How Do I Tell My Mom She’s Sexist? | Advice from Fatima (@virtuallyyvogue)

Hi Unplug,
I love my mom but after coming home from college I remember why I hate it here. I have three brothers but she makes me (the only girl) do all the chores by myself when the boys aren't doing anything either. How do I tell her she's being sexist??????

First of all, I want to acknowledge that what you’re feeling is valid and as someone who has also dealt with that bias within my own household, I want you to know you’re not alone in this. Families are constantly challenging and often internalized sexism, among other things, runs so deep that people become blind to it. Conversations surrounding ways in which family members are being unjust or failing you personally can be both emotionally draining and stress inducing because you don’t want to create an even bigger conflict. This doesn’t mean you should stay silent though, advocating for yourself is a beautiful thing and hopefully with time you’ll start to see a change in how you’re being treated. While there isn’t a right or wrong approach to these kinds of conversations, here are some tips that have helped me and people I know when dealing with a similar issue. I hope it helps! 

  • Question it in small ways:  this was how I began fighting back against the sexism within the spaces I occupy. Based on your example, say your mom asks you to do the chores and not your brothers you could ask, “why aren’t they helping me?” “can one of them take out the trash?” “why don’t you tell ____ to do that while I do this?” “is there a reason why you’re only asking me to help you around the house?” 

  • This isn’t easy and it’s likely that you’ll get some negative responses to begin with, but stay persistent and hopefully it will start to stick.

  • Ask for help: I’m not sure how comfortable you feel with your siblings, but sometimes, asking them directly to help you with a chore or getting them involved can help break that cycle. That way, the burden is taken off of you indirectly and your mom can start to see (literally) that it shouldn’t just be you helping. 

  • Make the conversation an expression of your feelings: these conversations can be really difficult because often people get very defensive and perceive your discomfort as a direct attack on them, that’s why the way you frame a conversation can be crucial. Instead of saying to her, “you’re being unfair or you’re treating me badly,” you can say something like “I feel hurt/overwhelmed that my brothers are never asked to help me”

  • Acknowledge the love your relationship has: As I’ve said, these conversations are hard to manage because you don’t want hurt anyone or create a conflict, so it’s always good to start by telling her how much you appreciate your relationship and all the good there is but that there is something that has been affecting you a lot. That tends to help lower the other person’s defense mechanism and allows for a more productive conversation.

  • Lastly, remember that things take time and change doesn’t always come right away.

One of my favorite quotes says, “the day you plant the seed, is not the day you eat the fruit,” meaning you may not see the product of your efforts immediately but they will come. Take care of yourself, and we’re wishing you the best!