A kitchen fitter was at my house the other day and noticed the fairly major garden landscaping works outside. We discussed for a while what my husband and I were doing out there. “He’s doing it all himself is he?” the builder asked despite me referring to “we” and “us” throughout the whole conversation. My husband and I have done just as much heavy digging as eachother. So annoying that the builder just assumed I wasn’t involved. Minor and everyday sexism.
Three years ago, two outbuildings on our farm burnt down in the early hours of the morning. I was the first to wake up, and the first one outside to try to save any of the animals and items inside the buildings. Because my husband has a disability, he stayed inside to call 911. The animals burned first, so I only managed to get a car out of one building. But that was about it. It was extremely devastating, and I still wake up in the night thinking things are burning. Later, the insurance investigators came out to try to figure out the cause of the fire. Even though I had been the one out the door first, the only one to get close enough to the fire to actually try to save anything, and the primary witness of the origin and spread of the fire, they kept asking when my husband would get home so that they could ask him about how things Really happened.
My parents are divorced, now, and I don’t see my dad anymore, of my own choice. But when when my parents were still together, I remember my dad would get home from work, sit on the sofa and watch television, almost everyday of the week. My mum didn’t work so he expected, when he got home from work, that all the dishes would have been cleaned, the clothes would have been washed and the whole house would have been tidied. Then for dinner to be cooked and laid on the table once she had picked up my brother and me from school. In theory, it sounds easy enough for her to get all this done in one day, but that’s just theory. There are so many more little things she has to do and everything takes time. If any of it wasn’t done my dad would say: “Well what the hell have you been doing all day?” as if she had been sat at home twiddling her thumbs. Married women with children who don’t go to work are often called ‘Housewives’. But personally, that doesn’t make sense. She isn’t married to the house, is she? Though equal rights have come far from when women couldn’t even vote (in some countries they still can’t), there is still this expectation that men have of women and of their wives. If a wife is a stay-at-home-mum then she has chosen to look after her children, the future of this world, than to earn money. Many men still think, “Well I earn the money for this household so I don’t need to do much else.” But that isn’t right. That isn’t being equal partners. This condescending outlook is part of the reason my parents aren’t still together, and part of the reason for many other couple’s divorces. Most people have normalised this behaviour so it is often overlooked, especially in the man’s perspective who doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. But it is the women who notice it, get fed up of it, and stand up against it. Yet when they do, they are seen as nitpicking at the cracks in the relationship, like they’re almost trying to create a problem. I wish this didn’t happen. I wish that women, or even people in general, were not stereotyped or judged for their gender. When I say I’m a feminist, most people think I’m a ‘bra-burner’ or that I’m ‘bias to the female gender’. It’s like people don’t even know the true meaning of feminism. If a guy was a feminist, he wouldn’t be questioned on how he must hate men. Yet many people would ask, “How can you be a feminist if your not female?” I think feminism is underrated and not enough people talk about it, openly. The feminist movement is quite a slow one at that as there is always going to be someone who disagrees and with such things as female chauvinistic pigs, it seems rather hopeless. I think there should be lots of safe places online and IRL for people to talk about these issues, otherwise nothing is ever going to change. Awareness is key, and I just don’t think there’s enough of it.
The worst was when I was 11 and my uncle tried to get into bed with me. He was supposed to be babysitting, and he’d got drunk. I can’t remember how I got out of it but I did and got to the phone where Mum and Dad had left the number of where they were. What puzzles me still is that somehow I already knew that if I told my Mum what really happened she wouldn’t believe me or would be angry with me so all I said was “Uncle Ted is acting funny”. They came straight home and Mum’s story was then just that he was drunk. But a little while later when i tried to tell her what really happened she sort of got embarrassed and shut me up, accused me of making it up. Like I say I kind of knew that would happen, but don’t know how i knew. I know this parent-denial thing is common but it’s tough when your own mother won’t believe you.
I’ve known from a young age – maybe 13 or so – that I don’t want to have kids when I get older. Most Women coo and delight in being pregnant, feeling the baby ‘kick’, planning nurseries, all that jazz. Personally, I would find that horrifying; something growing inside you, moving around, feeding from your nutrition… Then the excruciating pain of delivery, recovery, all while knowing you’re responsible for a living human other than yourself. “You’ll change your mind when you’re older”, “What about your husband?”, “Don’t you want something to be proud of when you’re old and gray?”, “You’ll regret not having one”, Are just some of the responses or reactions I’ve gotten. As if the only thing I’d be proud of in life is a child, as if I’m not fulfilling my role as a woman by not getting pregnant, as if my future partner’s decision of wanting kids would outweigh mine. Fuck off with that nonsense. Others can have as many kids as they want, but I’m in control of my womb, and I’m not sorry to say that there will be no little wrinkly fetus inside of it for as long as I live.
Often times I click into my YouTube channel on my phone and I’m presented with an advertisement for the same game: Kings Of Avalon: Dragon Warfare which displays a full length body image of woman wielding a sword, except this woman is highly sexualised. This game character looks like Pamela Anderson in a bikini. She is clearly sexualised and designed to titillate the male game player. I click on the video to send feed back because I’m so angry and sick of this same sexist ad being presented to me all the time and the video starts to play. From the theme of sword and sorcery an image is displayed in the video of a contemporary setting – just for a few seconds, but it shows a sexualised woman on a film set (or something) holding a cigarette. All of this sexualisation of women is being presented to me – a straight woman – as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. As if women are not human but sex bunnies who spend their days pouting and applying make up. My anger today is directed towards YouTube (who don’t care one bit about sexism / misogyny) and the game designers.
I’ve not told many people this, not even my mother, and she’s my closest friend and confidant. I moved away from my boyfriend after high school, and one spring he came to visit me at my family home. We stayed in separate rooms, but one morning after everyone except me had woken up and gone downstairs, he snuck into my room. He wanted to have sex, but I was uncomfortable with it and said no. He didn’t take no as an answer, and he held me down and did it anyway. I was 18, I wasn’t on birth control, and he didn’t use protection. I didn’t cry, even though it felt wrong. I just accepted it. I guess I thought that since he was my boyfriend it was okay. It wasn’t until several years later, (even after I found out that he had been arrested for raping a woman he was seeing in college) that I realized that what he did was not normal, and was not acceptable. I don’t know why I thought that sexual assault was okay if it was your boyfriend. Maybe because I was never taught (in school, or at home) what constituted sexual violence, so I didn’t recognize it happening to me. Even knowing what I know now, I don’t know if I would have reported it. I wouldn’t have wanted to upset his life and his future in any way. How is it that a woman can be sexually assaulted, and continue to believe that the man’s life is more valuable than her own?
Discussing a recent documentary about Julia Gillard’s leadership challenge with two friends, our male friend complains complains about Gillard’s reluctance to admit that part of her motivation to challenge Rudd was that she wanted power and would enjoy the leadership. According to my friend a natural instinct – not admitting this made her look disingenious in his eyes. “She should just say it – it’s bollocks to talk around it,” he said. My female friend and I simultaneously burst out, “But she’s a woman!” Trying to explain that the desire for power is viewed very differently in men and women and that openly admitting to leadership ambitions may constitute moral suicide for a female politician was fruitless. We were all surprised and frustrated by our different understandings of gender dynamics.
July 2016, evening conversation at restaurant Cardomon with Husband (H), Sister-in-law (S), Brother-in-law (B), and me (L) and it went very closely like this. H: Nephew has a summer job at Kroger’s. B: Oh yeah? H: He’s in the Produce L : Bet he’s happy about that, given he wants to go to culinary school. S: You had a summer job at a grocer? H (intending to be humorous and that male-bonding thing): Yeah, so I told him he should transfer into the Meat. L; Why? H: Because when the women are in the locker their nipples get cold and it’s a good show. L (suddenly finding my firm parental voice I haven’t used in years): That’s misogyny! How dare you teach the next generation that shit. That shit has got to die out with the misogynists. our guests are not quiet and wide-eyed H: I am not a misogynist. I hire women. L: You are. This is an example of how it lives within you. H: Keep your voice down. Others will hear you. L: You need to undo the damage you have done. You need to tell Nephew, when you see him tomorrow, that you were wrong. H (to his Brother): I apologize for Lisa– L (interrupting): You do not need to apologize for me. You need to apologize to our Daughters, to our Nieces. H: You are out of line. You could tell your different take in private. L: I am addressing an aggressive attack on women. You were out of line. And I don’t have to wait. You chose to use this shit as public entertainment. Well, things did not get resolved. I am likely a non-person in his family now. Husband refuses to socialize with me, because “I might embarrass him again” still a year later. Frankly, that is preferable than being shut-down. I socialize elsewhere happily. Well,
I love my dad and have always felt supported by him so I was very saddened to hear him calmly explain to me recently that the reason women don’t play snooker is because “our arms don’t move like mens and our boobs would get in the way”. I tried to explain to him it was due to ingrained sexism preventing women feeling comfortable entering snooker clubs, leaning over tables to be potentially leered at and the burden of history of a sport that originated in gentlemens clubs. He just scoffed at me. My mum was thrown out of a pub in the 1970’s for refusing to stop playing pool with a female friend.