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So I decided pretty late tonight (as you can probably tell) that I would write a Feminisms diary.  I honestly just realized that it was even Wednesday.  And while Feminisms diaries don't have to appear on Wednesdays, I thought maybe I would, just for old time's sake.

One of the things that's been popping up a lot in my life recently is trying to convince others that feminism, or certain aspects of feminism, are important and necessary.  Just trying to get someone to take feminism seriously is a huge task, since sexism often goes unrecognized or is considered unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  How do you convince someone who thinks that being fat is shameful that that attitude can be harmful even to those who aren't fat?  How do you convince a man who has rarely or never been harassed on the street that it can be incessant and usually very very threatening for a woman?  etc.

What it really boils down to is: how do you have a conversation with someone who refuses to listen to what you say?

For instance, one thing I have found is that there are dog whistles on all sides.  Tell a non-feminist man that he is displaying "male privilege" and he will argue till the cows come home that his meek little life contains no evidence of privilege.  Words like "choice" (in relation to pregnancy) or "abstinence" seem to provoke the same tired arguments over and over from both sides.  In the end, we speak past each other, get frustrated, and give up.

But these memes seem to be prescribed for us, not of our own making.  I've found myself thinking, while arguing with someone else on the other side of the debate, that we aren't saying anything original or speaking about our own experiences.  I try to throw in a few personal anecdotes, but of course those aren't always effective because they are just anecdotes (and, in one conversation I had recently, were just out-and-out ignored as not matching with the other person's own experience).  After watching yet another attempt go down in flames, I started to think that maybe I needed to ask more questions.  Personal questions, like, "Can you give me an example of why you think that?" or "How do you deal with X?"  Then, my thinking goes, you get an idea of the real person behind the rhetoric.  Maybe I'd stop getting Rush Limbaugh's or Ann Coulter's views and start seeing the foundation that allowed those views to accumulate in this ordinary person's head.

And then other times, I think I should just learn when to give up!

Do you try to "win converts"?  Do you have any particular strategies?  What has your experience been with trying to talk to people who don't share your beliefs about them?

Feminisms is a series of weekly feminist diaries. My fellow feminists and I decided to start our own for several purposes: we wanted a place to chat with each other, we felt it was important to both share our own stories and learn from others’, and we hoped to introduce to the community a better understanding of what feminism is about.

  Needless to say, we expect disagreements to arise. We have all had different experiences in life, so while we share the same labels, we don’t necessarily share the same definitions. Hopefully, we can all be patient and civil with each other, and remember that, ultimately, we’re all on the same side.

Originally posted to tryptamine on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 09:46 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hey! Good to see you! (10+ / 0-)

    Winning converts...

    Sometimes I think it's worth it to try...other times, not so much.

    I saw a guy wearing a "Fair Tax" t-shirt today and he tried to talk to me about McCain - I just said politely, "I'm a pretty strong Obama supporter...that's not going to change. Let's agree to disagree."

    That wasn't worth it.

    Someone who indicated they didn't see anything wrong with what McCain said about his wife at Sturgis though - that one was worth explaining...and adding more evidence to show the pattern of McCain's sexism.

    All my examples are election related. My mind is on election doesn't stop these days.

    I will say - we had "diversity training" at work today - where I added "gender and sexuality" to the question, "What makes us diverse?"

    And when 8 people in the room scoffed at "sexuality" being included...the diversity trainer allowed that scoffing and then indicated sexuality was something one could "change". Needless to say, I'll be informing HR that they should improve their diversity training atmosphere. Considering they employ a large percentage of gay people...they might want to fix that ignorance.

    •  I actually kind of appreciate it (10+ / 0-)

      when someone just says outright that they know there's no way we'll ever agree on a subject, you know?  Then I can spend my precious time doing something else.

      Ugh, yeah, that's awful.  Where are you working now, btw?

      (And just so you know, I'm going to bed now but I'll be back again in the morning.)

      "You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor." -Bob Dylan

      by tryptamine on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 10:26:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is why (5+ / 0-)

      I'm in training to become a cultural competence trainer. Diversity training, in general, has become a big joke. Hell, even Penn & Teller featured it on "BS."


      I tend to not deal with certain people on issues of race and gender. Today, I was in the middle of answering rant about Martin Bashir's objectification (which was actually a trigger for me for a recent keynote at my Sorority's convention, maybe a diary will result) when I realized I was on the SkyTV website comments section. That's like me going to Faux and refuting arguments. Waste of time.

      Of course, I run into the same issue with folks over here, too. It gets old. I leave it to those with the energy. Unless something really offends, I try to roll my eyes and keep it short & snarky. People with privilege generally don't try to acknowledge their privilege. They always want to offer anecdotes about why something is "not" racist/homophobic/sexist/classist/xenophobic/intolerant/etc. Then, if they get a kernel of something, they want a cookie. I don't get cookies for waking up everyday (well except spiritual), so why should the dominant party be rewarded for coming a human/humane understanding?

      If we really start calling BS and speaking truth to power over here, a whole bunch of folks will end up embattled and embittered. Well, that happens from time to time.

      I try to not go for conversions. I don't do it with my religion, and I don't do it with my politics.

      -5.63, -4.41
      Drinking Belvi lemon drops in solidarity with the C&J Party since 2004.

      by Lexicon on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 11:23:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Never Argue With a Fool (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DebtorsPrison, tryptamine, dirkster42

      a lesson my mama taught me!

      Socratic questioning often helps - questioning until the other has reached the point of absurdity in their argument. Sometimes they'll just get angry! But sometimes you'll leave them with a seed of doubt.

      It's also useful to help people imagine themselves in the circumstances of the "other." But they have to be willing to do so.

      Sometimes I just walk away in despair.

      "Statistics are people with the tears washed away." Sociologist Ruth Sidel

      by Vicky on Thu Aug 07, 2008 at 06:11:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hi (7+ / 0-)

    I have missed the diaries.  Thanks for writing this one.  You have asked good questions.

    I believe you have planted seeds even though you do not get to see them come up even though it seems the people were not listening.

    I used to teach night school and in one eight week term, I would teach the persuasion paper for one hour of the three and a half hours.

    First, I had a cartoon face with a big balloon for them to write their contorversial topic in.  We would look through newspapers, too, for ideas.  They didn't think anyone else disagreed on their ideas so they had trouble grabbing on to a topic.

    Then, there was another graphic paper where they put the well known facts of their subject on one side and their own opinions on the other and filled in a topic sentence...a strong statement for their paper...and a list of ideas to find proof for.

    Then, we played musical chairs where they sat across from each other and one played at being an opponent.  The students were really shocked to learn there were other viewpoints and even facts to refute.  This was fun to watch, I admit.

    Then, I modeled a paper on the projector.  I told them to think about trying to get a loan from the bank for a car...and we wrote down what we would have to do to persuade the bank.

    I had triangles for what the bank would ask and squares for what we would answer and circles for the proof we would provide, etc.  Each of the questions became a paragraph in the paper.

    Then, they filled out the same paper for their own topic.

    Finally, they wrote the paper.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that a lot of people we interact with have never heard that there is another side or two or three to a belief and when we raise some of the issues, it shocks them.  But we mustn't give up.

    Best wishes!!

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 10:17:52 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, I've missed them too. (5+ / 0-)

      Been hanging out at Feministing but missed everyone here!  Nice to see you again, cfk.

      Sounds like you taught a cool class.  Wish I could do stuff like that with some of these people, but unfortunately they get defensive, which is the worst.

      "You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor." -Bob Dylan

      by tryptamine on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 10:22:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know...sigh (5+ / 0-)

        they get defensive

        The propaganda has been so bad the last years...unbelievable.

        People are being taught that they don't have to listen to other viewpoints...

        I really think that hate radio is what has hurt us so is constant and relentless.

        As Elise said, though, if we can choose our battles and make small changes with people who are not completely closed up...

        Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

        by cfk on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 10:28:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've occasionally used the seasonal color types (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, cfk, dirkster42

      It was popular for a while in the 1980 and 90's - determining your seasonal color: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter - and then determining which colors, etc. suited you best.

      I'll take a class and have them determine their seasonal color-type based on the criteria used. Then we'll create a stratification system based on the color types. Different classes will spontaneously come up with different stratification system.

      One might be - all blondes are dumb, so spring and summer "personalities" should go into the lower classes. Redheads are firely and assertive, so all autumn personalities should be on top.  Whatever the class comes up with. Then we'll divvy up the opportunities, challenges, rules for behavior, etc. for the different groups. It's stupid characterization, but can be eye-opening because it is so stupid.

      Very simplified ideal types (in class they will answer about a dozen questions to determine type):

      Spring - Light Hair, Warm Tones
      Summer - Light Hair, Cool Tones
      Fall - Dark Hair, Warm Tones
      Winter - Dark Hair, Cool Tones

      "Statistics are people with the tears washed away." Sociologist Ruth Sidel

      by Vicky on Thu Aug 07, 2008 at 06:27:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I guess I'll go first. (7+ / 0-)

    I have never tried "can you give me an example" but I have tried "how do you deal with X". I find that people do one of two things, depending on the topic of discussion. They either become a lot less loud and shrill because I actually care about their opinion or they get kind of puffed up like I'm going to take their advice and they seem to think they've won the argument. These days though I have become a lot more insulated. I don't hang with people who don't share my politics because I really can't stand arguing about something that, as you said in your diary, the other person refuses to hear. My friends and I share pretty much every opinion and belief and we are hoping that it gets better after November.

    Mal: "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode."

    by crose on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 10:18:09 PM PDT

  •  Strategy (7+ / 0-)

    I think that a good strategy for winning converts is to be open to the idea that the potential convert is also trying to convert you. I think that one of the things we can do to ensure that we talk past each other is to carry the notion that you're right, and the other person is wrong. In such a case, we're no longer discussing, but rather lecturing. No one likes to be lectured. So as a personal strategy, I've found it beneficial to be open to the idea that if I'm not willing to alter my own views, when warranted, then it's fairly unlikely that I would be able to alter anyone elses views.

  •  Interesting question - (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DebtorsPrison, tryptamine, cfk

    I'm getting sleepy, have most of a beer in me, so pardon completely random thoughts.  (I'm also violating the "laptop off at 10PM rule.)

    There was a diary by our host, kos himself, fairly recently about Geraldine Ferraro and glass ceilings, in which he posed some rhetorical questions about "what women want," and that was definitely a case where I agreed with part of his point, saw absolute blindness in another part of his point, and really saw no point in trying to wrestle with that blind spot.  

    I talked myself blue in the face about GLBT issues on Street Prophets a few times earlier this year.  Again, it was an issue of the host kind of getting it, but also having a large blind spot, and after a while, I just got to a point that I was done trying to move the dialogue forward.  I know a lot of people over there really appreciated my contributions, but continually bumping into the site owner's growing edges proved to be exhausting in the long run.

    OK, now I get to wait until my upstairs neighbor is done tidying her home.  This could go on until 1 AM (the other night she started vacuuming at midnight - that actually prompted a phone call), or it could stop in five minutes.  Sometimes I really don't like sharing the planet with other human beings, but what other choice is there?

    •  {{{{{{HUGS}}}}}} (5+ / 0-)

      It occurs to me that my Bookflurries theme, tonight, fits here...about telling stories...

      As you say, there comes a time when it seems like you have done all you can do.

      Another thing that happened when I was teaching junior high science was that the students resisited some of the learning, even saying, "That's not true!" about something in the book that was pretty well known.

      I would try all kinds of things to help them and even had them make huge posters and illustrations of things like batteries and photoynthesis.

      Then, I would move on to the next chapter.  At the end of the term, we would review and to my surprise, the short term review would go so well and they would seem to grasp the whole thing so well...I would nearly go thud on the floor. :O

      I decided that the brain has to have time to digest things and then to come back again...the second time is easier like sweeping the snow off the walk after it has been cleared by back-breaking labor the first time.

      I trust this will encourage you. :)

      and I can spell controversial...sigh...(in above comment)

      Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 10:51:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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