Monday, December 3, 2012

It's not respect

 I have a memory.

"Hold out your hand," I'm told.

I don't want to.  My heart pounds.  Every instinct I have is screaming at me to keep my hand balled up in a fist behind my back.

But the injunction comes again, more sternly this time.

"Hold out your hand."

I start to, half-heartedly and with my stomach twisting, raise it partly in front of me.  But I yank it back as I see their hand lift to strike mine and self-preservation refuses to let me be complicit to my own pain.

"Hold it out or it'll be hit harder."

There is no winning.  There's only trying as a small child to squelch every instinct and control any fear so as not to make it worse.

I don't remember how old I was.  Clearly very young as hand slapping(hitting) as a 'lesser' punishment was abandoned for exclusive spanking by the time I was six.  But being forced to be complicit never changed.

And I shudder to think the abuse and assault that kids and especially girls are essentially taught to leave themselves vulnerable to.  To this day I have problems with saying 'no' and being 'confrontational'.  It's because I don't like confrontation in and of itself - it's because it was literally spanked into me that injunctions were to be obeyed by anyone in any position of perceived authority. 

And somehow along the way when I was a kid, I interpreted it as automatically giving way and being "nice" to anyone.  Playgrounds even became a nightmare when there were more than a handful of other kids.  I remember one time when I was about eight, we were visiting somewhere and the playground we were at had this uber cool twisty tube slide.  There was a small line to go down and when it was my turn, the boy behind me who around my age was clearly exuding impatience.  Not wanting to seem pushy or inconsiderate (although it was my turn) I let him go in front of me.  But he didn't slide down.  He had a whole armful of pebbles which he dumped down the slide before running off and which, as I felt as though I couldn't not go down the slide with the other kids in line obviously watching, were waiting at the bottom for me to run into.  In that moment as I watched what he did, I hated both him and myself.  I felt so utterly powerless.

It's bad enough in our culture that girls are given the impression that if they stand up for themselves that they're being a bitch and if they turn a guy or his advances down they're being a heartless bitch, but in the patriarchal system of fundamentalism, it goes much much deeper than that, and I hate to think of the girls and women who accept a controlling and/or abusive relationship because they've been trained at the point of pain to submit.

And it's not just girls.  My brothers weren't exempt from being forced to be complicit in their punishments either.  Squirm or try to get away or flinch repeatedly and the spanking got harder.  You did what you were told by adults, no questions asked.  I guarantee if any of us had been wheedled, cajoled or told to be complicit or accept any sort of sexual abuse by an adult or anyone in a perceived position of authority, that self-survival instinct would have been squashed exactly as it was when I told, "Hold your hand out."

I can hardly think of a more dangerous thing to teach a child than blind obedience, a blind "respect for authority", and not just corporal punishment, but teaching them to be complicit in it because they were "at fault" and killing one of the only things that children possess to keep them safe.


  1. Wow. I'm sorry you had to go through that! I've been through similar as a child, and I still have some scars. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. You're welcome! It's stuff I'm not ever going to forget, and if I can write about it and maybe help someone else, I will. And I'm so sorry you had to go through it too :( *hugs*