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disappointed with self

(25 Posts)
Empusa Tue 16-Aug-11 22:43:49

Something I've been thinking about lately is how I viewed myself as a strong feminist when I was younger. In many ways I was, stood up for equal rights in education and my work, in fact I was well known for it in one job. Made a few enemies for it too.

But in my personal life..

One ex attempted to anally rape me. I fought him off... Then stayed with him for a few more months till he dumped me.

had another bloke try to corner me, with the intention of (very non consensual) sex.

I never mentioned it, he even invited himself to a party at my house a few years later, and I never kicked him out.

how the hell do I concile these two versions of me? How many more women feel able to stand up against professional sexism, but not personal?

tethersend Tue 16-Aug-11 22:50:40

The two attempts at raping you were not your responsibility.

You should feel no guilt.

jennyvstheworld Tue 16-Aug-11 22:56:59

Horrible experiences Empusa.

From my brief time on here I know that a lot of people will say that it is conditioning; women are 'expected' to put up with bad behaviour. I think there is probably a lot of truth in this. I also think - and this is possibly still part of the conditioning argument - that there is something about aggressive male behaviour which attracts women. I obviously don't mean 'attracts' in a positive sense... more like a moth to a flame, I suppose. I know countless examples of women drawn to 'bad boys'.

It also seems to be the case that however strongly we might intellectually recognise the validity of a philosophical position, our feelings may often contradict our own opinions. For example, I recognise the utter stupidity of a Ferrari - it doesn't stop me coveting one though.

tethersend Tue 16-Aug-11 23:00:00

I think the blame and the analysis should be shouldered by the blokes who tried to rape you TBH.

DontCallMeFrothyDragon Tue 16-Aug-11 23:09:04

Ditto Tethersend.

DontCallMeFrothyDragon Tue 16-Aug-11 23:09:38

Sorry to hear of your experiences, btw.

jennyvstheworld Tue 16-Aug-11 23:13:27

I apologise if I've misunderstood your question Empusa. Obviously, the blame and guilt should be shouldered by the two men in question...

However, I thought you were asking why it was that your principles were at odds with your actions.

sunshineandbooks Tue 16-Aug-11 23:21:27

I can empathise with you. Even now, nearly 5 years later, I still have trouble reconciling the woman I am now with the woman I was when I was with my abusive XP.

It's called cognitive dissonance. There's an excellent thread on it in this section link here. I think you will identify very strongly with the OP and many of the replies.

Be kinder on yourself. I think quite often the enormity of realising that someone we care about can treat us so shamefully sometimes sends us into a state of emotional shock and denial, so that we don't always react appropriately at the time. It's a very human reaction and says more about your Xs than it does about you.

jennyvstheworld Tue 16-Aug-11 23:52:43

I agree wholeheartedly with SAB and Colditz. To add to that, I think the act of implementing change often requires a great deal of strength. In an abusive relationship (or after a single shocking event), most people probably don't feel at all strong.

AnnieLobeseder Tue 16-Aug-11 23:59:09

While you, as a feminist, long for a society free of prejudice and violence against women, the reality is that you live in a world where these things not only still exist, but are predominant.

So while one part of you wishes you could have done something about those self-entitled would-be-rapists, another part made the more sensible and self-preservative decision to not rock the patriarchal boat.

There is not blame on you for this. They were the ones behaving in an unacceptable manner. The guilt is theirs and theirs alone.

swallowedAfly Wed 17-Aug-11 00:02:42

Message withdrawn

jennyvstheworld Wed 17-Aug-11 00:06:42

<shudders> Frigid is such a horrible word.

AnyFucker Wed 17-Aug-11 00:16:48

I have detailed on here before my continuing to date my date-rapist in an attempt to "normalise" what he did

with the specs of hindsight I think "wtf"

it's not my fault, though, it was his alone

it took me about 20 years to forgive myself for that one... I get you, and so do so many other women who made (or continue to make) similar bargains and rationalisations with themselves

do you know what though ? I still wouldn't report it, if it happened today. That is (just one of the reasons) why we still need Feminism.

giyadas Wed 17-Aug-11 01:01:37

It's hard to see a situation fully when you're in the middle of it. Every woman in their life will have done something anti-feminist or allowed some bloke to get away with it, that's the world we live in.
You might possibly/potentially be able to point the finger at the women who put up with it if we lived in a feminist world, but we don't and every woman has had to make compromises or brush off something that clashes with their view of who they are because we wouldn't survive of we didn't.
Make a difference where you can but don't carry the weight of every woman's expectations on your shoulders, cos it's not possible. Equally don't berate yourself where you may feel you have failed, if you've survived you haven't failed.

garlicbutter Wed 17-Aug-11 02:14:53

Like others here, empusa, I did it too! Was an active and vocal feminist but being oppressed by my partners.

When I 'caught' feminism (1971), I heard very clear messages about women's subordination in terms of work and the law, but nothing about personal relationships. Feminism was a new and powerful influence for me, then, but did nothing to counteract the most powerful influence on my relationship choices/behaviour: my parents (who would make a top example of cognitive dissonance, but that's an oft-told story.) As time went on, I became more definite about my rights to go unmolested - stood up for myself against shouters, gropers, etc - but continued to be pliable with partners.

It didn't occur to me that my private behaviour mismatched my public attitudes. It wasn't hypocrisy or double-think; the two areas were separate in my mind. I insisted on things like not doing all the housework, having my own money, etc, as I was aware of those as feminist issues. I deferred to partner in emotional & sexual matters, as I was still acting out the script bestowed on me by parents.

In my case, I suspect marriage #2 broke down because I was beginning to figure this out for myself. I became non-compliant. It took Mumsnet to highlight the ways in which I'd been abused by my husband, and to open up the channels of thought that would allow me to fully override the parental settings.

I don't think this is true of every woman with a similar background: some discover truths about their personal lives through feminism; some discover feminism through identifying how they (or other women) have been abused. I am sure, though, that Mumsnet is a powerful force for enlightenment - sadly, still a rare one.

- sorry, that might have come out as burble. Just realised how tired I am blush Hope it makes some sense.

leafgreen Wed 17-Aug-11 08:55:12

Empusa, I'm sorry you have been through that sad angry

In my case, there were two related reasons:

I did not expect to be backed up, either by the conscience of the abusive man or by anyone else around us


I knew from experience that laying down a boundary that then gets dismissed and treated as if I never did or said anything, feels even worse than not having objected in the first place.

Someone said to me recently, though: "I am not having you saying sorry for some shit who manipulated you."

All the others are right - it is for these men to assume accountability. Then your question becomes something like "how did those men refrain from professional sexism, but not personal?"

Anniegetyourgun Wed 17-Aug-11 09:41:02

Could be a self-esteem thing. A lot of us have very strong views on what is right but don't see ourselves as worthy of consideration. Thus, we will stand up in the workplace because that's for a principle, but at home we will not stand up because that's "only" for ourselves.

skrumle Wed 17-Aug-11 09:56:27

everyone is different in their personal vs their professional personas (and IMO if they're not they tend to be either professionally inefficient or personally unpleasant). also agree with Annie that it's easier to stand up for a principle than it is for yourself.

justforaminute Wed 17-Aug-11 21:00:10

yep-i can see what youre saying.
ive always fought/kicked back in life-i didnt realise i was a feminist i just knew i was fighting but i didnt know what.
however-ive experianced a lot of things and ive wondered how come ive been strong in some areas but"weak"in others.
at one point i was tryng to help women and going home and getting seven tons of shit beaten out of me!
its because although my head told me this was wrong-my heart didnt.
because of before then-i felt like i was worth nothing/i was used to it/and it was all i had known.[also it was hard to get out of-it was many years ago]
i was frightened of him-and i was frightened of life.
these days i realise why and i dont concille.
i think that if i did this-it would keep me in one place[can you see what im saying]
it wasnt youre fault.

Empusa Thu 18-Aug-11 11:27:02

Thankyou everyone.

Annie I think you might be onto something there, with principles being easier to stand up for.

leafgreen I love this
"All the others are right - it is for these men to assume accountability. Then your question becomes something like "how did those men refrain from professional sexism, but not personal?""

You're right, that is probably the more important question.

busybee1983 Thu 18-Aug-11 16:26:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ThePosieParker Wed 24-Aug-11 21:14:40

busy...You froze to preserve your life. Have you seen anyone about this?

HerBeX Wed 24-Aug-11 21:28:09

busy maybe it was psychologically easier to fight off rapist number 1 because you were at a party, there were other people around and you had a chance of escaping?

Whereas with rapist number 2, you had no chance. So your body instinctively did what it needed to do to get through this and come out alive?

I think this is very true:

"laying down a boundary that then gets dismissed and treated as if I never did or said anything, feels even worse than not having objected in the first place"

I really think there's a lot in that for so many of us who were raped or assaulted. The fear of having a boundary dismissed and the unknown consequences of the dismissal of that boundary - perhaps further violence, more pain, maybe death- at the very least a bald, unavoidable demonstration that your boundaries are irrelevant - is far more frightening than not acknowledging the boundary.

Beachcomber Wed 24-Aug-11 22:12:21

Empusa I'm really sorry to hear about your experiences.

I think you are not alone in this and that many outspoken feminists have experienced male violence and not reported it/fought back/spoken out. I count myself as one of them.

There are many reasons why we don't speak out - some of them already mentioned on this thread (which has the potential to be an amazing discussion if it is not derailed).

In the most basic way, patriarchy is the reason why it is so easy for men to exert sexual violence over women and why it is so difficult for women to fight against that sexual violence. We aren't believed, we are made to feel it is somehow our fault, we internalise the normalization of sexual violence, we are surrounded by messages that experiencing sexual violence is an occupational hazard of being a woman, we freeze for survival reasons, we are taught it is 'unladylike' to cause a fuss, etc.

Sexual violence is used to maintain patriarchy and patriarchy is used to maintain sexual violence - that is an incredibly hard combination for individual women to fight against. It is also a key reason for the need for feminism.

Thanks for starting this thread.

RushyBay Mon 29-Aug-11 12:21:06

Yes, thank you Empusa. It's reassuring, but depressing, to read that I'm not the only one who has struggled with this...

I have identified as feminist since I was a teenager. I volunteer for a charity that supports victims/survivors of domestic violence. I consider myself to have a good understanding of the social context of domestic violence.

I genuinely thought my relationship was an equal, loving one, until one day he 'lost it'. I looked back over the previous 6 years and realised he had been systematically putting me down, ignoring my boundaries, humiliating me in public; 'training' me to meet his needs, to be grateful for his attention, to only speak my mind when I agreed with him, to sublimate any desires and hopes I have for my own life which didn't fit with his own.

It's hard to believe, seeing it written down, but it was so, so subtle. And it's still taken me nearly two years from that argument to work through the cognitive dissonance and finally leave him. I know I shouldn't be, but I'm too ashamed to admit to the people I work with the real reason about why I have.

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