Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cinderella; A beautiful girlhood

     I started my excursion into fairy tale princesses, and romance stories with a post about why those things still resonated with me. I want to continue with other aspects of those stories that are relevant and real for me as a woman in our culture but specifically the culture I was brought up in with its very heavy influences of patriarchy, gender ideals, and fundamentalist beliefs. Cinderella captures all the classic elements of a fairy tale princess romance and because there is context and parallels between it and my own story I will be using it for illustration and discussion.

     Fairy tales resonate with me as a woman traversing feminine culture; I would like to escape the constant battles that come with being of female sex and identity. I dream of acceptance, respect and stability for myself and other women in the world. I explained in my previous post that Prince Charming when deconstructed relates to those desires for love, acceptance, respect, stability and not just a romantic relationship (though that can still play a part).
The stories also resonate with me as someone who grew up in a Christian home full of hidden fundamentalist values and beliefs.
The fairy tale dream as told from the Christian perspective offers love, respect, escape and stability. But you can only have these things if you are a good girl, if you maintain a pure and beautiful girlhood.

     Cinderella and the path of beautiful girlhood with a fairy tale ending:
 I admit to never finishing the book A Beautiful Girlhood because after coming across the portion that instructed you to not let your thoughts wander down the primrose path to things that were not maidenly I realized I already let myself wonder about that dark evil "sex". Trying to continue reading A Beautiful Girlhood  after that just filled me with guilt and self judgement. The book felt like a reprimand. But still throughout my growing up the message and focus of having a beautiful girlhood was still there.
The message of a beautiful girlhood was also a message about having a fairy tale life. Happy ever after was a promise of good things for a life dedicated to being a Godly young woman, much in the way that heaven is a promise for living a Godly life.  A fairy tale in a Christian culture it is also something that can become a pressure to adhere to the values and expectations of your family and church. Veer from the path or throw it away and you have lost the chance of ever being respected or held in high esteem as a woman of wisdom and value. You lose your value as someone of innocence and beauty. You can of course come back to the path, but not without some self flagellation, public scrutiny, and judgement. You would have to dedicate yourself to penance and pursue the path of beautiful girlhood or womanhood with a renewed vigor as if hell hounds are nipping at your heels. 
     The struggles for acceptance, respect and stability are the same as for every woman and girl in our culture, but within the Christian and especially fundamentalist Christian culture women and girls seem to lose more ground. 
At first it can seem as if by nature of being a Godly woman you will be held in high esteem. Christians and churches do make this a focus point in an effort to respect the women in their lives. However the actual actions and everyday beliefs within Christianity make the focus and intent threadbare. As a woman you are second to your husband and are to obey and and defer to his judgement. Even in really progressive Christian households were spouses are teammates, the man will still be seen as the household head. Men are also the head of the church, and while women may or may not be allowed to have leadership roles they are secondary and in the majority of Christian denominations women are not allowed to be elders, and especially not a pastor. Women are still second class citizens in this religion. Saying Godly women will be respected, honored and held in high esteem is just dressing up a really crappy prize, and is only applicable if you do what is expected of you as a woman based on traditional gender roles.

     As a young girl growing up in this type of religious culture you are also told that you will be held in high esteem for following the path of a beautiful Christian girlhood. Meekness and kindness of heart are highly encouraged. And all these things you are supposed to be are expressed to you as something that will create an inner freedom and spiritual enlightenment, and that girls who stray from the path are enslaved prisoners of sin. When in reality adhering to the path of beautiful girlhood can make one just as much a prisoner. 
Cinderella is a good example of this. Here she is essentially an indentured servant in her former home, but we are told and shown in various ways that this is okay because she is following the path of beautiful girlhood. She is a reflection of that idealized Christian young woman who is soft spoken, compassionate and above all cheerful no matter what. Keeping a smile on your face and never showing a bad attitude (or else you grieve God and others) is a part of Christian culture and specifically fundamentalist culture. A seemingly bad attitude or outburst would likely be seen as a sign of disrespect and disobedience. In the film Ever After the Baroness gives Danielle a sound lashing for her reaction to her step sisters biting remark. Danielle punched Marguerite, but the other reasons the Baronesses punishes her is for making a scene, stepping out of her place, and for not being dutiful and obedient. 

     Cinderella encompasses a lot of the ideals and values of Christianity. She is cheerful, a service to others, and she continually turns the other cheek even in a fairly abusive situation. The way I was raised with those ideals and values seemed to create this normality of any abusive behaviors, and the expectation that you turn the other cheek and forgive whether or not the other party changed their behavior. In a lot of ways you were supposed to follow the ideal of Jesus; suffering at the hands of others made you a martyr of sorts and forgiving them no matter what put you at a higher level of spirituality and grace. You were not supposed to have boundaries, you were supposed to understand others imperfections and endure. And truly bad behavior was not always seen as such (from experience), it was diminished into being minor character flaws at best and eventually discounted. It was especially discounted if the bad behavior came from a parent, and christian parents were especially discounted. People believed there was no way they could ever really be that bad.
 In Ever After we see the Baroness try and make her bad behavior out to be some sort of motherly concern and that she is only doing the best she can to make Danielle into something of value. 

     I found that trying to be like Cinderella or on the path of a beautiful girlhood could often be little better than being a doormat. A doormat that stays put. You were not supposed to leave or cut ties with your family. Family is everything, and you are supposed to honor that and stay connected no matter what. You would not have had permission or acceptance of your desire or choice to leave. The only time this changes is if some Prince Charming swoops in and "rescues" you. Then you have a reasonable reason to leave. But unless that happened it was family first and forever, and you had to turn the other cheek and keep your head up.

      I think I loved fairy tales growing up because even though it could reinforce traditional patriarchal and religious values- underneath it all I think I connected with the bones of the stories. The story resonated because through the act of describing traditional beliefs in a fairy tale, it also described the plight of the girl, woman or princess within that belief system. It described my plight and struggles and even if the metaphor was embodied by Prince Charming those stories still offered the dream of escape. A dream of love, acceptance, respect, stability.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

My parent's are the victims?

(Vaarsuvius as a Persian cat, it's Thursday!)

     My parent's believing themselves to be the victims of a hateful child (me) is something I am fairly accustomed to at this point. This in part stems from their being narcissists and abusers who cannot accept responsibility for any of their actions and therefore must shift the blame. But the other aspect that creates their perspective and from which they seem to find validation comes from elements of fundamentalist christian culture.
     There is this basic idea even if unconscious that children are inherently bad. They must be fixed, bent, molded and purified through a metaphorical fire. They need to submit in absolute obedience to their parents and God. This idea comes with other basic assumptions that children are easily spoiled if ever let to have their own way and that they will instinctively want to be willful, disobedient and disrespectful.
Fundamentalist parents look upon our culture with horror, not only because they see it as a culture of sin but because they see children who seem to have way too many freedoms, who have not been properly spanked and are spoiled rotten. Now to be fair there can be a struggle in our culture to not raise spoiled children. But to go on and assume that things that are naturally part of children learning, exploring and growing up to mean they are spoiled would be incorrect and informed by a more rigid belief system.
      Another basic belief that seems to exist in fundamentalist Christian culture is that you must honor thy Mother and Father no matter what, and no matter what they do. Family is everything! Following that is often the belief that you must turn the other cheek and forgiveness is required even though it is often the equivalent of shoving everything under the rug, no change of behavior necessary!

     So when it comes to parents (especially narcissist abusers) with fundamentalist christian beliefs everything is set up perfectly to validate them as the victims if their children ask them to accept any level of responsibility for their actions, draw boundaries or even disconnect from them completely. The scenario where the parent assumes they are the victim in such circumstances is not uncommon. In fact it is common enough to have made it's way around the internet and recently too. Elizabeth Vagnoni has been speaking out as a parent estranged from her children.
Here is a paragraph from her article:

The Rise Of Narcissism In The Young

Parents tell stories of ill-spoken words, of misunderstanding, of unhelpful interference from others. Much of what they describe, while conflict-laden and uncomfortable, doesn’t seem bad enough to have caused estrangement. The scenarios don’t appear to warrant a total cutoff. At least not according to the way I was raised. I hear that phrase a lot, too.

Most of the parents I talk to are boomers, who share similar values and beliefs, including thoughts on how parents should be treated. The similarities I’ve seen in stories about how they lost contact with their children created a new direction for my research — our culture. 

Why Some Grown Kids Cut Off Their Parents

     We can see the phrasing that echoes fundamentalist christian culture, and even our culture at large "The scenarios don't appear to warrant a total cutoff". Well no, of course they don't. Not when you believe that kids should honor their Mother and Father from birth and into adulthood no matter what the circumstances. Within that belief system there is never a reason to cut off your parents, and the children are responsible for forgiving whether or not their is a change of behavior in the parent. And forgiveness can equate to that parent still being a part of the kids life, perhaps without any health or safety inducing boundaries. Thank goodness for the small and wonderful miracles in the Christian community that are slowly working to change this idea ( Townsend and Cloud; Boundaries). Vagnoni asserting that other Boomers feel similarly is also a reflection of a more traditional belief system which would certainly have its roots in Christianity.    She has chosen her hypothesis for this mystifying experience among parents; our culture. In other words our secular culture. Here is her thoughts:

Specifically, I have directed my focus to the rise of narcissism among younger people. The topic is hot right now.

The book, The Narcissist Next Door, was released just last month by Jeffrey Kluger, science editor of Time magazine. Kluger writes: “Parents spend a lot of time ensuring their children have high self-esteem. You need a healthy ego to climb to the top of your profession. But when does self-regard become narcissism?”

Narcissism has been long been associated with the notion of entitlement, which typically suggests a lack of empathy, a feeling of superiority and a tendency to overreact to criticism. 

      I just want to say right out the gate that when one is looking for causation you would research, choose a focus variable, then create your hypothesis. If you were to prove your hypothesis correct you would still be unable to assert that your variable was the sole causation of a particular outcome. There are many reasons why children would choose to be estranged from their parents, and even if there is a percentage that were doing so because of an upbringing that caused them to be self involved, selfish and spoiled it is only going to be a percentage. It will be a variable not the rule.      She like others seems to have a view of children of our era being over indulged with high self esteem- too many trophy's won simply for participating. And also a belief that in the professional world these children are entitled and unwilling to work hard or work at all.  From personal experience there is a correlation in that perception and fundamentalist Christianity, Evangelical Christians and Conservative politics. The underlying belief  of the fore mentioned groups is that children have to be bent, that work has to be hard or they will never learn anything, work has to be hard or they will turn out spoiled, and work has to be hard because children are inherently willful and bad and must be broken from those things. Young professionals are expected to pay their dues and ofttimes because of the influence of Christianity on traditional culture they are still treated as children who are bad, who don't know a good thing when they have it, and paying your dues is that same rigid principle.

    Her quote of Kluger mentions that we need a healthy ego to succeed. But how exactly is that supposed to come about when kids are raised with such rigid beliefs? It seems Vagnoni wants to have her cake and eat it too, she thinks kids are raised with to high of self esteem but that they still need self esteem to succeed later in life. By what scale are we to go about measuring the correct amount of self esteem, and in kids how could their ever be such a thing as too much self esteem? She is not even really suggesting a balanced approach.  Her views which seem to be rooted in traditional child rearing philosophies completely counteract any possibility of achieving  a balance of self esteem because by their nature the philosophy assumes the kid is bad and requires restrictions not praise.

It is also important to note here that there is a difference between self regard and self esteem. Self regard can be ego created and get to a point of narcissistic thinking and behavior. Self esteem however is one of the necessary elements to healthy living (like Maslows triangle of needs). Further more to truly be a narcissist, one would be diagnosed by a mental health professional and it would be coded as NPD, which is a personality disorder. A disorder that goes beyond simply having an ego, being vain or lacking humility and is almost always accompanied by abusive tendencies and dare I say even sociopath tendencies.

Narcissism has been long been associated with the notion of entitlement, which typically suggests a lack of empathy, a feeling of superiority and a tendency to overreact to criticism. 

She is correct here that narcissism is associated with those elements. But specifically textbook narcissism (DSM) would encompass those things. We are not talking about your regular selfish individual here. Also her perspective of her children being narcissists is influenced by her perception of their lack of empathy because they chose to draw firm and even permanent boundaries with her. From experience when you draw such boundaries with a parent and consider estrangement, there is no lack of depth in feeling. That is a pretty good indication that there is not a lack of empathy either. And the person who cries foul at the drawing of boundaries, minimal or extensive shows a lack of understanding healthy relationship dynamics or willingness to engage in them (see Townsend & Cloud).

 I certainly didn't leave my parent relationships with a sense of superiority, in fact I left with minimal self esteem in tact. Lashing out and citing superiority as a reason for a loved ones estrangement is an indicator regarding the ego of the person lashing out than the one who left. Saying there is tendency to overreact to criticism is the favorite battle cry of an actual narcissistic abuser. They will say that you are sensitive, that you overreact to everything, and that you can't handle criticism. In other words you are emotionally unbalanced and crazy.  
Is it really that children of today can't handle criticism or that they are properly reacting to a dysfunctional belief system? Since most children tend to seek their parents approval and love even when abused (I did) it seems unlikely that they would cut off a parent because of perceived criticism. It is far more likely that the criticism was constant, demeaning and they finally had to call it quits with the parent.

     Vagnoni's perception of the boundaries given to her by her children is actually closer to that of a narcissist. Her to reaction to what her children expressed would make the narcissism hers and not theirs. In fact narcissists won't draw boundaries, they don't like to let go. The fact that her children were willing to draw boundaries really seems to negate the idea they are NPD.  If she wants to continue on with the idea that they are spoiled that is fine. Maybe they did walk away because they were selfish and spoiled, but at this point that still would not truly be narcissism, that is just being selfish and spoiled. However without any specific evidence of them being spoiled or walking away because she would not give them what they wanted I would be hard pressed to say that it was the actual reason. However Vagnoni feeling she is the victim and throwing a perceivable "temper tantrum" is someone being upset because they did not get what they wanted from others.

     Where is her personal responsibility in all of this? Saying she raised spoiled narcissist children is not taking responsibility for her behaviors in the relationship. She is laying the burden of guilt at her children's door. Like Vaarsuvius she too can't seem to find "what went wrong" and is similarly mystified by the strong boundaries set down. So it must be this other crazy thing "Narcissist children" because they have done nothing wrong! Narcissists are usually mystified by such boundaries because of their general inability to be self reflexive in their thinking and be responsible for their behaviors. Her children do not seem to be suffering from a similar mystification of what went wrong.

In previous generations, no one worried about a child’s self-esteem. In the past, elders’ experiences were valued and their children listened to them. Estrangement did happen, but it appeared to be reserved for parents cutting off a wayward child — the “black sheep” of the family.

Yes there it is, that lovely hypocritical idea that parents can do no wrong, and you must listen to your elders or you are unwise and willful. Also that cutting ties are a right reserved for parents of a complete black sheep. That child that just would not bend and is of a bad character at their core.
She goes on to assert that all these problems with children of today stem from baby boomers wanting their kids to have better lives than they did and it produced a culture overly focused on children's self esteem.

I believe that a culture of “self-esteem” — give everybody an award, change dress sizes so larger people feel smaller, allow teens to be disrespectful to those in authority — has set the tone and created a possible outcome I don’t think anyone expected: the idea that it’s OK to cut off contact with your parents.

When something, or more specifically, someone, no longer supports the view you have of yourself — get rid of them!

Oh the tragedy! How could these baby boomers have known that building children's self esteem would have resulted in them growing up and separating from parents as they developed a sense of self! Wait... that is what is supposed to happen, and how is a teen developing a sense of self, going through normal stages of development and rebellion make them more disrespectful than normal? And  what does she mean that this created an outcome where it is okay for kids to to cut off parents? Kids leave the nest, they are not supposed to be jointed at the hip with their parents forever, nor are parents supposed to remain a supreme authority in their lives. Libby Anne wrote a great post on the struggles that come with adulthood after growing up in a home where your will was supposed to bent to that of your parents.  It seems she is confusing her personal experience in which she found herself estranged from her children and normal healthy parent child relationships. Again we see that assumption that is never okay to cut your parents off.  I don't believe that our culture has not developed kids that think it is okay to cut off their parents, it has developed kids that realize those traditional ideas are not healthy for them or the relationships with their parents.

      Saying that children ditch parents when they don't support the view they have of themselves is an over simplification of what is more likely complicated relationship dynamics that resulted in estrangement. In a sense it is true, for instance in my case I ditched my parents because they did not support my view of a relationship of mutual responsibility and my view that they needed to be accountable for their abusive behaviors. I have also ditched family members that did not support my account of being subjected to sexual abuse and other abusive behaviors. I also ditched my parents because the view I had of myself that was I was worthy of love and did not deserve to be demeaned and belittled or abused anymore. However I was told that I could not possibly see myself without bias, I did not see how I really was, how I behaved, and that I did not see what I was actually doing to my family by holding those beliefs. If  you have a healthy understanding of relationships and boundaries, cutting people out of your life who do not support you and are not in alignment with who you are is normal. Yes there are cases when self involved people don't want to hear anything bad about themselves and will reject everyone who does not flatter them. However trying to say that this is a primary occurrence in our culture and because of the way children are raised is not the whole truth or even an accurate truth. And isn't that ironically what Vagnoni is doing? Rejecting what her children have tried to communicate to her because it isn't flattering or fit the image she has of herself?

This is how Vagnoni ends her article:

Relationships might feel better when there is no contact. But, as Dr. Murray Bowen, credited with the most original new thinking about family systems since Freud and who coined the phrase “emotional cutoff” observed, the problems are just tucked away through estrangement, they are not resolved.

The only way to move forward is to get to resolution. To talk. To find common ground. To forgive.

From personal experience relationships with parents who are not responsible for their actions or respectful of boundaries do tend to feel better with no contact. The problems of the relationship are not tucked away after estrangement or left unresolved. I know this because I have continually been working through the devastation left in the wake of the relationship with my parents, and I know I can do this without them. I don't need to engage with them to resolve the hurt they have caused.
 I have learned the hard way that trying to talk, find common ground, and resolutions with a parent such as Vagnoni is not possible. They do not take responsibility for their behaviors; which is a prerequisite for engaging in a healthy relationship or seeking to repair a broken one. In my case all the blame ended up in my court, even with attempts at counseling. And forgiveness, that is not a parental right, just like respect and honor are not inherent parental rights. You have to earn it.
 Finally forgiveness is not about the other person or parent, forgiveness when you are good and ready is about you letting go and being free or any of the baggage created in a dysfunctional relationship. Parental participation not required!

Vaarsuvius If They Were Reincarenated; The Thursday Persian Cat Post

Today's recommended reading: Grown Children & Estranged Parents

Monday, January 19, 2015

A sensuous child; The List

It has been a while since I added to "The List" and I still have a few more important topics to write for it. This subject once again comes to us courtesy of a well meaning individual I know, and Lena Dunham. Disturbed by the title? Me too!

     This subject is really an extension of the whole discussion around normative sexual behavior in children as they grow up. I've already written about what normal sexual development in kids looks like and when there should be concern (abnormal behaviors). I have also written a lengthy post about sexual play or acting out focusing on the Lena Dunham controversy.  
So a well meaning individual I know told me that they didn't want me to feel bad about my sexual development or being a sexual person because of my quote "having always been a sensuous child". Also they didn't want me to mix up my being a sensuous child with blaming a parent for it. For anyone raised with healthy body boundaries and who was allowed to develop their sexuality normally you reaction should be "EWW, OH MY GOD!" and "WHY WOULD YOU EVER PUT SENSUOUS AND CHILD IN THE SAME SENTENCE?!"

     But for sexual abuse victims, or anyone raised with inappropriate boundaries and body violations you might actually have thought this is something plausible and that it was your fault or the way you were born. This is why I brought up Lena Dunham; she is someone who was exposed to an over sexual environment and somehow  believes she is a sexual revolutionary now and as a child (sensuous child). The only other crowd that gives this idea any thought is the crowd that supports the abusers or is somehow part of that dysfunctional system. They are trying to find ways to explain away the abuse and the child's behavior so they blame it on the child or try to make arguments such as the kid having always been sensuous.

     Let's put this idea to rest. There is no such thing as a sensuous child. There is no stage of sexual development during childhood in which that would ever occur (unless sexual abuse was present). This type of behavior and development would not even begin to occur until adolescence, and even then a very sexual teen who is acting out would still be a concern for whether or not they had been abused. Please see previous list posts about normal sexual development for reference. Kids are not sensuous! That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard about child development, and this is after having taken  developmental psychology during college- not a mention- ever- because it is not true!.

Once Upon a Time; A Princess culture series

This week I am going to be writing a series of posts about Fairy tales, Princesses, romance and girly culture!

                                                  Once upon a time, I was a Disney kid.

I think at one point we owned every Disney VHS made. In fact it's plausible that Vaarsuvius still owns every Disney VHS ever made (they can't get rid of things).
Looking back with my recently  grown feminist perspective there are a lot of things to find fault with. The emphasizing messages can be reduced down to needing a man to rescue you, needing a man to complete you, and needing a man to find or create any happiness in yourself. Also there is the financial aspect, needing a man to rescue you from poverty. And lastly the Disney Princesses are shown as very one dimensional women, those are the only things that seem to occupy their minds. They are often waiting to be rescued, and preparing to be a wife and house keeper or they try to rebel against their fathers/families only to still end up in a traditional role. Romance and being a wife are the main preoccupation (that and getting a fabulous closet full of clothes and shoes). What girl doesn't want a walk in closet full of her favorite things, items she identifies with?

     Those critique points having been stated what we are left with is that stories such as Cinderella are still a fairy tale. Even though Disney has produced a flattened version of fairy tales  the deeper roots are there even if we don't see them at first. Fairy tales have been around for a long time, and their original purpose was to teach deep and meaningful lessons.  Many original versions also sometimes paint harsh and terrifying pictures; in the original version of Cinderella the Step sisters have their heels and toes cut off in an effort to fit into the glass slipper. In essence even within a Disney fairy tale, the bones are still there. Sometimes they are scattered through the re-telling and sometimes they lay just underneath (See Clarissa Pinkola Estes).

     I really love Clarissa Pinkola Estes and her work of unearthing archetypes and the deeper elements of fairy tales. I also like discovering new ways of understanding my world through a more feminist lens, one that lets me be empowered and pay attention to what unconscious messages I am receiving from our culture. However I often surprise myself with what things I am still drawn to; such as fairy tale princess, and romance type movies. I know they are not always empowering, I know they paint an unrealistic portrait of love and relationships, but yet my feminine side still responds to those type of story lines. I have thought that it is perhaps due to how I was raised, with the first beginnings of the Disney Princess culture. Maybe it has still taken me a long time to unearth and separate myself from those early messages. Another thought I had was that perhaps those who favored traditional gender ideals were right all along, and that this was indeed something tied to my greater feminine nature. But I know there are many women who do not identify with the princess culture as a way to express or define their femininity. So that chips away from the supporting structure of that hypothesis; which assumes that all of the female sex will favor princess culture as an expression of their gender or femininity. So we can take out the idea of it being a thing related to being of the female sex and shift it back to gender and environment. It could certainly be that I am still breaking away from what I was raised to think and believe, but I am starting to look beyond that and examine the impact of environment specifically.

     In my first use of the term "environment", I meant it to be used in the context of gender. In other words something that is born of cultural influence and the environment you were raised in. If you were raised in a traditional household the princess culture script would have likely been a normal aspect of that. You are taught ideas about gender by your family, friends and outside influences that are part of our culture (Disney, school etc.). But what if we re-frame this idea of environment by thinking of it as a mirror. Disney Princess movies are an artistic expressions coming from our culture and they reflect those expressions back to us like a mirror. And if we consider that fairy tales are lessons, we can also think of them as a map of that lesson. Fairy tales can also be reflecting important cultural elements during the period of their origin. So even though Disney has produced a stripped down, flattened version of Cinderella (Fairy Tales & Princess stories) not only are the important bones to the story still there if we look for them, there is also the reflection of our feminine culture in its current state. And that means while it may not contain the ingredients for feminine empowerment without some unearthing of the deeper elements; we are actually being presented with something that accurately captures the impression, feeling and struggle surrounding being a woman in our culture.

     I believe this is why I resonate with those movies, there is something in them that is still relevant.
I have tried to pin down the feelings I get from princess culture, girl culture movies, and what those feelings represent. I have of course already found my "prince charming" so that is not a desire that comes up in the same way it might for others. However at the root of finding a prince charming is the desire not just for a relationship but for love. This is relevant to the human experience of wanting to be loved, but as a woman this is particularly relevant to the uphill battle we fight to be loved and accepted as we are. Finding Prince charming is representative of our struggle with not being enough in our culture. We are told we are too fat, too thin, we are told how to dress, how to wear our makeup, how much makeup and that we wear to much makeup and should go natural. Our hair cut and color are never right, and were are both prudish virgins and total whores. Feminism pushes us to be more than we have been taught that we can be, but it comes with its own set of do this not that type rules.

     Traditional roles still plague us when we want to be mothers and wives and people are still asking whether or not it is appropriate for us to have a career and a family, the debate has not been settled on whether it's okay for us to do whatever we want. The underlying meaning of Prince Charming is that we end up with love and the ability to be ourselves no question and that we get to stop struggling so hard. Especially when some of the core aspects of our struggles in feminine culture are to be approved of by men. So here he is, showing up and just immediately approving of us.

     We are also fighting a battle to be respected as women; in our careers or at home, to be paid the same amount for the same amount of work, to have bodily autonomy, complete and equal rights, and to not be harassed and victimized through domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse and sexual assault.This is what Happily Ever After means; first finding love and acceptance with Prince Charming and then the "after" part where we find safety and equality because he is supposed to love us. The palace that we can move into- not only will we be able to afford it but it exists in this whole other realm were we have equality and will not be repeatedly victimized. And lets not forget the dream walk in closet with everything our hearts could desire because here social justice and economic distribution of wealth are a priority. Not all the peasants have a castle but no one lives in a hovel and they can afford to buy a pair of $100.00 dollar glass slippers every now and again without worrying if they will have to stop eating for a month to pay rent. The fairy tale dream of women wanting to be a princess is real, and we want to be a princess because the whole story is a promise of love and stability, and we still struggling for those things. Socially and economically. Women in many ways are still second class citizens and it's even more difficult for women of color.

     The solution is not going to be found in a fairy tale of Disney depth and dimension, those are just reproduced images of feminine culture. We have to dig for the bones in the story, the good quality meaty pieces, as well as searching for other ways of empowering ourselves and the young girls in our lives. Cinderella sings "A dream is a wish our heart makes come true", that is a bone piece. That is having vision and focusing on manifesting it into reality. In fact Cinderella so intently focused on what she wanted that she produced a wand waving fairy godmother into her life. While the Disney version is a reflection of our culture the good thing about art is that you can change it to reflect something else. That new image can be powerful enough to insight more similar images and eventually you might even see a change in the culture itself.
The feminist perspective on ways and methods of changing the damsel in distress script are important. But also important is looking at it in a way that allows for seeing the complete struggle for feminine power and that Disney Princess culture is not beloved just because of an adherence to patriarchal thinking. It is beloved because it reflects our struggles, emphasizes our desires to be free of them, and the promise of then living happily ever after.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday is V-DAY!

Thursday; the day when I find pictures of Persian cats that remind me of V! Also I will put up resources on Narcissist Parents!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The post where Vaarsuvius reincarnates as a Persian cat

It may sound rather evil, but any person struggling with childhood abuse might understand this; I told spouse the other day as it randomly occurred to me, that I hoped if V dies they come back reincarnated as a pinch faced, vain puffball, Persian cat! I can't think of a better embodiment of their narcissism!

I know it does not sound very mature or enlightened, but it is actually a brilliant way for me to view them. It re-imagines them to where they are no longer a domineering figure who might still try to punish me. It's just like in Harry Potter when they face the Boggart which manifests as one of their worst fears. The are supposed to re-imagine it and shout ridiculous! And it turns into something funny, taking away that power of terror. 
Also because there can be some difficulty in sorting through the betrayal by parents who abuse, being able to imagine them this way, poke fun etc. can help to sort through all the confusion. When you shrink them down to size or imagine them like I have with V here, you then have this safe space to acknowledge how horrible they were, all the things they did and be angry.

So I am officially dubbing Thursday as V-day! I will be posting my favorite images of Persian cats that best capture the spirit of V. I will also consider dedicating a Pinterest board to this new hobby!

Happy Thursday (it's almost Friday!)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hollywood's favorite romance script and rape

     I have been thinking about Game of Thrones lately. In particular about the rape incident with Cersie and Jamie. I was wondering how the producers, directors, writers did not see it as troublesome. And it occurred to me that they way the view scenes like that is heavily influenced by the very pervasive Hollywood  romance script. They didn't set out to write and produce a rape scene,  I believe they were sincerely influenced by this romance script that is often unconscious but a huge part of our cultures ideas about gender roles. I think they believed they were writing this classic romance script/scene and because of cultural influences they didn't see anything wrong with it. They had probably been taught to see this type of scene as romance, as love.

The script:

     Feisty Heroine meets her opposite.  There is conflict then the hero solves everything and saves the day by finally convincing the heroine that he knows her mind better than she does, and that she wants him. Often this scene comes about after an opposites attract conflict where the two first seem to hate each other. The hero usually decides to just kiss the heroine at this point because she should just stop resisting him. However she might resist and fight him off, but this is all part of the opposites attract script. We are told and shown that the heroine doesn't really mean it when she says "no" because look at how she ends up being kissed and giving into the hero. He knew what she wanted all along, and her "no" was just part of the opposites attract tension and drama.

A Year in Review

     I don't do a very good job of patting myself on the back. I also skip by moments of growth as I throw myself mercilessly down the path to self perfection. I can forget to just pause and really see my growth and accomplishments and actually feel some sense of joy about them. So this post is going to serve as a momentary pause, where I say to myself "oh my God, I actually did that!".

     I think the biggest thing about this year was that I actually feel better both mentally and psychically. Addressing the abuse and deciding I wanted to heal all those scars knocked the wind out of my sails. I became much more introverted, I felt  exhausted and I felt like I would never feel better, ever again. Each year that passed during that beginning stage of healing felt depressing because I would still feel like disengaging from the world entirely. It often seemed hopeless, that the scars were far to deep and that I would be in a permanent handicapped state. I could have choked all the people who always say things like "it will get better, blah blah blah". For one that kind of sentiment expressed to someone going through healing form abuse can feel discrediting. You want to say "but it is hopeless, and I am broken, and I may never feel 100 %". You can't just swallow hope like a happy pill. How you feel in those moments is real and valid. The healing process is difficult and feeling hopeless about it is normal. Being one with whatever feelings I had and not trying to change how I felt has actually become an antidote of sorts. Without judging whatever state I was in by comparing it with what "I was supposed to do" helped me to move through that state much faster and I came out the other side much more solid than I would have thought.
Feeling better is something that has crept up on me. I didn't immediately realize it, as it was so slow and gradual. Then one day it had been going on for a long enough period for me to see the shift and the change it made. I am finally in the place where I can honestly say it does get better, you do come out the other side of the dark tunnel.  Still I would never say this to make anyone else feel like they need to buck up and be hopeful. The dark tunnel, sorrow and strife are real, and even if there is an opening on the other side, the pain of getting there is also real. Trying to force yourself into feeling something else "because you should feel hopeful and happy" is totally counter intuitive to the process.

     The next biggest thing was for the first time this year there were things I was not sorry for. I have done a lot of worrying and guilt over the path I have taken with family and friends. I second guessed everything, I walked on eggshells trying to draw boundaries and express myself in a way that they would hear me, and not take offense. I wanted to do everything right, I didn't want to discount their feelings or not give them the opportunity to address issues I was facing as well as in the relationship.  I didn't want to do anything wrong, I wanted to be guiltless as possible in my actions because I did not want to feel that burden of failure and that if everything went wrong it was all my fault. I also strained myself trying to figure out what was the right thing to do, and did I have any right to do it? Family is everything, you have a duty to your family, blood is thicker than water and you are supposed to forgive and forget. All those things fenced me in. I thought I must be a truly hateful and evil child of parents who "just made mistakes". But of course this leaves all the burden and responsibility in the child's court and none for the parents. It was supposed to be my responsibility to forgive them, accept them as imperfect beings, and stay in that relationship no matter what they did because they were my parents. This idea holds a lot of power in our culture, not just in Christian culture. And if all your scars are invisible abuse scars you have and even harder time proving that you deserve to be free of the individuals who raised you. Even though there is Bible verses that speak to parents and how they treat their children, the belief system I grew up in largely ignored that in favor of "honor thy mother and father". Children were raised with the idea they had very little rights if any, and they must bend their will to that of their parents. This sets you up for a difficult adjustment into adulthood and almost certainly insures that even if you establish independence you will never break away from your parents being in your life.

     Despite all I tried I found at the end of the day the relationships were not working for me, and they still were not healthy. Even though family members expressed a desire to engage with me, even do therapy, at the core of things it wasn't really a change. Other child had originally supported me when I came to them about the sexual abuse by Other Parent, but as time went on they had their doubts and predominantly wished to leave the past in the past. They wanted to me to be their friend and focus on doing things that were light and fun and that our relationship be about focusing on the good. There is nothing wrong with this, and sometimes we do have those type of relationships in our lives, ones that we don't share things on a deep level but get together for a good time. However for someone closer to me, and as my Sibling maintaining that kind of relationship is hard when they are supposed to be someone who accepts all sides of you. That was the problem, it wasn't that they wanted to focus on the good and positive it was that as a person close to me they didn't want to accept or deal with the full spectrum. And at the time I did not have the energy to invest in a surface level relationship were I could not be myself. I was going through hell and to pretend I wasn't felt cruel and counter to what I really needed at the time. I was too tired to want to hide the mess from someone who was supposed to be a supportive person in my life. I had already spent a lifetime hiding the mess of the abuse to protect others feelings and to keep from rocking the family structure.

     Vaarsuvius I had told from the beginning where I was at and what I needed going forward. They continued to stay defensive and tell me they just didn't know how it was possible I had been sexually abused by Other Parent. They didn't cave into saying they believed me for a whole year + and this was by the time I was quite through with trying to engage with them. Of course no one will believe me that their motivations in wanting to maintain the relationship were grounded in co-dependency, narcissism and abuse. Also because they seem to do all the things they are supposed to, it would seem like my reason for deciding to move to a position of no contact was unreasonable. Anyone who has lived with abusers or narcissist however will know how perfectly they play games in which they come out the victor and their opponent looks like and insane person, or just simply hateful and unreasonable. You just have to gird yourself with the truth and all your good and wise instincts and shove cotton balls in your ears for the wailing and gnashing of teeth not only by them but by all those who think they have been victimized by you. I actually was going to try therapy with V, but when I disassociated the very first time and felt terror I realized that I couldn't do it and something was wrong. I learned to always look beyond "the veil" with this relationship. What they did not do or say was always as important as what they did say or do. The real truth with the narcissist abuser always lies in subtly and metaphor and likely only you will see it because you know them best. This can make cutting ties difficult because that is all you have to rely on unless you have others who can talk to who can see it for what it is and cut through the BS. Even if Vaarsuvius was less of an abuser or not at all, I also had to learn what felt like a painful lesson; and that was it it didn't matter. How I felt being in the relationship and my health were all that mattered, whether or not they were a saint or devastatingly evil. I didn't need any justification of abuse to decide that there needed to be boundaries or that I was done. I say this is a painful lesson because because having grown up in an environment in which you think you are crazy and you forced to have reasonable justification for everything it can feel like wrenching yourself in an unnatural direction, and there is a lot of fear involved in that, especially fear of being wrong and being punished.

     It has taken making boundaries in all those relationships and more to finally be in a place where I was no longer sorry. It has taken 2 years and then some, and only finally really happened for me before Christmas when I had to address a relationship that I had tried to keep. I looked back on all that was said and done and felt solid about my conclusions and decisions. I also voiced things I would normally be afraid to say in our last communication, it was honest and firm. I still am uncertain but I think this is one of those relationships that got a bit of poisoning from my family members. I was really well done with the gossip mill and this person potentially taking it all as truth without talking to me. I was also done with being stuck in a place where if I said anything it would just make me look reactive and crazy, and the gossip mill would get to live another day. I decided I was done with that and found a way to put my foot down without giving the family any more fodder at my expense. It felt wonderful to just do it and not worry about saying the perfect thing, what did I have to lose?! I did it, and instead of rolling right into guilt, worry and shame for being a horrible person, I wasn't sorry! It was a revolutionary feeling, to for once not be sorry, to for once not just simply accept my status as the scapegoat without saying something, and to not worry about feeling responsible for all their behaviors and feelings. It's the first halt in a program that has been fairly well ingrained, and it feels fantastic.

Here is to a New Year of healing, accomplishing things, and being free and not being sorry about it!