71

This question is unlikely to have a very strong cultural context so I welcome answers from members all over the world.


I met this person (code name Jane D) when I was studying sociology at Masters level 12 years ago. She was much older and a senior graduate student in the subject, and already a very vocal feminist.

We had some social science discussions at the time (she was not part of the faculty conducting the course, and thus not my teacher) and I developed a sympathetically pro-feminist attitude which was conjoined with a new understanding of how patriarchal societies control both men and women.

We lost touch for over ten years but she has recently become my neighbor. Both she and her politico-liberal husband (read Marxist intellectual) are full-time university professors while I am doing things totally unrelated to academia these days. However she has become a friend of my mother, who knows her family from long back.

The trouble is that Jane D frequently visits my mother and whenever I meet her by chance she starts delivering strongly political speeches about feminism and patriarchy. Her tone is alarmingly accusatory and she keeps saying "you men" this and "you men" that, despite my repeated efforts to remind her that I am a sociologist myself and not at all a representative of patriarchal society.

A sample conversation which we had 2 days ago:

Jane D: you men have been keeping women down forever! Again and again I see this. You men have the steering wheel of this whole society! Is it your divine right or what? You have no right to say what women should do in this country. etc.

(I say: don't include me! What have I done? I agree with you completely so why you think you need to convince me!)

Jane D: you men are all alike. A man can never help a woman. This is another class war like Communism and we don't need your support. Without your support only the women will set themself free! (She is a radical feminist.)

It is not even a sensible political discussion, and really upsets my mother, who is a retired doctor and totally not interested in politics. She cannot be bothered about anything that distracts her from her health and her family, but she hesitates to be strict with Jane D because she considers her a friend and was close with their family from long back.

Note: Jane D is absolutely convinced that men are the class enemy of women but she has nothing against me personally (friendly enough when not politically fired up, which is like 15% of the time) -- her husband is aloof and never accompanies her on these visits nor meets with us on any other occasion. I don't really know this person but considering Jane D's personality, he is very unlikely to be of any influence in this matter.


Summary: I don't want Jane D to be talking about feminism and patriarchy all the time, and I especially resent her categorizing me as part of patriarchal society, but she resists our repeated hints and efforts to change the subject. It is not in my personality to be aggressive and clash argumentatively with her over this issue. Mother has also requested that I should not tell Jane D directly not to discuss politics when she visits us, because it is impolite from the point of view of Indian hospitality, which tells us never to offend a guest or neighbor.

So how do I diplomatically deal with Jane D's this habit of continuously delivering political speeches about feminism when she visits my home?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Oct 22 '17 at 2:44
  • wait.. does she just happen to be your neighbor AND you run into her often because she visits your mother? or can i assume that you moved in with your mother, who was already her neighbor? – nothingisnecessary Feb 2 '18 at 23:36
  • To be precise, my parents and I have lived in this place for the last 30 years and this Jane D (whom I knew from University 10 years back) became our neighbor recently @nothingisnecessary. – English Student Feb 3 '18 at 0:18

21 Answers 21

31

Jane D: you men are all alike. A man can never help a woman.

All, never, always, are absolute universal quantifiers according to David Burns M.D.

They're thought distortions. If she thinks this way to herself, no wonder, she feels the way she feels.

If she doesn't respond to that argument, get some big headphones, wear them and listen to music/podcasts, or use the fog and broken record method from Manuel J. Smith.

Or when Jane comes to dinner, offer your mom to cook dinner, serve dinner, clear the dishes, and wash the dishes for that night. This will keep you busy and will minimize the amount of time you have to spend listening to her. And if you have a cook/maid, you can always give that person the paid night off.

If she still upsets your mother, there is really nothing else you can do about that. Your mother makes her own decisions about who she talks to. But I suspect that if you don't let Jane upset you, your mother won't be nearly as upset by her either.

  • 3
    Thanks, I've just modified my post and referenced where I got the idea of "thought distortions" from. It was from Dr. David Burns and he got that concept from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Also, offer your mom to cook dinner, serve dinner, clear the dishes, and wash the dishes when Jane D comes around. This will minimize the amount of time you have to spend talking with Jane D. And if you have a cook/maid, you can always give that person the paid night off. – Stephan Branczyk Oct 3 '17 at 0:32
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    Thanks for editing in the best part of your comment into the answer (in terms of practical tips that I can apply) @Stephan Branczyk: "Or when Jane comes to dinner, offer your mom to cook dinner, serve dinner, clear the dishes, and wash the dishes for that night. This will keep you busy and will minimize the amount of time you have to spend listening to her." This is simple and non-controversial; and very easy to do; so I think your now-edited answer needs a lot more visibility and many more upvotes! To make sure of that I am glad to accept your answer as a very good solution to my problem. – English Student Oct 6 '17 at 11:21
110

So how do I diplomatically deal with Jane D's this habit of continuously delivering political speeches in private?

Don't argue with Jane. Don't offer counter-arguments, don't say that you are on her side. She's already proven that she won't listen to any of those and isn't open for a 'nice' debate.

'Nice debates' follow rules. One of those rules is the ad hominem fallacy. This is what Jane is doing: 'You men' is an ad hominem fallacy. Cut Jane off. Simply state that you are not willing to discuss politics when she keeps making obvious mistakes like ad hominem fallacies. Cut her off every time she does this. Don't let her gain momentum, cut her off immediately, as soon as she says the 'you men'.

Mother has also requested me that I should not tell Jane D directly not to discuss politics when she visits us, because it is impolite from the point of view of 'Indian hospitality.'

The above solution should work. It cuts Jane off, so the discussion should be done. And you're not telling her to never discuss politics, only that you're never discussing politics with her when she's not honoring the rules of debating.


Note after seeing all of the comments:

There are a lot of comments saying that Jane doesn't want a debate/nice debate or will get pissed off.

First of all, the way I read the question Jane is already ranting and pissed off with OP being a male, and thus I myself am not too worried about my solution 'pissing her off'. She's already past the point of being nice herself in my opinion. It is something OP should take into account, however, and only OP can do that since they are the one that is meeting with Jane and getting an impression of her mood.

Second, the point here was that OP can't say "I'm not discussing this/politics with you" directly because that would go against mom's orders. So my solution is to state that he's not discussing this because Jane isn't following the rules of a nice debate AND to follow through on that, so no talking (basically walking out on the discussion), until Jane brings these things up in a nice manner. The way I read this question, the OP isn't adverse to discussing these topics with Jane, but it's the way that she's discussing things that bothers OP.

And last, yes, Jane may or may not be making ad hominem fallacies. I read the question as stating that every counterargument the OP made to Jane was dismissed on the ground that he was male. And that is an ad hominem fallacy.

94

From the tone of most answers, it seems most people agree with her position, but feel that she conveys it wrong. For people who may read this question and disagree with her view, I will post a few thoughts on how to handle this situation. I would say the same could apply to whether you agree or disagree. This person is what we call a button-pusher - they love and thrive off of conflict. I've met militant atheists and fundamentalists who live for the same thing. Most of them have little, if any, long term friends, as they go through life alienating people. Ironically, this often makes them act even worse - a warning about these types.

One of the most effective techniques I've discovered in the OP's situation (a social situation with multiple people) is to overtly exit the situation and make it clear why. Suppose we're dealing with a militant religious type who's attacking me for "being different" in some way to a fellow friend, who doesn't care:

Attacker: people like you are the problem because [reason, reason and reason].

Most people will try to be defensive or agree and state, "Hey, I'm on your side!" But this is a button-pusher who seeks conflict and they see your position as weakness. If you disagree and argue, they love it too - more conflict! If you agree, they'll find where you differ and attack anyway. Conflict, conflict, conflict - this is their reward.

Like a bully, they'll keep attacking. Let's look at the situation from a socially-healthy view: there's another person here who doesn't care [we'll call him Mr. Apathy] and he's miserable. In the OP's case, this is his mother. Since this situation has multiple people, exit the situation and state why. Do not respond if the Attacker throws out a response; leave after stating why:

Me: [Mr. Apathy], it was great seeing you. I can see my presence here is causing [Attacker] to [describe the situation] again, so I'm leaving. [Contact me some other time].

Leave. The Attacker will try one last attempt to draw a conflict, but they lose. Without a conflict present anymore, the attacker loses his or her reward. Why is this effective?

  1. It's a waste of time to be this person's friend. In the OP's case, he's not. In general though, by being a person's friend who's like this, they may alienate other people in your life. If you lie down with dogs, you will wake up with flees.
  2. Your presence is the cause for making the third party [Mr. Apathy or the OP's mother in the OP's case] miserable. In the OP's case, because he's a man, she just loses it in her feminism. The OP's presence is creating a conflict. Outside of being selective when and how you see a friend in a situation like this, when a conversation devolves into the mess, leave.
  3. Button pushers thrive from conflict. Without conflict, they lose their reward. People who make a choice to be these people's friends are living with their choice. If you know your presence causes problems, then don't be present. Otherwise, you're part of the problem even when you realize it. It's not about you, it's about the third party who is miserable when this happens. Winning means treating your friends and family with respect in the situation.

I am assuming some things in this post:

a. You are not actively seeking conflict. I've met plenty of people who call themselves feminists voluntarily (I am not). I say nothing to it. If I disagree or said something about it, I would be asking for trouble. This is stupid. If I don't agree with people, I don't highlight it; I ignore it and move on.

b. You posses respect for yourself and your friends. If you respect yourself and your friend, why are you allowing someone to be a social bully and why are you allowing your friend to witness it? This is miserable for both of you.

c. You respect your time. On your death bed, will you remember any of of these conversations where a person attacked you? Will you even remember all the debates you won? Most people don't change their mind due to a debate; they do so for emotional reasons.

  • 10
    Very useful answer that presents a fresh perspective: even if not all may agree with your point of view I have already stated here myself that Jane D just loves a forceful argument; so I upvote for this insightful advice: "I would say the same could apply to whether you agree or disagree. This person is what we call a button-pusher - they love and thrive off of conflict (...) exit the situation and state why (...) Leave. The Attacker will try one last attempt to draw a conflict, but they lose. Without a conflict present anymore, the attacker loses his or her reward" Thanks a lot @FalseHooHa! – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 18:56
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    Of course, there is a difference between the Chaotic Evil and the Chaotic Neutral or the Chaotic Good button-pusher. Let's say that you believe that rape and murder are wrong, but you live in a society where the mores not only accept but condone such things. You could be driven to stir up conflict because the only alternative is to let things be as they are. Attempting to engage in rational discussion only aggravates your sense of injustice when the other parties don't care. The problem comes from not distinguishing yourself enough. – can-ned_food Oct 2 '17 at 21:26
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    Quite possible that this approach might cause Mother to decide she'd rather have Jane D. be leaving and son staying. – WGroleau Oct 3 '17 at 11:00
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    @WGroleau If that's the choice Mother makes, OP must respect it. – Agent_L Oct 3 '17 at 15:20
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    Excellent advice. I'd like to amplify one point. The very first time you use this, do the quick explanation as to why you're leaving. But only do it that once. Next time, simply get up and say your good-byes without any explicit acknowledgement whatsoever of what Jane is doing. Don't even give her that satisfaction. Act as if she is not even in the room. – Monty Harder Oct 4 '17 at 18:43
66

Between Jane and your mother, most sensible solutions are closed to you. Unlike many people here, I don't think you should "not all men" her anyway. It's rarely useful and demonstrates a mis-alignment around the emotional damages being discussed. That is, the total misery inflicted on group A by some members of group B wildly outweighs the smaller misery felt by "nice" members of group B when they are lumped with the not-nice ones, so the point is not a useful one to make. It is typically heard as "my 1/100 pain of being lumped with the bad guys is far more important than the pain you suffered from being oppressed. We cannot do anything about your 70/100 pain because you are not properly respecting my 1/100 pain right now. Acknowledge NotAllMen or I will stop supporting you and become an oppressor and claim my birthright." It controls the conversation and puts your feelings ahead of the person who is telling you about their pain. Generally a far more powerful response is to start discussing the main issue, not whether or not "men" in general did it. For example, asking "how can I help?" before pointing out that it's not actually your fault or that you are already helping. However Jane has made it clear that she doesn't want your help, so responding either with "not all men" or with "how can I help?" are both off the table.

That doesn't mean there is nothing to say to someone on a rant about the oppression their group has suffered. Useful points to make abound, including that you don't need to be lectured on things you already know, that you are happier discussing other topics, and that she is upsetting your mother. Yet you are constrained from making any of these. So, what can you do? You can vote with your feet. When the speech starts, don't engage. Try something like:

I am sorry to hear that this is troubling you again. I apologize for any pain I've just reminded you of. If you'll excuse me, I need to take care of something.

And you get up and walk away - to the bathroom, or to step outside, or to another room and another group of people if that's feasible. You wait a minute or two (longer if your mother is not being subjected to the speech in your absence), and then you return. It is unlikely the speech will be ongoing in the absence of anyone to argue with, but if it is, you can simply hold back from rejoining the group. If your mother appears trapped there, you can try the old

Mother, can I see you in the kitchen for a moment?

And once there the two of you can discuss whether she is ok with staying in the conversation with Jane or having an excuse to leave it.

I am not claiming that over time this will be some sort of aversion therapy that will teach Jane to change the subject. I suggest it only as a way to get yourself out of an unpleasant situation simply and without lying or arguing. (You're not lying: the something you need to take care of is your own well being. You do that by going somewhere you can be alone, or at least away from Jane.)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Catija Oct 3 '17 at 15:44
45

Here's what you have to realize ... Jane is not interested in learning anything, or an exchange of ideas. She knows everything she wants to know, and you are not really required in the conversation. It's not even a conversation, really. She has a speech she wants to give, and you just happen to be the recipient. Politeness is not her motive. She openly describes you as a "class enemy" for crying out loud.

You are holding back out of (a) respect for your mother and the peace of her home, and (b) a mistaken belief that you two are on the same side. For (b), something tells me that you both subscribe to something you call feminism but are actually very different concepts. For (a), you might ask your mother if she really enjoys these political rants.

You have two options. Either leave whenever she goes off on a rant, or go against your mother's advice and shut these conversations down tersely. Tell her that you have heard her opinions, have understood them, and don't need another retelling. If she persists, remind her that you are the class enemy, and she shouldn't give away valuable intel that you can use against her.

Update: It occurs to me that by the end of the last paragraph we're kind of ... past diplomatic. It happens, betimes.

  • 3
    I appreciate your perception @akaioi for which, 1upvote: "Jane is not interested in learning anything, or an exchange of ideas (...) You are holding back out of (a) respect for your mother and the peace of her home, and (b) a mistaken belief that you two are on the same side." Indeed she is far more radical politically! May I clarify that the real reason for tolerating these political speeches is not only my mild personality but also my mother's belief in the Indian cultural concept of not offending a guest or neighbor -- your advice is well taken and I shall act on it if diplomacy fails! – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 20:45
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    @EnglishStudent, the advice in this answer IS good diplomacy. Except for the part where you say you're the class enemy, which sentence I disagree with. Just recognize she is incapable of rational discourse on this topic, don't engage, and walk away. Honestly speaking, she won't even be any more offended than she already is by your very maleness. She is probably aware she has a discourse problem on the subject and will appreciate you not holding it against her, but that doesn't mean you have to befriend Ms. Hyde. Enjoy the company of Ms. Jekyll and walk away when she turns. – Wildcard Oct 3 '17 at 0:37
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    Thanks for clarifying; and I shall take your sensible advice @Wildcard. – English Student Oct 3 '17 at 4:44
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    "If she persists, remind her that you are the class enemy, and she shouldn't give away valuable intel that you can use against her." This is brilliant-- it might get a laugh from Jane D and perhaps even wake up her human side. – Don Hatch Oct 3 '17 at 7:55
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    "She has a speech she wants to give" not even that, she just wants to have a shouting match with someone - anyone. She knows this guy has already got the message. She just enjoys ranting. – RedSonja Oct 5 '17 at 10:59
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Jane has serious issues that are not yours to solve. They are also not yours to endure, and you have no obligation to do so. When she starts one of her rants, stop her with a clear announcement that you have no intention to listen to it, or contribute to it. This can be friendly (e.g. "Jane, we've had this talk before, let's not do it again."), stern (e.g. "Jane, I'm not interested to discuss this." plus switch to other topic immediately) or if she still doesn't get it, in-your-face-clear (e.g. "Jane, I won't listen or discuss to this topic, we've been over it, come find me when you're finished and we can discuss other things.")

Be prepared that she has some prepared or instantly-cooked-up nonsense up her sleeves about how your answer was patriarchal oppression through male-dominated verbal expression or whatever. Ignore it, and stand your ground.

Also be prepared for the usual "why?" interrogation that people often use in this situation. By asking "why" they eventually drag you back into the exact same discussion that you clearly announced you wanted to avoid. Prepare a simple, complete answer and stick to it. Maybe "we've had this discussion before and it leads nowhere".

  • Thanks for covering all the options @Tom. As I said before, these methods will be required if diplomacy does not work. – English Student Oct 3 '17 at 5:07
  • This is the route I would take. It sounds like she refuses to allow any normal response to her statements - so all rational counter-arguments are out. Jane isn't even arguing about an incident or a topic; she has created a strawman of "you men" that she is denouncing, and refuses to understand that her strawman is completely unreasonable and unrealistic - it's weak yet somehow strong enough to hold women down, etc. I would tell her that she is welcome in my house, but her accusations and attacks are not welcome. – user3685427 Oct 4 '17 at 19:05
  • "about how your answer was patriarchal oppression" … "Stop now unless you want to experience REAL patriarchal oppression." I'm half-joking, of course. – WGroleau Oct 5 '17 at 10:02
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    Even half-joking, that is stupid. If you want to stop her, you don't put oil into the fire. That would be about the most counter-productive thing you could say. – Tom Oct 5 '17 at 10:17
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The problem with this particular type of debater is that they have some very strong opinions and probably read a metric ton of arguments on the subject. A lot of what you might say to try to defend yourself they probably heard before. While I haven't been blessed with knowing someone that extreme in real life I've read a lot of their articles to know that the following lines of argument are unlikely to work:

  • I'm not like that (#NotAllMen that Em C brought up)
  • You are alienating people
  • Your categorizing a whole gender is similar to sexism

And so on. If a person will not change their mind and you don't feel like conversations are productive the best thing you can do is to bow out. Now if it were me I'd say something like:

Jane D: You men are always ... can never understand that ... etc
Me: Well if I'm such an irredeemable enemy to you why are we even talking? Gotta go, bye

At that point one of two thing will happen, either this person stops talking to you (so you at least don't have to deal with the speeches) or they will have to acknowledge that perhaps there are some slight differences between men and maybe some aren't complete sexist pigs, but in that case it'll come from them and not you.

In general (based on some experience) social justice advocates do not respond well to defensiveness because they see it as you trying to protect the status quo, so try to frame you argument in a way that is about your specific relationship rather then the system. Distilled you message should be:

When you insult [MY CATEGORY] you insult me, with all the consequences that that entails

  • Thanks @Maxim -- maybe you are suggesting I should try to get her to see me as a unique individual who does not share the (for her objectionable) political interests of society at large? +1 as it is a very interesting angle to pursue! – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 16:52
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    @English Student Yes, but it's tricky because it's hard to phrase that without seeming like you are trying to escape responsibility or get a "Feminist Cookie". That's why I think it's better to try to guide them to that conclusion rather then outright state it – Maxim Oct 2 '17 at 16:56
  • I shall keep that in mind while negotiating these discussions, @Maxim. – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 17:01
13

People with radical beliefs are often hard to deal with, I should know, I tend to be one of them...

I've dated a few radical feminists they can be really good people once you get to know them, but sometimes it can be challenging to get them off their soapboxes. When I've been hit with the:

You men are all the same...

I usually respond with something like:

You've known me long enough to know that you're preaching to the choir... And, not to put too fine a point on it, this "You men" thing isn't exactly helpful for your cause. In some cases you end up alienating a huge group of people who would have otherwise supported your point of view.

Honestly I admire people who have this kind of passion about these issues, but reminding them that you're on the same side is sometimes the cost of spending time with them.

I admire your passion and beliefs, but I have already agreed with you about them. Let's save the energy for when it matters. No need to convince someone who's already convinced.

But then again some people just really enjoy their soapboxes and some will take your attempt to change the subject or to derail their speech as an attempt to "silence or oppress" in these cases, if you're patient enough, just give them a few minutes to get it out of their system and move on from there.

  • Thanks for these good points @apaul34208, +1 -- Jane D is absolutely convinced that men are the 'class enemy' of women but she has nothing against me personally (friendly enough when not politically fired up, which is like 15% of the time!) – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 16:31
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    @EnglishStudent Janes's attitude has shades of "Some of my best friends are males" ...? – akaioi Oct 2 '17 at 19:55
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    @EnglishStudent - I think that's a poor assumption to make. If you're a man, she hates you - she's just afraid to say it to your face, because she fears men. You wait - one of these days, she will. – Jasmine Oct 2 '17 at 20:23
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    I always thought Jane D acts more radical than she really feels, to intimidate men and impress her students, but... Thanks for the pertinent warning and I shall be very much on my guard @Jasmine! – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 20:41
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    @EnglishStudent I do hope that you are able to come to a modus vivendi with her. Myself, I've been able to come to a friendly detente -- even an entente cordiale -- with a fellow who's completely opposite of me on an important issue, so it is absolutely possible! – akaioi Oct 2 '17 at 21:29
10

I'm reading that she is not your friend, but your mothers friend. Thus, you should talk to your mother politely to ask her to stop doing this speeches of her in your house since they are disturbing you. You have to make your mother understand that this is making you unhappy and that she needs to put limits to what her friends can do in your house.

Now, if your mom decides to not tell Jane, you will have to step up and firmly ask her to stop doing this. You have already told her your stance on the issue and she ha stated hers. That she needs to respect your point of view and individuality as much as she likes her own respected. She will still be welcomed in your house as a friend of your mother, but that friends do other stuff besides complaining about political issues.

From IMHO, if she doesn't accept this terms, then she wasn't really your mother friend so nothing is lost.

  • 3
    "I'm reading that she is not your friend, but your mothers friend (...) she needs to respect your point of view and individuality as much as she likes her own respected. She will still be welcomed in your house as a friend of your mother, but that friends do other stuff besides complaining about political issues." Thanks @Salvador Ruiz Guevara, and +1 for identifying the crux of the problem. Indian hospitality has a rather polite and indirect approach to such problems. I could've been frank if she were my own friend but but I shall be direct in telling Jane D this if diplomacy gets ignored! – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 17:06
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    @EnglishStudent Laws of hospitality work both ways. Insulting host's family (you) ends the hospitality and opens the hostility. If you're visiting your mother - you are your mother's guest as well, it's her duty as a host to defend you from Jane's attacks. If you live there - it's your home as well, you are the host she's insulting. Demand her to stop talking or leave. Your mother can visit her at Jane's house. Jane has forfeited her rights to Indian hospitality, keep that in mind. – Agent_L Oct 3 '17 at 15:33
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    @EnglishStudent OR - you can deliberately shift the problem back to the root. Whenever Jane starts - act like a kid: "Moooom! She's harassing me again. Make her stop." – Agent_L Oct 3 '17 at 15:34
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    "OR - you can deliberately shift the problem back to the root. Whenever Jane starts - act like a kid: "Moooom! She's harassing me again. Make her stop." __ Another 'creative' approach that should convey the objection humorously; thanks @Agent_L – English Student Oct 3 '17 at 16:03
9

... Jane D frequently visits my mother and whenever I meet her by chance she starts...

For whatever reason, your presence causes her to start discussions you and your mother don't wish to be part of.

So the simple answer is to leave. There's no need to be rude about it either, but do try to take the first step rather than leaving as a reaction to her outburst:

Hi mom! I see you have a visitor, good to see you Dr. I only stopped by to [drop this off, remind you of something, see how you are] but I don't want to interrupt your visit with each other so I'll be on my way! Good to see you, have a good day!

If practical or possible, find out whether she's there before you visit to reduce the need of bumping into her.

If she appears while you are already visiting, finish your visit with your mother, and leave.

If you must you can always make some pretense about why you might need to leave, but you do not owe either of them an explanation of what is pulling you away. This will depend on what social customs are in your area. For me in the US it's perfectly fine to state, "I've got to go..." and say your goodbyes and leave without telling anyone why you have to go.

  • 2
    +1 for solid advice which fits my own way of thinking, thanks @Adam Davis -- my impulse is to avoid, avoid but after frequenting this site I though that is not very 'interpersonal' is it -- hence this question! It is a fact that Jane D doesn't talk politics with my mother when I am not present. – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 19:49
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    The OP said that it is his house as well as his mother's, so I'm inclined to believe that his mother lives with him. OP should not, under any condition, be required to leave his own house in order to accommodate a not-so-welcome guest. Otherwise, if OP lived elsewhere and was just visiting his mother's house, then your suggestion would be appropriate. – user3685427 Oct 4 '17 at 19:09
8

As I was typing this answer, Fildor posted a comment saying you can't.

I agree. There is no "diplomacy" with a person like that. What I've done in the past is:

Feminist: You men are always.....
Me: Can I just say something before you say that? I am not one of those "men". I am completely empathetic to the feminist movement and I completely support your notions. You don't know what kind of a man I am and you shouldn't be talking about feminism to me like I am one of those men you hate. I am on your side, don't worry.

This might be a bit more rude than you would want it to be, but honestly, you got to rip that band-aid off quick and easy if you want to never have to deal with this in the future.

The trick is to stop them from talking and tell them your views. When you stop someone from saying something, they're usually going to listen. Because they've clearly noticed you interrupting them. You've gotten their attention. Now, go straight to the point you're trying to make. Don't try to sugar coat it.

Edit:
After several comments about this being man-splaining, I feel the need to clarify. There are a few reasons why this is not man-splaining:

  1. You're not interrupting a feminist to say she is wrong.
  2. You're not interrupting a feminist to discredit her views or to make her look/seem foolish to have her beliefs.
  3. You're interrupting a feminist to let her know that you're not her enemy and that you completely support her belief. You're trying to make her feel safe with her views.
  4. You're not talking on top of her. I've edited the conversation to reflect this.

I understand that the way the response was worded might come off as rude and arrogant (in this situation, chauvinistic even) and I apologize to anyone/everyone that I might have offended. I am simply trying to emphasize that letting her know way before she talks about her feminist views that you're not an enemy to her or you don't think her views are valuable might change her tone and might make her talk to you like you're another member of her belief system and the tone in which she talks will greatly improve. She would not take an accusative tone. "You men" would become "These men" and honestly, even though that doesn't completely accomplish everything the OP asked for, it is a much more pleasant conversation to have rather than a heated argument.

If you try real hard, you can make anything and everything seem bad while it is not intended to mean harm to anyone. So I am going to just leave this here and if people still don't like my answer, I am sorry.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – HDE 226868 Oct 4 '17 at 19:19
7

I don't need to read (all) the thoughtful answers of the above to see that Jane D. has, or is of an emotional nature. That is her problem and not yours.

Even if it is only 15% of the time, in that percent and much more she cannot tolerate you, your help, your consideration or your apologies. She cannot tolerate you. That is, when she is in the mood.

Ranting about politics is just another outlet for what is called "Free floating hostility". That is, nursing a perennial subject that the sufferer, or "addict" takes their time to enjoy expounding upon for whatever audience is or is not present. It is merely recreation for her. If time is not pressing and she is in the mood then she can start expounding. It means less than nothing. Proof being that nothing she offers is up for debate or discussion. Only she can be right. All other ideas are tainted and thus invalid. She is picking a fight. The only winning move is to leave her alone.

Once she has finished I'm sure she does not rush to update anyone else with her newfound insights or write them down for the newsletter. She is just retracing beloved ground for the pleasure of hearing someone say it. Not an immoral act but not one for all and sundry company, and certainly not for your bewildered mother.

Despite the thoughtful advice above any attempt to break her rhythm only convinces her that you are disputing her insight or vision, as such you are not a true believer, you are unmutual or whatever names they are throwing around these days.

I would not plan to be her sounding board ever again, for any time. If only for your mother's peace of mind you should turn her away. The next time she starts in on you I would say as loudly as possible; "I've had enough of you! Leave me alone!" followed by "Leave me alone!" anytime she comes back. That would be her cue to leave with opinions flying but leave she must.

You cannot change her behavior and even if she was right in all things you can never help her get it straight. She hasn't the tools to do anything but complain to and about people. You don't want to be one of them

  • "The only winning move is to leave her alone." -- this matches the advice of many other members -- thanks a lot for the frank answer @user2863749! – English Student Oct 3 '17 at 5:21
  • As I said I did not read all the answers. Sorry to be part of the pile on but hope you got some ideas for action. – user2863749 Oct 4 '17 at 3:02
  • Yes indeed @user2863749 -- so many good ideas, and I feel much better prepared to deal with the situation next time! – English Student Oct 4 '17 at 13:31
  • You can indeed say; "I agree with what you say. But shouting does not help anyone. What are doing to really, physically help women? Have you started a refuge or a union? Can I help out there?" In my experience, people either shout about [x] or do something about [x]. – RedSonja Oct 5 '17 at 11:02
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    That's very true @Red Sonja. Despite the extensive shouting Jane D has not been involved in any useful activities to actually help women. – English Student Oct 5 '17 at 14:22
5

If you really want to be diplomatic, you could of course concede some of her points:

you men have been keeping women down forever! Again and again I see this. You men have the steering wheel of this whole society! Is it your divine right or what? You have no right to say what women should do in this country. Etc etc etc...

You choose to say, "don't include me. I completely agree with you." Except that you don't completely agree with her: you disagree with her as to whether or not you have any role at all in the steering of society and the keeping down of woman.

You could have said, but chose not to say, "you're right, as a man in this society I literally have no ability to unilaterally surrender all the power and other privileges that are unjustly handed to me, and what is more I'm certain that at times I have been culpable in abusing it. I completely agree with you."

That is, the position you're taking ("I am a sociologist myself and not at all a representative of patriarchal society"), whether defensible or not and no matter how alarmed you are when she refuses to accept it, is not the most diplomatic possible.

Of course, (a) this still may well not satisfy her that you are in agreement with her points; (b) it won't stop the accusation you dislike, at best it will move past it; and (c) under normal circumstances you would be under no obligation to agree with her points, if in fact you think them incorrect. But since you're constrained to be diplomatic, actually agreeing with her instead of saying you do while disagreeing might be be worth a try once! The one saving grace is that, there will be no real onus placed on you by agreeing with her, since she's already said that she expects and wants no actual support from you.

  • 1
    You have educated me about how agreeing in general need not always be agreeing completely, thanks @Steve Jessop: +1 for this: "you could have said, but chose not to say: "you're right, as a man in this society I literally have no ability to unilaterally give up the power that is wrongly handed to me, and I'm certain that at times I have abused it. I completely agree with you." That's a step beyond what I had conceived as agreement but you are absolutely right and I shall try it out next time. Please be sure to contribute many more such insightful answers here at IPS.SE! – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 22:55
  • @EnglishStudent: I should probably admit that personally I'm incredibly bad at actually doing this kind of thing, since it involves in effect "losing" whatever argument might be at hand. There's a gap between being aware of it as the diplomatic option and following through. – Steve Jessop Oct 2 '17 at 22:56
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    It doesn't matter in terms of the argument and I am willing to use it to purchase peace (especially as your statement is extremely valid) but I will have to see if it really get Jane D to reduce the political speechifying @Steve Jessop. – English Student Oct 2 '17 at 23:07
  • I agree the interpersonal strategy could be effective. I disagree with the tactic. In my opinion 'feminism' achieved much of its goals in its early years, with the right to vote and etc., but now what seems to be happening is that 'success' for women has been redefined so that women who do actually see success as biological, as maintaining a home, and as having a committed family-man husband, are considered outsiders and conservative. I think Jane D's philosophical underpinnings are unsound and this is where your above strategy could be targeted. – Sentinel Oct 3 '17 at 9:41
4
  1. Be grateful. It could be a lot worse. She could have noxious body odor, or try to eat your children.

  2. Remember to have compassion. She is your friend, after all. It is probably worse to be her than to be around her, since she probably has a lot of annoyed friends.

  3. Laugh. It's funny. "There she goes again," you say to yourself. If you two are truly friends, you want the time you spend together to be pleasant, and what is more pleasant than a funny moment?

  4. Consider your time a gift. By putting up with her quirks, you are being a good friend. Giving her time when she can just "be herself" is a huge way to form intimacy, if you can stomach it.

  5. Dismiss the argument as quickly as possible. Don't engage. Some good responses:

    "Sure." "I know, right?" "That sounds good." "Yeah, men are so awful." "Right on."

  6. Head it off. If you still find your friendship under strain, consider talking to her in a different situation, i.e. before she has started into her argumentative mood and preferably not in front of other people. Tell her how you feel and ask her to stop. Or ask her how she thinks you ought to react when she makes you uncomfortable. Or simply tell her that it is boring.

  7. Keep her busy. If you two just "hang out" without any activities planned, and there are a lot of awkward silences, it's not surprising she would try to fill them with whatever she is accustomed to, which seems to be arguing. Don't let those silences happen. Make sure your planned times together contain activities that keep her tied up or don't allow talking, e.g. see a movie.

  8. Have boundaries. You can't decide for her how she is to behave, but you can decide who you wish to be friends with. If she isn't willing to behave in a manner that you wish to be around, don't be around.

  • Thanks for a thoughtful answer that covers all the angles @John Wu -- maybe not all previous answers recommended it but I am willing to see things from Jane D's point of view and approach the situation as you suggested. – English Student Oct 5 '17 at 14:14
  • Your first 5 items are passive-aggressive swipes at her worldview, which isn't constructive. The last 3 would be ineffective at best. – Wes Sayeed Oct 5 '17 at 22:32
  • @Wes Your comment makes no sense. Having compassion and holding space could only be seen as "passive aggressive swipes" by the most cynical of persons, especially since OP says he already agrees with her. And #8 is guaranteed to work, I promise. – John Wu Oct 5 '17 at 22:43
  • You're right; I shouldn't have included #8 in my critique. But "Having compassion and holding space could only be seen as 'passive aggressive swipes' by the most cynical of persons" is exactly the point; this woman is the most cynical of persons. SHE will interpret those overtures as passive-aggressive swipes. It doesn't matter whether they really are or not. – Wes Sayeed Oct 5 '17 at 23:46
  • 2
    Based on your comments I'd assess that Jane D. could at worst be the second-most-cynical-of-persons; the #1 spot is taken. If exercising compassion pisses off your friends then I suggest you post a separate question asking how to address that, because you are doing it wrong. – John Wu Oct 7 '17 at 0:23
3

One of two or more things spring to mind, each of which can be dismissed at pleasure:

She is a possibly a crusader, set in her ways, consumed in her cause, and will undertake the opportunity to literally preach it wherever there may be ears that listen. It is a well-worn path for her, she probably does it to everyone.

She is projecting her opinions onto others, and casting her own light in someone else's house. There is a time for rampant political exchange - and when indoors it is commonly only when the host favours it, otherwise it risks 'becoming awkward'.

If it is becoming awkward, she might benefit from being told of this, and being politely reminded (by a male, no less) that she might want to package her opinions and distribute them more tactfully - lest the people around her become tired to it.

Especially if it is causing upset. You might consort her wrath by asking directly if there is she something completely different she could rant on about, for a change? "Anything else to talk of?" I'm sure there would be a more diplomatic way to put it.

If you must, keep changing the conversation in an discreet-yet-obvious matter to something else ideally involving her and she'll eventually get the message that maybe continuously dishing out her aggressive opinions is becoming inappropriate.

Lastly, no less, she might have struggled victoriously through a male-dominated society and may be prone to triumphantly transfer onto others her feelings and desires. The classic use of the term 'transference' comes from psychoanalysis and includes “the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.” She has probably got a bit of this going on.

3

She looks a lot like a stampeding buffalo, she isn't aware of her behaviour and she won't stop in front of some usual objection. Instead, you could react with humour/irony/sarcasm.

  • Try welcoming her with something like

    Oh hello Jane! What is 50% of the world population up to right now?

    or

    How are those/us nasty Y-chromosome bearers misbehaving today?

  • Point out her attitude:

    You know, what I love about you the most is the variety in your discussion topics.

  • Do the same generalization, but in reverse and exaggerating them (the irony/sarcasm should be patent):

    Ah, you women, always busy fighting patriarchal society!

    or just plainly switching "men" and "women" in her phrases:

    You women never help men! You really steer the whole society! You don't have the right of tell men what they have to do!

    Note that this last tactic may be more unpleasant, so try the other ones before. On the other hand, you can keep up this last one until she gets tired of discussing.

A very important point here is how you delivery these remarks. Always tell them with a smile: you intend no harm, you just don't want to discuss further with somebody that's otherwise your friend.

  • 1
    Really nice answer that suggests creative use of sarcasm, irony and paradox with a smile to distract a stampeding buffalo -- what it does, as I understand is it can make her stop and think for a moment which would be very useful indeed -- thanks @LinuxBlanket: I appreciate and upvote! – English Student Oct 5 '17 at 11:20
  • "or just plainly switching "men" and "women" in her phrases:" I'd do something similar but different. Replace by a minority group. That will show her in the mirror what she in fact is. But OP clearly stated he wanted a "diplomatic" solution. Any of the points listed would be the opposite of that. I'd expect her to react with fire and fury. – Fildor Oct 5 '17 at 11:37
2

There is no political issue here. Jane D's personality is fundamentally driven by a 'hysteria,' to seek out conflict with men in order to justify what she already believes to be true. She is looking for conflict, looking for animosity, and deep down expecting it. This type of person wants and needs negative relationships with men. Her problem is herself, and while it's a cliché, she needs to rearrange herself, not the world. If she was seriously committed to societal and political improvement, phrases like "you men" would be out of her vocabulary, and the scientist in her would be cringing at her confirmation bias.

This is definitely an interpersonal issue. My approach would be to tell her outright that she is selfishly obsessed with her own emotional/pseudo-political agenda and that the constant ranting is upsetting both you and your mum. If she fails to show some respect and consideration, tell both your mum and Jane D that you don't want her around until she's done some growing up.

  • "(...) in order to justify what she already believes to be true. She is looking for conflict, looking for animosity" -- but she's not getting that response from me for sure! Thanks for a perceptive answer @Sentinel. – English Student Oct 3 '17 at 10:00
  • 3
    Well, hysteria = Sigmund Freud, and you can't be less feminist than that :-) – gnasher729 Oct 4 '17 at 20:29
  • She is looking for conflict, looking for animosity, and deep down expecting it. This type of person wants and needs negative relationships with men.. Incredibly perceptive answer - she's confirming her bias. +1. – FalseHooHa Oct 9 '17 at 14:41
  • -1 for making claims about a stranger's state of mind and motivations; for disparaging remarks, and for a condescending dismissive attitude towards the person in question. – MichaelK Mar 9 '18 at 14:46
2

What Mama don't know won't hurt her. Ask Jane nicely to stop. If she doesn't, Mama will have to tell her, unless you own the property. If it continues and your mother does not put a stop to it, either by request or warrant, then there is little you can do.

On the other hand, if you cannot do anything, then simply do not respond to her. Jane will get tired of talking about it eventually. Server her incredibly spicy, hot Indian food or sweet, or whatever Jane does not like. If you aren't going to be forward about telling Jane to stop, then you have to be creative.

You could tell Jane, "Hey, come in crazy lady, evil man here, ready to be taught." She'll stop eventually, unless she is mental. But if Mama keeps letting her in, well, Mama is literally inviting heartache.

  • Thanks for the creative yet very practical advice -- first line of action: indirect hints/ diplomacy. Second line: direct approach as in "Ask Jane nicely to stop" If both fail then you make a strong case for "incredibly spicy, hot Indian food or sweet, or whatever(...)" though I sure hope it can be solved in the first 2 steps @johnny! – English Student Oct 3 '17 at 14:19
  • 1
    Well, truth is some people are looney at times. There are so many ways to disarm the person and make her nice or run her off, they can't all be put in words. I bet your mother can think of ways, as she sounds smart. But it's just such a hassle to deal with this kind of stuff. If you were Christian (maybe you are. I have no idea), you could always talk to her about Jesus. That makes people leave. Be sincere though. – johnny Oct 3 '17 at 14:25
  • I shall be sure to keep your suggestions in mind @johnny. – English Student Oct 3 '17 at 16:01
  • 1
    @johnny: You don't need to be Christian to talk about Jesus :-) But how big is the risk of running into a Feminist Fundamental Christian... – gnasher729 Oct 4 '17 at 20:26
1

"I do not share that opinion / view"

This is quite simple:

  • Jane D is stating an opinion about the state of society.

  • You do not share that opinion.

State it as such. She is after all entitled to make her own observations and form her own opinion. But so are you.

The trick here is to change the discussion from being about fact to being about opinion and interpretation. As long as the tone of the discussion is as if you were discussing facts (which you are not by the way), then you cannot reach a conclusion where you can agree to disagree. But if you say "Ok, that is your opinion... I have another one", then you open up for accommodation.

  • 2
    That's a very reasonable approach, thanks @Michael Karnerfors! In fact I agree with Jane D on the essential assumptions of radical feminism, but disagree with the 'you men' part of her argument and her opinion that no men can support women's struggles. – English Student Oct 4 '17 at 13:56
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    @Fildor No that is not at all debatable. There is nothing extremist about that, not unless you in your mind invent a different definition of Radical Feminism and get everyone else to agree to it. – MichaelK Oct 4 '17 at 14:56
  • 1
    "So you are both radical feminists with only a slight flavour-difference. How did you manage to get into huge angry debates about that?!" -- that's the whole irony of the situation, @Michael Karnerfors: but Jane D is absolutely certain that no man can be any sort of feminist, which is the crux of the problem here. – English Student Oct 4 '17 at 15:00
  • 4
    You are very right @Michael Karnerfors but Jane D and many other radical feminists categorically exclude men from the feminist movement. I think that's a big part of my problem, ideologically speaking: after reading these excellent answers and the extensive discussion on this page I am struck by the possibility that Jane D would be more comfortable if I were an outright supporter of the patriarchal establishment (because it would give much more traction to her argumentative momentum) rather than what I really am, which is a passive and paradoxical supporter of radical feminism! – English Student Oct 4 '17 at 15:12
  • 1
    Thanks a lot for helping me put the problem in its proper ideological perspective, @Michael Karnerfors! Which should go a long way towards finding a diplomatic solution. – English Student Oct 4 '17 at 15:24
0

A totally different option is to treat Jane as what she is, a poor woman who has turned herself into the caricature of a feminist, and get her out of this.

Next time she starts The Speech, tell her straight away that you have heard this before, and ask her whether that is all she is. Offer her a beer (that will probably the first time this happened to her in years). If she doesn't like it, ask her what she likes. Insist on an answer. Do not accept any feminist talk, interrupt it immediately, and get to a different subject.

Why this approach? There are two possible outcomes. One, you may be able to actually help her. A woman with that kind of attitude isn't going to have many friends, so any help that actually gets her out of this attitude, and showing her that there is more to life than hating men, is a very good deed. Two, you may have no effect. In that case, you still stopped The Speech. Instead of being annoyed by it, you can get some pleasure out of stopping her.

In the end, this isn't about feminism whatsoever. It's about someone visiting your home and behaving in a most obnoxious manner, either intentionally or without even realising. While it is easy for you to protect yourself from being annoyed by that behaviour, anything that makes her behaviour more acceptable in general society is only good for her. Would be the same if your neighbour came in and talked football, football, football and nothing else, and lost all contact with any non-football-fanatics because he can't talk about anything else.

  • 2
    What is the benefit of this? How does this help? This seems like quite a judgement of someone we only have the OP's description of. – Catija Oct 4 '17 at 4:30
  • Thanks for the 'different' suggestion @gnasher729 -- could you explain in more detail why and how it would work, as asked in the earlier comment? – English Student Oct 4 '17 at 13:28
  • @Catija: We need to take the OP's description at face value. The behaviour described is one that is there unless the OP is lying - which would be pointless, since any advice given would be useless. – gnasher729 Oct 4 '17 at 20:16
  • Thanks again, this time for explaining your approach in adequate detail @gnasher729. I shall keep these tactics in mind for next time! – English Student Oct 5 '17 at 14:28
-1

You can ignore her or make attempts to distance yourself from her. You could also, alternatively, see what her husband thinks, and if he thinks differently, try and band together and use your neighbor's feelings for her husband as a sort of kick in the pants to get her to see from out of the hole she's dug herself into. Other than that, I can't see any other options.

The quote "I cannot reason you out of a position you did not reason yourself into" comes to mind. Good luck! I hope everything works out.

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