I'm a friend of Allie Shep and, like her, my life HASN'T been one of hardship on the level of millions of women worldwide, some of whom have told their heartbreaking stories here.

And I'm not pretending it has been. My family had a small house, enough money to survive, and TWO bathrooms (one outside)! But, unlike Allie, I've had a sexist upbringing which I've had to fight against.

My story begins in 1990 Scotland. I was born to a god-fearing mother and an overbearing and angry (but not always with me!) father. My sister, A, had been born 19 months earlier; my brother, J, came along 3 years after me. Now, if you're thinking, maybe my parents wanted 1 son and1 daughter, and I was the 'unwanted' middle child, you'd be right. But no, I don't mean that I was ignored or scolded (not very often anyway), merely thought of after my sister and - ESPECIALLY - after my brother.

He was the pride of my parents (after all, he had his own "thimble", as my sister and I called it), and A was seen as his keeper; she looked after him when mum or dad were otherwise occupied. Of course, I also looked after him. By the time I was 6, I'd regularly washed his face, dressed him, tied his shoes, fed him, and helped him use the toilet (which was a continual joke between me and my sister - a 6 year old girl showing her brother how to pee!).

My father did love all of us, but if he only had time to converse with 2, it was my brother first, then my sister. He was interested in J's schoolwork and A's painting, but my increasing interest in books and poetry was of no concern to him.

And where was our mother? At work. My father more or less ran a printing company (yes really - so you'd think he'd have shown an interest in my hobbies), but he didn't make enough money to keep a wife and 3 children, so mum worked at a bakery 4 days a week. My sister was 8 by this time so she was responsible for myself and J getting home from school. Mrs Thomas next door 'looked out' for us when we were home.

My sister would find the food our mother had left for us, and she and I would prepare it, while J played with the boy next door. Quite likely he'd scrape his knee or cut his finger, so the first aid kit would be at the ready.

I would comfort him while A washed him and applied the plaster(s).

After tea the 2 bathrooms came into their own. The primitive one outside had no hot water, so was of course the one I used! But that did at least mean I had time for a cold (or maybe lukewarm) shower or to wash my hair without any interruptions.

The indoor one was of course fit for J to be bathed by A, so she ensured that he was spotless (and had emptied his bladder) before he went to bed.   

And when he was finally IN bed, A and I would talk. At first it was everyday things (TV, school, colours) but soon we started to discuss our positions within the family.  

"I'm a slave, you're a sub-slave", said my sister one evening.

I think it was that simple sentence which made me realise 'our lot' in life - to help our parents AND our brother, to help our parents RAISE our brother, to then marry, have children ourselves and start the circle all over again with our girl-children working as slaves to our boy-children.  

And no girl ever getting thanked for it!  

We were cruder than that then. She and I referred to girls and boys as sits and stands - and we took that analogy to extremes - girls and women sit because they're worn out looking after boys and men, and are then supposed to simply watch and praise the adventures their brothers and husbands have while standing. (You see, you thought I was being rude!)  

And, 18 years later, that still seems to be the case. I'm now a (trainee) lawyer, but my parents and other relatives still expect me to find Prince Charming and have children - then "give up" work ("lawyers are men" as my mother once said) and look after them - the children AND my parents.  

So my struggle isn't one of poverty or personal assaults (and I would never compare it with some of the stories on here), but it is one of comparable hardship just BECAUSE I was born female.  

Nessa

 

Region Europe
Topic Girls

16Encouragement

sorry - 2 things I meant to add to this - I'm now a junior lawyer, not just a trainee lawyer! & I meant to put a "taster" at the end warning that I had another "slight" incident to relate. Nessa

Hi Nessa, Welcome to World Pulse:-) I hear you. Your story is just as important as the other stories on here. Misogyny must be questioned and stopped if there is ever going to be true world peace and happiness. I often wonder with my three older siblings (2 girls and 1 boy; youngest) how that all went down with my parents. I think my brother definitely got preferential treatment since my sisters have complained about how he was spoiled and was able to get away with more than them, at the very least. Have you ever brought this topic up with your parents, i.e., addressed the issue? I am curious if you did how they responded. I don't think there is any way forward unless we start to express our concerns and be the change in the next generation, if you decide to get married and if you decide to have children... even between your friends, though, you can make a difference by taking a stand, which you have on here already:-) Even you and your sister talking about it from an early age was a good step; you questioned the status quo. I'm looking forward to more posts from you. Thanks for speaking up.

Thanks so much. Allie Shep said I shoud write this out but I was unsure. I haven't been physically deprived like many girls, more emotionally deprived I suppose. But it's an uphill struggle for all girls everywhere isn't it? Just because we're born female we're quickly slotted in to looking after others or especially raising males. (I know I shouldn't say "just because" as if it's a bad thing, of course it isn't).

Oh my parents just thgt it was natural - they are old-fashioned hardy Scots who have never really thgt beyond the "natural" order of things.

Yes I know that any daughter I have will be raised to believe that she can do anything  - cos she can, and there are more role models today - even in Scotland where the leader of the SNP (the largest political party) is a woman.

Yes, my sister and I have always been close. She is an estate agent and is engaged to be married next year. Her fiance is West Indian (yes you can imagine that has been another "hurdle" for my parents) and I know he was brought up by a single mother- so he knows of the hardships women suffer.

Although I now live in London, I intend never to forget my background (I don't think I can!)

Love, Nessa

Hi Nessa, You're welcome:) Allie is great. I'm glad she encouraged you to join World Pulse and to have your voice be heard. Emotional deprivation/mental abuse is just as real as physical or sexual abuse. I'm not sure if it's a struggle for all girls, but it's definitely something that needs to be improved. I hear you on the traditionalism. My in-laws are English and they are very traditional. My father in-law is very misogynistic. He doesn't think women should play golf or even drive. You wouldn't think this sort of thinking would even exist in most families in England still, but apparently so. I wonder how many men, and women for that matter, still think like this. Needless to say, he doesn't care too much for me. Tough:) I've been married almost 24 years now, I think he needs to accept it already. I'd like to be a fly on the wall for those conversations about your sister's fiance. Must be pretty interesting. My parents weren't too impressed when my sister married someone Thai. I always to date someone black just to challenge norms and make a point, but I never had the opportunity. That would've really had them going. Have a good one, and keep posting:-)

Thanks for another interesting reply. It's great being able to talk like this on here, it makes you feel you can discuss things you've bottled up for years.

Yeh Allie's great - I don't know how she finds the time to do what she does.

Yes it's funny the world has moved on and there are plenty of modern men in Britain (especially London)  but in the country areas so many men don't change. Intrigue you mention driving cos my father was like "what the h-ll do A and Nessa want to learn to drive for?". Well, so that we're not at home as your slaves! Really pleased when I passed my test first time (our brother didn't!!!) and I now love also driving some offroad trucks in the summer with friends. My dad would be horrified if he knew all the things I do!

Nowadays I try to think "well if a man doesn't like women who answer back then tough", but then I think of my father and how if friends of ours answered him back he would take it out on us. So I try to hold back.

Good on your sister, the more multiracial families we have the more it annoys those idiots who want to keep their country "pure". They want old world values - like war, poverty and plague?

Thanks again. You (& others here) encourage me

Love, Nessa

Yes, it's good that you feel that way. Bottling anything up is never a good thing. Good to hear there are plenty of modern men in Britain.

It's difficult to know what to do in family situations. I think it's always best to be true to yourself, though... remain respectful but always be assertive. I think the world needs more compassion, tolerance and love, which of course would mean more equality in the end. You're welcome.

Dear Nessa,

Thank you so much for sharing your story! It was so interesting to read about your childhood and how this influences your perspective today. That's fantastic that today you're a junior lawyer and following your dreams. 

This line stuck with me: "She and I referred to girls and boys as sits and stands - and we took that analogy to extremes - girls and women sit because they're worn out looking after boys and men, and are then supposed to simply watch and praise the adventures their brothers and husbands have while standing."

Such a powerful observation! Keep being amazing and sharing your important voice with the world -- it's so needed as we work toward gender equity and furthering women's rights.

Warm regards,

Lisa

Lisa Kislingbury Anderson 

World Pulse Encourager Lead

Thanks Lisa. It's funny you picked out that line. It was the most difficult to write! As you can imagine at ages 9 and 7 our reason for calling girls and boys sits and stands was rude at first as I was *trying* to teach  J to pee standing up . For a 7 year old who KNOWS that toilets are for sitting on - well it was just WEIRD!

But A suddenly said "it's odd we stand and they sit - Oh no I mean the other way round" and that started us off saying No - we could never stand we're too worn out looking after them. And then we took the analogy further - and at school several girls called us sits and boys stands, and being girls we were quickly over the rude aspect and made us think about the whole subject with regards to life generally.

Thanks again Lisa and thanks for reading - it's funny my childhood was fun when i was with my sister and friends and I remember the good times. But then having to go back to do everything for my brother (well it seemed like that anyway) and be wary of my dad made me fed up for hours every day.

Yes I'm really pleased of getting to junior lawyer - I passed the "tests" 2 weeks ago - meaning i can do pro bono work on English Law now rather than just Scottish Law. So I'm "multilingual". But that's as far as I can go without a LOT of studying and exams - cos I don't have a law degree like Allie.

Thanks again, sorry for my long reply.

Love, Nessa

Dear Nessa,

It is by the open sharing of our stories that we are rooting out misogyny in all of its forms, and you certainly have exposed here the entrenched attitudes that you and others in your area grew up with. You also have done a great job showing what effect it had on you. I loved reading that you and your sister kept such an open connection with each other. The more we know, the more chance that we will make it all change. Welcome to World Pulse! You have jumped in beautifully.

In sisterhood,

Tam

Thanks Tam. Misogyny is everywhere - and of course men never realise it cos they cause it. It's funny the 1 good thing about my childhood was I learnt early on how girls and women are treated and that has made me notice the sexism and misogyny that so many women accept as being "normal".

You're right if we know and share our experiences the more we will want to make change. And that's 1 thing I've learnt - girls are better at sharing things rather than just competing. (Of course girls can also be more catty than men - but that's usually a man's fault!). We need to all get together and realise that.

yes, my sister and I have always been close. We had to share a bedroom till I moved out so we had no secrets. It was good that we got on!!!

Thanks for reading Tam

Love, Nessa

Dear Nessa,

Thank you for sharing your story. The value for every human being are same and important but still there is preference for boys in our society. I am very positive that together our joint efforts, there will be equality and every girls will get their dignified life. Keep posting your experiences.

Best regards,

anjana

Dear Nessa,

Welcome to World Pulse and thank you for sharing your story.

It is not always easy to open up on some issues especially when it has to do with family but I am glad you did.

This part really got me thinking "I think it was that simple sentence which made me realise 'our lot' in life - to help our parents AND our brother, to help our parents RAISE our brother, to then marry, have children ourselves and start the circle all over again with our girl-children working as slaves to our boy-children."  

Love,

Adanna