By an anonymous author.

On Wednesday my father told me
about the sexist jokes he makes at work
They go down a treat
He said
Especially with the younger employees
Those post-pubescent boys
who are re-learning the habits
of the 19th century
in the testosterone-fuelled office
where the windows are always closed
and the doors welded-shut

I know the ones
I said
I know the women you joke about
because I learnt about their ancestors
who used their bodies to fight
when they didn’t have a voice
and the women you joke about
are the ones that you teach your boys to mock and abuse
continuing this struggle
because of men like you,
boys like them,
role models

on Thursday I look in my mother’s dresser
a nail-file
is what I want
but a pack of condoms
is what I find
I see her
I see my mother
lying there
Not tonight
she says
I’m tired
I’ll only be 5 minutes
come on
he says
She sighs
he’s already inside of her
so she watches the moon and falls asleep

On Friday I told her Trump’s opinion on marital rape
I pretended to have just scrolled past it on the news
When I sipped my tea
I pretended to not address it to her
But I did
And she didn’t know what it was
When I explained to her that rape can happen in marriage
she couldn’t meet my eyes
if you’re married you’ve already consented
she said.

He came back from work that night
and he saw her over the stove but pretended not to
He walked upstairs
And ignored the sweat from her forehead
And the strain he has caused her
Over the years
He pretended he did not know what was going on
Because he liked it
He did not want to let it go

On Saturday
My Father took me to a dormant ancestral home
From the early 19th century
And I began to see him as a stand- alone
As a man
And not my Father
And for the first time I realised that he was a misogynist

I can’t imagine the women sitting in these rooms
I said
As I looked up at the portrait of the woman of the house
Days on end
nothing to do
the angel of the house
I said
With bars on the window
And chains on their feet
If only I could tell them what life is like now
If only I could tell them that their pain was worth something
But no
He disagreed
He said
These women weren’t repressed
It was the poor people who were repressed
The ones down there
In the straw houses
Who had to walk for miles for a pale of water
he knew how far from the truth he was
I could see it in his eyes
But his refusal to accept it
Was transparent

I wanted to open a window
To let the women out
I felt their claustrophobia
I wanted to promise them that times have changed
But in that moment
I wasn’t sure that they had

On the way back
I revisit the sexist jokes
he told me about on Wednesday
I give him the chance to be my Father again
The man who walked me into the sea for the first time
And picked me up when I cried
The man who encouraged me to pursue my education
As a woman
And always believed in everything I did
I wanted him to still be there
Underneath it all
To see him again
In this light
But I knew it was impossible

I would like to hope
I said
with two successful daughters and an intelligent wife
That you wouldn’t find it entertaining to make jokes like that
But he didn’t reply to me
He kept his eyes on the road
And I knew
In that moment
That I had lost him
Or the image of him
That I thought was him
And I saw him shrink
And I realised that he had known all along
that women
are far more powerful
than he could ever be
but to admit that
meant to risk losing it all
and he didn’t want to

I saw
In his eyes
The acknowledgement
That his power
was fading
And that he knew
He had lost me
To the truths of the world
That he had tried to keep from me from for so long

So we keep on driving
And I make a promise
To myself
And to my Mother
And to the ghosts of the women
In the rooms of the house
I never intend to give this power back

Photo courtesy of Dakota Corbin

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