Educated - Difficult, Painful, Validating & Inspiring

Sep 30, 2019

Domestic violence can be more than a battering event. Survivors' lives are shaped forever both negatively and inspirationally.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

This is Nicole English coming to you from Fort Hays State University for HPPR's BookBytes. This is a discussion of the book, Educated: A Memoir.

Tara Westover was raised in a very conservative, survivalist family in rural Idaho.  Her memoir is an inspiring story of her rather heroic journey from a backwoods life to her attaining her PhD and studying at Oxford. 

For this segment, I would like to focus on the issues of gender.

As compelling as the memoir is to read, it was often very difficult for me to endure, because the issues and incidents Westover describes brought back memories of my own troubled childhood, and likely would for anyone with similar experiences. 

On the upside, it was very validating to read the similar struggles that Westover had in coming to terms with her past. 

The gender issues and gender inequalities appear and reappear constantly in the memoir, shaping the female lives in Westover's family, and the choices she is able to make with her life. 

These gender issues were ones that resonated with my own experiences with rural family relations, including the belittling and sexualization of females, and of domestic violence.  As with Westover's mother, my mother was undermined and discouraged from pursuits, or work, that took her outside of the home, or activities that might stretch beyond her "perceived" role as a female. 

In Westover's case, her manner of dress was under constant scrutiny, lest she unleash the powers of lust in men...  even as a child, simply because she was female.  Even just rolling up the sleeves of her shirt, while working on a hot day, was considered to be "unseemly" and provocative. 

In this way, females were "sexualized", even as children, requiring vigilance and control by the male patriarchy.  Young boys, however, were not under such scrutiny. 

This scrutiny did not protect young women from being bullied or brutalized by male friends or family members.  Domestic abuse and violence were seen as appropriate means for controlling female behavior....  and justified by labeling female behavior as being inappropriate. 

Westover realistically describes the effects of PTSD due to domestic violence, and the chaotic lurching from crisis to crisis, which damages objective, logical thinking and distorts memory and perception, resulting in a damaged self-esteem and lack of confidence. 

Westover's story will sound very familiar to anyone who has had experience with domestic abuse or violence in the family.  And if so, reading this book will be very validating and inspiring. 

Enjoy reading!  Again, this is Nicole English from Fort Hays State University 

wishing you happy BookBytes!