Thanks to reading blogs (such as by Samantha Field and Libby Anne) and reflecting and writing over the years, I can finally pinpoint what caused the behavior of all sorts of boys/guys/men in my past (and present). Makes me wish I could go back in time with newfound confidence and set them straight.
Part of it was often narcissism and abuse, yes. But that’s not the big driver. It’s quite simple: Patriarchy explains where they got the idea that it was their place to lecture me on how to act, what to wear, whether to put on makeup, how to do my hair. That they got to decide what we would do, not me. If I wanted to do something, I was a slut; if they wanted to do something and I didn’t, they kept pushing. They could have all sorts of complaints about me, including ones with no basis in reality, but I wasn’t allowed to object, or to complain about them.
Part of the problem was when–friend or lover–they thought they got to call the shots in the relationship, and I did as well.
To see that this is a real issue, note, for example, the episode “Betty, Girl Engineer” from Father Knows Best. I reviewed it here. When Betty decides she should be an engineer, everybody begins to tell her that it’s ridiculous for a girl to be an engineer. As I wrote,
She signs up for a work-study position surveying, but is shamed out of it by the supervisor. However, instead of telling everyone where they can stick it, and following her dreams, she succumbs to the brainwashing, puts on a dress, and the chauvinist pig supervisor becomes the latest in her long string of boyfriends. Father even encourages the chauvinist pig to lecture Betty out of her silly dreams (since apparently girls need to be taught by men what to think). She ditches her silly whim of being an engineer, and becomes a Proper Girl (TM).
This is a blatant demonstration of men having the idea that they can lecture women on what to think, that women can’t do it themselves, and society encouraging it.
(Now please, before I get hate e-mail, I am NOT a man-hater, nor do I see every man as an abuser/harasser/chauvinist. But this is a very real problem women have been dealing with for millennia. MOST of the men I’ve known have NOT behaved badly toward me. And yes, many women are horrible people as well. Many of my friends are men who are perfectly respectful. But for the ones who have behaved badly, long-ingrained patriarchy–only now being torn down in society–is to blame. One need only look at today’s politics and various realities inside churches to see that such patriarchy is still alive and well, despite years of fighting it. “It’s just locker room talk” leads to presidency; wives told to submit to abusers.)
My #Metoo post helped drive the point home for me. It was a repost of things I wrote years ago; as I reviewed it, and read responses to the #Metoo movement, I got a new insight into what was in the minds of my harassers and others. For example:
–Sexual harassment from guys in elementary and high school who apparently thought they had the privilege to do whatever they liked, even in the middle of class.
–Guys making catcalls to me as I walked down the street, when I just wanted to get from here to there, not deal with their crap. What made them think they could do this? I never heard girls yelling out of their cars at guys. Even girls sometimes harassed me on the street!
–Even a teacher religiously and sexually harassing me–in the middle of class, with witnesses. What gave him the idea he could do this?
–Guys telling me to “smile” when I’m just walking down the street or sitting in church or whatever. One time, I was sitting in the car waiting for my husband, quietly musing and listening to music, minding my own business, when some man came along and actually started berating me for not smiling! What the f***? What gives them the idea they can do this?
–In college, Shawn kept pushing me to various forms of petting and sexual activity, even when I kept saying I didn’t want to go that far, telling me it wasn’t sinful. When I began to change my mind and give in, even want it, now I was the slut letting him sin. Whatever I did, was wrong.
And to explain why he would do these things but refused me the dignity of being my boyfriend, he kept lecturing me on how I didn’t act the way he liked (I was an introvert), that I should put on makeup, that I should show more skin like my friend did (I wasn’t comfortable doing that), that I should wear jeans (I hate how rough they feel), that I should change my hair.
When my friends gave me a makeover, he said I looked like a different person–and made it sound like I should do that from now on. Okay, so apparently I have to look like a different person and not myself to please you? Some people actually think I’m fine as I am. See there, this idea that he should tell me how to dress, how to act, how to look!
He also told me other people said bad things about me. He told me all sorts of things about me that weren’t even true, according to all of my friends (even the blunt one), and yet these were his reasons not to date me. He also never bothered to get to know the real me, just kept his concept of me. And then, finally, he decided we shouldn’t be friends anymore because I “let” him do these things, and he was disgusted by me.
It’s from reading blogs by people such as Samantha Field and Libby Anne that I now see how Shawn’s behavior was driven by Christian patriarchy and the Purity Culture, how this has been screwing up the heads of women everywhere for years, making them feel like sluts no matter who did what, making them feel like they’re responsible for the behavior of someone else.
–Phil, who thought I should be an obedient wife, always doing whatever he said without complaint, no matter if my needs were ignored, no matter if what he wanted was degrading, disgusting, painful. And when I wasn’t like this, used shame, anger, withholding normal sexual relations, even telling his friends I was abusive, to punish me.
–Then Phil’s friend, after the breakup, telling me I was going to be an “old maid,” that I was the only girl he felt the need to say this to, that every other girl knew instinctively what he was about to tell me. Then he proceeded to lecture me on how I should dress, how I should act, my morality, and even what career path I should follow. Because obviously I needed a man to tell me these things and couldn’t figure it out for myself. Because obviously my own wants are not important, and all that matters is if I please men with what I do.
And what’s up with “old maid” anyway? See there, this guy who pretended to be a forward-thinking man, yet kept to the old-fashioned idea that a girl who doesn’t marry should be called the pejorative “old maid,” while a man who doesn’t marry is a respectable “bachelor.” The very concept of an “old maid” is that no man wanted you, so you’ve been tossed aside. But a bachelor chooses to be a bachelor.
–Then there was the guy, a friend of my now-husband, cornering me one day and telling me I need to be more “lively,” whatever the heck that means. Apparently, yet again, my natural temperament and behavior was not good enough.
–My “best friend” Richard lecturing me–yet again–on how my natural temperament and behavior not only were not good enough, but were actually supremely offensive to his wife. (Here’s a case of a woman having a patriarchal attitude, because she, too, tried to tell me how I should act, what I should think, etc.)
He scolded me on what I believed, whenever it didn’t match up with what HE thought it should be. He scolded me for my politics. He scolded me for not acting the way HE thought I should in various cases. Such as, he scolded and shamed me for saving letters and e-mails to and from friends.
He scolded me for having an equal marriage instead of one where the husband was in charge. He scolded me for thinking ecumenism was a good idea. (His wife even scolded me for believing in evolution.) He scolded me for not liking gory movies.
He said he wanted to “strangle” me because I–despite all his past scolding–insisted on believing that I have NVLD. Because obviously–despite my years of research into it–he knew better than me, being a man and all. (A mutual friend, Todd, also says–by the way–that Richard bullied HIM with psychology as well.)
Basically, Richard was very narcissistic, yes, and also very much of the idea that he got to tell me what to do!
And then when one of his friends sexually harassed me in an online chat room, not only did his wife invite that friend to their house, but a year later, when they invited this guy to their house AGAIN, Richard actually scolded me and called me “ridiculous” for still being upset over what the guy did. He said it wasn’t harassment because it was online and that isn’t “real.”
So–a man gets to tell me when I’m being sexually harassed now? And if I disagree, and refuse to forgive someone who never repented of his actions, I’m being ridiculous?
And what gave his friend the idea in the first place that he could harass me, that he could decide whether women should shave intimate areas, that he could then say that he only dates women who do, as if I even cared at all what he thought, considering that I’m married and have zero interest in dating him?
(And no, I never told him whether I did or didn’t, because it was none of his freakin’ business. This crap came out of nowhere with no encouragement or engagement from me.)
What gave another guy in the chat room the idea that he could tell me to post pictures, and then complain to Richard’s wife when I didn’t? What got Richard’s wife to say “You know how [they] are” instead of telling him off for being a pig? What got another woman in that chat room to join in on the harassment?
What got the original harasser to then ban me from the channel when I hadn’t done a thing wrong, and in fact had sat there quietly through most of this, afraid to say anything, appalled?
Years later, when I told an old college friend what happened, she kept saying, “What the hell?” and she, too, pegged Richard as a narcissist. Seems that she, too, has had experience with narcs.
–And, of course, there are the situations, apparently common to women everywhere, of not feeling they can bring up complaints, because even wonderful, feminist husbands get offended. Of husbands leaving their stuff lying around on the floor, so wives try to give them a chance to be a big boy and pick the stuff up, but days later, the wives finally pick it up themselves. I always thought this was just a Mars-Venus, male-female difference, but this blog post blames it on ingrained patriarchal attitudes that are tough to shake. This is one of the blog posts that shocked my thinking.
Now I want to go back in time, find Shawn, find all of them, and tell them, “Who are you to tell me what to think/feel/do? I can decide those things for myself! You don’t get to do it just because you’re male.”
Of course, at the time I may have been too timid, too intimidated, to say anything. Like many have said recently, women often keep quiet so as not to rock the boat, bring more trouble on themselves.
I recently read a letter to an advice columnist (I think it was Dear Prudence) by someone who had been sexually assaulted, but felt the #Metoo trend was shaming her for not speaking out.
Not only is #Metoo NOT obligatory, but some of the comments I found underneath the column were disturbing. I got the impression that some people thought #Metoo was exploitative. So, first we are shamed into silence. Finally, we get the courage to speak out and speak up about what happened–and, yet again, we’re shamed for doing so?
Just as I was shamed for speaking up years ago about abuse I’d experienced, my motives questioned, told to be quiet.
Not only should a victim NOT be shamed for NOT speaking up, but a victim should also NOT be shamed FOR speaking up.
When I was young, despite decades of feminism, we still kept hearing how we should do things to please men, rather than being more assertive. It wasn’t just back in the 50s, with Kitty on Father Knows Best being told that she had to stop being a tomboy, and start wearing dresses and being manipulative, if she wanted to get a boyfriend.
No, still in the 80s and 90s, we heard things like, If you want to get a guy’s attention, do this or that to get him to notice you and ask you out. If he doesn’t ask you out, he’s not that in to you anyway, so forget it. Let him say “I love you” first lest you freak him out. And polls still showed that guys wanted to do the pursuing.
Also, until recently, I didn’t realize just how widely this reaches until I saw this post which was widely shared on social media three years ago. There were things I didn’t even realize were part of the system of power and control, because I had always just believed “that’s how it is.”
There are still many women in churches being taught that men have to dominate over them/the churches.
This is still a problem. We’re not imagining it. Time to stop being surprised that it happens, and start stopping it.
I could keep going, but dang, my word count is getting high. I’ll post now….