Rachel Charlene Lewis
April 28, 2016 9:29 am
Shutterstock / Franzi

My little brother and I spent a long time hating each other. Most of that hate came from not understanding each other. Because of our different genders, we’d been raised differently — we’d been brought up to respect and value different things, we’d been forced into different roles, and we’d been taught to be different types of people. There was so much space between us, and such a deep and seemingly never-ending gap between our experiences. We thought about the world and ourselves within it so differently, and it seemed like we’d never find a middle ground.

As we’ve gotten older, though, we’ve worked through it. I’ll never forget the first time he asked me about feminism. We were standing in the kitchen, just sort of laughing, dancing around, and eating microwavable french toast sticks, and he asked me about something he’d seen online. It was as if the moment I’d spent years preparing for had finally arrived — finally, finally, I’d get to dispel all of the disgusting meninist poison he’d been reading about and hearing from friends. Finally, I’d get to explain why him telling me to make him a sandwich and why his expecting me to clean up after him was sexist nonsense. We were finally taking a step toward where we needed to be.

We don’t talk about feminism all the time, but when we do, I’m prepared. There’s so much I hope he learns.

Feminism is valuable beyond what it has to offer him.

Something doesn’t need to benefit you specifically in order for it to be worth your time and energy. So when we talk about feminism, it’s important to frame things in such a way that we make sure boys and men know they, too, will benefit. But just like white people should combat racism regardless of how it impacts them, men should challenge sexism as they see it happening out in the world. I’m so happy that feminism will broaden his perspective, but I need him to care about the fact that it makes my life safer, too.

Feminism isn’t just a stagnant identity — it’s a way of viewing the world.

So many people are quick to say they are or aren’t feminists, which is fine, but not the only way to think about things. Feminism is a new lens through which we view the world. It’s questioning everything and thinking beyond the norms presented to us. If he’s going to practice feminism, he’s got to be ready to ask himself and his friends some really hard questions.

It’s not easy to practice feminism, but it’s worth it.

At the end of the day, feminism isn’t easy, and it’s not supposed to be. Feminism is about dismantling harmful structures and behaviors. There’s no guidebook, and no one way to go about it. But it’s so worth it, because we can’t live in a world where some people are literally more endangered than others simply because a part of the population refuses to give up power they don’t need.

We’re all different — and it’s a beautiful thing.

Intersectional feminism is the idea that we are more than just a singular identity — so much shapes the way we move through the world, from gender to sexuality, class to ability. I hope my brother decides to make intersectional feminism a part of his practice, and to recognize the value of difference. We aren’t all the same. And it’s beautiful.

Listening is key.

Being an ally to a cause beyond your own identity means learning when to speak up, when to amplify someone else’s voice, and when to simply listen. We can all be better allies by listening, and by doing the work it takes to figure out which action is best when you’re trying to show solidarity. Sometimes, it’s not about us — and that’s okay. If I go to an event for Muslim women, I’m going to show solidarity differently than if I were to go to an event for queer women, because I don’t identify as Muslim, but do identify as queer. He’s got to know when something is for him, when it isn’t, and how to support regardless, even if that support means silence.

Practicing feminism isn’t easy, but it’s so desperately needed. Everyone deserves to be and feel safe, respected, and valued, and we all need to do the work to make this our reality.

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