Ghosts of My Family’s Past: Rage, Endurance and the Fruits of Toxic Masculinity

I was always told that my identity is purely based on where I belong and who I belong to.

A man, my father – whose name I share and whose name follows me everywhere on official documents. The name I was given, the place I was born, my family name, the places and names of my ancestors – constitutes my identity; one that was granted to me.

I can change my body, face, language, everything – but not my history, my roots.

But what if I feel like I don’t want to belong to these people? What do I do with my history and my roots if they are soiled? What do I do if my family’s past is not something I’d like to be a part of? When I see my grandfather raising his hand on his wife, or her simply whimpering, I know one thing in my heart heart – the women in my family aid in making a space for male aggression and superiority to thrive.

But I don’t want to be associated with the men who are violent or women who think endurance is essential to ‘womanhood’.

The women in my family have taught me to silently suffer violence.

When I am angry, I feel the same rage burning inside me as my brother. After all, we come from the same roots. When I am hurt, I imagine skinning the person alive and thus endure the blows.

This is what I have in common with my ancestors – this bestial thirst for blood.

My brother bursts out and hurts others.

Also read: Childhood Scars Aren’t Quite Like Heartbreaks – They Never Heal Completely

While I learnt ‘endurance’ from my mother, he learnt toxic masculinity from my father. We are different only because we have conditioned ourselves to whatever we have learnt and whatever liberty our genders have granted us.

What do I say or do when my father hits my mother? What do I do when all my life I’ve been taught to make space for my father’s rage, to not anger him but to let him vent?

Dear mother, I have the same seed inside me, I have the same rage. I can defend myself but why am I not allowed? Why is my gender not allowed to defend itself? How does it make me a disrespectful wench for calling out a bad person?

Alas, we have been doing this for ages. We have been labelling rebellious women as witches and wenches while idealising a weaker version of women. I say weaker because I don’t see the word ‘feminine’ being attached to any stronger trait anytime sooner. Arguably, words like ‘feminine’ or ‘mother’ directly reflect qualities such as unconditional love, patience, and forgiveness.

Aren’t we telling women to be forgiving and kind only to confine them to the ideal ‘feminine’ box? Aren’t we doing so to simply enslave them to the ‘masculine’ forces? Why are we, women, so hell-bent on destroying ourselves for men only to call ourselves ‘patient’, ‘kind’ or ‘forgiving’ ?

It is interesting how men start calling us ‘clingy’, ‘hysterical’ and even ‘psychotic’ when they get tired of the above adjectives.

Regardless, we endure – why?

One day, I was angry at my mother and I could feel the rage inside me. This was not my rage, this was my father’s rage, laced with authority over his wife. My rage too, was, authoritative – as if I had a physical right over my mother.

I wonder where does this authoritative power comes from? From seeing how my mother lets my father treat her or from the internalised belief that I am superior just because I am physically stronger? Or maybe because I know she doesn’t fight back but endures? Who knows.

But, if I stop associating myself to my family’s past, I will have nowhere to turn and say: “here is my history”. At the same time, I can’t deny that my history is marked with brutal violence and cruelty against women. I have always hated my history, my ancestors, and everyone who have been a part of this violent legacy.

I have tried my best to detach myself from these roots. But I was always told that escaping won’t fix anything.

I can not really run from my past but I can definitely salvage whatever worth saving is left within me.

I also believe that a bad seed does not guarantee a bad plant. A bad seed does not mean it is incapable of growth.

A seed requires nutrition, sunlight, and water to grow. Maybe I can grow with some sunlight and by watering my own soil with positivity and strength.

Just because you come from a fractured past doesn’t mean you always have to cling to it.

As the author J.K. Rowling once famously said: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

So I urge you all to choose better.

To choose to water the seed, douse it in sunlight, replenish the soil, and watch it grow into a beautiful plant.

Devika Mann is a literature major who is also a self proclaimed aesthetician and is absolutely in love with poetry, tea and windows. Send her a poem on her tumblr account .

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty