Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Today's feminist reading and discussion question


Abuse is always about abandonment. She knows that now. She knows what it feels like to be left stranded at the heartbreak church. She knows what it feels like to lose precious things. She knows that some things become more precious because they are lost. It all began when she was little and just starting to walk and talk and reach for things. When things were out of her reach, she would just keep trying. Unable to accept the reality of not being able to acquire whatever she was reaching for, she became violent. She screamed. She threw a fit. Silence, isolation, the small spanking, a beating if necessary, that was the way to handle fits. Their punishments seemed to make her more determined. She reached. They became violent. When the hitting would not work they began to take things away. And what better things to take away than the things she loved.

She loves cowboys and Indians. She loves guns. She loves Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. She loves Clint Eastwood, she loves to shoot. She learns to shoot to kill, to shoot straight. These are the things her father and television teach her. She loves horses, The Great Plains, the frontiers. She dreams of riding a black stallion, of becoming an Indian, a renegade. They give her a cowgirl outfit, with only one gun because she is a girl. She has a plaid vest, white cotton blouse, a blue skirt and a holster with one gun. Girls can only wear one gun. She would be happier to be an Indian, a renegade, but she accepts being a cowgirl. It is in the closest that she can come to her true desire.

One night they took it all away. They threw those red boots in the trash. They talked about it as necessary, claiming that her attachment to them was not natural. When they witnessed her heartbreak it made them feel glad. They had won. They had triumphed over that small hand grasping for things it could not reach. They had pulled her out of paradise, away from heaven, and brought her back down to earth.


From Wounds of Passion: A writing life by bell hooks.

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Question: What did they take away from you?

9 comments:

Renegade Evolution said...

Fuck, way to make me actually cry on a Wednesday morning...

As for what they took? The feeling that a they should and would always have my back...

erin said...

My keyboard, my books, my escapes from the academic hell they had hints of, and the personal hell they had no clue about. Never forever, but always for doing things that they didn't understand, or that they understood by didn't see as valuable compared to what they wanted for me.

None of this was unbearable by any stretch of the imagination. I had many many books I could disappear into, and a second keyboard stashed under the drawers of my captains bed.

My dad recently took away something that hurt much more. When my transition became evident and not just a frightening theoretical, he took away three words from our conversation:

"I love you."

Dw3t-Hthr said...

"They" in the sense of the outside abusive world took away my sexuality, and with it whole chunks of the notion that myself was something that it was okay to be. (I've been fighting to get that back, and am a little cranky about it at times.)

"They" in the sense of the family abusive world took away my ability to trust my own senses, my own memory, my ability to believe that I would ever be acceptable. (And thus back to the Devouring Mother.)

Daisy said...

Fuck, way to make me actually cry on a Wednesday morning...

Me too, Ren... she is just a fabulous writer, and knows how to universalize experience.

Erin, you made me cry too!

Dw3t:

"They" in the sense of the outside abusive world took away my sexuality, and with it whole chunks of the notion that myself was something that it was okay to be.

Eloquent, and yeah, me too. I know.

Erin said...

ack sorry didn't intend to make you cry... we still talk, it the last words are just different. :/

Octogalore said...

I love bell hooks. Just finished her "Feminism is for Everybody." Hmm, that may've been why some of the rad fems were claiming hooks isn't a true rad fem. I love "small hand grasping." I think we all have one of those.

I think what they took away from me is the ability to have fun for its own sake and to have made decisions based on what I wanted to do rather than on what I was supposed to want to do. And the ability to blend in enough at school not to be an outcast.

But then, to be fair, I am probably much older than hooks' girl with the small grasping hand and have had more time to take some of the stuff back. Also, I can't pretend that any of the things my parents did constituted abuse, in the sense in which hooks is describing. They thought they were doing the right things. Now that they are old(er) and struggling in various ways, it's hard to spend a lot of energy blaming them.

lilcollegegirl said...

My self-esteem and sense of self-worth and they turned all the joy I took in my sexuality into fear. Also my chance to learn that whole "social skills" thing for quite a while. Some of it has come back, but I'm still waiting for the rest.

Cassandra Says said...

The right to take pleasure in victory.


I remember it very clearly. I was 12 and at boarding school, and we had a match against our "brother" boys school. I was the only one of the girls who beat one of he boys. It was my very first bout. The male coach turned to the female coach and sneered "My, aggressive, isn't she?" The female coach looked ashamed. That one of her pupils was GOOD. I never forgave her for that. The other girl students acted wierd about it too. There were implications that I must be a lesbian for months.

I never took quite the same pleasure in winning ever again.

marjaerwin said...

My safety.

It was school. A place full of painful fluorescent lights and incomprehensible rules and bullying, where if I screamed when the bullies beat me, my teacher would punish me for it, and if I didn't scream, she would punish me for something anyway. First grade.