Deprogramming

(293 Posts)
TheSparrowhawk Wed 24-Aug-16 08:27:16

This is a thread for feminists (not our regulars who like to hang out here and tell us how pointless feminism is) to address the ways in which growing up and living in a patriarchal society has affected our thinking. Essentially a self-help thread.

I have struggled with addressing my relationship with my parents. For years I blamed my mother for their total emotional neglect of me. It's only recently I've opened my eyes to the fact that whatever parenting I got, she did it, while also working full-time and doing most of the housework. My father did little or nothing. But I expected a lot more from my mother and so blamed her more.

FreshwaterSelkie Wed 24-Aug-16 10:25:17

interesting idea, I like it.

One that I'm grappling with at the moment is my desire to people-please, and to be "kind" (when that means reflexively giving other people's feelings more weight than I give my own).

I was brought up in a family where women tend to the needs of men and expect very little back from them. I replicate it in my own relationships and I'm trying very hard to change it. It's absolutely stifling! All of the tight-lipped "no, it's fine", and "no, you choose, I don't mind"s, and the "if you're happy, I'm happy". Until you forget that you have any actual desires of your own...

in my life it's meant that I find it difficult to ask for my needs to be met, because from a young age I've been told that it's vital to good relationships to always put other people's desires, particularly men's in front of my own. Of course, we all need to do this sometimes, but there's so often a need to "put your own oxygen mask on first", as they say. As a result, I have a tendency to martyr- I put other people first and then resent that I don't get my needs met. I need (there! I've started!) to change this.

Chrysanthemum5 Wed 24-Aug-16 10:35:02

This is interesting. My family is very female in numbers, but men were definitely considered superior. I thought it had ended with my generation (I'm 48) but recently my sister told me her adult daughters find it incredible that my DH is an equal partner in the work required to run a family. They think I'm 'lucky' and I can't convince them that's it's normal for a partner to treat you with respect.

Also my DD(8) had a friend round for a sleepover and thus girl was astonished that DH made lunch and did the dishes (whilst I took the girls to the park). She told me that men didn't go in the kitchen.

I find it hard to marshall my thoughts and arguments to explain what saddens me about this. I really thought it had changed, but I see a reassurance of this thinking, that women do the wife work and men do the 'important' things and I just don't know what to do.

TheSparrowhawk Wed 24-Aug-16 10:37:05

Hi Fresh! I got a lot of flak growing up over the fact that I didn't always put the needs of others (men especially) first. I remember my mum telling me that I was 'very hard' on my bf (now DH) when we moved in together in our early 20s and I didn't do his laundry. This was in spite of the fact that I worked longer hours that he did and the fact that she would never ever expect him to wash my clothes. I was visiting my parents at the weekend and their tv is buggered. I commented on it and my mum said she wants to get a new one but my dad 'won't let her.' There's no justification for that, he's just decided he doesn't want a new tv and so she goes along with it and ends up watching a tv with a shaky picture. It's such a small, needless cruelty. Thing is, if she did go out and buy a tv he'd be the first to comment on how fantastic it was. Neither of them seem capable of stepping back and seeing how ridiculous the situation is. I did point it out to both of them but they just shrugged at me. My dad's a nice person, generally, they've just absorbed the idea that his needs come first.

sentia Wed 24-Aug-16 10:40:58

Good thread!

For me it's both small and big things.

Small things such as having to make a huge effort to refer to animals and DD's toys as "she" or "it" by default rather than "he".

And big things like feeling uncomfortable when I'm in a female-dominated situation eg at work, because I'm so used to men being in the majority and being heard more.

Also (and I don't know if this is a feminist issue or just my mad family), I really don't know what I want from life - I was brought up to aspire to a weird hybrid of primary-breadwinner and female-servitude, so I feel I must "achieve" but in ways that meet other people's expectations. It's only in my middle age that I've stared to wonder if my lack of career goals that actually inspire me is a feminist problem because I'm doing what I feel everyone else wants me to do.

TheSparrowhawk Wed 24-Aug-16 10:43:01

Ugh I hate the 'lucky' comments Chrys. I used to get them all the time about DH, even when he was doing what I considered to be the absolutely bare minimum and I was entirely strung out trying to deal with a toddler and a newborn. There seemed to be the expectation that I would never ever sleep, that I would deal with 2 tiny children 24/7, wash, cook, clean, organise, etc and never need any rest while DH, who was getting a full night's sleep every night, 'needed his rest.' MIL even said that 'mother nature' allowed women not to need sleep after children were born. I soon shat all over that one.

Thankfully DH gets it now and genuinely does his fair share. But the massive kicker there is that when I see him running around doing half of what I used to do I feel guilty, like I'm not fulfilling my duty. It's barmy.

Chrysanthemum5 Wed 24-Aug-16 10:49:49

To be fair to DH the 'lucky' comments annoy him too because he is perfectly happy with how things are. And he is genuinely a feminist at heart, he thinks we are completely equal, he implemented improved maternity arrangements at his work after seeing the negative impact it had on my career, he wouldn't tolerate sexism. But he still doesn't really get it because he's never experienced what it's like to live as someone who is not the 'gold standard' white middle class male.

So although I feel supported by him, and I know he's a great role model for the DCs - still sometimes I'll see something on tv that's sexist and I know it's passed him by because it just doesn't register. So he noticed sexism if it's blatantly obvious or if I point it out- but the million subtle ways women are undermined are not seen. And if he doesn't see them then I wonder do many men?

TheSparrowhawk Wed 24-Aug-16 10:55:31

No, they don't see them at all.

DH thought he was fantastic, the bees knees. He'd entirely absorbed the idea that I was 'lucky', partially because he was a darn sight better than his own shithead of a father.

Now that he sees how shit he really was he's horrified.

VestalVirgin Wed 24-Aug-16 11:39:46

I cannot tell whether I want to have children because I really want children, or whether that's just what I was brainwashed into wanting.

From a rational point of view, it would be idiotic. It's not that I have a career, but I have no money, and with children I would have even less money. I am also not really competent at being an adult myself. And then there's all the disadvantages women everywhere are almost guaranteed when having children.

But there's this nagging feeling that if I don't have children before it is too late, I have failed at life.

Chrysanthemum5 Wed 24-Aug-16 11:47:23

I think women are made to feel they've failed if they don't have children (or a partner) and often it's by the attitude of other women. I am in academia and many of my friends don't have children and I find the comments directed at them just awful. Lots of 'why did you get married if you don't want children?' 'Dont leave it too late' etc but the flip side is that having children destroyed my career and it's only now 12 years later that I'm making progress. So it's dammed if you do, and dammed if you don't

ChocChocPorridge Wed 24-Aug-16 13:31:34

For me, I concentrate on the little things - making sure that I don't default to complementing a little girl on her dress or a boy on being strong, or that I don't gravitate to the kitchen/kids at family events, and definitely making sure there are females in his books as well as males (eg, continuing to try to convince my kids that Zuma on paw patrol is a girl - and they can't find any good way to argue he isn't! - develops their critical thinking too :D)

It's telling DP that running the washing through the washing machine and tumble dryer isn't 'doing the washing' that it's not done until it's back in everyone's draws/wardrobes, and reminding him that if he leaves his coffee spoon on the side, someone needs to mop that up after him, and if he was an adult, it would be him, that he doesn't get extra points for doing the bare minimum - that you actually have to go above and beyond for that.

and it's definitely sowing seeds in my MIL's, my mum's and my other female relatives minds that there are other ways, that they don't deserve to be ironing their husbands shirts even though they work but he's retired, or that if she's home looking after the kids, then the least she should have is she enough money for a tank of petrol to do the shopping rather than have to push his crate of stella and bottle of vodka home in the buggy.

ChocChocPorridge Wed 24-Aug-16 13:33:31

The kids thing is so hard vestal. I had a boyfriend who was disgusted by the whole idea, was sure that it was all just society wanting to trap him (he had many faults actually, but we all get blinded while in the swirl of lust).

I decided, arrogantly, that I thought I was a pretty good person. I thought that DP was a pretty good person, and I thought the world needed more good people, so I've had a couple of kids, and for all the hassle kids are, I'm glad (and may even be softening on a 3rd)

noblegiraffe Wed 24-Aug-16 13:42:29

I find it hard running around tidying up before MIL visits while DH just says 'it's fine, don't bother'. I try to explain to him that I care because I know that I and not he as the woman will be judged on it, and the reason that he doesn't care is because he's the man and knows it won't reflect badly on him.
He seems to think he doesn't care because he doesn't mind it reflecting badly on him. Because he has never experienced that judging.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Wed 24-Aug-16 14:35:16

I find it hard running around tidying up before MIL visits while DH just says 'it's fine, don't bother'. I try to explain to him that I care because I know that I and not he as the woman will be judged on it, and the reason that he doesn't care is because he's the man and knows it won't reflect badly on him

At what point do you (general you, not you) decide you will make up your own mind about things like this and stop caring about what you (general you) think you are being told to do by society/ patriarchy/ whatever/ whoever?

Why do you care if your mother in law is judging you? Why do you assume that she is?

Is she really judging you or is that your own assumption about what other women think or are supposed to think?

noblegiraffe Wed 24-Aug-16 14:39:20

Why do you assume that she is?

Comments made by her.
Also, I know that my mother is judging me.

I've thought about the whole 'why do I care'? I think it's because I judge me too.

FreshwaterSelkie Wed 24-Aug-16 15:03:44

I get it, Noble Giraffe. I have to clean before my mother or MIL come to stay, because they do judge me, and they will say stuff. While the adult in me responds by saying "It's my house, I'll keep it as I please, and I don't care what your opinion is", the child in me still wants approval. It'd be great not to care, but it's not always easy. I can shrug off MIL criticisms easily enough, but after 40-odd years of my mum criticising me, I am vulnerable to it. I'm better than I was, but when she makes a cats bum face at cat hair under the coffee table, or ostentatiously empties out cupboards and makes comments about "cleaning this place properly", it fucking stings!

FreshwaterSelkie Wed 24-Aug-16 15:05:13

Of course, I could say "fuck off out of my cupboards you crazy dirt obsessed old bag", but see previous point about people pleasing grin

boldlygoingsomewhere Wed 24-Aug-16 15:16:25

Interesting thread...one of the big ones which came up for me was how I'd absorbed the message that things women traditionally do are shit. As a teen I always said that I didn't want to be a wife/mother- I wanted to go to university and have a 'proper career'. However, once I had a child I realised that I loved being a mother- in an odd way it's was also my most body positive time. I'd grown another human being and my body was just awesome even if it didn't look 'beautiful'. Also, I feel a great pressure to keep working so that I feel I'm 'contributing'.

the3amclub Wed 24-Aug-16 15:17:54

Enjoying this thread.

Grew up in a very traditional household with DF being "head of the household". DM very much concerned with the Wifework and always, always deferred to DF. Even when he was wrong or unreasonable.

Like a pp she feels me and DSis are "too hard" on our DPs for expecting hands on help with the DC. Very fixed views on gender differences and feels women have natural affinity for nurture that men don't.

I caught myself recently saying to DC "don't worry daddy will fix it when he comes home" then mentally gave myself a slap and got the screwdriver out.

I have to check myself daily re balancing gender norms in stories / books / cartoons.

Hard work but slowly the mindset is changing.

ISaySteadyOn Wed 24-Aug-16 16:46:52

boldly, oh thank goodness, I thought I was the only one. I tried really hard to be the academic I thought I was supposed to be because obviously wanting to have children and stay home with them was completely anti-feminist and wrong.

As a result, I spent several years severely depressed and feeling shit about my failing self. Now, I'm a SAHM to 3 complete snuggles and I am sometimes sad because that's only human but it is nothing like that.

Relevant to the thread, I am trying to get my DC to understand that domestic work is important and not trivial. But it's hard when so many things you read often have a thinly veiled contempt for domesticity. It's not the real world, after all.

Also, I owe thanks to this board for showing me that feminism and SAHMing are definitely not mutually exclusive. So thank you, you terrifying lot wink.

A lot of the above posts resonate with me as well. And I think it's important to recognise that there is a difference between an emotional and a rational response to things. Rationally, we all know that we don't have to conform to the idea that we - as opposed to our male partners - are judged when the family isn't on top of the house. But the emotional reaction is something that is harder to control. So you are faced with a crap choice: just give in to the emotional response, which means physical work to make the house presentable (going with this example, but could apply to many others). Or do the emotional work of saying no, I don't care that you're judging me, I'm just not giving in to it. Either way, work for women that (most?) men don't have to do.

And if by any chance you're reading this thinking 'well, I don't suffer from this problem, I just simply [insert simple solution to overcoming female socialisation that requires no ongoing emotional labour here] then please do share what that solution is in the manner of an eHow article! grin

TeiTetua Wed 24-Aug-16 17:57:17

I really think FreshwaterSelkie's partner has a role to play there, and he's failing in it. Particularly when it's his own mother, he should be saying "Mum, we run our house so we're comfortable in it. And if you want to be critical, I'd rather you tell it to me and not Selkie." (Slight emphasis on our and we there.)

Shame on the older generation for not being tactful. It's the grandparents I blame.

TheSparrowhawk Wed 24-Aug-16 18:03:06

I don't disagree with you Tei except that it's by no means a simple solution. For it to work Selkie has to do a lot of work. She has to convince her partner that there's a problem, then she has to convince him to confront his mother. She then has to be in the uncomfortable and difficult position of possibly causing conflict and upset between MIL and DP. It's no wonder that many women can't face that.

BertrandRussell Wed 24-Aug-16 18:08:22

And mothers and mothers in law are just as much victims of. conditioning as we are- if not more so.

FreshwaterSelkie Wed 24-Aug-16 18:14:47

Oh, no disagreement from me here, Tei & Sparrow. Where is Mr Selkie in all this, we ask ourselves? <crickets> But that is another thread for another day, I'm not feeling robust enough for that bit of deprogramming today. Which probably just wheels round to the original point that I'm pointing at my MIL & Mum for creating the problem while the husband exits stage left, blame free... not great, is it?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now