One of the best things about women’s groups is the other women. Getting to hang out in women only spaces and talk about women’s stuff without apologising or qualifying, coz other women just get it eh? One of the worst things about women’s spaces is the other women. ‘Coz they’re great about periods, night feeds, angry teenagers and violent exs, but there’s always something you don’t agree with them about, and then they turn on you, like you were the dirt bag ex everyone was ditching, only five minutes previous.
Doesn’t happen to all women, obviously, but it happens to plenty of us. And when when women slag you off it’s always worse then when men do. As a feminist, I’m used to blokes telling me I’m ugly, bigoted, deluded and, my personal favourite ‘in need of a good fuck’. It all goes over my head. What they are really trying to articulate is their frustration with my politics and my abject refusal to give a fuck what they think. When a woman insults me, it cuts deeper. They too are articulating their frustration with my politics but because they are female they are socialised to be polite so they do it in more subtle ways.
‘Course it could be that I’m simply wrong, only I rarely entertain that premise. Not because I’m arrogant but because I know my subject.
Today, for example, I was on a mother’s group set up by mothers, for mothers, to give mothers a space to speak about their experiences in family court and to seek advice about court orders, crazy fathers and the damaged children of demented men. The subject, the gendered bias of family courts, should not be controversial in a group run by women for women because women are frequently the victims of misogyny in an outdated system designed and controlled by men. But somehow it was.
A stepmother had put up a post seeking help because her stepdaughter didn’t want to see her birth mother and she wanted to support the child’s choice. The child in question was thirteen and quite atypical of a teenager that was struggling with her mum. Now, I have nothing against stepmothers, quite the opposite, it’s hard enough to raise your own kid, I sure as hell wouldn’t fancy raising someone else’s, but I had to question the legitimacy of a stepmother raising a legal question on a mother’s site. ‘Coz it’s actually a father that’s doing it.
So all these women were offering their hard earned advice to a bloke on how to avoid his legal obligation to maintain the mother and child bond.
And that’s a line for me.
It should have been a line for every woman in the group because it violates the group’s purpose and makes every woman in it vulnerable, but it wasn’t. Largely ‘coz lots of women have had bad experiences with their own mothers and whilst I sympathise, it has nothing to do with the subject at hand.
There is a moral to this rant. Internalised misogyny is the lot of all women and if we are to ever overcome the patriarchy, we gotta do a lot of work on ourselves. Folk can say all day that domestic abuse is not a gendered problem but the simple truth is that 90% of domestic violence victims are women and believing it’s gender neutral won’t save anybody’s kids. All evidence suggests that hell has greater fury than scorned women and that fury is blokes who don’t like the word “No”.