I think all of us women have a litany of harassment by men. I’ve got a long list of small things that fit right into rape culture and the culture of letting men do as they please: catcalls, touching, etc. I’ve nothing new to add to that well known list.
However, I’ve never written about the abuse my father, mother and brother have doled out in my life. I’ve bitched about June (mother) plenty, but I’ve not written about my father’s or brother’s misbehaviour over the years. Why is that? Because we are trained to gloss over the shit that men do and therefore don’t talk about it.
As a child, the harassment was very subtle. When I picked up my Yankee teacher’s accent in first grade, my father berated and shamed me in public for it. When I proved to be very smart and beyond my school grade, I was never moved forward, because that would hurt my brother’s feelings. Can’t have that. My father would brag about how smart I was to anyone who’d listen, but berate me for it constantly at home.
My father was very abusive to me in my teens. While my brother had his girlfriend practically move in DURING HIGH SCHOOL, and bought condoms by the gross, if I so much as took a boy to my room to listen to music, I was a whore. He once came to my boyfriend’s house drunk, brandishing a gun, because he knew we were having sex. I was 18-19 years old and did not need his permission to have sex! Rick threatened to shoot my boyfriend, then he threatened to shoot ME. It was horrifying and although I never talk about it, I damn sure remember it. Clearly.
When I decided to move to Atlanta to go to the Art Institute for a Music Business AA, my father really got an attitude. He berated me for going to school, saying I was being a smart ass. My parents had already kept me from attending University of Tennessee, so my continued attempts to get an education were very alarming to them. I’d always thought it was June who didn’t want to help me with expenses during this time, but my brother let slip that it was actually Rick who didn’t want to help me get through school. Fortunately, my grandmother did most of the helping. After the AA, I immediately enrolled at Georgia State to get a BA. This pissed my father off immensely. He regularly called me a smart ass and accused me of trying to “act smart”. He would also bitch at me if I used more than basic vocabulary; any word with 3 or more syllables was just too much. My mother has always called me stupid because I learned how to use computers and therefore “never use my brain.” These are the very same people who used to tell me I was SO SMART. Right. In my family, you can be smart as long as you never EVER let on that you are. They are militantly ignorant. If they don’t know it, they don’t need to know it. I am the enemy, because I question everything and am a fount of information. That shit is unacceptable to them.
Once, when my mother was in hospital for one of her many bouts of autoimmune disease, my father attacked me. I believe this was soon after I moved to Atlanta, so I’d have been 22 or so. We got into an argument about something mundane, like the dishwasher or something. He lost his shit. He threw me down on the floor and called me every name you can think of: whore, bitch, cunt, etc. I fought back and actually got him off me. This was one of the times I literally saw red (June caused the other). If there had been a gun or knife at hand, I truly believe I would have killed my father. Fortunately for him, there was nothing handy, so I hit back and scratched the shit out of his face. After I got away, I grabbed all my stuff and my cat, threw them in the car and drove to my grandmother’s house. I told her what happened and she was very upset. She called one of my father’s friends to have him call and talk to my father. I was concerned that my brother NOT go home for fear my father would attack him, too. Although now, looking back, that was never an issue. I was attacked because I am a girl and I am to be controlled by any means. I went to my friend Sonya’s house to spend the night and had to tell my mother about it the next day, as she lay in hospital. It was fucked up. I didn’t go back home for almost a year after that.
I’ve mentioned the many times I’ve been berated and abused by my mother. I’ve always written it off to her simply repeating how she had been treated growing up. Which is true, she was marginalised and treated like chattel by her mother. But that gives her no right to do that to me.
I’ve always given my father a pass because he was abused as a child by his father and his crazy mother. My father’s siblings were also abused (quite badly). But that doesn’t give him the right to abuse me.
I have always been told by my parents, “You’re SO SMART!”, but when I used my intelligence, I was berated. All my life I’ve heard “You’re SO smart! You can do anything! But why don’t you get an office job? Why aren’t you married?” They tell me how stupid I am at every opportunity – especially if my opinion differs from theirs. Another fave of my parents is “We are so WORRIED about you!” As if I am too stupid to manage to live my life without some sort of supervision. They were ecstatic when Nick and I got married. Presumably, because I would now have a caretaker and they could stop worrying. Or something.
My brother is also abusive to me. He has been handed everything his whole life, yet somehow, I am to blame for his problems. He calls me a horrible daughter/sister because I won’t move back home to help and tells me I’m too stupid to understand what he goes through. He accuses me of abandoning the family. I did no such thing, I SAVED MYSELF. I tried to save him, but he’d have none of it. So now he sits in that house, never having had a life, taking care of two miserable people who are waiting to die, his ungrateful daughter, her baby and her babydaddy. He takes every opportunity he can to try to pass the blame for his miserable life to me. He made his choices, I made mine.
The lesson I’ve learned is that no matter what happened to these people, that does NOT give them the right to pass that abuse on to me.
So, I’ve disconnected from them. They think I’m a horrible person. Whatever. I did what I had to do to preserve my sanity. I’ve no regrets.
That’s my litany; parts of it, anyway. The article that led to this post is called “Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence” by Anne Theriault.