I was born in Detroit, MI, in 1979. My mother and father got married because my mother got pregnant (while using birth control, she tells me). She divorced my biological father when I was 2 years old, and he gained weekend visitation/parental rights over me.
My life from about age 2 - 6 was weekdays with my single mother, who worked, dumped me off at daycare, and dated men - and weekends with my father, who physically abused me in rather horrible ways I won't get into here. Suffice to say one day I came home at age 6, beaten half to death by a piece of PVC pipe, because my dad thought I was "bad at sports" and he lost his temper with me. My grandparents saw the bruises, my mom finally got involved enough in my life to wonder WHY I didn't want to go off to dad's every weekend, and they finally got a court to order my mother's full custody of me.
So, by age 7, I was a kid that had spent most of his life shuttled from day care to grandma's house to dad's house on the weekend. I'd get the shit beaten out of me on the weekends by my dad, when he wasn't drunk or abandoning me alone at his apartment for hours at a time - and I had the lovely experience of an absent mother who really never wanted a child during the week.
After age 7, the physical abuse stopped. My mom felt guilty, I suppose, finally realizing what she had been allowing to happen all those years. (I begged, for years, to not have to go to my dad's house. They knew what was going on but I honestly think my mom just wanted to look the other way.) She moved in with her parents, my maternal grandparents, and my grandmother and grandfather attempted to raise me for a while and give me a relatively normal life.
I spent my time until 2nd grade in Detroit, then my mom moved to Arizona with her new husband, a guy that she had been dating. I was taken along like so much extra baggage.
In AZ, I pretty much did my own thing. I had decided by then that I just wanted to escape from my family. I was an only child, and I wasn't well watched. I spent a lot of time out of the house, at friends houses, trying to avoid my own home. I was a "gifted" student that got straight A's so my mom never cared what I did - she figured that as long as the report cards were good and my teachers liked me, all was well.
My grandparents eventually moved in with my mom; my mom divorced her 2nd husband. I spent age 13 until age 17 living with my mother and my maternal grandparents.
During this time, I continued to do well at school while simultaneously spending more and more time away from home, trying to get out of a bad situation. My mom was sick and she fought constantly with her father, so "home" was never a place I wanted to be while growing up, during my teen years. I experimented with drugs, boys, girls - you name it. If it felt good, I allowed myself to try it. I eventually met a girl I liked enough to want to get a house with, and I moved out of my mom's home when I was 17.
What jobs have you had, including caregiving?
I have worked mainly as a middle-manager for a Fortune 500 insurance company. I led a team of automobile claims specialists. I have also performed as a corporate trainer and an SQL database programmer. When I was younger, I worked in first and second level technical support for a hotel corporation. I have never had nor wanted a caregiving job; I don't believe I would be suited to it. I don't really feel my chosen jobs or career have defined me at all, though... my job(s) throughout life have always just been a source of money to do what I really want; not an identity for me or a purpose.
At what stage was the women's movement when you were a child and teen? Were your mother, sister, girlfriend. lover involved?
When I was a child I never noticed the woman's movement much. My mom was pretty absent from my life and she seemed to do whatever the Hell she wanted, whenever she wanted - -she certainly didn't have a man telling her what to do. My grandmother and grandfather had fairly traditional roles -- he worked a 9-5 corporate job all his life and retired with a full pension while she was a "homemaker" all her life, raising her two children - -my mother and uncle. (My mother and uncle being great examples of people who were given every advantage in life, full time, round the clock care by a loving mother - and they turned out to be rather nasty people anyway.)
My first girlfriends, etc., were all probably part of the generation of women that took their rights for granted. When I was getting into college, there were already more females than males being accepted. Everywhere I looked, females were in management positions, etc. I don't think most of the women I interacted with felt like they were forced into any roles, really. They were all about "grrl power" and being able to do it all, and I was happy for them. Still am. I think a world with opportunity for men and women, equal opportunities for both, is a good thing. My lovers - men and women both - were never really into a "woman's power" movement. I took some feminist courses when I was in college and I found them amusing. I think most of the young women I took the courses with had a hard time understanding the older feminists, too... they seemed like they were fighting a battle that ended 20 years ago. (In the words of one of my girlfriends at that time, actually.)
What did you first notice sexism, whether directed at you or anyoneelse. Men can experience sexism just as much as woman.
I think I first experienced sexism directed at women by religious, conservative types. My family wasn't (and isn't) very religious or conservative, so when I did get taken to church a few times, I think I was shocked at the whole Christian notion there that women should allow men to run their lives, marriages, and "humbly submit to their husbands" - that just sounded like bullshit, to me, actually. I've never had a woman "humbly submit" to anything in my life, nor would I want her to.
I experienced sexism directed at men a lot when I heard people talk about step-fathers, boyfriends, etc., and how "dangerous" it was to let men around your children because, apparently, every man is a potential child abuser. (My own dad beat me, so I guess I'm expecting the the abuse to come more from a family member than a stranger or a boyfriend...)
I also experienced sexism when I realized that women held all of the reproductive cards. If I got a girl pregnant, she could choose to abort, give the child up, or keep it. If she choose to keep it, I had to pay for it. Conversely, I had no way to "abort" a child I did not want, so I had to be doubly careful than a woman that I didn't impregnate somebody if I wanted to have sex. I did have a girlfriend when I was about 16 who got pregnant and had an abortion, after telling me that she didn't want it. She didn't ask me my thoughts, I wasn't given an option. It was simply, "I'm getting rid of it." If she choose not to, I would have had to pay - I'd still be paying - child support. I found that distasteful in the extreme, that women would want that kind of position of power instead of wanting an equal playing ground where either parent can choose to give up parental rights. I think if we want an end to the war of the sexes, we might want to start here.
Did you ever identify yourself as a feminist? When?
No. I consider myself a humanist and an egalitarian. I think "feminist" implies that you want greater rights for women than for men, which I believe to be wrong. Even to "correct the great wrongs of the patriarchy". It's the same reason that while I have many black friends now and I think that slavery was horrible, I don't support reparations for black people now, not living under slavery.
What does feminism mean to you? Did you think the movement lost its way?
Feminism, to me, now means so many different things to different people I think you need to qualify what a person is talking about when they say they are a "feminist". I think the movement has lost its way very much as is expressed by a different blog post here. If I may quote another Open Salon user in this interview, THIS is what feminists are saying now: This was an actual quote taken from a woman I have been talking to here on Open Salon. You want to know why I think feminism has lost its way? This is why, if this is how "feminists" think now, I want no part of their "movement":
"Women have been at the mercy of men since recorded time. Payback is a bitch. Welcome to the world of women!" -aphrabehn
If living with someone, how do you share the housework?
I live with an adult female (my wife) and an adult male (my life partner.) My wife works longer hours and has a longer commute than either of us, so she does no housework at all - -she cleans the cat litter boxes once a day and sometimes washes her own delicates, but that's about it. We pay for maid service to come and clean our house twice a week. I do all of the laundry and most basic household cleaning; my partner does all of the dishes and outdoor/yard work. We all cook as we feel like it. (My wife often jokes about being the only woman she knows that has maids AND two men to pick up after her.)
Would your mother consider herself a feminist? Have you ever discussed the question with her?
My mother doesn't really care about the movement, I think. I haven't ever really found her to be interested in anything that didn't directly impact her in an immediate way... she's not one to be for or against any philosophical or political movements...
Did you ever take a woman studies course in high school or college?
Yes. I found it to be a great place for women to gleefully attack men so I kept quiet and got an A by telling the professor what she wanted to hear, like usual.
What books shaped your ideas on women?
Interesting question. Robert Heinlein and Riane Eisler have both been writers that shaped my "ideas" on women, marriage, sexuality, etc. I take a bit from everywhere. ;) Mostly, books didn't shape my ideas on women. The women in my life have. My grandmother and my wife are probably the two women on this world that I respect and love the most.
Who is your favorite woman novelist? Do you think she is a feminist?
Honestly, I think Robin Hobb. She's a fantasy novelist and I think her books are amazing. Anne Rice was also an amazing writer, and I remember voraciously reading all of her material when I was in high school. I don't know either woman's stance on feminism.