Archives for July 2018

Feminism In Action: How to Spot A Bad Boyfriend

[I’m writing from a straight lady’s perspective, but most of the things that make a relationship suck can come from men or women.]

Fixing The Car

Just because I look fabulous doesn’t mean I can’t get shit done!

Hubby and I had a little rough patch recently. We’re both stressed and tired and started nipping at each other. But we never stopped talking, and we managed to tough it out. After about a week we found our way back to baseline, a little stronger for the struggle.

This is still a new experience for me. At the beginning of our relationship, I had to fight back terror that every little imperfection was the beginning of the end! It’s funny how moving on makes you think back on things, and I got to comparing what works with this relationship that didn’t in past ones.

More than just enjoying my partner’s company, I have discovered there are lots of other uses for the time and mental space I was wasting trying to connect with someone who just wasn’t returning the favor. Daily life is easier because I’m not constantly fighting to keep my mood up.

So to help you focus and reach your goals, I put together a list to help gauge if your partner is just annoying or maybe you could put your energy somewhere more productive.

1) Lack of Respect For goodness’ sake, be with someone who has some respect for you! (If you choose to be with anyone. If you’re rocking the single life, more power to you!) The occasional bad joke or misunderstanding is the human condition, but a regular pattern of disregarding things you do and say is a big flashing sign that he doesn’t take you seriously.

I have met some women who are committed to someone who is wrong for them because they don’t believe anything better is possible. Maybe their significant other isn’t even a bad person, things just aren’t working but they are settling for good enough. Or they’re settling for someone they know, even if they don’t like them very much.

Marionette

Sorry Scottie, he’s not going to talk to you. But he will sigh a lot!

“Don’t settle” sounds like romantic garbage, but hear me out. You don’t need to be getting beaten to be justified in leaving.

2) He’s overly critical but, somehow, you always end up feeling bad for him. Generalized criticism is no fun. It’s difficult sometimes to see that, no, he’s not just stressed from work. He’s not just depressed. It’s been a long time since he made time to spend together, and maybe when you do manage to drag him somewhere fun he just ruins it with his bad attitude. Maybe you need to stop eating the bullshit he’s shoveling and really look at how he is.

People are great at painting ourselves as the victim, and bad boyfriends often have a tragic backstory that keeps you feeling sorry for him when you should be looking out for yourself. And we are good at considering other people’s feelings. He’s only shitty to me because his mom never wanted him. He’s just worried about making enough money and that’s why he criticizes my shopping habits. He’ll feel better later and come with us next time.

We rationalize because it’s easier than admitting that maybe we’re throwing good money after bad. Maybe he’s shitty to you because he’s not considering your feelings. Because his tragic backstory entitles him to put himself first, he went without for so long, you know. So don’t try to assert your needs or remind him that he’s supposed to care about you, that’s a guilt trip he doesn’t need right now.

3) When is your turn? The time never seems to come. There’s always something to stress about and somehow it always reminds him of his mom or his ex or that one Bad Thing that happened that one time. It’s never your turn. I will never forget the day I had to accept that, even if we stayed together (because I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, I am

Spin The Wheel

Never gonna win no matter how many times I spin!

stubborn!) my ex and I were never going to have the relationship that I wished for.

We were walking around the neighborhood, enjoying a nice Spring day and discussing how things were going in our respective endeavors. I was telling him how I was struggling with dealing with my mom on a regular basis, that I was proud of the progress she and I had made but sometimes old patterns still dominated. I was feeling discouraged. His family drove him crazy too and there was no reason for him not to have a pretty good idea how I was feeling. But he sighed and said, “See, this is my problem – We can’t both have issues!”

Say what?? What exactly do you think this is? I do not exist to be your live-in therapist! I’m pretty sure that, yes, we can both have issues and most people do. It’s normal to want to lean on him sometimes. I had felt this inequality in our relationship before but this was the first time he had stated it so succinctly. Apparently it was never going to be my turn.

4) Does he reach for the launch codes? Mutually assured destruction is not a relationship goal. My ex never hit me. He never even threatened me or used his considerable size against me. It was all psychological. He would pick a fight, say some stuff to get me riled up and then walk away because he couldn’t talk to me when I was “like that.”

This went over my head for years, I couldn’t figure out why we always ended up arguing when I had only approached him to say hello, ask him how his day was. Once I figured it out and watched it happen, it was probably the beginning of the end for me.

He held the relationship hostage, jumping straight to the nuclear option as soon as disagreements arose – “Fine, gimme the keys and go stay

Hitchhiker

That’s it, get me outta here!

with your mother!” Over and over I refused to leave when he said I should, I wasn’t going to throw away 5, 6, 7 years over some stupid argument.

When I finally did leave, the relief was unexpectedly intense. Every time I had gotten fed up he would sense it and back off, suddenly want to be friends again. We had yo-yo’ed several times and I had to keep reminding myself that this time he was really gone for good. I knew it hadn’t been great but I surprised myself when I jumped in fear at the familiar-looking stranger in the grocery store.

Like the proverbial frog in the pan, I hadn’t realized just how hot it had become in my little pool. He said and did things that made me feel disgusting and incompetent. And I guess on some level I believe I am or I wouldn’t have let it go on so long. I still fight with feelings of inferiority that, to be fair, he didn’t give me but reinforced for way too long. You can’t heal your childhood trauma if you’re reliving it every day.

I’d also pretty much convinced myself that the kind of relationship I wished for, the kind where my partner and I would be friends above all else, was a figment of my imagination. A product of my Disney complex. That man doesn’t exist, so I might as well make the best of this.

And when I met back up with my now-husband I put him through the wringer. He did the same, his ex makes mine look like Mr. Rogers. We both understood that the other had some well-earned trust issues. You don’t start a relationship in your 30s without plenty of baggage to unpack. We started with the understanding that, yes, we both have it.

He appreciates the things I do! My affection has an effect! My words are (usually, nobody’s perfect) listened to! My feelings matter!

It’s just damn weird.

Jackpot By Gil Elvgren

My cup runneth over!

Past the three year mark and the honeymoon period is long over. Sometimes we still lament spending all those years with people who treated us so badly. We compared notes and it turns out that, after losing touch in high school, we narrowly missed each other several times. But we always end up just happy to have each other now. Better late than never!

I tell my little story to illustrate that settling is a bad idea. Every day spent with the wrong person is a day you could be spending with the right one. Or just working on yourself. These experiences taught me what some forms of psychological abuse look like in the flesh, I did a lot of reading and slowly figured out what was going on. I felt trapped because I had a child (not his child, that would be too simple. I’ll tell that story sometime. It’s a fun one!)

I couldn’t accept the idea of working long hours to pay for daycare and hardly seeing my son. I figured that at least I got to stay home and be a decent parent. Because my ex was making pretty good money. He’s the kind of guy who likes to tinker and innovate and will probably be on the cover of Wired someday. We may not have been happy but we would have been comfortable.

My son was getting a good education and got to participate in enrichment activities like swimming lessons and t-ball. Which went a long way to make up for the guy he knew as Dad not coming with us to anything and treating me like a nuisance. I didn’t know how unhappy I was until I experienced something better.

Sometimes I wish I’d had the guts to be on my own. I enjoy my alone time but it’s easy to get too much. I get anxious and weird. I need someone to interact with whether I like it or not. And some people are brave in ways I am not. Being truly alone is a great fear of mine. One that I suppose I will have to face someday but I’m safe from that for a while yet!

We just can’t let our fear totally rule our lives. If you relate to the story of my woeful ex, reconsider your relationship. You’re never going to grow if you are stuck throwing your energy into a black hole.

Freud’s Sexy Envy and Female Oppression

Hard Work

Hold up – What does his tallywhacker have to do with my brain?

Jumping right in, today we’re starting with Sigmund Freud. German and born in 1856, he gave us what these days we refer to as therapy, a structured and codified method for understanding the mentally ill instead of locking them up. In doing so, he laid the foundations of the field of Psychology.

A good place to begin is his Psychosexual Stages theory, first published in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality in 1905. Also known as the Family Drama, this is his model for how personalities form. This theory gave us a lot of familiar words – Ego, Libido, Penis Envy. Some of the meanings have slipped over time, Libido is the survival impulse which supports the instinct for procreation. Not just your level of sexual desire as we use it these days, but still pretty raunchy. Penis Envy was the reason women were incompetent.

Basically, a child goes through five stages from birth to adulthood, which are marked by getting pleasure from a succession of body parts. This just strikes me as damn weird, but I guess I’m not much of a hedonist.

Freud said that everything from the very beginning is motivated by trying to fulfill our Libido’s desires. Okay at first glance, but I have difficulty with the idea that seeking sexual pleasure as an adult is analogous to an infant sucking on something. And I don’t agree that everything we do is somehow motivated by procreation. I understand the idea that, since it’s reproduction and all organisms exist to reproduce, everything we do probably boils down to sex.

I don’t agree with this for 3 reasons:

1. It fails to take into account how the universe actually works. Sometimes things just happen for no (apparent) reason. Some things are

Sita And Sarita Cecilia Beaux Oil Painting 1

Do you like watching me pet my pussy?

accidental. No motivation applies to everyone everywhere all the time. That’s childish.

2. Our intelligence has allowed us to build and explore many different ideas and schools of thought. If you look for sex in everything you will find it but it’s like mysticism of confirmation bias. Some things at this level of complexity are genuinely tangential enough from reproduction as to be said to have legit nothing to do with sex.

3. My personal experience. I was not a sexual person as a child. I wasn’t really a sexual person at 20. I always needed the stimulation of having someone there with me. Otherwise, I had more interesting things to do. It wasn’t until I was over 30 that the engine revved itself for the first time. So that’s what everyone has been talking about!

They say that Freud used the term ‘sexual’ in a very general way to mean everything pleasurable. Even so, I don’t believe that satisfying hedonism is the primary motivation for living. It sounds like Old Siggy could have used a little Buddhism! But he bases his entire premise on this concept, not just procreation but pleasure specifically. He says the higher parts of the mind, the Ego and Superego, develop in order to direct the need for gratification into socially acceptable channels.

I disagree with this, too. The higher parts of the mind develop because they can. Things in nature keep growing so long as they have room and resources. Our species has cultivated higher thought for a very long time. Not to control so much as to organize. To build. Communication is integral to our survival. We need not just help but also company. Eventually the individual realizes that if they don’t reel it in, they will be left alone.

One of the stages, around age 3, is the “phallic” one. Girls realize we don’t have a penis and freak out…. I must have blocked this out or something because I sure don’t remember being upset I don’t have one of those freaky-looking things!

Black Magic

I could swear there was a penis-conjuring spell in here somewhere!

Feeling bereft without a penis somehow transmutes into yearning for a baby. She can’t have her dad’s penis (*shiver*) so she substitutes wanting sons because that’s the closest a girl can get to having her own penis.

Now, leaving aside for a moment the assumption that penises are just the awesomest things ever and of course everyone wants one! Freud also believed that fear of losing your penis – a Castration Complex – was the root of all morality, and therefore women could never develop a sense of right and wrong.  We’re just little softheads running around conning men into getting us pregnant. In hopes of acquiring a penis of our very own.

This Sigmund guy was clearly so preoccupied with his member that he just couldn’t imagine a life without it. Or didn’t want to. I know this may upset some people but I think it needs to be said:

The world does not revolve around your penis.

Thankfully there have been women speak up to correct this nonsense. They argue that to assume a girl envies and desires a penis is misogynistic, implying women are missing something. If there is any truth to Penis Envy, it is that men have had more direct influence in life than women for a long time and it was not a desire for the organ but for the personal liberty it came to represent.

In the early 20th century, a student of Freud named Karen Horney put forward the theory of Womb Envy. This is the idea that men feel insecure because of their lack of control over reproduction. Dr. Horney (great name, right?) posited that this feeling of inferiority explained much of men’s behavior, from social climbing in the boardroom to promiscuity. Even female oppression itself.

Without the women in their lives, great rulers would never have been born and would have no heirs. This lack of involvement in the creation of life exposes the farce of their ambitions of power. Dr. Horney believed that Womb Envy arises when men realize that

Tired Purple Dress

Keeping up with all these expectations is exhausting!

they are not as in control of their lives as they had thought.

I have often felt compelled to ask, why are men so obsessed with controlling women’s reproductive system? Why are we told lies about the Pill while so many men get away with so much? Politicians, priests, comedians, college students, actors and executives, the list of sexual predators seems to go on forever, and that’s just the famous ones!

And this nonsense about Pro-Life people being so concerned about babies! I can’t even entertain that drivel anymore. If they are so concerned about babies, maybe make it easier to get contraception so those unwanted babies never happen. Maybe make it easier for more people to adopt. Or support social programs so the single mother who got knocked up because she didn’t understand how her body works can feed her baby that she got shamed into keeping. No? Then shut up.

Womb Envy explains why I have had the privilege of hearing the opinions of every political candidate on the subject of whether women should be able to terminate a pregnancy. Imagine if every stump speech contained that person’s stance on whether old men deserved boner pills. Because they might be promiscuous, you know. Our society makes it daily business to control women’s sexuality. Men (and thereby society) are usually totally okay with fetishizing female breasts, but god forbid a woman uses them to feed her child.

Child7

Who’s Mama’s little natural advantage?

Relying so heavily on women to birth their descendants must have really stricken fear into the hearts of powerful men. Women have to be the ones to produce the next generation. Men became insecure and overcompensated by consolidating power. They have used that power to control women’s reproductive practices. They feel inferior and it makes them want to control the female body as much as they possibly can.

This is why everything associated with women is taken less seriously, even if we borrowed it from them in the first place. When you fear someone, you seek to weaken them whenever possible. Wishing for control over progeny sure makes a lot more sense than wishing for a penis! I’ll keep my nifty vagina, thank you, tucked neatly away yet still so convenient.

And personally I think it also stems from residual anger at the mother figure. She is Woman, and she can be a tyrant. Resentment over forgotten injustices could also fuel the way men so often excuse themselves from having to deal with us as equals. But I suppose that’s more Jungian and part of a different post.

Thanks for Reading! Comment or drop me a line at brazenshe@gmail.com if you have suggestions for future Readings.