How It Works

Here’s the most interesting thing I witnessed this Thanksgiving break, if by “interesting” we can stretch the meaning to mean “crushingly depressing,”–a boy who gets the shit beat out of him by his step-father and who watches his mother get the shit beat out of her sitting around telling the most deeply misogynistic jokes and reporting that they’re funny because they’re true.

It occurs to me watching this that this is how this shit gets perpetuated.  It doesn’t matter if you love your mother, if you see her being beat, even if you believe with all your heart that she’s a good woman, with the emphasis on “good,” it’s not enough to outweigh the belief that, because she’s a woman, her fundimental condition is as a person who deserves this.

You see what I’m seeing?  In order to make sense of his life, of a woman he loves who can’t protect him or herself, he comes to believe that she really, really can’t because of some fundimental defect that is inherent in her being a woman; all women suck, she just sucks a little less.

And I thought, so this is how it works, how it gets perpetuated, generation after generation.

10 thoughts on “How It Works

  1. What? Who did this happen to? Because you didn’t link a news story, it appears it happened to somebody close to you or in your family. If so, did you call DCS?

  2. Bingo. It also begins to seem normal and something that “just happens” and then it gets repeated again by the next generation because “that’s how you deal with things.”


  3. It is sad, and while not exactly stunning, to actually see it first hand adds a rawness to the fact. So many pathological behaviors are also applicable to what you describe.

    Alcoholism, suicide, sexual abuse. All off the top of my head, all things that, as Saraclark points out, can gain normalcy in a family.

    I guess the flip side of that coin is that positive traits, loving relationships, responsible use of alcohol, slow tempers, etc. etc. are also be passed down in families as well.

  4. Not just that “all women suck; she just sucks a little less,” but that, if she is a good woman, and she takes this abuse, by definition good women take abuse. That is incredibly sad.

  5. Don’t forget that the culture at large (e.g. TV and movies) is also feeding him two messages: (1) men who are boorish pigs, especially to women, are cute (so there’s nothing wrong with his step-father’s behavior), and, all the same, (2) lots of women are young, shapely, sexy, don’t take any shit from anyone, and are so together that if someone does try to abuse them they deck the bastard but also walk off completely unconcerned and unaffected by the experience (so his mother is doubly a loser by not measuring up to this). Ugh.

    I have become very glad that my father banned television from our house when I was a kid; as it was, the nm of 40 yeas ago had problems with my poor abused and insulted mother not baking cakes as perfect as they looked in the magazines, and I can’t imagine how I would have blamed her if she’d had to live up to TV moms as well.

  6. It’s tough. He’s in a rough spot and his step-dad seems to have this whole “abusive asshole” thing down pat. If he stands up for himself, his step-dad just takes it out on his mom. He’s not allowed to give anyone his address, so no one except his dad can call DCS and… well… I think we all know that’s not going to happen.

    He has this dream of going to live with his dad when he’s 13. I will fall on the floor in despair if I have to talk too much about it, but I just don’t see how that can ever happen. His dad doesn’t actually live any place and even though he knows how important it is for his son to be able to come and live with him, he’s not making any effort to find a place his son could come live with him at.

  7. Oh how this makes my heart hurt! My oldest has asked me things like “do you and dad ever fight?” which is a funny question (when you realize that pesimst and I are headstrong and will bicker over how to load a dishwasher, just for the thrill of debating and arguing) until it’s followed by the comment “I mean like really fight. Like hit each other and stuff” because it’s what he sees at his mother’s. Blessedly, we have custody, but we can’t revoke her visitation (it’s been tried).

    How to stop the cycle? Ohhhhh, I wish I knew!

  8. Jeez having horrific shit in your family is no fun, double no fun if kids are involved.

    My dear, you’re an aunt. Aunts can do stuff even if they don’t know addresses or live in other states or whatnot. You can get guidance from state agencies on how to proceed given the mess you know about. And the nephew doesn’t have to stay with your brother – he could stay with your folks or with you. Not ideal, but it happens all the time.

    I know it’s annoying having strangers give advice when your family situation is complicated and thorny and unique. I guess all I’m saying is that this kid is effectively being failed by both parents – so if someone who is not a parent doesn’t step in, his life is going to keep going down shit highway.

  9. Yeah, it’s complicated, in that there’s a lot going on I’m not saying just because it’s too messy and alarming. But it all boils down to the fact that my parents are in no position to take him in (though it pisses me off that my brother seems completely unwilling to see that) and… how to put this?… He would not want to live with us due to our cultural differences.

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