I don’t know if the reason feminism has recently dominated my mind is because of the recent political climate or because of my recent reading material. Quite possibly both. And during my reading this week there was one thing that really struck home.
In From Housewife to Heretic, Sonia Johnson talks about the patriarchy and the “traditional” role for women and what’s expected of them.
The way that they’re expected to address the men in the Church by their titles (Bishop, President, Patriarch) and doing anything else is disrespectful. The fact that the sisters of the Church, no matter what their position, never have a change in their title (it’s always “Sister”) is a testament to the role expected of them. Sonia also speaks of how women are always expected to wait, but they should never keep the men waiting.
This in particular struck home for me, as she was describing the expectations that patriarchy has for women, and it shed new light on a past relationship of mine. I know that it was emotionally abusive, but I wonder if the indoctrination from the Church didn’t have me primed for it.
He was sweet in the beginning, and had been that flirty friend for a few years before we got involved further. From the beginning we had to keep it secret as we were coworkers and the people we worked with were horrible gossips. (One person described it to me as “they’re worse than an old ladies sewing circle!”) It wasn’t long after we considered ourselves to be in a relationship when the power dynamic really come out.
I was expected to do things he asked or face his wrath. He was all about pushing me outside my comfort zone, but it wasn’t in a good way. Again, it just emphasized the fact that he was in charge, and if I wanted him to be in my life I had to do whatever he said. He started telling some of “the guys” about us, though he never would tell me which ones he told, and from that the rumors started.
They would tell him that they had been with me. They’d tell him that they knew of me dating so-and-so back when I was in the army years before. He would then confront me, gave me details about this “date” that supposedly happened, and then got mad when I couldn’t disprove it. From then on, the control got worse.
I like to joke around and make people laugh, often at my own expense, but after the accusations from him I couldn’t even smile without him accusing me that I was sleeping with whoever I was talking to. He told me to quit flirting, though I never was. I was just being me. I hate to think about what I put myself through with him, as I was convinced that he was the best I could do. He ended our “relationship” several times and I would beg him to give me another chance.
It was always my fault, after all. I said something wrong. I didn’t get the right tone across in my text. I fell asleep without hitting send on the text, or didn’t get his text until after I woke up. Working the night shift, that happened so often he thought that me falling asleep and not hearing the phone was just a convenient excuse that I was using to purposefully ignore him.
But I continued to buy in to the idea that I couldn’t do better, that he would make me happy. I bought him gifts, trying to show my love (an iPod, a laptop, a $500 atomic watch). Any time he asked I’d give him cash, and soon before we ended it for good I had taken out an unsecure loan for him, at his direction. All this, and I hardly got to spend any actual time with him outside of work.
One day we had talked about going on a date. A real, actual he-picks-me-up-and-we-go-out date. I was more eager for this than any of the rare times that he’d just come over. I had a new dress I was planning to wear, and I went to the salon and got highlights and a style. I couldn’t stop smiling. Until… 7pm came and went. No word from him. I texted, asked what time he’d be here, and he blew up on me. It wasn’t a good day, not a good time, etc etc.
I wish I had come to my senses then, but a couple months later we were back on. We even talked about a child as I wanted a family. He tried to make me a deal. If I was faithful for a year and he didn’t hear anything about me “fooling around” then he’d give me a child. If he heard I cheated, he’d kill me. I didn’t agree to his terms (obviously), but not because I didn’t trust myself to be faithful, which was the way he took it. I didn’t trust those we worked with not to make more stories about me. He always believed them over me (“Why would they lie about that?” he’d ask me) and I wasn’t going to put my life in their hands.
I feel ashamed admitting to any of these details out loud. I hate knowing that I was so desperate to pretend I had love that I was willing to keep myself in such a situation. I hate that I grew up in a way that the man’s in charge so I was even susceptible to the entire mess that was that “relationship.” I’m just glad I reached the point that I couldn’t take it anymore, ended the relationship, moved across the country, and cut all ties.
I know this has been a long rant, and most likely more information than anyone cares about, but I needed to finally vent this. It wasn’t until I was reading this book that I saw that the Church treats women the same way that he treated me. Now more than ever I’m grateful and infinitely relieved to be free of them both.