Now, I agree, I am wound pretty tight. If I were to say something, I'm sure I'll be told off or get "Oh we're just joking." I have not discussed this with my spouse, since I wouldn't get much of an opinion. Is this misogyny or am I just being a prude?
— Zoom Family Prude
Zoom Family Prude: “Prude” is misogynistic, too. Did you choose that word on purpose?
Either way — it’s the part of your question that points to the answer.
Yes, absolutely, a group of men engaging in gang-ridicule of women over their judgment, style, cooking and weight is misogyny. No question. That you feel you have to confirm with others what your ears are actually hearing only proves how effective such misogyny is. It permeates, undermines, silences. It metastasizes into self-doubt.
There’s also no reason to believe it doesn’t seep into men, too, in a different but also insidious way. If you can absorb so much of it without acting, and get to this point in your life without ever reckoning with it fully, then why can’t the same be said of these male family members? Maybe all of you on this call are at finely shaded versions of the same evolutionary point, where a lifetime of misogynistic messaging has pushed you onto a group-Zoom-ful of tired, mindless jokes about women’s cooking and backsides, with too much inertia to fix it.
The difference, obviously, is that women clearly lose more — since, with this dynamic, men enjoy a power advantage over women. “Enjoy,” I should say, because crap relationships with the women in their lives are hardly cause for celebration.
But to declare these men misogynists might assign more blame than they’ve earned. If you can become so accustomed to misogyny that you, unwittingly, use its vocabulary against yourself and/or aren’t sure of what you’re witnessing, then they, too, can be unwitting participants. These “good sport” women aren’t calling them on it, so who is, in earnest?
If you have the will for it, then you can disrupt the inertia and cultural brainwashing. Not from an us-vs.-them, women-vs.-men angle, but from an us-vs.-stupid angle — with the “us” being your whole family group, and “stupid” being the lifetime of sexist tropes.
So: “Another cooking/weight joke, really?” And if you get the expected pushback: “Jokes are fine, I just think we’re all ready for new ones.”
A reader wrote this about another column, but it applies here:
When the bully abuses someone, repeat his comments back, ending with a question. This takes some pressure off the person confronting. A professional I dealt with called me "Dear." All it took was one, "Dear?" for him to stop.