Problems of challenging the beliefs of older women

(104 Posts)
CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 14:00:04

Both my DM and my MIL were brought up in deeply misogynistic environments, my mother in Catholic Ireland and my MIL as the daughter of a single mother in England. They both married men who hold blatantly sexist views. My father said when I was 12 that educating women is pointless as their place is in the home. He holds this view in spite of the fact that my mother is highly educated with a very responsible job and has been the breadwinner throughout their marriage while has barely worked at all. He still left almost all the domestic work and household organising to her and her life was far more difficult than it needed to be due to him.
FIL has similar views and is in general an insecure asshole who likes to big himself up at the expense of others.
Both women have the underlying belief that men are important, come first etc and have put up with treatment they shouldn't have due to this belief.
As an example when I moved in with dh

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 14:13:57

Sorry pressed wrong button.
...DM said I was "hard on him" as I didn't do his laundry. This was when I worked fulltime and DH was a student. I challenged this and said there was no way I was going to become dh's mother.
Over the years I have rejected expectations of both women that I would become a "proper" wife. DH has come round to this (slowly!) and in 12 years has gone from being quite lazy and entitled to genuinely taking on his share of the household burden.
Since ds was born 3 years ago I've more directly challenged (not in a belligerent way) gender stereotypes particularly MIL's. DS is into pink, dresses and glitter and I have pointedly countered any attempt to mock him. Since DD was born 9 months ago this has stepped up a notch. MIL goes on about girls being more difficult etc and I did say at one point "MIL you're a 'girl' and so am I please stop putting us down."
I think, slowly, the messageis getting through. They've both seen how much easier and more fun having children has been for me because I have a supportive DH. Both have confided in me how their dh's attitudes and actions have made their lives harder.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 14:22:32

Both have stood up to their dhs in small but significant ways.
I don't know if it's a coincidence but both my ddad and FIL have gone from being happy to visit at regular intervals to both being reluctant to visit, so much so that MIL and mymum tend to visit on their own. I am not rude to them at all btw.
The problem is that I can see both women are now torn. Both are doting and excellent gms. I invited both my family and family in law for christmas, an opportunity both women jumped at when ds was 1. This year they declined, both I suspect because of their dhs. Now MIL has declined coming for ds's bday.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 14:26:01

It makes me angry that the men in their lives have made and continued to make things harder for them but I don't feel I can do much about it other than giving up my viewpoints, which I am not prepared to do.
I didn't envisage this problem. Any thoughts/views?

HoleyGhost Fri 27-Dec-13 14:29:14

They are set in their ways, you won't change them. Living well is the best revenge

Shoot them both?

No, obviously that's not helpful. I am sorry that both your mother and MIL are finding it difficult to go against the misogynistic bastards that they've married (and sorry that one of them is your dad too) - but really, you cannot be blamed for their failure to stand up for themselves. This is really THEIR problem and they should care enough about their grandchildren and children to tell their MCPs where to get off; and if they CBA to come and visit because they don't get to be made to feel like a MAN (hahaha) at your house, then that's their look out.

Honestly - any male person who needs to lord it over the female person in his life to feel like a MAN has serious inadequacy issues. Your mother and MIL need to decide what is more important to them, really.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 14:33:18

I don't want them to change though Holey, I just want my dm and MIL not to have to miss out on their much loved dgcs because of their useless husbands.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 14:35:41

I agree to an extent thumb. I feel like giving them both a shake and telling them to cop the fuck on.

HoleyGhost Fri 27-Dec-13 14:39:15

But that is your MIL and DM's choice. They are also set in their ways & have their own priorities

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 14:41:18

True Holey. I feel sad for them.

Sounds like their own priorities are to not cause any more grief in their own households from their MCP husbands, from what you've said. Which is understandable but is indeed a shame because they will miss out on the relationships with their DGC.

I really do hate men like this, by the way. I'm glad your DH has changed his own patterns of behaviour and not followed in his father's footsteps, as is so often the way.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 15:00:01

DH was always a good fuy and was totally willing to listen when I pointed out how his underlying attitudes affected his behaviour. I think it's hard for him to see his own dad be such an arse to his mum.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 15:00:34

Good guy

sleeplessbunny Fri 27-Dec-13 15:02:45

It sounds like your frustration is aimed towards your DM and MIL rather than DF and FIL. The women in this scenario are behaving as like has taught them to, they are victims really. I would feel sorry for them, and grateful that I hadn't been moulded in the same form (does your DM deserve some credit for that at least? You have obviously rejected your DF's views whole heartedly)

As others have said, the best way is to show by example. It will be slow, though, and you have to let people develop their own thoughts in their own time.

I have similar feelings about my parents (although not as strong) but I do direct most of my frustration and attempts to educate towards my DF. Since DD was born, he seems to take on board more of what I say. And in fact we see a lot more of him these days <hopeful>

curlew Fri 27-Dec-13 15:04:27

To be honest- I don't think, sadly, that this is about challenging the beliefs of older women- it's about the attitude that many women -and men- of all ages still have about the role of women in society. You only have to son hqlf an hour on a Mumsnet to be horrified by the enabling and colluding that goes on.......

caramelwaffle Fri 27-Dec-13 15:06:32

I really don't have much time to answer, however I will say

I hear you

part of the problem may be that - like many of us - you have been brought up with a "respect your elders/mother" culture but cannot respect misogynistic expectations.

There is also a seeming conflict with women/mothers who are superficially non-compliant i.e. work outside of home (more a middle class "issue", not a working class one) yet still hold with the "male more important, female less so" rethoric.

caramelwaffle Fri 27-Dec-13 15:08:12

Actually curlew is so more more succinct

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 15:15:04

Sleepless, tbh I couldn't be arsed dealing with my DF and FIL. When DD was born my mum and dad were due to visit from Ireland. My dad decided he couldn't be bothered coming and expected my mum (who was very upset about it) to tell me. For once she stood up to him and made him tell me himself. I told him he was coming, end of story. He came, but from now on I'm leaving it up to him. I'm done.

thecatfromjapan Fri 27-Dec-13 15:15:16

Your dm and dmil are of the generation of second wave feminists. The fact that your dm challenged the discourses that surrounded her enough to get herself a high-powered education and a job speaks of a fairly strong personality and a high degree of political awareness and determination not to be constrained.

My guess is that they both have a fairly good idea of how far they can push things in their own lives. And, sadly, it looks as though your father and your father in law are that point. It's an old political chestnut that politics becomes very difficult when it moves onto the intimate realm of affective relationships: family, friends, etc. The intimate realm is not politics free - it is politics difficult.

Totally crap that your mother told you not to be too hard on your dh. My mother is/was just the same. I can see why: it just opens a vista that is challenge upon challenge to be supportive of your daughter. Support of you = opening a door onto a series of actions and insights that are inevitably disruptive of whatever status quo those women have managed to achieve in their domestic/affective lives. It really is a world of trouble - the potential gains of which, for them, are rather vague - if existent at all ...

It doesn't stop it being crap, or feeling crap.

Your post gives its own answer, really: as the last poster said - lead by example. It may give them a bit of support in their own relationships (maybe) but it will definitely be good for you - and any other women looking for a good path to follow.

And I am really sorry to hear that it sounds like they are drawing back from seeing you so much. I very much hope it resolves itself. Could it be just age? My mother doesn't visit us at all, and doesn't like us visiting - but this is (apparently) something to do with her age (rather than my father being difficult).

thecatfromjapan Fri 27-Dec-13 15:20:39

You know, curlew's post really is very good.

And I'd add that it highlights the extent to which the sort of shit that goes on inside the "private" realm of the home is determined by the power structures that prevail in the world. An obvious point, but I always think that "Behind every abusive man is a whole society telling him it's OK to be a shit."

Likewise with your dmil and dm.

I'm angry to hear about your poor dm having to "stand up" to him to visit you.

Roll on the day that society tells men it is totally unacceptable to act like this.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 19:26:17

Tbh I suppose I am quite annoyed at MIL and DM as I feel I would put my children first especially if my DH was as useless as my DF and FIL are. I am pissed off that my children are being overlooked in favour of two grown men who are bone idle and frankly not worth it. If they both announced divorces tomorrow I would be over the moon.

thecatfromjapan Fri 27-Dec-13 21:10:55

I don't really know what to say about that, other than say that it really shouldn't be like that.

ThisSucks Fri 27-Dec-13 22:28:06

My mother was brought up in a Catholic household in Ireland...she is the most feminist person I know. She stands up to everyone. She is 75 years old. She taught me all about feminism and women's rights. Her mother also was very much aware of women's lives and she took it upon herself to give food to Irish traveller women. She was GREAT!

They both married forward thinking men. I think sometimes too much blame is apportioned to religion when it has ALL to do with the families people are born into, or local communities.

I am not too sure what my point is...just that deeply misogynist Churches or societies does not necessarily produce misogynist people.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 22:45:20

Totally true sucks. I suppose I am proof of that. I was brought up in Catholic Irelandbut I have rejected both Catholicism and misogyny.

CailinDana Fri 27-Dec-13 23:20:33

I think my mother definitely accepted a lot of shit "because that's the way things are." When I challenge that it's hard for her because she has to accept that her life didn't have to be so hard and that really my dad is just a shit husband. I think it's easier for her to cling to her belief that she has/had no choice.

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