Guest Blog

As I wrote about yesterday it has been mental health awareness, and we must all learn to talk, one of the members of BGSG has written her own blog and asked me to share it with you.

Hot topic

Both mental health and feminism are hot topics and bring forth strong and polarised opinions. I have seen and heard rhetoric this week that has made me feel ashamed of my own sex. Like all of us I haven’t got to the age I am now without my share of stress and heartache. The first real trauma I faced was divorce while still in my twenties. To split from the father of your children brings strong feelings of failure. We all go into family life full of optimism and the sadness stays long after the relationship has died.

Nevertheless, in my experience, the feeling came from denying my children the opportunity to grow up with both their mum and dad. In my case my divorce became acrimonious when my ex husband quickly remarried and added to his family. His new wife wanted to airbrush the old one – me & I don’t think that has changed in over 35 years during which time I have been alienated by my children and denied a relationship with my beloved grandchildren.

The strength of youth

I think youth often gives you strength and optimism. Whatever my worries, money, family etc I had enough physical & mental energy to cope. I had to. There was nobody else to do it although I have to say that whatever his shortcomings as a husband, my children had a good father. The reason our relationship failed was to do with his behaviour, not his gender. Of course he had more freedom than I did and more opportunity to put himself first but like it or not, that is the way it was in the 70s so that when women’s voices began to be heard I was glad.

I coped with my brother’s suicide, illness, my own & family members, but alienation six years ago brought me to my knees. In hindsight I was broken. Not for nothing did the word ‘breakdown’ come to be associated with mental health. I have no recognised mental illness as such but have, in the last six years, been diagnosed with anxiety, panic disorder and depression. I have absolutely no doubt that further diagnoses of fibromyalgia, Parkinsonism and internal problems are closely related to my state of mind. I currently see a counsellor and have at last learned that in times of acute mental stress the safest thing to do is pick the phone up and tell someone I trust exactly how I feel. It works and I love my few close women friends for their support and understanding. I also recognise that women are blessed with the emotional skill to connect with others and share their problems in a way that many men are unable to do because society expects them to be strong. Sometimes we need someone else to tell us that life is worth living. I have a loving and supportive husband and I know that’s a blessing. I also know the danger of trying to protect him from my darkest thoughts. That’s my choice; I believe that men and women are different. It’s a generalisation but I have noticed that women often empathise whereas men seek solutions. Both have their place and we are wired up differently. I celebrate it.

How we see gender and feminism

My distaste for some of the propaganda spoken (or shouted) on the Victoria Derbyshire show this week led me re-evaluate my position about how we see gender and feminism. I grew up when women’s rights were a huge topic. I remember visiting my sister at her university & seeing a sign outside a social room saying ‘men not welcome beyond this point.’ I wondered what would have been said if it had read men instead of women. It wasn’t a changing room or a dormitory, just a student hang out. Although I felt uneasy I would certainly at that time have considered myself a feminist. I was brought up in a household where my father’s word was law, my mother was resentful of her oppression and my sisters and I were expected to wait on the family men! It formed my philosophy that women should be equal, educationally, culturally and socially and if you look up the dictionary definition of feminism that is what it SHOULD mean. Like so many aspects of modern life it has now been hijacked by extremists and militants and we encourage that at our peril. We only have to turn the inflammatory language around to see how strongly the misuse of feminist ideals have impacted on us. Imagine a solicitor appearing on TV and saying he was only interested in representing men. There would be an uproar. How is it acceptable for a woman solicitor to label herself a ‘feminist solicitor?’ It’s outrageous! It’s also obvious to anyone with common sense that her attitude is that men are the enemy.

When did this awful battle of the sexes begin? Some individuals behave badly but this has nothing to do with their gender. Women can give birth, men can’t, gender reassignment or not. It’s plain stupid to put pain machines on men to give them a taste of the horrors of childbirth. Why? Pregnancy floods a woman’s body with hormones to enable her body to grow and birth a baby. It’s not an act of nature that should be used to punish men, many of whom find watching their partners enduring the pain of childbirth very traumatic. I’m old enough to have had my ex husband sent out when I had my first baby. When I had my second he was pressurised by nurses, not by me, to attend. He left the labour room on a stretcher having passed out cold when my 9lb son appeared. Horses for courses I know but had I been thinking straight I would have asked for him not to be there. I know that’s controversial but I know that my son was very traumatised by witnessing the difficult birth of his first child. He would have done anything to spare his wife her pain but given the impossibility of that, isn’t it sometimes more sensible to let the professionals do their job and let a more squeamish man pace the corridor? It’s now accepted that men must share childbirth but I’d love to know how many women would rather have their mum or a close friend attending, especially one who has been there herself! I still have a photo of my son from that time and he looked sick with fear and apprehension. Women are wonderful, strong and brave but will never run as fast as men. Men are inherently physically stronger than women but they can’t produce milk to nourish their offspring. Most dangerous of all, I believe, is the radical feminist view that as the bearers of children we have some right of ownership over them. Nobody owns children. Whether by nature, sperm donation or IVF, children are conceived jointly by both sexes who are surely entitled to try equally to be good parents.

Ashamed of my own sex

My views may be old fashioned. I make no judgement about the quest for gender neutrality although it seems contradictory to me. I also uphold equality in areas such as race & sexuality. It’s not about any kind of prejudice. It’s about feeling ashamed of my own sex when I see them sneering at men, talking of them as the aggressors and denying them their fatherhood just because they ARE fathers. It saddens me to say it when I feel deeply about equal pay for equal work etc. but I can no longer call myself a feminist because I feel no understanding of any woman who would deliberately deny her children access to their fathers just because they can. Normal people are not abusers, sadists or narcissists. People sometimes are and it has nothing whatsoever to do with their gender.

If you are sitting there thinking I could write my thoughts and would like me to post it, get in touch.

Thank you so much to the grandparent who contributed this week, the more we can be open and honest with our feelings and emotions the healthier we all will be.

About Jane

Jane setup Bristol Grandparent Support Group in 2007 after a string of incidents led to the loss of contact with her Grand Daughter.

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