Goodbye Earl

I wanted to finish this month, rather literally at the eleventh hour, on a musical note. Music is something that is in all of our lives to some extent or another. Not everyone sings or plays, but I think I can say that everyone reading this post at the very least is subject to the jingles in advertisements. Something that is that ubiquitous is going to be something that affects our world views. People talk a lot about how rap is very anti-female. I’m not going to argue the point. However, that is far from the only genre, and only topic, that is influenced by the lyrics that are written and sung.

When I was in high school, the song Goodbye Earl came out. This was before the Dixie Chicks managed to alienate their fan base by having the audacity to have an unpopular political opinion, so it was heard. A lot. I really liked it. However, when I mentioned that fact to a male friend, he was appalled. He thought it was a horrible song and how could I possibly condone that behavior? Was I planning something like that for a significant other? Somehow, telling him that all he had to do was not act like Earl to save himself from such a fate was not reassuring to him. To this day I don’t understand why that answer isn’t ok.

The other song that sprang to mind when I was thinking about this post happens to fall on the other end of the spectrum. It’s not nearly as popular, and more than once I wondered if I’d imagined it because I heard it so seldom. This one stuck in my brain because it’s so disturbing- and so accurate for many, many abused people.

I couldn’t remember the name of Luka when I was getting ready to write this, so I googled “songs about abused women.” Do it sometime. Be in awe of the number of posts that come up. I’m not going to list all of them, but I am going to list some of the ones that are familiar to me.

Martina McBride- Independence Day

Eminem- Kim (among others)

Green Day- Pulling Teeth

Pat Benatar- Hit Me With Your Best Shot

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus- Face Down

Kelly Clarkson- Because of You

There were also many others that, honestly, I need to listen to again before I can agree or disagree. Eminem’s songs tend to be pro abuse. Independence Day is about a woman getting some of her own back because no one was noticing anything. An interesting note is that in the description of that song and video it was pointed out that in the video the woman was shown to die in the fire, while the lyrics leave it ambiguous. They theorized that a woman can stand up for herself as long as she also goes down in the end.

You know, maybe that was my friend’s problem with Goodbye Earl. It ends with two women not only permanently taking care of an abusive asshole, but getting away with it and going on to live their lives. They had no comeuppance. Unfortunately, one of the things I’ve been learning about domestic violence is that more often than not, it’s Earl who never has a comeuppance. If either side has any right to getting away with something like that, it’s not Earl. More people need to understand this.

What Is Domestic Violence, Anyway?

We’ve all seen the posters and pictures of cowering women with black eyes and casts on broken bones. We’ve seen pictures of women placing themselves physically between their children and their abuser. Maybe pictures of older siblings taking the same stance to protect younger siblings.

So, if you aren’t bruised and don’t have any broken bones, that means you’re not being abused, right?

Wrong.

The legal definition of domestic violence is: Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute domestic violence. In my mind, it really boils down to fear. If you are afraid of your spouse, significant other, parent, child, or caretaker, you might be in an abusive relationship. If they are using fear, either through words or actions, to control you, it is abuse.

I have come across discussions about whether or not to spank your children. Opinions, of course, range from “spare the rod, spoil the child” to pearl-clutching horror that you could even think such a thing! The discussion usually involves talking about what crosses the line from discipline to abuse. A pretty standard answer is that if you are hitting them in anger, it’s abuse.

The problem with that is that I have been spanked and paddled in anger. I was not abused. I do not fear my parents now, and I never feared them as a child. Sure, they could be scary if they were pissed off. I come by my temper honestly. It wasn’t fun to piss them off- but that was because there were consequences to my actions, not because I had any fear of being hurt or worse. On the rare occasions I was spanked or paddled in anger it was because I was either being an unreasonable and unbearable brat or I’d scared them silly. In either case, it was a reaction to get me to see that my behavior was not acceptable and would have very uncomfortable repercussions. It was, in the end, an attempt to help make me a better person and a better citizen because I would think twice before being an unbearable brat or doing things that scare the people that care about me.

In an abusive situation, when the abuser is hitting the victim they may well be red in the face, veins popping, and otherwise exhibiting signs of anger or rage. However, in most cases if the phone rings or someone knocks on the door, the abuser can speak to the non-victim in a perfectly calm, rational manner. I don’t know about you, but when I’m pissed, and I get interrupted in the middle of being pissed, I’m going to be less than calm with the person on the phone or at the door. Why? Because real, genuine anger doesn’t dissipate that fast. Which means that the abuser probably wasn’t angry. What they were doing was using physical (or mental, or sexual) aggression to cow the victim. It’s very easy to hide that behind phrases like “I just lost it” or “I went crazy for a minute.”

Spanking is something that I’m sort of on the fence about. I don’t think it’s automatically abuse, but I also don’t think it’s the most effective response. Possibly because it never worked that well on me. I don’t have children, but I do work with animals. Training the two is similar enough to be able to draw some parallels. Something that crosses species is that you get more out of an animal that is allowed to try things and make mistakes than you do from an animal that is so afraid of being wrong that they never try anything but the handful of responses that they have found to be “safe.” An animal that is allowed to try things, to experiment, and to make mistakes is going to test your boundaries and have opinions that you may not share. However, you are giving the animal the chance to develop as far as they are able to. An animal that is terrified of being wrong, usually because the punishments were way out of proportion to the crimes, is not going to test you. The other side of that lack of pushing boundaries is that the animal will never reach their full potential.

To bring it back to humans, I was allowed to push boundaries and make mistakes as a child. Sometimes those mistakes resulted in disciplinary measures because consequences are real. The discipline was never given in a way that would stop me from wanting to keep asking questions and growing, though. Today, I am a fully realized person with thoughts and opinions that my parents may not like. That’s ok, because they would rather have a whole daughter than an easy life. In an abusive relationship, it’s about an easy life, not a whole partner. The victim is hounded until they stop straying from the handful of “safe” answers. Those answers or actions are usually very good for the abuser and vary from neutral to bad for the victim.

So, are you being abused? Do you know someone who is in an abusive relationship and may not recognize it? Fear is not normal. Making everything all about one family member is not normal. Completely and perpetually bypassing your own needs to always cater to the needs of the other is not normal. Everyone changes small things as they grow with their partner, but in a healthy relationship, they are still able to grow and express themselves as an individual. Are you a fully-realized person, or have you shed all of those parts of your personality that annoy your significant other? Domestic violence seldom starts with black eyes and broken bones, but all too frequently it ends up there. Recognize it before it does.

Christian Grey Has Left the Movie

My plan is to focus on domestic violence for October. Sadly, this bit of celebrity trivia actually counts.

I don’t follow the news about the 50 Shades of Grey movie because, honestly, I don’t really care. I might rent it once it’s out on DVD, but that would be strictly to see if they were able to salvage the story at all. When it comes to who is associated with it, all I ask is that I don’t know and like them, because that would make me sad. There was one exception to that. I heard that Brett Easton Ellis was associated with it, and my first thought was- brilliant! After all, he did a really good job with another rich, bored playboy:

What? I couldn’t help myself.

 

Sadly, after reading the below, I am now only impressed with the writing, and not with the man.

Do correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there are plenty of gay men that are into women. They just don’t want to stick their penises into women. However, as a good actor, I can’t see any reason that he couldn’t pretend that he wanted to do that for the movie. Because, you know, most of acting is pretending to do things?

Anyway- on to the news that I stumbled across on Jenny Trout’s blog. Charlie Hunnam won’t be playing Christian Grey. Rejoice, Sons of Anarchy fans! Jax has come to his senses! I also wanted to pull this article out of the comments to share with you. It’s awesome.

As I’ve come to expect from the comments on Jenny’s blog, some good points are brought up. Namely- if they can’t find a guy to play Christian Grey, will they realize that it’s because the story is so misogynistic and generally horrible that we don’t need it to be part of our culture? Maybe they will realize that it doesn’t have any redeeming qualities? (Stop laughing. I know it won’t sink in.)

I am still holding out hope for an American Psycho-esque slant to the movie script. That would be worth watching.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Did you know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Yeah- neither did I. I know about Black History Month (February). Women’s History Month (March). Isn’t there even a Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Holy shit- that’s also October. No wonder we don’t know it’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pink ribbons and saving the ta-tas (ok, that idea was cute) is way sexier than talking about spouses abusing each other and their children. After all, abuse only happens to them, not to us. It only happens to poor people, or people with terrible tempers.

An estimated 1.3 million women are assaulted by an intimate partner annually. As women are only 85% of domestic violence victims, that means it’s really over 1.5 million assaults a year. How that does pale in the face of 232,340 cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed each year. One in eight women can expect to have invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. One in four can expect to experience domestic violence. While I don’t intend to belittle cancer, I do firmly believe that it is far from the only thing that endangers women, children, and men.

Most domestic violence statistics are read as female victims, male perpetrators. As stated above, 85% of the victims are female. I will probably also follow this trend because it makes writing easier (she is always the victim, he is always the perpetrator), and it is statistically probable. However, whenever possible, I will also mention the male victims. While getting rid of male-on-female violence is important, we also need to get rid of female-on-male violence and same-gender-violence. It’s only by eliminating all forms of partner and child abuse that we can make sure it doesn’t re-root itself.

Midnight Sun of a Bitch

I’ve been reading Midnight Sun. Research! I swear! Ok, and at least a bit of being unable to look away from the train wreck. This is supposed to be sexy, people? Really? I won’t go over most of it. I’ll leave that in the most capable hands of Mrs. Hyde. There is one point, though, that actually stands above the rest for disturbing me.

Scroll down to page 212 to find this gem:

Yet a monster was loose in the streets of Port Angeles. A human monster- did that make him the humans’ problem? To commit the murder I ached to commit was wrong. I knew that. But leaving him free to attack again could not be the right thing either. 

The blond hostess from the restaurant. The waitress I’d never really looked at. Both had irritated me in a trivial way, but that didn’t mean they deserved to be in danger.

Either one of them might be somebody’s Bella.

That realization decided me.

Well I’m sure Mike would be relieved to know that being of trivial irritation means death isn’t necessary. Wait- sorry- Mike is male and therefore has a hardon for Bella. That makes dreaming about killing or maiming him sweet and protective and stuff.

Back to my point. The women only matter because a man might decide to give them meaning.

Apparently Midnight Sun was written because people were misunderstanding Edward. You know- I liked Twilight the first time I read it. I read it over one night and could self-insert pretty easily with Bella since I’m a fair-skinned brunette with a tendency to be clumsy, a history of being unpopular, and I’m pretty sure my head was stuck well up my own ass at that age. I could even forgive Edward a lot of his bad behavior. Dude was born in a different century and had spent 80 or so years being stronger, faster, and more indestructible than humans. It’s fair of him to consider himself superior. A 17-year-old from World War I would also have been more mature than most of the current lot of teenagers even without having 80 years to work on it. He was having trouble interacting appropriately with a human girl because he had no practice at it. His concern about her fragility is because, compared to him, she really is breakable.

It all falls apart, though, upon reading Midnight Sun. The above quote was really just the icing on the cake of awful that is Edward Cullen. Guess what, Eddie? Women didn’t get the vote until 1920, but they’d been fighting for it since 1848. If they are being recognized as voting citizens, the fact that they have worth past what a man deigns to give them is, well, a given.

Saints vs Edward

In my research about women, feminism, relationships, and abuse, I have run into people saying that feminism is no longer necessary. Its outlived its time. Women now have the upper hand. I beg to fucking differ. THIS is why we still need feminism. This . . . creature was written as the fantasy man of a contemporary woman. The story is in a contemporary time. The character was born too damn recently to legitimately say that the idea is just because it’s from the time when he was actually living. (I don’t really care how long ago it was written or set, no romantic hero I could fall for would ever suggest such a thing. Crap- is that my feminism showing?)

The women only matter because a man might decide to give them meaningYou know who thinks this way? Abusers. The woman’s worth can only be measured by what she’s worth to him. This character was written as, and is being read as, The Perfect Man. This book is being read by an appalling number of young (and not so young) women at a time in their lives when they are still forming their ideas of what a good relationship looks like. So they are being set up to see abusers as good men to date. Brilliant.

Why is this a job for feminism? After all, it was written by a woman.

Women are not immune to falling into the habits and thoughts that demean women. It wasn’t fathers that insisted their daughters get their feet bound or be corset-trained. Their mothers did it. They did it because they were so deeply entrenched in the patriarchal society that they thought they were doing right by their daughters as their mothers did right by them. This isn’t so different- it’s just that the bindings are on the mind, not the body. If the majority of society says that women are nothing without a man, then it is in a mother’s best interest to help her daughter get a man. If that means teaching her to sit down, be quiet, and stay chaste until her True Love comes along, then that’s what happens. When that happens, we end up with half-women like Bella that are so caught up in physical beauty and not offending their Man that they have no room in their lives for being, well, people. Guess what- this is a loss to both men and women.

Let’s see if we can rewrite it. We can keep his snobbish superiority and propensity to murder intact, even, but remove what makes him really dangerous to young women.

Yet a monster was loose in the streets of Port Angeles. A human monster- did that make him the humans’ problem? To commit the murder I ached to commit was wrong. I knew that. But leaving him free to attack again could not be the right thing either. 

The blond hostess from the restaurant. The waitress I’d never really looked at. Both had irritated me in a trivial way, but that didn’t mean they deserved to be in danger.

That realization decided me.

How Dare She?!

Let’s go ahead and jump right in with politics, racism, gender, and ‘Murica at its best.

I’m a little late on this one, but I wanted to share this gem from the most recent Miss America Pageant. I don’t follow it, but in an effort to learn more about this culture of ours, I’ve sort of paid a hint of attention this year. (Ok, I didn’t pay any attention until I heard about the first openly tattooed contestant in the pageant. I like tattoos.) Let’s go ahead and start at the top, shall we?

I know, they’re all brown and all from that part of the world known as “Not America,” but, really? It’s bad enough to paint all Arab people with a single paint brush, but, um, India is not generally considered to be the Middle East, even though it shares a border with Pakistan. (Yes, I looked it up. I didn’t need to look it up to know it’s not part of what Americans consider to be “Arab” nations.)

Aah, yes- her family is from somewhere else, so how could she win? A very quick Google told me that she was born in America to parents who moved from India. According to our laws, if you’re born on this soil, you’re American. Which is why my family, your family, and any family that isn’t a Native American can claim to be American. (Also, gotta love “I’m not racist, but . . . “) Heck, even the Native Americans came from somewhere else, if you go back in time far enough. (From further down- yes, our president and Miss America being of “questionable” citizenship totally deserves the same level of outrage.)

A brown woman won the crown four days after 9/11. Oh the humanity! Have we forgotten?! No, we haven’t forgotten. We aren’t allowed to. However, 9/11 really has absolutely nothing to do with picking the woman that looks the best in a bikini. Guess what? It’s been held in September since 1921. I think it has first dibs on the month.

Miss Al-Qaeda. That’s classy. Not only is she not considered to be an Arab (being of Indian descent and all), but even if she was of Arabic descent, there is no reason to assume that she has any ties to terrorists or that she has any sympathy for such fringe groups. Brown =/= terrorist. There’ve been enough white ones to disprove that particular theory.

Miss 7-11. I can’t even.

The best for last- Miss Kansas, the tattooed, military bow-hunter is the “Real Miss America.” After reading this article– Miss Kansas is awesome. Smart, athletic, multi-lingual, and willing to serve in the military. She is a kick-ass example of womanhood to set before our young woman. The very fact that she made it as far as she did in the pageant world with visible tattoos is a huge step forward in recognizing beauty in all its forms. However, that is no more American than the child of immigrants that is following much of the rest of her family into medicine.

There are so very many things wrong with all of this that it’s hard to pick something to fixate on. I think, though, that it’s the combination of skin color and tattoos that really sticks out. I guaran-damn-tee that if that tattoo had been on Miss New York, she wouldn’t have won. She probably wouldn’t have even made it to Miss America. But the deviation is permissible on Miss Kansas because she’s not just white, she’s blond. That puts her much more firmly in the “conventionally attractive” column than our brown Miss New York. So, really, with either winner, it’s a huge step in the right direction for getting out of our narrow view of beauty. (Also, congratulations to all of the contestants. I don’t understand pageants, but I do recognize the work it takes to get to this level.)

Post: The First

This is always the hardest one, isn’t it? You have no past to build on, no sense of your followers (person reading this post- thank you for showing up!). In my case, anyway, I’m not even entirely sure where I’m going with this blog. Although at least occasionally I am anticipating that it will be NSFW. Those posts should be fun.

I am a reader, a writer, and a romantic. I am also currently a pre-published author. Isn’t that a great term? I’m one of the many inspired by that amazing work, 50 Shades of Grey. I also tend towards a dry and/or sarcastic sense of humor. This will be your only warning. I don’t really have a plan at the moment, but I expect the blog will drift from writing technique to book reviews to feminism to flat out rants. It should be an exciting ride.

That seems to be all I have to say at the moment, but the next post will be longer. I promise. I won’t be able to help myself.

Welcome to my world!