Rants and Venting

My favorite things denied

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Container Garden – Austin, Texas

I was a poor single mom before my husband and I decided to get married. Even though finances were tight, I allotted a small amount each month for buying books and plants.

I had an outdoor container garden, backyard vegetable garden and beautiful houseplants. I had a decent home library that my mom started for me when I was a teenager; I got books for Christmas and birthdays. That collection grew as I found mostly used books at thrift stores and Half-Price Books.

I had been married less than a year when I  started to worry that something wasn’t quite right. But as a good Christian woman, I hung in there and stood by my man. I stood up to him when he began to be abusive toward my son, but although he backed off, he used manipulation and control to get back at both of us.

As time went by, I found my previous life filled with “my favorite things” under attack. It was subtle, but my husband used religious “leadership” and finances to justify his control over what I read, did with my time, and enjoyed. I wasn’t allowed to buy books, one of my true loves. I wasn’t allowed to spend money on gardening or decorating. I didn’t spend money on clothing, visits to the hair salon, or anything that took me away from the house and his scrutiny.

His mantra of “don’t spend money” shut me down at every turn.

My husband didn’t care whether I enjoyed any aspect of life as long as he was in control.

This is the definition of financial abuse: asserting control over a partner or spouse by denying access to money or his/her ability to choose what to spend money on at any given time.

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Kids wearing thrift store finds. St. Petersburg, Florida

As our family grew, I bought clothing for my babies at the thrift store and still felt guilty for spending money. I purchased used toys and household goods. I bought used furniture, but was only allowed to do so after a fight (because he tried to go back on a promise to me that I could buy new furniture after we sold a rental home).

After two decades of marriage and the denial of “my favorite things” I had lost myself. I was nearly destroyed.

I had to be apart from my husband before I could begin to reconnect with who I really am: a nature-loving, book-devouring, independent woman. That is who I am.

The financial abuse continued during our long separation until my husband had a stroke. No, he didn’t see the light as he faced mortality. He got caught forging my signature on his tax returns for 4 years against my wishes and needed my signature on an old tax return that he had never filed. He felt justified by this behavior because he has been paying the mortgage and utilities on our home (where I live with our youngest son– he moved out of state and left us here with no way to move back near family) and gives me a small allowance with which I am supposed to buy food and pay for home maintenance, car insurance and repairs, cell phone, clothing,  and everything other expense that most people must cover.

He kept me and our youngest son in poverty. In four years, he had donated nearly $30k to churches while I had to go on food stamps so my son had enough to eat.

Abusers control finances in order to exert power over a partner or spouse.

And the only fix for this type of abuse is financial independence.

I tell all married women that I know that they should have their own bank accounts, retirement, savings, vehicles, credit cards, and their names on home deeds (this kept my husband from refinancing and taking out loans on our home–he needed my signature). You should own your own car — only your name on the title. Do not put your husband on your credit card accounts. Mine cancelled all my credit cards without notice to me (bank said he could do so because his name was on my account–I added him after we were married) and stopped the direct deposit of his paychecks into our joint checking account so I had no resources available and was completely dependent on him.

This advice goes for all women considering marriage, too. Plan ahead and maintain financial independence.

If you leave a job or career to take care of a family, put aside a set amount of money each month to cover what you would have in social security and/or retirement savings. Your goal should be to have at least $5,000 in savings (that is how much it costs to hire an attorney should you need to file for divorce) and a retirement account comparable to what you would have if you had continued working.

Continue to work even if it is 10 hours a week. Do something to maintain continuous employment.

And for goodness’ sake, do NOT give up your favorite things because your spouse complains or discourages your interests.

Take care of yourself, nurture your passions, and allow yourself to be a self and not just a spouse or marital appendage. You are your own person. Never forget that.

Happy Ending

I am back to loving books, nurturing my need to create and make beautiful things, enjoying digital photography,  and gardening, indoor and out, because I enjoy these activities.

Occasionally I even buy myself clothes and get my hair cut and styled. I enjoy a glass of my favorite wine, read a lot, and watch the movies and TV shows that I like. My bed is all mine. I don’t suffer sleep deprivation due to a snoring, restless bed partner (who refused to seek medical treatment).

Although I am still parenting a teenager, most of my life is on my terms. I will never give that up again.

I am committed to earning my bachelor’s degree and going on to graduate school because I want to. It is my desire, my dream.

I don’t have anyone telling me I am wasting my time or that I am wasting money on an education that I might never use. It is my dream and I am free to pursue it. That voice of control, denial and deprivation has no power over me anymore.

I am free to enjoy my favorite things.

 

 

 

Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence by Yvonne Sam

In keeping with the International Day of Violence against Women. Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence By Yvonne Sam When the word domestic violence is used or thought about, the general public usually thinks of physical abuse that gives rise to visible injuries to the victim. Sadly, this is only one type of abuse. […]

via Financial Abuse – The Assistant of Domestic Violence – By Yvonne Sam — Guyanese Online

Woman gamer harassed

I have been a gamer since 1980 when I purchased my first Atari console unit. I played Space Invaders, Pong, Circus and many other games for hours.

After purchasing my first PC in 1984, I played DOS games which consisted of text only or the simplest of games with limited graphics.

I purchased other console units for my oldest son over the years and always played games on those consoles (Sony Dreamcast, Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc.).

My next PC had Windows OS which opened up the world of Myst to me and my kids. I bought educational games for the kids and played my own games while my kids sat beside me and helped me solve puzzles from the notes I took.

A decade or so later, I was introduced to the world of MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). I joined the online gaming world and began to meet other online players. Some of them were women, but the majority were men.

In this world, there are men who play female characters and GIRLs: girl in real life.

I have made some real-life friends through online gaming, both male and female.

Within the online gaming environment you find all types of male players: protective types, kind types, gentlemanly types, socially-awkward types, controlling types, cliqueish types, macho types, quiet types, outspoken types, highly-competitive types, profane types and finally the really ugly types which portray a variety of bad male stereotypes: immature, unrestrained, abusive and sexually predatory (these behaviors are not exhibited exclusively by men, though).

In one game that I played for years, a new guild member started sending me private messages which started with this question: “Do you swallow?”

This was in response to the name of one of my characters which was inspired by a butterfly. What I thought was lovely and amazing, a male player twisted and perverted.

I reported him to our guild leaders and he was booted from the group.

This guy had started playing the game after a stint on Second Life, which is not a game at all, but actually an online community with an X-rated section for adults. I guess he thought all online games were populated by the same types of people. He was mistaken.

On other occasions, I have had character names twisted and perverted by male players in public chat (you can tell the guys who watch a lot of porn). I always reported any player who was obviously sexually harassing me. Many ended up banned from the game, not just because of my reports but because these people generally bring down the gaming environment to a low, base level which game developers do not want (especially subscription-based games where female players are valued).

Most recently, I started playing Blizzard’s first-person shooter game Overwatch. This team-based game is crazy fun, with a choice of 22 characters for each short match against other players.

There is attack and defend, capture and escort. After playing a set of matches with a 6-member team, you might find yourself playing the next set of matches with players from the other team. It is always a good idea to be a good sport after a match, a concept that seems to elude many players.

When I created my gamertag for Overwatch, I used a variation of my very female name. It was obvious that I was a female player.

Obnoxious male players have attempted to motivate our team with statements such as: “everyone get your dicks out.”

When I informed him that I didn’t have such equipment, he was not very nice.

Over the next few weeks, I found myself the subject of negative talk if I participated in voice chat and attempted to provide any leadership or guidance to my team. This negative talk was not just from male players, but younger female players as well. I was often teaming up with one of my sons who witnessed the behavior. It was an interesting dynamic.

If a guy offered the team leadership, he was usually rewarded with cooperation and thanks. If a female player attempted to provide leadership, she was often treated badly during and after the match.

When I reported to my other son that a male player had called me a “f***in bitch” after I called him out on his abusive chat, my son was upset but not surprised. As a male player, he was used to seeing and hearing such language. He had not, however, dealt with it directed toward his mother (you know, the argument that sexual harassment and/or assault isn’t a big deal until it could be your daughter, sister, mother, etc.).

I used this experience to try to educate my sons on what women must deal with in a man’s world, as gaming has been primarily male dominated for years. That is changing quickly. More and more women are populating the online gaming world.

I made a decision after yet another male player heaped abuse on me  to change my gamertag to something masculine.

For the last three weeks I have not had a single negative comment aimed at me. Not one.

Male gamers will argue that women who complain about the gaming world are just whining or being snowflakes or SJWs (social justice warriors).

The New York Times article SWSX Addresses Online Harassment of Women in Gaming is a disturbing read which I recommend to everyone.

There are YouTubers who regularly make fun of women who are trying to change the online, console, and PC gaming world so that such games do not perpetuate harmful attitudes, behaviors and stereotypes.

Indi game developers Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, and Anita Sarkeesian, social justice warrior who owns the Feminist Frequency blog and YouTube channel, are the favorite subjects of deniers of misogynistic and anti-femiinist themes in games. These women have received death threats and continued online harassment through Twitter and other forums.

Gamergate is the subject of many naysaying male gamer YouTubers such as Investigamer who mispronounces impartiality over and over (I know, I’m nitpicking) after gaming journalism was accused/exposed as being corrupt.

I understand that male players are just not going to see and understand what women endure in male-dominated environments because they are not on the receiving end of such behavior. I understand this. However, men need to learn to listen to female voices instead of denigrating or atttempting to silence them.

Polarizing men against women in the gaming world is not going to accomplish anything. Men and women must care about ending online harassment especially in the gaming world.

I know what I have experienced. I know that the harassment stopped when I quit using voice chat and changed my gamertag to one that is obviously masculine.

If women must disguise themselves as male players in order to avoid harassment, there is something wrong with the online gaming world.

If a female player challenges a male player because he is being a dick, her voice should be respected. If a gamer chooses to be a dick, he should expect to be called out for such behavior.

It is one thing to be upset during a game and expressing said frustration, it is another to attack a female player with the aim of humiliating and ultimately silencing her.

I have an announcement: men don’t rule the world anymore. You have to share the world with women, and this includes the military, politics, business, education, and, yes, gaming.

 

 

 

Nagging

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Actually, @BrianKelm, you are wrong (see links at bottom of post).

Men and women want to direct their lives, their days and their downtime. This is true for males and females, men and women, boys and girls. No one wants to be constantly reminded that they have failed to do something that someone else wants them to do. No one.

But let’s look at what constitutes nagging, which is a negative behavior typically attributed to women, especially wives, mothers and girlfriends.

“Nagging takes the form of verbal reminders, requests and pleas,” Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW says on WebMD.com. “It goes from a reminder to a nag when the person who is being reminded gets offended.”

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The rest of the WebMD article is filled with well-meaning advice for those who suffer from the horrible habit of nagging others to get what they want.

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I propose that the behavior that is characterized as nagging is nothing more than one person who does not have enough power in a relationship attempting to communicate his or her needs.

In many cases, this behavior occurs because one person feels an unequal distribution of responsibility and desires a true partner in life. But is it just that?

I think what we most often call nagging is simply female leadership and responsibility.

I propose that calling female leadership in relationships and the family nagging constitutes silencing behavior by men and women.

It is also a part of the effort to keep women as objects for men’s pleasure and use.

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Really???

This is a perfect example of male power being asserted in potential relationships, right? Men define what is considered desirable in women and women either toe the line or get no men. Except this is a woman. I admit that I am confused by this mentality.

In my English literature classes I marveled at the female writers who never married. For most young women, the idea of never getting married might seem foreign and bizarre. There must have been something wrong with Emily Dickinson; no man wanted her, right? She must have been ugly or difficult or mentally ill.

Nah, she was free to write and that was all that mattered to her (while she cared for her parents and their house, of course).

How happy is the little Stone
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn’t care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears—
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity—

-Emily Dickinson

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the only way a woman could have any power over her own life was to remain unmarried and have enough money (and an understanding father or brother or lover) to allow her some freedom.

What options were available to women when they had almost no legal rights, could not vote, could not own property and were not allowed to, in most cases, manage their own wealth.

What careers were open to women?

Men could legally beat and rape their wives in most cultures, and still can in some.

Fast forward to contemporary times. We have a man and a woman in a traditional relationship (this is just an example). In most cases, the man can do whatever the hell he wants without question or judgment during working hours. He has a career, might be the primary earner, so he must work long hours. He is unavailable the majority of working hours to handle the hundreds of tasks required to manage a family, assuming there are  children now. Those tasks fall upon his wife even if she works full-time outside the home.

Ask any man who has stayed home while his wife was the primary breadwinner what it is like to manage a family. I encourage you to ask a man because if you ask a woman, her voice has less weight and import to the discussion – that is a whole ‘nother blog post.

Here is an enlightening Huffington Post article from a male perspective about what it is like to be a man in a family and to stay at home with the kids: Douchebaggery and the Stay at Home Dad by Christopher Noxon.

“Must be hard on his manhood,” Noxon says. “Must make up for it in other ways.”

Noxon goes on to describe behavior such as turning “diaper changes into acts of performance art when company is around but who otherwise leave the dirty jobs to mom.”

And this is a big part of the problem: men have had a choice in what domestic tasks they undertake and women haven’t.

Watching old movies about poor women who have been left with a houseful of kids, it is common to hear the comment: “At least the kids and house are clean.”

Would anyone ever say that about a man whose wife ran off and left him with the kids? Of course not. How many times are men forgiven if their kids’ clothes don’t match, hair isn’t combed, and school lunch consists of a peanut butter sandwich and a soft drink (okay, single dad tropes abound here).

Single dads and even married dads often get a pass.

We all know that in the majority of two-income households women still do the housework, cooking, shopping and caring for children (yes, this is documented though changing slowly).

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These are responsibilities, not just chores. If they are not done not only do the children suffer but you will end up with child services knocking at your door accompanied by a couple of cops demanding entry (Big Brother is watching).

Yes, this is the scenario that not only floats around in most female parents’ heads, but is also a reality.

So let’s talk about nagging.

In the majority of cases, women are carrying the load of family responsibilities. Most are also working full or part-time outside the home in addition to the full-time job of running a household.

There is a shit-load of stuff that must be done every single day. I can attest that this stuff is exhausting. I can attest that it all needs to be done the next day, too. Again, it is exhausting. It really never gets less exhausting (and is never fun or entertaining).

Let’s examine the common middle class family (and here are some lovely Tweets to help you with this mental picture).

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And then there are these words of wisdom from what looks like a teenage boy:

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These Tweets seem to be posted by spoiled, bratty teenagers and adults who still expect their mommy’s and women to do what? Take care of the family and household.

It is a parent’s job to prepare his or her children for the real world. This involves gradually increasing responsibility while teaching life skills.

In the U.S., there seems to be a problem with this process. Kids are spoiled and entitled and rarely work for what they possess. At what point do they learn how to deal with the responsibilities of an adult life if they are cared for well into their 20s.

Male children have historically been cared for well into adulthood, while female children were taught to care for themselves and others from a young age (I know I am generalizing, but overall this holds true).

We are living in the 21st century. We have equal rights, shared responsibilities, two incomes…

Right?

And yet, women are still taking care of the hundreds of big and small tasks that are required to maintain a household and care for a family.

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By Becky Mansfield, YourModernFamily.com

Nagging?

Nagging???

Hell, women want men (and sons and daughters) to step up. That is what most women want. They want their men to be grownups. Do something that isn’t self-focused. Care for someone else without being reminded or told to do so.

Why does a woman have to ask a man (or a son or a daughter) to do anything? He or she should just do it.

Take out the fracking trash. Wash the dishes. Vacuum the house. Walk the damn dog.

I tell my sons that the goal is responsibility, not task completion.

One of my sons is responsible for two jobs that he does not do unless I threaten him with losing computer access. That makes me a nag, right?

No, it doesn’t. It makes me responsible for his jobs.

And for the Troglodyte young woman “Mimi” who thinks that the perfect woman should stop nagging and take care of herself and “be tight” for her man: what are you on?

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Women perpetuating the myth of nagging is just wrong.

Real men are faithful, responsible, take care of business, don’t treat their partners like servants and sex slaves, and aren’t entitled little boys.

Nagging??? That is NOT the problem.

I want to leave this blog post on a positive note. Thanks @JimParedes for Tweeting this:

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Town and Country Magazine’s article about this subject credits “nagging moms” with helping their daughters to be more successful in life.

A University of Essex in England study found that “the girls with moms who set high standards for them growing up were more likely to go on to college and earn higher wages,” Kristen Lauletti said.

Why is a mother’s leadership characterized as nagging in this article, though?

I think it is time to change the language we use to describe female behavior.

How the church silences women

shhh2I left the church, all churches, because of how the Christian religion views and treats women. I am just sharing this up front (if you haven’t read previous posts).

I have written many times about how the women in my church (and the pastor, who was a woman) used silencing behavior to shut me down, everything from intervening when I was trying to be honest with my husband in counseling sessions to handing me a list of Bible verses about “gossip” when I needed to talk to someone about my abusive husband.

There is something seriously wrong going on. It is common for women who are in bad marriages, some abusive, some not, to be pressured to remain in those marriages no matter what. It is a duty, marriage is sacred, it would be a sin to divorce.

Let’s first talk about the sacred institution of marriage. This is a doctrinal thing. Marriage is mentioned in the Bible, and it is likened to Christ’s relationship to the church. From that analogy, marriage has become primary while the people (and their children) in that marriage are secondary.

“God hates divorce!!!!!!!!”

God probably hates a lot of things, but I don’t think divorce is at the top of his list.

This is a symptom of a much bigger problem. People (individuals) come last in the Christian religion.

Yep. They do.

When duty, or doctrine, is more important than relationship, then you will end up with dysfunction of some kind. And those who put the marriage before the people in that marriage are being dysfunctional. They are encouraging dysfunction. They are perpetrating dysfunction.

I have declared to anyone who wants to listen that I reject the Pauline letters in the New Testament. I think they run contrary to the teachings of Yeshua (he was Jewish, and his name is NOT Jesus — I know, picking at gnats).

Women must remain silent in church. Women must obey their husbands in everything. Women must wear head coverings. Women must wear dresses. Women must…

This is all legalism. Paul was a legalist.

In all of the years that I tried to relate to and communicate with my husband, he often told me that I needed to submit: over and over and over again. He never quoted the verse that commands husbands to love their wives as Jeshua loves the church. He never quoted the verse about how a man who does not care for his family is worse than an infidel.

I was told that it wasn’t my place to discuss _____ (fill in the blank), how I should not do this or do that, how my prayer life was even under his purview.

But when spiritual leaders in a church use the same silencing behavior on their congregations, you end up with a bunch of unthinking, repressed people.

Do you know one of the leaders in my old church stood up and said how much she hated running into this one woman she knew because she was always so down and negative (this was the same person who shut me down with a sheet of scriptures on gossip when I needed to confide in someone).

Dysfunction is prevalent in Christian relationships because of the fear of truth. There is a fear of honesty. There is a fear of reality.

“Don’t interrupt my religious moment with your unpleasant reality, please!”

“Oh, your husband is abusing you? Your reward will be in heaven. You must do your best to submit to him anyway.”

“Shhh, women should be silent.”

The judicial system, encouraged by our Christian heritage (patriarchy in general), permitted husbands to rape their wives in the no-so-distant past.

A man who beat his wife was justified in the last century.

Hell, women didn’t even have the right to vote until 1920, and then civil rights, rights over their own bodies and personal life decisions, took many more decades.

Men rant about how unfair the judicial system is because they say it favors mothers in divorces. Have they not looked at history where a hundred years ago women had almost no rights at all? Children (and their mothers) belonged to fathers/husbands.

Women had to remain in bad marriages if they wanted to keep their children, not be homeless, and have any kind of financial support. There weren’t even many professions available where women could support themselves. Women still make a lot less than men today.

Inequality is ugly.

Why are men threatened by women’s rights? I do not understand why men are threatened by women who use their voices.

And religious men can be the worst. Actually, let me correct myself: religious women can be the worst. I wonder if there is some underlying fear that if a friend has justification for leaving her husband, she might question her own marriage. Things start to get shaky and undefinable when women have autonomy and self-determination. There is a loss of control.

Oh, and here we are: control.

Silencing women comes down to the need to control. And when the church (which is the corporate body and its individual members) silences women, it is exerting control over them, control that it should not have.

What if we let women speak and then decide for themselves? Would the world come to an end?

The justification for Paul’s letter, the historical context — at least what I was taught — was that women would just stand up and speak when gathered in the early church.

Gasp! Choke!!! Oh no!

Some kind of directive was necessary to keep them under “control.”

And today, the church silences women by insisting that they wear dresses, defer to their husbands, defer to their pastors, defer to… well, everyone. Heck, women should speak quietly and not make trouble. Women should…

Silencing behavior. Control.

How long will women put up with such ridiculousness? How long?

For those who are still skeptical, I challenge you to explore gender equality in the Christian religion. The Junia Project is a lovely place to begin.

I challenge you. What do you have to lose? Control?

Religious excuses for not helping someone in crisis

When I was dealing with the complete blowup of my marriage, which had been held together by the most delicate of threads for over two decades, I was allowed to suffer horribly by people who should have been there for me.

When we moved to Connecticut from Florida we were outsiders. We are not FROM Connecticut, though I do have a sister here. When we joined a church in Middletown we discovered a strange dynamic. Lots of control and legalism (we were told where we could sit during services, our children were checked to be sure they weren’t chewing gum, lice checks on children’s heads without parental consent, and so on). It is strange that that felt off to me because the first church I joined after committing myself to God as a Christian was a borderline cult. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

So we didn’t stay long at this church in Middletown.

When we moved to our small town dream home, we joined a local church. The pastor ended up resigning after a scandal. Sheesh, we weren’t doing well at all. The church went without a pastor for a long time. Then finally a new, part-time pastor came on board.

This pastor told me one time that I was outgoing because I was insecure. Um, okay. Maybe not so good. I was committed, however. I stuck it out.

Fast forward several years to the point where my husband and I are told we can no longer serve in a certain capacity because we are having marital problems. Because we were having a difficult time, the threads of service were severed. Honestly, it was that service that was holding us together, the only thing we had in common at that point.

It isn’t like he was having affairs and I had abandoned my children. Nope, we were just struggling like we had for years. But it got way worse when we moved to Connecticut.

Fast forward a couple more years to marriage counseling, husband walking out, me not letting him back, a short reconciliation and then a final split. During all of this I was told a lot of things that I thought were strange but honestly my life was surreal, so who was I to judge what was normal and what was not?

Finally, I realized that I was a woman in a church who had separated from her husband (my decision). I had not done enough to reconcile with my husband. People avoided me. There was no compassion or support. During this whole time I was very sick with Lyme disease that just wouldn’t go away? I got worse and worse, my health declined, yet I was running the household, taking care of the kids, and there was no personal support. No meals, only a couple of calls (same person who didn’t really approve of my choices), and finally a declaration by the pastor that she could not rescue me.

What the hell?

Rescue me???

How about anything? I was so raw, so wounded, hurting so bad, while also struggling with the loss of my health, that looking back I think it is a miracle that I survived.

Do you know who suffered the most? My kids. They lost their mom to Lyme disease, their family to separation, their church because I finally just quit going.

But what stuck with me from those years were the comments from people.

The statement, “No one can rescue you; you must depend on God,” is religious talk for: “You made your bed, now lie in it!”

It is common knowledge that in Christian circles the blame for a marriage breaking up is usually assigned to the wife. Unless there is infidelity on the husband’s part (and even then the wife is expected to forgive and reconcile), the woman is expected to do whatever is necessary to make the marriage work. If a husband beats his wife, that MIGHT be an acceptable reason for divorce, but not always.

So when I heard the words “no one can rescue you,” I gave up on my church.

Christian leaders have come up with a lot of excuses for not helping their people. But this one is just the most ludicrous I have ever heard.

Of course a pastor should try to rescue someone who was drowning. Of course a pastor should reach out to those who are hurting the most, suffering the most, feeling lost. Of course rescue should be at the top of his or her list.

I learned a couple of lessons from this time:

1. In most churches, if you give the church money and attend services, you are considered in good standing.
2. If you are too sick to attend services or too poor to donate, you are not considered in good standing.

I don’t regret my choices during this time. My only regret is that I didn’t find a lawyer the day after my husband walked out on me. That is my only regret. Well, maybe that I stuck around at that church so long? Maybe.

Husbands can be abusive, but churches and religious leaders can be abusive, too.

Ladies have better handwriting: on stereotyping women

Huh?

I volunteered to help out with a college event last week. During an ice breaker exercise, one of the men at the table (I was merely observing up to this point), when told the group of two men and two women would need to record some educational challenges and potential solutions to share with the entire group later, asked if “one of the ladies could do the writing.”

Between this man and the two women in this group was another man about the same age as the first one; the speaker ignored the other man. I looked at the man who had entreated one of the “ladies” to record the thoughts of the men and stated out loud, “the women at this table are not your secretaries.” Yikes!

I could not help myself.

For the younger readers, there was a time when women could only get jobs in a handful of professions, and secretary, the servant of the oh-so-important male executive, was one of them. I was a secretary for over 15 years. I know of what I speak. I won’t go into the sexual harassment that accompanied that job, but suffice it to say, being a secretary was oftentimes quite demeaning back in my day.

(Secretary as a title/occupation has mostly been abolished and replaced with executive assistant or administrative assistant. At first, this change bothered me, but I see it as an attempt to create a gender-neutral type of job designation, one that is less indicative of how subservient the secretary was to her typically-male boss. To secretaries of this world today, your jobs are vastly different from the time when I was a secretary. Very different.)

Why did I speak up when this man begged the “ladies” to do the writing? I spoke up because last semester I was involved in a huge project that dealt with stereotyping. One of the actions recommended, which is supported by research, when an individual witnesses stereotyping is to say something. Speak up. Call it what it is. And so I said something.

I know I made this guy very uncomfortable. He needed to be uncomfortable. His view of women needed to be challenged. His tendency to believe that because women might have more legible handwriting than men, they should take notes for men is outdated and based on conscious and unconscious attitudes that need to change.

Is it my job to change them? Well, I was the only one who said anything, so I guess so.

The other two women were older (most likely the age of the man’s mother), probably used to being told that they needed to support the men in their lives, and felt quite comfortable taking a motherly role, so to speak. But this is wrong in a college environment.

(Without complaint, one of the women immediately took the job of recording responses for the group.)

At college, women are not there to support men (or find husbands). They are there to get an education, to discover their strengths and weaknesses, and to have their eyes opened to new possibilities. They are there for themselves.

When I started college in early 2013, I made a decision not to be the college mom. I don’t hand out pens and paper to the (mostly male students) who fail to prepare for class. I don’t take notes for the young students who miss class because they slept in. I don’t provide a motherly type of support to any of the students.

I do, however, mentor. That is completely different. I encourage the women, especially, to speak up in class if they are being very quiet (self-silencing behavior is common among black women, especially). I try to model confidence in using my own voice. I encourage students to advocate for themselves when faced with a challenge.

I do not tolerate men stereotyping women because it limits their potential and denigrates them as people. I don’t tolerate anyone stereotyping anyone, really. Women stereotype women a lot, too.

I learned while doing this project on stereotyping that it is silence that keeps stereotypes alive in a society.

Do ladies have better handwriting? Maybe, maybe not. So what? If a man has poor handwriting, he should work on that. It is a weakness that needs to be addressed unless he is already a doctor who is earning a couple hundred thousand dollars a year and can afford to hire someone to do his writing for him (and this stereotypical physician model is outdated as well — physicians are required to complete record-keeping tasks using computers now).

Did I make an enemy by speaking up? Possibly. Is that very important? Not really. It is much more important to address stereotyping because of how serious it is and how damaging it can be to all people.

By the way, students aren’t the only ones who make stereotypical comments on campus. I have heard a lot of anti-southerner comments from professors, faculty and staff (this kind of behavior is common here in Connecticut), as well as anti-Republican, anti-Christian and anti-conservative rhetoric.

When I was in Texas over Christmas I heard anti-liberal, anti-Democrat, and anti-northerner comments which I challenged. I almost got in a fight with one of my adult sons over showing respect for the president and first lady. You don’t need to agree with their politics or ideology, but you damn well better show respect for their positions, accomplishments, and humanity. I was faced with dogmatic attitudes, and that made me pretty angry. Go ahead and challenge a policy, a practice and even a belief, but do not resort to ad hominem attacks. That shows me that you don’t have a valid position to defend.

Comments I have heard on campus and off, here in Connecticut and in Texas were demeaning and meant to ridicule particular people groups. In nearly every case, I have spoken up. Yep, even with professors (I’m not very popular with some professors). I do tend to make enemies. Sigh.

I don’t defend the bad behavior of any political group, conservative, liberal or moderate, nor do I support offensive religious behavior (anyone who knows me knows that I really don’t like religion).

I have challenged what I viewed as anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attitudes and comments in a group in which I am involved. One of my children used a derogatory, racist label for Muslims and that adult child got a tongue-lashing.

I feel it is important to address negative comments aimed at people groups. I speak up.

I plan to continue to address stereotyping when I see it. I think it is the better choice.

For more information on stereotyping:

OUCH! That Stereotype Hurts – or a PDF guide http://www.diversityresources.com/media/Ouch_LeadersGuide.pdf. Not affiliated in any way.

Implicit Bias – Harvard University – https://www.projectimplicit.net/index.html. Participate in the online surveys. They are eye-opening.

Internet search suggestions:

Stereotype threat
Implicit bias
Debiasing
Self-silencing

The filthy truth about women

In my ongoing evaluation of my failed marriage, when I take a break from beating myself up I engage in occasional analysis of my estranged husband’s attitudes and behaviors, and his very obvious disappointment in me as a woman, wife and Christian.

This morning I read Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” where a man, Strephon, exposes all of a woman’s filthy secrets: her bodily functions, her sweat, snot, and excrement. She has been posing as a beautiful creature when all the time she has been sweating, pissing and shitting. The shame! The travesty! Peter-Paul-Rubens-Adam-und-Eva-The-Fall-of-Man-1628-29

I think about the women of the Bible who are put up on pedestals for men to admire and women to aspire to, and others to despise and blame: Mary, the mother of Yeshua (Jesus is a corruption of his real name) who worshipped her son every day of his life provides the world with an archtype of female perfection, while Eve, the mother of all mankind who was perfect until she thought for herself, provides fodder for the finger pointers and blamers (the same people who think women should cover their bodies because men might lust after them).

These women are, or were, godly, lovely, and pure in their undefiled religious presentations, until they’re not. Mary, the Madonna in Catholic tradition, remained a virgin after the birth of her only son who was conceived apart from any filthy sexual act. She was never corrupted by sexual intercourse, except Protestants think she actually married Joseph and gave birth to other children. Eve, of course, brought about the knowledge of good and evil, ruining the perfect life she and Adam had in the Garden of Eden. But before she did that, she was perfect (brainless, but perfect).

These pure, holy women didn’t sweat, piss and shit. They just didn’t, unless they were human. Eve obviously became quite human while Mary, the mother of Yeshua, never did according to some religious traditions. As a matter of fact, she became deified to some degree.

But the rest of us are not biblical characters or virgin mothers. Women are, in reality, human beings. Apparently that was of concern to Jonathan Swift: the humanity of women. I wonder what he thought of his mother.

Some men are born of very human mothers. These mothers can be selfish, emotional, and not perfectly beautiful. They blow their noses, menstruate, have sex with their partners (who are usually the father), throw dirty things in bathroom waste baskets, brush their teeth and spit in the sink. They, on occasion, probably even stink up the bathroom. These poor boys live their entire childhoods in the presence of filthy mothers.

My husband had such a human mother, and he married a human wife. I think this was a big part of our problem.

How in the world did it become necessary that women maintain this clean, pure, and certainly-not-so-human persona?

Humans are creatures of nature. They eat, drink, burp and fart. Their bodies excrete waste, purging what is toxic, attempting to keep inside only what is healthy. The human body is a beautiful, amazing, and some even consider miraculous system of organs, nerves, bones and grey matter. It takes in and it excretes. It must do this. How has this become filthy? Or is it merely female excrement and fluids, menstrual flow and breast milk that is distasteful or disgusting? Do you know how many men are disgusted by the thought of ingesting breast milk? A lot!

Has religion so twisted gender perception that women are either spiritually-superior or morally-inferior beings? Are the roots of misogyny nourished by the misconception that women are on earth primarily for the care, nurture and pleasure of boys and men, and that the only successful women are those who maintain this illusion of purity? What about the concept of feminine perfection?

I could write all day about the beauty and glamour industries that make millions, nay billions, of dollars so that women can be made presentable to men. In our natural form, I guess we are abhorrent, so we must be shaved, plucked, with some parts restrained while others are presented for sexual appraisal and worthiness to breed.

Are these pressures to engage in extreme beauty regimes misogynistic?

Is misogyny rooted in a desire to be mothered by and married to a Madonna figure, a type of female perfection? Is mankind holding a never-ending grudge because of a woman exercising free will with such catastrophic results?

I feel as though I am on the verge of some kind of understanding (and it occurred to me that I was venturing into Freudian territory).

The psychology of the male is a mystery to me, but I feel as though I have been allowed to peep through a tiny crack in the curtain, board, or huge boulder used to guard the power of man.

The dirty beautiful truth about women is that we are natural creatures. Maybe we should begin to embrace this truth. Maybe misogyny needs to first be addressed by women by analyzing our own attitudes and rejecting the many feminine stereotypes that are in actuality illusions.

Something to ponder.

P.S. I entered “beauty of natural woman” in a Google search for images and hundreds of photos of perfect women with professionally-applied makeup and perfectly-styled hair popped up (screenshot below). Good grief!
screenshot beauty woman

My name is . . . impersonalizing women

I am well into British Literature I this semester. We have explored Beowulf, “Caedmon’s Hymn,” and “Lanval,” and are finishing up the week with the Arthurian Legend. One of the themes that has emerged is the failure of authors, and the storytellers before them, to give many of the female characters names.

Female characters, in contrast to important male characters, remain nameless.

I remember one day, about 7 or 8 years ago, realizing that my husband rarely, if ever, used my name. He would use supposed terms of endearment, but not my name. He refused to use my name when he attempted to get my attention — “Hey” or “Hon” but no name. It began to concern me.

He had stopped “seeing” me years before that. I was just his wife, or the kids’ mother. But I wasn’t the person he married, the individual with a name, a face and feelings anymore. This is a huge red flag.

Along with not asking me how my day was after being with the kids 24/7 for weeks on end, he did not address me by name. This indicates a huge emotional disconnect.

The article, “Emotional Abuse of Women by their Intimate Partners: A Literature Review,” prepared by Valerie J. Packota describes this emotional disconnect:

Lack of Emotional Connection: Shared emotional fields are lacking due to behaviour of abuser. This lack of intersubjectivity demonstrates to the woman that she is not heard, has no value and is not supported. This lack of connection is strongest when the abused woman is pregnant, ill or in a grief state. (Chang, 1996; Yoshihama and Sorenson, 1994)

And when I became ill from Lyme disease in 2006 and did not recover, the disconnect became abandonment, not just of me but the children as well. He didn’t leave home, but he didn’t come home until very late at night most nights. It was as though I was no use to him anymore because I couldn’t care for the home, couldn’t give him the attention he deserved, and instead regularly requested help caring for the children.

I found it very interesting that Pakota mentions the lack of connection being strongest when the abused woman is ill because that is exactly what I experienced.

But it all seemed to start with failing to see me as who I was, and his refusal to call me by my name. Even now, if he calls, he will rarely address me by name. He will make a strong point of identifying himself, “This is _____.” But he will rarely use my name (this is a cell phone where his identity pops up before I answer).

Impersonalizing a marriage partner is a big part of dehumanization. And apparently, girls and women are not valuable enough for identification to some men.

When we lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, an acquaintance from our church confessed to me that her father called her No. 3. He never, ever used her name. She was always No. 3. This is most certainly emotional abuse. Withholding affection, refusing to acknowledge the identity of a daughter, denigrating her by referring to her as her birth order number are all forms of emotional abuse. Another church member confessed to me that her husband physically beat her, and that she had gone to the church elders (her husband was one of the elders), but that no one believed her. I was shocked, and am haunted by the fact that I did nothing to help her. I often wonder if her husband used her name, or just called her names before choking her.

Women, seen as property for thousands of years, have not been deemed valuable enough to be named in literature. Modern men who refuse to call their wives, girlfriends, and partners by their given names have become emotionally disconnected. Emotional disconnection is a documented feature of domestic abuse.

My name is Michele, and I am valuable.

Sources:
“Emotional Abuse of Women by their Intimate Partners: A Literature Review,” prepared by Valerie J. Packota