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Posts Tagged ‘People’

Domestic violence comes in many forms, and can happen to men or women. This is a terrific article featuring 5 men and women who not only overcame abuse, but went on to do something to help.

TED Blog

Leslie Morgan Steiner thought that she’d found true love in her early 20s. Instead, she found herself married to a man who repeatedly pointed a gun at her head and threatened to kill her.

In today’s brave talk, given at TEDxRainier, Steiner tells the story of how she — a Harvard-educated magazine editor turned businesswoman — fell into an abusive relationship. She seeks to answer the question people always ask about women who are being abused: Why does she stay?

Steiner calls the phenomenon “crazy love.” Like many other women and men experience each year, her relationship started with adoration, moved on to isolation, and culminated in extreme manipulation — and violence.

“As it turns out, I’m a very typical domestic abuse victim … Domestic violence happens to everyone. All races, all religions, all income and education levels,” says Steiner. “Why did I stay? The answer is easy…

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A Guest Blog From Mrs. Silence Dogood.

Benjamin Franklin

Image via Wikipedia

The letter posted below is from a series of letters written by Ben Franklin. He was 16 years old at the time, and serving as a printing apprentice to his brother. He wrote this letter under the pseudonym Mrs Silence Dogood, in order to avoid legal reprisals from the authorities. In the early 18th century it was illegal to speak out against church or government. In fact, his brother had already spent time in prison for a previously published piece from another writer.

This particular letter speaks against the hypocrisy of public ministers and politicians. Mrs Dogood’s message rings crystal clear even today, maybe more than ever! (Yes I’m pointing at you Rethuglicans and Teahadists).

Without further adieu, I share with you Mrs. Silence Dogood.

To the Author of the New-England Courant.

Sir,

It has been for some Time a Question with me, Whether a Commonwealth
suffers more by hypocritical Pretenders to Religion, or by the openly
Profane? But some late Thoughts of this Nature, have inclined me to
think, that the Hypocrite is the most dangerous Person of the Two,
especially if he sustains a Post in the Government, and we consider his
Conduct as it regards the Publick. The first Artifice of a State
Hypocrite is, by a few savoury Expressions which cost him Nothing, to
betray the best Men in his Country into an Opinion of his Goodness; and
if the Country wherein he lives is noted for the Purity of Religion, he
the more easily gains his End, and consequently may more justly be
expos’d and detested. A notoriously profane Person in a private
Capacity, ruins himself, and perhaps forwards the Destruction of a few
of his Equals; but a publick Hypocrite every day deceives his betters,
and makes them the Ignorant Trumpeters of his supposed Godliness: They
take him for a Saint, and pass him for one, without considering that
they are (as it were) the Instruments of publick Mischief out of
Conscience, and ruin their Country for God’s sake.

This Political Description of a Hypocrite, may (for ought I know) be
taken for a new Doctrine by some of your Readers; but let them consider,
that a little Religion, and a little Honesty, goes a great way in
Courts. ‘Tis not inconsistent with Charity to distrust a Religious Man
in Power, tho’ he may be a good Man; he has many Temptations “to
propagate publick Destruction for Personal Advantages and Security”: And
if his Natural Temper be covetous, and his Actions often contradict his
pious Discourse, we may with great Reason conclude, that he has some
other Design in his Religion besides barely getting to Heaven. But the
most dangerous Hypocrite in a Common-Wealth, is one who leaves the
Gospel for the sake of the Law: A Man compounded of Law and Gospel, is
able to cheat a whole Country with his Religion, and then destroy them
under Colour of Law: And here the Clergy are in great Danger of being
deceiv’d, and the People of being deceiv’d by the Clergy, until the
Monster arrives to such Power and Wealth, that he is out of the reach of
both, and can oppress the People without their own blind Assistance. And
it is a sad Observation, that when the People too late see their Error,
yet the Clergy still persist in their Encomiums on the Hypocrite; and
when he happens to die for the Good of his Country, without leaving
behind him the Memory of one good Action, he shall be sure to have his
Funeral Sermon stuff’d with Pious Expressions which he dropt at such a
Time, and at such a Place, and on such an Occasion; than which nothing
can be more prejudicial to the Interest of Religion, nor indeed to the
Memory of the Person deceas’d. The Reason of this Blindness in the
Clergy is, because they are honourably supported (as they ought to be)
by their People, and see nor feel nothing of the Oppression which is
obvious and burdensome to every one else.

But this Subject raises in me an Indignation not to be born; and if we
have had, or are like to have any Instances of this Nature in New
England, we cannot better manifest our Love to Religion and the Country,
than by setting the Deceivers in a true Light, and undeceiving the
Deceived, however such Discoveries may be represented by the ignorant or
designing Enemies of our Peace and Safety. . . .

Silence Dogood

Pick Your Topic Tuesday: Sexual Consent and Female Agency

Sexual equality symbol

Image via Wikipedia

My thanks go out to The Arbourist, from the blog Dead Wild Roses for this week’s topic suggestion. If you haven’t checked out Dead Wild Roses yet please do. It is a voice of reason amongst the theocratic, radically conservative virus that is currently infecting North America. On any given day, you will be treated to posts that range from eviscerating the myth that is religion, to challenging the narrow minded political and social ideologies that are becoming pervasive in Canada and United States. It’s a great blog that never ceases to provide relevant discourse.

This week’s topic is as intriguing as it is volatile; it raises the question as to whether or not women’s sexual consent truly exists in our patriarchal society. In light of this topic, I thought that inviting a guest blogger who happens to be highly educated and vocal in the realm of Women’s Studies, Feminism, and Gender Roles, would be appropriate. I will be adding my two cents in the comments section, but from here on out, the bright light of this post will be shining directly on my partner, Michelle Beltano Curtis, from the blog Carving Out a Voice. Take it away Michelle!

Sexual Consent and Female Agency

In this blog by Jill at I Blame the Patriarchy, she posits that women are unable to give sexual consent:

… because in a patriarchy, agency is not conferred equally upon women and dudes. This untoward circumstance creates a contingency wherein the notion of consent is, for women, entirely non-substantive, a figment, a desperate fantasy invented to obscure the true nature of women’s status as the sex class.

The problem I have with this position is that she is virtually giving men in patriarchal societies cart blanche to do whatever they want, locks in the endless position of the existence of patriarchy and virtually forces women into the irrevocable role of the victim so long as any drop of patriarchy remains either institutionally or personally. She posits it in such a way as to render the entire situation not only hopeless, but something we shouldn’t try to alter short of the wholesale destruction of our culture rather than the careful and methodical one act, one person, one law at a time kind of change we have no other choice for it to be. I find both of these positions to be untenable, dangerous and lacking in the way that I’ve come to see the world through decades of personal experience, scholarship and critical thinking.

Jill’s argument assumes that the core of all patriarchy is sexual and personal and in doing so, she assumes the advances women have made to date to be pointless and completely ineffectual. It also feeds on the idea that women must still cower in fear at every turn and by doing so is only playing into the very hands of those men still so thoroughly entrenched in male privilege. Sure, this is still a patriarchal society and there are still a number of issues to be addressed including a one in six chance (and quite possibly higher) of women experiencing sexual assault sometime in their life and maybe we should all still be scared, but is this really a tenable solution for women? Is this really the attitude with which we should live our lives? Where is the assertion of female power in this? Where is the notion that we are indeed women and not girls and as such should begin to assert our own kind of authority in which we have a right to say no and the ability to do what we can to fight it? I cannot agree any less that having willing sex with a male partner is and can only be rape and is non-consensual because as many times as I have been in this position, I had to not only accept my own culpability as a cog in the patriarchal machine, I had to be willing to fight it, both internally and externally, but I did eventually arrive at a place where consent truly is mine to give. That is not to say that it’s the fault of the victim, nor would I ever, but there is also something to be said for victim mentality making women easier prey for perpetrators and that we not only have a responsibility to reduce the number of patriarchal hunters in this world, but also the availability of prey.

I feel this way because I was a victim of multiple instances of sexual and physical abuse, which kept recurring so long as I retained the very victim’s mentality of which I now speak. Since I have done the hard work of getting healthy and accepting myself as victim no more, I am no longer a victim, nor have I been for a very long time.

Furthermore, to say that equality between the sexes in a sexual or personal (romantic) relationship is impossible (which is what is being argued here ultimately) is not only overlooking the above mentioned, it’s also anathema to my own experience. Finding equality in an opposite-sex relationship can be difficult, but not impossible. I know this, because I have enjoyed an egalitarian, non-patriarchal relationship with a man for almost seven years. And it has nothing to do with “compulsory.” It’s a choice I made based on finding and falling in love with a man who is anything but patriarchal. I didn’t expect it, I wasn’t even looking for it, but I sure as hell knew what to do when I found it; hold on for dear life.

For some time I felt the way Jill does and chose as a bisexual woman not to date men any longer. As a scholar of women’s studies and self-identified lesbian, this theory, originally posited by Adrienne Rich in her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” spoke to me as truth at the time and in many ways it still does, however this is a slight mutation of it; an inflexible one that’s partially taken out of context, not to mention more than thirty years old which obviously cannot take into account the changes we have experienced in this culture since, including the ability for women to assert their autonomy within more (not completely) equal standing as far as what they can bring into a marriage.

To a large degree what is missing, is women’s ability to assert their equal rights within a non-violent and mostly healthy relationship mostly because they still believe or feel like they are NOT on equal ground, that they deserve to be victims because they “chose” heterosexuality and are still raising their daughters (in some cases) and the daughters of others to be this way. Furthermore, we (as mothers and a society) are still instilling in male children that they have a certain amount of privilege over their female counterparts and this, THIS is what continues to sway the possible balance, quite possibly much more effectively than any law we can enact. This is what I see to be one of the biggest struggles for women and the crusade for equality over all, not to mention in opposite sex relationships and it certainly doesn’t make sense to see hiding from it in a gynocentric world as a solution.

In addressing this specific idea (especially without being rooted within the context of 1970’s female experience and the socio-historical context from which Rich was speaking) what I came to realize is that while it does indeed have socio-historical significance especially on the subject of lesbianism, it is nonetheless a cop out to assume that one can only escape patriarchy through same sex female love, and most especially that it is somehow the ultimate act of feminism. Hell, it’s barely tolerable complicity, feeding into the idea that with the participation and interaction of men that it’s positively unattainable. It’s divisive and only serves to create the same kind of patriarchal binarism many feminists are desperate to escape and it separates women in a movement that’s already too small and too fragile.

If you surround yourself in a gynocentric world, as I did for eight years, the problem is no longer “your problem.” It becomes “their problem;” you know, those “silly” women who actually still feel the need (either as a matter of sexual orientation or otherwise) to participate in a relationship with the opposite sex. Just for clarity, I’m being sarcastic here, because I think sexual orientation is both more and less complicated than we tend to make it. Natural attraction is at play here and to simply think one can throw off the shackles of oppression by no longer participating in heteronormative relationships also suggests that women should live an unnatural life as opposed to addressing the very real concerns created for women in this patriarchy.

It’s also too simplistic and assumes far too much. It not only allows for avoidance of the problem that patriarchy presents for the heterosexual/bisexual woman and which still inevitably effects queer women whether they participate in it or not via work, laws and exposure to violence and sexism virtually anywhere outside the home. Patriarchy effects all institutions within the culture which upholds it; everything from how we educate our children to the shaping of marriage as a patriarchal institution to the lack of true equal rights enforced by our government to the disparity of wage earning to the right to our own reproductive freedom to… you get my point.

What I’ve found more through personal experience than scholarship (this is also too simplistic as what we know and how we see the world informs our lives to the core) was that the lack of inequality in heterosexual relationships, indeed in any relationship, is a two way street and I not only had to find the right man (or woman for that matter, as we’re just as effected by the ideas of domination and disrespect for the individual) to have an equal relationship, I had to let go of my own sexist notions about both women and men. Yes, being thoroughly initiated in the world of patriarchy makes it very difficult for a woman to succeed in this, and perhaps even harder for men because they have to let go of all the assumed privilege, but it’s not impossible. What it takes is a long freaking search and honest work. What it takes is making the right choices and being unyielding in those choices. What it takes is accepting the truth of female power and maintaining constant vigilance over those learned ideas about the inequality of women and thus the self so they don’t come up and trip you flat on your face even for a second. It’s hard work, but it’s possible, and through doing so, you’re not only transforming your own relationship from patriarchal to egalitarian, but you’re also affecting every person around you who sees how you and your partner (male or female) live your life. Accepting that as a woman you’re a victim in your everyday life and so must run to the illusory safety of gynocentrism; that’s the antithesis.

Michelle Beltano Curtis holds an MFA in Creative Writing and a BA in Women’s Studies. She teaches college level writing and literature and writes poetry, fiction and some hybrid forms thereof. In her spare time, she blogs about her adventures in writing, her work at a domestic violence shelter, education and much more. To read more of her work, visit http://carvingoutavoice.wordpress.com.

We Lost a Friend Today

The major events of the week were put on hold for me today in crippling fashion. When I arrived to work this morning, I was told that a co-worker and good friend to me and my partner had died in the middle of the night. I sobbed like a baby at my desk.

I won’t go into how he died, or even name our friend. That’s information that only his family is entitled to give.

When I first started my new job almost 5 years ago, it was he who took the time to babysit me, and show me the ropes. At first, I was lost without him until I learned my way around.

In the years since, his family and mine became good friends, we would see each other socially from time to time, as well as help each other out when help was needed.

He made me laugh, and he had my back, and now he’s gone. My wife and I are very saddened today, but we feel even worse for the wonderful family he left behind. Rest assured, when they need us, we’ll have their back. I would be very grateful if you kept them in your thoughts and prayers tonight.

RIP my friend, we miss you already. Wherever you are, I hope there’s cold beer and NASCAR.

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Martin Luther King Jr Understood, Why Can’t The Rest of Us?

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...

Image via Wikipedia

A Facebook friend posted this as her status today. Truer words never spoken.
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Carving Out a Voice: Men’s Work

More good stuff from my favorite writer 🙂    Men’s Work

Women Writers Being Silenced

Another great post from Carving Out a Voice. This article touches upon the struggle and bias that women face who are trying to break into the literary world. Women Writers Being Silenced.