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I have something to say.

11 Feb

I’ve tried to start this post so many times over the past several months, and failed to say what I needed to. Probably because I’m not sure what I need to say, even still. It is long (2000+ words), and quotes other people’s writing extensively. If that’s not your cuppa, I bid thee farewell for this post. [*note – ableist language used as example of mother’s verbal abuse*]

I’ve been raised to believe that I’m the problem in my mother’s and my relationship. That my possessions are the majority of the clutter. That my laundry is the majority of the laundry in the house. That I eat so often, I cause most of the dirty dishes in the house. I’ve never contributed enough to my mother’s household – either in cleaning, or by monetary means. I’m ungrateful and have an entitlement complex. My passive-aggressivity is not a learned behavior, but rather is my fault and I need to fix it or else. I mismanage finances to upset my mother’s financial success, instead of using money in a responsible manner. My depression and social anxiety can be fixed and/or cured by interacting more with my mother. My difficulty functioning in a room with mismatched dresser knobs or sloppy paint jobs are just examples of me being difficult and procrastinating. See also: my phone anxiety. I need to drop everything (including, quite possibly, other people’s needs whose schedules depend on mine) to help my mother do things. I’m a lazy piece of shit and I just need to get over my issues so I can be more useful for her. My religious views need to be put out of sight to avoid offending people.

My mother is emotionally abusive.

It took me until late 2008 to acknowledge anything my mother had done to me as abusive – one series of conversations, over a number of weeks. Until she moved away in June, I remained convinced that only the conversations we had had over the past 6-7 months qualified as abusive.

I didn’t – it didn’t occur to me that I ought to – take into account the years and years of conversation before that, where she insisted that I was useless, worthless, a drain on her resources, stupid, and so forth. I didn’t take into account the control over my actions, the words I used (negativity was not welcome, coming from me), my hairstyle (especially from about 11-16, I was forced to change my hairdo to suit my mother’s requirements), the silence I maintained over my political views, the coercing behaviour which taught me my body was, by default, vile. I didn’t think about the therapy I didn’t want at 13-14 but was taken to anyway; I didn’t think about her insistence I join a religion I had no need for or interest in (and understand this – I did become a member of this religion for 2 years, though I believe this was partially an escape from home life and to allow myself to build a social network on my own terms). I didn’t realize she was just as bad before – I didn’t know I was the one who had changed.

In August 2008, 4 months before the conversations mentioned above, I began reading feminist blogs. Slowly, at first – Shakesville and Shapely Prose, then, as I discovered the concept of RSS feeds, more blogs were added. I started identifying myself on my own terms. I started thinking in words like “autonomy,” “agency,” “auto-identification,” “acceptance.” I realized that I was attracted to more people than labels like “straight” allowed. This…this…revolution (!) was going on in my brain, and my mother was able to destroy more of my identity than she could before, because I was, for once, forming an identity outside the one she set for me.

A 2006 blog post by belledame222 entitled “Objectification, Continued Further” (ableist language at link) I recently read (hat tip to amandaw on Tumblr) put it thusly:

According to [Patricia] Evans [, author of Controlling People], most abuse happens when a person who’s very disconnected is suddenly confronted with the a glimpse of the reality of the other person as a separate individual, as opposed to the “pretend person” the controller has made up inside his/her head (and thus, an extension of him/herself).

By taking myself away from this “pretend person” my mother saw me as, I became vulnerable to her abuse. This is not to say that I am responsible for my mother’s behaviour towards me – absolutely not! – but it does contextualize why I became more aware of the problematic nature of her actions.

So, when people are manipulative around me – not even directed at me, necessarily – but when people use others to get what they want, while I am in the general vicinity, I react badly. I give the manipulator what ou wants, in the (usually vain) hope that this means ou can stop objectifying people and respect them and their identities. I go back to the silencing of my self, to the person who did what she was told so that she could try to get her mother to stop controlling her for long enough to maintain her own identity. For example, I took my antidepressant for six weeks, even though it exacerbated my anxiety attacks, because if I didn’t “just give it a chance to work,” my mother would blame me (more) for my depression.

In a post about abuse in online spaces, amandaw writes:

[I]t’s not just that you have flash-backs to previous events; it’s the way you return to the state of mind you were in during the previous abuse, the way your patterns of thought go back to how they were then, the way you react to things restored to its previous setting. You might find yourself becoming highly self-critical, questioning your own experience of things, doubting your knowledge of yourself and what happened. You might find the same problems with self-loathing come rushing back. You might be wondering whether you really deserve it. You might start to see yourself as a burden again, highly aware of all the ways you drag other people down.

You can’t just ignore it away. You can’t just Think Positive your way out of it. You can’t just tell yourself that all these thoughts are untrue; no matter how well you understand something intellectually, there is something about the human psyche that still follows those same self-destructive emotional patterns when exposed to the same kind of situation that originally set them in place.

The thing about my mother blaming me for having depression – the really big, damaging thing – I believe her. No matter how much science I read, or how often I read the Wikipedia page on the causes of depression, or how often I am told by people I trust that it is not my fault, I believe what she says about me. I believe that I am a worthless piece of shit, because she says I am. I believe that it is my fault I am depressed, because she says it is. I believe I am the source of the relationship problems between my mother and myself. I believe I am horribly overburdening my mother’s finances by asking for money for things like food and medicinal prescriptions, because of the way she behaves when I ask.

And I know – intellectually, on a relatively deep level – how incredibly messed up that shit is, but that doesn’t matter to the way my brain understands things and how my brain has been trained by my abuser to understand things.

Another quote from amandaw, this time from a Tumblr post on “That learned inability to protect oneself

But a person who just keeps extending hirself… over and over… getting hurt over and over, and never acting in self-protection … there is something, someone (maybe multiple someones) who destroyed this person’s boundaries, taught hir that acting in protection of oneself is completely beyond the pale (by punishing the person whenever sie does try to act in self-protection, and then telling sie brought that punishment on hirself by acting in self-protection). Someone did this to hir. And it took work, it took time, to create a situation where the person honestly feels that self-protection is never an option.

I mentioned the control my mother had over my hairstyle earlier in the post. I remember fighting her on this once, when I was 14 or 15. I told her that I wore my hair in the style I chose because otherwise, it looked like crap. I was immediately informed that I was not allowed to use such awful language, and that wearing my hair in that tacky style again would lose me various and sundry privileges.

One other time I recall defending myself. I told her [something she did/said, can’t remember what] made me upset. This infuriated her. I was given a long lecture about how she couldn’t “make me” feel anything – my emotions were not her fault. This conversation never sat right with me, and I can’t recall defending myself ever again, but until now I had difficulty expressing exactly what was wrong with it. Essentially, my mother denied the validity of my emotion and her role in it, forcing me into doubt over whether there really was a problem or if I was “just imagining it” or “looking for things to get upset about.”

Yesterday, I was informed via a third party of my mother’s intent to move me in with her, 1000 miles away, if I don’t “shape up.” The definition of “shape up” is unclear, although it may be that I need, according to my mother, to get on antidepressants again, because the last time wasn’t traumatic enough (I received an e-mail from her which indicated she thinks I’m exaggerating the psychiatrist’s behaviour *sigh*). I need to perform well in school – this will, of course, be easy-peasy once I’m cured of depression by those antidepressants. I need to get a job, to show I’m motivated to achieve (the fact that I had a semi-breakdown last semester because I stretched myself too thin – insignificant). I need to work on her house, doing odd jobs until it is perfect and gets sold. With all my free time. You know, the free time which I need to do schoolwork and unwind. I need to organize my belongings (this one infuriates me (wait, so do the others) because my mother is the one who disorganized them in the first place – she packed my things in boxes with neither my permission nor any care to my organizational system). There may be a few other things entailed in this “shaping up” process, but I don’t know what they are.

All of this, forcing me, based on my financial dependence on her, to take medicine whether I want to or not (for the record, I would like medication for the depression and anxiety attacks, but that isn’t being taken into consideration in this ultimatum), to do exactly what she wants me to do exactly the way she wants me to do it, to do well academically (which, if it were so easy as being told to do it and I magically could handle school again? Well, shit, I’d patent that method.). This is nothing less than paternalism and manipulation. It is unfair, abusive, controlling, and absofuckinglutely infuriating.

A few hours after I found out about this scheme of my mother’s, I read the following on Zero at the Bone, the blog of the most excellent Chally:

You’ve got to ask why your sense of control over what’s what is so important as to invalidate that person’s autonomy. Reassuring yourself that the world is a certain way, that those around you are a certain way: it’s just not worth it where as a consequence someone’s being dissolves under them – where they themselves are dissolved. That’s what’s important here, not your relatively unimportant wish to assert your own worldview.

Trust people to identify their own identities.

These words resonate with me, because my mother’s abuse has caused my “being [to dissolve] under [me].” Because I lose my identity to my mother’s controlling behaviour. Because I am hurt, and I am human, and I don’t want to be silent anymore.

On Anger and Insurance

24 Oct

When I was four months old, I had surgery. The bones in my head had grown together at an alarming rate, and my brain had no room to expand in my skull. If that surgery had not been performed, I’d be dead. If I had no insurance at 4 months old, that surgery would never have been performed. My dad was a teacher at a local university, and my mom was in grad school. There’s no damn way they could have afforded that surgery on their own.

So that’s why my blood boils when I hear about more pre-existing conditions that prevent those who need care from receiving it (I fully endorse amandaw’s post on the cruelty of pre-existing conditions). That’s why my heart breaks every time I realize how very broken the U.S. health care system is. That’s why, every fucking time I hear about some Congress-member stalling the healthcare bill, or rewording it to allow the corrupted system to continue, or not giving a shit that people are dying because of the system they are working to perpetuate, I can barely contain my grief and my rage. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I need to get good and goddamn angry, and direct that anger at people who are in a position to do something.

Quick Hit: FWD/Forward

12 Oct

Apropos of my last post concerning the Feministing debacle, a bunch of awesome feminist writers have teamed up (including friend to Foxtrot Chally *waves*) and started a group blog discussing disablism, accessibility, marginalizing language and lots of other cool goodies.

It looks like a useful resource. It’s new, so reading the extent of the archives is easier than older blogs (in other words, go! Read!).

Why I’m Angry

7 Oct

You may have heard of Feministing’s recent refusal to acknowledge disability as a feminist issue.

You may have heard about the systematic othering of disabled people at Feministing.

You may have heard that Feministing commenters continue to engage in problematic behavior, in spite of being called out on TAB privilege.

You may have heard that Feministing moderators allow (and, by silence, encourage) the marginalization of trans people and denial of trans rights.

You may have heard that Feministing encourages multiple forms of kyriarchy, consistently and without apology.

You may have realized by now that I’m cosigning meloukhia’s letter.

A Letter to BBC Radio News

6 Oct

To Whom It May Concern:

I found the BBC Radio News reporting on Roman Polanski’s arrest rather unsatisfactory. The reporter stated that Polanski was under arrest for “having sex with” a thirteen-year old girl. I find this report inaccurate, as Polanski raped a thirteen-year old girl. Having sex with a person is not the same thing as raping this person, and conflating the two contributes to a misunderstanding of rape and sex. This misunderstanding, in turn, increases the difficulty of convicting rapists, as the seriousness of the crime is undervalued by being understood as consensual sex, rather than the forced crime of rape.

I would appreciate it if, in the future, BBC Radio News would refrain from perpetuating the idea that sex and rape can be used interchangably.

Thank you,

[niemaodpowiedzi’s government name]

I haven’t sent it yet. Anything else I should add?

For more on the concept of “It’s not sex. It’s rape!” see Hoyden About Town.

Quick Hit: Roman Polanski

30 Sep

Agree or disagree: getting a thirteen-year old girl high and violating her multiple times, in spite of her dissent, is the same thing as being arrested for stealing a loaf of bread in 19th century France.

There is a correct answer. You will be judged based on your response. (via Feministe)

Edited because blogger was so angry about the comparison between Polanski and Jean Valjean she forgot to include the hyperlink to said comparison.

Humorless Feminist at the Movies

30 Sep

From the director of Something’s Gotta Give, the 1998 Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap, Father of the Bride I, II and the atrocious Mel Gibson film What Women Want, comes a new romantic comedy starring one of my favorite actors, Meryl Streep. Streep stars opposite Alec Baldwin (the ex-husband) and Steve Martin (random architect – the trailer indicates we don’t need to care about this loser character – he’s just there as a plot device, showing how sad and lonely Meryl Streep’s character is without a man), both of whose characters are vying for the affections of Jane, Streep’s character.

Here’s a link to the trailer for It’s Complicated, which I can’t embed. That’s okay, I’ll just discuss the parts I find relevant.

“Jo, you are so lucky Jerry is dead. You don’t have to bump into him!” – Jane

So, there’s no such thing as a congenial breakup. Either you’re sickeningly in love (as Jane is shown falling for Jake, Baldwin’s character in the trailer), or you can’t stand the sight of each other (the initial reaction Jane shows to Jake). This polarity is totally realistic, and I have no qualms whatsoever endorsing this dualistic point of view. None. Got it? </sarcasm>

And now, a scene with the architect, Adam:

“One tiny note: no ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ things.” – Jane

“And you don’t think in the future, you might want a ‘His?'” – Adam

“Oh my god, now we’re talking code about my life!” – Jane

Great stuff, folks. I mean, without this dialogue, how else would we know how empty Jane’s life is without a…a…man? Remember this now, readers with girly-parts (hoo-has and other accessories, or whatever): your lives don’t amount to a hill of beans in this fucking world if there isn’t a man in your life, using your spare sink and the second towel-rack.

*cut to Jane and Adam laughing, Jake staring in window stalker-like and mock-laughing with them*

Stalking is not sexy. It’s not funny or hot, and it doesn’t lead to perfect romance stories. It’s fucking creepy, and glorifying it in a romantic comedy screws up social notions about acceptable behavior even more. Stalking is an unacceptable behavior, that makes the culture in which we live even more viable for abusers and rapists (as if they need help), and playing it up for teh LOLs is repre-fucking-hensible. Well, now that I’ve got that off my chest, shall we continue unloading the bullshit from this trailer?

“OMG, I thought he’d never leave.” Jake, to Jane, about Adam

Alec Baldwin just used the Internet colloquialism “OMG” like a real word. I’m going to go cry now. (Okay, so that’s not a real objection. I’m just feeling ranty.)

“I’ve never really known how to live without you.” Jake, to Jane.

Warning! Warning! Unhealthy relationship patterns at twelve o’clock! Mayday!

But seriously though, that level of dependency is not something that should happen in healthy romantic relationships. It shows a lack of maturity and self-sufficiency that is highly dangerous to both parties, and reflects the character of Jane as a mother-figure to Jake, rather than a romantic figure. And considering that he’s pursuing her as a romantic figure, the mother-child dynamic that Jake’s neediness brings into the relationship is pretty squicky.

“I’m having an affair…with…a married man.” Jane, to female friends

“You’re not saying?!” Female friend

“Yes, I am!” Jane

*exhuberant, elated screaming from group of friends*

“Turns out, I’m a bit of a slut!” Jane

This part of the trailer leaves a bad taste in my mouth (not to imply that the rest of the trailer doesn’t). Having sex makes you dirty? I do wish someone had told me, because I’ve been having pretty regular sex lately and I’m sure I’m just covered in the sex-filth now. *goes, scours skin* Okay, I’m back. Don’t know if I got it all off me, but that’s the best I can do for now. Anyway, having sex with a married man (Jake left her for the cliched younger woman) is slutty. Because “stealing a man” from someone else is super-evil. It’s, like, being Yoko Ono evil (so evil, you work for peace. Muahaha, my evil plan that we all stop killing each other is succeeding!). Because he was hers first. A person is not fucking property. You shouldn’t own them, sell them, manipulate them like puppets. If a person wants to have sex, it’s not fucking deviant! Sex is not deviant, and placing it as deviant turns sex and romance and all that shit into a fucking game, turns love into a catfight (see also Melissa McEwan). Which is bullshit. The biggest problem I have with the scenario of Jane having sex with Jake is that Jake’s wife probably doesn’t know and could get hurt (but the audience isn’t supposed to care about her, because Jake’s wife is flatter than Adam (Steve Martin’s character, since I haven’t mentioned him in half a post)). So, yeah. Jane is such a slut. For being female. And daring to have sex.

“What about the fact that I’m now the other woman? I’m the one we hate!” – Jane

“He was yours first.” – Jane’s female friend, consolingly

Same shit as above, different candy coating.

Ugh. If I watch this trailer any more, my head might explode, so I’ll wrap up here. Women who have sex are slutty, men who stalk are hawt, architects are nerdy losers, men are the most important things (there’s that word again) in a woman’s girl’s life, and if you don’t buy a ticket to this movie you’re going to die alone with a nonillion cats. And they lived happily ever after! *swoon*

On Living In Polite Society

17 Sep

As you see a grown-ass woman traversing your college campus/rapidly walking somewhere/ignoring your existence, do not call her “sweetie.” Especially don’t repeat it over and over until she is forced to stop in her tracks and give you death glares. And then don’t tell her, “Never mind, thought you were a teacher.” Especially if you don’t know this woman person. For all you know, she might be in a bad mood because she had an in-class essay test that morning, had trouble finding a parking spot (even though this hypothetical person arrived half an hour early to study for this hypothetical exam), couldn’t get coffee because the lines would have made her late to class (again, half an hour before classes started), and whose hand may have been cramping from said in-class essay, due to the speed it would be necessary to write such an essay and sufficiently address the topic.

That is all. *sips coffee*

P.S. Do not call a fucking teacher “sweetie” either.

Quick Hit: Bastille Day

14 Jul

In honor of Bastille Day, C. L. Minou has a  fantastic post up drawing parallels between French history, kyriarchy, tesseracts and revolution of various sorts. The post is a delight to read – she quotes/references people as diverse as Gerard Manley Hopkins (one of my favorite poems of his, no less(yes, atheists can like religious poems)), Madeleine L’Engle and bell hooks (whose Feminist Theory I am currently reading) to make her point.

Prop 8 Upheld

26 May

By now, you’ve probably heard that CA’s Proposition 8 is being upheld.

This is incredibly disappointing, not least because of this:

Shaker Faith comments: [Because of this decision,] 51% of Californians could change the constitution in any way at all.

Can I have a collective “AARRRGH!” now? How in the fuck is this a responsible method of governance?

Let’s have some music.

I mean that last video with all my bisexual heart. And I don’t even like marriage.