As a self-identified black feminist, I am always looking for an opportunity to engage in conversations about race and gender politics. So on Thursday night I attended a panel at Syracuse University on engaging men in violence prevention work. I was both intrigued and excited to hear how it was that each of these men got involved in anti-violence work and what were the particular trajectories that had lead them there. Since the panel was multi-generational as well as multi-racial I expected a range of perspectives would emerge. What I didn’t anticipate was the intensity of my personal reaction to the stories and things that were shared. Because we as women of color have endured sexual and domestic violence throughout our history, I would never dare call myself a surivor. To do so seems disingenious. But as I listened to one of the panelists recount his experience growing up in a home where his father perpetrated emotional abuse aganist his mother I felt pierced. I hadn’t realized until that moment that being my father’s daughter has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. For almost 15 years of my life he waged war aganist my mother and my siblings and I with his words. And every day my self-worth was diminshed a little more each day. Even more damaging is that he broke my trust in men. To this day my greatest fear is marrying a man that’s like my father. In many ways my relationship with father remains conflicted and unresolved but as I move forward I am humbled and moved by the work that men such as Don McPherson, Joe Samlin, Sacchi Patel, and Marc Peters are doing to end gender violence and reconceptualize masculinity. If as Raheem Mack said violence is in our homes then to all the fathers and men be careful, your daughters are watching you.
Reflections on Being My Father’s Daughter