So tonight I was told that for a few years I was “crazy about the feminism” so much so that it “annoyed” my father. He was explaining my brother’s bizarre response to me and placing the blame on my ardent feminism. Of course. My refusal to acquiesce to my brother’s patriarchal ideology did indeed annoy him. It was often the precursor to him lashing out at me. However, my feminism did not cause his attacks. His patriarchy, which my feminism threatens, caused them.
And the bigger difference between my supposedly in your face feminism and his patriarchal values is very important. If I talk about feminism until I am blue in the face; if I annoy every male (and possibly female) member of my family; if I alienate all of the male members of my work team, I have done exactly that. I have annoyed and alienated. I have made them uncomfortable in their easy privilege. If my brother’s espouses his women should obey, women should stay silent, women should let men have their way, and porn is amazing worldview; women continue to die. They, possibly me, continue to be raped and beaten and stabbed and shot if they do not tow those lines. See the difference. I put his ego at risk; he puts my safety at risk. This is the bargain we have been asked to swallow again and again. Melissa McEwan, despite her blind spots, writes eloquently about this topic in a post titled “The Terrible Bargain.”
I held back – barely- from launching into a tirade to my my father about the shit my brother has said to me. I did admit to him that I don’t tell them what he says to me because I don’t want them to have to deal with it. That was too much already, but he won’t remember anyway and my mother did not hear it. They should hear it; they should know that my brother has tried to bully me, that he says aggressive and inane things to me when I do not adhere to his code. But they are old and I want their final years to be soft and free of strife. But that’s the thing – they can stay ignorant and pretend that my “side” of the sibling rivalry is just as bad as my brother’s. They can maintain their patriarchal worldview and write me off as strident. And women keep getting raped, and they keep getting beaten and they keep getting killed. Perhaps telling my parents the truth about their son and the difference between his worldview and mine would have no effect on those statistics. But allowing them to keep that easy ignorance, to think that my feminism is THE PROBLEM, surely does nothing to change the world that injures women every day.
I’ll keep silent with my old parents and keep working in other venues. It feels phony, but that is the terrible bargain McEwan knows so well. And so do the rest of us.