By Laken Brooks
We’ve all been there. You’re messaging a new professor or doctor that you’ve never met in person, and you automatically — without even thinking — assume male pronouns even when that person ends up being a woman. Perhaps you’ve used a few too many “he/him” and “mankind”s in your writing. Even worse, maybe you’ve looked at a woman’s skimpy outfit or heavy makeup and thought, “Well, who is she trying to impress?”
No matter how equal-minded we try to be, all of us with cisgender, white privilege are guilty of thinking these very unfeminist things. Because we all live with the realities of patriarchy each and every day, all of us have internalized some elements of this misogyny bred by our culture. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize these biases until they spring up in our minds.
Being a feminist is not an immediate conversion, it’s a way of life in which we are always trying to do better and unlearn our own prejudices. Here are three easy tips that can help white, cis feminists pinpoint our own misogyny and become better feminists.
- Question titles
When we in the western world address other people, we often call them by a title to show respect. Without a higher degree or a specialized designation, most people select between “Ms./Mrs./Mr.” as titles. One element of internalized misogyny is the gender binary, and all of these titles of address are unnecessarily gendered and may exclude nonbinary people. When you first meet someone new, ask them, “Do you prefer a title?” Many times, that person would rather not be called by a title, anyway. If that new acquaintance does prefer a title, especially a gender inclusive one like Mx., they can let you know.
2) Include people of color
In many white feminist spheres, people of color are pushed to the outskirts; however, women of color experience more violence and pay discrimination than white women. Support people of color whenever possible, whether that includes nominating a Black woman for a leadership position or subscribing to and supporting a Latinx person’s Youtube channel. Share leadership with people of color, especially women. Commit to examining your biases of other people, especially people of color.
3) Be patient with mothers
Have you ever been on an airplane with a screaming child? If so, I think you will agree that children can be incredibly annoying. While we feel tempted to roll our eyes at a mother with a tantruming child, remember that mothers have one of the hardest jobs on earth. Stay-at-home mothers have to juggle numerous domestic, unpaid chores with little appreciation. Working mothers may come home from working long hours in an office and have to prepare dinner and take care of the children. Sleep deprivation and emotional burnout are hallmarks of motherhood, especially for single moms. Next time you see a toddler throwing a fit in the store or on the plane, take ten deep breaths and imagine how overwhelmed or tired that mother must feel. Even better, approach the mom and offer to help her! I am sure a mother would appreciate the kind gesture, even if you just offer to give her child some snacks or go grab some tissues from the nearest restroom.
Of course, feminism should include as many communities as possible to work for mutual liberty. These three suggestions don’t even come close to including the myriad groups of people we should and must also support, such as LGBTQ+ people and folks who are differently abled. Nonetheless, these three ideas will give you a start your daily journey of reframing your perspectives of gender and equality.