My mother considered herself a feminist. (She’s not dead, I just don’t talk to her any more and she might as well be.) She was also bipolar and had a difficult time communicating things in a way that made sense, even though she was intelligent and thoughtful about a lot of things.
Looking back on my childhood, I realize that there were messages she sort of tried to teach me, but didn’t effectively teach me at all. To me, it just looked like more things fitting into her patterns of erratic behavior, but now I understand why she behaved the way she did about me wanting to shave my legs and wear makeup, and why she didn’t mind walking around the house naked after a shower. A lot of my opinions were (unbeknownst to me) influenced by popular culture, so I looked down on her for some of it.
I first wanted to shave my legs and armpits when I was about 12. She stubbornly refused to let me for about a year, and I never just went and did it because she was abusive and generally I feared what would happen if I went against her directly, even if it had to do with my own body. All she ever said was that I was “too young” and that I “didn’t need to” shave my legs. It was never articulated, but now I think I understand her reasoning. [Read more…]