Friday, February 26, 2016

For our own good.

She could not say that Mrs Denbigh's conduct was positively wrong - it might even be quite right; but it was inexpressibly repugnant to her to think of her father consulting with a stranger (...) to manage his daughter, so as to obtain the end he wished for; yes, even if that end was for her own good.

We grew up thinking this was normal, accepted and even, desirable. That as a child you should be controlled, managed and moulded. That as a daughter even more so, because it was for our own good.

A dark cloud came over Jemima's face. She did not like this close observation and constant comment upon her manners; and what had Ruth to do with it? 'I am glad you were pleased,' said she, very coldly. Then, after a pause, she added, 'But you have not told me what Mrs Denbigh had to do with my good behaviour.' 

'Did she not speak to you about it?' asked Mrs Bradshaw, looking up. 'No; why should she? She has no right to criticise what I do. She would not be so impertinent,' said Jemima, feeling very uncomfortable and suspicious.

We were told, scolded, beaten into believing that our negative feelings should be hidden, tamped down, swallowed into oblivion. The slurry of gossip disguised as information fed to those in authority over you about who they saw you with (the opposite sex will never just be 'a friend', but this is more believable if they are of a different ethnicity than you), and the passive-aggressive advice given to you to be obedient are meant to be accepted whole.

For our own good.

Quotes are from Elisabeth Gaskell's Ruth.


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