CN: Discussion of Statistics in relations to disability, other social issues, sexual assault, and abuse.
There are times when I am talking to someone about my life- about the fact that I’m scared of new proposed laws making it harder for me to survive in Ontario, or about how I’m one particularly unlucky day away from being homeless – when I get the feeling like the person I’m talking to thinks I’m exaggerating. They get this look on their faces that makes it clear they’re just humoring me by not pointing out how ridiculous I’m being. Meanwhile, I’m already minimizing how severe my situation is out of fear of being accused of exaggerating. Worse still, my circumstances are relatively minor compared to that of many of my friends and readers.
When they don’t automatically dismiss what I’m saying as being hyperbole, the people I speak with assume that my case is rare – an exception. A circumstance not worthy of planning against because it’s unlikely to happen again. And yet? Every day I meet someone new in the same type of situation I find myself in. It’s become so textbook, some people look at me as though I’m performing magic when I manage to guess the ridiculous circumstances they find themselves in or repeat almost verbatim what they’ve heard from doctors, therapists, or other people.
It’s a matter of framing, of perspective.
To someone in the mainstream, what is happening to me must be the result of either something I did wrong, or something extremely rare, or impossible. It seems like the probability of all the things going wrong that go wrong happening seem impossible.
What are the chances that every relationship you’ve been in is abusive?
What are the chances that so many of your doctors end up incompetent? That so many doctors end up holding biased opinions?
What are the chances that everyone around you is so terrible? Doesn’t it seem more likely that you are the problem? Statistically speaking that is?
Netflix’s original series Grace & Frankie returned for it’s third season March 24th. I love this program. However, a plot point which begins towards the end of the latest season bothered me and I needed to write this.
Spoilers ahead, content note for stalking and manipulation
Episode 11, The Other Vibrator Grace and Frankie now have their own company, Vybrant, and they’ve launched a vibrator made specifically for older women.
They discover another company , Onmi Tech, has stolen their idea. They send a cease-and-desist letter via their lawyer and then have a meeting with the other company’s legal team. It’s during this meeting that the head of the company, Nick, spots Grace. He immediately walks into the meeting.
The whole time he’s in the meeting, he doesn’t take his eyes off Grace, to the point that even when he’s responding to Frankie, he only looks at Grace. He’s told why the meeting is taking place and proceeds to kick out his legal team (which by the way, includes his own son). Grace dismisses her lawyer as well. Grace can already tell this man is interested in her and her intent seems to play this to her advantage. Which, I can get behind. Nick is the type of man who likes to feel powerful and have his ego stroked. If Grace can use her “feminine wiles” to save her company, then by all means. There’s some flirtation and Frankie’s attempts to also be a part of the conversation, which honestly save the whole scene. Otherwise this is a very run of the mill cis hets being bland. Nick suggests he and Grace go to dinner so he can “make this all go away”. Frankie however sees what’s going on.
Frankie tells Nick they’ll sue him. He says, “Ok, I’ll see you in court”. He turns to Grace and says, “At least I’ll get to see you again.”
Episode 13, The Sign (Episode 12, focuses on Sol and Robert which is why I’m skipping it)
In this episode the women is served cease-and-desist papers from Omni Tech.
Later in the episode, Grace is on the phone with Nick. And well, see for yourself:
Grace: Are you kidding me? You can’t sue us! It was our idea!
Nick: Grace, you said you were gonna sue me, but I never heard from you. What’s a guy got to do to get your attention?
Grace: You’re suing me so you can see me?
Nick: I’m being proactive, one of the things you like about me.
Grace: [scoffs] There is nothing I like about you.
Nick: Oh, come on, it’s cute. I’m a scamp.
Grace: Oh, stop. This is not a game to me. We built Vybrant from nothing in our 70s. And it was just starting to take off. And not filling orders is not good for business. And if you think that I’m going down without a fight, you’re not as smart as you look.
Nick: You think I look smart?
Grace: What is wrong with you?
And scene! (emphasis mine)
So, what do we see here? Nick used the legal system to get a hold of Grace. She and her new company are vulnerable and he knows this. He dismisses her very legitimate concerns by laughing it off. He tries to gaslight her by making it seem like she is the one who likes him, he’s doing this for her, really. This is a joke to him. Like Grace said, she and Frankie built their company in their 70’s. If you’re familiar with the show, you know they’ve dealt with the topic of ageism and how society views (or doesn’t) women over a certain age. This is clearly a way to manipulate Grace. He’s counting on the fact that as an older woman, she’ll feel like she can’t say no.
Later in the episode, Nick shows up at the house, comes in even though Grace never invited him in. Grace tells him Frankie has had a stroke, he shows concern for a second and then it’s back to pressuring Grace to go out with him.
Again, emphasis mine:
Grace: Would you stop playing games with me? Things are hard enough right now.
I can’t even work because of your cease-and-desist.
Nick: I just wanted to see you. Look, Grace, my original offer still stands. Have dinner with me. One little dinner. I’ll drop our vibrator, nobody sues anybody, and we all go on with our lives.
Grace: And what do you expect to get out of this dinner that will never happen?
Nick: Nothing untoward. I want us to get to know each other. Come on one dinner.
Grace: That’s all I’d have to do and you’d drop everything? Stay out of my business? My life?
Then there’s a back and forth about what type of meal, where it’ll be, how they’ll get there, even what they’ll eat. I’m sure it’s meant to be cute. It’s meant to show that Grace isn’t easy and just look at how hard poor Nick has to work to get a simple date with Grace.
After shaking hands on the “deal”:
Grace: Why are we doing this?
Nick: Because I can’t get you out of my head.
Grace: Then you should get a new head.
Nick: I would, but I have great hair.
See? He’s so funny. How very charming.
Grace arrives and brings along paper work for Nick to sign saying he won’t pursue the lawsuit. Once that matter is settled, Grace begins to tell Nick about herself in a very disinterested tone. Nick offers her alcohol which she at first refuses because “pre-late lunch drinks” had “not been negotiated”. Nick then says he’ll have “to pour out this extremely dry martini with olives flown in this morning all the way from Spain”. Again, if you’ve watched the show, you’ll know a dry martini is Grace’s drink of choice. She asks how he knew that.
Nick: Because I did a little research on you.
Grace: That’s terrifying.
Nick: I got the lowdown on Say Grace.
Grace: Oh, did you?
Nick: Solid growth ten quarters in a row, despite the beauty market’s volatility.
Grace: Well, it’s 11 quarters, but who’s counting?
Nick: We are. It’s so us.
From the beginning, Grace has been rightfully upset about Nick’s behavior. She correctly identifies that his STALKING is indeed terrifying. After another charming obnoxious back and forth:
Nick: If you’re an expert, explain them to me.
Grace: Oh, God, no. I am a nightmare when it comes to relationships.
Nick: Yeah, well, I read that in the research.
Grace: Where are we going? There’s no restaurants out here.
Nick: We never said “restaurant,” we said “food”. I’m meeting all the criteria of our negotiation.
So, we know that Nick is aware of Grace’s past with Robert. He knows she’ll be hesitant to start anything with him or anyone, so he’ll be prepared to use whatever he can to get her to do whatever he wants. He has so far.
I wish Nick wasn’t in this show. His character is gross, a creep who doesn’t respect boundaries and who is willing to use the legal system to bully Grace. This isn’t cute. It isn’t romantic. It’s stalking, manipulation and abusive. This plot line is extremely common, all you need is to look at the synopsis of any “romantic” movie
But just because it’s common doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak up about it. I am hoping next season won’t involve Nick but I know better. I just hope I’m proved wrong, because I love this show and I’d hate to have to quit it, but I will if it comes to that.
CN: gender stereotypes, abuse, SA, fat phobia, victim blaming/shaming, size shaming, r*pe apologia, uncensored use of the word r*pe, toxic masculinity, ableism
“Is he bigger than you?”, is usually the first question people ask after finding out I’m a victim of domestic violence. They tell me I couldn’t have been abused because I’m bigger than my abuser. They said I could have fought him off. I’m not believed because I’m not petite or thin.
To these people, victims aren’t supposed to look physically strong. To them, violence is always physical.
I tried fighting back but it angered him. So much so he left me with a fat lip. Afterwards he wouldn’t let me leave the house until the bruise healed. So I did everything I could to avoid the beatings. But as any victim of domestic violence knows, that isn’t always possible.
I’ve been told that I couldn’t have been raped because I should have been able to fight him off. If I didn’t fight him off then I must have wanted it. This type of reasoning is victim blaming. Whether they meant to or not, these people are saying that since I didn’t fight hard enough I deserved what happened. They’re saying there is such a thing as “true rape”.
This type of thinking is fat phobic and size shaming because you’re saying that because of my size, I should have never been a victim. Except, as previously stated violence isn’t always physical. He made me afraid by various means. This type of thinking is ableist as well because I am physically disabled and fighting him or anyone off would be impossible. It is also transmysoginistic because I am about as tall as most men and fat so I’m not seen as feminine enough. Then of course, there’s the sexism of “you’re too ugly to fuck”. Forgetting that rape is never about sex, but about power, this trope suggests that rapists rape because they were physically attracted to their victims. This trope goes as far as to suggest that fat women should be grateful they even got the attention.
Now, think about the media you consume. Think of the Henpecked Husband and Tiny Guy, Huge Girl tropes. Why is the idea of a “domineering” woman, usually taller than her husband funny? It’s because men are supposed to be in charge. Size is thought to be in direct relation to strength and men have to be strong, otherwise he isn’t a man. Women are supposed to be small and meek. Are you getting the picture?
These tropes exist because we live in a patriarchal society which values toxic masculinity and enforces a strict and rigid gender binary. And so, I will continue to get these questions. And I will continue to ask these people why they think I deserve abuse. Hopefully that way they’ll understand that what they’re doing is revictimizing me. At the very least, I’ll enjoy their faces as they try to justify my abuse to my face.
CN: SA, CSA, domestic violence, corporal punishment
As a child, I was beaten and put down constantly. Anything I did, wore, or liked could be subject to ridicule. Any sign, imagine or real, of disrespect was met with a the buckle of a belt, a shoe or the calloused and hardened hands of my grandma. The people who should have been my protectors were my first abusers. So I grew up with low self-esteem and at 15 attempted suicide. In my late teens, I met my first boyfriend. He’d become my daughter’s father and the reason I deal with PTSD now.
People would ask how I could end up with someone like him. After a lot of therapy and introspection I figured out why. As I child, the messages I received were that I didn’t matter. I wasn’t important and never would be. I deserved the beatings and verbal abuse I got. After years of hearing that and hearing the messages I got from society , I finally understood my worth was very little.
So, this guy comes along and doesn’t call me names. Tells me I matter, well, that was new and I wanted more of it. But the reason he chose me specifically was because I was so starved for love and affirmation. Once I was “his”, he could reveal his true colors. Ok, but why did I stay? Because I had been conditioned since childhood to accept this type of treatment. Who was I to ask why I was beaten? Didn’t I know it was done out of love? I deserved it because I made the abuser angry. I needed to be reminded of the rules and who set them. (Aside: isn’t curious how the reasons people give to justify spanking children are identical to the justifications of spousal abusers?)
I didn’t like it. In fact I fucking hated it. But instead of hating my abusers, I hated myself for being so horrible that people needed to beat me. It was the same message I got as a child. It was just a different person saying it now.
“Oh you can’t blame your childhood! You’re making yourself a victim.” That’s what I was met with when I explained why I stayed.
“He was abused as a child. The abused will abuse.” This was also said simultaneously and no one noticed the double standard.
I was aware of the abuse he endured. He told me in the beginning of the relationship, which I now know was his way of trying to bond with me, to make me easier to manipulate. See, he understood me, I thought.
So, why is it that I can’t say my childhood made me an easier target for abuse but he can justify his abuse of me with the abuse he endured as a child? Why is one OK and the other not?
Since news broke that Milo Yiannopoulos was uninvited from CPAC and the release of his book was cancelled over his comments regarding pedophilia, I have seen several people try to defend him. I’m not linking to anything by that guy. You can google him yourself. It’s bad enough he’s even being mentioned here but for the purposes of this post, he has to. One defense, I saw over and over was that Milo was a victim of CSA. The reasoning of “the abused will abuse” shows up again.
It’s very unfortunate that he lived through that. No one, I mean no one, no matter how much I hate them and their beliefs, deserves to be abused in that way. But having a fucked up childhood is not a justification for being an abusive adult. And yes, his transmisogyny, racism, sexism is all abuse.
Hearing that “the abused will abuse” made me think I would eventually become a monster. It would be inevitable that I would become like my abuser. While I know it isn’t true it’s still scares me.
The powerful or the privileged (or their supporters) can say , ‘I had a bad childhood” and all is forgiven. The marginalized and weak say, “I also had a bad childhood” and they’re met with derision. Ask yourself why that is.
I believe Melania is a victim of domestic violence (DV). Not just from seeing how she acts, but based on her husband’s history. If you don’t want to show her any pity or sympathy, that’s fine. That’s your right. But please remember that when you say she can easily leave, or that she deserves it you’re hurting me and other survivors of DV. That’s called splash damage.
CN: brief mentions of SA, CSA, use of the word r*pe uncensored
I recently saw the above image on Facebook. Long story short it’s talking about not forcing children to hug people that they don’t want to. To give children a choice and a say in how and when they interact and show affection to known adults. It explains that by teaching children they have a right to say no, that lesson could keep a child from being abused, or it gives them tools to be able to speak up about it.
While most of the comments were positive there was one commenter who balked at the notion of a child not hugging a grandparent, for example. They basically implied that teaching bodily autonomy in the form of hug refusal could lead to intimacy issues or emotional divides. They questioned what kind of family is it that would respect a child’s wishes to hug or not be hugged. They alleged that unless the child is Autistic or has some sort of other sensory issue then that child should always hug someone even if they don’t want to. Otherwise it is disrespectful.
Now please explain this to me: how is it respectful of me to force my child to hug someone she doesn’t want to? Is my child not worthy of respect?
The same person said that the idea of children having boundaries is silly because something about being potty-trained, so that obviously children do not have the cognitive ability to make boundaries.
This person kept going on and on about respect. When I was little my family forced me to hug a certain family member. That didn’t teach me respect. It taught me I had no say, it taught me that anybody had a right to my body. I do not find it a coincidence that I’ve been raped and sexually assaulted. I was taught not to say no. Is that what we want to teach our children?
If I want to model good behavior to my child, if I want to teach them that they have bodily autonomy, if I want them to grow up to be people who respect others’ autonomy; then childhood is the perfect time to do so. It is in childhood when you set the foundation for who they will become as adults.
This goes back to an older post I wrote in which I said that as a culture we do not respect children. We don’t see them as fully fledged people with ideas and dreams and hopes of their own. We don’t think of them as people who can have opinions, wants, dislikes and likes. We see them as carbon copies of ourselves but they’re not.
If we want this current generation of children to grow into compassionate, emphatic adults then we need to teach them that they have value; they have worth. That they have bodily autonomy and that they have to respect others’ right to space and privacy.
We cannot tell them (whether through words or actions) that they are not worthy of respect. As parents, educators, as elders we owe it to our children to show them respect because otherwise, why should we expect them to respect us?
Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone. Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone.
Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone.
I cannot believe I have to say this. I said it last year during the Phoenix Drake fiasco and again, this year around the same time as well, concerning Dan Linford.
In both cases before any screenshots were available some people, mostly men, asked “where’s the evidence?”. Never minding the fact that both Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford admitted to rape. Never minding the fact that several people in both cases came forward with their own stories about these two.
But this post isn’t about not believing victims. Which honestly I could write a post about. No, this post is about the ethics in sharing screenshots. I’m writing this because, frankly, I am sick to death of having people not believe victims only to then shame them when they DO provide evidence. Why do they get shamed? Because apparently since both Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford confessed in private messages, they both have an ethical right to privacy.
This is where I call bullshit. If they had confessed to a mandated reporter, that person BY LAW would have to notify the authorities. This is no different. In both cases, confessions were made and the people who heard these confessions did the ethical thing and warned others. As you read in both articles linked above, these men infiltrated groups with vulnerable people, several times. This is important. They were able to do so because there hadn’t been a way for their previous victims to warn others.
But it stops here. This is how women and non-binary people protect ourselves.
Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford didn’t confess to eating too much chocolate and feeling bad about it. They confessed to rape. In both cases, they made excuses, they minimized what they did to their victims. They weren’t sorry for what they did (if they were, they would have turned themselves in, they wouldn’t have made excuses, they wouldn’t have confessed to women and NB folks and used them as emotional labor). They certainly didn’t show any ethics in their behavior.
Once someone shows themselves to be abusive they lose any right to privacy. There is no moral equivalence here. The unethical thing to do in this case would be to keep the confession to yourself. Rapists lose any right to privacy the minute they demonstrate they’re a danger to others. Indeed, it is because of this privacy that they felt confident and comfortable enough to be able to abuse again and again. (As an aside: Dan teaches philosophy and ethics. Let that bit of irony set in)
Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford will not and cannot get away with this. We will not let them. We’re tired of being abused, we’re tired of being gaslit. We’re tired of giving our trust to people unworthy of it. We don’t have many ways to defend ourselves, but we have this. I will be damned if anyone is going to guilt us for doing what we need to in order to protect ourselves.
I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my aunts. I’ll refer to her as Tia through this post. She was one of my grandma’s older sisters. We used to visit her once in a while when I was little. I remember she was always very soft spoken. She was also very short, about 4′ 9″, so I didn’t find her intimating like I did other adults. Although, my grandma was just a few inches taller, she scared me because she was tough and she was the disciplinarian in our house.
There was always a sadness about my Tia that I now recognize as my own.
Anyway, we’d go see her and her husband; my “uncle”. We’ll call him Pablo. He was this big guy, and the inside joke between Mami, grandma and I was that he was ugly and apparently my grandfather did not like him. That was the sense I got from the other adults. They didn’t like Pablo. I didn’t like him. Where as Tia was shy and timid, Pablo was loud and brash. Tia was a tiny wisp of a person and Pablo was big; about 6 feet and 200 pounds. About the only thing bigger was his mouth. I don’t remember exact conversations with him but he was that one uncle everyone has that no one likes to see.
I always regarded Tia as a nice woman. I had a lot of tias growing up, and while I didn’t see her much I did enjoy it when I did. She was nice to me. She always gave me juice and she seemed interested in what I told her. I didn’t get that from other adults.
Once I became taller than her, around my 8th birthday, everybody would joke about how much bigger I was than Tia. I was a bit self-conscious about my height. Mami, grandma and all of the other women in my family were short. Along I come and I’m this palm tree. Tia never made me feel bad it, unlike my grandmother’s other sister.
Once I left Puerto Rico when I was 14, I didn’t see Tia again for another two years. When we went back for my grandpa’s funeral, I saw Tia and went to say hello. By this time I was a whole foot taller than her. Pablo had died about a month before. I gave her my condolences and she said “ay, nena. Está bien.” She seemed relieved and I didn’t understand it. I asked my mom and she explained that Pablo was “malo“.
I knew she meant that Pablo had been abusive. At that time I didn’t understand domestic violence. I knew she had dealt with it because that what was she was supposed to do.
I didn’t see Tia again until I returned to Puerto Rico with my baby daughter TJ, three years later.
By this time, my Tia was living with my grandma. Tia was bed-ridden and her memory was going. But she remembered me. “Ah, yes. You’re my sister’s granddaughter. La nena grande”, (the big girl).
She would try to play with TJ. She was still her usual quiet self. She had two children. Of course, her son rarely visited her. Her daughter would come over every day but she’s a nurse. She couldn’t afford to put Tia in a home and my grandma would never allow that.
I would sit in the room with her watching television. I’d leave the room and leave the TV on. She’d call me to ask to turn it off. I’d tell her I had left it on so she’d have some form of companionship. She would insist. So, I would turn it off. The whole day would pass and Tia was content spending it in silence. I asked grandma about it. She finally told me everything.
Pablo was abusive to Tia and the children. Pablo hated noise and demanded the children be silent. He didn’t let Tia watch television. She’d only listen to the radio, set to the station playing “Canciones del Ayer”. These were old Spanish language ballads.
By now, I had been through my own abusive relationship. I finally understood my Tia. Then I realized that the sadness I sensed in her, was familiar to me because I felt it. I remember my Tia’s sad eyes and recognize them as my own. I felt closer to Tia after that.
Our vacation was over and we said our good-byes. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she wished me a safe trip. “Dios te cuide, nena”
Tia died a few weeks after.
I remember my Tia and wonder what kind of woman she could have been had she never met Pablo. I remember the soft-spoken woman who didn’t say much but when she did she never had an ill word to say to anyone. I remember the woman who would call me “nena” and always had something kind to say to me. I remember her and I wished I had known her better. I realize now that she was strong. She endured and survived Pablo. She protected her children.
I remember you, Tia. I wish the world had been kinder to you. I hope I leave this world a kinder place for people like us. I wish I had known you better, but I’m glad I met you.