Humans are judgmental creatures. It’s part of the way we’re wired biologically, for society and survival. With these judgments come preconceived notions, sometimes even acts of discrimination. To discriminate is to treat a person/group differently based on your (usually unfounded upon) judgments, consciously or unconsciously. You can’t do this without a bias or a prejudice, which is an opinion or belief you make about a person/group again based on your predetermined judgments or assumptions.
As far as we’ve come in the world—a statement that should really make you stop and think “And far is that really?”—I think prejudices exist in people more than we’d like to admit, more than we’d like to be aware of. But when you’re as painfully self-aware as I am, as an artistic person living with depression, anxiety, OCD and BPD, the prejudices pop up like blades of grass, quickly filling the landscape of your already-muddled mind. I mow them down only to have them rise again. I pour positivity on them and they convert it into Miracle-Gro. It’s a constant process and maybe if I were Hank Hill, it’d be under control by now, I tell you what (lol).
But I’m not. What I am is a young lady with prejudices, many of which I intellectually know are stupid and ridiculous and even *whispers * untrue but emotionally have a real grip on my heart. Prejudices that hurt me and can make me hurt others. The most extreme prejudices I have are against the male gender. (I know I should probably talk about gender bias more broadly, but I feel I should speak more pointedly on this topic because my judging men is one of the running themes of my life and this blog is my life, so… But this is not to say that I don’t acknowledge that plenty of men hold prejudices against women and that plenty of men and women are prejudiced against gender-fluid, non-binary and transgendered people. Those stories need voices too. It’s just…this is the story my voice in particular is going to tell.)
Yes, fellow feminists, I know this admittance looks bad. This is what 95% of the world thinks we feminists are anyway, right? Angry, bitter, man-haters? Well, it’s not because I believe in equal opportunities and treatment for all genders that I sometimes feel I hate men. I don’t want to see men cheated out of jobs or time with their kids because of a corrupt court system. I don’t want to see them treated as inferior (I didn’t even like The Wicker Man remake, y’all). I don’t want to see them injured or broken-hearted. I don’t like seeing them risk their lives all the time in a society that places such general value on the lives of those perceived as “the stronger sex” just because they’re supposedly the stronger sex. I don’t hate them…really. I only feel like I hate them, albeit a lot and often, and my feelings can as strong as the gravitational pull, I swear. And they always pull me back to the anger and the (false but searing) hate. *sigh* Why?
Because so many men have hurt me (or other people I love), and because they can’t seem to love me.
My parents divorced when I was five. The marriage had been an unhappy union that started only God knows how and ended only after my grandmother urged my mother to leave my father after they’d hit one another in the face. (That’s one of my earliest memories, that fight. My mother had a bruise on her lip. She has always been petite, but she never seemed smaller than on that night.) My parents had joint custody of me, but my father didn’t care to enforce the court schedule, so I went to visit him in the city whenever he decided he wanted to see me; in the meantime I lived with my mom out in the country, where it was quiet and earthy and simpler and still. Whenever he would call, it would break the stillness within. Whenever my mom would tell me, “Britney, you have to go see your dad this weekend,” a bolt of fear would strike through my heart and stick right into the pit of my belly. Why? Because my father was not a good father.
Despite having had a stroke, he drank. He smoked. He was on diabetes medication no one regulated for him. He cooked for me only once in the eight years I had to see him; I lived off Pop-Tarts, Wonder Bread and fast food the rest of the time. I’d cry when my mother dropped me off at his house, cried every single time, begged her not to leave me with him, and he’d lash out, the anger fierce, the possessiveness well presented. Mom would tell me he had threatened to enforce the court mandate of visitation every other weekend and two weeks in the summer, so she had to leave me there. She hated to, I know, but she did. What else could she do? I’d stand at the screen door and watch her car pull away, then turn around and cower like one of those beaten dogs in those heart-wrenching ASPCA commercials because I was afraid I may be beaten too.
I remember he spanked me with a flyswatter once. Not so bad, right? But one time he spanked me with his belt so hard, I couldn’t sit down in class the next day. I was in first grade. My best friend, Miranda, asked me what was wrong. I felt so helpless, so pitiful, that all I could do was cry, and she cried with me. For the most part, though, the abuse was verbal—emotional, mental. He’d tell me I was “crazy” or “stupid,” tell me I didn’t “know nothin’.” When I was 11, he forced me to go to family therapy because I didn’t love him, tried to brainwash me into believing I did. He would always tell me I was his “property” and shove the Bible in my face as if it were a collection of my slavery papers. He demanded that I love him because he was my father, because God wanted me to, so I HAD to. He drove the car erratically to frighten me when I didn’t want to sit up front with him and would always parade me around to everyone in town, puffing, “This is my daughta, my daughta.” How I hated that. Hated that he treated me like a zoo animal on display, like a pet to own and order around. Almost every single time I was there, he’d scream at me for crying. Rage around. When I recall his face—and I don’t try to do it often, I loathe it so much—I see an angry bulldog of a man, eyes wild, mustachioed lips frothing. It all mattered what he did, but I wonder now if it was even what he did so much as it was what he could have done. He was intimidating, always towering over me in his cloud of fury and righteousness. The fear was born in the pauses between his blow-ups, in the thickness of the air, amid the tears, sweat and spit. He was all theatrics and it was scary, but nothing was scarier than the anticipation of his next meltdown and what it might mean for me. Yes, I was sad and lonely at my father’s house, but mostly I was terrified. From ages five to thirteen, I was terrified and utterly powerless.
Then it stopped one day. Suddenly I was fourteen and too much of a woman in my father’s eyes to sleep over at his house. I was free…or so I thought.
That same year, I developed a crush on my friend from band and track, B.W. I had other male friends—best friends even—but B.W. was the only boy who ever paid careful attention to me. Plus he was weird like me, with his funny voices and dark sense of humor. Smart, athletic. I wanted him to be my first boyfriend. Finally I wrote him a note and had one of my friends pass it to him in the back of the band storage room. She later relayed to me that he’d said he just wanted to be friends. I tried again roughly a year later and actually called him on the phone (a HUGE accomplishment for anyone with social anxiety, mind you) to ask him to escort me to Snowfest, our winter dance. He said yes. When I hung up, I whooped and cheered, jumping and hollering. Miranda, my mom and I went shopping for a blouse and a skirt, so I could feel my prettiest for my date. Miranda and I arrived in the cafeteria and waited. Sat down and waited. Took some pictures and waited. Ate and drank and waited. B.W. never came. Later, after my mom talked to his mom about how disappointed I was, he apologized, throwing out the excuse that the music they played at school dances gave him headaches. Funny. Seems his mom told my mom he skipped out because he had the ACT the next day. Which excuse was it, B.W.? And why did you say yes in the first place? Because you wanted to know what sound my heart made as it broke? *sigh* Because we were friends—because I still liked him, as the only guy to give me extra attention—I forgave him. But I did not forget.
The pattern of hanging around with guys who made it a game to treat me like shit continued as I entered junior college and university. Why? Because it was the only attention I could get from males. I know. Pathetic, isn’t it? J.R. and A.K. declared me to be their friends but openly mocked my opinions at every turn, inside and outside of class. Shat on my earnestness, fed on my self-deprecating vulnerability. I even found out A.K. wanted to have sex with me, wanted to be my first. After telling me that everything I was and said was wrong, after teasing me for every word or concept I didn’t know, after playing off every argument like I was the only aggressor, he wanted the gift of my virginity? HELL NO.
It’s been three years since I graduated college. Are you surprised I’m still a virgin? Well, I’m still a virgin because I’m asexual, so there, surprise, lol. But really, even if I were interested in sex, is it even feasible that I would trust a guy enough to very literally bare my all in front of him? Allow him inside the very core of where I live? To love me, really?
It’s not feasible because it’s not feasible to me that a man can love me. Honestly. I don’t believe men are capable of loving me—at least in that way, romantically or sexually. Wholly. Why? Because none of them have ever wanted me. No one asked me out until I was 19 years old; the other date I had when I was 25. That’s two dates in my entire lifetime and neither time did the guy want to try and fall in love with me. One just wanted “a girlfriend” who was going to the same college he planned on attending and the other wanted a fuck buddy. That’s wanting something from me, not me.
I know good men. Amazing men…all of whom are happily married/betrothed/dating, gay or dead. I would have happily gone on a serious date with any of my best male friends but…they don’t want me. They didn’t even want to try. The speakers at this self-help Christian seminar I went to said that was probably because they didn’t want to break down all those barriers I have enclosing my heart. Yeah, well, now I know I’m not even worth a try, don’t I?
I don’t know why men can’t or won’t love me. Two of my best and oldest male friends, A.B. and T.C., have told me several times over how much they love me, but I’m nothing more than a satellite to them. T.C. didn’t even invite me to his wedding. I’m just another person orbiting a vague path around them—they never tell me why they love me or what they love about me. So how do I know it’s real? How do I know they’re not lying to me to make me feel better because they’re aware of how sensitive I am? It’s like I can’t let myself believe it’s real because it doesn’t feel true. It can’t be true…
The only men I ever thought loved me were my Papa—my mom’s dad—and a few of my high school teachers. Papa died the summer before my junior year, so I was really looking for male role models to hold on to by the time school was back in session. I found Mr. B, my favorite English teacher ever (which is saying a lot because I was an English major), signed up for one more class with Mr. F, another year of track with Mr. D and continued strengthening my strongest bond, which was with Mr. R, my hilarious and supportive band teacher, whom I’d had since I was in fifth grade. When I say I loved these men and felt that they loved me, I mean it in an entirely healthy, platonic way. I know some girls who grow up without a stable father figure tend to look for male attention based on sensuality, but I never wanted that. I just wanted a dad, or the next-best thing: a surrogate father to teach me, to hold my hand, to steady me. I wanted to feel valued and protected, two things my stoic mother, as loving as she is, could never fully provide. I got that feeling from all of these men and most of the other male teachers at my high school.
Graduation just about broke me into pieces. I had to leave them. Leave them to be scared and alone and among all those other boys and men who didn’t know me or respect me or care about me as a person the way these teachers and coaches did. But it happened. I graduated high school and went away, and they went away, as good men always do, so I slipped back into bad habits and let myself be verbally abused, supposing the care I experienced in high school must have been but another dream. Over time I’ve developed this schizophrenic feeling, questioning as to whether I was deluding myself or if others have gotten the best of me at the expense of my comfort…and my own psyche.
The 2016 presidential election exacerbated my self-doubt (why, yes, I am watching American Horror Story: Cult, the irony here is not lost on me). I found out just how many of my friends disagree with me at a core level about our political and social systems. I had no idea that behind boldly beating, kind hearts could be such cold conservatives. It was a rude awakening, but never ruder than when Mr. B posted a certain comment on Facebook. It wasn’t to me—he probably wasn’t even thinking of me or former students like me when he said it—but nothing, not one other thing, hurt me as much as what he said, and he said, “I’m proud not to fight for social justice.” Those words took my breath away in the worst way. It was like looking at my dad—one of them anyway, one who’d fostered my love for literature and nurtured my writing talent and hugged me to comfort me and celebrated at my open house—and having him look me straight in the eye and say, “I don’t love you anymore.” Because if he doesn’t care about social justice, he doesn’t care about me. I am the result of social justice, our relationship was the result of social justice, of the civil rights movement. I am a multiracial woman who looks predominantly black. If it weren’t for social justice, I would have never have been in his school or any other school. I’d have no job or degree. My white mother probably would have been attacked at best and killed at worst for being in a relationship with a black man, and I would have been miles away, picking cotton somewhere or being beaten or being raped or being lynched. That’s what people fight for—so that people who don’t look like the status quo can live and hopefully live well. Social justice is everything I personally stand for. Empowering women and minorities. Empowering abuse victims. Representing people of color in the media. Advocating for the LGBTQI and A communities. If you don’t care about any of that, you don’t care about any of me.
I can’t believe he said that. I don’t want to believe it. All I can hear is Christina Grimmie’s song, “Deception,” echo through my head:
“You didn’t ever care for me, you didn’t ever care for me, oh…”
Oh, but he did…didn’t he? But how could he if he doesn’t even care about the essence of who I am as a woman? And if he doesn’t care, do the others? Did they? Could they?
I can’t deal with it anymore, can’t do this again. I can’t endure my soul shriveling up any more because men have decided they can’t love what is me. Therefore, I am prejudiced.
I don’t believe I will ever marry because I don’t believe a man can fall in love with me.
I don’t believe there is a man out there who won’t hurt or betray me.
And as a whole, I do not trust men.
I hate that I hate, I hate that I hurt, and I hate that it all makes me so willfully stupid.
But I’d rather be stupid than a slave to love I won’t ever be able to hold on to.
Do you have prejudice against men? Against women? Against the gender-fluid? This is a safe space to share, if you would like. I’d love for some concrete confirmation that I’m not the only one in the world with this dirty but oh-so human foible. Please…leave a comment. I’d appreciate it. Thanks.