Tuesday, January 29, 2013


TRIGGER WARNING—centered around my own prejudices against other females. Themes include malpractice, borderline molestation, assuming incompetence, ableism, suicide, bullying, manipulation of the naïve, and self-harm. Also contains some adult language. Read with caution.

I feel uncomfortable around other females. I have often asked myself if it’s possible to be sexist against your own sex, and I am still not sure where I stand on that. But if it is possible, I assure you I am not so sexist that I want to make another woman’s life hell just because she’s a woman. However, I am totally sexist enough that when someone asks me “Would you prefer to see a male or a female doctor?” I’m far more inclined to ask for a male.

You need history to understand where a prejudice like that could come from, so let me establish it. When I was about 9, I was taken to a pediatrician who was a woman. Let’s call her Dr. Justdoit. I was there for a check up, and during the check up, my parents wanted to bring up a concern they had about a possible food allergy issue. I had no prior food allergy diagnoses, but I had a severe reaction to something while I was on vacation—we suspected the walnuts in a cookie I ate, about 5 minute prior to the reaction. We mentioned in passing that the hotel we were staying at was under construction—in a different wing of the hotel than where we were staying. Dr. Justdoit fell just short of laughing off our theory. She told us I was probably just reacting to the paint fumes in the hotel. My parents were not convinced. “Are you sure she isn’t allergic to walnuts?” asked my mom. Dr. Justdoit replied, “Well, I guess you could try feeding her walnuts again and see if she reacts.”

Funny how when we still didn’t believe her, we went to an allergist who ran some blood tests. As it turned out, I am DEATHLY allergic to tree nuts, and moderately allergic to sesame seeds. Today, I have additionally developed a shellfish allergy. Dr. Justdoit could have killed me with her advice.

Around that same age, I was hanging around with a female classmate from school, who was also a neighbor of mine. I have a hard time calling what she did molestation, but it wasn’t far from it.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about what happened, but what you need to know is she peer pressured me into disrobing for her, and she laughed at my naked body. After that, I went home, and on my way home I ran into another neighbor of ours. She was a grade beneath me. I told her what had happened, and her advice to me was to not tell my parents because they would be angry at me. I kept it to myself for several months, until someone came to my school and dedicated an entire class to talking about sexual abuse. Near the end of the class, they asked if anyone had ever been inappropriate in that way with us.  I was the only kid to raise my hand. It was humiliating. I didn’t know if they would believe me or care about what I said. I got the feeling they didn’t, when they took me out into the hallway to talk about it. I don’t think they knew what to do, because it involved one of my classmates.

I eventually worked up the courage to tell my mom, and simply put, she was furious. Not at me though—at my classmate, for taking advantage of me. She talked about calling CPS on her family, but I don’t think she ever did. I love my mom regardless, and she is one woman who I can say without a doubt that I love.

When I was in 6th grade, I had a female teacher, whom we’ll call “Mrs. Perky.” She was a hippie. She did not control her class—her class controlled her. Except for me, because I was really well-behaved, and not to mention naïve. She wore rugs to school (yes, as in, what you would decorate your floor with), and made us out to be the bad guys. All of us—even me, one of the few kid in the class who behaved.

There was one day where she told us that we’d be the ones flipping her burgers when we grow up. Way to really motivate us, by telling us we can aspire to flip burgers the rest of our lives—after going through a rigorous IB Diploma curriculum.

At some point, a parent suggested that there be two math classes—one for the “smart kids” and one for the “dumb kids.” Mrs. Perky placed me in the “dumb kids” math class, with her. One day, I brought in my homework on a piece of paper that I tore out of a notepad, and had solved the problems on the page, landscape (think in terms of the printer setting). I turned it into her, and she went to the front of the classroom, held up my homework and said, “You see, this is exactly what I don’t want you to do.” It was the first time I had any realization of just how stupid she thought I was. I asked to go to the bathroom, was permitted, and went into a stall and cried. She damaged my self-esteem, horribly.

That also doesn’t account for how she blew me off when I told her about one of my female classmates who, for no reason obvious to me, decided to punch the crap out of me. I was really scared by what my classmate had done to me, and Mrs. Perky made me feel like my feelings were invalid.

Then there was my 7th grade math teacher, “Mrs. Brownnoseme.” She hated me. I hated her more. She took bribes from students for grades—some girls in my class would babysit her kid, and when they did, you can be assured this improved their grades. As for the rest of us—unless you were naturally talented with math, you were fucked. There was one day that is to this day, very triggery for me to talk about. So cover your eyes, if you don’t like ableism.

She knew I had a Nonverbal Learning Disability diagnosis. She assumed she knew what my disorder was, when she clearly didn’t. So one day, when the class had angered her, she made us copy problems from a textbook. My anxiety was already high that day, and I could not focus because everyone in the room was talking loudly. My OCD kicked in—I would write down a word, erase the word, write the first two words, erase them, writing and erasing until I tore my paper. I got a new sheet. She came over to my desk, and in a very upset tone, asked me, “Katie, are you even trying?” “Yes,” I replied, hurt. She started going on about how I hadn’t even written one word—like I hadn’t tried writing one word.

She walked off, and now I could not concentrate at all. The cycle of writing and erasing and rewriting would not end. I had about one sentence down by the end of class. No problems solved. She approached me, and told me she was very disappointed in me for not applying myself. She told me she had carpool duty, and was going to tell my dad that day that I wasn’t trying at all, and that I was required to stay after class and miss my break because I didn’t try. Didn’t try, didn’t try, didn’t try. That was all I heard. My efforts didn’t matter to her. My life was valueless to me. What good was I if I couldn’t write a fucking word?

I avoided going out to the carpool line for a while after school. When I did, I saw my dad, waiting. I had a strained relationship with my dad at the time, so I expected hell from him. I got into the car, and my dad asked me how my day was, as we drove off. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I told him. I had a doctor appointment that day with my psychiatrist, so we began driving to the appointment. I was overwhelmed by my day—I began to cry somewhere along our trip. Dad noticed—he asked again, “How was your day?” I lashed out at him with my words. I told him I knew Mrs. Brownnoseme had told him about how I didn’t try, and that I “knew” that he wasn’t going to hear my side of the argument. He was frustrated—all he honestly wanted was to hear my side of the story. I became so upset at one point that I threatened to throw myself out of the car. Dad later wrote an e-mail to Mrs. Brownnoseme, more or less telling her she wasn’t fit to be a teacher.

Two of the girls that brown-nosed Mrs. Brownnoseme by babysitting for her, and also one of my male classmates, one day decided it would be funny, while left unattended in the school library with me and one of my best friends at the time, to take rocks off of a student’s project and throw them at us. Once one of my favorite teachers found out, they were suspended for a few days and required to write a forced apology to us. I never got a letter from the guy. It was just as well though—I got just as much satisfaction out of it as I did the letters that the two girls wrote with fake sincerity.

I wanted them expelled—and if they had been, one of those girls wouldn’t have had the honor of being the Salutatorian of our graduating class. If they had been expelled, I won’t say I would have ended up staying at the school, but I would have felt like the school took my concerns more seriously.

There was one girl who I considered to be one of my best friends—she was more like a “frienemy,” looking back on it. She lied to me constantly. And I believed her, constantly, because I was too naïve to tell she was bullshitting. I believed her when she said she was going to have sex with a guy—I gave her some of my condoms that a relative of mine gave me, and she of course told everyone. I doubt she even slept with a guy—she just wanted to watch me go out of my way to help her, so she could use it as a means to humiliate me. I didn’t believe she would do that.

She would talk to me on the phone, and we’d talk about how depressed we were. I admit it—it was creepy as fuck. You wouldn’t think there was that much stuff for two teenaged girls to obsess morbidly over, but we would be at it for hours. I went through an emo phase where I started cutting myself. She talked about cutting a lot, so I thought I would try it and see if it made me feel better.

There was one of our conversations we had that led to me being hospitalized for threats of suicide. I had a clear plan and everything—a teacher at my school found out, and told the principal. They did not allow me to return for 24 hours, and not without the consent of my doctor.  This girl was Satan incarnated I and I believe she thought so too.

About a year ago, I went to see a psychologist who was a woman, cautiously. I was willing to give her a chance, in spite of usually preferring to have a male psychologist.  She was located in a hospital, and when I came to her office, I was having suicidal thoughts, and was honest about this. Never at any point did I actually say I was going to kill myself—just that I was battling with those thoughts. Her reaction? She hospitalized me. She gave me forms to sign, and sent me to the ER, where my husband and I waited in a room with a bed and a chair to talk to a doctor. We had planned to go hiking after my appointment, and take advantage of the nice weather. What we did instead was spend 6 hours waiting, followed by trying to explain why I wasn’t an imminent threat to myself, waiting some more, and finally being discharged.

So am I prejudiced? I have this thought experiment for you—imagine a monkey gets slapped by a person in a cowboy hat. Another person walks in the room, also wearing a cowboy hat, and punches the monkey. A third person wearing a cowboy hat walks in and kicks the monkey. Person after person wearing a cowboy hat walks in and abuses this monkey until it’s black and blue. After many people have walked up to this monkey and hurt him, a person wearing a cowboy hat approaches the monkey and tries to offer him a peanut.  The monkey jumps on that person’s face and mauls them. That monkey now has bad associations with people in cowboy hats—it doesn’t matter if there is a world out there full of people wearing cowboy hats who would love to offer their love and respect to the monkey, because now that monkey will forever see the cowboy hat and associate it with pain.

I don’t hate other women. I fear them. A lot of what I talked about was the stuff women did to my face that hurt me. Much more happened behind my back, and was then passed around until it reached me. I have borderline PTSD from all of it. I hang out with and respect many women, but I may never be able to get as close to a woman as I can with a man (the women in my family are an exception, because they’re awesome).

I hope I haven’t hurt anyone with this post. Should you be a woman, I hope you don’t feel like I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t mind. I just might be more reserved around you than I would with a man. Don’t take it personally. I’m just checking to make sure your “cowboy hat” doesn’t mean what it has for me in the past.

1 comment:

  1. So disheartening. Your experiences with apathetic or uncaring women in positions of authority or privilege have certainly given you every reason for your current biases.


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