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Stories of Sexism0001

Stories of Sexism0001 - Illl lllllllll lllll illllllllllll...

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Unformatted text preview: Illl lllllllll lllll illllllllllll ' LIBERATION I Illllllllll Illl ll|lllllllll|ll||llll ”What Sexism Has Really Done” Some of my experiences of sexism—— 9 I was a disappointment to my mother and father when I was born a girl. My mother was the most dis— appointed. She herself had wanted to be a boy from about age four. She grew up on a family farm in the midwestern part of the United States, and being out— side and in the fields, rather than doing things in or around the house, became a life-long preference. She had four daughters. I was the first, and each of my sisters was a bigger and bigger disappointment. Years later I asked her why having a boy was so important to her. She replied, ”To pass down your father’s name," but she seemed to be embarrassed when she said the words. Our relationship improved beyond anything I believed possible after a few years of me discharging on my chronic distress of being a disappointment. 0 I grew up on a family farm in the midWeSt United States—in the 19403 and 50s. The interactions be- tween my mother and father had a big impact on me. My father was critical of how my mother kept the house and how she cared for us. He did not talk to her much except to discuss what had to be done. He was particularly critical of how she looked and dressed. She did enormous amounts of hard work (as did he), including working in the fields (which she loved), and she would wear overalls (men’s practical clothes). Later I became ashamed of how my mother looked. This was reinforced by TV |IlllllllllllllllIllIIIUIHIIIIIIllllllllllllllllllllIllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllIHIlllllHllllllllllI shows of the late 1950s in which mothers / housewives wore dresses and high heels every day around the house. Until the day she died—last year, at the age of eighty-nine—she was very conscious of her appearance and particularly self-critical about being Overweight. I internalized those messages, too. 0 I was in 4-H, a youth group for young people who live in rural areas. My parents allowed my sisters and me to only be in ”girls’ 4-H.” Some of my girl cousins were in ”boys’ 4-H” and raised a calf, sheep, or hog to Show at the fair at the end of the summer. Girls’ 4-H activities rotated among sewing, cooking/ baking, and home furnishing—one year on each. We received blue, red, or white ribbons (blue was the best and white the worst) for projects submitted for competition. 0 After graduating from high school, I went to a w three—year hospital— —based nursing school. After that I worked in a va— riety of intensive care units in large medical centers in major cities and in a university town. I had constant experiences of sexism during that time. I remember assisting during a cardiac arrest and recommending a drug because the patient was not responding to treatment. No one seemed to notice what I said. After a time, either an intern or resident (a physician in training) suggested the same drug and the patient re— sponded. Out'in the hall after the patient was stable, an intern said to me, completely surprised, "You I. ' ‘ '1’ mm KAUFMAN were right continued . . . IIIHllllllIl!llllllllllllIIllllllllIHmIIIllllllllllll|lllll|lIIIHIIIIIlllllIIHIHIIIllll|l|ll||ll||lll 51 .stw Present Time, October 2004 LlfiERATiOH IllllllllllIlllIlllllllll|lllllllllllllllllilllllillIIllIIIllllllilIllIllilllllIiIillllillllllllllllllllllll : continued . . . ' One of the metaphors for understanding hospital culture then (and still), and the roles of health profes- sionals, is the patriarchal family. Physicians are the fathers, nurses (and sometimes other health profes— sionals) the mothers/nurturers, and patients the children. ' During the time I was a nurse and living alone, I received numerous phone calls from physicians who asked to come to my apartment, clearly wanting sex. llllllllIIllllllllilililllllllllIIiilllllIIllllllllllllllllllllilllllillllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Recent postings to this list have helped me to discharge on this experience. Thanks again, Diane,* for providing a way for us to begin bringing out into the open what sexism has really done. Joy Kroeger-Mappes Frostburg, Maryland, USA * Diane Balser, the International Liberation Reference Person for Women Sexism: “Pervasive, Vicious, and Universal” want to thank Diane1 for this brilliant idea: writing about our experiences of sexism. l have learned so much. Reading everybody’s experiences, one after the other, makes it clear how pervasive, vicious, and universal the oppression is. And it has reminded me of what happened to 'me. i think i got a bitota bargain growing up in a family that was all women—except for my father, who died when l was nine. And my parents had an awareness of oppression. My sisters and l were treated as full human beings, our intelligence was respected, and we were encouraged to think about the world and how to change it. ° ' Nonetheless, sexism came in and left all kinds of strange messages. I know I always wanted to be a boy. i only really appreciated being female after giving birth to my first child, and only then did i fully appreci- ate my body. 1 Diane Balser, the International Liberation Reference Person for Women KATlE KAUFFMAN lmmmmminilmillllllllllllllllllllllIlllllllllunIuImiiiunummumumlllllllllllllll Present Time, October 2004 I grew up with the notion that i would get mar— ried someday, my husband would work and support me, and i would raise the children. I don’t remember anyone ever saying that I should think of a career, or that someday i would have to work to support myself. However, after my father died, my mom went out and did just that, returning to college to get a Master’s degree in library science and becoming a successful and much appreciated librarian. .l remember Saturday mornings when my father would take us for a walk so that my mother could stay home to clean the house. (How I hated that! it took me years to be able to do housework without feeling resentful.) ' My mother did not model fixing things, or mechani- cal ability, or facility with machines. She would invite my cousin to change the light bulbs "because he was tall.” i didn’t have the opportunity to be acquainted with machines or electronics. Only many years later when l‘worked in a textile factory on a kibbutz2 did i have my first experience working with machines—learning to set them up, keep them running, and make simple repairs. That was empowering. During all my teen years I was a member of a Zionist youth movement. Many of our activities would end up in the park, where the boys would play football and we girls would sit around and talk. As the boys went off to play, they would make fun of us for sitting around and "knitting.” (One time we insisted on joining the game, - and I scored a touchdownla) Z A kibbutz is a communal farm or settlement in lsrael. 3 Atouchdown is when a player carries, orthrows a football to another player, across the goal line. illllIlllllillllllllllllIIllIlllllllliIIllllllIHIIIlllIllIllllllllllllllllilllllllillllllillllilllllililill 52 s llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllIlllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll '7 Growing up in New York City (USA), l ex— - perienoed all the usual come-ons4: “Do you have the time?” “Come with me—l have seven inches”; hands touching me all over when rid— ing in crowded subways; the flasher5 with no clothes on under his raincoat, also in the sub- way. l was saved from a much worse experience when a neighbor came downstairs and found me with a young man who had gotten his hand in my pants without me knowing what to do about it (much humiliation). And there was the unspoken but almost always present, palpable threat of rape (“don’t walk on dark streets alone at night”). I had a male cousin four years older than I was. There was something I didn’t like about the way he would hug me. l couldn’t figure out how to stop it and never got to talk about it with anyone. In lsrael there was more of the same—las— civious, leering looks; whistles; come-ons—from young men, soldiers, builders. A psychologist i went to. once put his hands on my breast when I asked for a hug (I couldn’t understand how he could do that to me). ' l made a decision quite early in my life to dress in such a way as to hide my body, to not wear make—up or jewelry, and to not show (or think about, or even be aware of) - my sexuality. . For many years I was active in Women in Black8 in Israel. Much of the opposition to our vigils was couched in sexist terms: “Go back ‘tothe kitchen where you belong,” “Arafat’s7 whores,” and so on. in other words, “How dare women enter public space, take to the streets,8 raise their voices, and express politi— cal opinions.” Naomi Raz Jerusalem, Israel 4 A come-on is a sexual advance. 5 A flasher is someone who exposes his or her genitals, usually suddenly and briefly, in public. 5 Women in Black is an international peace network that began in lsrael in 1988 with women protesting against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. T Yassir Arafat. the president of the Palestinian Council ‘3 Take to the streets means go into the streets. ’ llll"lIIIll|lllllIllllllIHlllll|IlIl|lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllIllIlIlllllllllllllllllllllll l l l M. LIBERATION HilllIll"IllH“IIlllllllllilllllillHlillllllllllllllll|llHillllllIlIlllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Sexism in a Poor Rural Environment y earliest years were spent in rural 0.8. poverty, and my religious training was fitndamentalistProtestant. My family focused a lot on being grateful for what we had, and especially on not feeling sorry for ourselves. This has sometimes made it hard for me to look at and describe the sexism] have experienced. Some women might laugh with me when [say that] sometimes think tomyself, “Well, I ’m alive. How bad could it have been?" Here are some of my early experiences of sexism: Even though] was not remotely fat as a child, adult members of my fam- ily called me “Carolsy-barrelsy. ” They also called me "Chatty Carol, ” but no one made disparaging remarks about my brothers’ size or speaking habits. When I was in the first grade, my two older brothers were also in school. If my mother ran short of money, she would give milk money to my brothers and not to me. ‘ I deeply appreciate my Cid—Counselors who help me tell my story and discharge my hurts. Hannah Martinez Oakland, California, USA .CIIII...0"...O....OOOOOOCOOOOOOCUCICOOUOQ ‘ Sexism in Academia. Here are'two stories from academia: When I got a job as an assistant professor and called my par— ents to tell them, the first thing, out of my father’s mouth was, ”Well, they’ ll have to make your husband a clean so that he can stay ahead of you! ” When I won the school's teaching award (the first female to win it and the first per- son who was not retiring at the time it was awarded), the Dean of the school came to congratulate me. He said, “I know why you won this—because you are such a Jewish mother." I am proud to say that l rose up out of my chair and said, ”No, actually I won it because I am an excellent teacher!" LML Pat Fischer Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA IlllllllllllllllllllllIIlllIIllIllIllllIll"IlllllllIIllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll 53 Present Time, October 2004 LIBERATION IImunummmnmmmmInuumruuumnmum1mmmumumunuImmmnmm "'1: Looking Sex have just read, in a row, all sixty (I think) postings on the women’s lisr about sexism. Wow! What amazing women we are——and what work there still is to do in the world. A few of my own examples—- My parents wanted and expected a boy, so from my birth I was the “wrong one.” This has had major ramifications in my life, not all of which are cleaned up yet. I spent my early years being “daddy’s boy,” which meant I gOt to fish, learn to use tools, and get some coaching in sports. I was the child on my block who owned a ball and bat, so I had some say as to who got to play what position in baseball. I was pleased to be called a “tomboy.”1 I remember my dad telling me that if boys didn’t like me because I was smart, that was their problem, but as I got older there was more and more pressure to be like other girls. When I was nine, my brother was born and my parents were so'glad to have a real boy. My sister and-I «had/begged. ' for an electric train, which we never got, but my brother got one for Christmas when he was five, even though he wasn’t much interested in it. ' When I tested high in science in eighth grade and expressed an interest in becoming a physician, my parents said it cost too much money and I should become a nurse. For some reason I was determined not to be a nurse, teacher, or secretary—«the occupations I saw open to me as a girl. When I went to a new high school in eleventh grade, the school counselor triedto get me to sign up forhome economics rather than chemistry, saying that all girls should know how to cook and sew. I explained that I had made the dress I was wearing, and he let me sign up for chemistry (in which I got an A2). But the older I got, the harder it became to stand against the pressure to be more like everyone else. At some point in college, I gave up being very physically active. As someone suggested, I think it would be good for the men in our lives, who are trying to understand who we are and why we have the struggles we do, to see much of this discussion. In the past few years, in a close relationship with a male friend, I have tried hard to not hide the results of sexism in my life—to be open about my struggles, without dramatizing them,3 and to show him where they come from. For example, I have talked and discharged about what it was like for me in school—~to show him how school was not a validating experience for me the way it was for him. He was told over and over in school ‘ A "tomboy” is a girl who enjoys and participates in what are considered boys’ activities. 1 In U.S. schools, A is the highest grade possible. 3 Dramatiling them means acting them out. . IIllIIIIIIIIIIIII|IlIIIIllIIIlIlIIlIIIlIIIIIIIllIIIIllllllllllIIIIIIIIIIlIIIIIIIIIIllllllllllllllllllllllll Present Time, October 2004 I; IIIIIIIIllllllllllllllllllllllllll"IIIIHIIIHNI""llllllllII"lllllliIIIIllllllllllIIlIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII ism in the Eye that he was smart. Except for the comment from my father, I wasn’t told this. In fact, much of my experience in school said I wasn’t so smart It has been interesting to push my friend to show and understand what happened to him as a boy, for me to show what happened to me as a girl, and to see how neither of those things is what we would want to have happen. In reading others’ stories and in writing a bit of my own, I realize how much I stay numb to borh the results of the sexism I grew up with and the day-to—day manifestations and restimu— lations of sexism. I am sure, and have been for a while, that I am furious about the mistreatment. I think that all of us are, but we only rarely find the space to feel that outrage—a good thought to carry into my next Co-Counseling session. How can we eliminate sexism if we can’t look it in the eye and discharge the . effects of it? Kat/9y Miller Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA TF 0.0......TC‘IIO...0......COIICOOIOOOOOOII Unfair Treatment hen l was three, I put my foot in the water at the edge of a'lake and ran away Crying. My mother was always cautioning me to be careful~no risk-taking for her daugh— ters. I learned to‘ ride a bicycle later than others did. I couldn’t swim until I was twenty, despite lessons every year. We always served my dad his dinner first and gave him the largest portions. Throughout high school, I babysat* for fifty cents per hour. My brother had a newspaper route and earned far more than I did. I don’t know if there were regulations about girls not having newspaper routes, but I didn’t know any girls who did that work. Both my brothers now have a lot more money than the two girls in the family In my last year of College I was living off campus. My dad had an old beat—up car I thought my parents would let me use to get to campus. Much to‘my surprise, they announced that my brother would get the car because he needed it to go out on dates with girls (he was shy, and they were concerned). Deborah Rubien New York City, New York, USA * Babysat means took care of children when their parents needed to go out. IIIIIIlIIlllIllIIIIIllIllIlIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIllIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIllllllllll 56 Liaise/mes ”NH”HHH“H””HHHHHH"HHHHHHHHHHHHH"HHHHHHHNHHHNHHHHHHHHHHV“ HHHHHHHHHHHHHN"HUN“NHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNHHHHHHHHHHHNHNH Caretaking Patterns In my family, my intelligence Was respected and fostered, but there wasn’t a vision of all the things a female could do in the wOrld. When my mother became an invalid forthe first time, I was nine years old. I had a father, two younger brothers, and a younger sister. Someone needed to cook for us all, do the shopping, maintain the house, and play with the children. No one even imagined that my father might be capable of learning to cook or doing . gQWW mmximgws more than oversee the children in general. 5 I learned to shop, and I cooked—running back and forth between my mother's bedroom, where she told me what to do, and the kitchen, Where I tried to make things turn out right. When I was twelve and thirteen, I cooked every night. After dinner I took care of my brothers and sister. ,. at; BC I don’t fault my dad at all—he was a manof his times and was under great stress—but the caretaking patterns I acquired during four years of family crisis had a huge effect on my. choice of a husband, my choice of work, my relationships, and my ability to have fun. Fortunately, discharge works. I'm not through with this, but as one indication of progress, recent family crises have been addressed and met by us all—brothers and sisters—wOrking together. Patty Wipfler Palo Alto, California, USA I0.0D...0.0.000.00.....0.00I.I0......0.0.0I.OOOOOOOIIOOCIIOOIIOOIOOI.30.0.0300... Sexism in My Life I’m a thirty-eight-year—old white middle-class/owning-class Jewish woman. 0 My mother prioritized making my father happy about her own wishes. l‘was amazed by my Lesbian aunt who didn’t care what men thought and didn’t mind making my father mad. I ended up with a record— ing that says Lesbian and Bisexual women are smarter than heterosexual women in general (and me in particular). 0 Through his work, my father had many positive relationships with African-heritage and Puerto Rican people. My mother didn’t have any such contacts. I got the message that I was too fragile to survive in the poor, black and Latino neighborhood in which my father worked. 0 When I made mistakes in math, my father would tell me I had the “brain of a newt.” I thought I wasn’t good at math and gave up on it when l was sixteen. It turns out I’m extremely capable in math. My current job is largely about creating complex financial models for multi-million-dollar housing projects. 0 I didn’t play active games as a girl, even though I now love physical sports. My parents actively supported my brother’s athletic pursuits, but whenever I considered playing a sport and got scared, they reassured me that I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to. 0 As a teenager and young adult I spent at least five minutes every day (and sometimes hours) thinking about how to lose weight and imagining that if I lost five pounds, my‘life would be much better. uuulunmmnIlmnmmImmlulllmmlmllmllllllllIIIlmIIIIIHIIIIIilllmmummn ummnnnmuumnunnnuImmnmmmmnmmlunmmummummnmmmmn 57 Present Time, October 2004 ...
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