The social backlash against women promoting feminism in their everyday lives: thoughts on a recent episode in my life

Emily Bove
Posted November 26, 2019

Sometimes, being feminist on a day to day basis in your personal life means experiencing backlash from some of the closest people in your life. I call it "the backlash", this possibility of attacks, criticism, and sometimes loss of a relationship, based on the sole fact that women are speaking up, sharing alternative truths to the commonly agreed upon patriarchal ones, and being vocal about a version of the world they would prefer to the current one. I know many of us have experienced it. I also know that I am lucky to not have to fear political and physical violence for what I think or do - I am so very aware that the backlash I experience, as a white woman living in the US, is nothing compared to some of what my sisters and friends all around the world face on a day to day basis. It's important for me to recognize that, because it also gives me strength to put up with what comes my way, knowing that others are experiencing so much more. 

So here goes. My beautiful daughter who is ten years old, has been having recurring panic attacks and anxiety. It's heartbreaking to see her go through it, and to feel helpless in making it stop. We are slowly learning how to best help her, and getting help from qualified folks as well. All in all, she remains a happy and healthy girl, but I have been worried as these attacks are becoming more regular and starting to follow a certain pattern. This week end, one of our family friends implied to my husband (I was not there), that there might be a link with my daughters' anxiety and my feminism. Yes, read that again. That maybe, the fact that I was vocal about gender, equality, and different mum/dad roles in the home in front of my children might have led my daughter to be confused. I can't tell you more since that is all that was shared with me. It's absurd, I know. I can't even start explaining how ridiculous this thought is. But I can start explaining how it feels to be on the receiving end. 

First of all, as a mother, to be accused of having a direct responsibility in causing harm to your child is intolerable and insulting. Second, as a women, being the sole recipient of an accusation is yet again diminishing and disrespectful (my husband and I are both raising our children with feminist values, yet the accusation was only targeted at me). Third, as a feminist, implying that there is a direct causal relationship between my personal and political beliefs and my children's wellbeing is both disrespectful and dangerous. 

I have spent the last 24 hours crying of rage and disbelief. I can rationally tell myself that someone who would think that clearly shouldn't be on our friends list, but there is something more to this that I can't shake off. I feel weakened, attacked, and honestly, vulnerable. Maybe because I see this as the very start of a larger continuum of possibilities connecting accusations against women and their attitudes and beliefs with 'preferred' social outcomes. Maybe because I am tired of the social casualties my feminism has brought into my life (and I don't blame the feminism for it, but it is hard to loose relationships with friends and family members because of it). Maybe also because I feel the pain of our collective backlash also, even in such a minimal event. 

I know in a few days I will calm down, find my strength, and move on. I will focus on those in my life that I know respect my beliefs, are willing to have fascinating conversations about this different world that could be, even if they don't necessarily align with all of my feminist values and beliefs. I will focus on my children, because I know I am a good mother raising wonderful children that will grow to have important values and treat others with equality and respect. I will focus on my daughter, helping her get through anxiety in the best way I can. And I will focus on doing my part for our movement, for our fight, for what we know is worth it all (a more equal tomorrow). 

But today, I am just soaking in the backlash. In the subtle pushback of a hurtful sentence. Because if I don't, then I am not honoring how it makes me feel. Maybe honoring how it makes me feel will help me develop stronger tools to fight it off next time. But all in all, it's there, and it's not going anywhere. We need to name it and feel it, and then respond to it. 

 

Comments 14

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Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Hello, Emily,

Congratulations on your first post! Let me welcome you to World Pulse as well!

I appreciate your bravery to share this moment of pain with us. I'm sorry that you're daughter is experiencing panic attacks and anxiety. It's not your fault. How can your feminism be responsible for it? Is there a study or research to validate that family friend's "accusation"? Have you talked to this person about how you felt?

Hugs, dear. Words sting, especially coming from someone close, and more especially when it were said behind our back.

You are not alone in this fight for gender equality. We stand with you. If it will make you feel better, please continue pouring your heart on this platform. It has been therapeutic and cathartic for me. I hope you'll feel the same.

I'm looking forward to reading more from you. I hope your daughter feels better soon. Have a great day!

Emily Bove
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Thank you Karen for your support and kind words :) I'm so happy to be part of this community, and will continue sharing!

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

You're welcome, dear. Or should I say, Welcome HOME, dear!
We're happy that you are here. Yes, please keep writing!

Spiritedsoul
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Hello Emily,
Welcome to world pulse, and thank you for sharing your first story with us.
I am so sorry to hear that your daughter is experiencing panic attacks and anxiety. This has nothing to do with your feminism. Hugs.
Words definitely can sting, I think a lot of people speak out of ignorance or fear, but I know it does not make the words hurt any less.
I am standing in solidarity with you, and sending a hug all the way from Australia,
Jess.

maeann
Nov 26, 2019
Nov 26, 2019

Welcome to World Pulse Emily.

Thank you for sharing.

You are a strong woman and loving to your daughter.

I stand with you #IStandWithHer

Jill Langhus
Nov 27, 2019
Nov 27, 2019

Hi Emily,

Congrats on sharing your first post! I'm happy to see you've received some great, loving comment already from Karen, Jess and MaeAnn, and hope that you receive many more to validate what you already know, but I completely understand about the guilt, vulnerability and doubt. At least you're acknowledging and working through how it made you feel. I solidly believe that everyone and everything in our lives are all about lessons. What did you learn from this? I think it has made you stronger in who you are, and your resolve. If anything I think her comment made you more of a feminist and more likely to stand up for girls and women due to the discrepancies, misogyny and unfairness that we all face on a daily basis. If anything, I think this makes you more of a bad ass mom, not less of one:-) It sounds like you already know this, though. Perhaps it's time to distance yourself from people that don't resonate with your beliefs, if it's possible. I'm glad that you're acknowledging, too, that parenting is a shared responsibility. I still see a lot of women thinking they need to do it all, even among the well educated.

I'm curious about what's causing your daughter's anxiety and panic attacks, though. Please keep us posted on what's at the root of this. Is it possible that she's sensitive? A HSP? And, are you? If so, I can completely relate to this, as I am as well.

Nonetheless, I'm glad you've written your first post and I hope that you open up and share more and more with us:-)

Hope you have a great week and feel more grounded soon!

XX

Zohra Elias
Nov 27, 2019
Nov 27, 2019

Hello Emily,
Welcome to worldpulse and thank you for sharing your brave story,
Let me tell you that you are a strong woman !
I’m with you concerning raising your children just the way you do (respecting both women and men ), and I want you to know that you are a great mother so far and your engagement and being a Feminist has nothing to do with your girl’s anexiety but you should and your husband ,as her parents to help her to go throw it, and she will.
Based on my little knowledge NATURE is the best healer ( Hiking, trips and traveling).

Good luck.

Thank you.

Ekitah
Nov 27, 2019
Nov 27, 2019

Hi Emily
Welcome to this wonderful platform of sisterhood. You are not alone. You cannot cry again because you have met women who will encourage you as you share you story. Sorry for what your child is passing through. Its not your fault. Many people always attribute negative things on chidren to their mother. Be strong!

Tarke Edith
Nov 27, 2019
Nov 27, 2019

Hi Emily
Welcome to world pulse .and thank. You for your first and inspiring story with us .
Stay bless here sis.

MUKABA ZAWADI
Nov 28, 2019
Nov 28, 2019

Thank you for sharing courage be strong.Sorry for what your child is passing through. Its not your fault

Laetitia Shindano
Nov 29, 2019
Nov 29, 2019

chere Emily

Ce que tu viens de vivre en nous partageant,doit être un exemple a suivre par nous les femmes . Ton histoire nous montre que la lutte pour l' égalité des droits entre l'homme et la femme est encore longue dans toutes les communautés.

A te lire bientôt.
Laetitia

Felicitas Wung
Nov 30, 2019
Nov 30, 2019

Oh my God. I'm sorry about all the accusations you've been receiving concerning your daughter's situation.
You are welcome to this forum.

Charei Kaul
Dec 12, 2019
Dec 12, 2019

You daughter is very lucky to have you as her mother. Keep your head up and stay positive.

Akshaya9
Dec 19, 2019
Dec 19, 2019

Hi Emily,
Welcome here in World Pulse. Thank you for sharing your story. It's sad to heard that your daughter experiencing panic attack and anxiety, I'm sorry for that. Feminism has nothing to do of being a parent to your child. Hope you doing fine.

Hugs!