Current Events,  Family

Practical feminism

In all the discussions about the state of feminism today sometimes it is easy to lose track of what it means for individual women. I was reminded today during a discussion with my mother.

My mother’s older sister is married to a man who totally controls her life. She is not allowed to do anything outside the house on her own initiative. It irritates my mother to no end. Last week my aunt called my mother to discuss an outing they thought about going to. She said that her husband was outside (so she could make the call). When he came back in she was going to tell him that my mother had called her and invited her to go out with her on the day after my aunt’s birthday. My mother said her first impression was to say no because she hates being a part of these deceptions of my aunt’s and she thinks my aunt should just tell my uncle to ….. (insert your favorite insult here.)

My mother really didn’t want to go and called my aunt yesterday to tell her this. Before she could say that my aunt said that her husband had thought about it for a long time and he decided that even though she hadn’t finished all the tasks he assigned her to complete before she had permission to go out with my mother, she would be allowed to go. That pissed my mother off so thoroughly that she decided that she was definately getting my aunt out of the house and they are going out to dinner too!

So, what wild debauchery do they have planned that requires strict husbandly approval? They are going to a scrapbooking meeting.

I just don’t get it. Why does my aunt put up with it? She’s been married to him since the early 1960s. I would have snapped by now. It isn’t because she saw this behavior in her own mother either. My grandmother often daydreamed about killing her son-in-law. I remember her saying once that someday she was going to take him for a walk in the woods and “only one of us is coming back.” I come from a long line of fiesty women. Being a doormat is not hereditary here.

My dad often (jokingly) says that he is going to go take lessons from my uncle to learn how to control his wife. When I was getting married he offered to take my future husband and see if they could get a two-for-one lesson. The husband often makes pronouncements about how I have to ask permission before I do something. But he would pass out and die if I actually asked. If he recovered he would be horrified that I thought he was serious that I needed to ask his permission.

So what makes her put up with it? She’s strong willed to the point of stubborness once she gets out of the house. I guess she’s making up for lost time. I don’t think he hits her. Honestly, she’s a large lady and he’s small and older and in poor health. She could take him in a fight with no problem.

This just reminded me of what feminism should be about. Allowing women to have the power in their own lives to make decisions about whether they are going to out for a few hours. It should be about teaching girls that they don’t have to put up with this type of behavior. It means teaching boys that this is not appropriate. Until that happens everything else is meaningless.


  • Sarah Parry

    I think that your writing is extremely insightful. You offer first-hand personal insights into feminist outlook applied to real-life stories and situations. I’ve linked you off my own feminist blog cos’ I really like your style, shall be a future visitor!

  • Kati

    I get some pretty weird looks when I get to work and call my hubby to let him know I’m in ok. It actually started over a year ago when I started working in town, during the winter. He wanted me to call and let him know that I was safely in town. That’s fine. I’ve just continued it, even though he often wonders why I do. It’s not as if he’s worried about my being able to drive in safely now (I hate driving, and it was origionally his idea for me to take the town job, now I’m still in town but with a job that’s MY idea).

    When one of the ladies from my dad’s church let’s me know that they’re having a bunco night (loads of fun, even in a church!), at first I’d ask him if that was ok if I went, but I realized how often he does things without asking me if it’s ok. I stopped defering to him. Now I just let him know when bunco night is, and remind him that he’s gotta clear his schedual for it. 😉

    Some people get peeved to even hear a woman ask her husband if it’s ok if she does something or goes somewhere, but I don’t always see it as permission, so much as making sure that there are no schedual conflicts, or money issues that need to be faced first. I ask my hubby if it’s ok if I go shopping at Michaels, not because I really need his approval first, but because he has a better sense of our checkbook balance than I do. If I do ask about going to bunco, it’s not because I think he needs to approve my movements, but because I need to be sure that he’s not also heading out for weekend fishing trip and I need to find alternate babysitting for the kiddo.

    But, DANG!!!!!! If my hubby ever told me outright that No… I couldn’t do this, that, or the other. I’d tell him he could kiss my lily white @$$. I was dreaming, a few months back, about vacationing in Ireland someday. He commented that I’ll never have the money to do that, we don’t make enough. I told him to WATCH ME! I’m very good at squirreling away money, when I have something I want. And a trip to Ireland is one of those things I’m going to be squirreling money away for, before much longer. And besides, if he can save up for a shark, or pike, or halibut charter every year…. I can darn well take some of my hard earned $$ and save it for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

  • Autumn

    I would lock his sorry ass in the closet and do as I pleased. Grrrrr. I hate to hear stories like that. Why do women let men (or anyone) treat them as if they have no mind or right to do as they want. I just don’t get it. when my current husband I got married, he tired ONCE to tell me that I could not do something. I looked him straight in the eye and said to him. I am free, and over 21 and I will do as I damn well please. don’t you ever tell me that I am not allowed to do something because I will do it or die trying. He never tried it again. I guess I am just a bitch that way, because if someone tells me I can’t do something I will do it just to prove I can.
    (ok sorry I’m off my soap box now)

  • Nio

    This story reminds me of my aunt, Hey You and her sh!thead husband, John. Hey you was a strong willed, independant womyn. She met John long before they started seeing each other, like five years before, at some job they both worked at. Everyday, according to him, he would come into her part of the office and say “you’re going out with me tonight” and she’d say no. After five years, she said yes. The way I see it, she married her stalker.

    When they were dating, he would go over to my grandmother’s house three hours before the time of their date and just wait for Hey You to come home and get ready. This pleased my grandmother. If my aunt wanted to go out with her friends for the night, or stay in and do nothing, Nana had to call John up and tell him Hey You was sick, or some chore needed to be done around the house, or some other stupid lie.

    Once they were married, she was never allowed to be alone again. If she wanted to run out and buy milk, he would drive. If she wanted to see Nana, he would come with her. If she wanted to go out with her friends, he would show up where ever they were. Slowly he disempowered her and then moved her away from her family, isolating her from everyone she knew and loved.

    Now she’s disabled and cannot work. Because he is the ‘breadwinner’ he feels that all decisions regarding money should be through him. This includes cars. Because her disability check is not enough to maintain a car, she doesn’t have one. So she stays home all day and cries. She thinks it’s love. She thinks their marriage is equal. She thinks he loves her. She thinks their marriage is strong.

    And this is what she’s teaching AJK, their daughter.

What Do You Think?

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