Disappointed Daughter

Question:

Dear Bitches,

So listen, I’ve got wonderful father...who is the epitome of straight, white, male privilege. I have tried on numerous occasions to explain it to him but he inevitably lashes out in defence of (mostly) the “good guys”. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Because I am at a loss and I am reaching out to social justice minded people and asking for resources or any kind of help to aid in what is sure to be a long battle for me. Naturally, you were on my list!


I want to help fight the good fight by starting at home!
 

Best Regards,
A sincerely frustrated and disappointed daughter


Answer:

Dear Disappointed Daughter,

It is not alway easy to work across generations, and certainly not always easy to speak so directly to the people closest to us. But you’re absolutely right, the revolution starts by influencing those around you, whether family, friends or neighbours.  

Talking to family can be especially challenging. We all have complicated relationships with our families (whatever form they take). It is also hard to accept that the people who raised us arrived at such widely different conclusions, or choose not to confront their privilege. Not hard to imagine how that can leave us feeling lost, alone, and disenchanted.

There are a number of resources available to guide discussion about white privilege. Check out these resources for example: here, here and here, but here are few more of our ideas:

  1. An intersectional feminist journey does not happen over-night. It take a lot of work. It asks us to decolonize our minds, and to unlearn so much of what has been programmed into us. Don’t judge too harshly - it may take some longer than others to make the journey to accepting and unpacking their privilege, let alone for them to join us in our struggle as allies. Be patient, but don’t give up. When a family member uses an anti-migrant comment, for example, correct them. Correct the language, but focus on ideas and change. It is not about attacking their character.
  2. Ask them to unpack what they said. Think about how you would explain the idea to someone who has never been exposed to it; to a classroom of young people; in an ad campaign; in a media interview. With family it’s easy to lose our patience, to snap, to fight or worse yet to ignore the comment altogether and roll our eyes.
  3. You also have one key advantage when speaking to family. You know them. You know what they care about, what their passions are, what they are indifferent to, as well. You know what they respond to, and what makes them shut off. Use that knowledge to engage them in a way that will elicit the right response. For some people that means playing on their sense of compassion. For others it may be effective to speak to their faith-based understanding. For some it may be a strict moral framework.
  4. Don’t lose sight of the fact that our parents and family members are growing up too. We all are, always. No one is a finished product, everything is lifelong journey. And as children or daughters we forget that sometimes. We get frustrated with our parents because as kids we thought they had all the answers and turns out they're just as flawed as we are.
  5. Immerse yourself in feminist writing, stories of feminist journeys, and get to know the issues. The more you know, the better you will be able to communicate with other privileged folk in your circles. Being a feminist is a lifelong education, and that means challenging our own privileged assumptions. Not to mention that learning how other feminists came to be where they are can also inspire us.

Writers we’d recommend:

Our final piece of advice? Engaging with family can trigger childhood trauma, or can be emotionally taxing to varying degrees. Be sure to safeguard your own health and safety - if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.