Inside Misogyny: #YesAllWomen Live in a Sexist System

All the trigger warnings. Even that phrase makes me shudder. Violence, sexism, sexual assault, general and specific.

 

I did not know how to write about everything I have felt in the wake of the shootings that happened last Friday night at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on a street where my friend used to live. I don’t know anyone directly involved in the violence. The best I can do to explain why I have retreated from the world and felt so much grief is to say that I have known since I was 10 years old, since before I knew this word, that I live inside misogyny. Our culture is a sexist culture. The man who assaulted me felt entitled to my body.

The point of the conversation is to say, ‘Alright this is the system that we’ve created, but we can also change this system through awareness.’ – Soraya Chemaly

There have been over a million tweets that have used the hashtag #YesAllWomen to tell stories. We have been telling stories about being told to smile by a stranger on the street, to avoid “bad” boys as if date rape is the victim’s fault, and about surviving incest, rape, domestic violence. Until I heard Soraya Chemaly and other guests on NPR’s program On Point discuss the way that misogyny defines the way we live, I did not understand fully why this brought up such a primal fear in me.

Misogyny, as Chemaly points out, includes both the hatred of women/girls AND the hatred of all things feminine. Our boys are under so much pressure, because femininity is viewed as weak. Our girls are under so much pressure, because they are bombarded with the message that they must protect themselves from (masculine) aggression.

I am still processing my feelings on this. My conscious mind knows that this fear will not overwhelm me to the point of tears, for much longer. But I will not feel as safe as I might feel. I may no longer feel that I’m in immediate danger, the way my early trauma is telling me right now. But as the mother of a boy, and the spouse of a man, and a member of this society, it is my job to face my fears and work to change this system from inside it. I am fortunate to work with this man and this boy, my family, in this project. I grieve that my father and his father did more than I will ever write about, here, to perpetuate that system. Those stories, from those generations, aren’t mine to tell. I am free from admonitions to protect my reputation by not being alone with a boy “for no reason” and to “be careful who I date” that punctuated my teen years. Without actively telling me that women were less valuable than men, or that he hated women, my father told me to adapt to a misogynistic system. My family, now – my husband and son – will be working hard to question that system. As we question, and as we ask women, “tell me more of your story,” even when it might be tempting to defend the “good” men, we will change it.

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Rejecting Alicia Silverstone’s Kind, or Real Help for Moms

I am sick and tired of tools that work for some, that maybe ought to be shared, turning into Movements, and I’m rejecting Alicia Silverston’s Kind Movement for this reason. I don’t care how much of it is helpful, or good for the planet. I care that what works for her gets a label and (yet another) call for change to the way that we live. For the sake of the children, of course. My Facebook page blew up a little, about ten days ago, when I re-posted this:

In Alicia Silverstone’s new book “The Kind Mama”, she writes, “… though it’s less common among kind mamas, some women experience the blues after giving birth.” Kind and gentle mothers don’t get PPD like cruel and heartless ones do, dontcha know …

Could we all swear a solemn oath to stop following parenting advice from uninformed celebrities henceforth and forevermore?” (part of an original Facebook post by Katherine Stone)

The debate on my timeline was a healthy one, but I choose to reject Alicia Silverston’s Kind movement entirely, because this kind of statement from someone who is not a doctor or scientist does not fly with me. Really, though, what happened out of the public eye is what inspired this post.

I realized that I hadn’t heard from a friend with a new baby in awhile, so I checked in on her. I’m grateful to her for being honest with me–it had taken her awhile to bond with her new baby, she didn’t think she had experienced depression, but understands the phrase “baby blues” now, and empathizes with mothers who do suffer from PPD. She was feeling better in her third month of motherhood, for a few reasons, including more sleep, a more interactive infant, and space to herself. Her child sleeps well in a crib in another room, and she sleeps better this way, too. Why that should matter to anyone outside their family, I have no idea. Alicia cares, though. Cosleeping is the Kind way.

I remember reading something about mood, oxytocin (a “feel good” hormone) and cosleeping, but there are and must be exceptions. Read my friend’s words, and tell me that this person is not thoughtful and taking good care of herself and her family; she says that moving the baby out of her and her husband’s bedroom was “pivotal in getting more sleep and feeling worthy of having my own space.” 

Feeling worthy of having her own space.

Real help means saying, “Yes! Whatever makes you feel worthy, Mama! Because you ARE!” We don’t need another movement with more prescriptive advice about the Best Way to Mother. I know that Alicia Silverstone wants the “Kind” in her “movement” to mean more than the word usually does in conversation, and that she touches on aspects of self care, the environment. I don’t care. My blood boils every time I think about her words, because it smacks of the kind of self care that is really supposed to be selfless. It’s NOT self care if we are taking care of ourselves in order to be better citizens, wives, mothers, caretakers of the planet. No.

We practice self care because we are WORTHY of self care. We are kind to ourselves, whatever that may mean, because we deserve kindness from everyone.

I want my child, and my friend’s child, and all children, to learn to be kind to others, and I hope very much that they learn from our example. But there is a long and dark history behind teaching women to care for ourselves so that we may better serve others. I reject anything with that flavor to it. Had she framed her ideas the way Mayim Bialik did with her book, Beyond The Sling, I might be receptive; Bialik states her intention early in her book to simply share how some aspects of Attachment Parenting work for her family, and her hope that this helps other families picture how AP might work for them. She doesn’t push for any universal movement. She shares ideas. If it’s not advice, then it’s harder to feel shame for not living it. New parents do not need new excuses to feel shame. It’s already everywhere. Let’s just pool our ideas, and not tell each other how to live, can we?

We need real support. We are worthy of care. The end.

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