The Best a Woman Can Get

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Recently Gillette came out with an ad. It talked about toxic masculinity. A topic many men (and a few women) want to deny even exists despite evidence to the contrary. This ad, at the time of this writing, got 697,977 dislikes and only 300,822 likes. Apparently men are angry at being portrayed like this.

Let’s look at the “man shaming” going on;

  • Men featured as bullies
  • Men featured as excusers
  • Boys “roughhousing”
  • Boys bullying
  • Men as harassers
  • Black men stepping up to intercede (not white men in the real life clips)

Hmm… well, looks pretty damning, doesn’t it? I mean, there are good and decent men in the world who do manly things with fish and dead animals. Right? Gillette doesn’t have the best history in corporate culture. Right? How dare they moralize to good and decent men.

Let’s look at some of the “woman shaming” that typically goes on in commercials;

  • Women who are too masculine
  • Women featured as gold diggers/shallow
  • Women featured as stupid
  • Women featured as sex toys
  • Women featured as incapable of balancing work and home
  • Women are too fat/thin/tall/short
  • Black women as too black (let’s not talk about Aunt Jemima)
  • Angry men become old women (remember Snickers?)
  • Angry women are hormonal/crazy
  • Women are nags
  • Women are sluts

There are more but I think we get the idea. These ads go back decades to when advertising was in its infancy in the early 1900s when a woman was expected to be the perfect wife, bed partner and mother. The virgin slut, as I like to call it. Now, one ad comes out calling men out on behaviour that women have been complaining about for at least a century and suddenly the world is going to come to a screeching halt.

My twitter feed has been flooded for TWO DAYS with men on the “what about women” train. This train has all the baggage you can imagine;

  • Women rape
  • Women abuse
  • Women bully
  • Women do <fill in the blank>

All this because I dared to say publicly that I supported the Gillette ad. I was even raked over the coals for an hour on another social media because I spelled a word wrong. Apparently bad spelling before you’ve had your coffee throws your entire argument out the window.

After two days of being hounded by the #NotAllMen set, I’ve got to say I’m out of fucks to give about their feelings. Here’s how it’s going to be; I’m going to support Gillette and I’m going to speak out against toxic masculinity. You can either beat your breast over that or go away. I don’t care.

The reality is that toxic masculinity poisons all of us. It prevents men from speaking out about their own experiences. It makes rape culture acceptable. It prevents men from seeking help with mental health issues and it doesn’t have to be this way.

So I’m going to say this one last time loud and clear; I support the Gillette ad and think it’s about damn time. Is there more work to be done? Sure. The next windmill I tilt at will be the Pink Tax. For now, this is a step in the right direction and we need more.

Don’t come at me with your #NotAllMen or but what aboutism. I am seriously out of fucks to give.

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A Toast to the Fallen

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Here it is, New Year’s Eve day and my last blog of the year. It’s been a strange year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights, lessons learned and heartaches.

Feminism

In the past I thought that feminism was merely trying to balance the scales. In this past year I’ve learned that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can’t begin to navigate that iceberg until we start chipping away at the elephant in the room; abuse.

Abuse comes in many forms; domestic, parental, sibling, person in power; but it all boils down to the same thing. One person exercising control over another. Whether that control is physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or a combination thereof doesn’t matter. What matters is the disproportionate amount of women who are at the receiving end. I think 2019 will see me addressing this matter more and more.

Poverty

I’ve been an avid advocate of those who live in poverty. Mainly because I experience it first hand. However, in 2018 I saw how much racism affects poverty and the damage they can do together. There is still a genocidal race going on but it’s been pushed beneath the blankets and has become more insidious.

One note of optimism, though, is the idea of Basic Income. I see this as a brand new hope for those living in poverty and will keep advocating for it wherever I can. I think 2019 will see me continuing to support such efforts as End Poverty Edmonton and Basic Income. I’m a writer and words are cheap. If my words can help then I will spill them freely.

Health

I’m fat and along with that is an awareness of my health that others don’t have. In 2018 I learned that everyone and their god has an opinion about my size, my body, my lifestyle, my health, my eating habits, my exercise routine, my attitude, my ego (or lack), my self respect….. well, you get the idea. Apparently being overweight means that anyone with an internet connection can tell you how to live your life.

So my message in 2019 will be this; not your body, not your rules/business. Okay, that’s been my message all along but I think it’s time to get louder about it. All these well-meaning “health” gurus need to shut up. To sell their crap they bombard us fatties with these shaming messages over and over. They claim concern over our health or our lifestyle. They claim they understand and empathize. The truth is that I’m a dollar sign to them and nothing more and that needs to stop. I don’t care what color bow they put on that package, all that passive-aggressive shit is just a hard sales tactic and that’s it. This year is about loving the body you have and taking care of it which is a conversation between you and your doctor.

Creativity

2018 I began expanding my creative self into the world of art. Okay. So far it looks like it was painted by a drunken 5 year old most of the time. However, I’ll get there. After all, I mastered writing, didn’t I? Okay. Stop giggling.

Lastly, I leave you with this as 2018 comes to a close; it’s been a rough year and we’ve survived. Live, love, laugh, cry and remember to always keep going forward.

Alone at Christmas

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It’s Christmas Eve day and, for me, it’s a time to put my thoughts in order. So I’m afraid this post won’t be very Christmassy. Instead I’m going to talk about something that’s a reality for a lot of abuse survivors; being alone.

Christmas is that time of year when you’re with friends and family in a house with a fireplace and a tree and lots of presents and food. Christmas for me involves a pizza and Freddy Krueger. I chose this and, while I don’t regret it, it’s hard.

See, everything on the internet, television, media, songs, every damn place you go screams family and tradition. I would love to be with a family someplace with all those things just not with my family.

Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I survived a lifetime of abuse at the hands of my sister and I managed to get free of that. Many people cheer me on when they find out, like I’m some Wonder Woman who managed the impossible. For me it was simple; get out or die.

There is an aftermath, though, of abuse. Getting free isn’t always enough. Everyone knows that post-abuse involves therapy and rebuilding your life but what people don’t know is what life is like in the free zone.

Christmas is especially hard for those who have survived the narcissist. There is a sense of freedom that is especially intoxicating that you simply don’t want to share with anyone. It’s healing and invigorating. You get to eat pizza on Christmas Day while watching Freddy.

However, as hard as you might try, you can’t ignore those homily messages that talk about family and hearth and home. If you’ve left  your narcissist, you’ve probably left those things as well. This is where the clash happens.

On one hand you’re standing on the rocks of your freedom, shouting defiance to the universe. On the other is the voice of your narcissist alive and well in your head whispering what a loser you are for being alone on the one day when no one is alone.

It’s okay, though. That voice has no real power and you get better at ignoring it. I doubt that Christmas will ever be easy but it will get kinder. For survivors the Christmas miracle is simply being free. Maybe that’s enough. I don’t know. What I do know is pizza and Freddy await.

Teen Time

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I recently emailed a Christian youth group that I attended as a teen looking for some closure on events I experienced there. I attended back in the 80s and I don’t know what I was hoping for but this is what I got

I’ll let their own words speak for themselves.

Teen Time response letter

Pound by Pound

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Today I got fat shamed by someone who didn’t like the fact that I called them out on their bullshit. They somehow thought that pointing out that I’m fat and laughing about it would make me slink away and shut up about their misogyny. They were wrong. They aren’t the first to try this tactic and they won’t be the last. I know who I am and I know my body. There is no shame in that. However, I’d like to show you where the shame in my obesity really lies.

Every time I was called stupid, there was a pound. Every time I was called lazy, there was a pound. Each time I heard ugly, freak, weirdo… there was a pound.

Whenever I realized I wasn’t good enough, there was a pound. Whenever I thought I wasn’t being enough, there was a pound. Every time I knew I wasn’t kind enough, considerate enough, polite enough… there was a pound.

Each time I wasn’t perfect when it was demanded, there was a pound. Each time I fell short of expectations, there was a pound. Each fail, fall, foundering… there was a pound.

Those times I was told I was unlovable, there was a pound. Those times I was told I was good enough to fuck but not to marry, there was a pound. Whenever I became nothing more than a trophy, a fuck toy, a thing… there was a pound.

Times when I was the odd shaped peg that couldn’t fit into the square hole, there was a pound. Times when I asked questions that people didn’t want to answer, there was a pound. When I was too curious, confused, disorganized… there was a pound.

When I laughed instead of cried because jokes hurt, there was a pound. When I agreed that I was too sensitive rather than admitting words can wound, there was a pound. Those many times when it was easier to say nothing, to agree, to mimic… there was a pound.

When I was sexually harassed because of my large tits, there was a pound. When I was grabbed and assaulted because I wore a short skirt to a bar, there was a pound. When I was raped with a hand around my throat ready to choke me, there was a pound.

I carried shame with each and every pound I put on like an albatross. I’ve carried that weight most of my life it’s only now after the diagnosis of diabetes and thyroid and anxiety and depression and polycystic ovarian syndrome and… It’s only now that you can see the manifestation of words and actions taken on me.

My fat makes you uncomfortable not because it makes me less of a person but because it reflects on you those abuses that you have been guilty of. I am a mirror of your worst behaviour, of those dark parts inside that you’d rather not see. I am your own shame made manifest.

I am learning to love my body as it is. I am learning to heal it slowly. I am learning to appreciate it as it is. If you think to shame me for that then you are sadly mistaken. This body is my pride, my beauty, my glory and you will not take that from me.

It Never Happened – A True Story of Sibling Abuse (Part 6)

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Okay. We’re coming to an end of my story. I promise.

By the age of 16 I’d gathered enough courage from my friends and a feisty principal who dared tell my sister no that I started quietly rebelling. Not too much. Just a hairstyle here or a bit of makeup there. This resulted in my sister trying to ground me for an entire year. Which resulted in me trying to kill myself the first time. Thank god I’m a coward when it comes to pain or I wouldn’t be here.

I did start harming myself, though, and I was creative about it. I didn’t like the idea of cutting as knives made me feel squidgy. However, I kept my nails long and would rake them down parts of my body that I currently hated. Arms, tummy, legs, butt… nothing was spared. The other self-harm thing I did relied a lot on fate. I would walk out into traffic and not bother even looking to see if a car was coming. I heard the squeal of tires on pavement and drivers swearing many times, much to my disappointment. Not that I wanted to die. I just wanted to get injured. If I were injured then my sister would have to at least pretend to love me. It wasn’t much but it was something.

See, I was in a conundrum. I knew that how my sister treated me was wrong but I couldn’t stop myself trying to please her. When I did stop, I felt an insane amount of guilt. It was my job to make her happy and I failed at my reason for existing. My sister knew this and used my guilt to her advantage. To this day I’m a sucker for a guilt trip.

However, 16 saw lots of changes in my life. A few years earlier my sister married our first cousin. It was just another family secret to keep and then they had a son. Now that she had a family, I wasn’t needed. So, she bought a two bedroom home and my things were put in the basement where I was allowed to sleep once in a while. My parents got a two bedroom apartment that they shared with my brother.

Me? I was homeless and didn’t even know it.

It was two weeks before Christmas that year when a good friend was murdered in an arson fire. My world tilted and for the first time my self-harm was getting out of hand. When my sister moved into her house and my parents moved into their apartment, I had nowhere to go. My mother even took this opportunity to tell me that she didn’t want to be bothered being my mother any longer and I could do as I pleased. My sister was a real mom now. I had no one.

Several predators tried to prey on me but I was well protected. Remember when I said that John used to ride with a motorcycle gang? Well, he pulled in a favor and they spread the word that I was to be left alone. It wasn’t much but I didn’t realize how important that protection was until I was much older.

The problem with my situation was I was open to less obvious predators and got into many abusive relationships as a result. Only one tried to hit me but that stopped when I hit him back and nearly knocked him out. However, gaslighting is an insidious form of abuse.

I couch surfed for the most part. Slept in parks when it was warm and retreated to either my sister’s basement or a storage closet in my parent’s apartment. At least I had regular showers and no one denied me the opportunity to raid their fridge. I had a job offer to become a stripper but since I wasn’t yet 18, I turned it down.

In my 20s I realized there was something wrong with me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. When you’re scrambling for a place to live, anxiety and depression become comfortable bed buddies to keep you warm at night. The psychiatrist I first saw suggested I confront my sister.

That went over well.

My sister denied everything. Going so far as to say it never happened. I was confused. I knew these things happened but she kept saying the same line, “it never happened.” My sister has a great orator’s skill. She can bestow such grace upon her listeners that they would swear angels just landed on the front lawn. Her talents are wasted as a social worker. She should have become a cult leader.

After a year of this I began to believe her. This was the 90s when false memories were a very real concern. I began to fervently believe I’d made it all up. In this new memory, my sister was a sweet and doting sibling who gave me everything to make my home loving and warm. Holidays were a joy and birthdays never went unnoticed. This new memory took away my guilt of not being able to fulfill my role as her joy bringer. Yet, the anxiety and depression never went away. My sister had an answer for that, too; I was defective.

A few years later I was in the University of Alberta in my third year on my Bachelor of Arts degree when I met up with a childhood friend. Michelle and I reminisced about our childhood together when she started bringing up the instances of abuse. Confused and alarmed, I told her that these things never happened. I’d made it all up.

Michelle had a core of iron and was as strong a person as anyone I knew. She looked at me and assured me it all had happened. She’d been there. Still alarmed, I took Michelle to see my sister where she repeated everything she said to me. My sister never even missed a beat. Instead, she looked at Michelle and said, “it never happened.”

It was then I understood. I would never get an apology or confession. She would never admit the horrific things she’d done to me. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s when I realize how deep her need to abuse me went.

My brother James succumbed to colon cancer and finally passed away. It was I who had been caring for both him and our aging parents for the past year or so. At the funeral I was pretty numb and hadn’t yet started grieving. My sister sought me out and said, “I wish it had been you that died rather than James. James would have taken care of Mom and Dad.”

Those words still haunt me but I wouldn’t find the strength to end our relationship for another dozen years or so. Two weeks before Christmas, always a difficult time for me, and I dared ask her for a favor. She started screaming at me and my entire childhood flooded back. I was a two year old girl who had just piddled at her feet like a bad puppy again. The spanking was coming.

However, I was no longer the same person I was. I had a new friend in my life and I learned from his quiet and steady strength. He was the first person to accept me as a whole being, broken bits and all. He taught me that I was complete as I was.

Something in me snapped and I hung up on my sister, telling her not to bother me again. With the exception of concerns for my mother’s care, she’s out of my life.

My father has been dead these past 10 years and I think he’d be proud of who I’ve become. It’s taken me six years to write these words down and even now I still worry that I’m going to get punished for them. I’m starting a business and working on getting my life on track. A difficult job for a woman in her 50s whose entire being was once taken up with the job of making her sister happy. Life goes forward.

I am a survivor and a victim.

It Never Happened – A True Story of Sibling Abuse (Part 3)

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TRIGGER WARNING!! The following contains graphic descriptions of abuse and may trigger readers who have a sensitivity to these images. Be warned.

At this point in my story I need to veer off and talk about another part of the tale that isn’t wholly mine to tell. I had two brothers I’ll call John (the older) and James (the younger of the two). As I was the baby of the family, a large part of this story I didn’t witness but was told by John and James what happened. I’ve put the pieces together here. I wasn’t the only victim and survivor of sibling abuse in my family. In a lot of ways, James had it worse than I did but in many ways he had it easier. You be the judge.

John was the next oldest in age, being about a year younger than my sister. He was born premature as my mother decided to help my father move a sofa when she was in her 8th month of pregnancy. An idiotic move but the birth led to more feelings of guilt on my mother’s part. It became clear there was something wrong with him and my mother was positive it had to do with his premature birth. I didn’t. My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his 40s. Was he showing symptoms in his teens? I don’t know. I do know that he was one of those rare schizophrenics who don’t see or hear things but, rather, has delusions in his mind. Delusions of grandeur they’re called.

James was a year younger than John and a problem from the beginning. He didn’t speak until he was about 3 or 4 years old because he was simply too lazy. He would point and grunt at something and my parents would get him what he wanted. He was also a late walker for a similar reason. He simply didn’t need to as my parents would pick him up and carry him. The doctor put an end to it, though, when he told my mother to stop giving in to him. Within a couple of months he was walking and talking. He was later diagnosed as a “slow learner” by school psychologists. This was a catch-all phrase in the 70s meaning there was something wrong but no one could pinpoint what.

John had a streak of cruelty and violence in him that seemed to come from nowhere. Now, it is uncommon for schizophrenics to be violent unless they’re protecting themselves. My brother, however, seemed to revel in cruelty, especially toward James. Some of the incidents are too graphic for me to relate but I will speak of a few so readers can get an idea of what was going on.

James was the scapegoat for whatever John had in mind. Many times he’d make James stand in a corner while John and his friends threw darts at him. Another favorite game was to make James crawl on the floor yelling, “I’m a pig!” and squealing. As I said, there were others but those will give you an idea of what went on.

Is it any wonder, then, that James continued to wet the bed his entire life? Part of it was laziness. He simply didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to go pee. Part of it was John. If James did make the mistake of getting out of bed, John was there waiting to pounce. Eventually, James just learned to stay in bed and stay asleep. It was a survival trait as much as anything. However, the behaviour never changed in his entire life.

John also had a violent temper and the walls of the apartments where we lived were a testament to that. He would often put his fists through walls and doors, threatening anyone who got in his way in a blind rage. As a baby I was largely shielded and so was my sister by virtue of being a girl. My brother, James, and my parents, though, were the usual targets. Neighbours often complained about these violent outbursts and managers would come to inspect the apartment. We got creative, though, and learned to hide the holes with pictures and posters. One of my favorite pictures was a replica of “Blue Boy”, a painting I still find haunting and attractive.

My parents did try to get John help but in 70s, child care was much different than it is now. Desperately they reached out to doctors, teachers, even social workers who gave them the spare the rod, spoil the child speech. If John was a torment, it was their fault because they were bad parents. Given my mother’s history, it only added to her sense of guilt and anxiety.

I’m not sure exactly what happened as the incident has largely remained a family secret, hidden even from me, but by the time John reached 15 he was evicted from the family home. Years later my father related much of the story but I have no recollection and don’t know the intricacies of it.

It was about this time that my parents began fearing for their children’s safety when John would act out. They had three other children to think of and one of them wasn’t even in school yet. James had all but retreated into himself and refused to speak of the abuse he suffered at John’s hands. James and I learned to keep the family secrets or else.

John was being violent again and my father was trying, in vain, to contain him. As a child, the physical violence of my brother and the verbal violence of my sister was simply too much for me to handle. I would often come out, begging in tears for everyone to stop. Please just stop. Even to this day I cannot stand a voice raised in anger. It’s enough to make me shake and cry uncontrollably.

I must have stepped in between my father and John. John swung out. Whether it was with his fist or his foot, I don’t know. I don’t know if he connected or not but it was this incident that caused my father to eject him from the home. My father later said he had to choose between John’s violence and my safety and he chose me though he didn’t love my brother any less.

Let me make it clear that my brother John never turned his violence towards me intentionally and he was just as hurt and shocked as my father was that I was nearly the one injured. He left the home, becoming homeless at that age and was later taken in by some friends who were part of a motorcycle gang though he never officially became a member of the gang. His life was a daily struggle that no one in the family could ease and it weighed on my father heavily.

Later in life, before my brother James died of cancer in 2001, James returned home to accept responsibility for what he’d done as a teen. He’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia by this time and was dutifully taking his meds. In a heart to heart conversation, John apologized for what he’d done to James. They both acknowledged that an apology didn’t change what happened but it did much to heal them both. I know how hard it was for John to swallow his pride and give that apology. I also know how much he needed to say the words and how glad he was after my brother’s death that he’d given it.

I never received even the acknowledgement that these events occurred by my abuser.

(to be continued…)

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