It’s something I think I was born with. Either that or a learned behavior in defiance of my circumstances. After witnessing both my father and then stepfather’s verbal and physical abuse, instead of feeling weak or defeated, I felt that I was on fire. No way would I take any shit from men.
In second grade, I switched schools. I quickly made new friends, adorable sweet girls that all had their hair cut into bobs. They warned me against playing certain games on the playground because of “him.” You know “him,” the classic bully and brute of the school who was bigger, stronger, and not afraid to use his force against boys or girls. The next day, in sheer boldness, I joined the rough and tumble game of tag. The first day he pushed me down so hard it knocked the wind out of me. The next day I tackled his legs and drove him face first into the ground. Because I don’t take shit from men.
At fifteen I went toe to toe with a 45-year-old man at my waitressing job. He was the head chef and I was a young girl waiting tables at a job I loved. He was an alcoholic, verbally abusive, and unpredictable, like the rest of the men in my life. When he berated me for a ticket I had written the exact way he had told me to, to his shock, I fought right back. Infuriated, he used his normal strategies for making the waitresses cry. Instead I almost laughed. I wanted to say “Bitch, please, I’ve been doing this my whole life. Bring it on.” Actually, to tell you the truth I may have said something similar… Why? Because I don’t take shit from men.
I’ve waited tables for 14 years now. I’ve never had a man touch me inappropriately at work. Not chefs, dishwashers, or customers. Yet, surprisingly, almost every woman I’ve worked with had a story about it happening to her. For one, this shows how disgusting the culture of sexual harassment is in our country. But why hasn’t this happened to me? I think men go after targets that they believe won’t fight back. Men know who needs that job and cannot afford a conflict. These men instinctually know who will be too timid, too embarrassed, or too afraid to complain. I guess I must have an aura of “I don’t give a damn” with a mix of “touch me and I’ll end your life” because no job matters that much to me.
I’m not an asshole, by the way. If you met me, you’d think I was the nicest person you’d ever met. I make conversation with strangers, normally avoid confrontation at all cost, and am a nurturing mother, teacher, waitress, etc. In this one area of my life, however, I don’t hold back.
So how do I teach this? How do I teach my daughter to fight back? To never allow a man to put his hands on her or jeopardize her self-worth? I am this way because of pure spite against the men in my life that abused their power as men, but what about her? My husband is a wonderful father and an amazing man. He never raises his voice. She’ll never be exposed to what I went through as a child. How then, do I ignite a fury in her that would unleash if she was ever threatened by a man verbally, physically, or sexually?
I don’t have the answer to this yet. I do not want her to ever get the impression that I hate men. That could not be further from the truth. Many of my best friends are men. There’s still a sub-culture, however, within this patriarchal society that promotes misogyny and hate against women. One doesn’t have to look far to find it, just watch a current political debate or watch men weigh in on topics that affect women. Women can be called “pigs,” a “piece of ass,” or “bimbos” and it is socially acceptable. Anyone who does not believe that it is still a man’s world is delusional. We still need feminism. We need strong women to lead us. Women’s issues can be modern, such as paid maternity leave as most women now work, but also classic, such as rape culture and exclusion.
I want my daughter to kick ass and take names. I want her to be strong, secure, and confident in who she is so that she does not allow a man to treat her with anything less than respect. I want to instill in her that there are amazing men in this world, yet there are plenty of those who hate women for no other reason than that they are women. These men should not be tolerated in our society, yet are often venerated, and she will need to the tools to combat this at school, in the workplace, in public, and in her personal relationships.
To the best of my ability I will lead by example. My greatest hope is that she sees her mother as compassionate and empathetic, yet willing to go to war with any man who disrespects her. She will have my relationship with her father as a model for how a relationship should work, as we try to the best of our abilities each day. My greatest fear is that she will someday allow a man to treat her like I witnessed my own mother be treated. They don’t teach about male privilege in school, but I’ll be damned if I don’t arm my daughter against it to the best of my ability.
I don’t take shit from men. I don’t want my daughter to either.
About the author: Sarah Silvernail is a mother of 2, wife, teacher, writer, reader, waitress, bartender, and blogger at babiesbooksandbistros.com, where she blogs about life as a mom, her love of books, and life in the restaurant industry. In addition to staying at home, she also works several mini-jobs to pay for the three college degrees that were a good idea at the time… Other job titles include chicken farmer, wine drinker, martini maker, head procrastinator, CEO of household coffee production, and champion swearer. Follow her on: http://babiesbooksandbistros.com, Facebook and on Twitter.