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

Thumbnutstwitchingonanopenfire Fri 27-Dec-13 14:32:11

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.

Thumbnutstwitchingonanopenfire Fri 27-Dec-13 14:50:10

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.

Thumbnutstwitchingonanopenfire Sat 28-Dec-13 01:04:32

I think you've hit the nail on the head there, Cailin - if she fights back too hard now and gets anywhere, she'll start to realise that she could have done it before and had a much better life; and that realisation might be just too much for her to cope with, so yes, it's easier for her to stay in her martyred cocoon.

What a bloody waste. sad

My own MIL is a bit of a surrendered wife; except that she's been widowed for nearly 20 years now. But she told me some stuff, for instance "nagging doesn't work - my husband told me not to nag and when I persisted, he threw his dinner into the air, spaghetti went everywhere, even on the ceiling. It took me ages to clear it up but I never nagged again..."
My inner response was: Jeezus fuck, woman, what in hell were you DOING cleaning it up after that little temper display?!

thecatfromjapan Sat 28-Dec-13 01:17:49

You know, I hear what you're saying, but I would add that, still, "society" steps in here.

Your mother and your mother-in-law are not going to walk straight out of their marriages and into a marriage with a forward-looking, or just plain reasonable, man.

Instead, they face a gamut of questioning - perceived or real - as to why they have left their marriages, followed by a period of social, financial and emotional upheaval when they leave. They then face a good , long stretch as a single, older woman. Society is not so kind to many older, single women. Not least because they often have less financial clout than single men/heterosexual couples but also because of the sexism of society. Even simple things, such as travelling around at night, without the "protection" hmm of a man.

My theory is that society actually makes it quite hard for women to leave. That way, women stay in marriages/partnerships and a lot of men realise that it will take some seriously bad behaviour on their part to make their female partners leave.

Having said that, I really think there is a real place for bigging up the virtues and joys of (single) autonomy versus a life lived with someone who crushes you - even if it is "only" a "little bit" of crushing. I think we all need to hear more of the joys of life outside of a crap relationship. I don't think we hear nearly enough of that, do we?

By the way, Andrea Dworkin, years ago, wrote an essay about "right-wing women" and their (supposed) mistrust of women's ability to deliver power to women as women, rather than the power (some) women achieve (sometimes) by way of men. I'm not sure how I feel about the essay - I wonder if it doesn't stereotype women, and conjecture, and blame women, rather than men - but it is an interesting hypothesis as to why some women will side with men against other women, even their own daughters.

StickEmUpSideways Sat 28-Dec-13 17:13:25

Just read a bit of OP, only because I got hooked on the guy who said women should not be educated.

I would handle this more, personally, from a man who at least 'bread winned' properly.
It seems he left that to a woman too.

Sorry this is your dad, OP. sad

CuntyBunty Sun 29-Dec-13 11:09:56

"Behind every abusive man is a whole society telling him it's OK to be a shit." Is that your own "saying"? Cat? Spot on. Grim though.

Callin, I have a similar thing going on with my parents, but Mum is sooo passive, I am worried about being a victim blamer. We are in a mess after dreadful behavior from Dad when they were visiting. He does it everyone in a while and it is swept under the carpet. Mum is mortified at the time, but then likes to go and pretend it never happened.

I am too old for this and the old adage, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got". I haven't spoken to him him since the last episode in November and I feel a very cold, long lasting fury. Mum expressed surprise when I asked her to make sure he didn't phone to wish us Happy Christmas on the big day (He would do this as it's Christmas and could hide behind it) and pretend nothing had happened. She said, "You mean you don't want to speak to him now, after we've spoken?".

This means she does the matyr of being the one who, "Had to tell Dad Cunty didn't want to speak to him". It somehow puts the blame on me and it's tearing at me because she's had a rough life, abusive father, then what I would call abusive, Husband and I am upset because of her collusion in this. I can't go back to the way it's always been, I have a lovely DH who would never behave in that way, so why would I want our sons to see that this is tolerated and acceptable?

If anyone has read this, thanks and to OP. I really needed to get this out. It's so, so toxic ad damaging as a pattern.

CailinDana Sun 29-Dec-13 11:39:33

That sounds really hard Cunty. It's all so complicated. My dad is generally quite a nice person (believe it or not) but has awful social skills, very old fashioned views and lives with his head in the clouds. He was an ok dad but is a rubbish grandfather and an absolutely horrendous husband. He basically suits himself and my mother puts up with it.

My childhood was quite shit and I put the blame for it on my mum. It's only since really developing my feminist views in the last 10 years or so that I've come to recognise that while she wasn't a great mother she had an incredibly large amount to deal with (full time stressful job, 3 kids - one of which almost died at birth and has a disability - thyroid problems, migraines, fibroids and awful periods, lack of money while we were young, her own terrible upbringing etc etc) and my dad gave her the absolute minimum of support. In many ways he was like a teenage brother - into his own thing, willing to do specific things like give us lifts but took on no responsibility, not even a job for many years. His longest period of unemployment was 14 years; which wouldn't have been a problem if he took on a SAHD role but he didn't. Considering all that I actually think she did a damn good job of keeping the show on the road. She failed me in other ways but they are a separate issue.

Yet I can't help feeling some anger towards her for putting up with it, which really isn't fair. As others have mentioned, leaving would have been nigh on impossible. Divorce wasn't even legal in Ireland till I was 11 ffs! I know one Irish couple who are divorced. One. It is still a rare and remarkable event. Add to that the fact that her own father was an abusive alcoholic (so my extremely mild mannered dad seems far "better") and that she's a practising Catholic and you are pretty much guaranteed she won't ever leave.

I do feel in many ways she prioritised my lazy father over her children. I can understand why but it still hurts. Now she seems to be prioritising him over her grandchildren. I want to tell her to wake the fuck up.

CuntyBunty Sun 29-Dec-13 11:55:43

Yes, I am in no doubt Mum prioritses Dad over us and the kids, to the extent she will actively avoid any confrontation and put us in the line or fire or to take the flak. I feel curiously peaceful now I have accepted this is the way it is between them and it isn't going to change. It is going to change for me though as I am in control on my own life. If there was to be any contact in the future, it will be minimal and polite. If he can't be polite, there will be no contact.

I have yet to voice this to him as it's not a conversation I relish having and I am under no obligation or duty to have it unless I feel like it, I have realised. He released us as a family from any obligation with his inexcusable behaviour in my house.

CailinDana Sun 29-Dec-13 12:24:17

I have similar feelings towards my dad. Him saying he wasn't going to visit to see my dd was the final straw. I told him he had to visit on that occasion and he will obviously see the children when I visit but other than that I'm not going to put any effort into maintaining his relationship with my children. He's a grown man and should be able to do that himself. My mother will visit on her own, thankfully, but it will complicate Christmas in particular. If my mother loses out because she would rather let him be a selfish git that's her problem.

CailinDana Sun 29-Dec-13 12:31:07

Foolishly I expected better treatment from my dad than the treatment he gives other people but I don't know why. He didn't attend the funerals of his two brothers and didn't visit his identical twin brother when he had cancer. I always thought he wouldn't cut me and his gcs off in the same way (and I suspect my mother thought the same) but he has. If I was in my mother's shoes I would be disgusted with him.

CailinDana Sun 29-Dec-13 12:42:02

The sad thing is my mother always did her best to protect us from my dad's selfishness. It's for that reason I was actually happy that she told him he had to talk to me himself about not visiting my dd - normally she would make up some bullshit excuse.

CuntyBunty Sun 29-Dec-13 13:58:00

It would always have been better and easier if my Mum had visited without Dad; better than him turning up and being a shit when he feels like it.

Mum says things to me like, "I don't know why he gets like this. What is it that sets him off?". And you know what I said last time? The gist of it is that I don't care why. There is no reason good enough to excuse this behaviour. We haven't done anything to set him off, he acted as he wanted. Well fuck him. I can't believe I am so resolute and cold and furious. I have just come to the end.

CailinDana Sun 29-Dec-13 14:05:02

My MIL does that "I don't know why h's like this" thing too. I feel like saying "because he's a rude selfish racist cunt," but I won't. I just ignore him. The thing is dh and mil have now started ignoring him too when I'm around. It'll be interesting to see if it makes a difference over time.

Thumbnutstwitchingonanopenfire Sun 29-Dec-13 14:25:12

I think the quickest and most obvious answer to "I don't know why he's like this" is "because he's been allowed to".
No one has challenged him.
No one is allowed to challenge him.
And so he (they) keep on doing it, just because they can.

CailinDana Sun 29-Dec-13 14:29:48

True thumb although it's also the case that both men feel entitled to behave like that and both women feel they have no choice but to put up with it.

youretoastmildred Mon 30-Dec-13 09:47:05

This is a great thread, thanks to CailinDana and all the other posters.

While curlew is right in saying "it's about the attitude that many women -and men- of all ages still have about the role of women in society" - there is something really specific about older women in that you are in danger of them seeing your pro-woman attitudes as "your whole life's work has been worthless".

In talking to younger women, especially English, non-Catholic ones, I am constantly struck by how they have no conception of how some women were brought up to consider the complete erasure of themselves to be a virtuous life's work. It is nonsense to them. They literally see it as meaningless, the extent to which some women have been trained to not even register themselves as beings with desires. (I am "only" 42, and am English, but all my family are Irish and I have clear memories of a Catholic education in the 70s and the 80s, which was somehow the tail end of a culture in which the 60s had not happened - I think even Catholics don't train children now the way we were trained then, or I bloody hope not, and will not be sending my children to Catholic schools to find out)

Thinking about how the knock-on effect of my mother putting my father first, herself last, was actually to the detriment of her children, (especially the girl ones) is a formative part of my own thinking about being a parent. As a mother you need to empower yourself to look after your children properly. It's not uppity, it's your job.
I battle every day with confusion over how you can protect yourself enough to give enough. Christianity doesn't help (for this) - there is no safeguarding of the self in Christianity, no point at which you have given enough and need give no more. Your reward is in heaven, for giving to the extent that you cease to exist. But this is no good to your children!

I can't give advice on your sitatuation, you sound as if you are managing very well. But it's hard

CuntyBunty Mon 30-Dec-13 09:59:20

Hi Mildred, it is a great thread, I am finding it really helpful at the moment.

I spoke to Mum on the phone yesterday and made sure I told her, "Dad has done this and broken us all up. We've done nothing wrong". She repeated a few times, "And I've done nothing wrong". I didn't have the heart to argue (the victim blaming quandry thing), but I did feel like saying, "Oh, so leaving with him at his say so at 6.30am on a Sunday morning without saying goodbye to us all means you've done nothing wrong". That fucking hurts and she colluded in it because she is intimidated by him and wants "anything for a quiet life". She wouldn't have mentioned it if I hadn't brought it up.

It's now a bit broken between me and my Mother because of all this, the fall out feels so huge. Nan died earlier this year, so my whole bedrock has gone. I wish I could have Nan back and show her how much I loved her, because she loved me unconditionally and I was "too busy with my own life" in her final years. I am really feeling it. I had a good cry last night and am trying not to at work now.

CailinDana Mon 30-Dec-13 10:52:31

Oh Cunty you poor thing.

Was your gran a widow? My gran put up with unbelievable things (including 9 c-sections) while her dh was alive but once he died she changed completely. She got a job that she adored, the first of her adult life, persuaded her beloved sister to move back from England, got a dog and took up pitch and putt again (she'd been all Ireland champion in her early 20s and was champion again in her 60s!). It's sad to say but her dh dying was the best thing that happened to her. I think unfortunately the same might well be true for my DM and MIL. Their dhs need them and will flounder if they die first but they definitely don't need their dhs, far from it.

CuntyBunty Mon 30-Dec-13 11:06:18

Yes, she was a widow for over 40 years and did as she pleased then, thank goodness.

How are you today?

Mollydoggerson Mon 30-Dec-13 11:10:06

A very interesting thread.

I understand wholeheartedly the bitter annoyance and feeling of rejection by mothers who collude in the negative, toxic, mysogenic behaviour.

Mothers try to enlist the daughters as little martyr soldiers but then the mothers turn their backs on us and collude in rejecting us.

All we can do is try to rise above it.

CuntyBunty Mon 30-Dec-13 11:12:55

Hurts though, Molly. Hope you are ok.

Mollydoggerson Mon 30-Dec-13 11:27:28

Hi cunty and Cailin, yes I am ok! Thanks.

My DF died a year ago, and was by all accounts a very good man, very funny and well meaning when he was well. My mother behaved in a slavish way towards him, and enabled awful sexist behaviour and enabled unhealthy drinking patterns. While the sh1tty up and down bits were not her fault, I believe they weren't really either of their faults. The toxic approach to family life is deeply embedded in that old-school approach to life.

Mum created a stick to beat herself with, she worked, had 4 children and enabled a problem drinker. I believe she enabled the drinking
partly to get Dad out of her hair and partly to live life in a bubble. They both made very selfish choices, they both lacked and lack self awareness. Mum projected a heavy burden of responsibilities on to us, me mostly. She became overwhealmed and leaned too heavily on her children. Instead of recognising this, she becomes very mocking and belittling of us.

The toxicity continues.

At any rate since Dad died, she is no longer caring for him, enabling him, so she has a new lease of life.

It is all very complicated. Mum tries to paint a picture of what life is like, what she is like to the outside world. But the reality is, she is very harsh on her daughters and she has no concept that daughters require support as well. She was quite cruel to my sister, when my sister suffered a miscarriage. It makes me feel distant towards my mother. Honestly I believe most Irish people above the age of 50 or so are pretty emotionally stunted. In order to protect yourself you need to have very limited expectations of them.

Mollydoggerson Mon 30-Dec-13 11:30:11

Sorry for the me-fest!

I just don't really have any advice on all of this, as I am very much muddling through trying to make sense of my own annoyances and life.

CuntyBunty Mon 30-Dec-13 11:34:32

Yes, I definitely feel calmer with the acceptance that things are shit and they won't change and I won't change them.

My Mum is quite distant to the grandchildren too. She's lovely when she's with them, but then it's out of sight, out of mind. When logistics allows, I don't even as her to baby sit anymore. It's more of a chore for her and after all, she's "had four of my own, I've done my bit". Fair play, a pity, but I accept this. My poor little sister was crying about this the other week, and while being sympathetic, I did tell her that I had accepted it, this was the way it was and I felt better for that....I will phone and check on her later, I think.

2013 has been a bad old year for lots of people.

grimbletart Mon 30-Dec-13 17:37:19

I sympathise with the problems above posters are describing. It's crappy. But without trying to antagonise may I suggest that this self-effacing shit by wives is not necessarily about age, but more to do with the the type of person. I was married in 1966 and am now in my 70s but there is no way I would put up with this shit (nor would my husband - who is even more ancient than I am) inflict that shit on me or our children.

Yet, in the relationship thread you can see this similar self-effacement attitude going on from some posters who are only in their 30s and 40s. It's an attitude problem, not an age one though it may be more common among older women.

Perhaps I have no place on Mumsnet and should stick to Gransnet sad but I can't help feeling a bit shock at the way the older generation tends to be stereotyped on Mumsnet.

There are a few posters on Mumsnet (not above I hasten to add) young enough to be my grandchildren whose attitudes sound more like they are old enough to be my grandmother - to join in the stereotyping grin

Sorry for the rant, and I truly do sympathise with those with Dads from hell.

Thumbnutstwitchingonanopenfire Mon 30-Dec-13 18:38:28

You do have a point, grimbletart, but so do the people who have mentioned the entrenched behaviour that is even taught in schools (and probably churches/church-based communities), implicitly if not explicitly.

My Dad is 80, but he never treated my Mum like this either - he wasn't THAT much of a help around the house, but he was all for Mum doing what she wanted to - working if she wanted, not working if she didn't want, taking courses if she'd wanted to, doing her local politics stuff. He was a firm believer that women had as much right as men to do anything they wanted to.

CuntyBunty Mon 30-Dec-13 20:07:58

'Course you belong here Grimble. Or can I call you "Tart"? It's a good reminder not be be ageist and you are right about some of the content of the relationship board.

grimbletart Mon 30-Dec-13 21:26:01

Cheers CuntyBunty. Tart's good - lemon curd variety of course rather than "you are not going out dressed like that" variety" grin

Sexism always (and still does) give me the rage. But it is being overtaken now by ageism in ragification, if you see what I mean?

youretoastmildred Mon 30-Dec-13 23:16:00

nice to hear from you grimbletart. Point taken!

caramelwaffle Mon 30-Dec-13 23:22:15

Really thought provoking grimbletart Thank you.

CailinDana Tue 31-Dec-13 00:05:55

Fwiw grimble I am always interested in the input of older people as I think time gives you such a different perspective on things.

I also agree that these attitudes are definitely not restricted to previous generations. I know a few women in their 20s/30s who not only accept being pushed around by men but expect it. Even friends who have pretty equal happy marriages still seem to slip into prioritising the man and ignoring their own dreams.

The She sat there when I said I'd been sexually abused

CailinDana Tue 31-Dec-13 00:13:01

Sorry post went funny.

My mother was so steeped in misogyny growing up that it's in her bones. When I told her I was sexually abused as a child her main reactions were don't tell your father, get over it, stop making me feel guilty. No anger, no sadness, in fact other things she said implied that abuse was normal and to be expected so no need to be all silly and upset about it. She placed absolutely no value at all on my feelings, but warned me not to tell my dad as he would be upset. Only HIS feelings count. How fucked up is that?

Thumbnutstwitchingonanopenfire Tue 31-Dec-13 01:06:49

Oof Cailin - that's so bad. sad
And yes, does just show how females are just not entitled to any level of empowerment in her world. sad

caramelwaffle Tue 31-Dec-13 01:08:51

Sorry to hear that CailinD

Very interesting place, and I have Things to Say about my mum, as well as wanting to read it when I'm not half asleep. I shall return tomorrow.

place? I meant thread. See, this is why it needs to wait until tomorrow.

HoleyGhost Tue 31-Dec-13 07:14:41

A really thought provoking thread.

I am constantly struck by how they have no conception of how some women were brought up to consider the complete erasure of themselves to be a virtuous life's work

I think that for some, this erasure of the self is associated with motherhood. Many women fail to protect themselves enough to ensure they can keep giving, keep supporting their children properly.

If a mother's needs are unimportant , how can her children's matter?

HoleyGhost Tue 31-Dec-13 07:37:18

I have seen this self sacrifice in women of all ages - but in the older ones it is tainted with resentment as it has generally not been appreciated .

Some family tension at Christmas has its roots in the different cultural expectations around motherhood as martyrdom .

youretoastmildred Tue 31-Dec-13 09:13:25

Sorry CailinDana, that is horrific.

youretoastmildred Tue 31-Dec-13 10:01:09

Thinking about it all in the way laid out on this thread is so illuminating to me in the context of my own behaviours.
One of the awful insidious things is how (sometimes) the men involved have no idea that they basically have servants. (some men are well aware and like it like that) In those cases, even the job of keeping the staff in line has been taken away from them, they keep themselves in line.
I have had a lucky and happy childhood in many ways and have suffered no horrors, but I have carried with me into all relationships with men an inability to speak up for my needs; a desire to make looking after all of theirs appear effortless (I do not appear remotely servile); and a resentment against them for all this that they cannot have any possible understanding of as they never consciously did anything to bring any of this about; and depression and exhaustion

it is horrifically destructive

CailinDana Tue 31-Dec-13 10:29:15

Thanks thumb caramel and mildred.

Thing is that seen from the outside my mum was an exemplary parent - organised, patient, efficient. Dinners cooked from scratch every single day without fail, always healthy food, always helped with homework, never drank or smoked and rarely went out, spent all her money on us etc etc. I think she really did her best. She was brought up with the undrrstanding that men make the decisions and women do the work and please men. It was as if the idea that we (her 3 girls) were actual people who expected to be treated as such was alien to her.

That's the really insidious evil of patriarchy - the oppressed pass on the oppression to the young.

CailinDana Tue 31-Dec-13 10:33:15

Like I mentioned earlier I blamed my mother, unfairly, for all the failings of my childhood. It took me a long time to realise that she gave all she could while my dad gave as little as he could get away with.

Mollydoggerson Tue 31-Dec-13 17:48:28

Cailin, so sorry you were so badly let down. I really think you need to change your name to CailinMaith or CailinDeas.

TheGhostOfPortoPast Tue 31-Dec-13 18:09:41

Interesting thread! I was brought up by my maternal grandparents. My GM particularly impressed upon us growing up the importance of education, getting to university etc - she was very bitter that her life never met her expectations - she didn't get the career she wanted/get to travel etc. As I got older it became clear though, that what she saw as important was money - and that Uni was only a means to an end to meet "rich/richer" men and not for a career per se. She resents my (lovely) GF for not achieving more even though he has always pulled his weight round the house and doted on his children/GC - he is the one who always spent time with us. To this day, she is only interested in my dh/BILs careers, and though both my dsis and I have good ones of our own, she sticks to wondering how we get the washing and ironing done hmm She is/was an intelligent woman, but certainly not a feminist. sad

CuntyBunty Tue 31-Dec-13 18:15:03

How did you manage to get past your mother's minimising of what happened Callin? Did you have any subsequent conversations with her about it?

CailinDana Tue 31-Dec-13 18:44:58

I talked to her about it twice and she said pretty much the same thing both times, as well as making it clear that she didn't want to hear about it again.

She did me a favour to be honest cunty. All my life I looked for emotional support and encouragement from her, I drove myself mad looking for it and hoping it would some day appear. The second time she fobbed me off wrt the abuse was the start of me realising how much time and energy I was wasting on trying to get a response from her. With the help of my psychiatric nurse (I was severely depressed at the time) I came to see that if she didn't respond to this she would never respond to anything. I moved country with my dh and did my best to detach from her. I don't consider her a mother really anymore just a nice lady who brought me up as best she could. She loves my dcs and is kind to them so I maintain her relationship with them. I tell her the barest details of my life. For example she doesn't know I had PND after dd was born.

It sucks but I'm a lot happier. My one worry is what would happen in the event something major like divorce happened in my life. Their obvious lack of concern would bother me and make things harder. I would haveto cut them off I think, at least temporarily.

youretoastmildred Tue 31-Dec-13 18:50:35

agree with Molly on your name (although having been hurt and troubled by the epithet as a child have now reclaimed to myself the double meaning of "bold")

CailinDana Tue 31-Dec-13 18:54:58

Others on

CailinDana Tue 31-Dec-13 19:15:27

Oops others on MN have said the same about my name (which is an Irish phrase translated as "bold girl" which is how Irish people say "naughty girl") but it has no significance to me really other than something that used to appear in Irish readers. My parents rarely told us off and were very patient and I don't connect it with the abuse.

I do appreciate the kindness behind the suggestion to change it though smile

CuntyBunty Wed 01-Jan-14 10:18:02

That's hard, Cailin. You are so strong, but I agree about the acceptance thing; we are a lot more "sane", when we can stop and think, " I'm the grown up here".

There wouldn't be any point in sending my Mum one of those, "Why Does He Do That?" books at this stage, would there? The simple answer to that question is because he's an appalling shit and he has been allowed to be.

My poor mother had a violent father, her mother died young, so she was left with him until she ran straight into the arms of dad. She would always say, "oh, if he ever lifted a finger to me, like my father, I'd be off". So with those words, she gave him carte Blanche to do everything but; nasty out bursts of temper, sulking, occasional pissed of of his skull drinking. That's all fine; he's great 90% of the time (hilarious, generous, sentimental, just lovely) but its ok to be scary and frighten her as it isn't physical.

I voiced all this a couple of years ago when he was being a shit and I said to mum in front of him, "you know this is abusive. Just because he isn't hitting you, doesn't mean it isn't abuse." He was going mad telling me to shut up and I carried on calmly saying I wouldn't shut up. Mum actually showed a bit of spark then and said she had a mouth of her own. She told him he was a big bully. He phoned to apologise and took mum on a weekend away, bought her some nice things - and so it continues. Except this time it's not ok.

WilsonFrickett Wed 01-Jan-14 11:18:10

What an interesting thread. I've always said this kind of enabling didnt happen in my life - I was brought up by a mother and grandmother who both worked outside the home, my GM in particular was a real trailblazer who always worked - although she was working class which did have a different expectation of working after marriage and children.

However, they both did this - its just that my DGD was a lovely man so there were no obvious issues. But this amazing, strong, smart woman still did everything in her power to make him the King of the home. Catholics too - quite old-style. The thing I heard most in my childhood was 'try to be like Our Lady'. Said with love, but still an insidious message.

My stepfather is a shit however, and of course my mother then went on to repeat her mother's behaviour. I just hadn't made that link before, because as I said in my grandmother's case my grandad was lovely. I think perhaps this thread has made me think more kindly of my mother, or at least given me a little bit more understanding of where she's coming from.

Hugs Cailin. I'm so sorry your mother reacted that way.

CailinDana Wed 01-Jan-14 12:07:36

Thanks Cunty and Wilson.

I think it took a massive amount of courage and strength for you to stand up to your father that way cunty. And you did get through in some small way. I think it's very hard for someone whose spent so much of their life living one to admit it wasn't a good choice. I've had a few revealing conversations with my mother where it's clear she's aware of how useless my father is. When I've said leave or make him step up she's just laughed as if such things are impossible. When I was going through a tough time with my dh and I wanted to talk to her she basically said "do you want to divorce him?no, well put up with it then." She had absolutely no concept of talking about things and agreeing a compromise. In her mind the man can do whatever he likes and the woman has to work around that or leave - but with the extra kicker that leaving isn't actually a real option.

Your "be like Our Lady" memory sent shivers down my spine Wilson. It seems to me that the main message the Catholic church sends out is "women are subsevient vessels." The level of misogyny is really quite staggering. The vast majority of my mother's large family still live in Ireland and my cousins are bringing up their children Catholic because that's what yoy do. 92% of Irish school are Catholic. So it continues. At least one of my cousins is in a marriage where she is a meaningless drudge. No notice is taken of that, her mother simply facilitates by bringing up the shithead's children for him without any criticism. Again the men do as they please while the women struggle gratefully. Sad.

HoleyGhost Wed 01-Jan-14 15:12:36

These women were raised to conform and they did their best to ensure their daughters also conformed. Knowing their place and gender role to serve the men in their lives.

It meant that abuse of all kinds went unchallenged. Ireland was behind the curve but the toleration of horrendous abuse was clearly happening in the UK in the 70s as well. That was the world our mothers knew.

CuntyBunty Wed 01-Jan-14 15:46:52

I don't suggest she leaves anymore, because she won't and I feel like I am hectoring her and shaming her, if you know what I mean? I feel bad for her and I don't want her to feel she can't talk to me, although I am sure I only know the tip of the iceberg.

Mum must have done some good because we all seem to have enough self esteem and great spouses who are our equals, so I should be grateful for that. Neither of my parents did us down and always seemed to think that we could achieve anything we wanted in life, so that wasn't the problem.

WilsonFrickett Wed 01-Jan-14 16:47:00

It's really sad because part of me misses the 'faith' part of Catholicism, you know? --potential stockholm syndrome- But I can't accept the misogyny and the expectation of meekness and mildness. Nor do I want to expose DS to that. So I am away from the faith I was brought up within which does cause me a measure of sadness in my life.

Heigh-ho. If God really did make me then he made me perfect, in all my questioning feminist glory grin

Mary1972 Wed 01-Jan-14 17:32:39

My mother was certainly a feminist and worked. Her mother worked (as she was widowed very young with a baby in the 1930s)., Her own mother was a very strong mother - mater familias type so in my experience all the women in our family on both side are feminists and never put up with any sexism. I am lucky.

CuntyBunty Wed 01-Jan-14 20:13:06

We were talking "lightly" about the fall out and what was going to happen today when DS1 (10yo) asked me, "when are you going to apologise Mummy". I asked him why, what it was he thought I'd done and he didn't know, so I told him we'd done nothing wrong and if Grandad thought we had, he should have said so nicely instead of treating us all so badly. DH was rolling his eyes, trying to get me to shush, but I wanted a calm open conversation with the kids about how we are all the equal (at least) of Grandad. The atmosphere in the past, must always have been of such great reverence to grandad and his appeasement. Fuck that, that is no example to show our sons; I need them to realise that it is not acceptable. It's renewed my cold fury and my determination not to continue with this sick family dynamic. I do
miss my parents though; my Mum, and my Dad when he is on good form. Shit, what a mess.

CailinDana Wed 01-Jan-14 20:29:20

Why was your dh trying to shush you?

CuntyBunty Thu 02-Jan-14 07:22:07

I think because "there is only so much you should tell kids...", they repeat things etc...He is more of a peacekeeper than me too, but it was only the truth about the situation and we all know where brushing things under the carpet has got us...

I had a further conversation with DS1 when we where alone and asked if he was ok about it, if there were any questions he wanted to ask me etc. The maturity on young heads; he said to me, "I am just worried Mum, in case Grandad pops it and you still aren't friends, then you'll be really sad". Apart from the unfortunate turn of phrase, there is the kicker. He saw how upset I was about my Nan dying and I loved her, she was lovely.

CailinDana Thu 02-Jan-14 20:29:43

I worry about the dying thing too cunty. But I have to remind myself that any regrets will be delusional.- I can fool myself that things could be better but that's just not the case. As it stands, for me, things are about as good as they can be.

Fwiw I agree with your approach wrt your son. Glossing over things just makes children worried and confused IMO.

CuntyBunty Thu 02-Jan-14 21:46:41

Yes, I remember feeling worried and confused as a child, hence my approach with the DSs.

CailinDana Thu 02-Jan-14 22:32:10

Me too. My parents brush everything under the carpet. I can't stand it.

CuntyBunty Fri 03-Jan-14 15:57:21

Did you ever get your abuser prosecuted? Would you?
I know you've spoken about it on here before, but I never read what you'd put and I know those threads were more for survivors of sexual abuse, so I didn't want to poke around there for my own entertainment, IYSWIM.

BlogosphereMagazine Fri 03-Jan-14 17:32:57

Has anyone written a blog on this topic? We think it'd make an interesting read in our next issue. @BlogosphereM

AskBasil Fri 03-Jan-14 21:37:28

Really interesting thread I've been following it not really knowing how to contribute to it because my Mum (also Irish Catholic) is a loon and there's simply no point challenging her views - they won't change, I've written her off. She's at the more extreme end of women damaged by patriarchy, but I'll throw her behaviour into the mix as the extremes are also interesting.

She had such a desperately unhappy life, marriage etc., that she needs to re-write it all and pretend it was different; her childhood, which was full of violence and fear and totally lacking in love, has in the last few years been presented as an idyllic country Irish childhood. No mention that their father was always served first as the working man and the household revolved around his wants, rather than the needs of anyone else.

When my father died (violent, selfish alcoholic) she spent the next 2 years taking 2 buses to his grave every day. When he was alive they detested each other and had the most vicious rows which would end with him banging out of the house to the pub, returning a few hours later drunk and vomiting on the carpet. But her narrative is that he was a good husband and father and they had a happy family. Not only does she have a vested interest in upholding patriarchal ideas, she has a vested interested in whitewashing her own history so that anyone coming from another planet would imagine that patriarchy is a benign and rather delightful system of organising humanity. grin

HoleyGhost Fri 03-Jan-14 21:56:31

The whitewashing is what prevents me from challenging my mother's beliefs. Her version of the past has the abuse and misery edited out. There is no way to engage with her.

CailinDana Fri 03-Jan-14 22:14:46

Strangely, my mother likes to complain that we were hard work as teenagers when in fact we were the most boring sensible teens that ever lived. It's almost as though she lives by a script entitled "normal life" which is a dull after school show that covers only problems that are acceptable pre-watershed. So lines about "acceptable" problems like mardy teenagers get added in while "unacceptable" problems like sexual abuse get edited out all regardless of what's actually true. She has to construct her life in a certain way and admitting that her husband is a sexist lump of useless flesh definitely isn't part of that.

CuntyBunty Sat 04-Jan-14 07:37:41

The whitewashing is a big part of it for my Mum too Basil, I think it's survival actually. It would break her if I started "too much" of an in depth dialogue and I don't want to hurt her after she has gone through so much more than I ever have sad. I am just frustrated at her choices and tolerance of crappy behaviour.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Sat 04-Jan-14 15:24:00

This thread really chimes with my experience of my DM and her 'old fashioned' views. She can be a bit 'out there' on lots of issues (she doesn't believe dinosaurs actually existed grin ) but her enabling of my dad's abusive behaviour is something that has long troubled me.

Suffice to say my mum is also catholic (Irish descent, west coast of Scotland) and enables my dad to give her a harder life than she should have to deal with. Recent conversation with her - she had a stroke about 5 yrs ago, was v lucky in the lasting effect is only in her left hand (numbness) but enough to make manual chores a bit harder for her. I have been trying to persuade her to get a dishwasher for years, and was waxing lyrical about how fab mine had been over the Xmas period. She said she'd like one too (1st time she has actually said this) because she's finding washing the heavier stuff difficult because of her hand. Then came all the excuses under the sun as to why she wouldn't/couldn't ask my dad to buy her one for her 65th birthday this year (he still works and brings in £3k per month while she's got a small pension and pays most of the household bills from it hmm ).

The idea of actually telling my dad that she is struggling physically with doing dishes and would like to get a dishwasher is just so unthinkable to her. I know she'll get a lot of huffing/whining/shouting about how he's sick of her 'demanding' shit from him (he'll have to finish the kitchen that was installed 2 years ago to make room for a dishwasher) and how he can't afford to buy a dishwasher etc. but she always goes along with keeping her life organised in a way that has the least impact on my dads life, to her own detriment. And that just infuriates me.

He's always been verbally, emotionally and financially abusive (ran up over £70k of debt on nothing and got my mum to sign over their home as security on a loan he took out to clear his debt) and even when my mum acknowledges how much of an arsehole he is, her 'marriage' is more important to her than her own happiness. I think the fact he doesn't drink or hit her makes it, in her mind, a 'good' marriage and she has this perverse sense of martyrdom to keeping it intact (44 yrs and counting).

Since she retired, my dad has gotten worse in his expectations of her 'having his dinner on the table', house gleaming, her to be at his beck & call because he works you see. Not that he lifted a finger when my mum was working, but now she's got nowt to do all day (she's got plenty but nothing as important as his needs) his sense of entitlement to her time/effort is so much worse than it was when I lived at home.

But again, if I try and challenge her on her stance/views/path of least resistance, it's not appreciated and I get painted as the bad guy trying to make her do what I want (it's not what I want, it's what she wishes she was free to just say herself, and resents not feeling able to do so). Instead of aiming that resentment where it should go, I get the brunt of her frustration.

CailinDana Sat 04-Jan-14 16:47:10

Sorry cunty I missed your question about my abuser. No, I didn't pursue prosecution, for two reasons. Firstly I was afraid but more importantly I would have neede my mother's help (as I never knew his second name or his address). My mother would never help me.

CuntyBunty Sat 04-Jan-14 19:48:29

I am sorry Cailin, that sounds very hard after all you've been through.

TensionWheels, do you still speak to your Dad still? I am curious as to why you challenge her, rather than your Dad. I had to back off on my Mum, because I felt like I was almost "shaming her", it felt cruel and I wanted her to still be able to talk to me without feeling embarrassed of what she has chosen to put up with. He's the one who should feel ashamed, not her.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Sat 04-Jan-14 20:33:02

No I don't speak to him. How that came about almost ended contact between me & my mum, but after about 5 months we managed an uneasy truce - the truce being not to criticise her life/choices and go along with her narrative of us 'both needing our heads banged together'. I'm surprised I've still got a tongue left to bite at times, like when she finally agreed a dishwasher would be great but she's rather be a martyr than actually tell him that she would really like a D/W because she's struggling with washing/drying heavy pots etc.

Tbh, even before I cut contact with him, challenging him was a pretty pointless task, especially when I was left dangling, made out to be a trouble maker, mainly by my mum as well. That's the bit that infuriated me most - DM would tell me something, I'd challenge him on it, and then DM would back him up when I was castigated as being an 'ungrateful interfering bitch'.

I think that when I challenge my mum and her 'woe is me look how hard it is being married' mantra, in my head I'm trying to get through to her that she does have a choice. In reality she just sees me as being unsympathetic to her plight while being too stubborn to just get over my in her minimised mind view irrational anger over something that happened 3 years ago.

I'm finally getting back to this thread, and have really been moved by all the stories. It's horrifying how much women have to put up with, how much we're trained to put up with, and in turn teach our daughters to put up with.

I hope we're the ones who break the cycle.

For my own part, my mother gets very upset by my feminism. She seems to see it as some kind of personal attack on her. I don't speak to her about feminism because I know she isn't interested. But she complains constantly to me about "all that awful feminism stuff" on my FB page.

I challenged her once, asked her why she was so opposed to me trying to make the future better for me and my daughters.

She said that being a woman ever held her back, so she doesn't understand why being a woman is difficult for anyone else. However, her only ambitions in life were getting married and being a teacher. Good feminine goals, befitting a woman. Why on earth would she ever have faced obstacles?

She also said that in her day, women were proud to be married to their husbands, to take their names and loved to iron their shirts hmm. Somehow, she thinks that I don't love DH "properly" because I'm not Mrs DHSurname, and don't iron anything, let alone his shirts.

If I work late, she says she feels sorry for DH having to take care of the DDs by himself.

If DH works late, she says she feels sorry for DH having to work so hard.

However, I've been thinking about why she feels the way she does, in response to this thread, and I have two theories.

Her mother was a career woman in a time when it was very unusual. My mum was sent to boarding school from 11, and she hated it there. She felt very rejected by her mother (who was a hard and difficult person) So I think on some level, my mother blames feminism for women being able to have careers, and denying her a "normal" childhood of a living at home with a loving mother.

I also think she worries that if I focus on my career to much, I won't have enough time for my DDs, and they'll have an unhappy childhood like she did.

So, perhaps, she sees my feminism as a threat to her GD's happiness, rather than her having some weird objection to me trying to ensure they have the brightest future possible.

As such, I'm going to try to be more understanding of her position. We don't really talk or connect on any kind of level beyond a shallow "getting along for the sake of the family", which is sad for both of us. So I can't talk about any of this to her. But we're just such different people, if we don't keep things superficial, we wouldn't be able to be around each other. sad

...being a woman never held her back

Thumbnutstwitchingonanopenfire Sun 05-Jan-14 00:22:12

Annie I think you are right - she is just massively resentful of her own childhood and determined to do things completely differently from her own mother - so she has, to some extent, brainwashed herself into believing that her own choices are the only decent ones for a mother to make, not realising that she could have done both (career AND been a loving mother).

Sounds like she was pretty damaged by her own upbringing. sad

GarlicReturns Sun 05-Jan-14 01:46:48

Cailin, forgive me for not reading your thread properly. It's triggering me in numerous ways, and I want to sleep tonight. I was drawn to it by your title - if you have babies, I'm old enough to be your mother and I am, as cat points out, a second-wave feminist by history.

However, my mother - now in her eighties - was trained for a professional career, and pursued it until she had me. There was no maternity entitlement in her day, nor was there for the first five years of mine. Also, married men were shamed by their peers if their wives worked. My dad was an exceptionally bad bully but, even if she'd wanted to leave him, support for single mothers was non-existent and public censure literally violent.

Against this background, I pinned all my feminism on my earning capacity. Economic independence was utterly crucial for us 'second-wavers' because we'd seen what dependence could do to a woman. We were not, though, supported legally or socially in working after marriage or children. We had to blaze a trail with every fucking thing we did.

On top of society's retrograde expectations of us, we also carried with us the emotional modelling of our parents. Some women had parents - particularly fathers - who supported their daughters' highest aims. Those are the still-rare women now sitting on the boards of influential organisations. Fathers like that were unusual: everybody knew they should be normal, but the norm was actually public verbiage in support of women with old-fashioned oppression at home. Consequently, we married men who did the same double act.

It rapidly - inevitably - became a contest between our independence and our marriages. I chose independence, and was universally chided for having been 'too much of a career woman', despite the fact that I'd made a total domestic & sexual slave of myself while carrying my husband both financially and socially.

Against this backdrop, it's absurd to criticise my generation of women for not knowing how to respond to a boy who wears glitter. (In fact, this was one area on which my mother was adamant - my brothers dressed up with the girls, and we all played with diggers ... but neither she nor I were 'good wives'!) There were only two choices: career OR family - unless you were one of the lucky few.

From our long co-posting history, I'm aware that your parents failed to protect you as well as failing to promote you. I know exactly how that feels, and how hard it is to find a way to settle with this knowledge. I'd like to ask you whether, perhaps, your anger about that is leaking into the gender-related issues of less cataclysmic importance?

When you've decided it isn't (wink), could you try speaking to the mothers as the trailblazing, conflicted, feminists they were and no doubt are? This even works with my mum, difficult though she is: she gave up blaming rape victims after one conversation, and is now a senior advocate of blaming the rapists grin

Pink for boys should be a minor issue after that!!

Oh, and ... in the seventies, toys & games were gender neutral. There was none of this colouring by gender, either ... the poor women are probably just trying to do the right thing confused

Sorry, didn't mean to write my life story blush

CailinDana Sun 05-Jan-14 10:31:57

Garlic thank you for that, it's really interesting to hear the "inside" perspective so to speak.

My mum is complicated. In many ways she is an exemplary second wave feminist, a trailblazer even. She was the first person (not woman, person) in her extremely poor family to go to university. She got her degree then got a professional job. She hid the fact she was engaged to my dad so that she wouldn't be fired. Thankfully by the time she married the marriage ban was no longer being enforced (it had been made illegal some time previously but women were still pushed out of jobs as soon as they were married). She then went on to have three children, taking her basic 3 months' maternity leave each time. Other than that she has never had a break in service in 33 years and counting. She is known in the community for being excellent at her job and earned a major promotion about 6 years ago, ahead of others who were technically further up the line. I definitely admire her for that.
Yet, at home she had an unemployed husband who grudgingly looked after the children and did no housework. He handed the children over to her when she came home as he considered his day to be finished. She then had to cook dinner, do washing, tidy etc as well as dealing with three children. They were short of money so my mother took on a second job which my father was supposed to help with but didn't.
Things slowly improved over the years. Dad took on more housework (only very specific tasks though) and eventually, after 14 years, got a job.
She has very few gender biases. It doesn't even register with her when ds wears pink or dresses. She never wears make up and encouraged me not to bother shaving. All (paid) jobs are fair game to both sexes.
But when it comes to relationships her attitudes are in the 50s. Men can do as they please while women run around after them. This is even true of work relationships. It's even true of male paedophiles - girls and women must just put up with their behaviour and be sure not to upset other men (ie my dad) by complaining about it. That attitude was so destructive My dad took full any more I just don't care. But in spite of how badlymy.mum let me d

CailinDana Sun 05-Jan-14 10:39:09

Sorry. My dad took full advantage of it. But I couldn't be bothered with him any more, I just don't care. In spite of badly my mum let me down I do still admire the monumental effort she put into bringing us up and I want to free her from my dad so she doesn't waste her gc's childhood unnecessarily by appeasing a lazy selfish idiot.
With MIL it's basically the same thing with the added kicker that I seriously dislike my FIL. Plus she has openly expressed sexual biases and I don't want my children to hear that.
Essentially I want both women to finally be free.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Sun 05-Jan-14 14:12:48

Cailin, I feel very similar about my mum - I have an overwhelming urge to help her/look after her/free her from the drudgery of her life with my dad. While at the same time I have the strongest feeling of avoiding doing anything that my dad will benefit from - something that leads me to internal conflict a lot.

One of the things that still rankles with me is that after my mum had her stroke, I wasn't able to take time off work to look after her/help her (I'm a lone parent with my own mortgage, I'd no chance of surviving if I took extended unpaid leave) but my dad could have. Yet he took only a few days off when she got out of hospital and got his sister and then my mum's sister in to do his dishes/washing/cleaning as well as the general household stuff my mum couldn't do. I couldn't get my head around that - my mum was physically incapable of doing anything and still he wouldn't lift a finger for himself never mind anyone else. So 2 women (same age/generation as my mum) pandered to his insistence that he couldn't take time off to step up on my mums behalf. He could have worked from home, but even that became 'too difficult' for him, at a time when my mum needed him. I desperately wanted to be the one to take care of my mum but I'd have lost my home if I'd done that. And still my mum felt sorry for him because it 'must've been very hard/stressful for him to have to go to work and come home and do stuff' so she felt it was right for her DS & SIL to pick up after the lazy git instead of her.

My mind still boggles at that.

CailinDana Sun 05-Jan-14 15:03:01

I suppose to admit he was just being a selfish arsehole was too hard?

My dad is actually a very gentle easy-going person. I've inly seen him angry maybe three times in my life. When it came to simply being cuddly and loving he far outstripped my mother - I always felt far more cared for by him than by her. But it's very hard to square that with the fact that he never once took me to the doctor or dentist (always my mum) never planned a party or helped with homework etc. He was a "reactive" parent rather than active one in the sense that he would respond quite well in most situations but would never take any initiative. If any criticism was levelled at him he would smile as if he genuinely thought it was just a bit of ribbing. He totally has his head in the clouds which can be quite endearing. What annoys me is that while he has wandered around disengaged from the worldy mother has pretty much run his entire life for him. I genuinely think that if she dies before him he will not cope.

HoleyGhost Mon 06-Jan-14 07:03:17

Cailin, maybe she likes it that way?

I think that my own mother wanted to excel in every aspect of her life. Her notion of a good wife involved doing everything as regards catering/hosting/laundry etc. While working full time. She is a passive aggressive martyr who is incapable of delegating. Even if my father had started out willing to contribute more at home, I doubt she would have let him. She sees her role as a woman as incorporating traditional SAHM work as well as being the breadwinner. My father has come to be utterly dependant on her and I suspect she likes that on some level .

My own DH pulls his weight at home and does his fair share with our dc. It is a small price to pay for a genuinely supportive marriage and a happy family.

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