I’m Not That Messed Up

I’ve been working on a project inspired by the phenomenon sweeping our nation called 50 Shades of Twilight. (I know that technically they’re two different stories, but we all know they aren’t.) I’ve been combing through both series to pull out the pertinent plot points. (Stop laughing- I have to call the scenes something.) I’ve been working for quite a while now to weave them together into some sort of cohesive story. (Also, to add a plot- still working on that.) This was first inspired after reading 50 Shades of Grey and hearing that this story was touted as an adult romance to aspire to. We’ve all heard that. Christian Grey is the new Sean Connery or something? (Sorry, Christian- without the accent, you don’t stand a chance. I don’t care how tousled your hair is.)

My brain started working, changing the story, asking what if as a good writer always does. What it came up with was: What if a real-life person did meet and fall in love with a real-life Ice Prince? What would really happen in a relationship with the sort of man girls (Twilight) and women (50SoG) are being told to attach themselves to? What would happen if the Ethnic Friend (don’t tell me you don’t know who that is) was actually called on trying to force his affections on her?

I had just finished the 50 Shades series when I started this, and I re-read the first two in the Twilight series. Ok, I thought, I have this. Jose was exaggerated from Jacob when he assaulted the female lead. I can tone it back down a bit because, honestly, of all the characters, I like Jacob the best. He can be a bit of an idiot, but he’s a 16-year-old boy. Also, while a lot of Edward’s behavior is really not ok, he is a 100-year-old vampire with his first girlfriend. Which makes Christian worse, since Christian is supposed to be wholly human and raised in contemporary circumstances. 50 Shades of Grey really is the worse example- and not just because of the writing.

Then I started reading the Sporkings of Twilight. Oh dear god. (Careful about clicking on that link if you have anywhere you need to be in the next few days. It’s a little addictive.) I knew that I’d read just the surface when I was reading the books, and I’d still quit the first time after reading New Moon. For the second go-round, I actually switched from Team Jacob to Team Edward when reading New Moon. Edward deserved Bella. Jacob was something of an idiot, but he still deserved better. After all, he had the potential to outgrow the idiocy.  Apparently my brain had just shut out everything that happened in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

For the sporkings, counts are kept of the most egregious problems. A new one was added just for Eclipse. It was called “I’m Gonna Rape You” and it tallied whenever a character did something that was easily read as rape-tastic. The final count? 152. The only reason it didn’t come in as the highest count is because it tied with You Racist Bastards. There was one scene, though, that really made me start to re-think whether or not I was up to the task of dealing with these characters. I think I’ll leave this in the hands of das-mervin. (Trigger warning for that link.)

I just . . . I can’t . . . I think I’m going to stick with ignoring everything that happens in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. There are a couple of things that I must include, like the baby, and maybe the bruising sex, but I’m going to admit that there are things I just can’t write. I can’t write that many genuinely screwed up characters. And I can’t write a male romantic interest that thinks it’s ok to rape his girl into loving him. I can’t turn an awkward, but generally likeable, character into that big of a douche.

I’m starting to think that I’m not messed up enough to write in the “tradition” of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. I’d say that was a good thing if I wasn’t sort of hoping for an insta-best-seller.

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.

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.