Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Walk with Me: Path to a Path #9: Misogyny in Family's Clothing

*NOTE* This is the most difficult post I have ever written. I know it will upset my family. It upsets me. But with all that is going on in the world of women's rights right now. I have to make the personal political.**************

It was a big weekend for really breaking through why I binge eat and my emotional issues surrounding my family. I just didn't realize it would come down to such a big issue. I didn't realize how wrapped up my safety was with my sexuality. I didn't realize how much these all has to do with the issue of misogyny. 

I was a binge eater. For most of my childhood, into adolescence, and then into adulthood. Three years ago, ironically around the time I was thirty. I started the process of breaking the addiction, as I do see it as that, of binge eating. I changed eating habits, I worked through emotional issues, I exercised. I started meditating. All of these things got me to a clearer head space to be able to control urges. What does my binge eating truly come down to? Safety. I don't feel safe. So I over eat to feel grounded and safe. I ate when sad. I ate when happy. I understand binge eating is not as "bad" as shooting heroin. I sometimes understand that. Sometimes I think binge eating is worse than shooting heroin, cause binge eating keeps you alive longer as you continue to hate yourself and the life you have built as you eat your way through life. Am I sober? No, I still on occasion binge eat. This weekend was one of those times.

Maybe you have read my blog and know of my journey the past few years. Especially my trip across the country the past year. Maybe you have heard I made the choice to move back to Minneapolis to be closer to my family and still live in an awesome art city. Things have been a bit rough with housing issues. But I love my job and am feeling pretty good about my entry into the art scene here with a some Walker Open Fields events planned this summer. 

To make a long story short I got it on most sides from distant relatives that are intimidated by me (I am just a struggling artist). No one was happy when I didn't have anything to complain about. They searched for weaknesses. Did I have job? Well, when was the next Walk with Me event? Not to really ask about me and my life but to be able to say HA! there are her weaknesses. Finally landing on my not having a boyfriend after asking all the other questions…my distant relative was able to walk away with what she felt was an upper hand. I feel sad to have missed an opportunity to really connect.Why ask me questions if you don't want to know what is going on? I bring this up because it was the beginning of a not so great night. This feeling that I don't fit is not new. I was always told it was my fault that I THOUGHT I was different, so I was made myself different. Well, I am different. I am a woman. I am a woman living in a misogynistic world. With all the political choices being made my sudden awareness of how misogyny effects woman to woman conversation just as much as man to woman was my first lesson of the weekend. My relative is intimidated by me cause I am a single woman who seemingly isn't lacking anything. I am a mostly happy, working hard, woman. And instead of celebrating that people try to make me feel less than. I think patriarchy has to do with this. (I am going to start reading some Mary Daly to inform myself but I think intuitively I am on to something.)

For years, I have put myself in uncomfortable situations in the name of learning. In the name of diversity. In the name of wanting other sot feel better/comfortable/at ease. With my family it is my being an artist. My being eccentric. My being not of the mainstream. I always tried to meet people where they felt comfortable. Talking about things that are important to them. Talking to make people feel comfortable with me. I have recently taken that out of my personal life and leave that for when I am working as a PR person.

I am trying to just be me. I am a woman. I am an adult. And I deserve to be respected. The evening got worse when a cousin of mine got drunk. We, my mother, father, sister, brother in law, other relatives were at this cousin's house. He had kindly let us stay at his house. He drank about 4-6 glasses of whiskey and coke while we all ate pizza and chatted. I was tired. I was tired because I had used my old friend binge eating to get through this family weekend. I was so tired from eating things I don't usually eat, including many many many slices of pizza. That I decided to go to bed before everyone else. I had taken off my bra and put it by my bag and was saying good night to everyone when my cousin blocked my path to leave the living room. He started insisting I hug him. In front of everyone. Someone joked he wanted to hug me cause I didn't have my bra on. Everyone including me guffawed. Well, he wouldn't move. So I freaked out a bit. I ran away from him and told him to move. I was told by my sister, "I was just egging him on."


I put up with this behavior ALL THROUGH ADOLESCENCE. And well I was done. So I told him "To stop being a molester." He backed off and I went to bed. Him saying "You didn't have to be like that." 


In the moment, I wasn't mad. In the moment I went to bed. Not going back out to go to the bathroom one last time because I didn't want to have to fend off another hugging attack. TRULY, I didn't go pee because I didn't want to shake off my cousin trying to hug me. 

But it doesn't end. The next day, I had shrugged off the action of the night before. Cause I had shrugged off many days/nights of this type of behavior by men. And I asked a relative not to yell from the same room I was in while those she was yelling at others in another room. She then retorted with "Oh Paige, you are so sensitive! You are just too sensitive." 

I don't know if this was related to her watching my interaction with her son the night before. I don't know if she is just mad at me too for being a stronger woman than she. I don't know where this all comes from but I have realized her reaction is part of the internalized misogyny that is running rampant in my family. The cousin didn't speak to me as he scarfed down cake my brother in law made. When I left with my father, my aunt hugged me and said how great it was to see me after not speaking to me after our spat. 

The reason I haven't felt safe my whole life is because I am not. I just didn't realize it was always about sexuality. No one in my family stood up and protected me from what was labeled harmless harassment. I was supposed to protect myself. I was told I was over sensitive. I was told being a girl, a teen, a woman, was something that made me in the wrong and it is even ingrained in the women in my family. I don't get a voice, cause I am too sensitive. Too smart. Too full of myself. What is most intriguing is this was told to my aunt after she had a child at a young age. She was ridiculed for her choices or who knows possibly a non-choice that she paid the consequences for…she has misogyny written into her consciousness. It seems if she can't break the bonds of patriarchy, then she is trying to keep me in them also. By her words and actions. 

This is a huge break through for me. Cause this is what the Walk with Me journey has always been about. It is about intimacy and feeling safe enough to have it. I had to go back to my family to realize where my inability to love a man came from. It came from horribly dysfunctional dynamics that for my whole life I blamed myself for. I blamed myself that I couldn't fend off the teasing, the harassment, that was "harmless." I wasn't given the voice or the back up to say no. Because I am a woman my family hasn't protected me in the way I needed most. My family clothed, sheltered me, supported me financially, which is more than most women receive, but they have never stood up for me when I was teased or looked down upon for being me. Ever. 

I am standing up for me now. I will make a scene. I will scream. And most importantly I will not go. I moved back to Minnesota to be close to my family. But for now, that will be a truncated size of family. My mother, my father, and my sister's family on this specific side of family. I am beyond mad. I am beyond angry at myself for taking all of this in and blaming myself my whole life. This is what patriarchy and misogyny is. I was able to put it at arm's leg in a lot of ways by distancing myself from family. Well, I am back and I am in it. I will not turn away from this. I don't need to be groped or even hugged by any drunk man, relative or not. There is no behavior that is acceptable if not desired. I learned this from a walk with a S & M practitioner in Pittsburgh while holding her hand. I can say NO and I don't need a reason. 

I am safe because I make myself safe and I surround myself with people who will defend our rights to be safe. This was a sad weekend.

A Huffington blog that I think brings this conversation to another level and that I resonate with is this post by Kristina Wong. As a straight woman with queer politics I ail be reading this again as I mull these issues over. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristina-wong/kristina-wongs-vagina-exp_b_5538278.html

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