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Questioning the Things We Do For Each Other

April 10, 2009

My daughter, Fleur (we will make it simple by using names) told me that her cousin (my niece, –my sister’s daughter) Holly, called her 2:30 in the morning asking for a ride home from work. Holly is living with a man, Steve who has a toddler, a daughter. A daughter he took from her mother through the courts on the grounds that her mother did drugs and often left the child with strangers. However, he has done drugs (and still does and drinks something horrible) with my brother and has left his child with my niece, my mother, and other people who are technically strangers because they are not blood relatives and they have not known each other for very long. Nevertheless, society says it is okay for him to leave his child with strangers to go off for illegal recreation, but, not okay for the mother of the child to leave her toddler with strangers to go off for illegal recreation (she probably would be punished for legal recreation as well and, for leaving the child with a baby sitter to work). His story believed over the mother’s by the courts demonstrates how institutional power staunchly supports men!

Now, instead of examining the past and understanding that every thing Steve has told Holly about Delores(the child’s mother), is his side of the story, Holly believes Steve was wronged by a woman. Holly, willingly stepped in to become the good woman that Delores failed to be and, got herself impregnated by the asshole. They now have a five-month-old baby boy.

I take feminist mentoring  seriously. When Fleur told me about Holly’s situation, I asked her how did they know what kind of person Delores is. Have they met Delores? The answer turns out that no one has met Delores.  All they know about Delores is what Steve has told them.  Without thinking for herself,  Holly allowed Steve’s opinion of Delores to become her opinion of Delores. In other words, Steve’s actions and/or inactions are not subjected to scrutiny. For instance, if Delores is truly a horrible person, then why isn’t  Steve’s judgment being questioned?  What was wrong with him that he could not see that she would be a horrible mother? He made her pregnant. Did he not know what type of bad person she was before he decided to create a child?

Steve is not currently working; supposedly, he is waiting for a call for work on an oilrig or some such work that will take him away from home. Financially, Holly is the sole provider right now. She tends bar at night. They live in a rural area so the bar is not some grand bar that brings in big tips. One time Holly was looking for a babysitter so she could go to work. Remember, only one of the babies is hers, the other he took from her mother. I asked why Steve could not watch the children; after all, they are his children. Turns out that most of the time, he goes to the bar with her, you know, in case some man bothers her. Imagine that.

Steve has been driving his father’s truck for the last seven months. It is Holly and Steve’s only transportation. Holly is not allowed to drive the truck because supposedly it is a condition Steve’s father imposed. Of course, this is Steve’s way of controlling Holly. So last night Steve dropped off Holly at work and agreed to stay home with the two children, –his two children, the first being the toddler girl that he took from her mother, the second being a baby boy that he recklessly had with Holly, a girl who did not think things through /repetition to hammer the point.

Apparently, at 2:30 when Holly needed a ride home, Steve felt that it was too much trouble for him to get the two children up, dressed and put in their car seats to go pick up Holly. After the first phone call, he no longer answered the phone. Holly called Fleur. Fleur told her no because she would have to get up, get her child ready to go out and then turn around after dropping Holly off and go back home and take her child out of the car seat and put him back to bed in time to get up and start the new day. Besides, in rural towns, the police have nothing to do but harass the lone driver on the road and the last thing Fleur needs is the police stopping her in the middle of the night.

But of course Fleur could not go back to sleep because Holly had made it a point to say please, pretty please, something she does not normally do and that bothered Fleur. Fleur began to think about all the things that could possibly happen to Holly at 2:30 in the morning, alone, without a ride home. When she called her back to say she would come, Holly no longer answered. It was not until the following day she learned that Holly was all right.

I asked Fleur to examine the situation. To look at the position Steve’s laziness put the two of them, her and Holly in. By the way, Holly’s grandmother (my mother) ended up taking her home. I told Fleur that next time she should say, “So let me get this straight, because your boyfriend does not want to get his children up in the middle of the night and come pick you up from work, where you are making money that he is not making, you want me to get my child up and go pick you up and take you home. Is that correct?” Now this will certainly create tension between Fleur and Holly. But, why should two women risk their safety so a man does not have to be inconvenienced? Why should women exert energy for lazy men?



  1. keen permalink
    April 10, 2009 5:57 am

    I wish I could find the source, but I remember reading somewhere that when men actually ask for custody, they get it 70% of the time. Most of the time they just don’t bother, probably worried that they might have to, y’know, actually care for the children. Obviously this Steve has figured out the usual way around this.

    You said they have a five-month-old baby, but how long have they been together? How long has Holly been the one taking care of the toddler? Putting aside the suspiciousness of Steve’s story about Delores, it sounds like Holly’s effectively acting as this girl’s mother at the moment. If she’s started developing this kind of a relationship with the kid, she has an incentive to ignore anything about Steve that would break up their relationship, an incentive that will only grow stronger if they spend years together with her raising that child alongside her own. After all, she has no official status in the girl’s life. If he decides he doesn’t want her around his daughter anymore, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    This would give her even more reason not to think about what he tells her about Delores specifically. If the facts are not as he says they are, it would mean that should they break up, not only would there be a strong chance of this irresponsible jerk asking for and getting custody of the son they have together no matter what kind of a mother she’s been, but the girl she’s been caring for like a daughter would certainly be gone from her life. Even just the first part could well be enough to discourage any questions about his ex that might have occurred to her.

  2. keen permalink
    April 10, 2009 6:11 am

    Oh, and one more thing (’cause anything relating to custody gets me worked up):

    If they do break up at some point, and Steve decides to demand custody of the son, it’ll be even easier for him to get it this time than it was to get custody of the daughter. Whatever evidence Holly might put forward of his actual character, he has already been determined Officially Responsible by the family court system. She’d have to contend with both “Are you claiming we made a mistake?” and “If he was that bad, why were you even with him?”*

    *A question only to be asked of women. Men are to be immediately believed and sympathized with.

  3. Polly Styrene permalink
    April 10, 2009 7:57 am

    I wrote about something on my blog recently where a woman had her children taken away for adoption because (no shit) she ALLOWED them to see her husband hitting her. WTF?

    Fleur should say no, pure and simple.

  4. April 10, 2009 11:25 am

    Lord knows I’ve done my share of filling in for the lazy and/or inattentive men in my women friends’ lives. It’s really frustrating. There’s always some man deriving the primary benefit whenever you do something for women in relationships with them.

  5. April 10, 2009 3:20 pm

    Poor Holly. She is fucked six ways from Sunday.

    I fucking hate when women support men. Hate it, hate it, hate it! Now, the traditional family situation certainly does not work. It is prostitution; it’s bad for women; it’s bad for children. But having the women support the man while he does absolutely nothing but reap benefit is like a prostitute paying the john to let him abuse her. It’s sick.

    I work with a few women who support men either wholly or partly, and they seem to think it’s transgressive, or subversive, or some pomo bullshit. One woman isn’t married, and she’s living with her boyfriend. Now, she does own the house in her name, and she charges him rent, both of which I think are great, but she still does all the housework, and he feels that since he pays rent, he doesn’t have to lift a finger to do anything. He shows up at the dinner table and eats and gets his clothes all clean and folded in his drawers.

    I feel bad for Holly. Damn patriarchy snared another one.

  6. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink*
    April 10, 2009 6:10 pm

    I wish I could find the source, but I remember reading somewhere that when men actually ask for custody, they get it 70% of the time. Most of the time they just don’t bother, probably worried that they might have to, y’know, actually care for the children. Obviously this Steve has figured out the usual way around this.

    keen, I can believe those statistics without a source. In my personal experience, every man I know who wanted custody, who actually “fought” for custody, did in fact get custody. My brother got custody of his son and I don’t think he hardly lifted a finger and, he did not raise the child, my mother did. That was 20 years ago. Another girl my daughter went to school with, father got custody of her; on the grounds, her mother is epileptic. That was 25 years ago. He also turned her over to his mother, after trying to pawn her off on a new wife that left him shortly after their marriage (but unfortunately not before conceiving a child, that he also tried to take, but failed, and now in his opinion the courts are slanted to favor those “bitch-ass-ho-whore-slut-gold digging- women”).

    After all, she has no official status in the girl’s life. If he decides he doesn’t want her around his daughter anymore, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Exactly, it will get nasty before it gets better. But, without sounding too cryptic and hyperbolic, he will find out that he ventured into the wrong family if he tries to take her child away. The way they all live, he could easily find himself in a hole in the ground along with all identifying items. Just sayin’ LOL!

    Polly, how about a link, so I can read.

    The thing is Margie, how can girls, young women absorb and learn the message of wasting their energy on men before they learn by experience or get themselves tangled up into a mess?

    bonobobabe, but don’t you know, you better not criticize none of them, if so you are being a bad woman vs a perfect earth mother hypocrite.

  7. April 10, 2009 8:20 pm

    The thing is Margie, how can girls, young women absorb and learn the message of wasting their energy on men before they learn by experience or get themselves tangled up into a mess?

    Kitty, the cards are definitely stacked against us in that regard. I think first and foremost we have to stop propagating the myth of the “good” man. “Good” men are simply passive beneficiaries of other, less restrained men’s violence. “Good” men want exactly what all the other men want – they just want you to give it to them “willingly.” It’s not charming at all, when you think about it.

    I also think sex-segregated schools (yes, SEX-SEGREGATED, not gender-segregated) might be one way of keeping girls from falling in love with male attention at young ages. In those sex-segregated schools, I think girls should be taught broad sex education, including education about masturbation, as well as rape laws, parental rights laws, abortion laws, contraceptive laws and anything else relevant to women’s sexual/reproductive potential. They should be taught the rates at which these laws benefit men/boys over women/girls. There needs to be a focus on the fact that it is not a socially or personally neutral position to think of oneself as a natural receptacle for another person’s body part, that a vagina is no more “meant” for penises than a mouth or an anus is. That should be stated clearly and often – there is nothing natural about women-as-receptacles. I think women and girls ought to be taught outright that the vast majority of girls and women cannot orgasm from penile intercourse. I think they should be taught outright that penile intercourse of any kind at all is more likely to give you sexually transmitted diseases. And I think girls should be taught *all* of the alternatives to penile intercourse there are – like lesbianism.

    Whew! What do y’all think?

    ETA: Even better than presenting “alternatives to penile intercourse” would be not to present them as alternatives at all, but to present everything BUT PIV (and violence like hitting and stuff) as what *sex* is, and discuss PIV as being only useful to the maintenance of male supremacy.

  8. atheistwoman permalink
    April 11, 2009 12:50 am

    Oh Margie I wish those schools existed now….

  9. keen permalink
    April 11, 2009 12:59 am

    A school like that sounds awesome, but difficult to convince anyone other than radfems to send their children to.

    I think many girls can and do learn by watching their mothers. It all depends on what they see and what they make of it, though I’m not entirely sure what makes the difference between “What my mom went through really sucked. I’m never going to get married / date men / have children with a man” and “My mother’s a b**** and all her problems were her own fault. All I have to do is find the right man not be a b**** like her”, since women with very similar experiences often fall on different sides.

    At the moment, the popular advice is not to let children know about any of the bullshit going on a divorce / custody dispute / bad marriage, to “protect” them from the parents’ arguments, blah blah blah, but as someone who actually remembers being a child in that situation, I have to disagree. The kid has a right to know what’s going on, even if what’s going on is that their father is being an asshole. It might hurt if the kid has believed the father to be decent up until that point, but the kid has right to know if their father is telling lies about their mother, or is trying to claim that the birthday/xmas/whatever present he gave the kid is actually a part of his child support. I’m not saying that mothers should actually say things like “your father is an asshole” to their kids, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to talk to their children truthfully about the fathers’ behavior, and say it’s unacceptable when it’s unacceptable.

    When I was 12 or so, my mom had the opportunity to take a full-time job in California that would have seriously improved our circumstances. She didn’t think that us moving from our state to California would be a problem for my father, since my father had already moved to California himself, though he hadn’t officially changed his address. He was flying back and forth between the two states for our scheduled visits (and other stuff). However, when my father found out about what my mom wanted to do, he got a court order to prevent us from moving. On the grounds that he would supposedly have to fly between our state (where he was no longer living) and California (where he was living and where we were intending to move) to see me, which would be an impossible hardship.

    Now, my mother told me about how he’d prevented us from moving, which was later held against the both of us when I sought to end the mandatory visitation with him. The court had known he was living in California since about a month after the order preventing us moving. Even without acknowledging that he’d been living in California since before they’d been aware of it, “moving” to California a month after preventing us from doing so still looks pretty bad, and I was using it as evidence that he didn’t care about me at all, and was in fact using the courts to screw with our lives (this being one of the few things he did that there was official, undeniable written proof of). Aaaand…. they used this as “proof” that my mother was brainwashing me. By telling me about something my father had actually done that had seriously impacted our lives. Apparently, he had the right to the illusion of being a wonderful, loving human being, even while wrecking our lives, and it was my mother’s duty to maintain this illusion for him, no matter what he did.

    I still don’t know what they expected her to do in that situation instead of telling the truth. Claim the job had just disappeared? Or maybe she was supposed to take the blame, and say that she decided not to go after the job in favor of the lack of prospects where we were/are.

    Anyway, I think the fact that my mother made no effort to hide what my father was like made a big difference in how I saw the situation. I saw what my father did, but never considered it acceptable, and knew it wasn’t something I should just have to put up with, despite the court’s attempt to convince me otherwise. I also think the fact that I saw how systematic it all was is what prevented me from simply deciding that my father was a horrible person and all I needed to do was avoid “bad men”. This wasn’t something my mother had taught me, but I was well aware that I was effectively considered property under the law, and they made it very clear that all the bullshit they thought my father deserved was something deserved by all fathers, not something he’d manipulated them into believing he should have. Even before I knew anything about radical feminism, I knew that marriage/the nuclear family was systematically oppressive to women and children, and had decided never to get married and if I had children, not to have a man involved in their lives. The women I know who have made similar decisions (again without any knowledge of radical feminism or lesbian separatism) all also had some reason to see the problem as not just being particular “bad men”.

    So I think that girls can learn from their mothers’ (and aunts’ and sisters’ and cousins’, etc.) experiences, and get through bad situations without taking away bad lessons, as long as they’re taught why the man/men’s behavior is unacceptable, how it came to be systematically and why isn’t just some individual bad man, and if applicable, how the woman was lured into the situation with emphasis on the fact that normal women can be fooled, not just “stupid”/”crazy”/”self-destructive” ones. Even women who are currently stuck in a bad situation with no realistic way of getting themselves or their children out can try to make sure their children know why, even if it has to be subtle.

    • undercoverpunk permalink
      April 11, 2009 2:40 am

      Truth is power. Lies cause pain. Thank you for being brave and saying so.

  10. April 11, 2009 1:26 am

    Oh, keen, I am so sorry about what happened to your family.

    I know the schools are far-fetched, unfortunately. But my first idea – eradicating the notion of the “good” man – is not far at all from what you’re talking about when you say that girls should know the truth about their individual situations. I just think it should be taken a step farther than that. Not only is it not about individual “bad” men; there *aren’t* any good ones. All men benefit from the system; *any* man a woman could be with would be at these same advantages, and she at the same disadvantages.

    That, I think, is the key to unloosening this hold on women. We have to recognize that no matter which one we end up with, he still holds the more advantageous position. Hoping he’ll use that advantage for the good of anyone but himself isn’t a sound political game plan for women, so the best thing is not to desire the good grace of any man.

  11. atheistwoman permalink
    April 11, 2009 1:52 am

    It’s also important to remember that even if the man they end up seems like a total Nigel, it doesn’t mean he isn’t using some other woman (probably in a less socially well off position, to boot) to channel his nastiness to.

  12. April 11, 2009 3:49 am

    Oh, that school sounds fabulous. I came of age during a time when it was pretty well-publicized that women don’t orgasm through intercourse, but I have a feeling that it’s not that well-known among younger women. My coworker told me her sister is an aesthetician (sp?) and she waxes a lot of anuses, so I’m sure all the young women are having porno sex.

    I think PIV sex should only be done when the express goal is to get pregnant. Otherwise, it should never be a regular part of someone’s sexual repetoire.

    I think many girls can and do learn by watching their mothers. It all depends on what they see and what they make of it, though I’m not entirely sure what makes the difference between “What my mom went through really sucked. I’m never going to get married / date men / have children with a man” and “My mother’s a b**** and all her problems were her own fault. All I have to do is find the right man not be a b**** like her”, since women with very similar experiences often fall on different sides.

    Our culture teaches us that our problems are caused by individual failings and therefore can be fixed by the efforts of individuals. Marriage bad? It’s not that marriage is an oppressive institution. It’s that you have a personality or behavioral problem, or you chose the wrong person, or you were too young when you got married, or you let yourself go, or you didn’t suck enough dick, etc. Didn’t get the job? It’s not b/c you were discriminated against. It’s that you wore the wrong clothes, your resume had a typo, you were underqualified, etc.

    If too many people figure out that our institutions are oppressive (school, marriage, workplace, church, etc.) then the jig is up. We need people to be focused on themselves and other individuals as the cause of or solution to our problems, so that we can continue with this pyramid scheme called civilization/patriarchy.

  13. atheistwoman permalink
    April 11, 2009 4:20 am

    Very true BB, all of it. And when you said pyramid scheme my brain inserted Ponzi Scheme instead, and I think it is appropriate too! Of course this is a Ponzi Scheme. And women and future generations are the ones who are never paid…

  14. April 11, 2009 10:57 am

    Not even for reproduction, bonobobabe. No PIV, period.

  15. April 12, 2009 4:07 pm

    No PIV, no family units, no mingling with the opposite sex – all sounds good.

    Steve is a typical dude, there is nothing remarkable about him. It is why the “family unit” must go. If menz want to reproduce, they can do it without women. Technology is such that we can do it without them now.

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