I would like to share a real story about a friend, let’s call her Fiona.
With more freckles on her body than stars in the sky, she never felt pretty. Other kids and teachers told her that ‘ugliness’ was her middle name.
Being different and not wanted has its advantages. She had a lot of time to paint, listen to music and read about art. It was not a bad time, just very lonely.
Things changed after high school when she discovered that there was one more thing apart from freckles and loneliness that she had – TALENT: she was given an unconditional scholarship to university and soon recruited by a company.
She finally started to believe that she was not born unlucky. And then she had another confirmation that the universe was on her side when she met an amazing guy, let’s call him Alex. He was handsome, funny, super social and he chose HER. Fiona could not believe that he wanted her.
But, it was only on her third date, when her Prince charming left her in a bar. No, not because they had a fight, but because she passed out – it had happened to her since she was a child. He watched her fall and left her lying on the floor as he continued to party.
“Of course, I left you lying there on the floor – I didn’t want to embarrass you.”
This was the first warning sign. She heeded the warning and left Alex, but after a couple of weeks, she convinced herself that it was no big deal.
On her fourth date, he told her it was her duty to pay for all his friends’ drinks from now on as his last girlfriend had done so and he expected the same from her. “How absurd it was”, she thought, but he insisted that it was normal – a person who earns more – pays. It is the XXI century!
The more breakups they had – the stronger was her conviction when they were back together – that HE is what she needs. A firm man. Thanks to him she would not fall into her black hole of loneliness.
Before long, Alex moved in with her and quit his job – because, as he said, “I don’t really like working and you’re so lucky that you do!”
It was an unpleasant surprise, but Fiona was soon told that she is “no an oil painting” and that she should be happy that he is with her.
The Game of power had just begun.
Then came a baby.
He still didn’t go back to work – because her job was so much better paid than he could ever get with his high school degree and she could just work more. It did make sense but didn’t make her happy. But what made Fiona even less happy was when he constantly reminded her that she was a scrooge and a bad person whenever she mentioned money.
The game of power continued. Fiona was losing.
Then came another baby.
He still didn’t get a job. He still refused to even try.
“NO” was his most used word when he was talking to her:
NO to taking the kids to school – “it’s on your way to work Fiona, what’s the point in me getting up in the morning when you are up anyway?”
NO to cleaning – “because I just don’t like it and we can hire someone.”
NO to helping the kids with homework – “because I don’t understand algebra or English or essay writing or research or science or languages or… so just hire a tutor!”
NO to saving – “I want to live for today!”
NO to not drinking every night – “Don’t tell me what to do, I like my wine!”
NO to not getting drunk in front of the children – “So what, they’re fine!”.
“Fiona – what is your problem? I take care of everything – your only job is to work.”
And she did work – a lot. She was given no other choice. At one point she had two jobs, but no matter how much she earned – there was never enough coming in to keep up with how much was going out:
“Why does every other couple have more than we do?”
“Why does every other couple have more holiday’s than we have?”
“Why does every other couple have a better car than we have?”
“Why does every other couple have a better house than we have?”
Maybe it was because, in those couples, the husband also worked? But Alex wouldn’t accept this as an answer.
“I don’t know where the money goes! Kids cost that much.”
“Why are you picking on me? Your job is to work and my job and taking care of home.
“We agreed on that!”
But, they didn’t. Fiona was not even asked or given a choice.
The game of power was over. She lost.
Now she was no longer allowed to say anything out loud. Every time she was to get back into the game and talk about money or saving money or helping out more – Alex just beat her up.
No, not with his hand – with silence or the threat of finding a better wife who would let him have the life he deserved.
His record was almost 3 months of uncomfortable silences. And in the end, it was she who has to apologize.
“You knew who I was when you married me.”
“I’m a catch for any woman – I can leave and find someone else to be happy with. And every woman would be happy to be with me”
She felt angry and guilty for feeling angry.
Have you already asked the question:
WHY DIDN’T SHE LEAVE ALEX?
She thought about it many times. But every time she mentioned it she heard:
“I am happy, the kids are happy – why do you always have to ruin everything. You love your job – so what are you complaining about?”
“With your job – you will never be able to take care of the kids. I am the primary carer. They will have to stay with me.”
She didn’t understand how she was the one supporting the family, driving the kids to school, taking them to the doctors when they were sick, helping them to do their homework on her free time, and still – she was not considered a carer.
Then there was an accident while Alex was on another drinking binge. This time he had brought the children along. Alex refused to accept he had an alcohol problem: “Oh shut up. The kids were fine”. “Don’t you dare tell me how much I can drink! I will drink as much as I like! I let you work so you have no right to tell me how much to drink.”
Now the game of power changed into a survival game.
She was constantly reminded that she came from a bad family and a bad town and from bad genes and she was lucky to have such a great husband – handsome, funny, well brought up, a good father. She was told it so many times that she believed it.
One day, she was speaking at a conference. Julian, a colleague she met a long time ago, came to her and told her how amazing she was with her ideas, passion, and creativity. That her company must be very lucky to have her and her husband is so lucky to have her. Her kids must be lucky. “You are such a gift’ – the only time she ever felt she was first was with her kids. So, that compliment really hit her in the heart.
No, they didn’t have an affair. That would be too cliché.
And then, a couple of months later…
no, still didn’t have an affair, but… they decided to be together.
Affairs are like a plaster for your broken heart or broken ego. That’s not what she needed. She wanted to BE with someone who could SEE her. Who acknowledged that SHE matters.
She knew she should leave her husband first, but… she was waiting… to be ready.
Fiona was getting ready to leave and Alex was getting ready to find out what changed that his wife was more confident than she had ever been before.
He checked their emails. And he was furious.
She cheated on him. ON HIM? He was the best thing that ever happened to her. She owed everything to him – and now…she was going to leave for someone else.
It doesn’t matter that there was nothing between them for years. She was HIS and she had no right to leave him.
But… he still had one weapon. Their children.
One day she came back from a business trip and their home was empty.
He had taken kids and money from their account.
To Fiona’s surprise – there was no leaving talk. No “why and how and what did I do.”
Just, “you will pay for this, bitch!”
“I will make sure that you will lose your kids, your friends, your job, your life.”
And he did what he said.
He cut off contact with the children and began turning them against her.
Alex had no boundaries: dirty laundry on Facebook, Instagram. Threating emails and intimate photos were sent to employees, employer.
I hope you’re still with me, my dear readers.
It’s almost the end.
Let me just ask you a couple of questions:
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS STORY?
Who is the victim?
Who is the predator?
When should she have left him?
Should she have stayed with him and never have left him?
Is a bottle of wine every evening ok?
Did he have the right to kidnap the children?
Did she deserve THAT punishment?
Did the kids deserve THAT punishment?
THIS STORY IS TRUE STORY. ABSOLUTELY TRUE. EXCEPT FOR ONE LIE.
Do you know what the lie is?
He is she.
She is he.
That is the ONLY lie in this story.
Now that you know the truth. Answer these questions?
Who is the victim?
Who is the predator?
Should he have left her before?
Should he have stayed with her and never left her?
Is it ok to stay with an alcoholic?
Did she have the right to kidnap their kids? Did he deserve that punishment?
Did the kids deserve THAT punishment?
If ANY of your answers changed:
You have lost your right to say that you are not biased when it comes to gender.
STEREOTYPES AND PREJUDICE – they cloud our minds. They make our life simpler, less complicated but more unfair.
They become such an inherent part of us – that we stop noticing them.
We believe that we can see reality. We believe that we are fair.
The truth that neuroscience tells us is that – THERE IS NO REALITY.
There is no such a thing as objective reality.
The world is green when you look at it through green lenses and that is our reality in this moment. Someone who sees it through red lenses – see it as red. Gender is one of the everyday lenses that change our reality.
Information flows to our senses and we make it a reality.
We know that black people are better dancers, French movies are more intellectual than Italian. When we see a black person with a dark hoodie on a dark street – we know we should call the police.
When we see an accident – we KNOW that it is because women are just worse drivers.
We know that male pilot, financial advisors and IT are better than female.
A female Nana is better than male one.
A mother is a better and more necessary parent than a father.
Men who leave women are bad people, while women who leave men are brave and “finally she did it!”
That is our perception and we treat as a reality.
That is the consequences of a limited mind – it sees only what it chooses to see and not what is really happening.
We live in a world of double standards that influence our reality.
Domestic violence is often seen as a female victim/male perpetrator problem, but the evidence demonstrates that this is a false picture. One in four women and one in six men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime. Male victims are over three times as likely than women not to tell anyone about the partner abuse they are suffering from. More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, who are treated as “second-class victims” and many police forces and councils do not take them seriously.
Some people feel that it’s a scandal that in 2017 domestic violence victims are still not being treated equally.
And I feel that it is a scandal that we are not treated equally in everyday life.
If a child falls while in the mother’s care – it’s an accident.
If it happens in the father’s care – it’s because the father is careless.
When a Mother takes care of a child – it’s normal.
When a Father decides to stay at home – it’s strange.
When a mother works – she is a working mother.
When a Dad works – he is…just a DAD.
When a woman doesn’t work – she’s a hero, dedicating herself for the family’s happiness.
When a man stays at home to care for the family – he is a loser and lazy parasite.
When a man asks a woman to clean the house – he is chauvinist.
When a woman insists on a man cleaning the house – she is fairly sharing the duty.
When a woman complains about not having enough money at home – it is her husband’s fault.
When a man complains that a woman isn’t earning enough – he is a horrible man.
When a woman wants to stay with the children and not work – she has the right, it is for the good of the children.
When men want to do it – well, men do not want to do it, and they definitely cannot do it.
When a woman spreads dirt on a social media – it’s because she has no choice.
When a man does it – what a creep.
When a woman has conditions on how children should be brought up – she has the right.
When a man wants to have influence – he should think about it before he broke up the family.
When a woman wants a divorce – she has the right.
When a man wants a divorce –he is an idiot that is looking for a newer model.
When a man is saying that a woman should start taking care of herself – how dare he!
When a woman says a man is ugly and no oil painting – she is just telling the truth.
I wrote this text – because I can. Because I am a woman.
Men are not allowed to share their concerns, opinions, and feelings about gender injustice.
We talk about how much men should be in touch with their feminine side – but only when IT SUITS us, women – so usually when we want to hear about his feelings towards us!
As a Ukrainian, a child of a single mom brought up in the Soviet Union who emigrated to a couple of countries – I KNOW how it is to be treated unfairly. That is the reason why I chose to study prejudice and stereotypes. Unfortunately, understanding the nature doesn’t really help to change it.
What helps – is NOT AGREEING WITH THEM.
What helps is being conscious of them and not letting them influence the reality.
I am a feminist, a psychologist and strong believer in justice.
I will not fight for women rights, I will fight for equal RIGHTS.
BECAUSE ALL OF US DESERVE TO BE TREATED FAIRLY – NO MATTER WHICH GENDER, NATIONALITY OR SKIN COLOUR.
I have always fought for men rights – because they are not allowed to.
Because men are being ridiculed when they talk about gender injustice.
I don’t believe that ANYTHING in women’s rights will change if nothing in men’s rights is changed.
We all need to give first.
I give my fight for men as much as give for my own.
Because I don’t believe that women are weaker than men.
And I don’t believe that men are bigger predators than women.
I believe that our ACTIONS, not our gender define us as humans.
I will do my best to spread knowledge about the nature of stereotypes and encourage people – to hold their wild horses under control.