This was originally posted on January 14, 2019
Warning: this blog discusses spanking and bodily violence
“No Whips, No Punishments, No Threats: Women’s Control of Social Life” is the title of one of the chapters in Iroquoian Women, Barbara Alice Mann’s stunning reconstruction of female power in a matrilineal society. According to Mann, the European settlers were “unsettled” by the lack of strict punishment systems for children in Indian societies. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the backbone of European child-rearing practices. The settlers viewed Indian children as naughty, disobedient, disrespectful, and horror of horrors: self-possessed.
It is perhaps no coincidence that after reading this chapter, bodily memories of violence inflicted on me as a child began to resurface. My strongest bodily memory is of being hit repeatedly on my left upper arm by my younger brother’s fist. It is as if my arm is still stinging in that particular place. My mother wanted us to play together, but when we did, we usually ended up fighting. My brother, who was two and a half years younger, was later diagnosed with dyslexia and given “little red pills” to help him control his temper. I was a quiet child (there must have been reasons for that too), and though I soon realized that if I hit back I would only be hurt more, I learned to use my tongue against my brother. This too was a form of violence and my brother remembers my cruelty to this day. Once when I asked my mother what she wanted for her birthday, she responded, “Two children who do not fight.” I didn’t even try to give her that because I didn’t know another way.Continue reading “Legacy of Carol P. Christ: When Violence is Normal and Normalized”