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August 28, 2017

Originally posted April 17, 2010. 

In my opinion, it’s not exactly constructive to point out to someone who has moved beyond a dangerous habit or addiction that she always had the choice never to indulge in that dangerous habit or addiction from the beginning.  Surely, if a person has quit engaging in whatever unsavory behavior is in question, she is already aware that she could have disengaged sooner or never begun at all.  I mean, people who aren’t aware that they have agency, the power to effect change in their lives – well, they don’t go on to change their lives for the better, do they?

So, when you’ve got a woman, a former addict, a formerly prostituted woman, a formerly heterosexually “liberated” woman, what have you, who decides to discuss her painful past, perhaps even describe some of the thought processes that AT THE TIME seemed to justify her behavior (obviously, she’s aware that these thought processes DON’T justify the behavior, which is why she’s now changed both her thought processes AND her behavior), what purpose could it possibly serve to point out to such a woman that she was wrong?  What purpose could it possibly serve to stress that she CHOSE to put herself in harm’s way, that, in living the life she lived, she CHOSE to be an obstacle in the path of other women who wanted to live differently?  I mean, we’re talking about a woman who made a conscious decision to change her life and even, just hypothetically,  offer resources to encourage others who would like to follow suit and praise those who were on the right path all along.  Surely, such a woman already knows that her former lifestyle was chosen, that it was harmful to her and to other women.

So, what danger is there in such a woman looking back with some modicum of pity, or sympathy, or even empathy on her former self?  What danger is there if such a woman wants to look on her former self, not as a monster who consciously jeopardized the well-being of female people as a class, but as an injured and exploited woman that eventually grew into political consciousness?  I’m not talking about a woman who makes justifications for her current anti-female behavior.  I’m talking about a woman who took enough responsibility for her past actions to willfully change the course of her life, but who still looks back and in many ways identifies with women who are now where she used to be.

What’s the point of telling that woman what she already had to know in order to pull herself out of those destructive habits?  I’m seriously asking, because I can’t think of anything other than either viciousness or untreated clinical-grade social ineptitude.  And I say that as a woman who finds it extremely problematic to continue to identify with those who are currently acting out female-hating behaviors.  That is to say that I don’t personally identify with the black-female-hating woman I used to be.  I don’t see it as my purpose to ensure that women who are, right now, obliviously black-female-hating come to see the error of their ways.  I don’t see it as my purpose to teach them to love themselves, or encourage them change their lives.  You see, every minute I could spend on women who in all likelihood will never turn away from the benefits of a black-female-hating lifestyle is a minute that I’m not spending on those of us who already get it.  And in a black-female-hating atmosphere, those of us who get it need more attention that those who still get some sustenance from the larger society.  Plus, I know from my own experience that there’s nothing I could say or give to them that would change their minds anyway.  They have to make the decision to change on their own.

But I still can’t see the point of telling (loudly and repeatedly) a woman who does look back and identify with those past behaviors, problematic as that is, that she made CHOICES that were detrimental to herself and others.  After all, the fact that she moved beyond that lifestyle to make different choices is a testament to the fact that she KNOWS they were choices AND she KNOWS they were harmful.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2010 6:42 pm

    Without knowing who or what you’ve seen that prompted this post (and also allowing for the possibility that it is just one of any number of things you feel like writing about and finally got around to), and also knowing that I’m a person who theoretically could be on the receiving end of what you’re talking about (but to my knowledge am not at present), I agree wholeheartedly with this post.

    And not just because of how it could apply to me, seriously. I’m pretty thick-skinned in odd ways (and thin skinned in other odd ways) and would read that kind of behavior towards me as, well, like you said, social ineptitude or spite, neither of which I would take personally since those are flaws in the other person. I mean, essentially they and I would be in agreement anyway, right? Like you say – we all know I chose something, etc. So pointing it out to try and get some reaction out of me is weird at best and shady at worst.

    It made me think of when that *has* more or less happened to me in real life. In a writing group I was in years ago, I brought in a chapter on a book I was working on at the time, about a place I worked and a co-worker I’d been briefly dating who raped me. I was a lot closer to the situation at the time, so would not, for instance, have expressed the take on it that “hey one way to avoid rape is to not-date men”, but the two people in the group, a man and a woman, whose feedback (which subsequently got them booted from the group by the teacher, incidentally) was “you brought it on yourself” – their take on it wasn’t “you brought it on yourself by being around male people” either. It was this weird, passive aggressive, pretend to just be stating the facts and for your own good creepiness. I already knew that being alone with someone who I’d always had a gut instinct of uneasiness around, but which uneasiness I’d “treated” with drugs and alcohol because of having *some* stake in still being around him, was self-destructive and not something I did anymore.

    anyway, thanks for this post, Margie. and I fucking miss you.

  2. April 18, 2010 6:29 am

    Oh, Joanie Roni, I am so, so happy that you’re able to see this kind of behavior as being a flaw in the spiteful or socially inept person. I mean, of course I’m not happy that you’re forced to make the distinction in the first place due to there being something wrong with these people, but a lot of women are broken by these sorts of comments. I’m just glad you’re not one of them.

    A while back, though, something similar happened online. The spiteful/socially inept woman who so self-righteously “informed” another blogger about her “choices” continues, to this day, to wail and moan about how she was “just telling the truth” and complain about how she was “mistreated” or whatever as a result. So, that’s what inspired this post. One would think that someone who’s “just telling the truth” wouldn’t need anyone else to approve, and certainly wouldn’t be so offended some people don’t approve as to still be whining about it over half a year later.

    Of course, although the post was inspired by her, I certainly don’t have any hope or desire to change her thinking. I do want other women to understand what dynamics are at play when these things happen.

    Thanks, as always, for your comment. I miss you too.

  3. polly permalink
    April 18, 2010 9:36 am

    Well assuming the reference is to me and Amy, (I assume it is) the whole point I was making was that she DIDN’T acknowledge that she’d chosen to sleep with men because she wanted to and take responsibility for it. Instead she tried to frame it as something she was FORCED to do by patriarchy.

    And I’m not* whining* about it all. Just saying I stand by what I said. And I do. And I will continue to do. If you did something because you wanted to, because you wanted to get something out of it, don’t pretend post the act that you had no choice. THAT’s what I was complaining about. A so called radical feminist who says that white western affluent women have no choice under patriarchy but to sleep with men (non rape) is no different from a *fun fem* saying the same thing in my estimation. Especially if that person has then gone on to disprove the fact. It just makes the hypocrisy of the first statement even more rank.

    If you don’t like this, that’s your problem. I don’t remember whining about being *mistreated* though. I remember complaining about people telling straight out lies about what they’d said previously, and what I’d said (eg that women who’ve slept with men can’t be lesbians when I’d never said any such thing, I said that in my book women who are sexually attracted to men aren’t lesbians and that I wouldn’t want a relationship with them, however i also said I don’t own the word lesbian and people can call themselves what they want) but that’s different.

    The DANGER of this stance by the way is obvious. It’s the same as the danger in the fun fem’s *it’s just life* approach. That other women who are in the situation of being with men and wanting to stop being with men will think it’s impossible/just too hard to get out of. That they will use that person’s declaration that under a patriarchy she had no choice but to sleep with men to continue the way they are.

    It would have made more sense if Amy HAD said *I made the choice to sleep with men, I was wrong* but she quite explicitly didn’t do that. Instead she said *the patriarchy made me*. Because she didn’t want to admit that she slept with men because she was sexually attracted to them.

    When dragging up things that happened 9 months ago actually, it helps to be accurate.

    Yours viciously/untreated clinical grade socially ineptly


    • April 18, 2010 12:19 pm

      I’m somewhat limited as to the time and equipment I have at my disposal at the moment, so I’m not going to respond at length. What i will say is that you need to read the post at least once before you disgrace this blog with your ignorance and (admitted?) ineptitude. The whole point of the post is that a woman’s current feminist choices stand as evidence of her realisation that her past anti-feminist choices were wrong. What that means for the illiterate/vicious/inept among you is that it isn’t necessary to say over and over again what is already evident to anyone with half a brain, as well as being obvious to the woman who’s changed her life for the better. So all of your moaning about whatever was said or unsaid at that moment is beside the point.

      Of course, as Joan noted about people like you, whether she actually thought it applied to you in particular when she said it or not, your only interest is in trying to frame yourself as having been stating the obvious for somebody else’s good.

      Please don’t comment here again. I don’t expect someone of your character and/or piss-poor reading ability to respect that, but I did at least want it on the record that it’s been requested of you.

  4. April 19, 2010 6:28 pm

    and my clearly-semi-co-dependent ass wishes I could now change the subject by nominating myself for Maybe Most Clueless Commenter of the Year for thinking that, if anything, this post was about something altogether else than what Polly thought…

    • April 19, 2010 7:08 pm

      Joan, nothing has to be exact. I learn from Fiction and almost always make Fiction about me, Fiction written 200 years ago, by people who have no relation what so ever with me. We use what we can to grow, to evolve.

    • April 20, 2010 7:04 am

      Well, and, the post, while inspired by polly’s still ongoing melodramatic boo-hooing and self-righteous posturing about that episode 9 months ago, wasn’t actually about her. It was about what the words indicate it’s about – people in general who go out of their way to point out the obvious. Polly’s certainly not the only woman in the world who does it. My mother’s a champion stater-of-the-obvious when it comes to those she disdains. It just so happened, though, that I saw polly, yet again, inserting into unrelated conversations her undying insistence that she was “just telling it like it was” or whatever and that same tired old “I’m a rebel for being an asshole and if you don’t like it, nyah nyah” bullshit she pulled way back then (and in this thread, in fact), as if anyone has ever denied her right to do and say whatever the fuck she wants to – and I just couldn’t take it. It made me realize how much I hate that compulsion in general, for which I’m thankful. It’s always nice when a pattern of behavior is revealed for what it is; there’s nothing I hate more than not being able to see through what others would have you believe are mere clashes of “personality” in order to discern the pattern underneath.

    • April 20, 2010 12:34 pm

      Its always a “clash in personality” unless you’re the one “being the trouble maker.” I too am glad to have this kind of mess revealed.

      I agree with your post and want to take it one further and say that all the trash talking about what somewoman did, said etc helps not one bit. I’m not sayin let’s all act like shit is ok when its not, but we also shouldn’t act like assholes and turn our noses up at women who made choices we disagree with. None of us came to understand feminism and female reality easily or naturally, the patriarchy tries to kill any inkling of awareness from “its a girl” on. Some women *get it* slower than others and some women cannot afford to get it or don’t have the power to act on getting it and no one should be trashed or slammed for that.

  5. Level Best permalink
    April 20, 2010 1:14 pm

    “Joan, nothing has to be exact. I learn from Fiction and almost always make Fiction about me, Fiction written 200 years ago, by people who have no relation what so ever with me. We use what we can to grow, to evolve.”–Kitty

    Kitty, I do the exact same thing. The insights authors had about human nature and interactions in those slower, more personal times were quite extraordinary at times and I relish them and have learned a lot. Thackeray, the Bronte sisters, Mrs. Gaskell, Fanny Trollope and her famous son, George Eliot, George Gissing, Edith Wharton–all of them were amazing.

    “Some women *get it* slower than others and some women cannot afford to get it or don’t have the power to act on getting it and no one should be trashed or slammed for that.”–soulsis

    I agree. Our total immersion in female-hostile indoctrination all of our lives leaves its marks and ghosts even when we start emerging from the matrix.

  6. April 21, 2010 5:58 am

    People go on about choice because they do not want to face the fact that many decisions are not freely made, are not consciously made, or are difficult choices of a “lesser evil.” One does what one can with the means and information one has available at the time.

  7. April 22, 2010 5:40 pm

    This keeps turning over in my mind, well more like I keep thinking about this topic. I’ve been reluctant to speak on it until I had my own thoughts more in place, but feel a lil more confident now.

    A problem I see in this (specifically in the rude and inconsiderate comment left by polly) is the inability to know when to shut up and listen. Trust me I know a thing or two about that since I’m a chatter box. But even when one feels in her soul she is right for thinking/saying what she has there is still the matter of how it is delivered and received. I’m not trying to defend women who engage in behaviors that are destructive to themselves or other women, what I am trying to say is that there is a time and season for everything. Also that draging a womans name in the mud to defend your own assholishness is selfish and wrong.

    If I went to a hetero bar, got drunk and then was assaulted it is not my fault that I was assaulted because I should be able to walk freely and not have to worry about males. However the reality is that we ALL have to constantly consider the impact our actions have and never forget that males are predatory therefore I shouldn’t have placed myself in the situation. Trauma is trauma, even if one is partly responsible. It is callous and misogynist to bump your gums in the name of “telling the truth” knowing that a woman both understands how her actions made her vulnerable, how her actions, in ignorance or not, impact other/all women; and doesn’t continue in those behaviors/is more aware and not lording things over other women.

    It makes not one ounce of sense to keep harping on something a woman did (to herself mind you) before she was aware of female reality under patriarchy.

    • April 22, 2010 5:49 pm

      You were in spam. Maybe because you said Polly. Let me go check.

    • April 22, 2010 6:54 pm

      I keep doing that! Mentioning banned folks and ending up in spam. Lol

      And my friggin thought still wasn’t clear. I tried, if it doesn’t make sense someone say somn.

    • April 22, 2010 7:16 pm

      It makes sense to me.

      When I deal with women who have a history of drugs, alcohol, and have yet to get their G.E.D and/or college degree and they are older than whatever, I feel no desire to say, I don’t know what it feels like to be addicted because I’ve never done drugs before (although I don’t know what it feels like) and I’ve never really been drunk before either and can’t really say what that feels like or the desire/need to be drunk, and what ever made you do such a stupid thing. I think I may answer if I am asked directly but I don’t ever recall being asked. Usually the women are so overwhelmed with life that there is no time for niceties or to pretend as if one cares for the person providing assistance, especially if the relationship is obviously one side needs help and the other side is available to help. In many cases, niceties are a middle class device and luxury.

      I’ve been asked and when it is assumed that I was educated straight out of high school I do correct and say, no, it took me 20 years to get a college degree. Although I did receive a high school diploma on time and did not require a G.E.D., often I try to steer away from that topic and let the “It took 20 years to get a college degree” do its work. I see no purpose in conveying with my answers, “Yeah you stupid dumb ass failure, unlike you, I finished high school on time and never was so stupid and weak to get addicted to drugs and alcohol.”

    • April 22, 2010 7:37 pm

      And I realize how what I am saying here is in direct contraction to what I am saying in the birthday thread. Here, I am saying consider women’s feelings and in the other I am saying don’t consider women’s feelings. But, the difference is, cruelty and self-sacrifice. The questions that dictate my actions are: What is there to gain with unnecessary cruelty? and Will I suffer somehow? If I (putting myself in my daughter’s shoes) have to suffer the company of a girl I don’t like and it is my party, then, no, I shall not invite her and of course I take no pleasure in hurting anyone’s feelings (if indeed her feelings are hurt, that is why the invitations must go out as discreetly as possible). However if I am in a capacity that it is not hurting me any to refrain from being cruel and I am not suffering from biting my tongue, then why can’t I bite my tongue. How does it benefit me by making sure those women understand that I have never done drugs? It does not benefit me at all. It just makes me an asshole while it rubs their situation in their faces. Will they be more willing to overcome whatever because I made them feel like shit?

    • April 23, 2010 3:02 am

      Makes sense to me, too, sis. This part here is the heart of the matter:

      Trauma is trauma, even if one is partly responsible. It is callous and misogynist to bump your gums in the name of “telling the truth” knowing that a woman both understands how her actions made her vulnerable, how her actions, in ignorance or not, impact other/all women; and doesn’t continue in those behaviors/is more aware and not lording things over other women.

      Trauma is trauma. Yes, yes, yes. And a woman who no longer engages in behaviors likely to repeat that trauma should be allowed to talk about her trauma without having her face rubbed in her complicity.

      And, Kitty, I’m not even sure not stating the obvious is really a matter of biting one’s tongue. It’s a matter of being actively engaged enough in the discourse not to waste words. Frankly, folks who aren’t actively engaged should refrain from participating at all.

    • April 23, 2010 5:39 am

      Yes, I suppose the statement to bite one’s tongue has connotations that if the tongue was allowed to wag the object deserves what was said and the person biting her tongue is being generous. Which of course is still an act of judging and not engaging.

    • April 23, 2010 12:06 pm

      God I’m going to say somn that might sound so wrong and if so or if someone is offended/disagrees please tell me.

      This situation seems to me like a disdain for that womans former heterosexuality. I don’t know either and don’t know the whole situation but the comment left here (not using the name for spam and g00gle sake) just sounds like a level of disgust towards her former heterosexuality which I understand but how the fuck are we to ever expect women to change their lives and go against the norm if she is beat over the head with what she used to do/how she used to be. And this is done all the time, its one thing if a woman is claiming to be past her “phase” (whatever it may be) and is still actively engaged in it. but to beat someone over the head about trauma they experienced and have moved past, damn what do you want blood?

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