Could Feminism Erase Abuse Toward Women?

Truth: Things like belief in rigid gender roles and negative views toward women can be precursors to and are warning signs of domestic abuse. Until there is a wider understanding that women are just as competent, just as valuable, the abuse cycles and disturbing statistics of our society (of our world!) will continue.

This doesn’t mean one has to embrace the title “feminist,” nor that there has to be some broad-sweeping movement in the name of feminism. But it does mean we need to leave our preconceived notions and long-held thoughts (even the subconscious ones) at the door, take a deeper look, and make sure we ourselves, no matter our gender, are not passively supporting the behaviors and belief systems that pigeonhole women into submissive and deferential roles, as “less than” in any way.

We have opinions, we have feelings, we are strong, we are decision-makers, we are world-changers — and the second room is created for any of that to be dismissed, we lose ground and toe the line of mistreatment toward women, whether in the home, in the workplace, in the church, etc., etc. Mistreatment doesn’t always equate what we think of as abuse, but the line blurs so easily, and it takes only a moment.

So, daring statement in conclusion here: Widespread feminism (as defined by Mayim below — and with the warning signs I listed above kept in mind) could make a blazing difference in how women are treated and, absolutely, bring an end to cycles of abuse.

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As posted by Bialik on Facebook, 4/9/17. /screenshot

 

Just Say No to ’50 Shades’

Mayim Bialik — yep, of both Blossom and The Big Bang Theory fame — shares a powerful point in an essay, linked below, and that point is why I won’t read or watch the 50 Shades franchise.

To echo one of her sentiments, it’s not my place to judge a consensual relationship that might include some extreme behaviors — if they’re mutual and respectful to those involved — but what’s been pretty clear from the get-go is that what we have here isn’t a fantasy based on adult bedroom behavior, it’s a fictional world built to include psychological abuse (manifested in numerous ways) and sexual coercion.

IMAGINE A PROMOTIONAL MOVIE PHOTO HERE.

BECAUSE I COULDN’T FIND ONE TO SHARE THAT DIDN’T TURN MY STOMACH.

Is fear romantic? How about manipulation and mind games, do those make you swoon? When was the last time you thanked someone for forcing upon you something for which you didn’t give consent?

As one with a history of abuse and a present passion for advocacy, I ask you to think about what message you’re accepting and supporting when you buy the books or sit in a theater, expecting entertainment. #education #advocacy #abuseisabuse #justsaynoto50Shades

Ms. Bialik’s commendable essay can be found on her website GROKNATION.COM.

HERE’S A DIRECT LINK.

You’re welcome.

Changed: Reminder Around My Neck

I have a fair assortment of necklaces, most special for some reason or another, but I always seem to favor this one. Wear it nearly every day. There’s an Origami Owl locket, gifted by a dear friend and holding significant baubles, a vintage typewriter J key (because duh), plus this charm which says “changed.”

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Bought that soon after my divorce—so hard to believe that all started right at six years ago—because I knew then that I should recognize the change in ME which caused my waking up and leaving. Fast forward the way time does…

Now the charm usually hangs around my neck with no thought from me, but occasionally — like this morning — I catch sight of it and remember I still celebrate my change, and can’t forget how thankful I am for it.

TV Off, Creativity On: A Change in MO

I used to watch a lot of TV.

No shame. It’s not that I was lazy, a couch-ridden slug. I’m the kind to bounce up at every commercial break, and sometimes in between, to accomplish whatever task or another. The older I get, the more my attention wanders and misroutes and redirects, so I wasn’t glued to the tube.

But it’s how I would spend my downtime. That’s how I decompressed after a taxing work day, with the stresses of life. Or how I found me again, connecting with Just Janna, whenever Mom Janna was off the hook. I think, too, it’s how my subconcious did what it needed to do. (See my recent post which relates, called Composting All This Time.)

It takes stillness to face your truths, and reconcile your past, and claim your future. It takes stillness to think. That, for me, happened with and around repeated reruns of cop dramas. (Oh, yeah. The good stuff, like Criminal Minds or Law & Order: SVU.)

But it’s changed.

Except for maybe an hour of the Grammy Awards, and a movie or two with my kids, I haven’t had the TV powered on in at least a month. Maybe even six weeks. Why? I’m not entirely sure, just that something shifted in me.

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Okay, wait. Back up.

If I’m transparent, I have an idea about a partial prompt for the shift. Perhaps the inciting incident. See, I’d been dating a great guy, and then all of a sudden I wasn’t. (He was still great, I just wasn’t dating him anymore.) And I knew me. I knew I’d sit on the couch and mope about the break up, start to focus on all the things that aren’t right or are difficult in life, and over-analyze what’s beyond my control — that’s a thing about me, too, I over-analyze everything, and it’s rarely helpful — like with all my other break ups or dating disappointments, or like when my anxiety gets to be too much, or when I don’t have an answer for myself and so desperately need one. That’s how I’ve dealt with all the life I’ve been handed the last five or six years. I turn inward and I contemplate, which freezes me. It’s a fault.

I knew I needed to get past this way of processing my existence and its details — which, I’ll admit, despite all its trouble offers a lot of internal growth — and put my energies toward something more productive, something tangible. I needed to keep myself busy so as not to dwell and feel too much and dwell over feeling too much.

I needed to write again. Because come on, Janna. It’s time.

That meant watching TV was wasting precious focus. I was, maybe, indulging in too much downtime.

And I was right. It’s amazing how much more creative stuff there is, how much more output, when you put your energies into doing instead of thinking. Oh, I still think. I’ll never not be a thinker. And thinking is exactly what I should have done in these recent years, no regret. But I’m less idle now, finally. I’m writing, as evidenced by the number of blog posts that are building again, and by the word count which grows on my newest novel. (Number 4? 5? I don’t suppose it matters.) I’m cultivating my online presence and platform. And I’m reading again, voraciously. Not sure there’s a writer person who hasn’t yet seen reference to Stephen King’s admonition, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” [On Writing.]

We’ve got to read. We’ve got to write. We’ve got to chase our creative pursuits, otherwise, how else will our dreams ever come true?

Don’t get me wrong. Downtime is super-important. We all require it. We should each carve some out for ourselves on a regular basis, for personal balance and mental health.

I still have my downtime. My need for it didn’t disappear. I just forced a shift in what it looks like for me.

It looks like less TV, as a matter of fact.

Plus, I think I’ve seen all the reruns more than once anyway, so it all works out.

Dear Church: It’s Time to Stop Enabling Abusive Men

Late last night, the link to an important, powerful article came through my feed on Facebook. The title (used here as my post title, as well) was enough to hook my interest. I’d never consciously thought such a specific thing, but before I even clicked through I knew the author, Gary Thomas, was absolutely right.

I’ve seen it — that enabling — with my own eyes, in my own situation, at my own (former) church. And plenty elsewhere, too.

To read the article in full, click HERE.

But whether or not you feel driven to take in the whole essay, which is approached from a Christian perspective, there are several noteworthy passages that I can’t leave unshared.

“If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

“This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.”

“When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.”

“I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his first wife left him.”

Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused and never treated as playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.”

This article only scratches a surface. Mr. Thomas approaches the topic as if the men in question might acknowledge their wrongdoing and be honest about circumstances and their behavior. This typically isn’t going to happen with an abuser—especially if the ball is passively left in their court—as there are powerful disorders and distortions at work. He will ignore and hide the truths, even lie about them to avoid any accountability, also paving the way for his continued misbehavior.

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photo borrowed from the original article on ForEveryMom.com

But this writer is absolutely right to call out the church and its leaders, for not confronting their men and for not demanding humility and guiding change, real change. It’s right for this writer to call out the church’s followers, too, who are often too quick to turn a blind eye and make uninformed assumptions, as well as harsh, mislaid judgments toward the women/victims.

Why aren’t we protecting the women, instead siding with the men? Why do we so easily offer blind acceptance when swift consequence is warranted? Why don’t we loudly demand that men own up to their behavior or else?

Awareness and advocacy and education can be so powerful, and those efforts must be present in church homes as much as anywhere else.

I’ve done a lot of research, and therapeutic efforts (we’re talking intense, long-term therapy) for rehabilitation are only successful a scant 10% of the time—and that’s for the few who actually recognize a problem with need for change and put forth authentic effort to begin with. First must come an internal awareness, and those who perpetuate the abuse inherently fight that awareness, day-in and day-out. There is usually no hope, and this is heartbreaking.

These norms and staggering statistics won’t begin to shift until or unless others — whether someone in a position of authority, like clergy or law enforcement, or everyday folk like you and me — begin to call out and hold abusers accountable for their incredible wrongdoing.

Until abusers are told (and told and told and shown) that we aren’t going to allow it anymore, nothing is going to change.

Hitting the Path

When you’re a writer, there are ideas and there’s inspiration, which might not pan out, or can remain a bit aimless. And then there’s finding your platform with sudden, clear epiphany and finally understanding the story you must write. Plots and premises fall in line. Character development takes form. Research becomes fun and satisfying. And the work happens, because you both want and need it to.

The road ahead of me with my novel-in-progress is long, but for the first time in years I have direction. And, possibly, for the first time ever, a story which suits and fits me (and my writing) perfectly.

I wish this for all writers.

Not The President, Not His Shoes

I had a dream last night, and one I can actually remember in detail this side of the dark.

In the dream, our new United States president had launched a line of canvas shoes for women. And my girls — who at 11 and 14 dabble in casual fashion — wanted to check them out. So we went to a local shoe store to see some. Not to purchase, not to support. Just out of curiosity. Because of that WTF? sensation that drives you when you can’t reconcile the doer with what’s been done.

We approached two middle-aged saleswomen, and I stumbled over how to explain why we were there. I didn’t really want to admit whose shoes we were after, but we needed direction among the racks of footwear. “Supposedly there’s this new line…” “Uh, I mean, so we heard about the launch of some canvas shoes…” And the one spoke up, neither enthusiastic nor discouraging, just matter-of-fact. “Ah, yes. You mean the Trump Sliders.”

They were canvas slip-ons, plain and colorful, patterned and not. They struck me as no different from VANS, and very cute — except that the rubber tag, there on the sole at the heel, read TRUMP.

My girls both tried a pair on, but I knew they weren’t going to squeal, and they weren’t going to beseech me in the typical shopper’s way. “Mo-om, can we get them, puh-leeze??” And I’d already mentally left the store. We’d seen what we came to see.

The saleswoman had followed us, observed us. I told her, “Oh, we won’t be buying. I can’t support the man. He makes me sick.” And I shifted into advocate mode, talking to anyone within earshot about the certainty of his being an abuser.

The dream broke then. But in that semi-consciousness which exists between the imaginary and the awake, my thoughts continued the shoe store speech as I laid in my bed.

And what I considered was the fuel for this post.

I don’t speak of politics on social media, and rarely with those who are part of my world IRL. It’s too gunky. Too sticky. Too confusing, because you never know what to believe. You can’t trust a whole lot on the ol’ internet, you know, and people are often motivated by opinion, not fact. I also choose, consciously, that politics are not going to make the list of things I stress over. That said…

Trump. This man who has been voted into office and now “runs” our country. He has so many signs of being an abuser.

I repeat: AN ABUSIVE MAN.

This might surprise few. However, many — those who voted him to where he is — ignored it. Completely, carelessly ignored it. They (seemingly) don’t care, just like in everyday life, when these men get away with too much of the wrong behavior. People look the other way. Not their problem, I suppose.

To someone like me, a survivor who still deals with triggers — and who can’t view or listen to Trump because of those triggers — this is an egregious error I can’t help but take personally. I have loved ones who voted him in, and it disturbs me to know they wouldn’t recognize his wrongdoing, moral or otherwise. Worse yet, there are some who have put the idea of upheld religion (part of his platform) before the well-being of OTHER HUMANS. That they’ll approve someone with behaviors like his, as if it isn’t risky or harmful, is discouraging.

Go ahead. Click to my If You’re Abused page, where I’ve listed the types of abuse with examples. See how many you can attribute to Trump — and that’s just by what’s been illustrated in public.

He’s a narcissist. Not just arrogant, a narcissist. Malignant and damaging. Oh, he’s successful, a bajillionaire. He has proven himself as a businessman, and I’ve heard it said our country can do with a more business-minded approach. But what’s wholly unfortunate is, we can deduce that he got to where he is with manipulation, and by taking advantage of others. By using people. And he is considered a “success” because of it. Did you know narcissists tend to gravitate toward careers in the public eye? Positions with high power (or perceived, self-determined power)? Whatever gives them a sense of control? Politics is one of them.

He’s inappropriate. He verbally accosts without thought. There is no humility. He offends and makes horrible fun of the disadvantaged. He’s hateful, and derogatory. We know he objectifies women. He is disrespectful. He wants to benefit himself first, with perhaps devious methods.

These aren’t just strong traits miscontrued as mistreatment. This is mistreatment. I have concern for his wife, for whatever their life behind the scenes looks like, feels like, and I have concern for his kids — even the adult ones, and I’d hate to hear the truth from his ex-wives and ex-lovers. My bones tell me it’s not good. That it could never be good, and yet his having been voted into office only enables him, and supports the indoctrination of others — innumberable — like him. He, like so many abusers, continues to rise with no consequence. And what is that telling the abusers who see him having taken office? What about the women who live with those abusers and see Trump at our nation’s podium, exhibiting behaviors so much like what they absorb every day, behind closed doors?

I guess accountability means nothing. There is no validity in extending personal consequence, some might deduce.

So this man was funneled into office because it pushed out career politicians? It put the Republicans back in the saddle? Because change is needed, and there’s nothing like extreme, mind-boggling change, I guess? But voting for this man — for the sake of disallowing the other candidate a win? — was superficial, and it didn’t dig deep enough into worse problems. Societal problems, I’ll reach to point out.

With all the reasons he was voted in, there are many and more why he shouldn’t have been. I struggle with accepting how so many people could ignore the signs, and continue to.

In my mind, as confirmed by my dream, Trump is as qualified to be my president as he is to sell me shoes.

And I don’t want to be in his shoes.

Screw the Comfort of Others?

I shared this image on my Facebook page yesterday, with my own added caption: “For the sake of anyone’s comfort, fo sho.”

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I share it from a place of practiced self-awareness and hard-won self-confidence. A place of empowerment, and a strong desire to be my authentic self. No deferring. No flip-flopping. No cowering. No being taken advantage of. I will not shrink.

But even given all that, I think there is room for this notion — which is at root, to never sacrifice your own well being — to be misconstrued.

What if someone uses this theory as a justification for selfishness? “I’m being true to myself, despite how it may be perceived by others” looks in reality a lot more like “It’s all about me, my opinions, what I want and how, forget how anyone else is affected.”

There’s a delicate balance between the two, or should be. That’s what we should each seek. Certainty in our own minds, but with some awareness of others. Confidence in our actions, compassion for others.

Is what you believe — or what manifests in behavior as support of what you believe — hateful? Do you burn a lot of bridges? How many people/friends/family members have you alienated? And, if you really looked at how you carry yourself, could you say you don’t allow yourself to thrive on negativity, on your criticism of others, an ugliness that serves, really, only to allow you to (mentally) lift yourself to a higher station? Have you settled into a pattern of entitlement?

Truth is, we can be fully considerate of our own place, and extend a similar sense of consideration to others. (In most cases. Some, I’ll admit, don’t deserve our consideration — and that’s a one-by-one decision based on history and context, yes?)

We shouldn’t care if we step on someone’s toes, so to speak, but we should care if we step on their spirit.

We shouldn’t have to babysit others’ emotions, but we should avoid crushing another’s for the sake of upholding our own.

We should be honest and strong, without bullying our way through controversy.

We can be sensitive to our own needs, and still have empathy for others.

Wouldn’t you agree?

I say we don’t screw the comfort of others.

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To find out more about Glennon Doyle Melton, whose quote appears above, visit her website.

Antisocial: More Than “Not Sociable”

I’ve spent several years studying psychology and its realities, especially the personality disorders which can be existent in men — sometimes women, but statistics fall on the side of males in overwhelming numbers — who are abusive by nature.

Most of my first efforts went into understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Here is Lundy Bancroft’s explanation of NPD, as found in Why Does He Do That?, which is a read I highly recommend. (You can learn more about his book and expertise on my If You’re Abused page, found on this website.)

Those who suffer from NPD have a highly distorted self-image. They are unable to accept that they might have faults and therefore are unable to imagine how other people perceive them. This condition is highly compatible with abusiveness, though it is present in only a small percentage of abusive men. Clues to the presence of this disorder include: (a) Your partner’s self-centeredness is severe, and it carries over into situations that don’t involve you [here Bancroft is speaking to victims and survivors of abuse]; (b) he seems to relate everything back to himself; and (c) he is outraged whenever anyone criticizes him and is incapable of considering that he could ever be anything other than kind and generous. This disorder is highly resistant to therapy and is not treatable with medication.

It fascinates and renders me indignant all at once. You?

What I didn’t learn until recently, while reading Bancroft’s book, is that some traits and behaviors I’ve long been attributing to NPD (along with what’s above) actually fall under the Antisocial Personality Disorder label.

If you’re like me, you hear the term “anti-social” and think of people who don’t like other people, maybe they’re not interested in being around others socially, or struggle in social situations.

The disorder goes much deeper, though. Here’s Bancroft’s explanation of APD:

APD is present in only a small percentage of abusers but can be important. Those who suffer from this condition lack a conscience and thus are repeatedly involved in behaviors that are harmful to others. Some signs of this condition include: (a) He started getting into illegal behavior when he was still a teenager; (b) his dishonest or aggressive behavior involves situations unrelated to his partner, rather than being restricted to her; (c) he periodically gets into trouble at workplaces or in other contexts for stealing, threatening, or refusing to follow instructions and is likely to have a considerable criminal record by about age thirty, though the offenses may be largely minor ones; (d) he is severely and chronically irresponsible in a way that disrupts the lives of others or creates danger; and (e) he tends to cheat on women a lot, turn them against each other, and maintain shallow relationships with them. [This] psychopath’s physical violence is not necessarily severe, contrary to the popular image, but he may be very dangerous nonetheless. APD is very difficult to change through therapy, and there is no effective medication for treating it. It is highly compatible with abusiveness toward women.

Ahh. The floodgates of understanding opened when I read that passage last weekend. So much becomes clears. One of these two personality disorders on its own is bad enough, but the rare man who exhibits them both is malignant and damaging. (He also deserves to be hung by his toes and flogged.)

Why is this important to me? Because it goes layers into explaining my personal history, which I’ve already got a good handle on, but for which I will always seek knowledge.

Understanding how people work is a hobby of mine, and I love psychology. My studies also inform my work at a local women’s shelter.

Too, while I don’t want to go into great detail and disrupt my early creative process, my current novel-in-progress largely involves manifestation of these personality disorders. My continued research isn’t just personal, it’s professional.

My hope is that through my writing — whether here on my blog and through social media or in my large projects — and the volunteer work I do in the name of advocacy will bring awareness and education. Nothing can change if we don’t know what’s wrong, or begin to hold abusers accountable, as well as shift what our society sweeps under the proverbial rug and accepts at its norms.

Composting All This Time

Have you read Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg?

bonesIn this short-chaptered, easy-to-digest craft book, which comes off comfortably — as if you’re sitting with Ms. Goldberg over a cup of strong coffee — she says:

It takes a while for our experience to sift through our consciousness. (pg. 15)

One of her personal examples: When her father died, she expected to write about it right off. But it took months of contemplation, false starts, mourning, a subconscious mulling over of understanding and expression before she could put her experience into words.

She also says of this process:

Our senses . . . take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this ‘composting.’ Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil. (pg. 15)

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amenic181, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Huzzah! Full revelation! Composting. THAT’S what I’ve been doing.

It’s been years of composting for me. In the Before, I had promise, I had drive. The writing was in me. The output was on paper. There were a lot of creative opportunities for me. Then I lost my dad. Then I left a toxic, abusive marriage that had lasted more than a decade. In the After, I had a lot of garbage collected, much to sift through and let ferment, to cultivate, to see growth come from.

I knew it all along, that there were things to work through. Truths to learn. Behaviors to reconcile. Hurts to heal. I never questioned it, or turned away from the need. But I sure knew it affected my ability to write. And I thought that meant I was lacking, a failure. That I’d, maybe, lost this writing entirely. Maybe I’d just been a poser before. A fraud. Or that, if it had once been authentic, I might never get it back.

I had no clue — and I can’t tell you how much it means for me to learn through Natalie Goldberg’s wise insight — that this process was, at the same time, a level of creative energy doing its own thing. The writing has been here all along. It’s just I had to let it work independently, to push toward the other side of the rich soil that awaits.

It’s been almost seven years since my dad passed away. And I’m in my sixth year post-divorce. I’ve grieved. I’ve educated myself, repaired myself, claimed my closure, and moved on.

Turns out my soil is fresh and dark, and it smells earthy and inviting, and I feel like I’ve finally crested the hill — that one I’ve been hiking for years now — to find an endless field of it. Right there, it’s waiting for me.

Huzzah!