Stop attending the family events. Clearly, your in-laws don’t care if you’re there or not, and you don’t mention your husband putting any pressure on you to attend, so why bother going? Life’s too short for this drama. If your husband wants to maintain a relationship with his family though, you should try to respect that and not stand in his way, despite how hurt you may be by the way they treat you (and, by extension, him). You ask about cutting ties with these people, and, while there’s no reason you should feel the need to show up where you aren’t respected or even wanted, cutting ties from your own family is complicated. If your husband isn’t ready to make that step, give him the space and support he needs to figure out the best way to maintain contact with these people. That he went years without speaking to his family because they wouldn’t stop inviting his ex to family functions says a lot about his loyalty to you. Please remember that should he decide to continue attending family events that you may decide to skip.
Do young people still really have collections of DVDs? Maybe that’s the issue here. Why don’t you get rid of them? Maybe the idea of that collection being in your home is what’s bugging you. And maybe it’s not that “everyone” is OK with the objectification of women that’s eating you up, but the idea that your boyfriend is seemingly OK with it. Maybe you see these DVDs in your home full of women being objectified and you wonder if he looks at you the same way. Does he see you as a woman enjoying and owning her sexuality, or does he see you through the male gaze — as a woman whose sexuality exists for his enjoyment and nothing more? That might make me feel a little panicky, too, if I worried about the way my partner saw and experienced me/ my sexuality. Talk to your fiancé about this. Make sure you know in your heart that he sees and loves and respects all of you. Make sure he respects women in general.
As for how other men view women — that’s a fight we will continue having for a long time. But we aren’t going to win important battles that advance equality by panicking in the corner over images of women in strip clubs. I mean, come on. Be stronger than that. We women are stronger than that. We’re going to win battles by discussing our concerns about inequality with our male allies, by running for political office and electing female leaders, and by raising our children to respect all people, regardless of sex, race, and sexual identity. Instead of letting a patriarchal system that degrades women emotionally debilitate you, funnel your outrage into fuel and use it to fight back. We’re not going to get anywhere if women like you let a collection of DVDs slow them down.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].