Why I Need Feminism

I have recently started spending an inordinate amount of time on Twitter. A year ago, I would have believed that to be a waste of time. A year ago, I was uninformed.

Twitter, largely thanks to the efforts of Black Lives Matter activists like  Johnetta Elzie, DeRay Mckesson and Zellie Imani, has become the active, vibrant, effective hub of social change. It’s strange to say, but I sometimes feel like I didn’t really grow up, didn’t really mature in my own feminism, until I found Twitter. Sure, I sort of understood my own white privilege, but I didn’t really know even a third of the racial history of this country. I believed in intersectionality, but I had not quite internalized it.

Twitter changed that, 140 characters at a time. Not to mention all the links to mind-blowing, mind-expanding studies and articles, op-ed pieces and blog entries. It also introduced me to a host of amazing people who are doing some very difficult, often thankless, sometimes risky even to the point of possible death, activism work.

Aside from the cat pics and joke memes (which, let’s be clear, I enjoy more than I should), Twitter has mostly been a feeling of community I’ve missed for a long time. It has given me something I thought I’d lost, before: a place to talk about my personal feminism, without feeling like I was constantly under attack. A place to learn from other people, without feeling completely disconnected from the teachers. A place to debate, where the trolls can fairly easily be dismissed (at least, they can for me; I know others’ experiences haven’t been that at all) by the simple click of a mouse.

And there are the question tweets. Mostly, the questions aren’t original. Often, they’re things I’ve seen a million times, and just haven’t bothered to address or answer, for myself. Simple questions, with maybe not-so-simple answers.

Tonight’s simple question, from Feminist Gals an account created mostly (from what I can tell) to educate teens and college-aged adults about feminism, was this:

Why do you need feminism?

I responded twice, and I’ll include those answers, here. But there is so much more than I could put into tweets, even if I filled that text field over and over again, all night long. I decided to start a living, updated-as-necessary list of all the reasons why I need feminism.

I need feminism…

  • …because before I was old enough to legally buy a drink in a bar, I’d been molested for five years, gang raped while on a vacation, abused by two different partners, and roofied and raped at a party where I had one drink.
  • …because my family didn’t believe I’d been molested.
  • …because I chose a boy I didn’t really care about, to lose my virginity, so that the grown man who was molesting me wouldn’t take it from me, without my consent.
  • …because virginity has become so commodified in our culture, I actually believed I would lose value as a human being, as soon as I was no longer a virgin.
  • …because from the moment I had sex with that sweet boy, I was labelled a slut.
  • …because my best friend at the time was also gang raped, that night, and blamed me for it. Because she and her friend beat me in a parking lot for not saving her.
  • …because I was taught to question and doubt the validity of my own lived experiences, by people not believing my accounts of them.
  • …because of gaslighting.
  • …because, when I told my boyfriend (at the time) about being raped, he blamed me for it, and immediately explained how he would leave me, if I pulled away from him the next time he tried to kiss me or initiate sex.
  • …because I was still so unsure of my own value as a human being that I stayed with him, anyway.
  • …because my sexual orientation has been dissected, ridiculed, picked apart, and even been deemed imaginary or non-existent, since I was outed in high school.
  • …because not all of that came from straight people.
  • …because a high school guidance counselor told me that I shouldn’t be “shoving it (my sexual orientation) in everybody’s faces, when I spoke to her about the bullying.
  • …because I was quietly steered away from the hobbies and careers I wanted, when I was young, because of my gender.
  • …because my childhood religion taught me both that I was the source of all evil, and that my only legitimate purposes on this planet were to make babies and take care of them. And men. To take care of men.
  • …because my emotions, even when their expression is both logical and appropriate to the situation, are often used to discredit my words. I am neither hysterical nor oversensitive.
  • …because I had an easier time getting booze at the liquor store, when I was a teenager, than I did getting birth control.
  • …because I grew up believing that women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex.
  • …because all the heroes in my books, movies, and TV shows were men and boys, beyond Nancy Drew.
  • …because I was taught all about all the things I was supposed to do to keep myself from being raped, without ever hearing a thing about consent.
  • …because my male friends and cousins were never taught not to touch me, if I said no.
  • …because I was never taught how to set boundaries, or even that I was allowed to do so. In fact, I was made to accept kisses, hugs, cheek-pinches, and to sit in someone’s lap, even when I’d said I didn’t want to do so.
  • …because parents are still forcing their kids to accept touches and physical affection from people who make them uncomfortable.
  • …because, until I was in my late twenties, I believed that if I “led a man on” to a certain point, I owed him sex.
  • …because girls – and more importantly, boys – are still being taught that lie.
  • …because too many people believe they are entitled to my attention, time, respect, affection, body, and intimacy.
  • …because girls are still made to choose their clothes for school based upon whether or not the boys might find them “distracting.”
  • …because the vast majority of legislators making policy and funding decisions about women’s health in the US are male.
  • …because I’m afraid to post face or full-body pictures of myself online, due to the possible commentary.
  • …because my clothing does not indicate consent
  • …because my alcohol consumption doesn’t, either.
  • …because one in five women will be raped in her lifetime.
  • …because 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are molested as children
  • …because our country provides those child victims with neither justice nor adequate treatment for their trauma.
  • …because a child victim of sexual abuse is almost twice as likely to be sexually assaulted or raped, later in life, as someone who was not molested as a child, yet there is no ongoing support system.
  • …because children almost never lie about sexual abuse, yet are rarely believed.
  • …because women almost never lie about rape, yet are rarely believed.
  • …because police officers often interrogate reporting rape victims as if they were the criminals…
  • …and only about 3% of rapists ever see the inside of a prison cell…
  • …and victims are revictimized by the court system, during trials…
  • …and by their communities…
  • …and by the media…
  • …yet too many people, when told by a woman that she was raped, refuse to believe her unless she goes to the police.
  • …because people like RooshV and Donald Trump exist.

And that’s all I’ve got the spoons to type, right now. I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I will be back.

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Unlearning Apologies

I want to say I’m sorry
for saying I’m sorry
so goddamned much
for being a nuisance
with my insistence
that I’m too insistent
too needy
too much

I want to apologize
for apologizing
when I shouldn’t
when I’ve done nothing
wrong
when I’m simply feeling
like the burden
you assure me I’m not

I get frustrated
with myself
with my fears
with the crushing weight
of not knowing
how much need
is too much need

I get angry
with myself
because I know
better
I know
that you know
I get angry
because I am
saying I’m sorry
for existing
as I am
for being me

I see your face
puzzlement and proxy-pain
when you tell me
“No, baby
No sorries.”

And then I get angry
with them
all over again
for teaching me
that I am too much
that my need
is too much

Angry with me
for letting that stick
where other
better
knowledge has failed
for being afraid
to ask

Angry with a world
where being sick
or being young
or needing help
has always equaled
being too much

Then, you smile
and stroke my face
remind me that
it’s not a one-way street
remind me that
the things I give
balance with
the things I need

So I say again
I’m sorry
for saying I’m sorrry
so goddamned much


This kind of just happened. I wasn’t planning this. I was just sitting here, being grateful for what I have, feeling unworthy.

I had a seizure today. I hurt, and I’m tired. I’m not up to much, and going out, anywhere, is much. There are just days when the getting ready, the getting dressed and being presentable in public is too much. It’s daunting, like facing a mountain you never wanted to climb in the first place, and knowing you have to, anyway.

We had been, I think, planning to go get Chinese takeout at that place that lets you get the buffet to go. He’d been wanting it for a while.

And I just… can’t. And I knew he wouldn’t, as much as he’s been craving it, if I couldn’t. I asked him, if I gave him a list of the things I wanted off the buffet, would he be willing to do that? And I felt shitty, asking. I felt like an imposition, a burden, a drag. To ask him to go to so much extra effort, just because I’m all fucked up.

And off he goes, with a list and a smile, thanking me for coming up with a way for us to still have Chinese. And all this just kind of… erupted.

This thing has played out more than a time or two in my life, both before and after the illness, with romantic partners and parents and friends. The me being too much thing.

Most of the time, I’m okay. Most of the time, I hear him when he says that’s bullshit, that it was always bullshit. Most of the time, I believe him.

Standing in one of those mountain-facing days, though, and asking him to climb it for me, no matter how small it seems to him, sometimes I get scared. This is one of those days that life has taught me I have to be sorry for being me.

Don’t kid yourself; it’s ALL conditional.

Unconditional love. It’s the much-hyped, much lauded, Utopian emotional ideal.

The idea that there’s someone for everyone, someone who will love us no matter what, accept us just as we are, warts and all. Someone who will continue to give us that love, regardless of circumstance or change, action or inaction. Blanket absolution for every flaw, every misdeed.

Friendship? The same ideals seem to apply. Respect? Admiration? Also the same.

The thing is, none of those things are unconditional. And I don’t think they should be.

There are conditions on every single type of relationship, on every human interaction. Those conditions are mostly unspoken, silently understood. Tacit social agreements. The clerk at the convenience store won’t charge you for things you don’t buy. If he does, he risks losing the employment through which your interaction with him takes place. The teller at the bank won’t pocket part of your deposit, or she risks the same thing. The trucker behind you on the highway won’t ram into you and push you into oncoming traffic, or he risks losing his job, his license, and his freedom.

Your friends won’t steal from you. They won’t trash your things, or take undue advantage of you. They will listen when you speak. They won’t decide that they know, better than you, what your motivations or experiences are. They won’t form their opinions about you without coming straight to the source, and giving you the chance to clear up any misconceptions they might have. If they do, they risk losing the friendship.

Your romantic partners won’t intentionally harm you. They won’t lie to you about important things. If you’ve agreed to be monogamous, they won’t cheat. If they do, they risk losing the relationship.

All of these things are conditions, set on relationships from the outset. Most of the time, they aren’t explicitly stated, but they exist just the same. No relationship is unconditional. Love is conditional. Admiration is conditional. Professional relationships are conditional. Friendships are conditional. Romantic relationships are conditional.

Frankly, it would be unhealthy, otherwise.

Unconditional love, unless it’s the kind given to minor children by parents, leads to some pretty busted shit. It’s at least a part of the reason, in many cases, that domestic abuse victims stay with their abusers. It’s the reason why people allow themselves to be beaten down, repeatedly, in unhealthy relationships with relatives.

Without these conditions, you’re basically saying, “You can treat me however you like, do whatever you want to me, and I’ll still take it, still allow you to have influence in my life, still continue to make you a priority.” You’re devaluing yourself, your emotions, your safety, your own experience, and the relationships, themselves.

Our relationships, whether romantic, friendship, professional or otherwise, exist for a reason. There’s a commonality between you and the other person, between your interests, ethics, goals and/or ideals. If this weren’t the case, then the person with whom you have the relationship wouldn’t matter. You could replace them with any warm body, any other person, no matter their personality or commonality with you, and it would make no difference.

The conditions are what make the relationships valuable, at their core.

Unconditional love is a sweet and reassuring concept, on the surface, much like “…and they lived happily ever after.”

But only children believe in fairy tales.

How not to be a friend to an escaped abuse victim

When I left my abusive ex, I also decided to make it very clear to the community in which he was participating that he was a danger. See, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one he’d abused. In fact, I’d say anyone would be hard-pressed to find anyone with whom he’d ever been in a relationship, whom he had not abused. And the people to whom I was giving warnings were people I cared about a great deal. People I knew, people I’d loved as chosen family, friends, and part of a community I once cherished and called home.

This all set me on a path to consent activism. I’ve been doing that ever since.

One of the most hurtful things to ever come out of that was a message I received from a friend. At the time, I considered her my best friend. It was a message in which she explicitly withdrew her support for me, and what I was doing. It led to a conversation in which she very clearly stated that she didn’t believe I was ‘actually’ abused. In which she described what was the result of a typical behavior, by abuse victims – namely, covering up for their abuser, until the abuse is over and they are safe – as the reason she didn’t believe that I had been in an abusive relationship.

What seems to be happening is all these little changes and edits are merging together to create an inhuman monster out of a guy who is merely a selfish loser douchebag.

And there were no changes. No edits. No creation of anything. Only revelation of the way things actually went down, when I was in a place too frightening to be able to speak out.

I wrote the following, then, as a response to every single piece of it that she brought up, claiming I was lying. Just recounting it, now, leaves me trembling and aching, not only because of what he did, but because of how the loss of my friend hurt me.

What follows was originally posted elsewhere, January 9, 2014. I almost chose to simply delete it, but it is very illustrative of the things you shouldn’t do, as a friend to an abuse victim seeking support. 

I was warned about the ex. His ex warned me. Her friends warned me. I didn’t listen. That is on me.

Of course, he made it a very convincing case that she was psycho, and all her friends were just jumping on a bandwagon, but I did make the decision.

I agreed to move him into my home. By the time I did so, I had determined to put as happy a face as possible on it, because I knew some of my friends would be trying to poke holes, and I didn’t want holes poked. I was in dire straits, and needed this to work. Which, of course, he well knew.

Of course, by then, I’d been through a long campaign to convince me it would be okay, and every concern I brought up was either pooh-poohed or brushed aside or handled with explanations that rang true at the time. He decided that was what he wanted long before I got on board. There’s a witness to that, in case my credibility is that far gone in your eyes.

But I did make the decisions, both to agree to it, and to keep perceptive friends from poking holes. I needed this to be good, and he was saying all the right things. I didn’t want holes. I didn’t want to see holes.

He and I, together, figured out a way to trigger my seizures for a purpose. I knew one was coming, sometime around the court date I had for my stepfather’s bond reduction hearing, and I couldn’t afford to have a seizure in court, or to be in a brain-fog, the day of. This kind of triggering worked by me lying down on the bed, and him flickering lights in my face. We used it a handful of times for important occasions, for times when I had to be okay, but my seizures would probably get in the way of that. Triggering a seizure in time for me to recover kept me  from worrying about the seizure happening in the midst of those important things.

I never believed he would take that to a different place. I never even imagined he would figure out that stress triggers could be manufactured, if he just didn’t give me an avenue to walk away, and yelled and cursed and called names and got all up in my face with a barrage that wouldn’t stop until I spazzed out, seized, and later forgot the fight. I never imagined anyone would do something like that. I mean, who would?

But, because I cooperated with it the first way, I must have been on board with the second, right? …even though I wasn’t sure it was happening until it had been going on for months? No. But hey, I was on board with one, so why not the other, right? This seems to support the whole idea of Well, she let me kiss her, so why did I need to worry about getting consent to do more?

Yes. I actively encouraged him to find other partners. At first, I did this without knowing how bad things really were. How awful he really was. I was simply happy to be experiencing compersion for the first time, and I liked the women he was meeting.

Then I started having a much harder time not seeing what he was. Much harder. I was still entirely on board with him being with other people, but for much more selfish reasons. I needed a break, now and then. I needed rest that wasn’t me sleeping with one eye open, and time in my house that wasn’t eggshells and hot coals all the time. Maybe that was “stupid or cruel,” as you called it. Perhaps I should have just fought tooth and nail against him getting what he wanted, to protect all those women from the things I was already suffering. I was too weak. I was too worn down. I was too afraid. Maybe I even hoped that some of the bad would stop, if he got his girl, and got back to the NRE that allowed our first two or three months to be okay.

I didn’t just let it happen, though. I warned them. ALL of them, personally, if I had any contact information at all. I warned them of badness in general, and gave specific details, when appropriate. I’ve maintained friendships with the two most notable ones, to this day. I call them friends. I’m pretty sure they call me the same. Both have mentioned red flags that came up, that they didn’t ignore because of things I said. Both have thanked me for making them aware enough to do so. But hey. I let him date them, right? That must prove he wasn’t abusing me. Uh-huh. Sure.

I was stupid and vulnerable and I loved the man he showed me, far past the point when his actions, and the abuse, had made it clear that man was never coming back, at least not for me, no matter how ‘good’ I was, how compliant.

I covered up the abuse because I was scared. He’d charmed the pants off a very close friend. Hell, he is a great friend, as long as you don’t get any closer than that. I was assured that no one would believe me, and he proved it with her. The more time they spent together, the less she seemed to care about me. I became paranoid. I stopped telling any of the bad stuff to anyone that he might talk to, though I had to sneak to talk to people he didn’t like. But hey, I chose to be there, right? That must mean there wasn’t any abuse, right? I mean, victims of domestic violence and emotional abuse don’t ever choose to stay with their abusers, right?

I smiled and acted like everything was hunky-dory, made excuses for his behavior, explained things in the best possible light…

I kept doing this, even when he was throwing hands full of pennies at the person who cut him off on the highway, after chasing them down and passing them at 90 mph. I kept doing this even when he broke my daughter’s cello in a fit of rage. I kept doing this even when he took the dinner I’d cooked him and threw it across the room, breaking the plate, scaring the kids, and leaving food on the floor that wasn’t safe for the dog to eat, then raking the carpet like a madman, when I insisted that he clean it up. I kept doing this when he was telling me what a bitch my daughter was, and what a cunt I was and how lazy and useless and worthless and crazy I was.

I kept doing this right up until that became impossible, which happened pretty much all at once.

I went to a con with him. Where he violated my consent, then spent three days laying on the thickest coats of victim-blaming bullshit you could possibly imagine, before posting a bogus apology online, trying to save face with the community, that he hadn’t even given to me, in the next room, in person. But hey. I chose to play with him, right? That must mean that he wasn’t abusive, right?

So. There you go. All the things that make me either a liar, or a willing participant in my own abuse. Since they’ve been thrown in my face, I thought I may as well own it all.

Do me a favor, okay? If any of ^that^ makes you think of me as a liar, or a manipulator, or whatever other hurtful words you wanna toss my way, just keep it to yourself. Un-friend me. I don’t even want to know why, anymore.

You wanna kick somebody? Well, it’s the kink community, after all. I wish you luck finding someone who’s into that sort of thing. Me? I’m not.

Anything. Everything.

Eyes shining
glittering
brimming over
un-shed tears
of mirth
Your shoulders shaking
breath catching
jaws and ribs
aching from the onslaught

I puff up
come over
all indignant
offended
self-righteously put out

but the truth

The truth is
this is where
the limits falter
wither
and die

Because it is entirely possible
that no limits exist
in the lengths to which
I will dance
play the fool
submit to
embarrassments beyond measure

Just to see
to catch your frivolity
your exuberance
on each inhalation
to tremble with your delight

to see the sparkle
in your eyes

and to know
it belongs also to me

What would I do?

Anything
Everything

Originally posted elsewhere, Dec 16, 2013

But, it’s just the way I am!

(originally posted elsewhere, February 4, 2013)

You never hear anyone say things like,

I’m a delusional, violent douchenozzle. It’s just the way I am.

I’m abusive and mean. It’s just the way I am.

I’m jealous, controlling, spiteful and passive-aggressive. It’s just the way I am.

No one ever says those things, yet there are code-words and phrases for a lot of behaviors that are similar to those, and you see it all the time.

How many profiles have you seen with the following quote (oft attributed to Marilyn Monroe)?

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

How many times do you see someone posting something along the lines of, “I’m just that way, and nothing anyone does (including me) will ever change that?”

Selfishness, insecurity, argumentativeness, condescension, arrogance, tactlessness, negativity, jealousy, possessiveness, passive-aggressive behaviors, hyper-critical or overly judgmental attitudes, towards ourselves and/or others, and a plethora of other undesirable traits and/or behaviors are often expected to be given blanket acceptance, under this premise of it’s-just-the-way-I-am.

Frankly, it’s bullshit.

Every single one of those things can be addressed, improved, or even, ultimately changed. Every single one of those things is the responsibility of the person exhibiting the attitudes or behaviors to handle. It’s not on our friends, or our partners, to adjust their lives to accommodate such flaws. It’s on us, individually, to work on growing, improving, evolving into better people. That’s also not something we should do for those other people. It’s something each of us should do, because we realize that each and every one of those things is having a negative impact on our own lives, our own happiness. The fact that changing them makes us better friends and partners is simply incidental to making us better human beings, with the potential for living healthier, more fulfilling lives.

I despise that if-you-can’t-handle-me-at-my-worst mentality, and the quote that goes with it. It’s a cop-out. Displaying bad behavior as a test for how compatible you’ll be with someone is a totally asshat move. It’s like saying, “Hey, I really like you, and I think we could be good together, as friends/partners/whatever, so I’m going to be a total jerk to you, and see if you can handle it. How does that strike you?”

How about we start owning our shit, hmmm? How about, instead of that quote, we start thinking something like this:

I’m human. While I will make mistakes, and falter from time to time, I’m going to give you my best, as much as I can. I’m going to try to improve the things that could use improvement, and be the best me I can, for ME. While I don’t promise perfection, I do promise effort. I promise that, if I care enough about you for you to be an important part of my life, I will give you something worthy of that. I will hold myself to that standard. I’d like for you to give me the same consideration.

How about, instead of trying to match up with people based on how they handle us at our worst, based, really, on our lowest common denominator, we try to match up based on giving our best?

And why is that such an alien concept?