Telling My Stories

A life lived outside

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“They Could Smell the Girl On Me”

Posted by catkisser on August 12, 2009

One of the ways women like me are dismissed is “socialization” as males rather than females. The response to this is often to deny any participation in male privilege as a child. That’s nonsense but the truth is a little harder to put your finger on.

My childhood was during the fifties and sixties, a time long before a kid unaccounted for more than 24 hours found their picture on a milk carton…..if you were male, or considered male. I’ve addressed elsewhere exactly how rigid the gender roles were during this time, if you didn’t grow up during this period of history, you’d be shocked. But while I would not deny I benefited from the greater freedom granted males during my childhood, it’s far from a complete picture on the other hand. With that greater freedom came all the problems of not fitting in with boys and the costs of that.

I never “got” the male dominance games that seem to be hardwired in to the male psyche. Let me explain. Among mammalian males this need to organize in hierarchies with established pecking orders seems to be an essential part of maleness. Among human males this means establishing who is the alpha and so forth. Boys will fight each other (or sometimes use sports instead) to establish who the alpha is. Once established, everyone is supposed to resume friendships as if it never happened. I “get” this intellectually, I never “got” it emotionally. And it got me in a lot of hot water as a child and left me a perpetual outsider in childhood. To me, someone trying to beat the crap out of me for no apparent reason was an enemy….period. Friendship was out of the question, especially if they had fifty pounds on me, towered over me or in some other fashion physically imposing. Allied with this hard wired male instinct seems to be the concept of a “fair fight” meaning if you were smaller, you weren’t supposed to equalize that. Opps, another concept I didn’t “get” and the source of my getting in a lot of hot water.

I was named after my father’s favorite uncle. This was a man who almost certainly was a repressed homosexual, hated women far beyond simple mysogyny and ran a boy scout “camp” on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. My paternal aunts and uncles convinced my parents this camp was just the thing to make a man out of me. For three summers in a row, between the ages of seven to ten, I was shipped off for several weeks to be, let’s be completely honest here, tortured by a sadist who hated me because I was named after him, very girly when he hated anything feminine, and probably worst of all in his mind, better than him at some areas of “woodcraft” which he held in highest esteem because I spent most of my free time in the woods. There is the distinct possibility he also sexually assaulted me as well, but if so, I totally repressed those memories. I was constantly beaten on by older, larger boys. I was punished for not “fighting fair” by using whatever was at hand to defend myself, I felt my life was in danger the entire time. “Uncle Foster” believed that taking us to the country store to buy the fixing for our next day’s meals taught us to learn how to manage money. I had to walk the three miles each way while the others rode in the truck as part of my punishment….almost every single night. Even when I had a large cut on the bottom of my foot that should have required stitches, but I was denied medical treatment for I literally had to walk six miles round trip in order to be able to eat the next day.

For three weeks a summer for three summers in a row I was tortured almost 24/7. The only relief was when I snuck out in the middle of the night and did incredibly dangerous things like trying to swim to an island 1/2 mile out from the camp and back not really caring if I made it or not. The third summer my little brother was also sent to the camp and told my parents that everything I had told them was true about what was happening to me. I stood up to “Uncle Foster”, told him to his face I would piss on his grave. Family members will not tell me where he is buried knowing, to this day, I’d do it and exactly how satisfying it would be now as a woman.

So, was I socialized as a male? I had a large measure of the relative freedom granted males over females, but little of the other advantages, almost none of the “male bonding” experiences and a large measure of similar self esteem destructive abuse heaped on girls. You tell me.

I explained all this in my own mind as “they somehow could smell the girl on me”.


2 Responses to ““They Could Smell the Girl On Me””

  1. Zoe Brain said

    As girls, we were field anthropologists. People-watching. Looking at the Dominance Games the Boys played.

    We got an “inside view” so to speak. It made a lot more sense later, after I’d read some Konrad Lorenz.

    It all seemed so… puerile. Stereotyped. There was some good in it, the ethos of “never hitting a man when he’s down”. But really it was all about Rams butting heads, Pigeons sorting out a “pecking order”. And if, like me, you just couldn’t be bothered with that silliness, the whole social group turned on you.

    It helped that I was big, thickset, not gracile and slim as I should have been. Had I had the neurology for it, I could have been an “Alpha Male”. Unfortunately, I hadn’t acquired the feminine skills of people-manipulation, diplomacy and tact that would have enabled me to take advantage of the opportunity. No bitch wolf leading this pack, no Akela.

    I settled for being not a “lone wolf”, but a “lone sheepdog”, protecting the little kids from the bullies – and fighting tooth, nail, claw, biting, scratching, none of this ritualised stuff when I was protecting the little ones.

    We were never socialised as boys. Nor as girls either, unless we were lucky, as some were. I had a few stolen moments playing hopscotch with the other girls, feeling “at home”, but in general, we don’t fit. The mind is female, the body precludes normal female socialisation.

    I’m sorry that you went through all that. I’m doubly sorry about “Uncle Foster”. But he’s now got a new career as wormfood – leave it at that. OK, I’d be really, really tempted to go looking through archives of death notices, to find out where he’s buried too. Google may help. But since you have to squat anyway now… why leave the job half-done?

    Hugs, Zoe

  2. […] the two is a cheap rhetorical trick.  In fact, Catkisser wrote about the latter phenomenon in an essay.  And that ugliness is what I think is going on with some of the people in recent comments.  […]

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