My Feminist Journey, Part III

As I matured, I formed an image of men as sensitive, fragile, likely to wither under the weight of their health issues and psychological problems. Men were prone to messing up in a variety of ways, and it was up to women to gather and hold long conferences on how to straighten them out.

Whenever a man screwed up really badly there was an immediate investigation aimed at discovering which woman was at fault for not managing his life in a more efficient manner.

“Men! What can you expect from them? It’s our job as women to make sure they stay alive,” I would hear.

Men who didn’t have any women to take care of them were objects of intense pity. I still can’t see lonely old men without an overpowering sense of guilt and compassion. Lonely old women never evoked the same emotions in anybody, however, because it was obvious that they could taken perfect care of themselves.

The women I saw around could do anything. They made money, managed their families, and could bully anybody in sight into submission. They didn’t look happy, though. Just the opposite, they acted like intensely miserable people. They yelled, had hysterical outbursts, beat their children for no reason, and cried a lot more than they smiled.

It took me many years to find out why the women I knew were so unhappy.

47 thoughts on “My Feminist Journey, Part III”

  1. I had a similar notion, that men are potentially heroic but extremely fragile. My approach to feminism involved trying to find a way to make them independent from women — especially independent from me. It was my responsibility to nurture them into adulthood, by pointing the intellectual path.

    Nowadays, I have renounced the responsibility. It was very much related to my father’s borderline disorder and my attempt to solve his problem for him. It’s a shame I couldn’t get others to take this problem seriously, as it was making me a nervous wreck.

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      1. Lou Dobbs is a completely insane person. But it’s good to see that he has now found a new topic and managed to speak about anything other than his fixation on illegal immigrants. I have a strong suspicion that his wife is a great lover of Mexican gardeners and that’s why poor Dobbs is so unhinged.

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    1. “Nowadays, I have renounced the responsibility. It was very much related to my father’s borderline disorder and my attempt to solve his problem for him. It’s a shame I couldn’t get others to take this problem seriously, as it was making me a nervous wreck.”

      – Yes, this is the only way.

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  2. // It took me many years to find out why the women I knew were so unhappy

    Because in their minds all responsibility was on them, which is already hard enough, but it becomes really unbearable when one has no power to fulfill this responsibility. I mean their children listened to them, but husbands didn’t. If they could demand “wear a condom” or “stop drinking” and be obeyed, their level of happiness would go up at once.

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    1. ” If they could demand “wear a condom” or “stop drinking” and be obeyed, their level of happiness would go up at once.”

      – No, it wouldn’t. Only the completely sociopathic can exist in an environment of being hated and loathed and enjoy it. I have seen women who managed to terrorize their entire families into complete obedience. There was no happiness there.

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      1. // Only the completely sociopathic can exist in an environment of being hated and loathed and enjoy it.

        But weren’t they hated by the husbands anyway, judged by the behavior?

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        1. I don’t think this is about hatred at all. I think it’s about a relational dynamic where one person plays the role of a perennial child and the other person plays the parent. This happens when neither person can relate to the world in the capacity of an adult. And this is where the patriarchy comes in: everybody is only entitled to a role as a family member. Nobody is an adult, an individual, a human being in their own right. There is always symbiosis of varying degrees of unhealthiness.

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      2. Btw, if one’s children may listen and not hate, why a husband can’t? I don’t talk about a crazy, tyrant mother, but demanding a few important things, like for children – good grades and not leaving home without telling where you’re going and being with an open cell phone all the time.

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        1. You are seriously asking me why a controlling parent is harder to rebel against than a controlling spouse? 🙂 🙂 Because the abusive parent has control over a child since before the child is even born. Because the child has no capacity to leave, no resources, no alternatives. For a spouse, it’s easier to resist an abuser.

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      3. I just wanted to say that the usual practice (not only yours) of calling a husband “a perennial child,” with implied meaning that he “rebels,” has always sounded strange to me since many (most?) children do what their parents tell them quietly.

        And when I gave the example of a parent, who demands “good grades and not leaving home without telling where you’re going,” I didn’t mean it as an abusive parent or even a particularly controlling one. Those are basic things imo, which work in the other direction too (children knowing where a parent is).

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        1. “since many (most?) children do what their parents tell them quietly”

          – Only the completely beaten down ones. Children who are not living in conditions of extreme abuse go through their first stage of separation and rebellion at around 6-7 years of age, the second stage at 9-11 years, and the last, most massive stage at about 14-16. Even in abusive environments this eventually happens, except, as I said, in cases where abuse is too extreme for a child to develop his or her own identity. A normal child says his or her first meaningful “no” at about 3. If the child hasn’t done that at 3, parents need to head to a psychologist’s office immediately. Later in life, such a child will not be able to say no to anybody, like pushy sex partners.

          “And when I gave the example of a parent, who demands “good grades and not leaving home without telling where you’re going,” I didn’t mean it as an abusive parent or even a particularly controlling one. ”

          – “Demanding grades” is extremely controlling and, indeed, abusive. This is a method of control and manipulation. Some people are not capable or not interested in getting good grades. That is their right. A loving parent accepts that. Demanding accountability as to where one is going, I don’t know, what age are we talking about? Five? Even then, in normal relationships, this is all handled through a dialogue, not a dictator making demands.

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      4. I should have expressed myself better: I meant do what parents really see as the red line in important matters, like being with an open cell phone, not disappearing for a night without asking permission, preparing homework (in some families).

        Didn’t your parents expect you to get good grades? Your father even went to great lengths to give you command of English.

        // Some people are not capable or not interested in getting good grades. That is their right. A loving parent accepts that.

        Imagine your child not being interested in studying. Like your students, who still don’t read well. I am sure you would try to find out what you did wrong, instead of accepting that lovingly.

        // Demanding accountability as to where one is going, I don’t know, what age are we talking about? Five?

        Is it not OK to want to know that at 13 or 16, while a child / teen still lives with the parents? Is it normal for a teen to disappear suddenly?

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        1. “Didn’t your parents expect you to get good grades?”

          – Yeah, mine were the ones who demanded. 🙂 So your comment rang very familiar. 🙂

          “Imagine your child not being interested in studying. Like your students, who still don’t read well. I am sure you would try to find out what you did wrong, instead of accepting that lovingly.”

          – I would never DEMAND. You’ve got to agree that finding out what I did wrong is very different from demanding than another person do something.

          “Is it not OK to want to know that at 13 or 16, while a child / teen still lives with the parents? Is it normal for a teen to disappear suddenly?”

          – Such disappearances are a symptom that the contact has already been lost. Demanding submission will only make the situation worse. By the way, short of a GPS ankle bracelet or spyware, there is absolutely no way of knowing where anybody is going. 🙂 You make people tell you, they’ll just lie.

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  3. // – I would never DEMAND. You’ve got to agree that finding out what I did wrong is very different from demanding than another person do something.

    But if you have to find out “what I did wrong,” it means that you think that people not interested in good grades have some problem, that if you do all right, your child will not be like that. So saying
    “Some people are … not interested in getting good grades. A loving parent accepts that.”
    is misleading, creates a wrong impression of your beliefs. Because in reality “A loving parent goes into therapy to find out what s/he did wrong trying to change the situation.”

    // Such disappearances are a symptom that the contact has already been lost.

    Yes.

    // By the way, short of a GPS ankle bracelet or spyware, there is absolutely no way of knowing where anybody is going.

    One can not let disappear for a night, f.e.

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    1. “But if you have to find out “what I did wrong,” it means that you think that people not interested in good grades have some problem, that if you do all right, your child will not be like that. So saying
      “Some people are … not interested in getting good grades. A loving parent accepts that.”
      is misleading, creates a wrong impression of your beliefs.”

      – If I see that a person simply has other interests and priorities than grades, I would totally just accept it and be happy for them. If it keeps bothering me, I will definitely contact a psychologist and find out what makes me have this neurotic need for control.

      “Because in reality “A loving parent goes into therapy to find out what s/he did wrong trying to change the situation.””

      – Only if the child is unhappy.

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    2. “One can not let disappear for a night, f.e.”

      – The only way of making sure people don’t disappear (or don’t dream about disappearing) is my relinquishing the vocabulary of letting and demanding. Fear and love are not compatible.

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  4. About the “fragile” thing… well, yes. You see, out there in the world we’re alone. As in, we’re ALONE. The only thing we really have, at the end of the day, is our family and specially our S/O. She’s the only one (not even our moms) we trust enough to lower our shields. So, when our shields are down and the person we trust the most attacks us, well, it not only hurts easier, but deeper than somebody else’s attack. Moreover, when we realize that we can’t lower our shields in our home base (Trekkie here, you noticed?) we stop having a home, just a house.

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    1. // She’s the only one (not even our moms) we trust enough to lower our shields.

      Why not moms? People divorce a lot from S/Os and much less from mothers.

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  5. Nope, no triggers, and sorry if it sounded like that. Just a friendly -yes, I mean it- glimpse on the male psyche. Moreover, I actually agreed with you when you see us as fragile. The thing is, you see us like that partially because -at least when we’re in a relationship- we let you see our fragility.

    Another thing, that “woman at fault” thing is an almost exclusively feminine thing. Men don’t do that.

    And about moms, well, there is trust and there is confidence. We trust in our moms, but there are a lot of things we don’t share with her and that we share with our spouses. And yes, divorce -even somebody else’s- erodes that confidence. A pity, really.

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    1. ” Just a friendly -yes, I mean it- glimpse on the male psyche.”

      – There is no such thing as a male psyche. 🙂 It doesn’t exist.

      “Another thing, that “woman at fault” thing is an almost exclusively feminine thing. Men don’t do that.”

      – Exclusively feminine things do not exist either. 🙂 🙂

      “We trust in our moms, but there are a lot of things we don’t share with her and that we share with our spouses.”

      – It is very scary when people talk about themselves in the plural. Do you see yourself as many different people at the same time? Are there different voices that tell you things?

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    2. Your psyche is not necessarily representative of the psyches of all men in your culture, let alone all men in the world. Fragility is by no means inherent.

      Also, Clarissa didn’t say that she sees men as fragile. She said that the society she grew up in treated men as such. This is a very different culture from modern-day US, and you can’t equate its men-are-fragile prejudices with your belief that men show fragility in the frame of romantic relationships. American culture does not see men as fragile – in fact, they’re expected to sacrifice themselves for their families in rather similar ways to the one in which many of the women Clarissa grew around were expected to sacrifice themselves.

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  6. So just so I am clear on this, in Ukraine, the culture was basically that the women were the “men” and the men were the “women?”

    On the issue of psychology, I noticed in one post you said that there is no such thing as a “male psych” versus a “female psych.” This is interesting to me. I am not saying you are wrong, just the way I always saw it, there are certain ways men tend to be prone to thinking due to how we are wired and how our bodies are chemically (testosterone) but there are also certain ways females are wired to behave and also chemical (estrogen). However, some people can have a personality that is much more associated with what the opposite sex would have, for example a nurturing man versus a rough-and-tumble woman.

    Personally, I have always thought of myself as being rather female in spirit and psychology even though I am male in terms of biology.

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    1. “This is interesting to me. I am not saying you are wrong, just the way I always saw it, there are certain ways men tend to be prone to thinking due to how we are wired and how our bodies are chemically (testosterone) but there are also certain ways females are wired to behave and also chemical (estrogen). ”

      – This is a myth created by mass media: https://clarissasblog.com/2009/04/01/our-brain-and-the-mystique-of-hard-wiring/

      “However, some people can have a personality that is much more associated with what the opposite sex would have, for example a nurturing man versus a rough-and-tumble woman.”

      – Come on, you are too smart to believe these silly stereotypes. 🙂

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    2. “So just so I am clear on this, in Ukraine, the culture was basically that the women were the “men” and the men were the “women?””

      – If people don’t live up to your personal gender stereotypes, that doesn’t make them any less male or female than they are.

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      1. “Come on, you are too smart to believe these silly stereotypes.”

        I really don’t know what I believe. I would LOVE it if there are a lot of women for “male” if you will (like the stereotype of male) as it would suit my personality more (I don’t like girly women). However, in my experience, most women like the man to be the take-charge type.

        “If people don’t live up to your personal gender stereotypes, that doesn’t make them any less male or female than they are.”

        Oh yes, I agree completely. However historically, men have oppressed women, not the other way around, so historically it has been men who were the ones with the power and in charge, and who protected the women from other men. So I just found it interesting if in Ukraine, the women are the ones considered the strongest.

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        1. “However, in my experience, most women like the man to be the take-charge type.”

          – Remember that you always encounter people and things that confirm what you already believe. You meet such women because you want and / or expect to meet them (maybe not consciously). I, on the other hand, always meet men who want women to be the take-charge type. Because this is the type of man my entire life conditioned me to see everywhere. Both you and I would be wrong if we tried to draw conclusions about the world at large on the basis of these personal experiences.

          Just yesterday N and I were discussing how everywhere I go I meet horrible mothers and wonderful fathers. This doesn’t say anything about mothers and fathers in general. This says a lot about me. 🙂

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      2. Regarding Kyle’s comment, it’s just unbelievable how much gender is essentialized according to the ‘common sense’ of people in the USA. It must be Fox News or something. Like the notion of a male as a “take charge type” and the assumption that women have somehow been programmed to prefer this. Why do people bother coming up with these truisms?

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      3. Culture masquerading as biology. Because as we all know it’s the foreigners that have the various cultures, whereas the US is simply normal. So if differences between men and women are observed, they clearly have to do with the way their brains are wired or something similar.

        And may I rant a bit about the nature-nurture dichotomy, specifically about the fact that there is no such thing? Organisms are built by the way their genes react with their environment. Should you have a bunch of them in the same environment, you will notice the effect genetic variation has on them, but to assume the same particular genes will have exactly the same effect in an organism living in a different environment is sketchy. In this case, twin X chromosomes build humans that, for the vast majority, are female and model their behaviour and identities after the women that raise them, but that does by no mean guarantee that the behaviours and identities modeled will be the same in the US and in Soviet Russia.

        “However historically, men have oppressed women, not the other way around, so historically it has been men who were the ones with the power and in charge, and who protected the women from other men. So I just found it interesting if in Ukraine, the women are the ones considered the strongest.”

        And this is why I find the model of one group oppressing another not very useful when it comes to sexism. Unlike racism, for example, sexism works more like two people gnawing at each others’ guts than one of them stamping on the face of the other.

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        1. “And this is why I find the model of one group oppressing another not very useful when it comes to sexism. Unlike racism, for example, sexism works more like two people gnawing at each others’ guts than one of them stamping on the face of the other.”

          – I agree completely. A reductive victim / victimizer approach had its important and obvious uses in the early days of the feminist movement. But that moment is long gone and more complex approaches are now needed. The resistance to such more complex approaches is high, however, because many people are incapable of processing a scenario more complex than good cowboy vs bad cowboy.

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      4. Why do people bother coming up with these truisms?(Muster)

        I keep asking myself that same question ever time I hear the term Patriarchy.

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      5. Well two things:

        1) I am VERY happy if these stereotypes about men and women are wrong

        2) I need to find me some of these “take-charge” women 🙂

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      6. // I need to find me some of these “take-charge” women

        Depends on what you mean. One thing is an independent person desiring an equal partnership, another – a woman who is expected by a man to hold all responsibility (financial, for a relationship, emotional) on her shoulders. Two completely different things.

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        1. “a woman who is expected by a man to hold all responsibility (financial, for a relationship, emotional) on her shoulders”

          – There are just as many men who want such women as there are women who want such men. 🙂 This is not a gender issue. Learned helplessness is a personality flaw shared completely equally by both genders. The really curious situations are produced when two people with learned helplessness start a family and then expect their children to parent them. Those situations are really bizarre.

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      7. That is an excellent point. While would probably want a woman who is stronger than me, I would not expect her to just handle all that by herself. I would want it to mostly be an equal partnership type of thing. But some people are of the personality where they are naturally a leader in a relationship whereas others are more naturally a follower. Me, I am more comfortable following rather than leading.

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  7. // “a woman who is expected by a man to hold all responsibility (financial, for a relationship, emotional) on her shoulders”
    – There are just as many men who want such women as there are women who want such men.

    What about issues of first pushing all responsibility to another and then placing there all the blame for mistakes too?

    Or those FSU women who (you said) would be hated, had their husbands listened to them? Wouldn’t at least some of those women be happy to lead, as I thought?

    // expect their children to parent them.

    In what ways?

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    1. “Or those FSU women who (you said) would be hated, had their husbands listened to them? Wouldn’t at least some of those women be happy to lead, as I thought?”

      – If people remain in a situation for many years in a row, it means they are very happy about it.

      “// expect their children to parent them.

      In what ways?”

      – In early childhood, such children bear the responsibility for their parents’ emotions. It even gets to the point where a parent beats a child and exclaims, “Look what you made me do? It’s your fault you got me to lose control like that!”

      A small daughter is expected to take care of an absent-minded Daddy, a small boy has to help Mommy get through stressful situations.

      Later in life (usually starting from the teenage years), children begin to bear financial responsibility for the parents, often getting blamed if there isn’t enough money or food.

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