Tattle-tales, and the double standard

This is a true story, with names changed.

There was a little girl named Jill. She had a little brother named Tim and several other sisters and brothers. Jill observed time and again that if she or any of the sisters hit Tim, as kids sometimes do, and Tim told on them, Mommy punished them for hitting him. But if Tim hit them, and they told on him, Mommy punished the girls for being tattle tales. And if Tim hit the girls and the girls hit back, Mommy punished the girls.

There was no other violence in the household (unless you count spanking, but this was many years ago). Daddy didn’t beat Mommy. Neither parent beat the kids. No one ever said, sometimes women deserved to be hit. It was just that Tim was allowed to hit the girls, and the girls were sworn to a conspiracy of silence. Oh, and the girls had to do Tim’s chores so he could go clown around as much as liked.

Jill grew up to have some issues which did her no favors in life. But Tim grew up to be a wife beater. And a heroin addict. He was very intelligent, and had many opportunities at excellent jobs, but he trashed every one of them. A surprising number of nice women married him. He would disappear for years on end, either homeless or in jail. He hurt his wives and children. He hurt himself. He could have been a happy, fulfilled person, if only Mommy hadn’t set him up to be a monster.

I’ll always consider Jill the bigger victim. She could have been a much more happy, fulfilled person if Mommy hadn’t set her up to believe she didn’t have any rights. But at least Jill could take assurance in the fact that she was a decent person who did right by others. I doubt Tim ever felt good about anything, except maybe when he used heroin.

And why did Mommy do this? Because Mommy had wanted a career, but her society told her that would be wrong. And so as Mommy bought into her own oppression and allowed it to twist her mind, it made sense to her to teach the girls they could do no right and the boys they could do no wrong.

The next time someone tells you feminism is against men’s best interests, feel free to tell them this story. Better yet, look for examples like this from your own experience.


  1. Mel says

    Good god, I know Jill(s) and Tim, although thankfully the Tim I know somehow managed to grow up to be a responsible guy (I think because his dad moved out and the double-standard ended).

    But it’s such a terribly common, horrible pattern.

  2. Anemone says

    I knew a Jill who was beaten up by Tim for years, and nobody did anything to help her, then she saw red and stabbed him in revenge. She did time, he didn’t, he tried to sue her. I hope she’s doing ok. I haven’t seen her in a long time.

    The double standard is bad enough even without any violence involved.

  3. AmyMcCabe says

    This sounds like one of my brothers. I am the oldest and I have two younger brothers (actually I have four more siblings-but they are half siblings and grew up in a different house than I).

    My brother David and I were two years apart. Matt was born shortly after my parents divorce. Unlike David and I, Matt could do no wrong. He always had different rules. He never got punished and always got special treatment. Matt is now 18 and is already one of the most abusive, manipulative people I know. In the last two years he has run away from home, dropped out of school, had two children (that he doesn’t help support in any way) yo-yoed in and out of employment about a half a dozen times, wrecked three cars, stole a few thousand from my mother. And yet he can still do no wrong. As a matter of fact, David and I routinely get chided for avoiding this little snot. AGH!

  4. says

    Mel, it’s disturbing the first time you pick up a psychology textbook and realize how really predictable the human brain is. And yet, rather than use that predictability to teach people how to be happier, we’d just rather not talk about it.

    Anemone, that’s so sad. I’m reminded of an episode of Criminal Minds in which this nasty wife killed her wonderful, fantastic husband, and as the team is interviewing her, they slowly realize her husband was seriously mentally abusing her and teaching her kids to hate her and she didn’t even comprehend how she was being wronged.

    Psychiatry acknowledges that when sane people live with abusers, eventually someone’s going to get hurt, and it might be the abuser. Because part of being sane is having a limit to how much abuse you can take before you instinctively decide in a not-legally-sane sort of way that the best defense is a really damn good offense.

    Amy, psychiatrists say we all naturally have a period of narcissism around the age of 2. This leads me to suspect that most ANY child subjected to unhealthy amounts of privilege from that age on will end up like your brother. I can’t understand why people think they’re doing a child a favor when they raise him or her like that.

  5. says

    Yep, lilacsigil, and I addressed that in an earlier draft but then trimmed it for length. Daddy was a natural nurturer, and he would discipline Tim and leave him chores to do, but Daddy worked very long hours, and Mommy would countermand all the discipline and put the chores off on the girls while Daddy was away. And of course, it was society’s idea that Daddy could NOT possibly be an ideal stay at home parent because he had a Y chromosome, and should instead work. The irony is that the whole family of very damaged people might have been better off if Mommy and Daddy had simply swapped traditional gender roles.

  6. lilacsigil says

    The irony is that the whole family of very damaged people might have been better off if Mommy and Daddy had simply swapped traditional gender roles.

    Or shared them – my parents did this (and made sure it extended to the kids), and I consider myself and my brothers very fortunate!

  7. says

    Well, in this case I suggested swapping because Mommy had not an ounce of nurturing energy and a fair amount of career ambition, and Daddy had serious parenting skills. But, yes, either way initial problem was that society dictated their roles according to their gender with no concern for the actual effects of that agenda. Sometimes society really functions like a psychopath.

  8. Elee says

    I have such a “Tim” as a cousin. I’m am wondering if I am truly special in having been frightened by a 4yo *grimace* or not? He is big and bulky for his age, with four he already looked like six, and he has a lot of power when he hits someone. As a 30 yo woman (and rather big and bulky myself) I am not usually afraid of children. But it gets me irritated, when a little child hits me with all his power with a truck toy on the back and all I get is a laugh out of “Tim”s dad like it is something funny. How should Tim learn an appropriate behavior when he clearly has to think it is funny to hit someone? He doesn’t get that it f*g hurts, having a half meter big toy slapped at you. The point is, that his dad didn’t think it demeaning and hurtful enough until “Tim” took grandmas cane (solid wood) and tried to hit me with it. That very moment I didn’t care that I am much bigger than “Tim” and he is only 4, all I could do was panicking, that if he hit me with the cane in my face it would probably not only hurt but also get me injured since I wear glasses. And no one would help me because it is so effing hilarious, so short of running (which I fear would only encouraged him) or hitting a child… Well, what do you I could have done different? I am really not sure. I get it, that children are prone to bursts of violent behavior at a certain age, it has never been a problem for me, it was that weird combo that he is much more forceful that children his age, had a prop and I felt so utterly helpless. Would it have been an adult I might have cowered in fear or might have hit him back, but it wasn’t. Strangely enough, no one of the little girls in our family, though also prone to outbursts, were never so unpredictable and scary in their violence, though their parents also aren’t trying to impose the image of a god-given present to womanity.

  9. Tuyet Nga says

    I’m late but anyway, I want to share a story my parents told me about a man who already had six children, all of them are girls. He forced his wife to try ‘one more time’. On the day she delivered, a girl came out and he left the hospital right away. A short time later one of his daughters ran from the hospital to where he was and informed that mother gave birth to a boy, he slapped her for lying. Only then đi he learn that his wife gave birth to a twin and the other twin was a boy.

    This story was told by my parents for a laugh during family gathering. On hearing that I told them the boy would sooner or later destroy the family. My mother nodded and said that his only son was treated like a king in the family and he grew to become a heroin addict. I don’t know about his other 7 daughters though. I’m sure living in a family like that affects them in one way or another. It’s really sad.

  10. Youll_Never_Guess says

    Who’s surprised? Every time someone tells me “no one likes a tattle tale”, I point out that that’s pretty much the same thing as saying “No one likes being held accountable for their actions”. (Like I said, who’s surprised?) Then I point out what a shame it is that someone I’m supposed to look up to would encourage me to shut up instead of doing the right thing. (But sadly I’ve always suspected that that’s how a lot of these people became leaders in the first place: They put being popular above doing the right thing. Popularity is certainly rewarded more often, and more enthusiastically than nobility. Were we trained this way?)

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