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One guest brought a problem to the breakfast table.
She was late arriving and most people were ready to leave.
Her agitated state made all of us stay and the resulting conversation, we felt, belonged on your blog.
We deal with sexism in all ways and places. Mostly, we talk and write about it in the workplace because that is where your income and vocation come into play. This breakfast table talk was about sexism in the family. Particularly with daughters who have father issues they don’t think about, recognize, work on or see as anything having to do with them.
Many women – especially those above 30 – have father figure issues and work them out in their lives. Most particularly in their romantic lives and in relationship to their mothers. Have a problematic relationship with your father and your mother gets trashed.
Sexual abuse has come into play now more than ever. In those above 30 it was not the issue it has become today. Men with ego problems work out their issues by using women, usually their wives and their daughters are the ones who suffer.
This woman was trying to talk with her daughters about their choice of male companion – husband, boy friend, fiancé, etc. She noticed that the male companion they chose was always one who was sexually abusive – and – we were not talking about beating or being physically abusive. We were talking about the male who pursued them being their teacher, boss, someone who was over them in a father-like position. The young women were protesting to their mother that she was being “hyper” and didn’t understand, paranoid with a chip on her shoulder, etc.. We thought she understood only too well because her own history reflected the same abuse, only at a time when to marry a male above you was looked upon as your having made quite a “catch”. The woman making that “catch” was looked up to, but in real time, on a day-to-day basis paid a heavy price in her personal life. As she talked we realized she basically hid this side of her life from everyone and presented a great looking marriage to the world. She couldn’t hide it from her children, but they saw her life through a child’s eyes and interpreted it through their own veils – through which she didn’t come out very well.
A woman in that position, so the table conversation went, would probably be very angry most or all of her married life. Basically, because she would not have recognized the sexual abuse she experienced during the courtship process, the marriage and the rearing of family.
Such a spouse needed the ego boost of having made a ‘conquest’ and would expect that ‘conquest’ to be in an inferior place to him. When that didn’t line up with the reality of the relationship, the woman suffered as the man tried constantly to pull the rug out from under anything she did to fulfill her life. She thought he did that even if the cost was to him, her, the marriage and the children. The things she did and contributions she made, if they were not according to her ‘stereotype’ he did not want them to succeed and did what he could to kill all of her initiatives and hard work.
He was her fulfillment and that is what she was limited to. He was her fulfillment according to his judgment and expectations. Whenever she tried to live her life on her own path she would find herself mired in mess. If she hadn’t dealt with what was happening and could or would not look at the reality of her life with this spouse then anger, frustration, explosions would follow. The children, witnessing this anger and those explosions put the blame exactly where it did not belong – on their mother, who then shouldered the negativity of her children and the abuse of her spouse. The abuse was never – in the family being discussed – physical, it was always on a very different, totally accepted level.
With her children now grown and having walked away from her to their father, what does she do!
Her agitation and unhappiness at breakfast, we thought, was coming from the fact that she either hadn’t seen her life as it was and how she had lived it during this marriage or the truth of that marriage was trying to come out and she wasn’t ready to deal with it. She was concentrating on her children and the pain of their rejection.
I reflected on how many older women with children I knew, whose children were now alienated from their mother and all in the bosom of their father. Most of the fathers I knew were divorced and in ‘new’ marriages where their ‘new’ wives were mightily puffing up that male ego.
We did a lot of talking, but didn’t know where to go with this or how to help. We skipped our morning appointments because this topic drew all of us – wonder why it had such a strong draw. I suspect it is something we all have inside and have not allowed to come out because it is not such an accepted, commonly discussed topic. I don’t even know how to write about it for this blog, but feel it is important enough to at least make the attempt.
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