joreth: (being wise)
2017-07-28 03:03 pm

Why "I Like Everything But Country And Rap" Is Bullshit

As a kid, I grew up on Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Crystal Gale. That was '70s country. Crystal Gale is the reason I gave to my parents, when I was finally old enough to articulate rather than just scream and throw a tantrum, how much I hated having my hair cut. I had my own 8-track stereo in the room I shared with my sister and a stack of cartridges with these '70s country icons (among others).

Then, as I started going to school and became aware of the social strata of popularity, I decided that I wanted to be one of the "cool kids". So I dumped the country in favor of Madonna, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Corey Hart, and Culture Club.

Then, around 8th grade, I hit my rebellious phase and decided that being "cool" wasn't cool anymore, so I got into edgier music like glam rock, hard rock, and metal. If my mom wanted to throw the album in the trash, I thought it was great - Poison, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, Metallica, Lita Ford, Def Leppard, Megadeath, Slayer, Skid Row, Ratt, etc.

But I still secretly harbored an interest in country. I wouldn't even admit this to myself, but it's true. And then, in my junior year, I found myself at a school dance with two guys who were vying for my attention, both of whom were total metalheads. We were standing in the courtyard as I desperately tried to make this encounter less awkward, when the Alan Jackson song, Chatahoochie, came over the speakers.

These two blond haired guys wearing ripped, stone-washed jeans, black band t-shirts, and heavy leather motorcycle boots playing passive-aggressive dominance games with each other both immediately stopped their one-upmanship, looked at each other, and shouted in unison "Chatahoochie!" and ran back inside the building together, while I stood there with my mouth hanging open.

Still under the mesmerizing sway of popular opinion (only now it was the "we're all so unique that we reject the mainstream in exactly the same way" type of "popular"), I decided that if these two rockers could like country music, that was enough permission for me to like it again. So I got into country music right then and there, with Alan Jackson, Martina McBride, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill.

About a year or two later, I was driving my sister around (who was not *quite* old enough for her license yet to drive herself). She liked rap and hip hop, which bothered the hell out of me. I couldn't stand the lack of melody lines and complex harmonies and the overwhelming percussion to almost the exclusion of any other instrument.

But it was my car, so it was my music. I don't remember if a Dixie Chicks song came on the radio and my sister expressed an interest in it, if the song was on one of my mix tapes, or if *she* put the music in herself. But somehow or another, she ended up admitting to liking the Chicks "because they're not really country".

So I said to her, "honey, they're bluegrass! They're more country than any of these other country stars on the radio!" She insisted that she didn't like country music, just the Chicks, who didn't "count".

This is the first memory I have of noticing the inconsistencies with the phrase "I like everything but country and rap". How could anyone like bluegrass music but not "country"? And then, a popular country song hit the charts that was released as a hip hop ballad almost at the same time. It was exactly the same, except for the accents of the singers - white twang vs. "urban" (i.e. "black").

This song became huge radio hits on their respective stations, but I noticed that A) most people had no idea that there was a version in the genre that they "hated", and B) when they did find out, they were outraged and they "hated" the other version in spite of using almost the exact same backing track and being nearly identical except for the singers' accents.

That started me down the path of learning about how the different genres influenced each other, which led me to the history of music in general (well, that and I was forced to take a Musical Theory class, which didn't actually teach us much "theory" (which I got more from my piano teacher) but did spend the whole semester traveling through time showing us how music genres begat other music genres), which finally led me to the conclusion that people who "like everything but country and rap" are full of shit. Including myself.

I have never been able to articulate why this now bugs me so much. I spend a lot of time rambling about the frustration of people who just don't know their music history. But this article simplifies the whole thing. This isn't just a widespread musical ignorance, it's a deliberate marketing decision to racially segregate an industry. And we all buy into it, literally almost a century later.

"That’s when the “everything but country” comment started to bug me. I figured people just weren’t trying, heard Toby Keith on the radio, and changed the station. Still, I couldn’t understand how some of the people I knew who were deeply interested in music like I was couldn’t see the light and recognize the worth of country music."

"“Everything but country and rap” at its core is a class issue. I just needed someone else to say it, and it confirmed why it had been bugging me. ... Where there’s class issues, there are race issues. This is no surprise. But that’s where the story of “everything but country and rap” starts: a formal racial division."

"When popular recorded music was first able to be distributed and marketed in the 1920s, a decision had to be made. This is the South-- do we keep all of the blues-based music together? That would mean white and black in one category. It was an easy answer at the time: no. This created two, in Hubbs’ words, “racially distinct marketing categories:” hillbilly and race."

"While they seem completely separate, hip hop and country sit on the extremes of the spectrum of popular musical genres, and find themselves subject to many of the same criticisms. This, to me, threw open the door on why “everything but country and rap” is a bigger deal than it seems. Authenticity is important in both musical communities, both policed inwardly and from outside listeners."

“Authenticity seekers today reject modern commercial country and its market-driven anything-goes stylistic idiom, idealizing past artists and purist notions of a genuine folk idiom,” Hubbs explains. In embracing this fantasy, listeners forget that “country has always been a commercial music.”

"To admit you like country music is admitting you like something inherently and purely working class, which jeopardizes your status as middle class. ... The middle class white actively avoid identifying with country music and hip hop because it represents something they’re afraid of being perceived as: something other than white, and something lower than middle class."

"Country and hip hop are seen as extremes: one very conservative, religious, and traditional, and the other vulgar and violent. ... These blanket statement topics are how the cultural majority is taught to interpret these genres. There’s no discussion that these are very rich groupings of music, with many vibrant subgenres of their own. ... The anxiety that causes people to avoid being fans of these genres, however, prevents understanding this. It all sounds the same because it all sounds different than what you listen to."

I've been trying really hard over the last several years to describe the sounds that I like or dislike, rather than blindly listing entire genres. I prefer melodic music, even better if it's in my own vocal range. I also like catchy hooks, and I also like complex harmonies and intricate interplay among different instruments. This means that I do occasionally like some songs that fall under the "rap" and "hip hop" genre titles because these are rich and diverse genres that sometimes incorporate these elements.

I don't like "country" so much as I like the sound of fiddles, banjos, and Southern accents, specifically. I am more likely to find that in country music, but not always. I also like blues bass lines, so I'm also going to find that in a lot of country music, because what's more "white culture" than appropriating "black" art?

After my departure from pop music into rock and metal, I adopted the typical rocker arrogance (which has since turned into hipster snobbery) where I didn't like anything "popular" because "everyone else liked it" (completely oblivious to the immense popularity of my own hard rock idols who filled stadiums with thousands and thousands of fans).

It has taken me a really long time to finally admit that I do actually like pop music. When I first started admitting to it, I tried to soften the revelation by saying that I only got into it because I do ballroom dancing, and we have an aging-out problem. It's really hard to continue bringing in new dancers when the dance style is an older style associated with older music.

So, as you might have noticed if you watch Dancing With The Stars, a lot of dancers have been dancing to modern pop music, partly in an effort to attract newer, younger dancers, but also because some of those dancers *are* new and younger and that's the kind of music they like.

If someone looked at me sideways for having a pop song or artist on my playlist, I would shrug and say "I'm a dancer. I build playlists, and this is what brings people in." But, honestly? It's on my playlist because I fucking like the song. Maybe not my YouTube playlists, which are deliberately built to introduce people to partner dancing and get them to learn how to identify rhythms suitable to each dance style.

But my personal playlists on my iPod contain songs that I like to listen to. And yeah, I have music from Nickleback, Britney Spears, NSYNC, and about half the former-Disney-bubblegum-artist squad. That music is commercially successful because it capitalizes on sounds *that people like to hear*.

So here is yet another rant on why I dislike when people dismiss entire genres of music when I know that they haven't put in the time to actually experience those genres. You can't always help the sounds that you like or dislike, and that's not what I'm talking about. I don't care if you don't like the sound of a fiddle. But that's not "country music". I don't care if you don't like lyrics that "glorify violence", but that's not "rap music".

What has bothered me about the "I like everything but country and rap" is something that I didn't have the words to explain - this is an inherently classist and racist attitude that was deliberately, consciously, developed in our society by a commercial mega-industry for the two-fold purpose of increasing profits and solidifying bigotry in our society.

http://www.runoutnumbers.com/blog/2015/11/16/everything-except-country-and-rap

(One of these days, I still want to put together an audio quiz with little snippets of songs and challenge people to identify the song as country or not, because I bet that people who don't listen to the genre and don't recognize the songs won't do well on that test.

I also plan to put together a YouTube video of snippets of songs that exemplify the different subgenres of country music, to show the diversity of the genre - Zydeco sounds WAY different from Beach Country which sounds way different from Southwestern Country which sounds way different from Pop Country which sounds way different from this new rap/sing-talk/country crossover thing, and sometimes it's *really* hard to tell if a song is bluegrass or Irish folk music.)

joreth: (::headdesk::)
2017-06-11 05:47 pm

When Scientists Step Outside Their Field And Dismiss #Polyamory

Oh Mayim. ::shakeshead:: I was already annoyed with you for your anti-vax position. As a scientist, you should know better, but also as a scientist, you think that just because you're smart, that your conclusions must also be correct. Scientists are NOTORIOUS for being the most fucking wrong they can wrong when they step outside their narrow area of expertise. You just keep proving the rule.

So now you have to shoot your mouth off about non-monogamy. Please sit down and shut up. You're making educated white women look bad. Not that they need any help in that area, but you're just making it worse.

Your biology is outdated, your sex and gender essentialism is outdated, your anthropology is outdated, your psychology is outdated, and your sex education is way outdated.

AND you make the same mistake as so many others before you of believing that, assuming that even if all your so-called "facts" were completely true, that humans stopped evolving millions of years ago around the point at which we split from apes and that our brains aren't incredibly plastic and highly susceptible to non-genetic influences like culture and higher-order thinking.

You're just so wrong on so many points that it would take me forever to correct you on each one. You're not just wrong, you're fractally wrong. Every single thing you said was wrong.

Except the part where you said that you don't get open relationships. That was 100% accurate - you don't get them.

I'll give you this: it's a good thing that you know your limitations. It's excellent that you have discovered that you lack the attention span and the emotional capacity to care for more than one human and one relationship at a time.

I just wish you had discovered that before you had children.



I'm not linking to the original post because I don't want to give her traffic. But if you really need to see it, do a YouTube search for Mayim Bialik and open relationships. She rants and raves about how she "gets" certain "excuses" for open relationships but then goes off the rails on all the things she doesn't "get" that are strawman arguments, using outdated or incorrect "science facts" to back up what amounts to her personal opinion that *she* is not capable of doing these strawman things. And she completely ignores gender diversity, boiling everyone down to biological "men vs. women" sexual dimorphism.

So. Much. Wrong.
joreth: (feminism)
2017-06-11 05:06 pm

My Perspective On Why Gal Gadot Shouldn't Be Considered A #POC

https://t.co/vYkCwB2LDV

I've been having conversations like this all weekend because, legally speaking, in the US, people of Latin American descent are classified as "white". As in, when it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person, it was never illegal (in the US) for a Mexican to marry a white person. We have never been "equal" to whites, but we were still classified as the same species, unlike black people who were literally classified for a time as subhuman.

There has absolutely been oppression and hatred and bigotry directed at any number of nationalities, ethnicities, and skin tones. It has not all been the *same*. I'm not even going to rank any of it - it was just *different* for us all. Our cultural histories are *different*. So when it comes to representation, someone of my heritage, or Gadot's heritage, cannot stand in for all POC, and sometimes not for any POC.

I may be Chicana, but the world sees me (and therefore treats me) as white, so my experiences, especially my successes, can't be used as examples of POC success or representation. As for Gadot, I will let the people most affected by her speak for or about her.

"But what about all the black AND Latinx people who tell me that POC is an umbrella term that includes black people, Latinx, Pacific Islanders, and Middle Easterners? Are you saying I'm wrong to call them all POC?"

You've been somewhat misled. If you look on any census or many government stat questionnaires, "Hispanic" is not a race. We still have to classify ourselves as white in the race category.

"Latin American" was created by white people to replace (and is often used interchangeably with) "Hispanic" because Peru speaks Portuguese and white USians wanted a single word to refer to a dozen different distinct nationalities rather than acknowledge us as all different. People from those regions do not call ourselves Latin American. We usually refer to our country of origin - Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc. or even more locally by tribe or indigenous affiliation like other Native American people.

That's like Italians and Irish people all calling themselves "European", except if the US invaded Europe, colonized it, and then said "since we've renamed your continent Europe, you're all just Europeans now because we want to track you all but we really don't care enough about your individual cultures to track you that granularly.  And, not only are you all just "European", you're also all white, because you're not black.  But if you are black, you're not "European", you're still just black."

Because people of South American descent are discriminated against, we are often brought under the umbrella of "POC" because black and brown and red and yellow are all colors of skin and none have the status of "white".

But a success or a representation of one of us is not a success or a representation of us all. Our various histories of oppression are *different* and one group overcoming a hurdle is not representative of all people of color and all their distinctive hurdles.

As, for example, the issue of marriage mentioned above. Mexican children were always able, legally, to go to school with white children, as another example. A Mexican getting a degree from a "white" university is not a "win" for black people, who were legally barred from entry into white schools. That accomplishment does not represent all POC and should not be celebrated as such.

And another point - South America is a colonized continent with an incredibly diverse ethnic and racial background. We are not all brown. For a long time, there was even a strict caste system in place based on how much white or indigenous or African ancestry one had. Being from Mexico could mean that I'm African-Mexican or Native Mexican or Spaniard (which is white) or some mix.

Mexican people in particular, of those with South American heritage, have been trying to gain some control over our nomenclature, but nobody seems to hear us. They just keep calling us "Hispanic" and "Latino/a/x" whether we want to be called that or not.

And then there is a segment of our population who is all about embracing assimilation and our colonizers and invaders. They'll vehemently defend those terms or tell you that its not problematic to use them, that it's not a big deal. Some of these people voted for Hair Gropenführer and made headlines when they were surprised to find their totally legal asses deported anyway.

So whether we fall under the POC umbrella depends on who is speaking and the context of the subject. But a success for one member is not a success for us all. Maybe if all POC finally figure out that we outnumber the white folk when we're all counted as one bloc and we rise up unified, but that probably won't happen.  When it comes to POC rights and being equal, then we can all band together as one group.  But when it comes to specific types of discrimination or specific landmarks and historical progress, we cannot each stand in for us all.  

The history of Jews is not my history as a descendant of Mexicans.  The history of Africans in the US is not my history as a descendant of Mexicans.  And Gadot headlining a successful action film is a huge win for women in film and entertainment, but not a win for "POC", let alone WOC.  Talk to me when a person of obvious African ancestry headlines a successful action film, or when an Asian actor headlines as the romantic lead or a successful action character that isn't a martial arts expert.  Or a Mexican (playing a Mexican character, because there are some women of Latin American descent who occasionally play no specific ethnicity and pass as white) headlines anything not as a villain or in a film not related to drug cartels.

And then come talk to me when those landmark films are a drop in the bucket and we no longer need to point out "well, there was This Film who had This One Actor who did This Thing" to somehow "disprove" that racism doesn't happen in Hollywood.

#ContextualPOC
joreth: (polyamory)
2017-05-16 12:38 am

New Poly-ish Movie Review Episode - Trois

www.polyishmoviereviews.com/show-notes/episode14-trois

Just a tiny bit late, but this month's episode is out! One of these days, I will plan my episodes to have better timing with milestones. This movie is perhaps not the movie I would have wanted to mark my 2-year episode. But here is Episode 24 none-the-less!

Content Note: This review contains the sardonic use of ableist language & possibly sex-negative sex worker language intending to mock the sorts of writers who use "crazy" as a scapegoat and their poor depiction of mental illness as well as their obviously one-dimensional and low opinion of sex work.

I am using the language to describe what the *writers* of these sorts of behaviours think and by using these words, I am intending to show my disapproval and contempt for this viewpoint in my tone. I apologize if my intention does not come across or if readers are unable to read or listen because of the language.

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
2016-11-06 01:22 pm

Sitch Yersel' Down, I'm Goana Larn Ya Sumpin' Naow

I'm hearing rumblings of people upset because Beyonce is playing or played at the CMAs this year. The excuse is that she's not a country artist so she doesn't belong at the CMAs. Other people have pointed out the hypocrisy here with other non-country artists being invited guests to previous CMAs so it's likely more about hidden racism or sexism, so I'm not going to reiterate that here (although, because of that, I think it's incredibly fitting that she sang with the Dixie Chicks, who had their own brush with sexism and intolerance rampant in the country music scene).

What I am going to do is get on my soapbox about the "purity" of music.

YOUR COUNTRY MUSIC IS NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN "PURE COUNTRY".

Neither has your rock and roll, or any other genre of music, for that matter.

All music has evolved and blended and stolen and shared with other styles of music. That's what art does, as an expression of feelings by people who have experiences. No one lives in a bubble and we are all influenced by other people, but art itself *deliberately* influences other art and *deliberately* allows itself to be influenced.

When pressed, most people who complain about the "pop" in "country" seem to think that Hank Williams. and Johnny Cash are the epitome of "country", as if country music was invented in an isolation lab in the late 1950s and lived on an island until the 1970s, when it got "corrupted" by outside influences and money.

I got news for you - that's not how "country" started, nor is it what "country" music *is*. Even Johnny Cash listened to Nine Inch Nails and appreciated and respected the musical artistry of Trent Reznor. One of Johnny Cash's greatest songs was also one of his last songs and it was a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song. It's hard to think of two genres of contemporary musicians further apart than those two, but because they were consummate musicians, they understood the complex, intertwined relationship that all music genres have with each other.




People seem most offended at the idea of country music and rock music blending, but the two genres (including pop music - I know neither genres' fans are willing to admit any relation to "pop music", but more on that later) are inextricably linked, twisting and spinning and folding and mixing around with each other from day one.  "Country" music can be traced to its most heavily influential roots of Irish and other European folk music *strongly* blended with the cultural appropriation of jazz, which evolved out of a massive cultural appropriation of Negro music. Same with rock, btw.

"In the beginning", the music that eventually became known as "country" was a blend. They took some of the favorite musical instruments of poor white people and added the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of poor black people. "Country" has never been "pure".  Later (but not much later), rock and roll came along, which took that poor white music mixed with poor black music and threw in a little urbanization by removing some of the regional "twang", in one sense "sanitizing" the music for popular consumption.

In other words, rock and roll was the first modern "pop" music, a white-washed, pseudo-innovative, stolen version of music originally being made by people "the masses" weren't "ready" to hear.

Don't get me wrong, I love rock and roll music. I'm merely describing it. Because I love it, I won't let myself close my eyes to its origins or its cultural impact. In spite of the controversy and the upper classes trying to ban and block the progress of rock music, it was still originally a toned-down, less creative, less musically *interesting*, more polished version of other people's "edgier" music intended for commercialization. Exactly what rock snobs complain about "pop" music.  And none of the modern sub-genres of rock, including disco, industrial, electronica, British Invasion, metal, etc. would exist if it hadn't been for that white-washed, sanitized "pop" music.

But back to country.

Country music, like rock music, isn't a single genre. I have two long-term YouTube projects on the back burner that I may or may never get around to: 1) is playing snippets of songs and having the listener attempt to guess if the song is technically classified as "country" or "rock", and if the listener doesn't already know the songs, I'm willing to bet that most people will find this challenging.  A lot of "identifying" music into their respective genres is actually identifying the singer's accent, which is in a sense, a form of racism - if there is a southern twang, it must be country, if there is an urban roughness it must be rock, and if there is a "black" voice it must be R&B or rap or "whatever black people sing" (depending on how blatant the racism of person doing the identifying is), but switch out singers and some of this music becomes identifiable as a different genre by many people, even with characteristic instruments;

and 2) is sharing sub-genres of "country" music (based on my own categorization, not necessarily any "official" categorization, mainly because I don't think one exists, although there may have been other "unofficial" attempts) and giving examples to illustrate the diversity of this genre that so many people think is a single monolithic genre or, at best, 3 sub-genres based on decade ('50s vs. '70s vs. today's "pop country" that somehow "doesn't count").

As a preview, just off the top of my head, some sub-gengres include: Southwestern country (with Native American and "old west" influences), zydeco country, bluegrass country, Caribbean country & its sister "beach" country, jump blues country, slide blues country, old-timey country, country rap, and country electronica, just to name what first popped into my head. I'm quite sure I can think of more distinct categories, as could some of you if any of you listen to country music.  If I played music from those categories for you, I guarantee that even non-country listeners could tell the difference.  But non-country listeners, by definition, don't listen to country and are likely not aware of all these different styles, even if they have actually been exposed to it at some point before.  And some country listeners are too busy trying to preserve the "purity" of whichever version they think is the One True Country to acknowledge the existence of the others or to dismiss them as a few fringe songs out there somewhere rather than a whole genre on their own.  But they exist and they have celebrity artists and cultures all their own.

So, Beyonce guest starred at the CMAs. OH NOES! What is country music coming to?!?! Well, I'll tell you. Country music is continuing on the path it has always traveled, by being an incredibly rich, diverse, and complex musical art form that is influenced by and borrows and steals from other cultures and other styles of music. Whether you *like* it or not is a different question and I'm not trying to make people *like* it, but "country" music is an amazingly colorful, intricate, heterogeneous art form, filled with hope and and anger and feminism and misogyny and racism and tolerance and anger and passion and love and deep sadness and great joy and silly fun and everything that makes up the human experience.

As we are not all the same person, so country music is not all the same sound. It is made up of the same conflicting, contradictory mishmash that we are as a species, comprised of the same capacity for transcendence and depravity, for simplicity and complexity, and influenced by the world around it, as we are.

I love taxonomy. I love categories and boxes and neat labels. But if being poly has taught me anything, it's that labels for X and Z may be necessary but that Y is something messy and in between, and *that's OK*.

So, welcome Beyonce, to the racist, sexist, yet beautiful world of country music. Where we are all different, and more the same for those differences.



The really ironic part is that, in the middle of the performance, they broke into a few bars of a Dixie Chicks classic song that literally complains about the "impurity" problem of country music:

They sound tired byt they don't sound Haggard (Merle Haggard)
They got money but they don't have Cash (Johnny Cash)

And for reference, the original song, which is quite Louisiana blues all on its own and lends itself very easily to a "country" version (if you don't count this as "country" to begin with).  Certainly the subject matter is a common country trope - lessons from daddy, guns, and women retaliating against domestic violence:
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
2016-06-24 07:32 pm

The Truth About Dishonesty


https://youtu.be/XBmJay_qdNc





"In his mind, he wasn't just stealing music, he was fighting for freedom!"

Coincidentally relevant to my last post (coincidentally in that it happened to cross my feed and my attention right after making my last post).

This is an interesting observation on exactly the points I was making - 3 in particular:

  1. We are all the heroes of our own stories and we can justify everything we do from within our perspectives;

  2. That doesn't mean that there is no such thing as "right" and "wrong" just that it's more complicated and the paths to correct people need to reflect that complexity and that understanding; and

  3. We have to leave room in our communities for people to fuck up and to treat them with compassion and understanding if we want to have any hope at all in changing the culture around us to lead to fewer fuckups with lesser degrees of consequences.

Burning it all to the ground (as I have been known to do) and leaving no room for tolerance or understanding (as a community - it's still OK for an individual to not want contact with someone or to give up on someone who harmed them) doesn't prevent people from doing bad things. This is why punitive justice systems don't work. If people come to believe that they are Bad People, for whatever reason but often because their society insisted that they were Bad, they tend to think "well, fuck it, if I'm bad, then I'm going out all the way!" There has to be room for redemption. That is actually much more effective at stopping bad things from happening and in limiting those bad things that still do happen to more manageable bad things.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
2016-06-24 07:26 pm

What If Our Culture's Foundation Was Based On Cooperative Conflict Instead Of Combative Conflict?

I'm watching a show where a divorce attorney is getting divorced and it's all his fault (and he knows it). I'm sure those of you who have seen it can guess what I'm talking about, but I'll try to keep it vague for those who haven't seen it. Anyway, he's the one who fucked up, he still loves his wife but can't stay married to her, he knows he hurt her, and he hates that he hurt her but that's the way things are.

So he starts out the divorce following the script he usually gives to his clients, which is to prioritize self-preservation on the assumption that the other person is his opponent. But she sits him down and points out that the person on the other side of the table is not one of his clients' "crazy ex-wives", but HIS wife. How does he want to handle this one?

He admits that he has no freaking idea. In all his years of being a divorce attorney, it has never once occurred to him that the person he is fighting is a human being with a shared history and complex emotions and that the person on his side of the table also has complex emotions about that other human being. In all his years as a divorce attorney, he has seen people at their worst, fighting for what they believe is their survival against an evil enemy but he has never thought that self-preservation might actually be counter-intuitive and cause exactly the sort of situation where self-preservation tactics are necessary.

So now he's facing his own wife across the table. Preemptively shutting down the accounts to prevent her from retaliatory spending didn't protect him from her vindictiveness, it made things worse. It hurt her and treated her like a criminal. It attacked her very sense of self as a decent person. It created self-doubt in both of them. It tarnished not just the memory of their marriage together, but even the love that they both still feel for each other behind all the pain.

That action actually changed the very nature of their relationship and their feelings towards each other and about themselves. That action was not the result of things changing, it was the catalyst.

But in their future, they won't remember it that way. They will see each other through this new lens, and that action will be representative of this new changed perception of each other, rather than the action *causing* the change. Because that's how our memories work.

What would our world look like today if the entire divorce industry had been built up from a societal foundation of compassion instead of brutal self-preservation? I don't mean that self-preservation was thrown out the window and that everyone just rolled over and let people take advantage of them. I think that self-preservation is a natural extension of compassion, it's just that it takes different roads to reach that destination, and the destination is a prettier landscape than what the other road leads to.

What would our world look like today if divorce attorneys had a background in psychology that believed compassion should form the foundation of every interaction? Would there be more attempts by attorneys to reason with each other and their clients? Would law firms have mottoes espousing compassion, ethics, and dignity? Would law schools teach, in addition to the law, how to see others as fully formed human beings and how to see multiple perspectives?

Would divorce offices have couches and personal end tables for writing instead of large, domineering conference room tables where people square off against each other? Would everyone sit down in these comfortable but not vulnerable seats, and would the attorneys lean in and say to the future ex, "I'm so sorry this is happening. This must be very difficult for you. Let's try to work together to make this as painless and equitable as possible. Would you like some tea? Can I make you more comfortable? How is the temperature in here for you?" and would they make every effort possible to instruct their own clients to reign in their tempers, to give just a little bit more than they're getting, and teach them how to see things from their soon-to-be-ex's perspective?

And if this was the *norm* for the divorce industry, not just individual practices existing here and there, what would the society that spawned this kind of industry look like?

We are all the heroes of our own story. Everything we do seems rational and justified from inside our heads, with the information that we have and the feelings that we have and the experiences that formed us and and the memories that we have created. If other people could only see from that specific perspective, they would also understand how rational and justified our positions are.

That doesn't mean that we are always *right*. Our memories are faulty. Our information is incomplete. Our brains are subject to logical fallacies and flawed premises. The world in which we are operating is the way it is, and within that way, sometimes things have to be done that do not reflect the way we would like to see the world become but the way the world is.  But from within that perspective, things look very different from outside that perspective. And, most of the time, with the situation being what it is, people are not unreasonable for making their choices from within that perspective.

When you're on the opposite side of the table from someone with a very different perspective, it can be difficult to remember that. This is not one of my strengths. I got the nickname Flame Warrior for a reason. I have a long history of burning people at the stake and razing forums to the ground. In each and every case, I felt justified in doing so. I have very good reasons for everything I've done. My compassion has always been reserved for the people on whose behalf I was doing the burning. It was from that very deep wellspring of compassion that I acted as I did, because it was held exclusively for the people whose side I was on, much like a divorce attorney going to the mat for a client. I put everything into the best defense for "my side" and fuck the other person for being on the opposite side in the first place. They were clearly wrong, that's why they were on the opposite side.

But what would the world look like if I was better at sitting down in one of those comfy chairs? I'm not naive. I identify far more with the Operative in Firefly than with most of the other characters (although I love the other characters more). He explained that he was there to do the hard, ugly work of creating his perfect world. When Mal snidely accused him of going to live in his perfect world after he's eliminated all the messiness, the operative said quite clearly that the perfect world was not for him. He was a monster. But a monster was what was needed to create the perfection for everyone else.

I don't believe I'm a monster, but I've never literally burned an entire colony of children and peaceful people just to hurt one man and get him to come out of hiding. My point is that there is no such thing as a perfect world and I don't believe that all conflicts can be solved in pleasant rooms with cushy chairs. Just look at any of our upper-tier "diplomatic talks" throughout history - they have plenty of cushy chairs to sit in and yet still they send other people out to die for abstract ideas like power and religion. Sometimes, we need a bulldog to defend us who will keep holding on until he wins.

But just what if? What if we were all taught how to see through different lenses? What if we all learned how to identify with those on the opposite side of a conflict with us? Without giving up a goal of putting more credence and weight to objective facts and metrics, what if we knew how to value other people's feelings and how we affected them? What would divorces look like then? What would political squabbles look like? What would social justice look like? What would our communities look like?

Every time I get into a conflict, if it's bad enough to require me to vent to my partners for some relief, [livejournal.com profile] tacit has to butt into my ranting with "well, from their perspective..." It's infuriating. Not just because it's interrupting my momentum for a good rant, but because he's always so fucking right. And I hate having to learn that someone else has reason for what they're doing. It's so much easier to be pissed off at them when they're so clearly wrong and irrational and mean. It's so much easier to work myself into a righteous rage when they're malicious and evil and hateful.

And it's so damn irritating to have to acknowledge their humanity even while the objective facts still bear out that my side is the more correct side. When I'm right, I should be right, goddamnit, and they are just fucking wrong. It's much less satisfying to be right-but...

[livejournal.com profile] tacit makes me aspire to be a better person. Which I suppose he ought to, seeing as how he co-wrote the book on how to be an ethical person. And I fail often, but I am ever striving to do better. Which is all anyone can really hope for, honestly ... just to keep doing better. To keep seeing the humanity and the nuance in other people, especially those who I find myself opposite of in a conflict.

It doesn't mean that there are no "right ways" or "wrong ways", and it doesn't mean that even when I can see the other side that I am necessarily "wrong". But it informs how I treat the other side as people. Which makes me a better person for my own sake and the sake of those I interact with, no matter who is "right" and who is "wrong". Because I am not talking about who is "right", I'm talking about how to be *better*. There can still be a "right" and a "wrong" side while the participants are practicing being their best selves. It just makes those sides more complex, richer, nuanced, and messier. And it also opens up the options for solutions because the sides are not black and white. There are more ways out of a conflict when it isn't an all-or-nothing brawl. Yes, even if only one side is seeing the situation in color and the other is still viewing it in monochrome, there are still more solutions available.

If I had taken my Breaking Up workshop as a teenager, what would my future had looked like? What kinds of mistakes would I have made differently? How many flame wars would I have engaged in, and what would their outcome have been? How many more minds could I have reached and more hearts could I have changed? Sure, some people need a bulldog to defend them still. But what could have been, had I started becoming a better person sooner and what could the world have been if we all had started becoming a better person sooner?



Cultural attitudes about seemingly small things can lead to massively different cultures because of their foundational nature, and some of them are simply objectively better than others even with their problems and flaws.

The idea of a collaborative divorce as an institution in the US is laughable. I can't even imagine it catching on as a thing, although I can imagine individual legal firms attempting to offer that kind of service. But divorce is *assumed* to be adversarial, therefore it is. Any individual who bucks that trend is considered an exception, even a sideshow freak on the extreme end!

And I think that's symptomatic of a generally adversarial outlook. All of our conflicts are seen as adversarial, not collaborative. We so often immediately jump to opposing sides rather than individuals with similar goals but differences in opinions on how to obtain those goals.
joreth: (Super Tech)
2016-04-08 02:17 pm

Make A Man Uncomfortable Today

"If you’re ever going to date a guy who treats you like someone worthy of respect, though, you’re going to have to set about the unpleasant job of alienating the men who don’t." ~ Priscilla Pine (Make A Man Uncomfortable Today - Brooklyn Magazine)
This was from an article that I'm not linking to only because my comments are probably going to be longer than the article and I didn't feel there was much *practical* advice in the article to share, but this line was really important.

The point of the article was how women who date men need to unlearn all our social programming that tells us to make others comfortable at the expense of our own needs and happiness in relationships and in life. We have to start deliberately doing things to make men more uncomfortable.

Pine defines "uncomfortable" as not violating boundaries, making anyone feel unsafe or threatened, etc. She calls on us to not let people get away with ignoring the impact that their dismissal of us has. In other words, make sure that people who are raised in a culture to feel entitled and privileged start feeling cognitive dissonance when they act on that entitlement and privilege.

It is not your job sit at home and wait patiently and pleasantly for someone who has had something "come up" *again* without expressing your irritation about being stood up for the 68th time. I try to make space in my relationships for each person to be able to have feelings of disappointment while not infringing on the other's autonomy by making them *responsible* for that feeling because that can work against us too.

See, in our patriarchal culture (whether you as an individual experience this or not is irrelevant, because I'm speaking of cultural trends now), a man is expected to have this full and busy life while a woman is expected to bend herself around him. He's working late at the office? No problem, she'll just put the roast in the oven to warm and somehow not let it dry out by the time he stumbles home at midnight, ready to eat, and use that time constructively to get other household projects done, pleasantly supporting his job at the expense of her neglect and not feeling any icky feelings about it, ever.

But if a *woman* has to work late at the office? Regularly? Why, she's neglecting her husband and children! She has her priorities screwed up! So, on the one hand, some people are taught that it is not OK to feel their feelings because that might make the other person uncomfortable (because then he would have to face the fact that he is dismissing the importance of her time / effort / whatever by doing the thing that makes her feel the feeling). But on the other hand, those people are also taught that when the other person has their own feelings, it means that they are *responsible* for having caused those feelings because they are a Bad Person and they should stop whatever they're doing for themselves to make the other person not have those bad feelings. In both situations, it's the same person who is expected to do the changing and the catering.

So, when I say I make space to have feelings while not making the other person "responsible", I mean that I have to have room in my relationships to feel disappointed if my partner cancels a date, for example. I'm allowed to feel that disappointment without having to squash it in order to now comfort *him* for his feelings of guilt that my disappointment is triggering. He SHOULD feel guilty about canceling a date with me! That sucks.

But that also doesn't mean that he is necessarily a Bad Person for having something come up as things do. He needs to be aware that his actions have consequences, but it's my responsibility to do something about my feelings. I have to define the threshold, define the boundary, between what is an acceptable amount of "sometimes shit happens and we both make accommodations for each other" vs. "he is not prioritizing me as much as I would like" and I have to decide what is done about that. That is my responsibility, but he also has to know when I'm feeling uncared for so that he can also make decisions about his behaviour that affect me. When this is accomplished between two people who are negotiating and relating in good faith with each other, we have a healthy relationship, even if that relationship doesn't ultimately "work out" or it ends due to conflicting priorities.

The problem is that, for people for who that social programming really took hold and they don't know how to "lean in" to the discomfort they cause other people, or they internalized the messages and making people uncomfortable makes them feel bad themselves, it's not easy to see where those boundaries should be drawn. There is a tendency to draw them too close in, meaning that their partners can avoid the cognitive dissonance too often and therefore not have any motivation to learn or change; or that the boundaries are drawn so far out that they feel isolated and alone because they deliberately keep people "at arms length".

I delight in making people feel uncomfortable. I'm like a kid who sees a giant red button with a label "Don't Push" - when I hear about someone's "buttons", the first thing I do is push on them. [livejournal.com profile] tacit does this too, which is one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place. But I do so with a purpose. What will pushing on that button accomplish? Is it a button for trauma and pushing on it will only cause someone pain? Or is it a button for unrecognized privilege or unspoken assumptions that they will be challenged to face?

One of my favorite stories that I've told several times is the Pegging Story - I was the crew chief this day and most of the crew did not know me (and was mostly men). As usually happens backstage, we start joking and talking about sex, and as usually happens when there are women in this industry, we started taking the conversation further than the guys would. They would have left it to a few raunchy jokes, but the women both topped the jokes and then started actually talking about "uncomfortable" sex stuff.

Eventually we got onto kink, and as usual, the crew were unfamiliar with that world and started asking me questions, which I answered. Eventually, one guy finally had enough cognitive dissonance which was forcing him to challenge his assumptions about what "kinds of people" explore kink and what kinky sex "meant" and he blurted out "I don't need any of that kinky shit! The most I'll do is anal!"

So I, recognizing the unspoken assumptions underlying his outburst (based on other things said and non-verbal signals that I've seen a hundred times before) about just who was expected to be on the receiving end and what anal sex "meant" about the person receiving it, quipped back "oh, you like anal sex? Great! I have a strapon in the car, let's go!"

He backed up, hands in the air, and stuttered "no, no, that's not what I meant!" So I said "well, you didn't specify," much to the amusement of the crew listening. I went on to point out that he shouldn't assume that the girl must necessarily be the one to take it up the ass, he brought up the "I'm not gay" thing so I got to point out that having a woman fuck him kinda by definition doesn't mean he's gay, etc.

He didn't find any allies in the crew because of the humor I used to make him the butt of the joke when he tried to turn it on me to make me look deviant and because of the work I had just done in explaining stuff. He thought, as men who try this shit with me so often do, that making me look "perverted" would get everyone else on "his side" so that he could hide behind his assumptions once more and validate himself at my expense. Instead, I made him look foolish, but I didn't badger or bully him for not being kinky, I only teased him so that his intolerance was the butt of the jokes, which made *him* look small instead of allowing him to force *me* into being smaller than I am for his comfort.

That conversation made him uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable because he was challenged to examine his biases.

Within the context of romantic partnerships, I'm going to assume that the two people actively like each other and desire the other person's happiness, at least abstractly. I realize that's a big assumption, because I've been in relationships myself where that's not true. But I'm going to make that assumption here anyway.

For these relationships, if he genuinely likes her (again, using gendered pronouns because of the patriarchal programming that makes this pervasive and endemic, although this can apply to any relationship) and wants to see her happy, then it is in his best interest to be made uncomfortable in this context. He can't be expected to know how to contribute to her happiness if she swallows herself and makes herself small for him. He doesn't even know her when she does that. He can't see who she is, so he can't reasonably be expected to treat her the way she needs to be treated in order to be happy in a relationship.
**This should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway - if someone is stuck in an abusive relationship and leaving is not an option at this time, then clearly the victim should do what they feel they need to survive. Maybe that means making yourself small so that you don't make him uncomfortable by your presence. Maybe that means he doesn't know who you are, really, because he doesn't want to. I am not qualified to address how people in these situations should get out of them or how to apply healthy boundaries with people who are not operating on good faith with each other.**
It is not in his best interests for her to not draw healthy boundaries. It doesn't help him be a better person and it doesn't help him love her. But drawing those boundaries, making people aware of when they fuck shit up and don't treat people well, makes people uncomfortable and that will likely narrow the dating pool. You might find yourself alone for a while. You might find yourself having to reject a lot of people, or being rejected a lot for being "too harsh" or "too bitchy" or "too needy" or too whatever, or even not "compassionate enough" or not "caring enough" or not "gentle enough" or not "ladylike" or not whatever.

Trust me, I've been on a lot of first dates that had no second date. I've had a lot of conversations with guys that go "before I go out with you, you should probably see my OKC profile and read my FB page for a while to make sure that I'm really the person you're interested in" and then never had a followup conversation where they said "I did all that and you're even more awesome!" Most of the time, people I send to those pages just fade away. They might continue to flirt with me when they see me in person (that's a coworker thing - a product of my industry), but no more specific invitations to dinner.

Yes, making people uncomfortable will tend to filter out a lot of people. It will alienate people who don't respect your boundaries or your values. But that's how you clear the path for those who do to find you and for you to recognize them among the otherwise vast sea of humanity. Your pool will be smaller. Your pool will likely be more long distance (thanks to the internet, but at least it will be possible with the internet).

But your choices are to be alone for a while until you find your tribe who gets you and respects you, or to be alone even while in relationships because those people won't respect you or even know you. I decided long ago that my value is worth the respect of my partners and not a farthing less.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-02-22 01:48 pm

What's The Difference Between A Gaslight Victim And A Gaslighter?

I have a question and I need for everyone interested in answering it to assume that I am asking in good faith, not trolling.

Are there any articles that directly compare and contrast the difference between being gaslighted and someone who is *actually* the horrible things that a gaslighter accuses the victim to be?

Let me expand a bit.  OK, a lot.

I've had the misfortune to see a gaslighter work his black magic now in person, right in front of my eyes but on someone other than me, and I've seen the devastation it caused. I've seen it in a poly context, which, for some reason, actually made it harder for me to see at first - easier for the gaslighter to hide. I've been an outspoken critic of what I have eventually come to see as real abuse in the poly community and how our own community standards protect and privilege abusive relationship structures and behaviours. So, in no way do I want to counteract any of the work done to bring awareness and solutions to gaslighting.

But I'm reading a lot of articles on gaslighting lately, and it struck me that, if I switched perspectives in my head and read the article *as if I were* the gaslighter himself (choosing a gendered pronoun because I am most familiar with male abusers and female victims, and I feel the need to use different pronouns to help keep the illustrations understandable), using the excuses and justifications he gave to make it look like he was the victim, if I took on that mindset for a moment, I couldn't tell from many of these articles who was whom. And a gaslighter or narcissist can find ammunition in these articles to continue their subjugation, and validation in these words.

So, for example, this one article lists several "tell-tale signs":

1. Something is “off” about your friend, partner, … but you can’t quite explain or pinpoint what.

So, this gaslighting observation that I mentioned above, in the beginning, he had me (a close but outside observer) convinced at first that he was the real victim. He confided in me his perspective. I do believe that he really did believe the stories he was spinning to me. It wasn't until I talked to the victim alone and then confronted him about the victim's side, and then HEARD him say "no, they don't feel that way, here [victim], tell Joreth that you don't feel that way" and then the victim proceeded to confirm the gaslighter *even though* I had just had an hour long conversation with them in tears about exactly how they felt. The victim told me that *I* must have misunderstood or misheard their anguished cries, that it wasn't a big deal, that everything was worked out.

I KNOW WHAT I HEARD. The victim felt a particular way, the gaslighter insisted that they didn't, and then the victim's story changed to match the gaslighter's version.

My point is that I believe the gaslighter is that fucked in the head that he (and most of them) really does believe his (their) version of events. I don't believe that most gaslighters are deliberately plotting to undermine people like in the movie, but I know for a fact that undermining people is the effect that's happening. I was one of his confidants, so I heard what I really believe to be his honest and true view of himself and his motivations. I believe that I understand the view of himself that he holds, at least well enough to read an article from a gaslighter's perspective who doesn't think he is doing anything wrong.

So, when I read articles like this and I put myself in the mindset of that confidante for whom I was on his side before I knew better, I have a hard time telling from these articles that *he* was the one who was doing the gaslighting. That's how he had me fooled for as long as I was.

He believed that something was "off" about his victim. They kept "changing their story". They weren't consistent. They saw things in strange, corner-turning ways that he didn't understand. I was constantly playing "interpreter" for them because he just didn't understand the victim.

4. You feel threatened and on-edge, but you don’t know why.

As the blogger Shea Emma Fett alluded to, abusers really do feel victimized, but they feel victimized by their victims' resistance to the abuser's control. When this gaslighter attempted to control his victim, and they resisted, the abuser felt personally threatened. I went out on a date once with a guy who I had a history with and I was interested in a future with, and my then-bf, when I told him all about it, accused me "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!" Listen here, asshole, I did *nothing* "to" you. This thing *happened* to me. It may have affected you, but it wasn't done *to* you and certainly not with malice. Nevertheless, he, and the abuser I'm talking about, felt threatened. This abuser was *constantly* fighting with his victim, to the point that he started working as late as possible to avoid being at home where another fight might break out. He was on edge all the time. He didn't understand why this was happening or how to avoid it (because he didn't understand that it was his own doing and he didn't understand the victim's wants - namely the desire to not be abused). He would check off "yes" to this one too.

6. You never quite feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable or harm you in some way.

The motivation for this gaslighter's behaviour was a massive amount of fear and insecurity.  Every time he felt his insecurity crop up and it prompted him to try to control other people to manage his fear, I stuck my nose in to tell him that he should do better.  His victim also ineffectually tried to tell him that his attempts to control them was hurting them and he needed to do better.  In my own arguments with him, he accused me of being unreasonable for insisting that his attempts to control his partners were harmful.  He insisted that *my* suggestions for not controlling people were actually harmful *to him* somehow.  We argued in circles and I never got a clear explanation for how other men (even men that he didn't like) seeing naked pictures of his wife harmed *him* (for example), but he clearly believed that it did.

Remember that ex above?  He honestly believed that my date, and what we did on our date, with my new prospective partner was something done *to* him, and that it harmed him in some way, even though he wasn't on that date and he was told about the date both before and afterwards, prior to my seeing that ex in person again so that he could make informed decisions about how to relate to me in the future (and no, I didn't have wild, unprotected, fluid-exchanged sex with some random stranger and come home with an STD or something, which is usually what people point to when they want to defend the position that it's reasonable to be upset about what one partner does outside of a given relationship or to control, or even request, a specific set of behaviour for outside a given relationship).

I insist that a no-rules, boundaries-based relationship is the better relationship standard, and the gaslighter believed that my standards are too high, are unreasonable, and harm him in some way.  He's not the only one who thinks that either.  I have been told, verbatim, that not everyone is as "evolved" as I am when it comes to relationship and emotional maturity.  I call bullshit on the "evolved" part.  As far as I'm concerned, respect for agency is the bare minimum.  I get that it's not always *easy*, but it's also not some advanced, high level concept set aside for, I dunno, monks who have reached enlightenment or Clears who have spent millions of dollars to the Church or whatever.  Learning to respect other people's agency is something that children are capable of learning, and it's a lifetime of societal reinforcement that causes us to unlearn it (if we learned it in the first place) by instilling a sense of entitlement to other people's bodies, emotions, and minds.  When fear has a hold of you, respecting other people's agency may be challenging, but challenging is not the same as "harmful".  But because it can be challenging, someone who is an abuser or who is gaslighting someone can indeed believe that the standards their victim might suggest are "too high" and are "harming him".  Personal growth is uncomfortable, especially when you resist it.  That doesn't make it, necessarily, "harmful", but it can feel that way, so a gaslighter could see this "tell-tale sign" as evidence for his narrative too.

7.  You feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, e.g. you’re neurotic or are “losing it.”

The gaslighter excused his efforts to control people away by claiming he had PTSD.  I do not believe that self-diagnosis, I believe another one made by an actual diagnostician but that's not actually relevant right now.  What is relevant is that the gaslighter *does* believe that he suffers from PTSD and he does, indeed, exhibit several symptoms, including "checking out" (which, I'm told by reliable clinicians, are also symptoms of a handful of other mental illnesses including the diagnosis I believe is more likely to be the correct one).  Every time he tried to control his victim and they pushed back, here's what would happen.  The victim would insist on their reality, and the gaslighter would go glassy-eyed and catatonic, unable to interact with the world around him.  *Until*, that is, the victim recanted and accepted the gaslighter's reality.  Then, suddenly, he would "wake up" and start interacting again.  Later, though, he would use that as "evidence" that the victim was "inconsistent" and kept "changing their story" and therefore shouldn't be trusted to know what reality was.

But because he would get "triggered" by his victim's resistance, he would often come to me in distress over how he was "losing it" or that there was something wrong with him.  PTSD and other mental illnesses are viewed as "something fundamentally wrong with you" or "neurotic" by society in general, so regardless of which mental illness he might have, he could legitimately think that "something is fundamentally wrong" and he would be "correct" about that.  He felt that he was being hollowed out, that he couldn't function in daily life anymore as their arguments increased in frequency.  He had trouble concentrating at work because he was always upset about their latest argument.  He was stressed and frightened by obsessive thoughts of losing his victim.  When I saw only his catatonia and the aftermath of their arguments, it was completely believable that he was the "victim".  But that required keeping the victim feeling isolated in an "us against them" tribalism within the group, because as soon as I started talking to the victim themself, and seeing the arguments from the beginning, not just the effect of the argument on him, things looked very different.

My second fiance was a gaslighter.  He was very young, though, and clumsy about it, and I'm way too self-confident for those kinds of tactics to work for very long on me.  He did things like this too, only he wasn't nearly as believable about it.  Whenever we got into an argument, if it looked like I was going to win (or that he was going to lose, since the argument was usually about whether or not he could have sex with me or I could go out in public without him), he would get "sick" somehow.  He got "the flu" twice a week on the nights of my ballroom dance class.  He got an upset stomach on laundry night if I wanted to do it at my parents' house instead of his parents' house.  He got another one of his upset stomachs on the night of a friend's bachelorette party when I told him it was "no guys allowed".

One time, he even "knocked himself unconscious" on a low-hanging pipe in the carport when we walked from the car to the house during an argument.  He managed to somehow hit himself in the head hard enough to lose consciousness completely without actually making any sound of impact and while moving at the rate of a slow lumber.  I've had someone swing a metal pipe at me with the intention of hurting me and hit me on the head and I didn't go fully passed out.  Head injuries don't work like they do in the movies.  And when I left his ass lying on the concrete, he also somehow managed to get "robbed" in broad daylight while lying unconscious (that one was the last straw and I called his bluff hard enough that he admitted his lie).  His various maladies and misfortunes were intended to distract me from the argument and trigger my compassion so that I would forget why I was mad at him and run to him to take care of him.  Fortunately for me, I'm not the "maternal" type and my reaction was to give the benefit of the doubt the first time or two, but then to become contemptuous of an adult who couldn't care for himself.  Contempt is the number one relationship killer, and unconsciously developing that emotion as a response to abusive tactics has probably saved my life on multiple occasions.

So, once I saw this gaslighter's tactic from the other side, I recognized it from my own abusive ex-fiance.  He would get "sick" and I would have to stop arguing to care for him, because if I kept being mad at him while he was sick, then *I* was the monster with no compassion.  Fortunately for me, I'm not terribly bothered by people I'm mad at thinking that I'm not compassionate because *I* know better, and that's what matters to me.  But this gaslighter was taking legitimate mental health issues and preying on his victim's concern over harming others and their fear of being seen as not compassionate.  Again, I believe that he really believes his side of things.  I don't think he actually deliberately calculated how to fake PTSD in order to win an argument (whereas I do believe my ex-fiance faked his unconsciousness - which happened more than once - although his upset stomachs were probably a real reaction to anxiety).  I believe that he really was "checking out" because I believe there is really something very wrong with him.  But it was always just so *convenient* that it ended as soon as the victim recanted, and then that recanting was used later to further undermine the victim's position and even their standing in the community.  If the victim stood their ground, they were "driving" the gaslighter to a mental breakdown, but if the victim backed down, they were unreliable and couldn't be trusted.  Either way, the victim was the "monster" who kept "harming" their abuser.

But from the gaslighter's perspective, since these episodes came more and more frequently as the relationship spiraled faster and faster towards its demise, he felt that he was "losing it" and becoming more and more unhinged.  And he was becoming unhinged.  He was a total wreck of a person by the end.  But he was still a gaslighter, and I do not believe the victim was doing it *to* the gaslighter.  I believe it is a consequence of the sort of person the gaslighter is who had to face the sort of person that the victim was.

8. You feel like you’re constantly overreacting or are too sensitive.
9. You feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.

This is really just more of an extension of the last one.  The relationship was spiraling out of control because the victim was doing more and more resisting of the gaslighter's attempts to control them and their own breakdown as a result of the gaslighting working, and that led to daily fights that consumed their every waking moment and also took over the atmosphere of the rest of the immediate community whenever either of them was present.  When you feel like your life is going out of control, regardless of why or how, it's not unexpected to feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood, or depressed, especially if someone is trying to tell you that your behaviour is out of line.  When he wanted to control his victim, I told him that he was essentially overreacting.  I told him that he needed to dial it back and let his victim (who I had not yet begun to think of as "the victim") have their agency and do their thing.  I told him, more or less, that his feelings of fear and the need to control them were too much, out of sync with the reality of the situation, and that the solution was for him to get over his issues, not control the victim's behaviour.  In essence, it could be argued that he saw my words as telling him that he was "overreacting or are too sensitive".  So, from his perspective, these are a big "yes" also.


11. You feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong,” but you don’t know what or why.

Again, I believe that he believes his own narrative.  This gaslighter felt that his life was spinning out of control and he didn't know how to wrestle control back.  Every day was fraught with arguments and intense fear.  More and more people were becoming unhappy by the splash zone of this one relationship.  Life began to look chaotic and turbulent.  Not only was this relationship a source of pain and fear, but because the two of them were constantly fighting, all his other relationships started to suffer and he started to fear that he was about to lose his other relationships as well.  Then, not a month after he told me that I was the one stable thing in his life, we had our own blow-out that he apparently couldn't anticipate.  Everything was "terribly wrong", but because the truth was his gaslighting and he didn't recognize it, he didn't know why everything was "terribly wrong" or how to fix it.

12. You find it hard to make decisions.

With his catatonic episodes happening more and more frequently, and the arguments happening constantly, he started to revert to a more child-like mental state.  He had trouble making decisions because his brain was just freezing up from all the chaos.  He was never good at making decisions anyway, preferring others to take the lead on things, which is actually one of the reasons why it took me so long to figure out that he was controlling the people around him to manage his insecurities.  It's hard to believe someone is a manipulator when they appear to be such a follower.  But because he felt that his life was out of control and that he was losing his own grip on reality, making decisions became more difficult than usual.

13. You feel as though you’re a much weaker version of yourself, and you were much more strong and confident in the past.

This was something he actually told me, more or less. He was so distraught by everything that was happening, that he felt like he was becoming "hollow", which is sort of like saying he is a "weaker version of [himself]". I have absolutely no doubt that he felt like he was losing his mind. His life wasn't looking the way he wanted it to look and the way he had always controlled his life in the past wasn't working with this partner. This partner was resisting his control, and he felt so entitled to controlling them to keep his own mental issues manageable that their resistance to his control was threatening and made him feel harmed.  Having those feelings, and the extent to which this whole relationship was disrupting everyone's life, it doesn't matter that he was the one abusing the victim, those feelings still feel real and still affect how one sees oneself and their place in the world.

14. You feel guilty for not feeling happy like you used to.

This gaslighter was *known* for his exuberance for life. In the dictionary, next to the word "happy", you'd see his picture.  I've known a bunch of people like that - in fact, it seems to be one of the elements of "my type". [livejournal.com profile] tacit is one of those people for whom "happy" is an integral characteristic too.  But, obviously, this gaslighter was not happy all the time during this period.  He was stressed and anxious and depressed and angry and sad all the time.  For someone whose very *identity* includes "happy", not being happy can make one feel like one is not oneself anymore.  And for some of those people, if part of their identity rests on their ability to be happy and for others to see them as happy, particularly if their happiness makes other people happy and their sadness makes other people sad for them, no longer feeling happy can feel like a personal failure.

So, this gaslighter failing to control his victim, causing them to be miserable, which causes them to challenge the relationship and the attempts to control, which makes the *gaslighter* unhappy, this can lead to a sense of guilt for not maintaining this happiness in the face of all this loss and misery even though the gaslighter is the one causing the chain reaction in the first place.  Since this sort of gaslighter doesn't realize that he's the one setting the spark, he has a difficult time recognizing that his unhappiness is something he can fix because it's something he caused.  Or, he might suspect or know (possibly subconsciously) that it's something he caused (even if he believes he caused it but have the wrong ideas on *how* he caused it), and so feel guilt for knowing that he did it all to himself.

So, this whole long exposition is to explain that I am looking for sources to help explain why, when a gaslighter feels these things, it's *not* a sign that they are a victim or being gaslighted by their actual victims.  When a person is gaslighted, they start to believe that they are an abusive monster who is doing terrible things to their abuser, but an abuser actually *is* doing all those things.  I could write a similar checklist of "how to know you're being abusive" and read it through the perspective of a gaslight victim and that victim could conceivably reach the conclusion that they are, indeed, an abusive monster because of the lens that each is viewing the world through.  I know there's a difference, I just don't know how to explain or illustrate that and I'm looking for sources to cite and other people's words to use as analogy or illustration or explanation.
joreth: (Super Tech)
2015-12-24 11:20 pm

Learning Lessons One Day At A Time

I don't have any kind of TV signal at my house, other than what my rabbit ears can pick up (and trust me, with the weather in Florida, that's not much). I have a shit ton of DVDs, access to Netflix and Amazon, and other entertainment-viewing venues, but not much in the way of "live" programming. And I like that kind of programming. I really enjoy just leaving my TV turned on all day and set to one or two channels that play sitcoms or sci-fi or whatever, just to see what comes on. It's the same reason I still like listening to the radio, even though I hate commercials on both.

One of the TV stations that comes through (barely) is a classic TV station - showing nothing newer than the early '80s and some stuff quite a bit older. Late at night, they stick mainly with the '70s. So I've been watching a show I had seen before but wasn't a major portion of my viewing rotation because I was just a bit too young to be really interested in the plot back then - One Day at a Time‚Äč.

I really like sitcoms, but I'm kind of particular in my sitcom viewing. I like watching shows that are groundbreaking in some way and that are, by their very existence, social commentary. Whatever other flaws that show might have, it had an important message that shaped the society I grew up in.

This show is about a divorced mom trying to raise her two teenage daughters in a "liberated" society that she was never a part of. She grew up conservative and traditional Italian Catholic and married young. But her husband had an affair, so she divorced him - a radical enough notion at the time. To make matters even more shocking, she didn't go home to her parents to help her with the kids, she chose to get an apartment in New York and live alone with the kids - no man or family to protect her or help her.

That alone makes the show worth praising, to me. But every time I see an episode, I'm bowled over by the complexity of the situations and the nuance of the responses. It really was a terrific show. I'd like to sit down with the DVDs sometime and really do some thorough reviews on specific episodes, because there are some gems in there.

For instance, the episode I saw a couple of nights ago had the husband trying to back out of child support because he over-extended himself with his business and his new wife and was now facing financial trouble. This is a really easy situation to get black-and-white about - too fucking bad, it was your bad choices, you owe those kids their money because a single woman in the '70s with no college education couldn't get the kind of job to support the three of them without help, and it's your fault they're on their own in the first place.

To make matters worse, the father wasn't just facing financial hardship due to the economy or not making enough money from his company. He sold the kids' childhood home to buy a mansion with a pool and to hire a full-time maid to live in the lap of luxury. So it seems like a no-brainer that the dad is the bad guy and the solution is to sell the damn house, fire the maid, and live more frugally if he can't support his lifestyle.

Although these points are all made in the show, it doesn't stop there. In the course of the arguments over the child support, the mom figures out that the new wife doesn't even know about the financial hardship, and that the dad wants to quit child support because he wants to maintain his lifestyle so that his new wife never has to find out. The *reason*, he says, is because the new wife isn't "like [the mother]" and "can't handle it". She's accustomed to a life of luxury and wouldn't be able to cope with living a more meager existence.

The mom, here, has a perfectly justified opportunity to say "tough shit, that's part of what being married is all about". Instead, she stops her arguing, stunned that the new wife doesn't even know. She points out that the husband is being patronizing, and orders him to go home immediately and talk to the wife - to give her a chance to be an equal partner in their marriage and how to address the situation. Her sympathy in this moment, goes to the new wife, when the rest of society would have seen the new wife as a homewrecker and not deserving of sympathy.

Repeatedly, as the mom argues with the dad over the course of the series, she sticks up for the wife and insists that he treat her better than he ever treated the mom. She does not let him get away with being the same chauvinistic, overbearing, dismissive prick that he was to her.

And then the show goes one further. The daughters, when they find out all the details, turn to their father and say "Daddy, I know you want to support us, but you forget that we're supposed to support you too. That's what family is for. We'll work something out. Let us help you." Without compromising the kids' well-being or letting the father off the hook from his responsibilities, they insist on pulling together as a family, even though they're not a traditional family anymore. The support and respect isn't a one-way street.  In fact, it's an excellent example of support through accountability without becoming a doormat.

In the end, there are no Bad Guys, just people who make mistakes and have messy feelings, who learn from each other and help each other out. The family is changed to match the needs of the people in it, and even though there are growing pains about it, everyone is better off living in a non-traditional family structure which gives each of them opportunities to be their best selves. And they consistently live up to that, stumbling and tripping along the way, but always climbing upwards.

I wonder, since these are the kinds of influences I had growing up, what our society might look like if we still made such programming. And I wonder, since I wasn't the only person to watch and be influenced by shows like this, why I seem to be one of the only people to have absorbed these kinds of lessons.

I find it interesting that the vast majority of the lessons that influence how I do poly and that form the basis for my various activisms, come from mainstream, monogamous, heteronormative culture. I recommend re-visiting these old sitcoms, or visiting them for the first time if you missed them back in the day. Many of them are partially responsible for the adult I turned into, with lessons in empathy and consideration and intentional family and non-traditional choices.  Sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected places.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
2015-11-24 02:21 pm

Hey Hollywood, You Are Getting Your Ass Kicked By Netflix

Hey Marvel films and other movie makers - the reason why your female-led action movies don't do well at the box office and the reason why women (who make up the majority of the gaming audience) don't much care for your movies and the reason why your attempts at giving your male protagonists emotional depth turn into SNL skits is because you're not Netflix original series writers.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed your fluffy romps with comic movies in the last bunch of years. But that's all they are - fluffy romps with little to no substance. They're trite and common. I'm not saying there's no room in the diversity of entertainment for trite. But if you want to increase your sales, then instead of "pandering" to your target audiences with naked hot chicks but no role of their own except to be rescued or fucked by the male protagonists, with the token female lab scientist or the token female ass-kicker, with dark and brooding action heroes torn up over the loss of their wife or child that shows their "sensitivity", start talking to the writers over at Netflix about how to show the humanity and complexity in a character that doesn't require lots of sex, lots of rape, lots of on-screen violence, or lots of dark, scowling white male faces contemplating the loss of loved ones.

And I'm not just talking about the action series either. Netflix is totally kicking ass at entertainment in general these days. Their series' present us with diversity in emotion, in response, in reaction. They don't rely on "something Bad happened, now the protagonist will sit, staring out at the moon or off in the distance while they prepare to make themselves into a bad-ass fighting machine for vengeance". They show anger. They show pain. They show walls. They show confusion. They show shame. They show remorse. They show internalized blame. They show characters bumbling around and making mistakes. They show lack of acceptance. They show redemption. But not all in the same character. Not even all in the same gender or race or orientation of character.

Sure, there are lots of things I could criticize about any given Netflix show - no media is perfect. But, just like the Bechtel test is best used in aggregate to show trends, looking at the trends of big box office movies in the last decade and the slew of Netflix originals coming out in the last couple of years, and it stands out in sharp contrast that Netflix has a handle on how to write interesting, complex, nuanced characters and plots whereas Hollywood is still leaning on tropes that should have been retired 30 or more years ago.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2015-09-12 06:15 pm

Walking In Your Shoes

"He immediately made a real effort to put himself in the shoes of others. It's just that he had trouble first taking off his own shoes. "

This is from an article that I'll be writing about later, but this sentence, out of context, is important. This is about empathy.

One of the biggest problems I encounter in other people is empathy - they are not able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. What happens, is that they imagine *themselves* in whatever situation we're talking about and conclude that they'd do things totally different *because they're themselves*. They have different feelings, different priorities, different experiences that all add up to different conclusions.

That doesn't help to see things from another perspective. When not-poor people give me financial advice, as I was saying in a previous post on FB about it, they give me advice from their own perspective - the one that says that there is enough money hanging around to open up that savings account or to count on coming in regularly enough to pay for health insurance or to buy those $75 boots that will last longer instead of the $10 boots for right now.

"Well, if *I* were in that position, I'd do..." No. It's not if *you* were in that position, it's if *you* were *them* in that position. They can't put themselves in the shoes of others because they can't take off their own shoes first. They keep putting *themselves* in someone else's situation.

And I'm *quite* certain that I do this too. After all, we're not talking about literally taking on and off shoes here. Removing our own expectations, perceptions, experiences, memories, and personalities isn't just difficult, it's often impossible. Sometimes, the best we can do is to just recognize that someone else is different, and their experience of the world will not match our own. Sometimes, all we can do is just *believe* them when they tell us how they are experiencing something, and feel compassion for them. We need to try to take our own shoes off in order to try their shoes on, and if we can't, then we just need to look at their shoes and say "yep, those are your shoes, and I hear what you're saying about them."

And that's empathy.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2015-08-19 03:30 pm

Imposing Order On Chaos - Emotional Storytelling

http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Bren-Brown-Rising-Strong-Excerpt

"Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we're in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn't have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn't like me."

Some of us do this all the time, don't we? It's implicit in the Passive Communication technique that some of us are taught, some of us do naturally, and women in general are expected to use (either we are told we should communicate that way, or we are assumed to communicate that way and our statements aren't taken at face value by people who hear them and assume there's some other intent).

"They can recognize their own confabulations and challenge them. The good news is that we can rewrite these stories. We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions. "

It was pointed out in the commentary from the post where I got this that we have to beware of putting too much emphasis on the consequences of storytelling, without addressing why we develop storytelling in the first place because we might end up giving too much shelter to manipulative behavior. I'm a huge fan of understanding the "why" of things.

Pointing out the consequences of storytelling is important because that's often how to get someone's attention and impress upon them why they need to change a behaviour. But it's also important to understand why someone is doing it in the first place. If the storytelling is a survival technique (you have to read into someone's words in order to anticipate their own passive communication so that you can modify your behaviour before the punishment happens, for instance), then altering the storytelling won't actually solve the underlying problem and, in fact, may make things worse.

I discovered that with the whole "girls don't respond to guys' OKC emails" thing - it turns out that girls get punished for responding even with good intentions if the response is not the one the guy feels entitled to. So I push for women to respond more often, but as long as women get socially punished for it, they're not going to listen to my advice. Society has to start punishing men for being entitled before women will feel brave enough to respond, or even to make first contact.

So the storytelling thing needs to be tempered with understanding the root causes. Yes, it's absolutely important to build a society in which people are less prone to storytelling and passive communication. But, as was pointed out, that assumes a baseline of good faith and direct communication on all people doing the communicating. So we also need to be aware of that baseline, which changes the course of action for what we should do when we learn to identify that we are, in fact, storytelling in this context.

But, y'know, examine your root causes for your emotional reactions. Barring manipulation, it'll make you a better communicator, a better partner, and a better person.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
2015-08-03 08:00 pm

What Do You Mean Wimmen Like Sex? I Thought They Only Wanted Love?

http://m.mic.com/articles/122962/pornhub-study-reveals-women-want-hardcore-porn

"OMG, women like hardcore porn!"

Uh, yeah, no shit. This author makes the same mistake that I see all too often - they compare stats showing that women like hardcore porn to so-called "feminine porn" that's "soft focus" with slower sex scenes.

The mistake is that there is any kind of porn out there that is "for women". By that, I mean that people think there is a *type* of porn that having a vagina makes you more likely to like (conflating vagina-having with "women", of course - the rest of my rant will keep the gender binary because that's what the people I'm criticizing are doing). There isn't.

What "porn for women" tries to do (at least, those that aren't just as misogynistic as mainstream porn) is have representation of the *woman's experience* instead of catering to the "male gaze".

Here's what this means: Porn that is written and performed with the assumption that men like certain things and they want to highlight those certain things is what is called "the male gaze". Obligatory #NotAllMen here. Yes, I know not all men like those things, that's part of the problem with this shit. Moving on. They are made with the ASSUMPTION of straight male interest and the performers are performing for the pleasure of those men whom they are assuming are watching.

"Porn for women" isn't about there being two categories of sex acts for which men like one category (usually involving getting messy) and women like the other (usually involving perfect hair). Both and other genders like a variety of sex acts. This type of porn is about writing and performing stories that a woman-centric audience can *relate* to, vs. performing acts that men supposedly find attractive. There may be some overlap.

For example, I love giving blow jobs. According to the common misconception of "porn for women", none of my porn should have any blow jobs in them because only men get something out of blow jobs, so showing that act on screen is for men only. And, yeah, in mainstream porn, I hate watching blowjob scenes. Those women don't look like they're enjoying it. It doesn't look authentic. They do things that might look "attractive" to someone who has a penis and knows what a blow job feels like, but they don't do the things about blow jobs that make them so much fun for me to give. Things like, taking a flaccid penis and rolling it around in my mouth, gently squishing it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, and gradually feeling the texture change from soft to hard.

"Porn for women" would show a blowjob like that. Porn that people who don't understand what "porn for women" is make for women (that is, when a person who doesn't understand that phrase attempts to make porn for a female audience) wouldn't show a blowjob at all, and if it did, there would be a soft focus on the camera, diffusion filters on all the lights, high key lighting, pastel colors, no actual images of oral penetration on screen, perfect hair on the girl, and the guy tenderly whispering how much he loved her. Blegh.

So, yeah, of course some women like hardcore porn and of course some women aren't interested in the fuzzy romance-novels-on-screen type porn. Women are interested in a huge range of sexual activity. What makes porn "for women" or "for men" is not the specific sex acts depicted in them, but in how those sex acts are portrayed and what assumptions that the performers and writers are making when they make their choices for portraying them. Is the sex act performed so that someone with a penis can have the view of those things it is assumed he will want to look at? Or is the sex act performed so that even someone without a penis can feel that their experiences or desires are represented on the screen?

A hardcore, explicit gangbang can be portrayed either way. And women who like gangbangs are probably going to spend plenty of time looking up videos with gangbangs in them, but they will probably *enjoy* watching the ones in the latter category more. Nowhere, on our Woman Membership Card, does it say that we can't like gangbangs or that we're betraying the sisterhood if we do. We just want to see gangbangs (those of us who like them) that take into account whatever it is we like about gangbangs, not see gangbangs that are nothing but posturing for the straight males watching. And only people who don't think of women as some Other species with a totally unique category Sex Acts We Like To Perform are going to know how to direct and write and film those gangbangs the way we like to watch them.

Or they might film it right purely by accident. Either way, of course women like hardcore porn. Why do you think fucking 50 Shades was so popular? It was crap, but it was told from the perspective of a woman experiencing "kink", rather than from the perspective of the Domly dom male.  We just need better writers.  When women's experiences and women's stories are represented, women attend those media in droves (Mad Max, anyone?).  They're even willing to spend fortunes on absolute shit examples (not Mad Max).  If we could just get some decent writing & production value, you'd see a new social wave of the Every-Woman (the female equivilent of the Every-Man) embracing hardcore and explicit sexual media like the Pope suddenly endorsed it.

joreth: (Super Tech)
2015-07-30 11:23 am

But Teach Him To Fish...

"Cheikh Mohammed, do your friends give you gifts?" I started in Arabic, breaking off a piece of village bread.

"Of course, it's a friendly thing to do." He adjusted his posture on the scratchy woven carpet.

"Now if I'm coming from America to give you gifts, am I your friend?" ...

"You asked me if my friends give me gifts," he said. "Make sure that YOU are my friend. Make certain you understand me, first. Learn my strengths, my heart, my efforts. Once we are established in brotherhood, then yes, send me a present, one that won't hurt me to open."
The above conversation was an excerpt from an article I just posted about voluntourism - the pattern of relatively wealthy white Americans swooping into areas we considered "underdeveloped" and doing things that assuage our white, wealthy guilt, but that don't help those areas in the long term. But I found this conversation was a much bigger symbol.

This is the essence behind the Platinum Rule. This is the meaning behind feminism and feminist critiques of so-called "compliments". This is complaint behind racism. This is struggle behind poverty here in the US with the nation's refusal to provide healthcare and screening welfare recipients for drugs and concern trolling the grocery carts of food stamp recipients. This is what everyone who is oppressed and who speaks out against it is trying to say.

It is not a "gift" when it is not given out of understanding for the other person. It is not a "gift" when the reason for giving it is to make the giver feel good but doesn't account for the effect on the recipient. It is not a "gift" when it doesn't reflect the recipient themselves - their humanity, their feelings, their personhood.

When feminists complain about compliments or opening doors, the comments inevitably get bogged down with "but it's NICE to open doors and tell someone that she's pretty!" This is the very epitome of what's wrong and what this excerpt is trying to say. It's not about the opening of a door, it's about what the gift of opening the door says about the person opening it and the relationship to the person it is being held open for. Opening a door for someone is nice, unless it isn't. And it takes a deeper, nuanced understanding of the person, the culture, the circumstances to know if that gift of "courtesy" is one that won't hurt me to open.
"We are proud of this; we are empowered by this. Now, give a village man a handout? You've just weakened him. You've increased his dependency; diminished his sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely-accepted notions is that Westerners are the solution to African problems. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of abandonment and violence, or innocence and primitivism." ...

[Give a woman a pedestal? You've just weakened her. You've increased her dependency; diminished her sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely accepted notions is that men are the saviours and guardians of women. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of weakness and femininity, or innocence and infantilism.]

"You see, Heather," he set his meat down to look closely at me, "We are not weak. We are not underdeveloped. If you believe we must be helped, look more closely. We are content in our hearts, affectionate to each other, and attentive to our souls. Perhaps the greater need is for us to be helping you."
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2015-07-20 07:00 pm

Re: Some Thoughts On Porn, Coercion, & The Fundamental Reconstruction Error

http://tacit.livejournal.com/611774.html

Psychologists often talk about a quirk of human psychology called the fundamental attribution error. It's a bug in our firmware; we, as human beings, are prone to explaining our own actions in terms of our circumstance, but the actions of other people in terms of their character. The standard go-to example of the fundamental attribution error I use is the traffic example: "That guy just cut me off because he's a reckless, inconsiderate asshole who doesn't know how to drive. I just cut that car off because the sun was in my eyes and there was so much glare on the windshield I didn't see it."

We do this All. The. Time. We do it without being aware we're doing it. We do it countless times per day, in ways large and small.

For the last several years, since I first heard of this error, I've started catching myself when I, for instance, call people assholes on the road. I still do it, but in my head I remind myself that I'm just letting off steam and that they feel just as justified as I do when I do it to other people. I think it's helping me (and is entirely appropriate) to feel my feelings as they are and to be validated in my reaction to situations while still considering my opponents as "people". I think it's important to be able to be angry at someone for doing an assholeish thing, and even to judge people for their actions, while still keeping the situation in context that they are a complete person who believes they are the hero of their own narrative just as I do.

"I would like, therefore, to propose a radical idea:

The world is made of lots of people. Some of those people are different from you, and have different ideas about what they want, what turns them on, what is and is not acceptable for them, and what they would like to do.

Some of those ideas are alien, maybe even incomprehensible, to you.

Accept that it is true. Start from the assumption that even if something sounds weird, distasteful, or even disgusting to you, it may not be so to others--and that fact alone does not prove those other folks have something wrong with them. If someone tells you they like something, and you have no compelling evidence that they're lying, believe them--even if you don't understand why.

I've been trying forever to get people to understand this, and I started by getting myself to understand it. I know lots of people (myself included) who think they have The Answer to other people's problems. I know, for instance, people who get really upset when other people make career choices that are not choices that they would choose for themselves. These are usually people who pride themselves on their "work ethic" because they have bought into the erroneous tale that people who work hard enough will be rewarded with an increase in the quality of life based on capitalistic standards.

So anyone who is poor must not be "working hard enough". Anyone who is poor who turns down a job, or who gets sick and goes home instead of working through their illness, or basically does anything that they, themselves, think they wouldn't do in the other person's situation, those people (by this logic) deserve the poverty they get.

I know, I've had that same perspective myself for most of my life. It gets *really* tiring to keep explaining that other people are DIFFERENT PEOPLE. They have different limitations, different perspectives, different preferences, different goals, different priorities, different feelings, different abilities ... and all these differences add up to making different choices that people should not necessarily be punished for.

People who have lots of sex do not "deserve" to get STDs, or to be beaten up, or to be thought of as some kind of "lesser quality" of person. People who do not want to work 80 hours a week doing manual labor in two or three different jobs and still not get any medical benefits do not "deserve" to remain poor or thought of as "lazy".

We do not all need to have the same house, the same jobs, the same clothing, the same kind or amount of sex, or the same goals out of life. And yes, as long as we live in a scarcity-model capitalistic society, sometimes that means that some of us pay more in dollars than others for that right. But if that means that people get to live the lives that makes them happy (which, btw, ultimately *does* contribute back into society), then I'm all for that.

"Equality" does not necessarily mean or have to mean equal dollar amounts. It means equal opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
joreth: (Super Tech)
2015-07-15 06:39 pm

Parents, Stop Freaking Out About The Wrong Things

http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/29539702/star-wars-action-figure-has-parents-furious

OK, we need to talk. Parents, your fear of female skin is way out of hand. I don't think that any of the adults in this article have ever even seen the movie (except for the 1 parent who said she did).

1) The "for children age 4+" means that it's physically SAFE for children age 4 or above. It means that children under age 4 might choke to death on the parts. That label has nothing to do with the MORALITY of children based on age, it's for the safety of the product and nothing more. It's YOUR job as a parent to decide what's appropriate for your children to view and participate in.

2) When kids ask you why something happens or something exists, it's YOUR FUCKING JOB as a parent to have those answers, or to find them. That's your sole purpose in that child's life besides providing the actual physical necessities for survival. You are responsible for raising them and arming them with information about the world around them. So when a kid asks why this doll has a chain around her neck, making the doll cease to exist so that you won't get that uncomfortable question is not an appropriate response.

3) The answer to that question is actually an incredibly important teaching moment in a child's life, especially a female child. So if you haven't seen the movie, I'll give you the answer:

Princess Leia is a Senator. That's right, she's a government official and a leader of her people. All by herself. She's a leader. Later, when her entire planet is blown up, she stops hiding her involvement in an activist organization that seeks to overthrow a tyrannical government and becomes a full-time leader in that activist organization.

While performing her various leadership duties running the universe and fighting for justice, she meets a man and falls in love. But she remains independent and she keeps her job. In fact, he gives up HIS job to support hers.

Eventually, that man gets captured and she takes it upon herself to rescue him.

During her rescue attempt, she gets captured herself by the same evil mob boss that has her love interest. He attempts to demean her by stripping her of her more modest and functional attire and putting her in objectifying garments as well as chaining her to his side.

In the ultimate act of feminism and female empowerment, Leia waits for an opportunity, then with no concern for her appearance, takes the very chains of her enslavement and kills her captor. Using her own oppressor's tools of oppression against him, she wins her own freedom.

Leia's "slave outfit" and broken chain is more than just scantily-clad hot chick. It's a symbol of both her oppression and her triumph. It represents her empowerment and her independence. She reclaims what is hers - her agency and autonomy - and she uses the very objects used to steal them from her in the first place.

That slave harness and that broken chain are tangible reminders that it doesn't matter what we wear or how we are oppressed, we can overcome. We can break our chains and we can become free. Although the movement for more practical attire of our female action figures is important, in this case, the "immodest" clothing is important for the plot and shows us that revealing attire doesn't *prevent* women from still being heroes. If anything, being able to perform heroic feats in revealing or impractical attire makes the actions even more heroic (a la "Ginger Rogers can do everything Fred Astaire can do but backwards and in high heels").

Slave Leia is the ultimate symbol of feminism and female empowerment, and explaining that to your daughters is an opportunity you are wasting, for which your daughters pay the price. Of all the Disney Princesses, she is the one we should be encouraging our children to emulate. Not in spite of the slave outfit, but especially because of the slave outfit.

And let's just say you forget or disagree with all the feminism stuff symbolized by this outfit - the answer to "what am I supposed to say when my kids ask me about this chain?" is to begin a conversation about the objectification and sexualization of women in our society. Either way, this is a very important toy and you're failing as a parent if you think the answer is to prevent your child from seeing it.

This action figure should be proudly displayed on every child's shelf, along with the lessons of tyranny, slavery, freedom, autonomy, empowerment, and female strength. You should be more concerned with the symbols of violence in the toy aisle than your child possibly seeing plastic lady skin or having to learn a lesson about female subjugation and freedom.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2015-07-08 09:14 pm

I Know He Would Never Hurt Me And Other Fairy Tales

This whole article is amazing and a must-read, and there are so many points that could be picked out and reflected upon. But I'm picking out one particular point, and it's not even one of the main points. I'm picking it out because I have a personal association with this particular point.
"So, even though I had meant to tell him what happened between me and Peter, I didn’t. When Nathan gets upset at me, I tend to recoil. He’s intimidating, though he would never physically hurt me. ... That was another Huge Mistake.

Nathan was totally fine with Peter and I becoming partners as well, but he said that he thought it would be best if we didn’t do anything sexual yet. That created a lump in my throat and a questioning in my mind. After much stewing, the next night I told him what happened, and he Flipped the Fuck Out. He punched the wall, told me I cheated on him, and that I had totally broken his trust. " ~ Advice Asker

"You are a woman who wanted something, and you went after it in a way you thought was within the bounds of your relationship. You found out later that your partner didn’t agree. You didn’t do anything to deserve the amount of humiliation and worry and fear you are feeling right now." ~ Advice Giver
I wish I had known about this years ago.  I have ridiculously high self-esteem.  I am supremely confident in myself and my ability both to handle romantic relationships and to leave them if they go bad.  This means that I've missed people's attempts to manipulate and emotionally abuse me in the past.  I just thought they were jerks.  It took seeing someone I love dearly get emotionally manipulated, and to eventually see how my own ignorance of the situation contributed to it, before I finally started to learn anything about emotional abuse.

I know what physical abuse is, and I've always done the "the second someone raises a hand to me, I'm outta here".  And I've held to that my entire life.  What I didn't know was that doing that kind of mental calculus, "the calculus called Would He Hit Me?", is a sign of emotional abuse.  I never *felt* emotionally abused by my partners getting jealous and punching things in their rage.  I knew, without a doubt, that they'd never hit me.  But I thought their jealousy was unreasonable (not the punching the wall - that was a totally safe outlet for anger, I thought), so I'd leave them for that reason alone.

I once had a partner.  Like the questioner above, who wrote into Captain Awkward with her story, I had a partner with a mismatch in poly relationship expectations.  Unlike that questioner, it wasn't because I told him my boundaries but he refused to tell me his, so I would bump into them on accident.  No, we talked about it.  And we still didn't see eye to eye.  But because we talked about it, I *thought* that we understood each other and it was only until I smacked head-first into his massive armored tank of insecurity and abuse that I learned otherwise.

I found myself in an incredibly unstable situation.  I was experiencing loss left and right.  The situation that led to the discovering-my-boyfriend-was-an-abusive-monster thing was only the beginning of my series of losses, and the whole series combined threw me into a deep depression that I hadn't experienced since I had been bullied as a kid.  I not only thought about suicide, but I started planning it.  This was the time that I needed my partner the most to be supportive and compassionate.  But this was the time that frightened him the most, so he lashed out.

I went after something that, at the time, I felt I needed to help cope with all my chaos and loss and pain.  And it did help.  It was honestly the right thing for me at the time and I don't regret it at all.  It directly led to another series of events that eventually contributed to my healing, and to pulling myself out of the bleakness that was consuming me.  It turned out to be absolutely necessary for me, although I couldn't have known that at the time - I thought it was something I should do, but I didn't realize how it would start a snowball effect that would ultimately lead to saving my life.  The details are not mine alone to share, even anonymously, but I will also say that the thing I "went after" is not actually the thing that I was accused of doing that lead to my partner "Flipp[ing] the Fuck Out".  But I did pursue another relationship, and its progress frightened my abusive ex.

Something that Captain Awkward doesn't mention in their response is a lesser known truism - if you make it unsafe for your partner to tell you the truth, they are likely to start hiding things from you.  My ex made it very unsafe for people to share difficult things with him.  Some things were difficult because they triggered his insecurity.  Some things were difficult because he felt strongly about them and argued tenaciously (a trait I share with him) so that his loved ones stopped giving their contrary opinions on those subjects because it simply wasn't worth the argument.  He made sharing difficult subjects with him a very scary thing.

In addition to that, he was largely unavailable at this time, both temporally and emotionally.  This was part of the chaos that had entered my life - a small part, but a contributing part.  He had begun working longer hours, long enough that he essentially was at work for all but one or two waking hours a day.  This pissed off his live-in partner, because she never got to see him anymore, and their tradition was for her to wait for him to come home so they could eat dinner together and this meant that she was now waiting until 9 or 10 at night before she could eat.  He was trying to manage a total of 4 romantic partners and two of them were emotionally turbulent, to give the understatement of the year.  We used to chat online throughout the day, but his work situation had recently put an end to that.  So I was allocated the 10-minute drive from his office to his house to talk to him on the phone in the evenings.  Except on those nights where one of his other partners was in the car with him because there was also car trouble in the group and some car sharing had become necessary.

So, here I was, in a relationship with someone who was giving me about 30 minutes of his time per week, knowing that I would only have his attention for 10 minutes at a stretch, which would have a pretty hard cut-off time otherwise his live-in partner would get pissed (and I'd have to deal with the knowledge (that he insinuated to me) that it was all my fault she was pissed because he was giving me more attention than her, whether that was true or not), most of that time would be taken up with his anguish over the troubles his other relationships were giving him, AND that, because of how he reacted to difficult news, telling him about my own emotional tailspin and the subsequent Incident would be a very Unsafe Conversation and definitely take more than 10 minutes, further ruining the night for his live-in partner who was waiting for him so she could finally eat her one big meal of the day.

All of this added up to the fact that he was unreachable to talk to immediately after the Incident (again, too busy at work, putting out relationship fires at home, just not available), and he was very "intimidating" to talk to when I did finally have his attention.  So I know that I handled my end of the conversation poorly several days after the fact when I could finally have that conversation with him.  I was accused of "cheating" on him when I A) didn't do what he said I had done and B) acted completely within my own ethical framework that I thought I had conveyed to him but I found out because of this that we had different relationship frameworks.  He immediately tried to impose restrictions on me.  He was very slick about it, though.  Unlike the abuser in this advice letter, he didn't do it punitively, exactly.  He tried to *retroactively* impose restrictions on me.  He wanted me to obey some restrictions that he claimed had *always been there* that I had now broken.  Those restrictions violated the agency of my other partner because they imposed limitations on his own behaviour and he was not present to negotiate for them, nor would he have accepted them had he been present. I felt (and still do) that I would never have agreed to such restrictions had I understood that's what *he* thought our relationship was operating under.  As they were not restrictions that *I* wanted either even self-imposed, that should have settled the matter.

But, instead, my ex told me that I could not just arbitrarily "change" the nature of our relationship without his permission.  Since the so-called "change" he was speaking of was regarding my own behaviour, yes, actually, I can.  He can choose to remain or not, but I am the sole arbitrator of my own behaviour and, as such, am the *only* one who has the ability to "change" it or not.

I do not believe he had ever encountered any romantic partner who faced that kind of challenge from him head on with "yes, I can make, re-make, and re-arrange the boundaries around my own behaviour without input from you" before.  Whenever I had seen him challenge one of his other partners in such a manner, without fail, they backtracked and apologized and, in many cases, grovelled for his forgiveness, and accepted all kinds of restrictions and limitations in order to "prove" their worthiness of remaining in a relationship with him.  He called it "accepting responsibility for fucking up".  I call it "falling victim to gaslighting", at least in these cases where I witnessed it and where I have details of the situations that I'm not sharing here.  I believe my refusal to bend on the issue of who can command my behaviour is what ultimately saved me.  As a blogger once said, "'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control,'" and "These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them."

He felt "victimized" by my resistance to his attempt to control my behaviour.  He felt "betrayed" because I behaved in a manner that didn't affect him directly at all, was something that I needed to do for myself in a time of need, but was something that he found frightening because it was not under his control.  When I gave no quarter, the relationship ended swiftly, without build-up or warning.  Everyone was surprised by how quickly things escalated to a breakup.  And I can't be more thankful for that, because I saw what happens to his partners when the breakups are slow in coming, and when they try to negotiate and seek compromise in good faith with him.

There is no "in good faith" with an abuser.  I did not recognize him at the time as an abuser.  I do not feel abused by him because his attempts to control me were met by my stubborn refusal to give up my autonomy.  I am quite unyielding about that.  And when people feel "victimized by the other person's resistence to my control", that unyielding feels cold, hard, calculated, uncompassionate, uncaring, and other words that are supposed to be bad adjectives for a romantic partner.  But those are the adjectives that have rescued me from several abusive relationships.

And, strangely, those partners of mine who have not attempted to abuse me or who do not have abusive tendencies don't feel that those adjectives describe me in the slightest.  Funny, that.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2015-07-08 07:08 pm

10 Things I'd Wish I'd Known About Gaslighting & My Thoughts About It

https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407



"Gaslighting doesn’t have to be deliberate ... We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership."


"I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality."


"The book The Gaslight Effect refers to a type of gaslighting called glamour gaslighting. This is where the gaslighter showers you with special attention, but never actually gives you what you need. They put you on a pedestal, but then they are not there, in fact they may get angry at you, when you need a shoulder to cry on."

This is one of the many reasons why I have a problem with so-called "goddess worship" or the belief that women should be worshiped as "queens" or that they are "better" than men. Women are put on pedestals, but only until they do something that shows how human they are, and then the anger comes out - "slut", "whore", "bitch", "crazy". You're only a "queen" until you step out of line, and then you're lower than dirt.

"In another type of gaslighting, the gaslighter is always transformed into the victim. Whenever you bring up a problem, you find yourself apologizing by the end of the conversation."


"Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive. But, it is normal to lose your memory when you are being gaslighted. In fact, it is one of the signs that you should look for."

This is one of the biggest problems with abuse in skeptical people or skeptical communities. Because we know that memories are fallible and malleable, an abuser can use that information to justify his gaslighting by pointing out that his victim's memory can't be trusted. But, somehow his memory can be? Sure, having holes in one's memory is normal, but when someone uses that fact to dismiss what you're saying about how you *feel*, which is an internal, subjective process that they have no control over and no direct observation of, you should be wary.

It's particularly subtle and effective when something bothers you, but you don't talk about it right away, or if the thing that bothers you is a *pattern* that has developed over time. That makes it so much more plausible and easy for the abuser to quiz and harangue you about the details of *factual events* about which you might be fuzzy after some time has passed.  This way, they can focus the argument on the details of your memory instead of the bigger issue, which is that you feel hurt or angry or whatever emotion you're feeling that needs to be addressed.  Why bother addressing your pain if we can establish that whatever caused you pain didn't really happen the way you remember in the first place?

This is particularly effective because our emotions are *not* always "valid", in the sense that they are not always a reflection of reality.  They're always "valid" in the sense that you really do feel them.  But we can, and do, feel hurt, for instance, when no one actually hurt us.  This particular tactic is also useful for an abuser, and is quite a common justification for a lot of abusive and toxic relationship rules in poly relationships.  They justify punitive behaviour.  So it's very important that we learn to use our feelings as signposts that something is wrong, and then address what's wrong.  That way, we can't get sidetracked by an abuser attempting to gaslight us by interrogation and the discovery of totally natural holes in memory, and we also won't use our emotions as blunt objects with which to beat our partners over the head when we are feeling insecure to make them change behaviour that isn't really harming us but which may be harmful to *them* if we make them stop (i.e. impositions on autonomy issues).

"The problem was that I did not realize that sometimes empathy is not the right approach. Sometimes the right approach is to not engage and instead to make space. Make space for yourself and your gaslighter by setting boundaries. Make so much space for your abuser that they can no longer effect you."

This is exactly what I do when I block someone on social media, although I wouldn't call every altercation "abuse".  Sometimes empathy is not the right approach.  Usually, the reason why I've gotten into the argument in the first place is because I'm empathizing *with someone else* which makes my opponent out to be (or feel like) a "bad guy".  Although I *do* empathize with my opponent, my empathy for the other side is both stronger and more important because they are the ones getting hurt more.  When I block someone, empathizing with that person is no longer the right approach to take, and making so much space for them that they can no longer affect me is the necessary tool.

"It is ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them. You might stop, stunned, and ask “what would make you think that you could know what’s inside of me? Are you OK?"

I actually had a whole other post on this topic that I couldn't make because FB disabled my account, so I'll address it here instead.  I've been pondering over my most recent blocking of a friend who insisted on telling me what Im thinking.  Normally I just rage about it for a while and move on.  But today, my brain drew a connection, so I'm considering the validity of that connection and I don't have it all worked out yet, hence the dwelling.

I've been talking about abuse a lot lately, and I recently got into a discussion about how pretty much everyone exhibits some behaviours that could be described as abusive, simply because our culture accepts those behaviours as normal.  I've also been hinting at a series of blog posts I have in the making, explaining my own experience with abusive men and how the particular combination of traits that add up to my self-esteem seemed to have saved me from being abused by these abusive men.

And it occurred to me that there is a connection to these three things - blocking a friend, abusive behaviour being cultural, and being less susceptible to abuse than other people.  Gaslighting is where someone breaks down another person's sense of reality by insisting that the things that a victim knows are true really aren't true.  With factual claims, that's really hard to do, but with *perceptions*, it's surprisingly easy.  Very generally speaking, it's the dismissal of someone's experience until they no longer believe their own experience and instead look to the abuser to provide the framework for their reality.

So, for example, when a kid hurts themselves, telling them that they don't feel hurt or that "it isn't that bad" is a form of gaslighting.  If successful, eventually the kid learns to dismiss their own experience of pain and could lead to not treating something serious because they don't identify pain anymore.

Telling me what I think or feel in contradiction to what I've said I think or feel is a form of gaslighting.  Online, it most often takes the form of seeing someone's behaviour, and then projecting motivations onto that person to explain their behaviour.  People who tak welfare assistance are lazy.  People who are late think their time is more valuable than others.  Women are just crazy.

So, back to the part where I believe that I have a particular combination of traits that interferes with people's ability to emotionally abuse me, I think that part of the reason why I flip my lid and get so pissed off at people online is because I intuitively recognize this behaviour as abusive without having the cognitive, conscious understanding or language for this behaviour.  When I feel cornered, I lash out.  Telling me what I think or feel causes me to lash out as if I were being cornered.  This reaction seems to many to be a complete overreaction to what appears to be a simple exchange from a nobody on the internet.  But, to me, I react as though I've just seen someone deliberately push a baby into traffic.  So that's the connection my brain made - I think that people are participating in gaslighting all the fucking time and it's socially acceptable to do so.  Which means that it's really difficult to identify gaslighting when it's being done to you "for real", i.e. in some kind of intimate relationship like a partner or family member, because, to most people, that's just how discussions and arguments go.  We've probably even said those things ourselves.  When it happens to me, I get angry.  Maybe if we all got a little more "unreasonably angry" when this happened, our culture wouldn't treat it as "normal".
joreth: (Super Tech)
2015-07-03 03:01 pm

Adulting

http://www.autostraddle.com/you-need-help-starting-over-at-thirtysomething-295465/

"Also, remember that adulthood isn’t about having a relationship and a mortgage. It can mean lots of different things to different people but I think it’s mostly about taking control and responsibility for your life — no matter what that life looks like."

This is a very important message. I see a lot of jokes about "adulting" that have to do with being responsible about things our parents were, like eating sensible dinners and doing the laundry. I'm not complaining about those jokes - I like them and I like making them. But something that I've found can be harmful is in *believing* those jokes. My parents believe that adulthood looks a particular way. Their entire generation does (generally speaking). We were sold a bill of Adulthood sometime in the '50s and everyone's disappointment in the "next generation" is that they're not living up to that bill.

Being an "adult" doesn't mean you have to have a mortgage or spend 35 years working at the same office for the healthcare benefits. I am not a failure for deliberately choosing to continue to rent, nor am I a perpetual adolescent for doing so. I have my reasons for preferring to rent instead of buy, and I have chosen a life for which renting is the more sensible option. *Sensible*, reasonable, rational - I've made choices that have led to a life that doesn't look like a grownup's life. What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices.

My choices come with consequences, but my parents' choices had consequences too. My parents bought a house and held down responsible jobs, but they had shitty bosses by whom they spent their entire lives being emotionally torn down. My dad started his own business, because it's the American Dream to be a small business owner, but that didn't succeed and they ended up in financial difficulty. When the economy boomed during the dot com bubble, the value of their home and property skyrocketed. Some people think that's a good thing, but those people don't realize that the taxes also skyrocketed while their income didn't. Was it really a responsible decision to own property that they couldn't afford? I'm not saying that it wasn't, I'm saying that even responsible decisions come with consequences, so these other options that have different consequences are not necessarily irresponsible just because of those consequences. There are other variables that make something responsible or not.

What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices. What makes a life that looks exactly the same but is not a grownup's life is that people just out of their teen years aren't generally making these choices - they're thrust upon them. If they're in school and dependent upon their parents for money, their living situation is structured by their parents. I don't know of any parents who would have bought their 18-year old college student a home to live in while they attended school, but they're totally fine with paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment in dorm fees. Someone who is not "adulting" is just going along with what they know or with what comes their way.

Someone who is adulting has looked at the options and decided that they understand the consequences and this is the life they want. That can happen at any age.