The “feminist” friend

Getting my angry feminist on in Istanbul

Are you the “feminist” friend in your group of mates? If so, you’ll recognise and connect with the following stories of being the “feminist” friend.

For myself it’s not so much friend as family member. I come from a big family of “speakers-over-the-topers” so making my opinion heard loudly and clearly comes naturally to me. Sadly, lately, I’ve been told to pipe down on a number of occasions, by people I love and respect and had previously thought above such chastisement. Still, as “feminist family member” I’ve had the indignity of close family members roll their eyes and sigh audibly. I’ve had people I love ask “is this one of those things?” when I start discussing a topic close to my heart and I’ve had quiet conversations on the side where I’m told that my opinions, while fine for the family dinner table, are just not appropriate when in wider society. Unlike a lot of my friends, I don’t get this disdain when in wider friendship groups and work because, luckily for me, I move mostly in overt feminist circles. When I start on a topic of concern, the people I’m with generally nod in agreement and add their personal experience and opinion. I’ve heard through friends however, that this is not always the case, that for some people the feminist badge is something they have to wear at personal societal risk, that because of their commitment to gender equality and basic feminist theory they risk the eye roll, the audible sigh, and worse, the avoidance and guidance of conversation away from potential topics of passion. It saddens me that this is the way activists and altruists have to live, in constant fear of social ridicule based on their beliefs, in fear of the label “the feminist friend”.

On the weekend I had one of those rare moments when I realised that not everyone is on quite the same page as me. I was at my cousin’s pre-wedding-BBQ-in-the-park, well actually it was kinda his pre-3rd-wedding-BBQ, he’s been spreading the wedding love by getting married three times, a fabulous idea in my books (and just on a side note, he’s married to a feminist. WOOT!). Anyway, we were doing this little exercise called “longest to least” where everyone at the party lines up in chronological order according to who has known my cuz the longest to the least. So I was down in the 1980’s (having known him since I was born) with a bunch of his school mates when someone made the comment,

“who comes first? The man or his mum?”

at which point I jumped forward excitedly saying

“ahhhhh! this is like the personhood debate in the US! If we decide that the man knows himself first then personhood exists and abortion is murder but if we decide that the mother knows him first than personhood is false and abortion is all fine and dandy!”

No one else seemed to agree that this was a point of excitement… or even remotely relevant to the discussion at hand. So there I was with a big dose of “feminist friend” standing in a line up of a load of people who I didn’t really know and who now thought I was obsessed with abortion (and most of them had kids with them). Ah well, at least with this dear cousin I know my feminism will never be too hot to handle. At least I think it wont.

I’m keen on making this a new repeat feature so if you want to write a story about being “the feminist friend” we want to hear about it! Drop us an email at

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About MsElouise

MsElouise is a community programs worker and feminist from Melbourne Australia. She likes to travel, write, rant and make people feel uncomfortable about their assumptions. She hopes to one day be remembered for changing the world just a little bit. Right now she does this by proving that teenage girls are a higher order of beings.

8 thoughts on “The “feminist” friend

  1. I had one of those weekends too! I wound up at a strip bar, and a friend of a friend of a friend tucked a $10 note under my bra strap and said “that’s all you’re worth”. I told him later that it wasn’t funny or impressive and he needed some new jokes, and told him later that he owed me an apology, to which he said that he was sorry if I was offended but “look at where you are” (because obviously, your environment legitimises gender-based, offensive jokes). What made it worse was the the friend of a friend (female) told our mutual friend (also female) that if he’d said it to either of them, they would’ve taken it the right way. Presumably, the right way was to think it was funny :/

    Two nights later I went to the first heat of a stand-up comedy event, where I discovered that all you have to do to be a male comedian is talk about your dick a lot, and make misogynist jokes (fortunately the two who were chosen to progress to the next round actually had funny material that didn’t capitalise on making derogatory comments about women or talking relentlessly about your penile inadequacies [should point out that I’m not being an angry man-hating feminist here, saying you have a small penis seemed to be the theme du jour]).

  2. Ugh, yes! I am the feminist friend. I’m the feminist colleague. I’m the feminist everything! The eye rolls, the sighs, the pre-emptive “now don’t get offended” when they mention ANYTHING about someone’s gender, the “don’t take it so personally”… the list goes on.

    As I get older the less and less I want to be around people who seem to find feminism something they need to be patronising about. So it is lessening with time, but it still happens with alarming frequency.

  3. Pingback: On the (Rest of the) Net. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

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