I’m a gender equality activist who has spent the past few years doing my best to put my ideas out there, and it occurred to me that it was about time I started a blog. I identify strictly as egalitarian, and not feminist. I find ideological feminism and its corresponding worldview unfairly biased, unempowering, harmful to both men and women in a number of ways, and often divorced from reality, and a lot of my blog is going to be about that. I could spend hours throwing out examples, arguments, studies, and links that may or may not sway you (goodness knows I spend enough time doing that), but I’d rather start off like this, with my story.
I was raised on Henley’s poem Invictus. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth a quick google. I have it memorized. The last stanza goes like this:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
My parents are staunch Republicans, and despite leaning definitively left of center, I always managed to hang onto the values of self reliance, self respect, and personal responsibility with which I was raised. Henley’s point was that no matter how bad things get, you always have choices that you can make. You have agency. I truly believe that perceiving yourself as a victim is the first step toward being one, and that in order to rise above adversity one must only conceive of doing so. I get that that is a trite message and a known platitude, but I do my best to live it, and it has served me well.
Being the child of decently wealthy white people in the suburbs, I never really encountered any adversity. I was a typical self-serving, self-interested, whiny privileged adolescent. I mean, I was bullied because I liked to think outside the box more than occasionally, but that hardly counts as adversity. In fact, I tend to lose some degree of respect for people who think a little name calling is any kind of tragedy.
But one thing a conservative upper class family doesn’t like at all is any non-traditional expression of sexuality. When I was 20 I realized I like women. I’ve never been a jealous person, and had always questioned monogamy as an institution, so I entered into a polyamorous relationship with a couple (a married man and woman). I didn’t intend to tell my family about this at all unless it ever became serious, but someone I considered a dear friend at the time had other plans. In a jaw-dropping display of narcissism and utter soullessness she outed me to my parents in a letter.
They came to visit me at school one weekend, letter in hand, shouting and sobbing. There were a lot of “no daughter of mines” and “where did we go wrongs.” They threatened my then boyfriend and degraded my girlfriend, as if the consensual relationship choices she and I made were somehow coerced by his patriarchal brainwashing witchcraft. My father told me it was the worst day of his life. My mother told me she would rather I have a terminal illness than be doing what I was doing. They decided not to continue helping me pay for school (a luxury, I know, but it was the meaning that bothered me), and more or less stopped talking to me except to chastise and attempt to coerce me. I know this is a common story for LGBTs, atheists, and other “undesirables” across the globe, but nothing hurts like knowing the love of your parents is conditional.
Without their financial assistance, I pretty much had to move in with my significant others. My family distanced themselves further from me. I didn’t go home for the holidays. The threats continued. My father googled my partners and their families, found out where everyone lived. He threatened to hurt people. He threatened to hire someone to hurt people. Cops were called. The relationship(s?) became strained, because nothing puts a damper on a relationship like “your father might actually kill me” and “I gave up everything in my life for this???”
Unfortunately for everyone involved, my partners both turned out to be selfish, emotionally immature, and abusive (this is not a statement on the poly community at all – indeed, I now know some incredible poly people whose rationality, love, and integrity amaze me – but these two were less than great human beings and poorly suited to that relationship model to begin with). When I felt like I had nothing, they still made me feel worthless. I left them one morning almost a year later. I packed my bags and snuck out while they slept. They got a divorce shortly after, and while she never spoke to me again, he tried to call me almost daily to make amends.
I was young and dumb, and gave him a second chance. He was a sociopath, and I mean that in the clinical, diagnostic kind of way (not because he was a man, but because he was a shitty person). He drove a wedge even further (if possible) between my family and me just by being in my life. He put himself in opposition to my friends, put pressure on me to stay in when I would otherwise have gone out, and somehow convinced me to isolate myself until he was the main influence in my life, and then he insisted I move with him to another city. He was pretty much all I had at that point, so I did.
I have scars from the following years. My thumbs and wrists are fucked up from being held down. My jaw is often sore (though was miraculously never fractured) from all the times I was slammed into my carpet face-first. My hearing isn’t what it used to be, and neither is my voice. I have aversions to sex in certain contexts. If I am surprised or hurt unexpectedly, I sometimes black out and start swinging. I have been diagnosed with PTSD. In my defense, I never allowed myself to be wholly helpless. I broke his foot and nose, and nearly reversed his knee, all on separate occasions and all in self defense, in addition to some other more minor injuries. But it was bad. Four years of idiotic bad. Most people who knew me before I was with him have no idea. I’d rather die than see the look of shock and pity on the faces of people who have always known me to be driven and strong.
About two years into this new hellish incarnation of the relationship, I was working for an institution that was full of corruption in which I refused to take part, so I lost my job. I had been told all my life that if you get fired in my field, you never work again. I found myself working at a shitty call center to make ends meet. I cried on the way to work every morning. I guess it was the last straw, because four months later I tried to kill myself.
It didn’t work, somehow, and I got back on track. I found another job where my integrity was appreciated. I started making friends, and an old friend I thought I’d lost came back into my life. His support played a big role in helping me kick that bastard out of my house and out of my life for good about a year and a half ago. I had to pay him off to get rid of him and ensure his cooperation in removing his name from the deed and bills. I still have nightmares that I wake up to find him in my house at night (among a slew of other weird and crazy symptoms), but things are getting better.
I have a job I love, friends who mean the world to me, and people who love me without ever hurting me. My mother converted to Buddhism to eliminate the conflict between her religion and her daughter (though things are still, understandably, strained between my family and me, and forgiveness is not an option). In light of everything, I think I have a richer, happier life than most. And I think a big part of why I’m so happy is because I have such an unbearable low to compare this high to. No matter what happens, it will always be better than isolated, unsafe in my own home, suicidal, and rejected by my family.
I despise people that tell women they are victims. Making someone out to be a victim, telling them they are helpless and need beg for their humanity from some larger cultural force, is the opposite of empowerment. Putting me on a pedestal and telling me society wronged me does nothing to help me regain control and dignity in my life, but instead denies me agency and humanity. I made poor choices, I met horrible people, and bad things happened to me. I played my part. I suffered, and I learned. Wallowing and raging won’t help me now, and I’m disgusted by people who drive their self serving social and political agendas with stories like mine. And in spite of my suffering, I wouldn’t take any of it back if I could, because I now know how to handle a crisis, how to defend myself (or royally kick someone’s ass), and how not to make mountains out of mole hills. I actually do wake up every day grateful for all the simple pleasures I once took for granted.
I know this all sounds like a cheesy motivational self-help speech, but it’s my story. You’ll have to take my word for it, but every word is true. I hope it was inspiring, or whatever those kinds of stories are supposed to be. I hope to use my story and the lessons I’ve learned to promote true empowerment of survivors who are women, men, and everything in between.
And that’s the thing. After everything that happened, I started to do some research. I learned that my experience was far from specific to women. I learned that about as many men suffer these types of violence as women, but they are ignored and often denied legitimacy and justice for their suffering. And then I started learning that many men I know have been through what I have and worse. Now I’m an activist, because I want the justice, support systems, and basic human empathy to which I have unquestioning access to be extended to all survivors and sufferers of violence. I stand up and speak out on behalf of the men I love and everyone like them, who deserve the same kindness I have received and the same empathy and support that’s given to me as automatically as blinking. No one should have to suffer alone or be ridiculed for their pain.
In this blog, you can expect to see my attempt at actual empowerment of women and violence survivors, anti-feminism, men’s rights advocacy, egalitarianism/humanism, broader discussion of gender issues, and other rants and rambles. Read on if you dare.