Generations and Genderfication of Manipulation and Martyrdom

It’s a big title for nothing but a comment about a comment. I wrote this as a response to a question asked in a college class. The subject was mythology and I had made a comment (I am a very “participatory” student) about how women today can be as manipulative as the women in Norse mythology. This interested the professor and he asked for clarification of my statement. I declined because I would be talking about matriarchs in my family and that seemed unfair. Of course, blogging about them is unfair, too, but that only has the potential of an additional three (tops!) people seeing this comment. I turned in this comment along with my Beowolf assignment.

         Being over 40, I know a bit about female oppression and empowerment. I know more about oppression than my daughters and more about freedom than my grandmothers. Because I’ve only been sprinkled with both, not bathed in either, I seem to know more about oppression than my grandmothers who don’t know anything else and I appreciate empowerment more than my daughters. Both my grandmothers were very manipulative because they had no other way to get what they wanted. 

         My paternal grandmother was passive-aggressive. She died on mother’s day and I wondered if that was a final act of guilt evocation. She complained often that no one visited her but her sign out book was filled over ten times faster than anyone else in the home. She always got what she wanted but refused to say “I want ______.” I once spent 45” trying to get her to say what restaurant she wanted to go to. “Memaw, just say ‘I want…” I coached. She’d reply “Darion, really likes _______.” I knew that meant she wanted that place and was using her love for great-grandson as a ticket there. 

         Over a decade ago I read a book, Paradox of Life. Most of it was outdated and impertinent but one thing rang true to me. Women use illness to get attention. My Memaw, when confronted by her dying daughter, was wounded and defensive. She whined to me, “I can’t believe she is saying these things. She knows I have a weak heart.” I asked my aunt about that because Memaw always claimed to be the picture of health. My aunt said when they were little, Memaw would occasionally take to her bed and the doctor said this was because Memaw had “a weak heart”; but for decades no one had said that her heart was weak. I also remember women regularly having break-downs because there was no other way for the nurturer to demand nurturing.

         My maternal grandmother was aggressive-passive. She would tell one of her eight children one thing and another something else just to watch the fireworks. Instead of mourning quietly when her husband died, she decided that she’d enjoy having her kids battle the will while she could still watch the strife. And boy, did they deliver the drama. 

         But my mom is not very good at manipulating–atleast not at manipulating me. She was too busy being manipulated by her mom. As a teen getting ready for school one day, I dressed sloppily because I’d be taking a photo for “best dressed senior.” Mom asked, “What will Nanny think?” She let me skip school so she could take me shopping for a suitable outfit. She was being worked from both generational sides.

         My son once tried to use guilt to manipulate me. I looked at him and asked what he was doing.  He explained was trying to guilt me and I just laughed, “That’s so cute.” I learned early how easy it was to work my mom and had been perfecting it decades before that boy entered the planet.

         I think my mom could’ve been better if she needed to be but my Memaw had trained my dad to anticipate and fulfill needs. Just as nurturers were not allowed nurturing, providers are not allowed provision. And there isn’t much difference between providing and nurturing. Dichotomy with no dots is unhealthy and dishonest. Anytime people are not allowed freedom to be, act and have needs fulfilled–there will be manipulation and martyrdom.  


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