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Is it fair to absolve my mother and, instead, blame men as a class?

(84 Posts)
Herja Wed 01-Jul-20 10:57:23

Following a disagreement, where I was told it seems a bit 'man hating feminist', I'm interested in your views.

I had an early childhood in which I was neglected and occasionally abused. This was to a fairly serious level, though not all the time.

This happened because my mother was a raging drug addict. BUT, I have had hundreds of conversations with her; I know why she was a drug addict - it was because she was raped multiple times by multiple men from the age of 13. In ways which were horrific. I can actually remember some of it.

So rather than blame my mother, I blame men as a class for my childhood. And I blame men as a class, rather than my mother, for my resulting poor mental health. I actually have a good relationship with my mum.

I'm pretty set in this view to be honest, but is it fair (Like I think)? Or is it not right to blame men for this (As I have been told)?

OP’s posts: |
marvellousnightforamooncup Sat 04-Jul-20 23:09:20

Yep, I can totally get where you're coming from OP.

Goosefoot Sat 04-Jul-20 22:52:32

CatandtheFiddle

*Blaming whole groups of people for what some people do is not what feminism should be about*

On the contrary, feminism is "about" making an analysis of the structural oppression of women as a class by men as a class.

As the OP sensibly says, this is not about individual men - this is about structures of power.

Except that it's not, it's about a specific incidence where her mother did certain things, and some men did things to her mother, and maybe her parents, and who knows going on back.

You could talk about what kinds of things structures of power allow or encourage or dynamics they set up, and that might well have had a part in everything that transpired with the OP. You might say "the nature of men was what led to or caused the ongoing situation that ended in neglect and abuse of the OP".

But blame is a different thing that implies culpability. Though maybe the OP doesn't think of the word that way.

Herja Sat 04-Jul-20 22:39:42

It's been really interesting to hear the two sides in this. Thank you. In real life, people can be a bit uncomfortable with saying things like this, no matter how much I insist it really is fine, so it's good to hear less filtered opinions.

While I do obviously see that the things my mother did, or neglected to do, to me, must be attributed to her alone, for me, she was not really responsible for how the situation came about. That means that I can forgive her it entirely really. I blame the cause, not her. I think she would have been a very different parent, had she had an easier life; I think many of her choices were not a 'choice' at all in the true sense. This doesn't mean that I think anyone else should ever blame the patriarchy for their upbringing and forgive their parents; just that here, I genuinely do feel it is fair to blame the patriarchy for my childhood. Particularly as my childhood impacted my later mental health, leading me to be more vulnerable to male violence and abuse in turn.

OP’s posts: |
Justhadathought Sat 04-Jul-20 22:14:11

On the contrary, feminism is "about" making an analysis of the structural oppression of women as a class by men as a class

Then it has had its day...and has gone from being the struggle of women for equal civil and legal rights and opportunities, to a form of contemporary identity politics which pitches one group against another, in a never ending litany of grievance, victimisation and oppression.

DidoLamenting Sat 04-Jul-20 22:03:32

No one has said NAMALT. They have said you can't pin responsibility on an abstraction for something concrete

Very well put.

DidoLamenting Sat 04-Jul-20 22:02:45

As theOPsensibly says, this is not about individual men - this is about structures of power

For the purpose of absolving individual woman of all responsibility and agency.

CatandtheFiddle Sat 04-Jul-20 21:57:39

Blaming whole groups of people for what some people do is not what feminism should be about

On the contrary, feminism is "about" making an analysis of the structural oppression of women as a class by men as a class.

As the OP sensibly says, this is not about individual men - this is about structures of power.

insideandout3 Sat 04-Jul-20 21:57:29

"Blaming whole groups of people for what some people do is not what feminism should be about."

What is the cost of women's blame for men?

Does it look like women picking up machine guns and mowing down dozens of men in public places like churches, gyms, schools, movie theaters?

Does it look like mothers aborting baby boys by the millions annually?

Does women's blame keep men inside at night?

Does it keep men out of career positions that pay well but increase exposure to the negative consequences of women's blame?

What hardship is done to men who learn about women blaming men for the daily destructions that male-pattern violence inflicts?

Goosefoot Sat 04-Jul-20 21:23:01

SpongeBobJudgeyPants

I hear you OP. And I think the cries of NAMALT are disappointing. Particularly on a feminist forum. sad

No one has said NAMALT. They have said you can't pin responsibility on an abstraction for something concrete.

Justhadathought Sat 04-Jul-20 20:01:07

I hear you OP. And I think the cries of NAMALT are disappointing. Particularly on a feminist forum. sad

Blaming whole groups of people for what some people do is not what feminism should be about. If that is what feminism is about, then my feeling is that it has over-reached its usefulness as a methodology, and has now just become a form of inter-sectional identity politics like any other. Certainly in the western liberal democracies.

Justhadathought Sat 04-Jul-20 19:57:30

I do get angry when I say how I feel and someone quotes it and says they know how I feel better than how I do, yes

Except, that is not was she was doing.....but that is, obviously, how you interpreted it. I perceived no aggression in her precis at all. just an analysis.

Dervel Sat 04-Jul-20 19:18:52

Blame away OP! It IS usually us men who commit sex crimes, (or indeed crimes generally). Whilst I am generally in favour of personal responsibility, and am never going to be cool with any child being neglected or abused. It does seem your mother falls into the camp of being more sinned against than sinned herself. Especially if we view drug addiction as a public heath issue as opposed to a criminal one.

Whilst I’m sure your own thoughts and feelings are nuanced and complex when it comes to your mother they are your thoughts and feelings to experience and express. As such there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do it.

I don’t especially take a class analysis of men’s criminal behaviour as a personal slight, as if these truths aren’t faced and given fresh air and daylight they will never change, and change they must.

I wish you and your mum all the happiness and healing in the world. Neither of you deserved these harmful experiences. Take care.

insideandout3 Sat 04-Jul-20 18:47:12

"It's an old argument, but most sexually abused children don't go on to abuse children when they are adults. A few so."

But the ones who do are male. 98% of sexual assaults are committed by men.

To blame 98% of the rapist male population for the very common male crime of rape is appropriate.

SisterWendyBuckett Sat 04-Jul-20 17:45:02

So sorry Herja thanks

I think it's incredibly helpful to frame your mother's treatment of you, and her treatment of herself, in the context of the abuse she suffered. This allows understanding, empathy and compassion for firstly yourself and then for your mum.

Finding a way to have a loving relationship with your Mum as an adult is wonderful. And I admire you for it. Not everyone will want or be able to do this of course.

Taking a class analysis of the abuse your mother suffered makes sense to me. And I agree when you say it's not about individual men but about the power and ability of males to inflict hurt and sexual violence. Most men don't do this thankfully, but most of the violence that's committed against women is carried out by men.

I was thinking today about the Jeffrey Epstein case and the role of Ghislaine Maxwell in the abuse. My first thoughts were that she was also one of his victims. Robert Maxwell, her father, was renowned as a bully and it does lead me to at least wonder about the early relationships she had with men and if this made her vulnerable to being coerced and coercing other girls and women. This could never excuse her actions, but it does enable us to look at the biggest picture.

At some point we, as a society, have to look at the cause of cycles of violence and abuse and recognise the patterns so we can try to prevent them happening.

june2007 Sat 04-Jul-20 17:40:42

It is a cycle of abuse. Your mother was abused, then she turned to drugs ad abused you. You can understand why but that does not excuse your mum. The people who abused your mm are not responsable for her abuse o

TorkTorkBam Sat 04-Jul-20 17:24:00

TehBewilderness

I hold men responsible for male violence.
That is what your mother and my mother suffered from.
I hold my mother responsible for the choices she made as an adult.
Both good and bad.

This is how I feel about my mother and the patriarchy.

This way of thinking allowed me to break the cycle of abuse.

ShinyFootball Sat 04-Jul-20 17:19:57

I do get angry when I say how I feel and someone quotes it and says they know how I feel better than how I do, yes.

Maybe irritated would be a better word?

SpongeBobJudgeyPants Sat 04-Jul-20 17:18:14

I hear you OP. And I think the cries of NAMALT are disappointing. Particularly on a feminist forum. sad

Coyoacan Sat 04-Jul-20 17:16:30

Personally, I think forgiveness (genuine forgiveness, not playground 'shake hands' nonsense) if achievable can help heal the victim because hatred burns in a very particular way that, in my limited experience, has unpleasant health consequences

I totally agree.

OP, well done to you and your mother for getting over your respective problems.

I think you are right about the source of your mother's suffering and am a bit surprised that so many people on the feminist board think that OP is a man-hater because of her comment.

Justhadathought Sat 04-Jul-20 17:12:06

Are you two both trying to lecture me on how to feel or have I missed something

nobody is trying to lecture you o how to feel. they are making observations on the nature pf pain, anger, grief, healing and forgiveness. Using the word " passive" is not an insult. it is a description of the process you described of first of all getting angry, then over time forgetting about the incident or injury.

The thing is, you do actually sound angry......and that's the problem; until we are able to genuinely let go, then the anger remains and eats away at us.

Justhadathought Sat 04-Jul-20 17:03:50

I hold men responsible for male violence.That is what your mother and my mother suffered from

We should hold individuals responsible for the violence they commit.
Violence committed by men is not the same as some monolithic edifice called 'Male Violence'. It's as meaningless and unhelpful a phrase as 'White Privilege'.

Justhadathought Sat 04-Jul-20 16:57:47

And I’m sorry that this victimisation was passed on to you

But if you insist on always looking for someone to blame, you'll never escape being a victim, and as a victim you are likely to keep attracting situations to yourself in which you are further victimised.

Shit happens,. How we deal with it is crucial. The OP needs to unpack her complex feelings in a counselling/therapeutic environment.

DidoLamenting Sat 04-Jul-20 15:39:37

TehBewilderness

*I hold men responsible for male violence.
That is what your mother and my mother suffered from*
I hold my mother responsible for the choices she made as an adult
Both good and bad

I agree- and where do you draw the line ?

saying your mother bears no responsibility is like saying serial murders who had horrifically abusive childhoods (and many of them did) are not responsible for their murders. Not much good to the victims

Agreed

Gronky Sat 04-Jul-20 15:33:33

I'm sure you said you were one before?

I haven't and I'm not, I was curious because I've been working in STEM since the 80s and it's had an impact on my language (I still remember the first critique from a professor of a piece of work being "it's very obvious a girl wrote this").

You were responding to and quoted my comment. It wasn't a generalisation.

I can only apologise if you got that impression, it wasn't my intent. I was trying to relate how I would describe the same process for myself. I also didn't mean to suggest negative connotations for 'passive' or 'narrow', though I can see how they might be interpreted that way. In my view, a wide perspective has its share of drawbacks just as a narrow one does, depending on context; for example, missing key details. Equally, a passive approach isn't necessarily bad either, it could be a recognition that energy would be wasted with an active one.

puzzledpiece Sat 04-Jul-20 15:25:35

Sorry but only the people who perpetrate the abuse are responsible for the abuse. The men who abused your mother yes. Your mother, yes.

By saying your mother bears no responsibility is like saying serial murders who had horrifically abusive childhoods (and many of them did) are not responsible for their murders. Not much good to the victims.

It's an old argument, but most sexually abused children don't go on to abuse children when they are adults. A few so. Many women are horrifically treated as children, but become the most protective of mothers.

To blame 50% of the population for the actions of a handful of men is not appropriate.

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