It feels cliche, being a sex blogger who doesn't have a good relationship with her father. A part of me thinks it's petty to wait for Father's Day to unpack a lot of the frustration I have in my relationship with my dad, but today's the only day I really give significant thought to my relationship with him so here we are.
We've all heard that age old wisdom, that women who sleep around, hop from relationship to relationship, dress in revealing ways, or do other things that are regarded as seeking validation from men do so because they didn't have a father or other strong male figure around when they were growing up to show them how they should be treated as women. And that because they didn't have this male influence, they'll chase it for the rest of their lives, rendering them unstable partners. There is so much patriarchal bullshit wrapped up in this assumption.
The fundamental flaw in this logic is that the way for women to be treated well in our society heavily relies on gender roles and expectations. Women are supposed to be homemakers and raise kids while men should work to provide financial stability. "Wifely" women are expected to be docile, quiet, and willing to act at the beck and call of her husband without guaranteed reciprocity. These arrangements leave women and children vulnerable to abuse if they don't have the means to support themselves without their husbands.
Women who buck these expectations by being open about their sexuality or not aspiring to marriage present a problem. Free women threaten the status quo because they desire lives outside of patriarchal expectations. If they can forge their own path in life without a man's help, then what is left for these men? Relationships today require men bringing something to the table more than...just being a man, and that scares men who were raised to believe that they are automatically owed dominion over women.
In today's world, shame is the only real tactic scared men have left to preserve what they think they're owed. The rationale always returns to "you didn't have a father growing up", because the thinking is that these kinds of women weren't treated right by men as children, so they don't know what men are supposed to do for them as adults and it will just take the right man to show them the error of their ways so they'll settle down and be a good woman. Except more and more women aren't interested in adhering to those expectations, fatherless or not. For me, the key lies more in understanding what it's to grow up with exclusively female influence instead of a lack of a male one.
I guess I fit the stereotype. I was raised by a single mom, I don't have a close relationship with my father to this day, and I like sex. A lot. I'm also in a very stable, loving relationship with someone who loves me unconditionally and has never tried to make me fit some mold of proper womanhood. Every woman on my mom's side married an ain't shit man. EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. Sometimes more than once. Abusers, cheaters, liars, you name it, he was probably related to me by marriage at some point. By the time I was born, my grandmother, her sisters, and my mom were all single, by divorce or death. They did the heavy lifting when it came to my upbringing, because my dad was sent to prison when I was 5. He's still there now, and will probably be there for the rest of his life.
Watching the women around me handle their lives without the help of men taught me so much about gender roles and why they're trash. Growing up with women who modeled the beauty (and pain) in getting shit done ingrained in me a mindset of never settling for less. It was not easy for any of the women around me, my mom included, and I saw them struggle, endure heartbreak, but ultimately press on in hopes of a better life for their children and future descendants.
I can't imagine growing up watching these women bust their asses to do right by their families and accept mediocrity from a partner. I've always been able to make things happen for myself, and resolved when I was very young that it would take a special person to walk next to me, because the life I want for myself is not predicated on being a wife and mother and I'd rather be alone forever than compromise my freedom for love. Any person who wants a relationship with me and expects me to come to desire that life should keep moving because I'm not the one. Maybe that makes me an angry man-hating feminist. So be it.
As Black women, there was never a choice for us to live life as a "proper" woman because true womanhood has only been assigned to white women. In a way, our very existence subverts these patriarchal norms and eschews the roles we're supposed to aspire to. The women who raised me still desired this life, but couldn't achieve it for one reason or another. I was raised to see that those aspirations were flawed in the first place. I was destined to bridge this gap, to fully step into the liberated existence that the women before me couldn't. And it's because my dad wasn't there to teach me otherwise.
Without trying to, the women around me raised me to understand that I can truly count on only myself in this world. Aspiring to a proper life as a wife and mother does not necessarily mean that I will achieve it, so what's the point of trying to fit into a mold I've seen end terribly for people around me? Living a live free of the expectations that have bound women for centuries has worked out pretty well for me so far. I don't think I'd see the world this way had my dad stuck around, so his absence is a positive for me in this way.
Growing up with the women around me as feminist role-models set my life in motion in such a way for me to be able to get in touch with all facets of myself. Living a life free of these expectations is challenging at times, and feeling shamed for some of my decisions (like this blog) is something I have to work through every single day. I wish I had a better relationship with my dad, if only because I think children should have good relationships with their parents wherever possible.
I missed out on my relationship with my dad, and getting to know him as a whole person and not the man I've had to come to learn about from stories, monitored visits, and letters. That hurts, and that loss will never be fully healed in my heart. But that being said, I don't think I've suffered in my development as a woman because of his absence. There are those who think my willingness to be open about my sexuality is an indication that I have suffered, but what do they know? They just spend their days insulting strangers on the internet.