#MenAreTrash, but is that all?

Disclaimer: This post might be a trigger for some. This post will not win me any popularity contests. This is by NO means a disagreement with the movement, nor is the aim to victim-blame. This is one woman asking whether there should be more to this conversation.

So, #MenAreTrash has been featuring a lot lately and the amount of conversation, debate, anger and enlightenment it has sparked has been impressive. Like many, my instant response was offense. I can not stand man-bashing as a form of female upliftment, so the hashtag pissed me right the fuck off on sight. Interestingly, I first saw it on a male friend’s Facebook feed and his response made me rethink mine.

 * screen grab posted with permission 

So as the posts and discussions have gone by, I’ve been absorbing them and taking them on board. Yesterday my mom contacted me after seeing a post by Caffeine and Fairydust on Facebook. She was livid that an intelligent woman could be involved in such an offensive campaign. Like many, my mom had only read the tag. She hadn’t read the point and I spent some time explaining it to her as best I understand. My mom is no longer angry, but I can’t say as the movement has her support, either. And that little nugget brings me to the point.

I believe a vital component of this debate is missing. I am concerned by the fact we are ignoring the role WOMEN play in men being trash. No, I’m not talking about being out alone or having too many drinks or wearing provocative clothing. I do not believe in victim blaming or shaming and I do not believe any one person has any right over another.

Here is what I DO mean. The first person who ever told me boys will be boys, was a woman. The first person who ever said a boy was being mean to me because he liked me, was a woman. The first person who ever told me I’d go to hell for responding to my own needs, but excused a man for doing the same, was a woman. The people who taught me that I could only gain validation through men, were women. The only people I have ever personally met who made excuses for abusive partners (their own or others), were women. The editors and writers selling and approving the shit in women’s magazines about how to please your man, how to catch his eye, how to make him stay, how to recover your relationship from boys being boys, they’re fucking women.

Society is slowly changing and men are playing more active roles in parenting and I will not discount that. BUT for generations, we as women have raised the next generation. And look at what WE have told our children. Male and female alike. As mothers and sister, grandmothers and aunts, we have dismissed our boys’ disrespect and poor behaviour as boys being boys, while shushing our girls and, at best, teaching them to avoid notice and not get above their station. Boys don’t like that sort of thing, you know, girls getting above their station.

Now we have come to this. And yes, it is time, but my question is, are you, as a woman, as a mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, daughter doing YOUR part? Not just posting a hashtag,  but really looking at the message YOU convey to the men in your life. Have you tossed the women’s mag that preys on your need for male attention and rather focused on something that might really bring you joy? Have you listened to the underlying message in the throw-away comments you make to young children? Have you stopped making bitchy comments about other women being bitches/whores/sluts,  because you don’t like them/envy them/are pissed they got more attention than you/wish you could pull off their look?

Yeah, #MenAreTrash, but when I’m in deep water, I trust men to bail me out. Not because they’re stronger than women, but because in my personal experience, they’ve been fighting #MenAreTrash a lot harder than women. When my foster brother made inappropriate advances toward me when I was 14 and he was 19, my stepmother was excited for me. When my cousin was date raped, the first people she told were men, because women would blame her. When my ex became abusive, my female friends told me I was being silly, he was just stressed, his brother told me to bail.

#Menaretrash and society perpetuates it and society is patriarchal. I do not deny this or argue it. I fully agree. BUT FOR THE LOVE OF THE X CHROMOSOME, STOP ENABLING IT.

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Fantasy vs Reality

This past Mothers Day has really had me thinking. Possibly due to the big focus around Mothers Day Connect, but more likely due to the attention that has been given to post partum depression (PPD) on my social media newsfeed of late.

I read a great piece about the things we leave unsaid when discussing motherhood and that really got me thinking.

As a child, teen and young adult, I had a few very specific ideas about the mother I would be. Hell, right up till I actually became one. I’m pleased to say that fundamentals never changed on how I want to raise my child, but there were some interesting shifts. I never wanted natural birth, ever, so being the woman fighting against a C up to 41 weeks, was amusing. Never had any intention of breastfeeding, so being the woman telling another mother that my “extended breastfeeding” is MY business and WHO endorsed, so take a hike, was surprising to the 20-something me that still hangs out in the back of my consciousness. Here’s the one I’ve really been contemplating, though. I always figured I’d be that annoying sunshine mom who always tells you how parenting is the best thing ever. That I’d be perpetually chirpy, packing lunches and putting together cutesy outfits.

Only the good Lord knows why fantasy mom me would have had a lobotomy along with her first cesarean, or started taking some pretty serious drugs, but that’s what I thought. As it turns out, I parent much more in line with my actual personality, which must be a source of great relief to my friends.

See, the post I read is about how we don’t discuss the dark thoughts and moments that are such a huge part of becoming a parent. How we talk about all the unimportant shit, but not the stuff that might actually break you as a human being. And how, because nobody brings the darkness into the light, new mothers feel alone when everything isn’t fairytale perfect inside their new bubble.

I’m a naturally honest person, perhaps a little brutally so, so I never hid my darkness. My childless married friends asked about parenthood in the early months and I was frank about how hard it is, how exhausting, how debilitating and frustrating and overwhelming. I knew the woman had never wanted kids and I bluntly told her not to. I have never been afraid to admit that I have put my screaming infant in her cot, howled “I can’t anymore!” at my husband and locked myself in his office, hitting my head against the wall, because I was tired, frustrated and overwhelmed and terrified of hurting our child.

I also was not enveloped by overwhelming love for this wailing creature the moment I laid eyes on her. That took me three months (and boy, is it OVERWHELMING LOVE). I just don’t do insta-feelings. They’re not my thing. Did I have full maternal instincts to provide and nurture and protect? Yes! Is that love? Nope. It is not. Did that make me feel like less of a mother? No. It might even have kept me sane.

The most important thing motherhood has taught me is that it is not for everyone. I believe more than ever that the parenting discussion with non-parents should be a frank one. Parenting is bloody tough and I’ve wanted kids for as long as I’ve known it would be an option someday. Being a mom was always my greatest ambition, so if I struggle, and I have a huge support system, where does that leave those in doubt? 

We all have this fantasy of the parent we will/might be and what parenting will be like or how we might change our minds someday. The reality of parenting, however, is seldom discussed. The loneliness, the fear, the frustration, the loss, the gain, the change. 

Perhaps it’s time we all drop the filters when chatting to new parents or prospective parents or just friends. Perhaps we should drag the darkness, kicking and screaming, into the light.

Lost and Found

Today marks the third anniversary of my father’s death. Actually, as I write this, it’s about 90 minutes past three years ago to the moment I found out.

My father and I were estranged for various reasons and I won’t pretend that there isn’t a lot of pain in that all by itself. I was the very last family member to find out, a good 7 or 8 hours after the fact and that holds its own hurt. I didn’t even know he was sick. Before the last time, whenever he got really sick, he’d try to get his affairs in order and reach out, but not this time. I’ve wondered why for three years and I still don’t know. I do know that it’s not because I pushed him away, so there is that.

I guess the reason this is a big deal is that I was/am an absolute daddy’s girl. Our estrangement broke me in ways I don’t even understand. Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around him. Specifically him opening the world to me. His knowledge of and love for nature was incredible and he fostered in me a thirst for more knowledge and a love of my own.

For the first part of my life, he really was the best dad any child could ask for and my greatest hope for becoming a parent was that my children would have a father that could live up to those early memories, just, you know, forever this time.

On this day, we went to the aquarium. Our family has a standing monthly date with our daughter’s legal godfather, as we want them to have a strong bond. I can not really put into words what a healing experience it is to see my daughter with her father everyday. He loves her with his whole soul and he far surpasses the memories I cling to.

Even more so, celebrating this day with two father figures reveling in the boundless joy that is a little girl. Showering her in love and rediscovering the world with her as she tirelessly drags them from one display to another and listens with as much awe and focus as a 19 month old can muster as they tell her about the things she is seeing.

I wish with all my heart that this little sponge could have known my dad and he her. The man he was at first would have gotten so much joy from her. BUT my hurt eases a little everytime I see the amazing relationships she is even now building with the wonderful and diverse people in her life. She has so many “uncles and aunts” who love her so much and fill so much of the gap left by my dad, that frankly, it overflows quite freely. And I am incredibly grateful for that privilege. I am especially grateful for the amazing father she is currently cuddled up to.

2017 – A Numbers Game

The other day Facebook sent me one of those friendaversary notifications they’re so very fond of. Only, this time around, it sort of stuck with me. In fact, it’s been playing out in my mind for the past couple of weeks.

It was a notification that my husband and I had been Facebook friends for 10 years. That seems pretty arbitrary, but 2017 is a year of big numbers for me and that friendaversary moment is as good a marker of the start of a lot of change in me as any.

See, back in April of 2007, I was a very different woman from the one I am today. I was timid, skittish, down on myself and rather lost. I was in a 5 year relationship that had become ever more emotionally abusive and was fast reaching a make or break moment. I considered myself useless, worthless and undesirable and was fairly convinced I deserved the crap thar was thrown at me daily behind closed doors. See, like many abusers, my partner was inches away from sainthood in public and generally I felt very alone.

But, in March and April of 2007, I slowly started clawing my way out of that abyss. I won’t lie, working a fair distance away from my partner’s prying presence and spending time with people who were interested in me, outside of my link to him helped. As did the judgementless and flattering attention of two other men. I’m human, I’m happy to admit that.

The end, for me, was not one big thing, but three. One was a disagreement that somehow resulted in his mother showering her special brand of abuse on me (all abusers learn somewhere), two was his brother telling me that nobody deserved that sort of treatment and three was having him empty my wardrobe on my birthday and ordering me to tidy it up like an errant child. And so, I finally reached the end of my tether and started regenerating a spine.

After 5 years and one month, I finally walked away. I still faced a lot of crap from him, but I finally stood my ground. I made a lot of mistakes in that first year, but I could finally be me.

So, 2017 marks 10 years abuse free for me. It also marks 10 years with a supportive, loving and equal partner. 10 years of growth and rediscovery. And 10 years of healing.

2017 also marks 7 years of living with my husband, 5 years of marriage and 2 years of parenting. Each number holding special significance to me. So 2017 is a big year for us, by the numbers, but also for me.

For 5 years I lived in a sort of darkness, but I have doubled that time in the light.