My housemate went to a quiz night, he’s just walked in and said – ” We won the quiz and we had a shit hot name – ‘Quiz on my face and tell me I’m pretty’. “
We had work done to our house a few years ago during which my husband made his own, and changed joint, decisions without communicating with me. I believe decisions that effect both of us should be made together. We are about to have further work carried out. At the initial consultation with the builder (at which my husband was not present) he said he would ask my husband to make the decision about an aspect. I didn’t react verbally but he might have seen me reacting non verbally! I am now anxious that decisions will again be made by my husband without me. It’s bad enough as it is but I am also the one paying for all the work (as I earn quite a bit more) and I paid for the majority of the house too! When I spoke to my husband about my desire to be involved in making decisions he swore at me and is sleeping in the spare room tonight! The only small saving grace is that I don’t have to suffer his snoring tonight.
I was raped by my abusive husband for over a decade. I thought it was normal, I thought it was what was supposed to happen in a marriage because he told me it was. To him, women are things, not people. A woman has consented to sex because she has a ring on her finger. Afterall as he’s asked me dozens of times, “Can a man really rape his wife?” Yes, that was asked of me month after month year after year. It wasn’t until I truly understood what abuse was and what rape is that I was able to find my strength and get out of a horribly abusive and manipulative marriage. During this process of finding my freedom I’ve been shamed by “friends”, I’ve been told that it can’t be “that bad”, I’ve been told he’s changed and I should go back to him “for the kids”. And, possibly one of the worst was being told by a Guardian Ad Litem on the custody case that: “A man can only rape his wife once, after that its your fault for staying.” Yes this was said to me, in all seriousness. Sexism is everywhere. Its in our courts, its in the “justice” system that really just takes away rights of women rather than protecting the rights of women. Lies have been told about me and my children are not safe. Despite telling the courts about the abuse and the danger they turn a blind eye and my children are required to spend half their time with a man that currently abuses them. My personal fight is not over and my fight against a society that can raise a man like my estranged husband has only just begun. I will be teaching my daughters a new script. I will be teaching my daughters that their character matters more than their appearance. That a boy who hits isn’t showing you he likes you, he’s showing you he doesn’t respect you. I will be teaching my daughters boundaries and how to respect herself despite what others will say and do to try to damage that self-respect. I hope that this is only the beginning of world-wide change. No one should have to face this alone. I am behind you men and women that are facing abuse. I will stand with you.
One of the advantages of social media I think is that it brings transparency into our lives;it brings out to the fore how we interact with each other and sometimes it can make for unpleasant surprises. The person whom I am married to I have known him for 15 years. Whats App revealed a side of him which I have never known or even suspected. Last year when I saw a nude pic of a woman on his phone and saw him viewing it with a smile on his face it did baffle me. I remember checking with him immediately as to why he receives such messages on his phone and his reply was that someone whom he doesn’t know keeps forwarding such messages on the ‘jokes’ forum that he is on; remarking further that he doesn’t understand as to why they send such ‘stuff’. A year later when I saw him and his ‘core group of friends(as he considers them)’ – the Brave Boys Club – exchange messages on Whats App and commenting on it with emoticons of laughing etc. it really shocked me. These were messages which had a photograph of a woman’s breasts against wordings which said ” boobs are the key: if he’s sad show the boobs; if he’s upset show the boobs….”; another one which had a caricature of two women racing across the finishing line with a focus on their chests against the wordings of ” for success, every inch matters” which had comments of one saying it is a close finish and following it up with emoticons of laughing. These are men in their late 30’s, married and with children. When I confronted my husband about it, his reply is that it’s just ‘private men talk’ and that it means nothing. Digging into his emails( without his knowledge) further I came across various other similar messages – ‘a poem of a man’ with wordings such as “I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac with big tits who owns a bar on a golf course….’ and various other ‘jokes’ with lewd images and carricatures of women. When I took it up and confronted him further and I tell him that I find it to be a crude, base and revolting manner of perceiving women and speaking of women – it is made out to be as me overreacting; after all, each of these men have a wife, a mother and some with daughters is what he says in reply. “It means nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me, it’s just men -talk and that he has no desire of being the pope around ” – is what I hear him repeatedly saying when I keep raising this matter with him. For me the fact that he says it means nothing and his whole indifference to it is much more disturbing and alarming. Disgusted, distressed and shocked it ended up with me going into a tailspin trying to make sense of things. It ended up with me reading Sigmund Freud – The Joke and its Relation To The Unconscious( which addressed areas such as ‘tendentious jokes’ and nature of people who resort to such jokes) and Pope John Paul II’s Theology Of The Body. Also browsing the internet grappling with my new discoveries and confusions I came across the Everyday Sexism Project and some of the sentences on the webpage resonated with me: · so-used-to-it-you-almost-just-accept-it sexism · Even if you’ve got used to thinking that it is ‘just the way things are’ · They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you dont even feel able to protest. I realised that in my husband’s world such manner of talk has been just ‘normalised’ – the Brave Boys Club are his childhood friends and this has been their nature of talk for the last 25 years which he admitted to. We have a 6 year old son and I worry about the sort of influences and values he will pick up at his own home. My husband and I have had a couple of counselling sessions on this – and there has been some ‘partial’ agreement on what he will not do anymore and apart from the things that he will still continue with he will do nothing to stop such graphic messages from reaching his phone( though agreeing to delete it once it has been received). As far as I am concerned, as long as my husband continues receiving such messages on his phone as often as it does now and apart from the chipping-away impact and the ‘normalising impact’ it has on the person involving and engaging in such talk, I still run the risk of my son glancing on some inappropriate images when he is fiddling and playing with the phones. What then are the impressions a six year old is picking up, seeing these images on his father’s own phone? I am determined that I will do whatever is in my capacity and ability that my son will grow up learning to look at and perceive, and speak of all women with respect and dignity and for that I know the efforts have to begin with me and tackling things under my own roof to start of with. On one thing my husband is right though and I agree with him wholeheartedly on that– that such ‘men talk’ has got nothing to do with me or other women. It has, I believe,got everything to do with one’s own nature and the collective nature of Brave Boys Club in this case. As long as such is the ‘private- men- talk’ I think they still abet and contribute to a culture and mind-set that objectifies women even though outwardly they project otherwise. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – for me it seems like the journey of demanding that women be perceived and spoken of respectfully and with dignity begins with my one step right at home – my husband and his band of Brave Boys – come what may.