Tag Archives: feminism

A 6-Year-Old Don Juan Is A Problem

18 Jan

Today, on my way back from the grocery store, I got hit on by a six-year-old.  I assume he was a six-year-old, because he was most certainly prepubescent and no bigger than a slightly overgrown wombat.

He pulled up to the corner of the sidewalk on his tiny child skateboard as I walked by. “Excuse me, miss!”

I stopped and removed my headphones, entirely expecting him to tell me he was lost or ask me where some tiny child theme park was located or if I liked the color green or some shit like that.

“I’m doing this thing for my skate park,” said the tiny male human as he smiled up at me with wide puppy eyes, “where I have to land a trick in order to get a hug.”

Uh.

Uuuuuuh.

Well that’s a weird promotion. Why would they have a kid do that? What kind of training approach are they OH MY GOD THIS INFANT IS HITTING ON ME.

“I… think you should ask your parents for that hug,” I said, once my brain stopped reeling from the shock of being flirted with by someone who probably doesn’t even know if he can grow a mustache yet.

“I did that already!”

“Yeah, well, practice makes perfect.”

At this point, I started to walk away, and this tiny manchild actually began yelling after me, shouting “Aw, come on! Come on!”

I, being an adult and not the size of a wombat, was able to outpace the indignant little human fairly easily and made it home without a small yapping thing at my heels.

Now, let’s talk about this.

The story is amusing. You have a child acting like an adult, and that is often funny, in the same way that pugs wearing sweaters and boots are funny. It’s one thing pretending to be something it’s not. It’s a behavior farce. Lol. Ha ha. Whatever.

But this story is also absolutely fucking horrifying. It’s only funny because I was dealing with a small child incapable of overpowering me or presenting any real threat. But fast-forward ten years. That wombat-sized kid is now a sixteen year old boy who’s probably at least as tall as I am. Move ahead another ten years, and now a fully grown man is the one getting angry that I turned him down and is shouting “aw, come on!” at me while I’m just trying to carry my bags home from the grocery store. Now it’s an adult who’s throwing a tantrum because his line didn’t work and he didn’t get what he wanted. Now it’s someone who’s much more of a match for me physically coming at me with a lifetime of assumption that if he asks for it, I, a complete stranger, should give it to him.

That right there is rape culture. Inside of a six-year-old.

Not so funny now.

Comedy becomes tragedy all too easily. For that story ten and twenty years from now to be different, its revision needs to start now.

My Response to an Anti-Feminist

14 May

On the Twittersphere, I recently shared a blog post by Katherine Fritz over at I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog. I got a response tweet from a self-proclaimed anti-feminist. Since his response came through a public forum, I felt it would be appropriate for me to release mine through a public, easily-put-link-in-140-character-box medium as well. Thus, the following post.

———

Hi Ian,

thanks for your thoughtful response! I appreciate your civil discourse and lack of ad hominem attacks. Seriously.

Due to your lack of actual citation beyond the link to a blog post that itself looks at largely anecdotal data, I will also respond using broad strokes and summaries. I can provide factual citation and data from research on historical trends from non-biased sources as requested, if necessary. Also, while gender and sexuality are multivariate, not binary, in order to most directly and efficiently respond to your letter, I will mostly be talking about feminism in largely binary terms.

So, I see your hurt feelings. They are true and valid. I will not dispute that they exist. However, I think that there’s some conflation going on assigning causality in incorrect ways. I am not saying that nothing was done, or that no one did anything. Things were done. People did them. But from where I’m standing, there’s been some conflation of separate entities in what all went down.

Yes, feminism has pointed out that there are issues that exist with men, masculinity, fatherhood, and male sexuality. It has not, however, said that those categories are the issues. They have the issues. And lots of those issues have affected women at a systemic and subsequently individual level. Yes, women, femininity, motherhood, and female sexuality also have issues. And those issues have affected men on a systemic and subsequently individual level. But feminism posits, with the whole of history that I won’t repeat here to back it up, that men’s issues have had the harder hit, when it comes to the way society has shown bruises. The phrase “it’s a man’s world” is an incredibly crude phrase, but it is a good summary of what the main problem throughout history has boiled down to.

You say that feminism has not been inclusive of men’s issues. I say that this is an unfair critique. Every activist movement only has so many resources to go around. You wouldn’t criticize a puppy rescue for not seeing to the homeless kittens out there, too. It’s not their scope. Do they care about kittens? Yes. Do they want organizations to exist to get the kittens help? Yes. Do they think that by addressing the cause of homeless pets while working specifically with the target population of puppies their work will also help kittens? Yes. When they go out to the public to talk about their mission, are they going to use their limited time and resources to talk about kittens? No. Feminism works on the overall condition of human rights by focusing on a target dynamic. We think men and their plights are important too. We’re just not that organization.

Finally, there is the important distinction between “the actions of an individual who claims a label” and “the definition of the label itself.” A person can claim that they are a certain thing, and then act in no such manner. It’s been the recognized case with religion for years. People claiming to be Christian and to believe in love and forgiveness have gone and slaughtered millions in crusades and KKK rallies and abortion clinic bombings. Were those actions produced by Christianity? No. They were actions produced by angry individuals who falsely claimed the nearest convenient label as a justification for their own independent action.

Feminism is not about taking advantage of or attacking men. Feminism is in fact exactly the opposite, about righting a systemic abuse of power to bring us all back to a playing field of being reasonable, decent humans to each other who don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes, whether about males or females. The actions of not-actually-feminists only “stain” the movement as much as the action of male rapists and serial killers and bigots and otherwise terrible humans “stain” the whole of manhood.

As Katherine mentions in her blog post, true feminism does not discount subsets of feminist interests. Women are allowed to want to be mothers and wives and mascara-appliers and hair-doers and skirt-wearers. They are allowed to care about their high heels and children. That is fine. Acceptable. Laudable. As is not wanting to be a wife or a mother or to wear makeup or do anything remotely similar. Or, to be a male and to want to be a husband and father and to wear makeup and do hair and wear skirts. Or, to be someone who falls in none of those categories. Feminism is the idea that boxes are idiotic, and no one should be trapped in them – or outside of them. You say my idea of feminism is naïve, but I would counter that perhaps your experience of it is limited. I do not deny that there are angry people out there calling themselves feminists and acting the opposite. They are visible. They are loud. They are really quite noticeable. Yes, they exist. But feminists who are reasonable and don’t go gutting others in the style of exactly what we’re trying to end exist, too. The “warm, happy, sunny feminism” you claim I know because I practice it, or at least try my damnedest to. Katherine does as well. There are others – women and men – in my day to day life who practice it, too. I see them. I know they are real. I’m sorry people like them apparently don’t exist in your personal world. Though when presented with two people – one who’s smiling at you and the other who’s about to stab you with a knife – I can understand how the knife-wielder might take more precedence in what you’re remembering came at you that day. I promise there are more of smilers out there, somewhere around you.

But don’t get me wrong – people who are good feminists, are decent humans are allowed to get angry, too. Just like you, we’re allowed to feel hurt at our own knife wounds. And we’re allowed to fight back. Just as you are.

Best,

Miceala Shocklee

I Am Pro-Shirt

17 Nov

Aaaalrighty, time for me to join this whole internet yelling thing for a bit.

So. I here there’s this shirt. This shirt, to be specific:

Well, before I start talking about this shirt, let’s get some facts straight about me, your writer here.

1. I am a scientist. (Like I have a real degree in it from a major science school and everything.)

2. I am a feminist. (Eh, just go read my other writing for evidence.)

As a scientist, I will whittle things down to their barest of bones for analysis. I will look at the big picture. I will pin down tiny facts with a sharp and pointy needle. I will check my references, try to look for multiple sides of explanations, and figure out a hypothesis that fits best. I will try really fucking hard not to factor in my own biases, or make the data say what I want it to because I’m so fucking desperate to prove my own point. I will be cool. I will be cold. I will be objective. I will be level.

As a feminist, I will scream the bloody guts out of you if you step on my dignity as a woman (i.e. human).

That man, in that shirt up there? Ya wanna know what I would do if I met him?

1. Babble incoherently because I’m standing in front of a super competent scientist who did a fucking amazing thing.

2. Continue to babble incoherently because while I did take quantum mechanics and special relativity, his is still not my particular field of science.

3. Default to commenting on his super cool tattoos.

4. Blush super red because I’m one of those people.

5. Leave feeling awed at the chance to have met him.

You know what I wouldn’t have done? Give a damn about his shirt. Because it’s his. fucking. shirt. And it has done nothing to harm me.

I mean, maybe the Hawaiian shirt-style colors are a little garish on the eyes, but that’s a different matter entirely.

But seriously, how the fuck did we go from lauding this man as an emblem of scientific progress to tar-and-feathering him as the epitome of misogyny? Has he even done anything misogynistic? Because so far, I’ve not heard any reports of that… I have heard of him making a public apology for wearing a shirt that apparently offended people, which honestly goes up and beyond the dictates of good character. So… why aren’t we telling him that he’s a good guy?

Oh, yeah, the shirt.

Well, let’s pause. What’s so offensive about this shirt again? Did it have hateful words on it? No. Did it depict violence towards women? No. Did it depict a woman being coerced to do something she didn’t want to do? No.

The only thing this shirt did (again, beyond the garish color scheme) was depict a confident-looking woman posing confidently in the clothes that this hypothetical art-woman presumably chose to wear because she liked them. And this scientist-man, Dr. Matt Taylor, saw this shirt of a woman being confident enough to flaunt for the presumed hypothetical camera and thought hey, this is a cool thing. An attractive thing. I’d like to wear a shirt that broadcasts that kind of existence for a woman.

(Well, presumably some sort of thought train like that. I obviously can’t know exactly what he thought. It very likely could also just have been, “Ah, cool shirt brah! Imma wear this!”)

But seriously, why are we yelling about this shirt? Because a woman is being sexy on it? WOMEN ARE BEING SEXY ON EVERYTHING. Coca cola cans, internet window advertising side bars, stripper poles, art work, the streets because remember how it’s supposed to be okay for a woman to dress however she wants and not be judged for it? Well, a hypothetical not even real woman was dressing how she wanted on a shirt. Consensually. And a man wore it. Woooo male support of feminism. Right?

As someone who’s also done a fair amount of vocalizing on the eating disorder awareness front, I could see how some people might start yelling about how the woman on the shirt is thin, thus perpetuating unrealistic expectations and suppressing the idea that other body shapes are beautiful and blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure Dr. Taylor didn’t pick up this shirt and go, “Oh hey, I could perpetuate thin culture with this. Yeah, Imma do that.” And even if he did have a thought train along the line of, “Oh, skinny woman. Skinny woman pretty. Yes wear.” WHATEVER. THAT’S HIS FUCKING PREROGATIVE. He’s allowed to have aesthetic preferences. That’s okay. Besides, he’s kinda busy doing cool science shit. The battle against fat shaming is not his responsibility. And again, it’s not like his shirt specifically says “only skinny women are pretty.” It doesn’t. It doesn’t.

So, what do we have about all of this? A scientist wore a garishly colored but otherwise non-content-offensive shirt. And then the world yelled at him, because apparently the world likes to make assumptions and project thought processes instead of slowing down to actually get facts and analyze.

Seriously, guys. It’s just a shirt. I went to a university with more males than females. All of us were scientists. You wanna know what we wore? Our pajamas. Actually. I have a friend who almost never wore anything other than his pajamas. Yes, he even wore them to job interviews. I have never seen this man in a suit. Except for the people who were adding a second business major to their science one, the people at my school, if you saw us in fancy clothes, it’s because it was laundry day and we’d run out of everything else.

And furthermore, I do not joke: World, this is a male scientist not working in a wet lab. Stop giving a shit about the not-actually-offensive shirt, and just be gratefully he was wearing pants.

An Open Letter to Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld at Fox News

25 Sep #HeForShe

To Mr. Eric Bolling and Mr. Greg Gutfeld,

yesterday, September 24th, you two made some foot-in-mouth – or should I say dick-in-mouth, by your language – comments about Major Mariam Al Mansouri. Was it because she is a fighter pilot? Or a freedom fighter? Or a figure for justice? How about because she’s a trail blazer? Or symbol of refusing to sit down in the face of injustice?

No. It was because Major Mariam Al Mansouri is a woman.

What’s this, you appear to have thought to yourself, the first female fighter pilot of the UAB stood up against FOX’s sworn enemy, ISIS? Well, I could comment on her bravery… or how many social prejudices she’s overcome… or how she’s such an ally for US interests… Wait, I know! Better comment on her boobs!

Or make a low-brow, uninspired joke about female driving stereotypes that would paint Major Mansouri as less capable than a male counterpart, as Mr. Gutfeld seemed to think best.

Because sexist “jokes” are totally what all your viewers were itching to hear just then, right?

Wrong.

I’d like to introduce the two of you to a little something called the HeForShe campaign, a “solidarity movement for gender equality,” as the website says.

Oh, sorry, I used some large words that you two don’t seem to be familiar with, based on your performance yesterday. Let me break it down for you.

Solidarity means that hey, feminism isn’t just for or about females. The state of women – roughly one half of the human population – is something that affects and is affected by the other half, all you male-identifying folk. So hey, how about we stand together through all this stuff instead of making half the human race grind its teeth because of your stupidity?

Movement – so, we’re not just standing. Men have had to fight for their rights – like oh, say, freedom (ring a bell?) – and have come a long way. Women, we’ve been fighting too. But, as evidenced by men of your caliber, we’ve still got a long way to go to reach equal respect, freedom, and opportunity. Major Mansouri fought against an entire culture of disapproval for her opportunities. And now that she’s taken back her own personal freedom, she’s fighting for other women – and men – from the cockpit. That’s right, men. A vulva in the cockpit. Turns out genitalia doesn’t determine whether you can fight, metaphorically and very, very literally, for something you believe in.

Gender equality is what it sounds like – not women nagging men, not men belittling women. But rather, each of us evaluating the other based on individual merit, not our degree of mammary tissue or what kind of urethral exit we’ve got going. To demonstrate this concept, I’d say a fair evaluation of what Major Mansouri has done could be called “courageous, competent, and inspiring.” As for your Wednesday behavior, I’d put it at “unintelligent, unduly crass, and ignorant.”

I’m not the only one who thinks so. This is not some “feminazi” rant over a trivial matter. I am not some hormone-crazed female who “can’t take a joke.” No, I am justified in my outrage at your blatant and blind perpetuation not just of sexism, but of rape culture too. Your behavior treats a woman as if her body is fair game. As if the very fact that she is female makes her an acceptable target for jokes, for disparagement, for verbal undressing, for whatever your male mind may damn well please, really. But if Major Mansouri had been a man, would you have made comments about his bombing aligning it with his ball sack? Or his dick? I mean, you would have had a ready “joystick” joke right there. Would you have demeaned his skills as a soldier by saying that oh hey, he must not clean up as well on the bombing field because everyone knows that women do the household chores? Would you immediately jump to verbally jostling his sexual parts as a “joke,” instead of properly saluting this soldier who is fighting as an ally on your side for an entire fucking people’s freedom? No?

Then I think, sirs, that you have a problem.

You have several solutions before you. Heforshe.org has several to recommend. Personally, I’d advise issuing an apology. And no, not some flimsy sham of a guilt admission. I – and I suspect other men and women too – want remorse. We want acknowledgment of your ignorance and ill intention when you made those comments. We want recognition of your underlying prejudices. And we demand concrete measures for change.

Because if that does not happen – well then gentleman, if you will not remove your foot from your mouth, then perhaps it is time to get your dick out of the seat. Fox News obviously needs more female anchors anyway.

Sincerely,
Miceala Shocklee

———–

Let Eric Bolling, Gerg Gutfeld, and the rest of Fox News know that sexist comments like these are not only distasteful, but dangerous. Tweet this page’s url to the anchors and their channel, or leave a message for them on Facebook. Feel free to copy and past the letter above and add your own signature, or write your own message.

@ericbolling
https://www.facebook.com/EricBolling

@greggutfeld
http://ggutfeld.com/contact/
https://www.facebook.com/ggutfeld

The Five:
https://www.facebook.com/TheFiveFNC

Show support for the Kim Guilfoyle, who brought of the story and condemned her colleagues’ remarks on air.

@kimguilfoyle
https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyGuilfoyle
http://kimberlyguilfoyle.com/contact/

sample message:
Thank you, Ms. Guilfoyle, for deciding to highlight such a courageous female in our day and age as Major Mansouri. I support you in how you wanted to spin the story, and I condemn the comments that Mr. Bolling and Mr. Gutfeld made. Thank you for immediately calling them out on it and letting them know that their behavior was unacceptable. I thank you for your efforts and hope that you will keep standing up for women everywhere, beginning with yourself.

On Feminism

22 Sep
Though if you want to be a delicate princess, all the time or sometimes, then you are damn well welcome to do so too. (source)

Though if you want to be a delicate princess, all the time or sometimes, then you are damn well welcome to do so too.
(source)

Just moments ago, to put it in breaking news lingo, I read an article on Emma Watson’s speech to the UN on feminism and, particularly, the HeForShe campaign. The article cites a glorious portion of Watson’s speech in which she says that she decided to be a feminist because it just made sense.

I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, [women’s expression is] seen as too strong, too aggressive, anti-men, unattractive.

Why has the word become such an unpopular one? I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.

Many a badass woman has talked about how they of course they decided to be feminist, because when they paused to look around at the world they lived in, it just made sense.

This is not how I became a feminist.

I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I was “born” a feminist, but I was certainly shaped into one from before the age that kids develop theory of mind. What feminism really stands for, the ideas of equality – equal opportunity, equal respect – they were delivered to me as the norm. I grew up a feminist the way you can grow up a Southerner, or a Catholic, or a French-speaker. What feminism said was just a fact of life, the same way that belly buttons and fingernails and noses were.

Well, mostly.

Let’s back up and pan out. I grew up in the Midwest, as many of you lovely readers know. Because my parents are brilliant humans who cared deeply about my education, I attended a private, all-girls school from the age of three. Sure, this caused a lot of difficulties in my life, because a pre-pubescent or post-pubescently-hormonal clique of girls is about the social meanness equivalent of a pack of rabid hyenas starving for unsuspecting prey with a side of well-marinated sadism, but beyond that, uh, tiny pitfall, my school had a hell of a lot going for it.

For one thing, I was surrounded by girls. Yes, I did art and English and social studies and French entirely surrounded by girls. But I also did algebra and geometry and trigonometry and AP calculus and honors physics and AP bio and AP chemistry entirely surrounded by girls, too. There was never even a spec of the “girls can’t do/are less good than boys at STEM fields” attitude that apparently pervades other academic institutions. For me, the idea just plain didn’t compute. It was ridiculous. It was laughable. At least, it was once I heard about it. Because growing up from the age of three going to a school that required I and my entirely female classmates to take all those STEM field classes, and furthermore take them under the direction of something like 98% female faculty – the idea that “women aren’t good at math/science” never entered my brain. It’s like how I don’t know the Chinese word for milk. It’s just not ever something that was taught or exposed to me. I don’t speak Chinese. I don’t speak anti-feminism.

My school showed me that women could run the gamut of competence. My English teachers were 99% female. My science teachers were 99% female. My math teachers were in fact 100% female. Interestingly enough, my music and drama teachers were mostly male. And straight. So there went any kind of “heteronormative males can’t be interested in the performing arts” stereotype.

When it came to higher education, the faculty that taught me included both women and men with PhD’s. Most of the administrators at my school, both grade school and high school, were women. And what’s more, my school has had a 100% college acceptance rate for its graduating seniors since women were first allowed into college after my school’s inception in 1833.

So, I had a lot of role models. I saw adult women in positions of administrative and academic power and expertise. But my school also taught me that capability was not something I needed to look upward to find. I was shown that women are competent at any age and level of experience. When it came to student government, being at an all girls school, obviously, every single position was filled by one of my female cohorts. Our state-winning sports teams were entirely female. Our academic competition teams were entirely composed of females taught by mainly females, and we routinely routed out the all-boys schools we competed against. Our clubs, our plays, our every extra-curricular ever – they were run and attended by female students. I – and other students – even created clubs. We saw a need, we filled it. We problem-solved. We critically thought. We engineered. We created. We supported. We fought. In my sixty-seven person graduating class alone, one female student set a new record for the military entrance physical fitness test. Another went to West Point. And another to the Naval Academy. On the flip side, one of my friends deferred college for a year and prioritized full life experience and went to teach in Peru.

I lived in a world of intelligent, competent, caring, complex women. Sometimes we hated each other. Most of the time we at least got along, if not fiercely loved each other. Our views on love, sex, religion, politics, academics, sports, literature, really life in general were spattered across the board. But whatever happened between us, we knew it was because we were people, not “just” because we were women.

When I was still in grade school, I once asked my father on an election year if there were any female candidates. He told me that no, there weren’t, because women are naturally less good at being leaders than men.

That statement did not compute with small me’s view of the world. And to my school, I am incredibly grateful for that.

Oh yeah, I later ended up heading five clubs, creating a seventh-twelfth grade mentorship program, graduating as valedictorian, and becoming the first of my school’s students to go to Caltech.

I think I did all right on the leadership front.

Oh! And I do believe that next election, I’ll likely be voting for Hillary Clinton, very serious female Democratic presidential candidate.

Because the fact that she is female does not bother me.

Because I know that what her second sex chromosome is matters less than what she has shown of herself.

Because I know that women can be leaders.

Because I was raised a feminist.

I thank my fellow females for that.

Poem: At The Market

5 Jul

 

At The Market

Today while at the market I heard
a most skeptical remarking word
about the tattoo behind my ear –
“Do you know it’s there, my dear?”

The asker proved an elderly man
and I so young at twenty-three
could only smile and reply
“yes,” most delightful and politely.

“You were drunk that night?”
the old man asked, and I just laughed if off.
“No, I planned this pawprint,” I smiled,
But still the man, he scoffed.

“You volunteered?” he said incredulously
so I smiled and laughed again.
“Yes, it’s a memory,” I explained.
“Identity in my skin.”

Perhaps I am just an upstart
Or perhaps he is just rude,
But my appearance is not his call.
In the end, he’s just some dude.

Misogyny, Misandry, and Father’s Day

15 Jun

I hate Father’s Day. I by no means hate fathers. I don’t even really hate my father. I just hate the nationally celebrated day that will overstuff my Facebook and Twitter feeds and force me to think over and over again about the complicated relationship I’ve had since, well, ever with that terrible, wonderful, intimidating word. Father.

Honestly, I’m pretty confused about how I happened. Yes, yes, I do technically know how I happened. I have two heterosexual, reasonably fertile parents with differently sexed genitalia. I remember that talk my school gave us back in sixth grade. But as for the why of that how – I am confused, since I’m generally under the impression that my parents have been fighting since before I was even born. But apparently passion, like humans and their human relationships, is a complicated thing.

And so I was born, thanks to the complicatedness of existence. Naturally, that meant that my existence has been consequentially complicated too.

I know that there were good times with my father while I was growing up. Afternoons of hide and seek, nights of my father’s consenting to play barbies before bed. My dad is the reason I was thrown into the water and turned into such an aqueous creature so early on. There were giggles and smiles.

But there were tears, too. Oh so many, many tears. And I, built for better or for worse to register the negative over the positive, tend to remember those tears first and foremost. I was three or four the first time I encountered the word “divorce.” My parents were shouting it at each other downstairs in the kitchen. I heard them from my hiding place, crouched just around the corner at the top of the stairs, where they couldn’t see me. I heard my father shouting, his yells deep and growling. I heard my mother shriek back, her words shrill and defensive. Even at three, I knew that one of those timbres was the one with the threat, and one of them was not. My mother’s yelling carries hysteria. My father’s yelling carries violence. His is the anger that has always scared me more.

Now, at the age of 23, I understand that my father is human, a damaged individual with a backstory of dysfunction that explains so much of his threats and narcissism and alcoholism and distance. He is doing the best he can with what he himself was given to work with. But at the age of three, that higher reasoning hadn’t kicked in yet. All I knew was that my father, the man I was supposed to believe was there to protect me, was someone of whom I was deeply, deeply afraid. And while that is something I have come to understand, it is not something I can yet entirely forgive.

I grew up living in fear. The man who taught me that promises are important with the force behind the words he used to tell me that he would always keep them is also the man who taught me more with his actions just why that is when he broke oh so many of them. The man who said he would always be there for me, no matter what, is also the man I would come to think of as “the bachelor who happens to be married to my mother” because of how often he was away on business, golf trips, hunting vacations, or affairs.

I am so much of who I am because of having preferred the counter examples to him. I am trusting because my father is manipulative. I am a giver because my father is a salesman. I am a pacifist because my father is a predator. I am widely accepting because my father can only believe that what he wants is right. I will ask for help because my father will keep on blundering ahead. I am supportive because my father is so critical. I lack so much self-confidence because my father is so self-assured.

I am perhaps equal parts broken and strong because of how I have reacted to my father’s lessons, direct or otherwise. I have spent a lifetime trying to defend who I am as a woman because of the man who acted as if women are nothing more than pretty tools for his disposal. I grew up expecting to be assaulted, in one way or another.

And yet, his misogyny has not instilled in me an equal misandry. Yes, for much of my life, I was flat-out afraid of males. My all-girls school education and sheltered childhood spared me having to interact with guys on any sort of regular basis. But the occasional visit from male neighbors, or uncles, or cousins, or, you know, going to a restaurant and having to talk to a male server – I was routinely petrified.

A slow introduction to the male half of the human race and a college education at a male-heavy college where I was the only girl in the room often enough that I eventually stopped noticing has helped a bit, but there is still some amount of inherent distrust in me. I was taught, by action rather than doctrine, that males are a people who could very, very easily hurt me. Physically or otherwise.

And yet, I have also grown up craving male attention. Approval. Affection. The things that I did not at all register sufficiently getting from my father. It was somewhere around middle school when I first realized just how desperately I was searching for a surrogate father. I had a male music teacher, and after I’d used an untraditional medium for a project in his music appreciation class, I asked him over and over again, for something like a week, whether or not that had been okay. The answer was obviously yes, every time. I stopped asking after I realized, in a moment of horror, that I was continuing to ask the same question of this music teacher not because I was still unsure of whether or not how I’d done the project had actually been okay, but because I knew that it was, and I wanted to hear the music teacher say that. I wanted to hear him tell me that yes, it had been a good idea. Yes, it had been okay. Yes, I was okay. Yes, he approved of me.

Hello, daddy issues.

I have since worked very, very hard to pull back those daddy-seeking tendrils. There’s been a lot of therapy.

And yet, somehow, I continue to become close to males who treat me in some way or other like my father did. I actively try not to, try to make friends and lovers of the guys who display qualities that I value, rather than qualities I grew up fearing. Still, I too often wind up with quick-tempered, stormy friends. Guys who will say things with their words and never follow through with their actions. Recently, I realized that I was staying with a guy who completely ignored me because I feared my emotional turmoil of a life would be harder without the paltry reassurance I got from that flimsy titular relationship than it was with it.

In other words, I was staying with him for the exact same reason my mother has stayed with my father. Down to the very words she’d used to explain it to me.

We broke up shortly thereafter.

So. Father’s Day. Such a complicated day for me. “Father” is the word for the man who gave me my first real taste of misogyny. “Father” is the word for the man who made me seek so desperately a desire to find his counterexample, rather than falling into easy misandry. “Father” is the word for the man who was causative for so many of the bricks that build me, and for the cracks in them as well. “Father” is the word for the thing I view with equal parts despisement and yearning.

“Father” is a word that has only ever been associated with the word “happy” in a negative sense. So how can I not hate the phrase “Happy Father’s Day?” There is so much unfulfilled wishing in that phrase for me. So much history, so many complications and contradictions.

I find it difficult to wish people an oxymoron.