My friend and inspiration Michelle Pendergrass posted a status on Facebook today lining out just a few of the times she was discriminated against or belittled for being female. With the news buzzing lately about killer Elliot Rodger it’s hard not to find yourself in these kinds of discussions in the flesh-to-flesh world as well.
It’s really important to talk about all this, I think, to share our experiences with this mortal coil. So taking her lead I want to pass on a few experiences, no expectations or pity, please. And feel free to share your own experiences in the comments.
-I was given two life roles that were acceptable choices by my mother growing up: pastor’s wife or missionary’s wife. Nothing else was an option.
-Until fifth grade I was privately educated in Christian schools (there were three people in my 3rd grade class and it was taught by my mother), the kind that only used A Beka books (if you don’t click the link, they’re a Young Earth creationist, bible literalist company. If you’ve seen a WTF picture on the net of a completely anti-science science textbook it was probably an A Beka book.) The kind that only thought it was acceptable for female to wear pants if it was under their dress on the way to school in below freezing weather. Removing the pants was the first thing we had to do daily. As in, we could not leave the church foyer until we’d done so.
-Furthermore not only did I go to school in such and environment, my mom worked in the daycare and summer care as well, AND it was our church. So from about 6:30 to 4pm or at late as 6pm five days a week I was there. And for 2-3 hours at least every Sunday. Plus some Sunday nights. And Wednesdays were Awana, so I was there until at least 8pm those nights. And some Saturdays if there was a special event or something.
-My mom kicked my dad out and divorced him when she caught him with another woman for the third time. She told me multiple times that divorcing him was the biggest mistake of her life.
-My mom was diagnosed with cancer not long after that. One day some of her sisters came down for a surprise visit and discovered me, at six years old, trying to feed my two younger siblings (one was an infant) and get the house clean and take care of her because she was too sick to get out of bed. Because if she was incapable it was my job to take care of everyone.
-A day after she died an aunt pulled me aside and told me that I was the woman of the family now and it was my job to take care of my siblings. I was nine.
-My dad continued the trend, leaving the responsibility for cleaning and parenting my siblings up to me. At one point I was told to “take care of the situation” when my sister was having a screaming tantrum in a Kroger. So I dragged her, literally, out to the car and tried to restrain her. She was five, I was eleven. She hit me multiple times and kicked me. She ended up kicking the windshield of the car and breaking it. We both got screamed at.
-My dad never said a nice word about my mom, not even after she died. She was always “a bitch”. Even when I tried to talk about her as part of my grieving only a few days, weeks and months after she’d died.
-Every time a girlfriend broke up with my dad he would tell us, very clearly, that she’d gone back to her abusive ex and if that was what she wanted in a man over a nice guy like him she deserved to be hit. Every. Time. Every. Woman.
-He had a girlfriend for almost two years before we moved to Kentucky. About six months after we moved here they broke up. He one night told me that he had proposed to her twice, and she turned him down both times because of us kids. She didn’t want us. Then the bit about her being a bitch and going back to her ex who hit her.
-The highest compliment I ever received from my dad was the night when I found him drunk and passed out on the toilet and got him back to bed (and cleaned up after him). He told me I was going to make someone a great wife someday.
-Simple things, like providing my sister and I with correct sized clothes, underwear, shoes and tooth brushes was a massive hassle. But my dad took my brother to skate shops and the mall multiple times a week, blowing hundreds of dollars on skateboards and Nikes. One school year my brother and my dad bought a $200 pair of shoes at the mall. That same trip my sister and I were given $200 to split for the entirety of our school supplies, from backpacks to clothes and shoes and pencils.
-Things deteriorate. He drank more. I fell in with a group of people who started out as my friends, but then began a long cycle of making fun of me, bullying me, stealing from me etc. I was not allowed to turn on the heat in my own home. Notes denying me the right to eat the food in my own kitchen appeared on the fridge. If I stayed in a room with any of them they would begin going on about what a fat, pimply, ugly bitch I was. That “they couldn’t get out of bed in the morning because my rolls covered the floor and they were afraid of getting trapped”. My belongings were stolen so many times, to the point where I bought a door handle with a lock for my room. It was broken before it was even put in the door.
-I was told multiple times, in a day, that the state of the house was my fault for not cleaning it.
-My dad had multiple drunken conversations with me (he was drunk, not me) about how much he loved women and how great of a lover he could be to my brother’s female friends. He liked to talk about their anatomy too. They were all 2-4 years younger than me.
-I once confronted him on how I was being treated by the “friends” that he let live with us. He was sympathetic and said he would make it stop. Later that I night I heard him talking about it with them. He was laughing at how angry I had been and agreeing that I was just a fat lazy slob and they were contributing to the house so they mattered and I didn’t.
-My mom left us a small inheritance. Once I got close to 18 he started talking about “how much of it should be his”. When I finally moved out he outright demanded $14000 from me “for raising you”. He pushed us for this money a lot. To the point where Jason got mad and confronted him over the phone over it. Jason said that there was no way I could have borrowed that kind of money from him and he wouldn’t have noticed. My dad said “She’s a lying whore. You shouldn’t trust her.” I know this for a fact because I was on another extension when he said it.
-Apparently he also had loose lips because a few months after I moved out a woman confronted me at a restaurant to tell me what a horrible child I was for lying about my dad in all those ways and treating him so terribly. He “told her all those things I’d been saying about him and they were terrible lies.” I had never met that woman before in my life.
-Remember that bit about all women leaving him for abusive exes? I received calls from two family members wanting to know if I need to “be rescued”. Apparently he told my whole family that Jason (who was the first person who I ever remember defending me against my dad) was beating me. To this day most of my family still believes it. For a while they refused to have any contact with him, or listen to me talk about him at all, even the happy stuff (because the happy stuff was just my desperate way to try to convince them that he isn’t abusive). We’ve both stopped trying to maintain a relationship with them.
-When I told my grandmother that I was pregnant with Mister her exact response was “Why do you girls keep doing this to me?”
-There are multiple acquaintances that I see 3-4 times a year each who I have to dress for. I have to wear loose t-Shirts and pants because if I wear even a V-neck they are incapable of speaking to my face.
-I was hired at Burger King because I was “a nice responsible girl”, like the other nice responsible girls who were all hired as well. We were all big bossomed and given shirts several times too small to wear as uniform shirts, with management refusing to order correct-sized ones.
-At Borders one of my coworkers would always make crude sexual comments, including asking me to blow him and also calling me a “fat bitch” whenever we worked directly together. When he stole on camera in front of me and I reported him because I feared for my job (that whole ON CAMERA thing) he got a bunch of my coworker riled up on facebook and they refused to speak to me at work, including a manager who refused to come help with customers and register issues. They bragged on their facebook page about “punishing” me.
-At Petsmart I was called a bitch by customers a few times. Once it was an associate and I, who were both cursed at and called “stupid bitches” by a client. We called in a manager for help and the manager forced us to perform the services for free. (And the coworker was on commission, so it was a double blow to her.)
-After my dad had a stroke my brother told me it was my fault for not “taking care of him the way you should be.” He expected me to let my dad move into my house and support him after the stroke. He hasn’t spoken to me since I told him no and he said I was just making excuses to not “do my job”. (That excuse is that I refuse to have a sexually abusive man around my children.)
-I to this day cannot call most members of my family without getting a guilt trip over no longer speaking to my dad. They say I should forgive him, that he feels bad for his actions.
-Which is why he told my sister she had to choose between speaking to me and speaking to him. My sister is one of my best friends these days and doesn’t regret her choice at all.
I know that it’s completely possible I just know a lot of assholes. But my life has been large swaths of belittling and emotional abuse. So much so that I don’t have a lot of the “bully called me a bitch” “group of guys catcalled me” stories. I’m sure some stuff like that happened, but it pales to the other things that were happening.
Furthermore the constant second guessing, disbelief and accusations of abuse I get from my family is doubly abusive. Saying these things are hurtful enough, but most of my interactions with them as an adult have been passive aggressive attempts to shame me for “choosing” Jason over them.
I don’t know what is harder for them to believe, that I am an adult who is capable of making good decisions; or that I am worthy of being loved.
#YesAllWomen is important to me, because it is not at all how I was raised.