#whyistayed “I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability

#whyistayed (trending on Twitter) // Why Janay Rice stayed (Feministe) 

I didn’t want to have a failed marriage at 25 I didn’t want my daughter to think this was ok and normal

I didn’t want to be alone again I didn’t want to be alone in a casket

: Kept telling myself if he didn’t hit me, it wasn’t abuse : Learned I didn’t have to get beaten to fear for my life.

“If you think about what keeps you in a relationship people to your life that are healthy relationships: your friends, your family, your coworkers, all of those components whether it’s money, love, history, you’re related to this person, you have kids with this person because you live together, because they care about you, because they were there for you, etc, etc. All those things are the very same reasons why women in those situations won’t leave. The good things can also be the reasons why you stay in a bad relationships. So it’s not about, ‘Well, she should’ve just left.’ It’s never that simple or that easy if they have children together, if he’s the only source of income in the family, if she has strong religious beliefs about marriage or what it means to be a good girlfriend or wife, all these things, which you can’t really separate out from the others, play a role.”

The Disposable Woman (The New York Times, March 2011)

“It’s these sorts of explicit and implicit value judgments that underscore our contempt for women who are assumed to be trading on their sexuality. A woman’s active embrace of the fame monster or participation in the sex industry, we seem to say, means that she compromises her right not to be assaulted, let alone humiliated, insulted or degraded; it’s part of the deal. The promise of a modern Cinderella ending — attention, fame, the love and savings account of a rich man — is always the assumed goal. Objectification and abuse, it follows, is not only an accepted occupational hazard for certain women, but something that men like Mr. Sheen have earned the right to indulge in.”

“I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability (Feministe, August 2011)

“When we imagine abuse, we envision the act of abusing: the woman crouching on the floor, a flying fist, a sailing kick. Perhaps my remembrance of that time would be different if my abuse had been more prolonged, or more severe, but what I recall from that era of my life is not moments of violence but feeling as though I were separated from the world, swaddled in a thick layer of invisible cloth that I couldn’t ever swat away. I was in a fog.

Which is to say: I was in many ways incapable of helping myself—which, even years later, pains me to say. But there it is: The fog of abuse ensured that my emotions, instincts, and principles were muted; every ounce of energy I had went into my relationship and keeping up the general appearance of sanity. Had you somehow been able to land my healthy, normal status-quo self smack-dab into the worst of my relationship, I’d have gotten out immediately. That’s not how abuse works, of course. Abuse is gradual; abuse is systemic. Abuse changes you; abuse reduces you. Abuse took the me out of me.”

Ray Rice Video Sets Off Barrage of Conversations (audio from NPR’s Morning Edition)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the ongoing national conversation on domestic violence that was spurred on by the Ray Rice video, I would encourage you to read the above essays, articles & tweets. Listen to the audio. Take the time to analyze your own reactions. Keep in mind,

“More than one in three women have experienced sexual assault, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.” (CNN)

So when we ask ourselves, “why did she stay?” remember that we’re asking on behalf of our friends, family, and co-workers. These are not “those” women. These are our loved ones.

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Masters of Love

Masters of Love (The Atlantic, June 2014)

“There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

‘If your partner expresses a need,’ explained Julie Gottman, ‘and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.’ In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble ‘Uh huh’ and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.”

So many takeaways from this article. I think the most important lesson here is to keep trying. If you care enough to try to be kind, you’re already doing something right.

[Interested in reading more? Check out The Generous Marriage, an excellent article from 2011.]

On Naming Women and Mountains

image courtesy of Lonely Planet

On Naming Women and Mountains

“The truth was more complicated. In my mind, Lucy Rebecca Bryan and Lucy Bryan Green represented two disparate identities. Lucy Rebecca Bryan was the girl who once argued that everything in the world was either black or white, right or wrong—self-righteous enough to think that she knew the difference. She was the teenager who sustained a series of flirtations in hopes of converting her crushes to Christianity. She held the incongruous (and equally offensive) beliefs that she deserved all the good things in her life—loving parents, a college education, thick hair and long legs, intelligence, sorority membership—and that God had given them to her. It took my husband to drag me out of that box of my own making.

It was Lucy Bryan Green, not Lucy Rebecca Bryan, who learned to embrace feminism, pacifism, and non-consumerism; who dared to befriend gays and liberals and atheists. She was the one who wrote a novel, who learned to garden by trial and error, who trekked all 212 miles of the John Muir Trail. The man whose name I took played a fundamental role in me becoming that person. I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to move forward.

I also wanted to take responsibility for my contributions to the mess that my marriage had become. Anger that would boil into door-slamming, hair-pulling, glass-shattering rage; my need to control everything, down to what time my husband woke up in the morning and the clothes he wore; my anxiety, which made basic tasks like doing the dishes or shopping for groceries seem insurmountable—I wanted to work on those problems as Lucy Bryan Green.

And I still liked my name. It didn’t seem fair that he could take it from me. He’d already taken the canoe, a whole bookcase’s worth of books (along with the bookcase), half the set of glass nesting bowls, our nicest chef’s knife, two watercolors I’d painted, our cast iron patio furniture, our Honda CRV, the pine bedframe we’d stained by hand, all of the power tools, and most of the money in our bank account. Those were just the things. When he left, so did his family, many of our friends, my sense of security, the belief that I was unconditionally loved, my trust in God, my identity as a married woman, my plans to have children, and my sense of self-worth. I wouldn’t let him have my name. He’d taken enough.”

Another wonderful essay about the power and privilege of names. I love the metaphor of women and mountains; the lyricism and imagery are especially moving.

(See also: What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name)

What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name

“My younger brother started it off by asking me how Chris felt about being emasculated. He was joking, and he did apologize about it later, but I couldn’t help wonder if he somehow represented all the men who might feel emasculated by our choice. My mother, always a supporter, just sighed. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘Just be ready for the responses. Your child might have some trouble on the playground.’

As my belly grew, the comments got even stranger. I had secretly hoped for no reaction, for our choice to be as common as saying, ‘I went with the mustard instead of the ketchup.’ No reaction would mean something good, right? That women in this country are, for example, no longer considered the property of men, even in name. That archaic systems are truly collapsing. That we can reclaim language that was formerly used to control us.

But it seemed, at least to me, that using a woman’s last name for a child threatened everyone. An older woman asked me if I was doing this to make a point. Why was all this doing perceived as mine, not my husband’s as well? At a party, a peer told me she was ‘diehard Obama’ and then argued that her only real concern about using a woman’s last name is that you risk the ease of preserving lineage and historical records.

‘Really?’ I kept responding.”

I got a lot of weird reactions when people found out that I wasn’t taking my husband’s last name when we got married. But I’m an only child, and I’d decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to change my name for anyone. Sometimes I question my decision, but most of the time I feel proud for staying true to myself. There’s nothing wrong with changing your name to match your spouse’s if that’s what you both want. But it doesn’t have to be what you want, and it’s not what I wanted.

If and when we have kids, we’ve talked about hyphenation, or combining our last names into something new… it’s not set in stone. But it’s definitely not a given for us, and it shouldn’t be for anyone. Names are important: your name is not only a part of how you see yourself, it’s also how other people see you.

As women in the United States, even though “we’ve come a long way, baby,” we still have certain cultural exceptions, including but not limited to: 1. We change our names when we get married; 2. We wear white (or off-white, or eggshell, or whatever nonsense name that’s really just white) on our wedding day; 3. We shave our body hair; 4. We wear makeup and heels when we dress up. Well, guess what? As a white, cis-gendered woman in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship, I currently do none of those things. Somehow, I’m still a woman. The world is still spinning. My husband still feels like a man.

In summation: we don’t have to do any of this nonsense that society still expects we do. We absolutely can, and plenty of women love doing all of the things I’ve just listed. I’m not saying all women should start following my lead, but I’m saying they can. You can. If you don’t want to do some, any, or all of these things, it’s okay. You’re not alone. There are plenty of us out there following our own paths to womanhood. There’s no rule book other than the one you create for yourself.

“The patriarchy is still deeply ingrained—in all of us. Surnames are one of the unseen limbs of the old world. Giving a child the father’s last name is still a given. And that given preserves the man’s place of power, from the Supreme Court on down to the everyday Joe. How can that still be the case? Why, I wonder, are we so slow on this one? It seems lazy of us.”

How we end up marrying the wrong people

How we end up marrying the wrong people

“Anyone we could marry would, of course, be a little wrong for us. It is wise to be appropriately pessimistic here. Perfection is not on the cards. Unhappiness is a constant. Nevertheless, one encounters some couples of such primal, grinding mismatch, such deep-seated incompatibility, that one has to conclude that something else is at play beyond the normal disappointments and tensions of every long-term relationship: some people simply shouldn’t be together.

How do the errors happen? With appalling ease and regularity. Given that marrying the wrong person is about the single easiest and also costliest mistake any of us can make (and one which places an enormous burden on the state, employers and the next generation), it is extraordinary, and almost criminal, that the issue of marrying intelligently is not more systematically addressed at a national and personal level, as road safety or smoking are.”

This is a really dense piece, but there are some real gems, like

“We marry the wrong people because the right ones feel wrong – undeserved; because we have no experience of health, because we don’t ultimately associate being loved with feeling satisfied.”

However, I think the author takes some of this a bit too far. I don’t know if I agree that

“In a wiser society, prospective partners would put each other through detailed psychological questionnaires and send themselves off to be assessed at length by teams of psychologists. By 2100, this will no longer sound like a joke. The mystery will be why it took humanity so long to get to this point.”

But I see the author’s point. People should absolutely put more thought and consideration into who they want to spend the rest of their lives with. It’s not just about feelings; it’s about actual compatibility. For more on the topic, be sure to read How to Pick Your Life Partner.

I did, and then I didn’t: Being a divorced twenty-something

“Eventually, I trained myself to compartmentalize these fears, rather than to confront them. I went to great lengths to tuck them away as tidily as I could, and developed cognitive mechanisms for assuaging them whenever they reared their ugly heads. And so, over the two years of my engagement, I never once considered the possibility that I should not marry my fiancé – not when I began to question my sexuality or when I sensed the profound ways that I was changing. This is not to say that there was a definitive red flag bearing the words, “DO NOT PROCEED – BIG MISTAKE,” but there were opportunities for me to reflect. I never took advantage of them; I was too afraid to do so.”

This hit very close to home. [via The Hairpin]

Positive & Promise

I have decided that my goal will be to update Positive and Promise by Monday, at least every other week. Originally, I thought Sunday night might make a nice, tidy deadline, but, let’s face it, I am watching “Downton Abbey” on Sunday nights. And, if I can catch up soon enough, I will be watching “Sherlock” as well. One has to manage one’s priorities responsibly.

Generally, I also will do my best to alternate more somber posts, like the one from last week, with pieces that are more light-hearted. But everything that follows has been on my mind for some time now, and I would like to put it into words.

Writing this piece will be simplest if I begin with the absolute basics:

When I was twenty-three years old, I got engaged to my college boyfriend. When I was twenty-five years old, I married him. Ten months later, we…

View original post 1,835 more words

How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation

How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation

But most of all, the situation put into stark, unsettling relief just how misaligned evangelical priorities have become. When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gays and lesbians helping to provide that aid, something is wrong.

There is a disproportionate focus on homosexuality that consistently dehumanizes, stigmatizes and marginalizes gay and lesbian people and, at least in this case, prioritizes the culture war against them over and against the important work of caring for the poor.

Evangelicals insist that they are simply fighting to preserve “biblical marriage,” but if this were actually about “biblical marriage,” then we would also be discussing the charity’s policy around divorce.

But we’re not.

This excellent analysis was written by the wonderful Rachel Held Evans, whose blog I used to read regularly but somehow got away from. I look forward to catching up on her writing.