

And this shows something else I think. We all have our daily acts of feminism. We all notice things and agree with things that are feminist- whether it is concern at the size zero trend or feeling annoyed at someone cat-calling in the street.

The difference and the real revolution is in the language.

Labbeling chauvinistic and sexist actions as such is where the empowerment lies because until we understand what the actions are and are born from we cannot change them.

It is being able to articulate what we have always suspected by using the right terminology. So many young women I see believe completely in feminist principles and ideas. The problem is that they don’t understand that they are saying feminist words and therefore the solidarity is weakened because we are without common identity. The importance of the word “feminist” is that it claims that despite all personal differences we are working together for a society that values women and treats genders equally and justly. It is a banner. Without that banner we speak but we do not recognise our allies and we feel alone.

The words “chauvinism”, “misogyny” and “sexism” have a similar purpose. They serve to identify and unite the problems we have so we see a more coherent whole. If we are to destroy a social construct we need to see the entire social construct not just a few individual building blocks. We need to see how it all holds together, where the keystone is, where the foundations lie. We need to see what holds it together and without the knowledge and recognition of what that is (patriarchy) we cannot successfully dismantle or rebuild.

The process of labelling can be incredibly detrimental or positive depending on how and what. In the case of institutions and social constructs this is a step forward. It is recognition.

At the beginning of my mother’s marriage I doubt she would have labelled that as chauvinistic. And therefore it is lessened to a “quirk” that bothers her and can be safely carried on- a small personal habit. But now that she can turn and say “This is what your behaviour actually is and it isn’t a personal quirk but a sign of something bad that we need to change” she has gained a lot of power- even if it is said with a smile and a laugh.

Terrible things are allowed to happen through the power of anonymity and lack of knowledge. Words hold knowledge but also the ability to dispel anonymity; Using these words to point out the world we live in is yielding power in defining and challenging perceptions.

It doesn’t seem like much at all and in fact it’s just a small gesture. But small gestures add up to create the way we live and the way we live create societies.

I’m very proud of my mom right now. 🙂


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