Daughters of Misogyny


“One of the more telling aspects of the GOP’s ongoing implosion over Donald Trump’s “pussy tape” is the succession of men (mostly Republican, i.e. white) expressing their outrage solely as it relates to their daughters or wives.

Framing the matter this way treats a woman as a possession. She’s protected because she’s in a family AND because she’s owned by the man in that family.

This attitude implies that only to the extent that she happens to be a man’s wife or daughter does a woman deserve to not be sexually assaulted. Not because she’s, you know, a human being who doesn’t deserve to be sexually assaulted.

 I sat at the dinner table, ten years old, and my newly-single father had made me breakfast. It was unclear in my memory if he was living with his new girlfriend, but I sat at the table with him and my brother. He had decided that I needed to lose weight and so had placed sliced tomato and onion on my breakfast plate. I cried at the coldness of this gesture, at wanting my father’s love so desperately, and all he could offer was ways for me to change and improve myself. When I went back to my mother, I was literally starving and I was so happy I got to eat.

The key phrase in what I just wrote is, “He had decided.”

My dad was a very vocal opponent of my grandfather, the pedophile. The women in my family protected the younger girls in this strange, intuitive choreography, so I was safe from my grandfather. My dad SHOULD have been outraged at my grandfather.

Yet my dad could never show me how to really be respected and loved by a man. And controlling what I ate so I could become model-thin and pleasing to him objectified me in keeping with the religion of misogyny.

As Danilo Alfaro wrote above, there can be a disconnect between a man posturing to protect his own family, which can include wives, yet have no clue about how to create health in the family. In other words, the absence of a thing, like sexual assault, does not equate to health, and is not synonymous with the absence of misogyny.

The sickness of misogyny is that HE decides. Whatever he happens to be in our lives, he decides for us. This gives the message that men will decide what is abusive to a woman, and what women deserve to be abused. A man is then never required to dig deeper into his own fears, insecurities, and considerable biases.

One other dimension of this thinking affects daughters through their mothers. My dad making the decisions for me was only a small part of what he modeled for me. It wasn’t like my dad consistently liked or worshipped me like some misogynistic men do with their daughters. Even in that case, as “For Harriet” writes, “How he treated his daughter didn’t always transfer to how he treated women.” And this is the aspect that hurt a lot. I never got to see my own mother being loved and respected by my father. He never modeled for me, by treating my mother well, that a woman deserves to be treated as a human being with equal rights and responsibilities to his. Instead, he modeled that some women were good enough for him and some were not, and even within relationship, sometimes I was good enough for him and sometimes I was not.

My own daughter has  seen this dynamic as I’ve replayed the same situation in her life. The fact that she will never see her mother be treated as a human being by her father creates a loss for her, creates a confusion about her value and worth, for if he can turn his love off and on like that, surely she is next. It makes her distrust herself, for again, he decides who and what is worthy for everyone.

I know from experience that watching your mother be dehumanized by someone you love and look up to for modeling is devastating. It’s disorganizing in the ripples of mixed messages it creates. It’s utterly heartbreaking- watching someone you are deeply attached to be hurt by your other attachment figure. 

It sets you up for a sense of powerlessness in life, for an unstable sense of your worth and value-you just aren’t ever sure that as long as your dad is playing by the rules of misogyny, that you have any value or worth as a woman in this world. It doesn’t matter if he’s all about supporting #metoo. He hasn’t supported his own path out of misogyny and into treating a woman like a human being.

The pain misogyny causes is widespread. Anxiety in adolescent girls is at an all-time high. Fibromyalgia, certain cancers, and other autoimmune disorders have been linked to childhood trauma. Racism is a cause of miscarriages in African-American women. 

There are many parts to the pain, one being that at some point, you give up on your loved one. They become hopeless in that they won’t change, and they won’t ever fully be able to see you as a equivalent person as long as they select their personal elite to be treated as human beings. They will constantly follow the rules of misogyny, which is the same as the rules of traumatizing another: don’t see that person, don’t hear that person, don’t take them into account. Allowing a daughter, especially, to bear constant witness to that is to add to the misogyny culture places on her through advertising, movies, music, and religion. 

It literally goes deep into her bones. 

My therapist told me that we are here to deal with pain. she said she doesn’t know why, but that she trusts God and that there is certainly a higher purpose. When one of your loved ones has a part of him that will always hate and denigrate you for being a woman, and demonstrates that through how he treats your mother, that is painful. It requires a heroine’s path to walk away from that toxic confusion and into the light of a woman’s worth- your own worth.

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