Accountability

Alright, truth time.

I have faced my own difficulties in regards to feminism. There are things that I am obviously deeply opposed to, more so than just disagreeing. There are things that send me into a blind rage. I’m talking full on Zombie mode – screaming, violence, cursing, throwing anything I can find. And this happened, just a few minutes ago.

If you might have noticed, I am not on speaking terms with my father. Domestic violence is simply one of the things that trigger my violent rage and my relationship with my father has simply not been able to recover. This is a part of my life that I have simply grown used to. My mother on the other hand, has not. A fight escalated. As I work through all of the long holidays, it was brought up once again that I still depend upon my parents. I try to help by paying for things on my own as much as possible, which I can do because of my job. One of the things that I now take care of is buying most of my clothing for the past two years.

My mother responded with something along the lines of well of course you would with a body like yours, nothing I bought fits anymore. Then continuing by saying that I should start taking care of myself, how terrible I looked and that I should eat less chocolate. I had gained quite a bit of weight when I started my job in the restaurant because of the very long hours and free food (duh). I very much struggled with my changing body, my mother struggled even more. She felt the need to sit me down and have a talk about my weight, my dad made fun of me, and I hated the body I was trapped in.

My body issues had been prominent for years. I assume my mother was raised the traditional way – skinny is beautiful. She was a very skinny child and never could understand that I was a chubby-ish child. I was very small when she told me to suck in my tummy because it would make it flat. When I got my hips at age 13 she felt the need to tell me that I need to do something about it because my hips were getting too wide – this was not criticism to her, but rather friendly advice.

In the summer of 2011 I spent most of my time sleeping and crying, too depressed to eat, resulting in quite a drastic weight loss, much to my mother’s excitement. It seems she has no problem buying clothes for a child that had gotten smaller, but has no time for someone who has gotten bigger. Either way, I don’t think I will ever be able to look t my body and not lift up my shirt, turn sideways, and find a flaw.

Recently I have moved towards becoming more accepting of my body. I know I will probably never be as skinny as the majority of society expects of a woman my height and age, but I don’t think about it much anymore. I became a bit more confident and comfortable, I became so immersed in my intellectual satisfaction that my physical shortcomings seemed so tiny and almost irrelevant.

So when she said that to me, I lost it. I lost it completely. I started screaming at her that there is nothing wrong with my body and that she was raised wrong,  (“I never needed to be taught skinny was good”). As much as my father’s arms around my mother’s neck angered me, I found myself reaching for her neck – I just wanted to hurt her as much as she had hurt me. It’s not even that I had just learned to start accepting myself, but after more than a year I was down a jean size – a size that I normally was and one that I was harry with and it just seemed that to her I was fat – and that’s all that mattered. It didn’t matter that I was smart, that I was loved by great friends, that I worked hard, to her I was fat and that will always prevent me from being good enough to be her daughter.

My dad came in to tell us to shut up. He didn’t say anything to me. I threw a book at my mother and it hit my dad. He fell to the floor. I ran to help him up. Through all the anger between us, no child should have to see her dad like that. He didn’t take my hand. They walked away. Last thing she said was that I should just go back home and figure out how to pay my rent on my own.

So once again I find myself in tears in this god forsaken house. This is the second holiday home in the new house and so far these four walls have held nothing but screaming, anger and tears. There is no love and no laughter in this house. And this is not my home. But it does not mean that they are not my family. Despite all of these horrible things that have passed between us, the child in me wants a hug from my dad and to go crawl into my mother’s bed but I also think it is time to acknowledge that the time in my life where everything promises to be okay has passed.

And as for anyone who listens (or reads), please, please please can we stop teaching our children that their bodies are ugly? Can we be angry at them without breaking their hearts or sitting them down and telling them that they’ve gained weight and this is somehow considered less beautiful? Can skinny stop being the default where everything else is wrong and ugly? Can we be allowed to shape our own opinions of ourselves without the voices of television and magazines and even our parents telling us our hips are too wide, our skin is bad, our hair needs to change, our teeth is crooked, our noses are too long – whatever. Please guys, we’re hard enough on ourselves as it is. I don’t need to stand in front of a mirror tonight glancing at myself in my favorite pair of sweatpants on my first off day in two weeks and wonder if it’s how big my butt looks that made my mother say these things to me.

As for me, I need to find a way to control the rage I feel when confronted with these things. Maybe all of this happened because I tried to save two people who didn’t want to be saved, ending up more damaged myself. As much as I believe that there is nothing wrong with my body, and equality in a marriage is the most important thing, these are things that I had to go away to learn. This is their life, I am currently and for the next four weeks, in their life and not my own. And I need to learn that this is not my world and I cannot fix everything.

As for tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, I don’t know how I will manage to survive in a house where I am the enemy. I don’t know how or if my relationships will mend and I am scared. For God’s sake, I don’t even know how I will

You look nothing like your mother

Being home has me worried. It’s only been a few days, but I already wonder. Is it possible to be two people? Can I be one person at home and another at University? Will I go home and be content with not knowing or caring and simply shrug like the people I am now surrounded by? Can I manage to deeply belong to myself for nine months of the year and be the red-lipped blonde pretty little object for the remaining three?

My mother was raised to be incredibly conservative. Don’t swear, don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t have sex. She was raised to be God fearing, a good Christian girl with Christian morals – she saved herself for marriage and found herself to be the subordinate in her marriage. This is who she is. I was raised with these morals – told that she would never forgive me if I were to have an abortion. I remember being terrified of sex, the way she told it, unplanned pregnancy was inevitable and sex should not even be spoken of outside the marriage. She changed her name and moved far away from her own family, she raised her two children as she depended financially on her husband, even though she worked as well.

I was seventeen before I became aware of the domestic violence that had plagued my childhood, and this was only confessed to me as my brother followed in my dear father’s footsteps. I received my first black eye in the car ride home from a family holiday because he could hear my music through my earphones and he ripped them out of my ears.

I remember, that night, my dad came to me and cried. He blamed himself and I didn’t understand why. The next day, everything seemed fine. They bought him sweets from the store and they had laughed as if my new purple eye had been a passing fashion trend and not a betrayal of the blood that promised to protect me. I remember running into my room and phoning the police.

“Hello, can you report a crime here?” My seventeen year old self said as the person on the other side replied ‘yes’.

And then I hung up. I couldn’t do it.

And so he got away with it and I was faced with, “Don’t make me hit you again, you better behave”. Threats my parents simply ignored. I stopped speaking to my brother after that. My parents don’t seem to understand why, desperate for reconciliation, had started to blame me for the violence.

Then I was told that my father beat my mother when I was a child, obviously too early for me to remember. Cake being thrown against the wall, my mother wearing scarves in the middle of summer, her inability to leave. She told me; “That’s why I want you to go away to study, so you can get away, it’s too late for me.”

She will swear left and right that he is much better now.

My father has always had a temper. He swears, he frowns, she shouts, he has road rage. He’s rude to strangers and he hurts animals. And though he does not hurt my mother as often [but he still does], I still began to educate myself in domestic violence after an altercation broke out when I returned home for the holidays in December.

“If you ever complain to me about the wifi again I will hit you so hard you won’t …” I stopped listening and a blind rage came over me. I stood up and told him to never say that to my mother again. Of course he then turned his rage onto me, shoving and attempting to grasp me by the throat.

Honestly, I know I need to work on my anger. I would like nothing more than to be cool and concise in my anger, but alas, I resort to screaming and crying, resorting to a few choice words.

The remnants of our relationship is a tense silence because, as my father said “I didn’t beat you, I said I was going to hit you”, followed by my mother going, “Exactly!”, and my father going, “But I will! Look how you let her talk to me!” I still get incredibly angry that he does not realise what he does. At this point, I have become so desensitised that I couldn’t even explain to him why domestic violence is wrong, you cannot argue with men like that.

The thing is, it’s more than just threats of violence and his hand around her neck. I’ve noticed the way he talks to her and it is abundantly clear that he has never viewed my mother as his equal. She talks, and makes jokes, she is who she is and he will grow irritated, telling her to be quiet, stop saying things like that. He silences her, tries to change her. This, too, is a form of abuse. I will give her credit though, I would have been much less of a woman trapped in this circumstance, I would be silent.

But yet, she does not acknowledge this, and I try to tell her. The way she is treated by someone who claims to love her, but she has accepted that this is her life and as much as I wish to see her be free, I also know that my father would not survive without her. He suffers heavily from depression and though he never speaks about his past, I think that he is not just the way he is, but there is a cause.

In the same way that I view Lemonade, one cannot blame the women who stay, we cannot call this un-feminist. I think walking away is hard, but working on something, rebuilding something is harder. Beyonce stayed, this does not make her weak, but the one thing that I wish my mother would take from Lemonade is that work was put into a broken relationship, on both sides, and healing was found in each other, and I want my mom to relate to Lemonade. My parents don’t put in the work. They put band-aid over band-aid, covering the scars and bruises and screaming because this is just what happens. But my father needs help. And my mother needs help. And I wish they would see that help can be found, that living in an empty house without love, or laughter, or conversation does not have to be their lives. I wish they would know that my worst fear would be to marry someone like my father.

I think mothers need to teach their daughters so many things that they themselves first need to unlearn. We need to teach women to love themselves before they dare to love anyone else because that will not fill the hole that self-loathing creates. We need to teach our girls that the love of a man does not determine her worth and happiness. We need to teach them to not simply aspire to be wives and mother because these crippling expectations and the shame that follows plays such a large role in why women simply stay. As for my mother, I wish she taught me not to loathe my body as her mother taught her. I wish I grew up loving my Afrikaans hips and was not made aware of the fact that they were getting ‘too wide’ at the age of thirteen. I wish my mother spoke to me about sex – not just abstinence. I wish she taught me that sex is not the most important thing and that my worth is not tied to my virginity and that I am allowed to be a sexual being and that sex does not just lead to being a slut and a teen mother. But most importantly, I wish my mother had learnt these lessons.

I wish my mother didn’t place so much worth on my father taking her virginity as if he shaped her as a woman. I wish she was not a slave to sex because she had not known of this before my father. Even in my friends I’ve learnt that the dependence on sex can often cause women to overlook the flaws in their relationship, as Beyonce recites in Lemonade, “Grief sedated by orgasm. Orgasm heightened by grief”. Sex is wonderful and powerful but a woman’s sexuality should not be linked to her husband, the way her husband treats her. Because that same man that gives you that orgasm today gave you that black eye last week.

I write because I am terrified of what will happen to me and my state of mind in the month that I am here. My colleagues that will tell me that Brock Turner, THE RAPIST AND NOTHING MORE, was justified because the girl was intoxicated and unconscious and “she had it coming”, and I won’t have the strength to explain to them the violation of her body and herself and the power of rape culture that is already threatening to send me into a blind rage once again. I will have to deal with the “Breastfeeding is fine as long as they cover up” opinions once more. And I swear, if one white, cisgendered male even tries to criticize Beyonce’s Lemonade to my face, I will lose it. But that’s fine. Because I want to care about things. I want to be angry. I’m more scared of ending up like my mother who steers into the stereotypes of homosexuals, laughs at rape culture protests and rolls her eyes when I talk about sexism.

It really hurts to know that while we in the cities fight so hard for equality, the people in the small towns are fine with the way life is. Homophobia, racism, rape culture just falls under “well we all have our problems”, and women call women whores and bitches and calls them out because “cleavage won’t fix their faces” and interracial relationships are taboo and feminists are just angry lesbians who don’t shave and hate men.

Dad

I think what I want most in my life is to not go to bed afraid .. To not stop the television, the music, to hear those footsteps coming down the hall. I don’t want to have to lock the door to protect me from what lives inside my house, instead of what is outside. But here I am, and I am afraid.

I can’t tell you when it happened, but I have changed. Somewhere inside of me I have found my worth as a person and a woman. I am aware of inequality and I know what is right and wrong, and you are wrong. I respect myself and I respect my fellow women, too much, to let even you demoralize us anymore.

You do not raise your hand in my direction and you do not threaten your wife. As I sit here, I wait in vain for a knock on my door, an apology. It seems that it is not wrong in your eyes, domestic violence, pushing, shoving, punching your daughter and wife. I stand up for my mother and you look at her as if to say, “This is how your daughter talks to me.” I am not afraid anymore, Dad.

You tell me I have a chip on my shoulder. That chip is called self respect. If standing up against domestic violence is a chip on my shoulder, you are not the man I thought you had become. It’s still fine to call your loved ones horrible names, push them around, because they need to learn their lesson, right? The best part of all of this is that both of your sons had inherited this temper of yours, are you proud?

I would love to try to make you understand, maybe tell you that this could be my husband one day. At this point you’d probably laugh and say, “Good.”

 

 

 

Open Letter To My Dad

I can’t sleep … Once again. And instead of texting you and receiving an angry, irrational reply, I will write you a letter that you will never get.

I am awake, in more ways than one. Little girls grow up thinking their dad is their hero, but I guess, that’s my point … They grow up. I believe most girls grow up to marry a man like their father, whether that is a good or bad thing, I suppose it depends on the individual, but I am here thinking of how fortunate I am, or was.

I am fortunate because he is not like you – Within him there is no trace of your sudden and uncontrolled temper. He does not, and will not get angry at me – And in the year and a half that I had known him, I had only once seen him angry, and it was not at me, despite all of the terrible things that I have done to evoke his anger. He is not angry, he is not violent – He will not hit me, choke me, call me a cunt as we pack for a holiday as I watched you do to my mother. He will not stay on the couch and refuse to leave as you did, making my mother drive alone for four hours because you are tired.

You call him a jobless little man without knowing, or asking, that he works two jobs – that he works harder and longer than you do, saving for the day that we will be reunited. You do not know or care how your words affected him, as all he had wanted was to be liked, perhaps respected. You do not see a person, though because of the distance, neither do I – You seem to have forgotten the flowers he laid upon your table for your birthday, the efforts he had made. You make him into the smallest and the most worthless despite the fact that he proves to be more than a man.

He is kind to animals, and the homeless, and he does not shoot at birds and scream at dogs the way you do – Yes, he does not have your money in the bank, but he will buy a homeless man food when he hardly has money for food himself. He will carry a bug out of a house before he will kill it. He is a kind man, but kindness does not matter in the face of status and money, does it?

I am hard to love, you know this, you too have had your struggles, but every flaw and every mistake that you have so openly criticized, he has loved and cherished. Every scar, he has kissed.

You had made me feel like what we did was an act of greed, impatience – like I am a child playing adult – when what we did was an act of love that should not be rendered as ugly and meaningless as you made it sound. You make me feel like I am a child, and perhaps I still am, and in your eyes, I always will be – but the truth is, I do no longer live with you. For nine months of the year, I do not live under your roof or on your side of the country, and everything that you are scared I will do with him, I can do here – you seem to miss that fact. When I return, I will work hard at my job for two months, there is no time to be a child anymore.

In your fear of keeping me pure, you have lost sight of me. You have lost the ability to communicate with me and I have not heard your voice in almost three months. You cannot tell me you love me as you do not know who I am, you call me names as your anger takes over. At this stage your anger is all I remember of you, though I know all of the sacrifices you had made for me, and how you carried me through many younger years.

Do not hate me because I am changing, and growing up and wishing to make my own decisions – trust that you had raised me to have dignity and self respect – trust my choices.

I no longer live with you, but I love you. I am simply so hurt at your words, your actions and your anger. Your anger disgusts and terrifies me, and I sometimes still fear for my mother. But I know you are my father and you love me – or you did. For that I am grateful, but for now – my future is uncertain, adulthood is looming, and I am scared.

WHY

Why do I have to be the fattest out of all my friends?

Why do I have to be the laziest?

Why do I have to have the worst skin and perform the worst academically.

Why can’t I have a flat stomach and a tiny ass and thighs that aren’t twice the size of my face.

Honestly who the fuck decides these things? Why is one person classy and smart and beautiful and skinny and the next person is fat and dumb with an awful skin and hardly any redeemable qualities? Who the fuck decides that’s fair. Why the fuck can’t I just be who I want to be why do I always feel like the odd one out that no one really likes and everyone tolerates and the fat friend while everyone discusses everyone’s weight loss and muscles and tiny amount of body fat. Why do I then have to sit excluded from the crowd.

Why the FUCK can’t i control my eating habits. Why the FUCK does my life revolve around food. WHY. Why am I such a fucking weak person.

I AM TOO OLD FOR ALL OF THIS FUCKING BULLSHIT TEENAGE ANGST.

You wake up one day scared you’re gonna live

I wish I could just stop being so goddamn sad all the time.

I wish that I wasn’t always unhappy or frowning or fucking anxious that I annoy everyone around me. I wish that I didn’t have acne-scarred skin and yellow fucking hair. I wish that I wasn’t overweight with ugly stretchmarks because I’m the hopeless wonder that gains almost 20kgs in maybe two months.

I wish that I didn’t have a boyfriend who never finished school, and who can’t drive and doesn’t own a suit and everything else that seems really superficial but I get really tired of defending.

But mostly I wish I could get out of bed in the morning and not lift up my shirt, look at my stomach, curse and frown, take a shower, consider getting back into bed, sitting on the bed, contemplating just staying there. I wish that I could have one day where getting out of bed wasn’t my biggest achievement. I want to not lay on my bed the whole day staring at the ceiling, not being able to do anything.

I want to be able to enjoy going out and socializing and dancing. I want to not spend all of my money on food only ending up eating it all in one day and spending the rest of the week starving myself. I want to not be controlled by food. I want to not come home every day and just sleep so I don’t eat or because I have nothing better to do all day. Am I really that person? Does my life not have any meaning?

I wake up, I go to class, I come home, I sleep, I eat, I stare into space until it’s time to bed.

Then I have my fucking roommate miss academia and house comm who fucking works all the time and has friends and a social life and is skinny and how can one person have their life so together and I can’t even manage to get out of bed, a good day is when I can actually convince myself to do laundry. This crippling hopelessness is not something that I think I can live with. Seeing everyone I went to school with losing weight, becoming more and more beautiful, building a life for themselves.

Honestly I don’t think I’ve grown at all since last year, I’d like to convince myself that I have. Yes so working in a restaurant is not that bad and now I go back willingly, yes I lost my virginity and we fucked like bunnies all though spring/summer. Yes I was actually skinny for maybe a month until I ballooned out of “happiness” and have since been fatter than ever, leaving my self esteem shatters.

I just want to feel equal, good enough for once. I’m tired of seeing myself as the fat friend or the quiet friend or the friend that is fucking incapable of fucking being social and how is it that after a year I am still sat here fucking comparing myself to fucking dickheads that I actually couldn’t fucking stand in high school??

Why are their lives so great?? Why do I constantly feel like I am fucking only being tolerated by the people that I call my friends? Why can’t i just be understood. I don’t even want to be understood. I just want to be vapidly and superficially, physically pretty. Like, yes, all the recovering eating disorder people say that chasing happiness in losing weight never lead anyone to true happiness, but .. I was happy?? I was so happy????? I was so confident??? Wearing all the clothes then and seeing the way it looks on me now? FUCK.

My residence formal is in a few weeks and my prom dress doesn’t even fit me anymore.

And it’s my fault because I was being so irresponsible. Irresponsible with food and my weight and my future !! I’m not in house comm, I do no extra curricular activities, my CV is almost blank because I can’t fucking get myself out of bed in the mornings.

I’m SO tired of being unhappy.