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Dealing with a misogynistic father

(28 Posts)
wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 28-May-17 11:03:42

I've had a difficult relationship with my father since I hit adolescence. In some ways I'm proud of his acheivements, he's done well for himself in an industry that contributes to society, he's well read with a good sense of humour and enjoys life. But he sees women as only helpmeets. He's not kind, even to his wife, and he's not kind to me. He let me down during a difficult time in my life and he NEVER praises or congratulates me on my success. This is despite some pretty special successes recently. He always manages to undermine, dismiss or belittle anything I do. Sometimes on the basis that it's "a bit women's lib" He's said plenty of stuff in the past that reveals he has a bad attitude towards women and girls.

He's very interested in what my husband does and my sons but he doesn't usually even ask how I am when I phone or visit. If I try to te;l him anything from my life he sort of ignores me, or responds very slightly. I've recently been trying to maintain something of a relationship with him as he's getting older. I don't want him to die with us on poor terms. I only visit and phone maybe once every two months, it's not a massive commitment.

My question to my fellow feminists is how can I relate to him without his attitude upsetting me, or getting to me. I can't be the only one with misogynists for relatives. I've just come off the phone with him and I'm feeling pretty upset even though it wasn't that bad. I don't need his approval but I want him to not be a dick because he's my dad and I'd also really like a bit of support and encouragement occasionally. I do realize this isn't going to happen, my question is more about how to handle my own continually thwarted desire for him to be a bit more pleasant to deal with.

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Sun 28-May-17 11:31:09

I have the same issue but don't have any good advice, I'm afraid. I just wanted you to know you weren't alone!

He's not misogynistic as much as he's a male chauvinist: he treated my brother differently to me and my sisters - it was very much a "boys are players but women are sluts" attitude to sex, and all housework is definitely women's work. He also commented on our figures and our behaviour in relation to how likely we were to attract/repel men confused He has always hated it if any one of us challenges him or expresses beliefs or values that are different to his.

As a result, I feel very conflicted. I love him, but I hate buying birthday cards and father's day cards. They all have gushing messages of how supportive fathers are and how they are always there for their daughters and I just feel - blank. I phone occasionally, and visit occasionally, but I've always felt detached from him. I don't think I'm the kind of daughter he wanted at all!

The comment you made about being praised/congratulated resonated. His response to my A Level results (disappointment that they weren't straight As although I'd got into Oxbridge) and my driving test (unflattering surprise that I'd passed) stand out as highlights.

Sorry not to be more helpful, but I wanted to post that you're not alone.

AnyFucker Sun 28-May-17 11:36:10

I have the same issue

I wrote the sexist, racist piece of shit off a long time ago.

Why treat such a person any differently becsuse you are related to them ? If a friend or colleague acted like this would you make so many allowances ?

DJBaggySmalls Sun 28-May-17 12:02:06

I'd keep him at arms length physically and emotionally. Why set yourself up for a lifetime of failure? You cant fix him, he doesn't value you and cant hear you. He wont be a good role model to your children.

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 28-May-17 12:09:46

Thank you Theonlylivingboy yours sounds very like mine. It's helpful just to know other women feel the same. I recognise the awkwardness around birthday and Father's Day cards especially. Yes, I love him but feel blank mostly, I can't identify with any of that gushing. He always ends up with something pretty, but non committal. 😃

Anyfucker I prefer not to write people off. I'm not perfect either. I have a violent ex that I don't have in my life but that's a good and practical reason. Of course we treat people differently if we are closely related to them, or grew up with them. Our need for one another as family is one of the things that makes us human. This doesn't mean we have to take anything they throw at us but it does mean we have a different kind of connection.

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 28-May-17 12:12:13

Yes I do keep him at arms length DJ but you are right I can't fix him. I'm not sure I want to fix him but I do find it so frustrating that he's so dense in that way and not in others.

NoLoveofMine Sun 28-May-17 12:28:50

Why treat such a person any differently becsuse you are related to them ? If a friend or colleague acted like this would you make so many allowances ?

I concur though admittedly for me it's easy to say, but I can't imagine having a close relationship (or much of one at all) with my father if he expressed misogynist sentiment.

I'm not perfect either.

No-one is but there's a difference between this and his complete lack of support for you, and his general attitude towards women and girls. It must be incredibly frustrating and upsetting to have this with your father; I find misogyny from anyone enraging enough let alone a close family member.

AnyFucker Sun 28-May-17 12:42:28

"I'm not perfect either"

Would you treat your chuldren like he has ?

Elendon Sun 28-May-17 13:30:58

You can never win, ever, so just don't try. My father was a misogynist.
He always answered the phone when I rang, to speak to my mum really, and hogged the conversation. I usually deflected it to a book I'd read and a film I'd recently seen. Then when I spoke to my mum he was always in the kitchen listening to her speak. Horrible and controlling. He's dead now. I did mourn his demise because I felt sorry for the way he lead his life in hating half the population of the world, and how that must have impacted on his relationships. It was his problem, not mine, even though he tried his hardest to make me feel incredibly uncomfortable in his company.

My mum is ace though. We talk freely now and she is and always has been a secret feminist.

Elendon Sun 28-May-17 13:38:05

AnyFucker I did make allowances regarding my father because I knew my mum was in an abusive and controlling relationship. She was the brains in that relationship, no doubt about it. He knew it too. She was also way better looking than him, which he despised also. But she liked Coronation Street and programmes like the X Factor and Eurovision, which made her working class in his inflated opinion of himself he never read Anna Karenina that much was patently obvious

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 28-May-17 17:32:41

I suppose what I'm trying to work out is how to not let it bother me. It bothers me. I know he won't change at his age. I'm confident enough to challenge him if he says something I don't like but I'm not confident enough to just think he's an arshole and move on. It festers. That's why we don't have a good relationship. I expect better of him and he always comes up short. In other ways he's fine and I don't agree with cutting people off unless they are actively dangerous in some way. I think there's too much silent treatment and going "no contact" we need to be more forgiving of one another. He's an old man who is my father and has cared for me many times in the past as well as the times he has let me down, because he's just a human being.

ElinorRigby Sun 28-May-17 17:41:35

I think there is a level on which it has to 'bother you'. Because if we value ourselves, we have to believe that we are worthy of attention and affirmation.

It's an issue I have/have had with both my parents. My father's dead.

I don't contact my mother a great deal and tend to keep the conversation quite practical and functional. I also withhold news of my achievements, because the more I tell my one surviving parents - the more the lack of engagement and response hurts.

I value relationships with other older people who are engaged and attentive. It's as if I have needed to find surrogate/substitute parents - because my own have not done that brilliant a job in certain key respects.

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Sun 28-May-17 17:52:53

Thanks ElinorRigby maybe there's a level of self acceptance on my part too. I need to be more practical - not telling him achievements, keeping things superficial in conversation. It does hurt but I maybe volunteer opportunities for him to hurt me. I mean I only go to let my son see him and to check they are both ok cause they re getting on a bit.

I do feel for his wife. He's so unsympathetic towards her. but actually I get plenty of support elsewhere so I don't need it from him.

ElinorRigby Sun 28-May-17 17:59:41

Yes, I kept up contact so my daughter could know her grandparents.

And, there is some concern about whether elderly parents are coping practically as time goes on.

Scrumplestiltskin Mon 29-May-17 05:50:59

"It does hurt but I maybe volunteer opportunities for him to hurt me."
I'm not sure why you would want a relationship with someone who hurts you at every opportunity. I would distance myself emotionally and in terms of frequency of contact, and let go of the idea that he's going to provide anything in a relationship other than disappointment and hurt.
Honestly, it sounds to me like whether you keep in touch or not, you'll be on poor terms, because he sees you as a lesser human being for being female, and that's not good terms imo.
I'm sorry you're in this situation sad

Westray Mon 29-May-17 05:53:44

OP he sounds just like my mother.

THankfully I no longer need her approval.

rizlett Mon 29-May-17 06:10:01

I found with my mother that saying stuff like - 'actually I didn't want you to say that' worked and then backing it up with 'i wanted you to be pleased/happy/proud of me' or whatever helped. It didn't really matter whether she did or didn't say things differently next time I spoke to her because I'd previously told her how I felt.
What happened though was that she did change what she said to me - even though I do have to remind her now and again.

I also realised that every time we let them affect our feelings we are giving our power away and in a way (and in a repeated pattern of negative behaviour) choosing to be hurt.

I continue to let go of the need for approval from anyone and keep accepting myself. (this is hard I think for us who were not accepted by parents) Eventually the awkward way they are doesn't have the power to affect you at all.

Westray Mon 29-May-17 06:18:38

I see my mother as naiive and flawed.

It's a genetic accident that she happens to be my mother.

SummerKelly Mon 29-May-17 06:52:24

I have this with my dad too, complaining about women drivers and "females" being too this or that. I used to challenge him but then he'd take it out on my mum. I've been thinking recently about how growing up with a disparaging and abusive father now affects how I see men more generally, e.g. at work feeling easily intimidated.

I don't have an answer. I hate going to my parents because of his behaviour but I feel I ought to see my mum. I also tell them practically nothing about my life so they can't ruin it. I feel a bit sorry for him because he was brought up with a lot of violence himself, but as someone says above there's no way I'd behave to my DD as he has to me.

wrappedupinmyselflikeaspool Mon 29-May-17 08:53:27

I just want to say thank you for all your responses to this. I love this MN feminism thread. It has restored my faith in contemporary feminism.

I'm still feeling quite despondent about this but I have decided not to bother visiting this half term. ( that's why I was phoning him when he started going on about women's libbers) He's fine, she's fine, that all I wanted to know. I've done my duty. My son won't suffer, he has other relatives.

Regarding my own ability to deal - it's possible it will never improve because I think I genuinely thought it was the greatness of my acheivements that was lacking, and if I had acheivements enough he would have to give in. But that's not how it works is it? It's amazing he looks down on women because he has three daughters. It's sad for him and sad for me. It's sad there are so many men and women who still think feminism is a dirty word.

On the other hand I have loads of friends who are proud of me and behind me all the way. I've been supported by some amazing feminists.
I'm married to a really lovely man who has occasionally shown himself to be a better feminist that I am, through his vocal support of his female colleagues against his sexist ones and his social media postings of rad fem stuff. He does this because he knows he won't get as much shit as I would. HE is immensely proud of me and everything I do. That's all I need.

barefootinkitchen Mon 29-May-17 09:17:50

Hi just wanted to join in and say that although mine is proud of everything I do and is always supportive of me in a practical way I do have the issue of how to deal with the misoginistic attitude. It is ruining our relationship. I confront it every time, especially since having a daughter, and it's tiring having to constantly explain why a comment is offensive. He makes it clear he admires manly men and has a low opinion of ' women in general' though not really ones he knows. When I spend time with my mum he'll say " all you women want to do is gossip and go shopping" .... My blood boils . I can't let it go , so end up making a big issue out of it. ( My mum says it's just a working class thing which is rubbish)
Have you told your father how his behaviour makes you feel ?

cushioncovers Mon 29-May-17 09:28:48

I have the same here my father sees women as second class citizens the only one I think he has ever had a bit of admiration for is Margret thatcher. I have wasted much of my life wondering what I have done wrong because he's always seems disappointed and irritated by me and most other women. My mother is a gentle sol who 'knows her place' and never challenged my father still doesn't do as a child I learnt that what my father said about me must be right because my mum didn't question it.

But after my divorce I had counselling thinking I would be talking about my exh but it turned out I spent most of my time talking about my father and his treatment towards me.

Long story short the counselling helped me understand that it is his problem and his alone. And it gave me back my self worth. Know your own worth op don't look for your fathers approval, it's very liberating. Easier said than done I know.

cushioncovers Mon 29-May-17 09:29:54

Oh and I can relate to the birthday card Father's Day card thing so much.

VestalVirgin Tue 30-May-17 13:43:53

Of course we treat people differently if we are closely related to them, or grew up with them. Our need for one another as family is one of the things that makes us human.

Would you say the same thing if your father had been physically abusive?

You don't seem to get anything out of this relationship. He profits from your attention and gives back nothing.

If I were you, I'd slowly fade out of his life. Contact him once every three months, then every four months, then every six months, until you are down to calling and perhaps visiting on Christmas.

I have an uncle who has horrible attitudes about ... well a lot of things, he's pretty conservative. We only see him once a year, and that is really, really, really enough.

cheeseandtoast Wed 07-Jun-17 19:59:58

I have namedchanged as paranoid about giving out too much information but your post got me thinking shot my father.

I think it is helpful when young to have someone who allows you to question society and isn't sexist.

My father was a staunch catholic I think he even paid money to one one of those anti abortion charities as I remember having a heated discussion with him when I was 13 years. So there was sometimes a great deal that we disagreed wth, the catholic faith being a major one. However we used to have wonderful debates and he certainly let me question Catholicism and he presented himself flaws and all.

I went to an all girls school and found some of the teaching pretty odd but in hindsight I am pleased that up until university I never really had to share a class with boys/men I really felt I could do what I wanted.

Anyhow he died by the time I was twenty but I never ever heard him say anything sexist or racist and he actively pointed out sexism so so often. He questioned society so much and how it treated women, immigrants etc. I think it means that now if I hear anything dodgy I really find myself calling people on it.

I remember him introducing me to a fellow teacher and her and him talking to me about how she couldn't even get a credit card in her own name and stupid that was and my dad reminding me how short a time ago that was.

For example in my teens when girls would start dropping out of sports he was an amateur sports coach and really was supportive to women also as a teacher I know it drove him mad that some women would not feel comfortable at sports anymore - he coached some women to national level before they went to better coaches.

We used to watch the tennis - he loved Martina Navratilova and the Williams sisters and when idiots would comment negatively about them in terms of their bodies then he would tell me what splendid athletes they were and how wrong people were if they couldn't see how fantastic they were both as spokespeople and as sports women.

He couldn't stand apartheid either and we would discussions about this.

I remember huge discussions about whether we would act one way or another in historical situations.

Advertising - he would point out how stupid it was and why would you want to base your worth on appearances etc etc.

When I went out and say drank too much at university he was always at the end of the phone would pick me up and never judge.

He helped around the house more than equally because my mother was ill but he honestly managed a house and full time work so I remember him sometimes doing house work until very late.

He fully supported anything I wanted to do from music to sport to academics.

His mother, my grandmother was totally wonderful and political and helped women and families too so I really feel he got a lot of this from his mum.

There are so many idiots in this world so I am determined to bring some critical thinking to my children.

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