CW: Domestic abuse, mental health, substance misuse, racism, body shaming, homophobia
Growing up in a domestic abuse situation sucks. A lot. Reading back through my diaries as a teenager, I would place the blame on my mum: when my dad would ask me who I loved more, I would choose him. In my mind I hoped that by saying that, it meant he would spend more time with me. That never happened.
He had a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia when I was younger, though in the last few years, this has changed to bipolar disorder. One constant is that he is an alcoholic and has been since I’ve known him.
I went into Psychology for one reason – to understand him. My dad has been the one driving force and motivation behind all of my academic choices, and I’ve been hell bent on trying to get why he is who he is. After studying the psychology of abuse, I now work with those who are dealing with substance misuse and domestic abuse situations – on the side of the victim. I no longer place the blame on my mum.
In the last few years, I have tried to establish some form of contact with my dad. Firstly, because he *is* my dad and it’s hard to ignore that biological fact and secondly, because his horrific mental health makes me feel guilty.
Since reaching out to him, my dad’s comments have included:
- (Whilst pointing at women in the street) “Why are women so fat nowadays?”
- (Stopping in the street to point at a young man dressing a mannequin in a shop window) “Oh my god, that boy is so gay – what the fuck?”
- “Islam isn’t a race; it’s not racist so I can hate them all I want.”
- “Do not go out with a black man. I will kill him.”
Just as with the domestic abuse, I used to internalise all of this. I remember saying disgustingly racist things growing up, I remember thinking women who had sex were somehow dirtied, and I remember nodding along when my teacher (around 2007) said he was scared when he saw a Muslim with a briefcase.
My complete rejection of these beliefs has now manifested itself into a ‘daddy issue’ that comes out in full force when these comments are said or even implied by politicians, friends, family, or members of the public. It came out when I made eye contact with an angry middle-aged man wearing a St George’s cross, ready to hurt those wanting safety for refugees. It came out when I was accused of faking a panic attack in order to receive attention from men on a night out. It also came out when anti-feminist Tory MP Philip Davies (part of the Women and Equalities Committee) said that his idea of equality is incarcerating more women to match the number of men in prison. As if more women should be violent towards men to “balance out” the domestic abuse disparity.
It infuriates me when people invalidate feminists by claiming we have unresolved daddy issues. Buddy, I have a doozy of a daddy issue and it won’t be resolved until patriarchy is destroyed – that doesn’t negate the validity of my goal. There’s a reason that all of these things seem to go hand in hand. Racism, sexism, domestic abuse, poor mental health, patriarchy. Perhaps if we lived in a world where men could express their emotions and build up strong, intimate networks with friends and family, my childhood would’ve been that much better. So I fight to dissolve the patriarchy, which tells men that they have to be stoic “lone wolves”. Perhaps if we lived in a world where the government puts the mental health of people above profit, my mother would’ve felt that much safer. So I fight to dissolve capitalism. Perhaps if we lived in a world where substance misuse was treated as a health issue and not a criminal issue, I wouldn’t have such daddy issues. So I fight to dissolve unjust laws, and I work to protect those who suffer by them.
As for the promiscuity associated with daddy issues – meh. I no longer think women are sullied if they enjoy sex, so I consider that a bonus.