GUEST WRITER: I Hate Men!

“I HATE MEN!!” <- That’s me, yelling at the television almost every night. Sometimes it’s Toby from “This Is Us” not listening to anything Kate says, as if he didn’t hear a thing she just said and totally speaks over/for her (the current season is much better).  Anytime violence against women is used as entertainment value – one main reason I can’t watch Game of Thrones (sue me). Or how about THE FREAKING NEWS. Women being murdered by ex-boyfriends for no reason. This fucking Boys Club that runs our country and elect’s rapists to the highest seats. HOW IS ANY OF THIS OKAY?!

My husband, sitting on the couch across the room from me either lets me have my angry moment or agrees with a nod.  I always finish the sentence with ‘of course I hate all men except for you’. But sometimes I wonder, do I mean it?

Since I choose to not live in ignorance to the world around me, it becomes more apparent everyday how men use, abuse, and hurt women. I see it in everything. How a white man walks into a room acting as if he owns it. How a man can go running at 11:30pm and make it home without even a thought to his safety. I once read about a woman who started walking in a straight line instead of moving out of the way for men walking the other way. I tried this at my gym. A small space, but I just walked in a straight line to the stretching room and noticed some men seemed totally annoyed that they actually had to move a little out of the way. It was eye opening to see this male privilege in action.

I met my husband 5 years ago and the thing that drew me to him was the way he listened to me. He believed the things I said, never dismissed any emotions. In 27 years, I had never had a man treat me like a person. He is so very aware of his white male privilege and always takes the side of the oppressed. But while he is an amazing man, he is still a MAN.

He is still representative of what feels like ‘his’ people. People born into a male heteronormative lifestyle. White male men who never ask for anything, they just take what they want and see no consequences. It feels like the more women speak out about these micro aggressions, the more it feels like ‘them’ against ‘us’. It feels so divisive.

On one hand, I am grateful to have open eyes and awareness of this, but maybe if I didn’t…
-I could love my husband better.
-I could not get so angry when he doesn’t clean the bathroom.
-I could not be so annoyed when I pick a tv show and ask him if he’s okay with it, but when he picks a show he just presses play.
-I could not look at him and only see the privilege he walks in.
-I could rant and not have to realize that while he tries his best to understand- there is no way he can feel what I feel.

I’m working this out. Every day I am trying to see him for the beautiful human being he is. The person who is my safe place to fall. Who loves every part of me.  I am l trying to navigate how to love him well, while constantly being bombarded with how his gender generally views mine. I basically think it’s my lifelong job to help him understand the difficulties women face and how we are represented (I cannot even imagine it’s 100x harder for women of color).

I don’t really know how to end this article since there isn’t any big revelation or anything I’ve had. Maybe it will resonate with someone else. It feels like until the world fully changes (I don’t have very high hopes it’ll be anytime soon) I will struggle with this. I think I should bring him into this struggle and not deal with it on my own. It feels very raw and vulnerable. While he may not be able to do anything to fix the world around him, he and I can continue to love each other the best we know how.

 

-Allison

Ways That Well Intending Men Creep Women Out

Hello Men. Today I am addressing you. It’s been an eye opening year, and I’m sure a lot of you feel unfairly called out. Perhaps you are feeling defensive in ways you never did before. Maybe you are learning about some behaviors and actions that you were never aware of in the past. Or maybe you fear that we women have gone crazy and it’s only a matter of time before you are being lumped in with the rest of these men.

And it’s not fair, you say! You have no intentions of causing harm or danger to women. You love women! So why are you considered a creep?

First of all, thank you. I know you are well intended, I know you want to learn but you just don’t know how. And I know you don’t mean to be part of the problem. Second of all, I hate to break it to you, but you were always a creep. None of our experiences, none of our criteria, none of our behaviors have changed in the last year. We just finally started talking about them.

But you are not alone! There are many Well Intended Men out there who have no idea how their actions and behavior is really coming across. They don’t realize women cross the street when they are coming near. They don’t realize their female coworkers avoid being alone with them. They don’t realize how they make their female friends feel. Plenty of Well Intended Men are just as lost and confused as you are, and are just as hurt to be seen as a creep.

So let’s go over some examples of common behaviors of Well Intended Men that are actually creeping us women out.

Not Giving Us Space
This is not metaphorical space. This is actual literal personal space. And let me tell you, men violate my personal space on a daily basis. When I am walking down the street, men will walk just a little to close to me. When I am at the store or bar, men will stand just a little too near. When men are walking toward me they never step aside or adjust their path to give me space, I am always expected to move around them. Men who are brushing past me and literally touching me. Men who force me to alter my course. Men who just seem oblivious that I am occupying this space already and they need to give me room.

And it’s not quite threatening behavior, but it’s certainly not behavior that makes me feel safe. There’s something that happens when a stranger enters your personal space that sends off singles to protect yourself, to be on the defense. And when a man I don’t know is invading my personal space, it creeps me out.

So Well Intending Men, step one: back off. Literally. Pay more attention to the personal space you are invading, regardless of your intentions, and just stop. Because regardless as to your intentions or unawareness, you are violating our personal space and it is creepy and unsettling.

Complimenting
“Wow, you are beautiful. Has someone told you that today?”
“Thank you so much, you have been so helpful. If my wife wasn’t here I would kiss you!”
“I wish more beautiful women like you talked to me”
“That dress is really flattering on you. You should dress like that more often”

All of these are things actual men have actually said to me. At work. These were not crazy men shouting at me on the street. These were clients and coworkers. And do you know what I didn’t feel when they made comments like this to me: flattered. Do you know what I did feel: creeped out.

And here is why. All of these compliments have a very uncomfortable and sexual undertone. They all imply a conversation that I have no interest in having. They all imply actions I have no interest in participating in. They have taken a normal and professional interaction and turned it sexual. These comments devalue me down to just a sexual being here for their pleasure.

So, Well Intending Men, how can you avoid this common mistake? Stop making your compliments towards women sexual! Just because you notice a woman is attractive does not mean you have to voice that. Acknowledge, affirm, and appriciate the actual work being done, but don’t make it sexual.

Understanding Work/Personal Life Boundaries
Sorry, but yes, there are more ways to creep out your coworkers than just inappropriate compliments. Every office has one: the guy you dread being left alone with in the break room. That guy who you always have awkward one-minute conversation with that seem to last an hour; that guy who hovers at the edge of the group during happy hour; that guy who doggedly asks his female coworkers out to lunch. It’s that guy who doesn’t understand that there are social boundaries at work that need to be respected. And he only seems to struggle with this understanding when it comes to his female coworkers. He very well may be loved by his male coworkers, they may all be baffled to learn that the women of the office avoid him.

So what is socially acceptable work place talk? For example, asking someone how their weekend was or what they have planned is totally acceptable. But pressing for details that are not volunteered, or inviting yourself along to plans is unacceptable. Discussing sporting events that you share a mutual interest in, or a movie or concert, totally fine. Perhaps even organizing or attending a work social event around those shared interests, totally fine. But trying to facilitate a one-on-one outside of work outs inspired by these shared interests crosses a line. Complimenting and acknowledging someones work performance is great, but commenting on their figure is not.

Look, yes, sometimes work place friendships and romances happen. It’s purely mathematical. But you should not expect this to happen. You should not treat your work environment like your social well. If things happen naturally that is one thing. But if you are forcing things, endlessly facilitating things, friend requesting your female coworkers or clients on social media, you are making these women uncomfortable.

And you need to stop. Start viewing the women you work with as coworkers and leave it at that. The world is full of dating apps for you to find people to make weekend plans with and watch sporting events with, leave the women you work with alone.

Making Everything About Sex
So we’ve talked about ways you may be creeping out strangers, we’ve talked about multiple ways you may be creeping out your coworkers and clients. Let’s talk about how you may be creeping out your female friends.

Well Intended Man, let me ask you. Do you often find yourself discussing sex in casual conversation? Responding to casual comments with sexual innuendos? Referencing your favorite porn around the campfire? Bringing attention to the fact that you know your friends are in a sexual relationship? If you said yes to any of this, let me ask you further: how did the women in these situations respond? Did they laugh and seem engaged? Banter back? Or did they get quiet, and maybe seem unamused and perhaps uncomfortable?

Or, Well Intended Man, how about this. What are your expectations of your single female friends? When you go to social gatherings do you expect these single female friends to flirt with you? Be open and available to sexual acts with you? Do you get upset if the night doesn’t result in sexual activity with this single female friend? Do you view the night as a waste because your single female friend didn’t engaged sexually with you? When you decide to reach out to your female friends, what is the motivator? How quickly does your casual-chit-chat-catch-up turn sexual on your part? If you said yes to any of this, let me ask you further: how did the women in these situations respond? Do they continue to invite you to things? Do they continue to engage in the conversation once it turns sexual? Or do these women fade out of your life?

For me, the hardest part of maintaining my friendships with my guy friends was that they all expected more than just friendship. Suddenly every conversation turned into something sexual, and I was uncomfortable. Every hang out there was a clear expectation of physical intimacy. And when I didn’t reciprocate they would get mad at me. Accuse me of wasting their time. When I invited them to social things I would get responses like, “well but is this all we are going to do, because if nothing else is going to happen this isn’t really worth my while tonight” making me feel like our friendship was only ever seen as a means to a sexual end.

And you know what, I stopped being friends with these people. I stopped reaching out for chit-chat-catch-up, and I stopped engaging when they reached out to me. I stopped inviting them to social gatherings because I didn’t like the pressure they put on me.

So, Well Intended Man, I ask you this: do you actually have female friendships? Or do you just seem women as a source to eventual sex? What are your expectations and motivations of having female friends?

 

Basically, Well Intended Man, how do you view the women in your life? Do you seem them as active members of this community, contributing and passionate? Or do you see the women around you as opportunities?

Again, I know you are well intended. I know you want to have good interactions with women, that you want the women around you to feel safe and comfortable. You just don’t realize that your everyday behavior is creepy. You don’t realize that your view and outlook on the purpose of a woman is not to please you sexually and revolve around you.

And I know you want to be better! So here is what I advice. Start giving more space to the women of the world. If you could easily or accidentally touch a woman who is not an intimate partner, you are standing too close. Give her more space. If you are brushing against strangers as you walk past, you are too close. Pay attention and respect the personal space of women. Stop making your compliments weirdly sexual. When a woman in a professional environment helps you, just say thank you and leave it at that. Stop treating the women you work with different than you treat the men. Stop viewing the women you work with as a social opportunity beyond professional. And stop making your friends uncomfortable with all your sexual talk. Just like sex acts, sex talk requires consent. If you don’t have the consent to talk sexually with someone, then don’t talk sexually. If you think it’s weird to establish that boundary officially, then you definitely shouldn’t be talking about sex.

Basically, stop seeing women as a means purely for sex and ego boosts, and start viewing them as people.

 

-Darci

GUEST WRITER: Trust and Care for Yourself – Final

It’s been a year since #MeToo swept the nation. So this month I decided to open up my platform to allow some other amazing women in my life to share their anger as well. Want to be a guest writer for Angry Feminist as well? Let’s talk! – Darci 

This is the final piece of a 3 piece series. Check out Part 1 and Part 2

FINAL

The decision to get a divorce was not made lightly. I have been unhappy in my marriage for the past 5 years, but not every day. There were always days that felt good, moments we shared that I thought “this is why I married him.” We didn’t talk about anything real anymore, but he still made me laugh when he was in a good mood.  We started traveling, and he let me make some decisions and followed my lead.  I could see ways that he was trying to be better and make it work.

After years of asking and hoping that my feelings would change, that he would be able to give me breathing room and not feel the need to be in control, we went to marriage counseling this year. This was a huge step that gave me hope, since bringing up counseling in the past had always caused a huge fight. Here he was finally saying that he knew we needed help and he was ready to do the work.

Except he wasn’t. At our first session, which we had planned months in advance, we were given an article about communication to read, and he forgot. And by forgot, I mean he put it in a drawer after looking at it on the table for a week. It seems small, but this was one of the ways he told me he wasn’t ready to put in the effort our relationship needed. He had already established a pattern of changing just enough to mollify me and make me feel guilty for wanting to leave; and putting the article in a drawer and not reading it was just another example of how little he thought he needed to work. He was willing to go to counseling, but he didn’t want to talk in the sessions.  He wanted to show me he was trying but couldn’t be bothered to put anything the counselor suggested into action.  Because our relationship had been full of criticism from him towards me, the counselor suggested that he should ask me before giving me critical feedback.  He was not open to this idea.

We talked in counseling about the darkest days of our marriage, and the counselor asked if I had been traumatized. My husband’s response was to say that it had been a really hard time for him. He apologized for me feeling like it was abuse but asked for understanding that it had been a really difficult point in his life and I should try not to hold it against him. He focused again on how he didn’t finish his degree, he didn’t get the job he thought he would, he wasn’t making as much money as he planned.  This response, along with everything else, showed once again that he did not believe he had really done anything that bad. He defended and excused his behavior.  He had a tendency to gaslight me, tell me that my perception of reality was wrong, that I was making things worse in my head than they really were. And he did this in our final counseling session, when I told him I would not be coming home and we would be getting a divorce.

He told me things weren’t actually that bad, and I was making it worse than it had to be. I should just forgive his behavior and move on, because he loved me. But I could not forgive abuse that was still ongoing. And he couldn’t see how he was still abusing me. He couldn’t see that when he “talked me up” to friends, it felt like an act. I know he genuinely cared for me, and was doing his best to show it, but it never seemed to come from somewhere deep. It all seemed to be driven by showing everyone else what a good husband he was or showing me why I should forgive him and do what he wanted.  He couldn’t see that telling me to talk less and not answer questions about my job, but instead talk about how great he was, isn’t a healthy relationship.  There are a million versions of quotes about “don’t let anyone dull your sparkle,” and that is exactly what he wanted me to do.  Take up less room so he could take up more.  After 6 and a half years of marriage, 5 of which were unhealthy and unhappy, I finally told him I would not be trying to fix us anymore.

I am no longer in that relationship. I am living by myself for the first time in my life. The weight of constant fear and worry that I was going to disappoint him, upset him, make him feel less than, not pay enough attention to him, talk about myself too much, see friends too often, not have enough sex, is gone. I can put the eggs in the fridge any way I like.

But more importantly, I can breathe.

My head space is not constantly filled with worry. My thoughts were always preoccupied with the weight of my failing marriage, and I’m no longer aboard a sinking ship. This is an opportunity for me to learn about myself, and to be sure I don’t fall into the same pattern again. And honestly, I could not feel more confident in my decision. I get to be my own person, to take time to reflect on my relationship and how I contributed to it. I get to read books whenever I want, listen to whatever music I want, and no one tries to tell me my choices are wrong.

This entire process, from marriage to divorce, has been a journey that didn’t turn out the way I planned, but I don’t think I would change it. My marriage and its failure has taught me many lessons I needed to learn. I have so much empathy for people who choose divorce and am much less quick to judge. I am no longer the conservative person I was when I got married. I firmly believe in equality in relationships, and in the division of emotional labor. I can now recognize narcissistic personalities easily and avoid them. I learned to speak up for myself, and that only good things will happen when I do. I learned that I am strong, independent, thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful, and worthy of a life that is happy. I learned that I should be able to ask for what I need in a relationship and expect my partner to respond. I learned to recognize emotional manipulation, and what it feels like when someone makes me responsible for their emotions. I learned that I am valuable, and I do not need to be in a relationship to be loved.

I worried that I would wake up full of regret for leaving my marriage. I was sure I would feel guilty for ending a promise that I made for life. But guilt is not a reason to stay married. I realized my feeling of guilt over wanting to end my marriage was the only thing still keeping me in it, and now that I’m out I do not have that feeling. I was not struck by lightning. My family did not disown me. My friends did not judge me, either for staying too long or not long enough. I gave my marriage my best honest try, and ultimately made a decision that is healthier for both of us. I listened to my own voice and made the choice to end it when it was clear that the relationship was unhealthy and beyond repair. My family and friends have been unendingly supportive, and I. Feel. Free.

 

-Adira

 

GUEST WRITER: Trust and Care for Yourself – Part 2

It’s been a year since #MeToo swept the nation. So this month I decided to open up my platform to allow some other amazing women in my life to share their anger as well. Want to be a guest writer for Angry Feminist as well? Let’s talk! – Darci 

This is part 2 of a 3 piece story. Check out Part 1 here

PART 2

I was 24 and 3 years into my marriage, but I was realizing things had gone very differently than I planned.  That being said, I still thought I could fix our relationship. My husband was difficult, but he had reasons to be based on his childhood.  I started going to counseling for myself, and every time I walked out the door he would fight with me.  He would say how uncomfortable he was with me talking about our issues to a stranger.  I heard him, but I kept going because I knew I needed help processing this relationship.  I invited him many times to come to couples’ counseling, and each time was met with absolute and blatant refusal, coupled with disgust that I had asked. Through a year of counseling, I started realizing his issues with me were not about me at all, but about himself.  He had an intense need to put on a good show for everyone around him, a need to be impressive in all things; be it intelligence, living situation, looks, status, whatever.  I would notice him exaggerate things to friends to sound more impressive.  If I corrected him, even kindly, he would snap at me and ask why I was saying he was wrong in front of people.  I stopped doing that.  Things were better for a while as I learned to communicate with him. He started helping around the house, he stopped saying unsupportive things about my work. This all felt like progress. I convinced myself there was still hope. I stopped going to counseling.  I was 25.

But the truth is that he was manipulating me. Any time he had something that he wanted to change about the way things were, he had to get his way. He used logic and counted on my tendency for emotional decisions to convince me I was irrational if I disagreed with him. There were countless rules I had to follow in daily life in order to make sure I wasn’t disrupting him. No reading if he was home, because that felt like him being blocked out (I am an absolute bookworm.  He used to brag about how quickly I read). Put the eggs back in the fridge this direction, not that. That’s the wrong way to microwave a taco. I fought back on each of these rules but was convinced I was probably in the wrong. He wasn’t in the wrong, I just hadn’t forgiven him for the abuse of the past. I wasn’t really being abused now. He wasn’t calling me stupid anymore. Things were better, surely.

Except they weren’t better, they were just different. He no longer tried to control how I dressed, but instead he started making me feel guilty about going out with friends. I always asked how his day was, but he rarely returned the gesture. He didn’t think we talked about his job or interests any more than mine, which was easily visible and untrue. If I wasn’t feeling amorous or physical, he would give me the silent treatment and make sure I knew I had hurt his feelings until I changed my tune. He was constantly trying to be physical in public. His need for physical affection outweighed my discomfort and need for space. I started unconsciously flinching every time he touched me because I was afraid it would turn into something more. I knew these things weren’t right, but I couldn’t justify walking away for such small things. Those aren’t abuse. That’s not a horrible person. We just had more work to do.

When my husband and I would go to social events, people were constantly asking if my husband was ok, people we barely knew, people who had no idea what was or wasn’t going on. His attitude was desperately seeking approval while at the same time trying to convince everyone in the room that he was on their level or better. And I would defend or explain his behavior, because I wanted to be a loving, supportive wife. I knew he struggled with talking with people. He said he often felt like he didn’t know what to say or how to come up with the right words. So when he was awkward or rude to people, I would say he’s just unsure of himself. He’s not actually that way, he just gets in his own way and is nervous.

My friends checked in on me constantly, asking how things were going, if things were getting better. Sometimes I was positive and optimistic, listing all the ways he had changed. He now washed the dishes every night! What progress! But when they dug deeper, they would start questioning his behavior, and my optimistic illusions couldn’t hold up. Yes, he washed the dishes, but he made sure I knew that he didn’t want to and felt it was ridiculous that I made him do it. And there were certain things he wouldn’t wash because it was “just too much trouble,” so if I cooked a meal with those things, I better wash it myself. Yes, he was better behaved in public, but he still couldn’t give someone else a compliment without making it about himself.

And somehow, this still wasn’t enough for me to leave him. I spent a year in this kind of limbo, where I knew we weren’t happy but couldn’t bring myself to end it.

Not until I started thinking about what raising a family with him would be like. Really thinking about it. Because maybe he would be great. But everything I had seen with him around kids, around our friends’ kids, was general annoyance with the noise and mess they make. But more than that, any kids we had would have to abide by his rules. They would not be allowed to make messes and mistakes. And what would happen if they didn’t follow his rules, or when they made messes or mistakes? This was my tipping point.  I was 27, we had been married for 6 years, and I went back to counseling.  This time he didn’t fight me every time I walked out the door but listened when I said that I needed to talk about things with someone other than him.  I saw this as a huge sign of progress and was hopeful that counseling would help me forgive him and move on together.

With a very conservative religious background, I have always looked at divorce as being a quitter. Everyone knows marriage is hard! Taking two people and pushing them together for life is no easy task for a saint, let alone a flesh and blood human being. I never thought I would be that person. I believed everything I heard about marriage being two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. He even started saying that to me constantly.

And I still believe that definition to be true, but it only works if both people are willing to do the work it takes. As soon as the burden falls on one person or the other, the system is bound to fail. Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to do the work. He would constantly make excuses for his behavior, but always in a way that tugged on my tendency for empathy. When I brought up concerns about how he treated me, things would somehow get turned around until I was apologizing and making him feel better.  When I brought up ways I would like help, I was met with reasons that I was asking for too much. This was a relationship where his needs had to be met or I would be punished with silence and shame, but many of my needs could be explained away and mostly left alone. Every time I had a concern about our relationship, it was explained and reasoned away. At the same time, he felt competitive with me and told me so.  He told me that people ask too many questions about my job and not enough about his, so I should start turning the conversation to him instead.  He told me I “outshone” him in social situations, and I should start bringing him forward and putting myself in the background.

As I talked with my counselor about the relationship, she pointed out these narcissistic tendencies and helped me see that I really was doing all the right things to try to communicate my needs.  Unfortunately, with narcissism, there’s no room to be told you’re wrong.  I started to recognize that most of his behavior was rooted in needing to be verbally celebrated, needing approval from everyone around him.  My counselor also helped me understand co-dependency.  I always thought that term referred to relying on another person, but it means so much more.  Co-dependency can also mean relying on creating an image and maintaining it, through physical appearance, possessions, cars, clothes, etc.  This describes my ex perfectly.  Many of our arguments stemmed from me not following his mental picture of what his life should look like, either in how I dressed or acted.  I wasn’t fitting the mold of “cool trendy girl.”  I didn’t worship him and encourage others to tell him how great or interesting he was.  I stopped seeing my counselor for a while because she told me that narcissistic personalities rarely change, and she didn’t think he would.  I didn’t want to hear it and wanted to keep trying to fix my relationship. This was all earlier this year.

That might sound crazy, based on everything else he had done, but again, he was a master of emotional manipulation, and I have been raised to be a peace keeper.  I knew he had issues, but I also knew that his life had been difficult.  There are reasons for how he acts, and many of them aren’t his fault.  A difficult childhood is enough to give anyone baggage, and his was rougher than most.  Between his need for understanding and my identity as a peace keeper, I felt like I needed to stay with him and work things out.

 

-Adira

GUEST WRITER: Trust and Care for Yourself – Part 1

It’s been a year since #MeToo swept the nation. So this month I decided to open up my platform to allow some other amazing women in my life to share their anger as well. Want to be a guest writer for Angry Feminist as well? Let’s talk! – Darci 

This is part 1 of a 3 piece story.

PART 1

I am 27 years old. This year, I left my husband. And it is the best choice I have ever made for myself.

While getting divorced was the best choice I have ever made for myself, it was in no way the easiest choice. This decision took me five years to make and act on. I did not rush into this, and I strongly believe that no one should. I do not think my ex-husband was a terrible person, just someone who couldn’t face their own issues.  That being said, divorce is not the black sheep that we have made it out to be.

Let me give you some back story.

My ex-husband and I met when we were 18. We started dating within a week of meeting each other, and because we lived in the same dorms we spent essentially every waking minute together from day one. He was my first real boyfriend, my first relationship that lasted more than three months, the first person I kissed. We were madly in love. We could talk for hours on end about music, something we were both passionate about.  I felt fully comfortable talking to him, like I didn’t have to put on an act and be cooler than I was. He would buy me little gifts even though we were both poor college students and went out of his way to make me feel special.  He respected my boundaries and didn’t kiss me until I was ready. This carried on for a year and a half, and then he proposed when we were 19. Neither of us had finished college. Neither of us was out in the real world yet, but I was confident we would be good partners.  We were at a Christian school that has a reputation for “ring by spring,” and I felt like I had found my person.  My conservative religious upbringing was pointing all fingers towards marrying him.  He had a rough upbringing and his parents had a troubled marriage that we talked about constantly.  He told me how much he disliked their relationship, and how committed he was to not falling into the same patterns they had. He wanted kids right away, but I talked him out of it with the draw of traveling the world.

We were engaged for another year and a half, then married at age 21.  That first year of marriage, I continued on and finished my degree, then was hired in the career of my choice. He did not and found a blue-collar labor job that he felt was beneath him. That first year was the best year of our marriage.  We were poor, we lived in a terrible apartment on the bad side of town, we bought groceries with change, but we were incredibly happy.  He still went out of his way to tell me how much he loved me, how fantastic it was to be sharing life with me, and I felt the same about him.

The following year is when the emotional abuse began. I was 22. I found a different job, where I immediately felt a sense of belonging and fulfillment.  My paycheck increased, and we lived in a beautiful house instead of a crappy apartment.

It started small and didn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary. He would eat the dinner I made every night, but would find something to complain about, and would not help clean up. His reasoning was that I made that mess, I wanted to cook, therefore it was my responsibility. Always. Then the same story happened again when we got a dog. I wanted the dog; therefore, it was my responsibility to clean all the floors in the house. Always. These were both things I’d grown up watching my mother do for my father, so I didn’t bat an eye. I told him I would like some help, but his reasoning was solid and he couldn’t be moved.

And apart from those things, our relationship seemed good. We could be goofy together, we liked watching the same shows, he made me laugh and feel loved. We had a million inside jokes and were constantly making more.  I still thought our relationship was fine but was starting to realize I wasn’t the same kind of wife as my mom.  I didn’t feel it made sense for us both to be working full time jobs, but for the running of the household to fall on one person.  I knew he loved me and I loved him, but I started having questions about our relationship.  I knew he was unhappy with his job but thought that once he found a better one things would improve.

Then clearer cases started to show up.

When I was 23, I would come home after a hard day at work, talking about my frustrations, and he would stop me to say “Well you chose this, so you can’t complain. I don’t want to hear it.” That was the end of me talking about my job. But since his career was not what he “chose” he was allowed to talk about it for hours on end. He began telling me I needed to work out because I wasn’t as in shape as I should be. I look better when I wear more makeup. I should be sexier. I must be afraid of my own sexuality. I must be stupid, because I can’t navigate to a new or very recent location without asking for directions or using GPS. My job is easy and overcompensated. I wouldn’t take a keychain off my purse to fit his visual preference, so he wouldn’t talk to me at a friend’s wedding. He did not speak for the rest of the event.  For the entire drive home.  We left early because he was making everyone around us uncomfortable.

At this point, I realized I was married to someone I had completely misjudged. I found myself dreading going home. We lived somewhere that had his friends surrounding us, but none of mine, so I felt like I had no one to turn to. Eventually I broke down with a couple girlfriends, crying that my husband, who had promised to love and cherish and support me until the end of our days, thought I was worthless, stupid, ugly. He had to be right about everything. If I disagreed on something, he would beat the subject until I said he had changed my mind. We were 24 and had been married for three years now.  I was heartbroken that the person I trusted most was betraying my trust, was telling me terrible things about myself and hurting me in ways I had never thought possible.  He had promised we would always talk things through, but I began realizing that meant we would talk until I gave up on changing his mind.  This was not the partnership he promised, the open communication and respect to avoid the trap his parents fell into.

 

-Adira

To be continued…. 

Dating Deal Breakers – Feminist Edition! 

Dating is hard. Relationships are hard. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and yet finding someone to survive this thing called life with is a wild roller coaster. There are all kinds of theories, strategies, advice, formulas, and algorithms all trying to streamline this process and guarantee a fool proof match. And everyone has an opinion on just how well any of this stuff works.

We all have our relationship “deal breakers” list running in our head. And the more you date, the less superficial that list gets. When I was younger my list included things like hair color, NSYNC over Backstreet boys, and what position he played on the soccer team. Now my list includes things like how he treats me, how he talks about people, can he keep his living space reasonably clean (though he does still need to prefer NSYNC).

Facebook is constantly pushing articles to me about “deal breakers” in relationships (what are you trying to tell me FB?) and I do find it fascinating. I started thinking about what my deal breakers are, and realizing I am very influenced by my feminist morals. And so I decided to make my own list of Feminist Dating Deal Breakers.

Now lots of these lists I have read include things like smoking, where they stand on kids, grooming, social media habits, and those are all very valid relationship things to consider. However, I am not going to focus on those kinds of deal breakers. This list is entirely focused on Feminist qualities to look out for in your partner – male or female.

So! Here it is: The Feminist Dating Deal Breakers.

A Partner Must Be Supportive

Your partner should be your cheerleader. They should respect you, celebrate you, empower you. You want a partner who listens to your boring work stories, and engages in them; you want a partner who encourages you to go have fun with your friends, someone who is excited when you get a fun opportunity even if they can’t join. You want someone who is going to celebrate you and validate you. You want someone who is going to build you up and be happy for you.

If your partner is jealous of you, uninterested in your job, pouts every time you go out without them, they are not being supportive. And what’s the point of a lifetime partnership if they aren’t going to support you?

A Partner Must Own Their Mistakes

No one is perfect. We all have bad days, bad weeks, depressive phases. We get hungry, don’t sleep enough, take on too much stress. And that is why we must all extend some grace to one another in this world. But when your partner messes up, can they own it? Can they take responsibility for their behavior and even apologize for it? And if it’s a larger issue, are they willing to get help?

Again, no one is perfect, everyone fights, and everyone has a bad day. Be with someone who can recognize that, apologize for that, and be better more often than not.

A Partner Must Value Consent 

I’ve talked about consent a couple of times. It’s something I value highly in a relationship. If you are pressured, coerced, guilted, or manipulated into any physical intimacy that’s just a no-go. If you do not feel safe enough to say no or stop a situation you are not comfortable with then that is not a sexual relationship you should be engaging with. You want to be with someone you feel safe with, you have fun with, and wants you to feel safe at all times. Someone who values your power to say “No” and waits until you say “Yes”.

Enthusiastic consent is a good thing, and should always be the goal. Consent, an indisputable “Yes”, is a very sexy thing.

A Partner Must NOT Have “Old Fashioned” Views

I’ve talked about this before: “Old Fashioned” views are just fancy words for justifying harassment. It’s not appealing to chase your romantic interest, it’s not desirable to ignore someone’s “No”. Pushing and pressuring for what you want is not a form of flirtation, it’s sexual harassment. If you succeed in your desires, it could even be sexual assault. Viewing sex as a transactional exchange (ex: I paid for X now you owe me sex) is unpleasant for everyone involved. No one owes someone sex for anything, especially in a relationship. Sex is an experience shared between two people, not a currency or a prize.

So if you are dating someone that makes you feel like a piece of meat and or just uses you to masturbate with, ditch them. There is nothing “Old Fashioned” or romantic about using someone.

A Partner Participates in Emotional Labor 

Emotional Labor is another topic I am very passionate about. I believe it is what sets apart modern relationships from our grandparents. Emotional Labor is the invisible work of caring, and it is disproportionately performed by women. It takes effort to notice how your partner is feeling; to listen and answer questions; to plan meals and dates; it takes effort to remind someone that they are loved and cared for. And in most relationships women are shouldering emotional labor daily, while men have the luxury of emotional labor being an option.

So how is the emotional labor balance between you and your partner? Who plans the dates? The meals? Do you both take pride in maintaining your life and your love, or does one of you see it as a chore, causing the other to see it as a burden? Are you with someone who wants to be a partner in this thing called life, or are they just looking to replace their mother?

Be with someone who wants to balance the emotional labor, who takes pride in your life and your relationship, and wants to do the work.

 

 

There are so many things to consider when partnering up with someone for life. But for me, what distinguishes between a boyfriend/girlfriend and a life partner comes down to support, humility, valuing consent, and emotional labor. What are your relationship deal breakers? What kind of qualities do you look for in a partner? What kind of partner do you try to be?

 

-Darci

Change Is Exhausting

We have all heard the saying: the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. It’s such an interesting phenomenon. We go about our day, day by day, and it can feel very routine and mundane, but then after some time you realize your life is somehow completely different.

Even just this year, the last seven months, my life has completely transformed. My living situation is changing, my social circle has evolved, a lot has changed at work, and I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself that has changed my life for the better. Every year I am amazed at how the day to day can feel so normal, but when I look at my life over the course of the year so much will change. Without fail. Relationships, jobs, family dynamics, the world of politics. It’s in constant flux.

All of these changes were intentional, but they were also slow. My living situation took planing, sure, but it took far more patience than anything else. I’ve been working on surrounding myself with incredible friends, and finding intentional opportunities to invest in those relationships more. I started going to counseling to work on myself in ways I didn’t even realize I needed to work on. I inched my way into a better life, and I will continue to inch my way to an even better life. Small changes, subtle changes, that built up over time.

It all takes work. Intentional work. The slower the progress, the more convicted you have to feel in your desire for that change. It’s small steps that you commit to every day. And it’s exhausting. Bettering yourself, bettering your world, it’s exhausting.

And this month, it feels like all of that change is cultivating all at once. My brain is full. At capacity. Or, more likely, exceeding capacity. Every day I have to keep pushing myself to work. Work at home, work at work (ugh), and work on me. And right now, I feel like everything is suffering because I am exhausted. But I also know everything is for my better, so I keep pushing.

Because you have to do the work. If anything is every going to change, you have to do the work. If we are going to be stronger, healthier, if we are going to achieve any progress, we have to stick it out. We have to commit to those small moments each day that slowly inch us towards the world we want.

And so I leave with you this: go vote. It’s Primary Election time here in Seattle. Ballots are due by August 7th. And it’s the bare minimum you can do. This is the smallest action you can take to work towards change. If you are angry with the world, don’t be all talk. Go vote.

 

-Darci