When I was very young I occasionally wished I had a brother or a sister to share the burden of a stressful home situation, but it was only a passing thought: in my experience, other children were clumsy and destroyed things, and, since I was always tidy and cared a lot about my books, toys, etc., I wasn’t that keen to share with another child. The only other time I thought it might have been nice to have a sibling was when my father died and I could foresee having to make difficult decisions on my own about my mother, should she become ill or incapacitated in the future. Apart from that, I never gave it a thought.
I certainly never missed having a bossy older brother, for instance. We have all read about younger sisters being bullied by their brothers and in certain circumstances beaten up or even killed – so-called honour killings in patriarchal societies. But fraternal abuse can take another, less drastic and obvious, form.
I know of at least two women who, after their mothers’ death, were forced by their older brothers to sell the family home. Neither of them had enough money to buy their brother’s share of the property and they ended up heartbroken (one of them became very ill soon after and never really recovered). In both cases the brothers behaved with a total lack of empathy, with a ruthlessness that surprised and dismayed the women. They refused to negotiate or compromise: those houses, which the women had invested a lot in, emotionally, meant nothing to them – they were just a source of money. I was spared that kind of aggro: I inherited and subsequently sold my parents’ flat; I did it in my own time; I jumped; I wasn’t pushed. No one likes to be pushed.
I had enough problems with controlling parents; I don’t know what I would have done if a brother of mine had tried to assert his authority over me as well.
Slapping all bullying male siblings!
Update (11.06.07): A Kurdish father was found guilty at the Old Bailey today of killing his daughter because she’d fallen in love with a young Iranian man. Helped by his brother, he strangled her with a shoelace, then dumped her body in a suitcase. They had made attempts on her life before and she had been in touch four times with the police. A policewoman whom the girl had told of her fears wrote in her report that she was being ‘melodramatic’. Is there any hope of the British authorities ever being aware of how other communities live and behave?