Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Changes in my Lifetime

I'm old, but not that old.

Well, I'm 38. Some people would say that's old, but I'm not nearing retirement age. Not that I can retire - home mommies don't get those benefits, but that's a different argument. Right now, I'm thinking of seeing my father beat up my mother. Well, all of us, really, but with a focus on my mother.

I'm thinking of all the times the police came out and went away, having done nothing. Occasionally, there was a type of conversation, three men (police usually came in pairs) standing outside chatting.  They'd gesture, but with small movements, like every day conversation. Sometimes they'd laugh, you know, like every day conversation. As if nothing was wrong.

They didn't think hitting us was wrong.

Maybe they only meant that hitting her wasn't wrong, but we generalized. And we never said a thing, for the rest of our lives.

That was in the 1970's.

As early as the 1960's, there were mandatory reporting laws, suggesting child abuse might be taken seriously, but can you imagine seeing the police walk away while your mother sobbed in the corner? Bruised and bleeding. They didn't care when an adult was getting the mess beat out of her, why would they care if the kids did? Or maybe it was the image of three men chatting in a happy circle in the yard while the females of the house hid behind things and cried. (Once I picked up a shovel and raised it over my shoulder determined to stop him from hurting my mother, but that was the first time he threatened -- in a voice I took very seriously -- to kill me.)

In the 1990's, when I was raped, I knew it was my fault. I knew it, without a doubt, without even having to bother the police about it. I wouldn't have called the police if I'd been hospitalized. I wasn't, and I knew that made me lucky. A girl in my class in college a few years later, my secondary education class, reiterated that point when we talked about issues high school students faced. She wore long skirts and high collars and thought short skirts were an irresistible invitation to horny men. I'd already stopped believing that -- at least a little -- but I never asked if she'd had personal experiences.

Marital rape started being prosecuted as a crime in the U.S. in the late 1990s, not long after the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994 and with finances added in 1996. Only when Federal money was put into a hotline was it considered serious enough to jail people for.

Only in the late 1990s did adult women gain even a chance of being taken seriously by the police -- if they lived in a liberal area.

Then, in Kansas, they stopped prosecuting domestic abuse and freed 30 suspects. And now there's a bill in Wisconsin claiming single mothers cause abuse despite the fact that 22 percent of women and only 7 percent of men are victims of abuse. I guess they're asking for it.

If these republicans think child abuse is important (it was made illegal earlier, perhaps it might be considered a big deal), let me tell you - children from those families are affected. It hurts them. We get hit by things. Men who hit women, don't stop there. Most of my scars are from childhood -- and I'm a klutz who sewed through my own finger when I got my first sewing machine and stabbed myself with a screwdriver during a home renovation. Imagine how many scars I have if the ones I got in my first 15 years of life (that's when I moved out) still outnumber the ones I got in the last 23.

And it doesn't stop there. Both my sister's first relationships were with abusive men. Mine too, but I managed to get away and find a truly good guy to marry. The sister who didn't get into drugs has learned to trust my husband, but hasn't had a real relationship since her divorce. Who can blame her?

In those home renovations, I mentioned, I was removing a bathroom sink. I turned off the water outside, removed the sink, turned off the input valves and went outside to turn on the water for the rest of the house. One of the valves was broken and water sprayed the entire bathroom. It broke the light fixture. I can't remember how many things got broken, but I know it was a lot. I laughed when I called Husband, and after the day before of a million little things breaking, he couldn't believe I could laugh.

We agreed that the difference was a million little things instead of one big thing. It's easier to laugh at one big thing than thing after thing going wrong. I used that example the other day when talking to him about why all these proposed laws bothered me when NONE of the Florida laws against women's rights passed. They're passing somewhere and if it keeps happening, they'll pass here too. Eventually.

We have:

  • Throw like a girl and run like a girl - meaning incompetently.
  • Cry like a girl.
  • girly - said in a tone that obviously means unimportant.
  • it's a girl-thing - usually meaning petty or small.
  • Man up - meaning strength.
  • Grow a pair - meaning strength.
  • Slut and whore versus stud.

A million little things, including the new Dr. Pepper commercials saying "Not for Women," that circle of men in my front yard, and the bills that value a cluster of cells over the woman carrying them. (Those bills might say they are to protect life, but women have already died because of their doctor's newly limited options.)

What are we teaching their children? Will they see themselves with the same unimportance I did, growing up?

There have been 916 bills introduced in the United States in ONE YEAR, since last March. These bills take away health care, they take away equal pay on the claim that only men need to support families. These bills make us all less, telling men that being a bully is 'manly' and telling women that abuse is our fault.

You guys don't know how afraid I am that we're going to go back to the world I grew up in.

How can anyone possibly think those days were better than it is today?


  1. But you're imagining it. You're making it up. You're getting hysterical. (Ha, there's another one) Fox News says so!

    Sarcasm aside, I truly hope this is their death struggle, the evil monsters: that that's why they're kicking so hard.

    (me, delagar)

  2. Psychology's Behaviorism branch says that punished behaviors get worse before they go away. (Behaviorism is for individuals rather than masses, but I'm still hoping.)