In my life, I have been accused of hating men because of my feminist beliefs. And really, I have been given every reason to hate men. My grandfather was an abusive and volatile alcoholic, and when I say abusive, I mean in every way possible to the people around him. Yet he also had his charming, generous, and kind moments. My father was also physically and emotionally abusive. He seemed to be angry all of the time and was extremely selfish. And he could also be funny, and charming, and even generous in an awkward way.
Childhood was my training ground for how men are in the world, and how men behave towards women. I learned, too, that women should be obsequious in the face of a man’s anger, and not say too much, and tiptoe quietly around a man’s anger. This was the south, on top of it all, where women are cultured to be this way anyway. It is entirely possible that those behaviors typically associated with Appalachian women was an adaptive response to the men in their lives.
When my parents divorced in 1978 because my father was caught cheating on my mom, my dad upped his ante and became even more abusive. I remember the bruises around my mom’s neck where he had tried to choke her, and once she came very close to passing out. She thought she was going to die. And the incident that informs my childhood, the one that holds the most sway over memory, is when my brother and I sat on a couch watching, from ten feet away, my father point a gun to my mother’s head and scream, “I’m going to blow your fucking brains out, bitch!”
At that time in the state where we lived, you had to wait a year for your divorce to finalize. But a judge told my mom to move far away, immediately, and gave her a permit to carry a gun. And so we did move far away, and the heart that had always been hungry for my dad’s love and attention grew sadder and hungrier.
It was just last year I had this sweeping realization. The judge didn’t offer any consequences to my dad. I give him kudos for empowering my mom, but why should she have been the one to move away, to take us from our school, to take us far from our extended family? Why was the judge’s solution that she run away from this man, that SHE remove herself from the area to protect herself? Why was he never taken to task?
Despite my dad’s actions, my grandfather’s actions, the judge’s actions, I do not hate men. The overarching imagination that colored my years with my actual father and my conceptual father, the one I wished I’d had, was the total imagination of sadness. It was a riverbed of grief that experiences with my real and imagined father relationship flowed over. It was never hatred, and I have come to realize that perhaps it should have been, and perhaps it should be now, because he is completely deserving of my hatred. He was never a father, and still isn’t. He was, at least at one time, a very bad man.
There are men that are worse than fucktards. These men are just plain dangerous in their abuse. The system is fucktarded, and I do understand that the judge in my situation was trying to save my mother and my brother and myself. But it never held my father to account. I think it is odd that a system that is designed by a bunch of idealistic white men, could so completely let down a harmful white man by not trusting his ability to restore himself. The system, perhaps understanding more about men that I do, left him to himself, to his own devices, and ultimately gave up on him. He, in turn, gave up on his family, and perhaps that was his stubborn intention to begin with.
“I’m going to blow your fucking brains out, bitch!” This is a trauma I have reclaimed. My mom was never a bitch, she was a BITCH in the strong sense of the word, for having the courage to stand up to my dad, for having the cunt power to do what the judge said and move her children and her life eight hours away from her former existence, to so strongly Mama-bear protect her children.It takes some major chutzpah to walk into a town with few skills as a single mom, and move on to get a job as a foreman in a factory, and keep mothering her children without the threat, or “help” of my father.
I don’t hate my dad, but I sure do love my mom. And I certainly don’t hate men, but I sure do have a shit ton of intolerance for abusers.