Who’s Your Role Model?

Daniel came into our second conversation after listening to the first week’s recording with a question. We had shared intimately about our childhood years and young adulthood in the first conversation. Acknowledging that, he asked “How aware were you of the horror that was coming down while you were growing up? Did you have girlfriends and observe other ways of families relating?”

My immediate answer was that I was not consciously aware that we were different than any other family. Except that my best friend’s mother, my Girl Scout leader, was outgoing and involved in the community. She laughed a lot too–something that my mother never did. Regardless, I assumed, when I thought about it, that everyone’s family was like mine. However, there’s another component to this type of family system–the power over despotic system. Threats are in place. They are subliminal. You do not talk about the secrets that are within your family. It is a closed system. That’s it–period.

I was unaware of the degree of abuse and trauma held in my body until I was 27-years old. I vomited for two weeks straight after inwardly acknowledging that the image I held of my family as one big happy family was a lie. This was the beginning for me of the downfall of the old establishment. All of the things that I believed were true and real crumbled and it seemed like there was no foundation to my life. I couldn’t fathom what an alternative would be. Trauma from the past arose, PTSD, and I didn’t know exactly what to trace it to. What I believed was solid and wholesome was actually false. My body made me aware of the abuse and locked-away trauma.

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Growing up as he did, Daniel viewed the marriage model as “pure hell.” He didn’t want any of that! Yet, he married twice, not having done any inner work. Each time he brought “the hell model” into his marriage with him unconsciously sabotaging both marriages. He felt that he lost his freedom and that marriage was an entrapment. He couldn’t “perform” and felt justified in looking outside the marriage to satisfy his sexual needs and desires. He had no conscience about this. He basically, as he put it, “crucified two marriages.” And, he also learned from this.

Whereas, I thought that this was the path, the only acceptable path, laid out for me. Marriage felt like my only choice. When I was 18-years old and working a full-time job, I wanted to move out and get my own apartment. My father said “You can’t leave until you are 21 or married. If you do, I won’t respect you.” There it was–the path–get married, honor your husband, have children, rear them and grow old together.

As I told Daniel, “The norm was harmful to me because I was agreeing, in a way, to being enslaved. My husband had total freedom while I was bound to a paradigm that wasn’t really supporting me.” I had to ask myself “What’s going on here?”

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Without self-examination, we bring what we’ve seen modeled into our lives, into our personal relationships, into our partnerships or marriages. Again, Daniel emphasized the necessity for self-examination and self-awareness to evolve ourselves and how we are in relationship to another.

Towards the end of our second meeting, Daniel chuckled and said “This is turning into a therapy session, but it’s necessary background information.”

So we proceeded from there.

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Have you looked at your own role models? Have you learned, grown and found your own truth and path?

What’s a Feminist?

Sorting through my many files of writing–with the intention of shredding some of it, I came across a questionnaire from my college-age granddaughter…she was writing a paper about my generation of women–the sixties and seventies.

The first question was “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” As I rewrite this question here, I wonder if the concept of feminist even exists in other cultures. I’d like to know. Or does it belong to a time and era, culture and country, localized?

Regardless, it’s food for thought. Once I answered, yes, I consider myself a feminist, her next question was… “How do you define feminism?”

One dictionary definition of feminism is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities…” A second definition: ” Organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests.”

I think that it’s important to recognize that in 1787 when the US Constitution was ratified, where it says that “all men are created equal” it refers to educated white males. Though women in this country were granted the right to vote as of August 18, 1920, the mentality that classed women as property and inferior to men exists to this day. Within the mindsets of both women and men, women continue to have less status than men in this country–and throughout most of the civilized and third world countries. Is it changing?

We hear examples of this inequality and outright abuse around the world daily. Though it can be more subtle in this country, wherever women are objectified–popular men’s magazines (like Playboy), sitcoms and movies that portray women as “dumb,” and crimes against women that aren’t effectively addressed. The lack of educational opportunities across the economic strata that would enhance women’s opportunities and self-esteem .

There is a concurrent need for the re-educating of men to foster respect for the contributions of womankind, up close and personal and globally. What is at the very roots of resistance to this? What undermines and contributes to this inequality?

Truly, the personal is political. One thought that I would add in defining feminism is this: Women do have gender-specific abilities, responsibilities, qualities that men obviously don’t have. That said, a reframing of the intrinsic value of women’s work both to a household and its benefits to a society should not go unrecognized and under-appreciated. The tasks that are particular to her gender, specifically, childbearing, nurturing, intuiting, nourishing and any other innately feminine traits be elevated and deemed as worthy and equal to any work that a man does out in the world–this recognition boosts esteem. Different but equal was a phrase commonly used in the sixties when women were burning their bras. I don’t think that the intention of this statement is reflected in our policies yet today.

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Are you a feminist?

How do you define feminism?

A good discussion topic with your friends?

Is She a Victim?

(from a journal dated 04.26.2018)

Mother
comes with a built-in judgment
a plan for struggle
to fall and fail
Her platform, built by men
an ‘ideal’ that doesn’t allow her
to be whole.

While Mother has the most amazing qualities,
potential
–she is placed in a hotbed of
masculine insecurity and his misuse of power,
his idea that power means to overpower–
to oppress, suppress and make her subject to…
his unhealed places.

Her qualities, natural instincts of care, nurture
compassion
and feminine power
are contorted to fit into his world,
to meet his needs.


Mother is stolen from herself
and her children.
She is lost, she is sad.

*****
Today…03.11.2021
I have written about woman, wife, mother for most of my life. I am or have been all of these. Some humans would like to believe that we’ve evolved so much that there is no longer oppression and abuse of women. We hear world news rendering this belief as false. Yet, we hold onto the idea that it’s not happening here. Sadly, it is present today in our own country, our own community and our own families. Domestic Violence is real. It is mostly the abuse of women and children.

The woman victim often denies that she is a battered wife. There is a complex of qualities that create a circumstance for domestic violence. For the woman being abused, it can involve low self-esteem, trauma, shame, confusion, the desire to be loved and cared for, fear and more. There can be an economic component as to why a woman stays in an abusive relationship. There are always hidden reasons and causes, below the level of her awareness–often, she grew up in a household where this was modeled. The male abuser has likely been a victim himself–of trauma and having grown up in such a household. He has not learned to value a woman nor has he learned how to manage his own triggers, anger, past trauma.

When I moved to the mountains, twenty-plus years ago, I determined to write about the battered wife…her battle for sovereignty. When she recognizes that she has stayed too long in an abusive and demeaning relationship, how does she finally leave? My mother never left. She stayed true to the model of battered wife to the end. She stood by her husband despite the ongoing abuse. In the care home, I witnessed how my father finally had only to give my mother an icy stare for her to comply with his demands. The patterns were so well-established and neither of them knew how to extricate themselves from such a merciless cycle.

This is one of many tough topics. One that many people in my circles avoid. I understand why. It’s an ugly topic, isn’t it? It has ancestral roots. How does one change something that is so embedded? And, of course, how does the prevailing and entrenched attitude towards women as inferior to men begin to change? How does a woman change that diminished model within herself?

Sometimes, when a woman has experienced domestic violence over a long period of time, it is hard for her to talk about it. If she has left the situation, there is a part of her that wants to shrink away from it and ‘have a happy life now.’ However, the effects are lingering and the body has set up patterns of re-traumatization with the intention of protection. Reading about something along the lines of domestic violence, a woman can get triggered back into an event in her life. Fight, flight and freeze strategies are engaged. Conducting a normal life is unrealistic given this response to triggers.

This topic of Domestic Violence is up for me now as currently some of my family members are living through this nightmare. For one of them, it has been carried to the extreme and she is in the hospital fighting for her life. When and how does this change? First by shining a light of recognition on it. Bringing awareness to that which we would rather avoid. The world has been under the spell of man’s dominion over woman and nature long enough. We’re missing everything until we are inclusive of the wisdom that is innate when we embrace our interdependence on one another and the wholeness of life.