Festive Feuds: Tis’ the Season for Intergenerational Warfare!
You’ve been told it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in excess of twenty times and, despite feeling about as festive as the mice living in your rickety student flat-share, the prospect of going home for a few days, to scrounge some free food and bev, motivates you to try to revive that long-dead Christmas spirit of your childhood. However, the resuscitation efforts will eventually flounder and fail when you remember one thing: that going home for Christmas involves spending a prolonged amount of time with your extended family. You love those relatives dearly, via bi-annual postcards and birthday messages, but you will inevitably end up locked in some wine-fueled dispute about the Christmas dinner, snowflakes, the patriarchy, and other festive things. For lo, tis’ the season for intergenerational warfare!
Christmas as an adult is a vastly different experience to that of your childhood years; fewer presents, more booze and, predictably, various opportunities for miscommunication and misunderstanding. The coming together of the family is one of the best parts of the season but it can also breed tensions that are about as combustible as an electrical fairy-light fire, burning up the tinsel and decimating the tree. Navigating problematic family definitely gets harder with age. As a kid, presents where your biggest concern, as a young adult you’re now pretty secure in your own ideas and ideals. You know what you care about and what values you want to defend, and Christmas can make you excruciatingly aware of how different, and sometimes offensive, older generations’ views can be. Most people will be familiar with the blatantly sexist or racist relative, you know the one who provokes the eye rolls and exasperated sighs. But I want to talk about the more insidious type, the covert misogynist, the ones who can’t see the sexism manifesting in their own behaviour. The ones who revel in antagonising feminist ‘fussing’, the ones who joke about the ‘feminazis’ and ridicule the too easily offended ‘snowflakes’ of Millennial and Generation Z. Having a serious conversation with them feels like walking a tightrope between exploding with rage and trying to keep the peace for the sake of Santa.
But should you really turn the other cheek? The Christmas period offers a unique scenario of antagonism and attempts to keep an armistice. No one wants to make anyone uncomfortable, but equally, you shouldn't have to put up with feeling uncomfortable yourself, just for the good of family relations. Don’t feel you have to apologise for reading Judith Butler because the idea of gender fluidity makes your mansplaining uncle uncomfortable. Calling out someone on their bigotry will make them reconsider what they say in the future, even if only for a second. Be clear and inoffensive and don’t give them any excuse to react defensively. Don’t let relatives cajole you into a fury when they make joking statements at someone's expense, stand up for yourself and other women and allow yourself to say, “please don’t interrupt me, I was talking”. You have as much a right to speak as they do. Sip your Christmas beverage and remember at the end of the day you can always walk away if someone is so bigoted, they refuse to listen to you or anyone else. Just because a relative reacts with a defensive outcry to you pointing out that, “hey your sexism is showing”, doesn't mean you are in the wrong for calling it out. Microaggressions aren't fun for anyone and “it was only a joke” really isn’t a valid excuse anymore. It might have washed in the 70s but, seeing as we no longer observe the awful hair or fashion trends from that era, why should we keep up its outdated bad logic? You have a voice and the ability to use it is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. So, this Christmas, go forth and argue, defend and discuss.