Feminist Therapy: Sexist in-laws, ‘feminist’ jerks, and male guilt

I am a therapist, but I am not your therapist. Therapy, in my opinion, is not just about the information I give, but also about the highly individualized relationship I build with each client, getting to know their unique needs, strengths, and challenges. This column is not meant to substitute individual therapy. When in doubt, speak to a therapist about these issues — preferably someone who knows you, who you feel safe with, and who is equipped to support you exactly as you are.

** All of the questions I received were complex, and profoundly honest. Thank you for your submissions. The questions answered in this month’s column were edited for length and privacy, while attempting to preserve the original question.

Dear Feminist Therapist,

I suspect that a man I know has been spying on me and harassing me anonymously. He posts misogynist things on social media and clearly has an issue with radical feminism, yet he claims to be an ally to feminists and the feminist movement I don’t know how to address this, because if I confront him, I’m worried he and those who know us will perceive my reaction, as a woman, to be stereotypically paranoid and defensive.

What can I do?

– Y

Dear Y,

This all sounds so scary and infuriating — I’m frustrated just reading this. I think most, if not all of us, can empathize with the experience of a person infiltrating our thoughts and getting under our skin, all the while seeming to enjoy tormenting us in this way.

I don’t know this person, or what has happened in his life, but as with most people who do hurtful things (especially if they do it intentionally or enjoy it), I’m inclined to believe that they are replicating some patterns they’ve learned in their lives. As I mentioned in one of my previous columns, “hurt people hurt people.” I think it takes a secure, honest, and enlightened man to acknowledge the privilege he was born with and groomed into, as well as to understand the toll patriarchy takes on women. At the very least, this man may be afraid to step out of a way of thinking that keeps him comfortable and makes life easy. I think it takes a secure person to honour the worth and value of other human beings, and acknowledge their privilege and role in systems of oppression.

I wonder what it would take to feel something about this man, like curiosity or even sadness, as a way to step out of fear or feeling tormented? Whether he knows it or not — and whether you know it or not — living in fear of this man gives him power in your life. I don’t mean to say he isn’t doing awful things to you and that you shouldn’t be smart about that (more on that below), but I do think that letting his actions consume you might cause you to suffer more than you need to.

This is a hard thing to say, but this might be the kind of person that is just not going to change — not unless he decides he wants to (and I don’t know what it would take to get him there). So, the only option in this case is for you to change. This means noticing when your thoughts become more than appropriate strategic thoughts about how to keep yourself safe or more than simply processing in order to release your feelings about the situation, and instead when your thoughts are self-destructive, ruminating, and pull you into a spinning anxiety or paranoia that does nothing productive in this situation.

I don’t know if this is happening in your community, online, or at work. If it is at work, I would suggest talking to your HR manager if you have one and if you can trust them. If you don’t have an HR manager, if you don’t have one who is safe to talk to, or if this isn’t happening at work, I would encourage you to think about the ways that you can make things different.

I wish that this weren’t happening to you, but it may help you feel better if you move into a position of proactivity where you are making some choices about what to do. Whether the choice is to change your perspective on things, to seek support, to move some of your personal possessions out of your work environment or not check personal emails or make personal calls while at work in order to minimize his knowledge of what you do, I think putting time and action into doing something that supports your agency and strength is a good idea. If you’re finding yourself preoccupied with this, significantly distressed, or overwhelmed, it’s not a bad idea to talk to someone (maybe through a work Employee Assistance Program or just by seeing a therapist) to help you feel like you can move back into control in this situation. Thanks for writing in.


Dear Feminist Therapist,

My father-in-law seems to have contempt for women. Although he is kind to me and people in general, he speaks poorly to my mother-in-law, often dismissing her emotions and feelings, rolling his eyes when she speaks, and saying to all of us, “Can you believe her?” when she says something he doesn’t agree with. When in the right company, he can get going on sexist jokes. One time over dinner he said that he thinks women are becoming so powerful (because of feminism) that men are now being oppressed. It takes everything in me not to become enraged and frustrated at this complete misunderstanding of human history, his privilege, and his dismissal of experiences he doesn’t even understand. But, I married his kid. Help.

– L

Dear L,

I can only imagine how difficult this must be. You probably have to leave the dinner table every once in awhile just to cool down. It is hard disagree with someone and feel like they are doing hurtful things, but not to have the kind of relationship where you can talk to them like a friend or equal. And, even if we did have that relationship, there is a fear that speaking up would make all future family events awkward and potentially even more hostile. I have so many clients who have difficulties with their partners’ parent(s), I’m starting to think that the people who get along with in-laws are the odd ones out.

I’m not going to even get into how absurd his argument about feminism oppressing men is for fear that I, too, will have steam coming out of my ears. Instead, I’ll suggest a few helpful strategies to help you manage how incredulous/hurt/frustrated/annoyed/confused/afraid you must feel when dealing with your father-in-law:

– Try changing the subject (pre-brainstormed one-liner jokes or questions about upcoming holiday plans could be a useful strategy)

– With playfulness (that is key), make a statement that acknowledges the tension and redirects it elsewhere (“OK OK, we know how you feel — anyone else have any controversial or offensive statements they’d like to make while we’re here?”)

– When he is putting down your mother-in-law, do your very best not to engage with him. If it feels OK to, you could make a supportive statement to your mother-in-law, like, “It feels like we’re not really hearing you — what is it you’d like us to understand?”

– Plan self-care before and after family gatherings. If appropriate, share your feelings about the experience with a friend to let off steam. Try VERY hard not to shame your in-laws in front of your spouse, as he or she may feel caught in between protecting you and his or her parents. Even if your spouse knows your father-in-law is in the wrong, we’re neurologically wired to feel protective and aligned with our family members.

– If you do want to talk to your spouse about this, tell them how hard these interactions and experiences feel for you. Describe your experience (“I feel myself boiling — like my head is going to pop off — when I hear him talk about women like that. It makes me feel like maybe he thinks about me that way. I feel like I lose respect for him, but I don’t want to, because I love you and you love him. This is hard for me.”)

– If your relationship with your father-in-law is important and you want to maintain some kind of closeness with him, and if you feel brave, talk to him. (Don’t do this if you aren’t interested and feel it’s enough for you to simply tolerate each other…) Some people like to have these kinds of conversations formally or informally, via a letter or email, or over the phone to make it feel a little less formal or confrontational than a “sit down talk.” (Whatever you do, make sure to keep it about you — people are often less defensive if we talk about ourselves rather than label all the things they are doing wrong, even if they are doing things that are wrong.) Others might like to make a statement when the event happens. You could say, for example, “Ouch, it really hurts me to hear you say that… As a woman, I’d appreciate it if we could talk about myself and other women respectfully at the table.” I wouldn’t be surprised if you got an “Oh, I’m just joking” response, which is never fun. If that happens, you have some options. Try saying something less vulnerable: “I know you like your jokes, but keep in mind that I don’t find it very funny when jokes are made at my expense.” Or say something more authentic and vulnerable: “It’s hard for me to feel safe with you and to have a relationship that’s real when you make jokes or say disrespectful things about women, because I am a woman, so in a way it’s like you’re saying those things about me. I want to feel like I’m a part of this family, can we work on this?”

– Have a conversation (see above) with your partner and ask him or her to stand up for you and for women. Perhaps the a conversation with your father-in-law could be about how his comments are felt by your spouse (not by you), so that your father-in-law hears the pain from his own child.

There are lots of variables here, and I want to acknowledge how hard this is. Families can be messy, even when we love people and want to get along. No matter what you do, it’s important to be respectful and remember to uphold the dignity of all people involved (including yourself, as well as everyone else), while acting with integrity. I do not think this means you should be silent, but it might mean waiting until you calm down to have a more productive and thoughtful conversation instead of speaking out of anger, as you risk being written off as the “angry and irrational” feminist.

I bet lots of readers would love to hear what happens, so feel free to write in and let us know!

Good luck!


Dear Feminist Therapist,

My partner is a man who identifies as a radical feminist, but he has run into a lot of trouble with some of the radical feminist community who say that because he is a man, he is an abuser and an oppressor. He does not watch porn, although did when he was younger, and is now so distressed and disturbed by porn that he feels physically sick thinking about it. He feels shame for being a man, and has issues with having sex and being intimate with me because of his inability to conceive of sex being truly equal. He is afraid that he is pornifying me. He feels filthy for finding me attractive and for thinking of me in a sexual way. He now thinks he is bad and believes he is doing all the things radical feminists say that men do. I don’t feel objectified, sexualized, oppressed, dismissed, devalued, belittled, silenced, or anything like that. He is an amazing human being. But I feel like I’m losing him.

– A

Dear A,

Thank you for writing in. I bet it took a lot of courage to do so. It seems like in his effort to be a good, informed ally, and not a hyper-masculine misogynistic man, your partner’s fear of being part of the problem has become a problem in and of itself.

I don’t know you, and I certainly don’t know him, but it seems like there might be something more going on here — maybe some anxiety or even some trauma that could use some skillful support. Getting support may help him start to entangle what is his to take responsibility for (being born a man in a patriarchy, and socialized into masculinity) and what is not his to own as it defines his identity and self-worth (the shamefulness of how men have acted out misogyny and patriarchy on women and participated in and propelled the oppression of women). When working with men to support their feminist education, I often distinguish between them being evil, as individuals, and the way that being born into a particular position in society changes the way men experience the world and how they can be aware of privilege and learn from those that have been hurt by those who share that privilege.

Some people may disagree with me, which is understandable, especially for those of us who have been hurt a great deal by men, but I do not believe that men are bad just because they are born male. Masculinity under patriarchy is toxic, not being a male person. We need to support men to unlearn what they’ve learned, in terms of what it means to be men in this world. Patriarchy and the stories it tells about what it means to be masculine hurts males too. I believe we should encourage and be supportive of men who become aware of their privilege and want to work towards ending women’s oppression.

Your partner brings up an important issue: How to be sexy to someone without being an object to them. Our sexuality can be a wonderful part of our lives, and it can feel amazing to know we are attractive and desired by a person who we also are attracted to and desire. When this becomes about using a “thing” (who is really a person) for sexual stimulation, and when we are not engaged in a mutually consenting and rich erotic experience of sensuality, desire, and connection, it can diminish a person’s inherent value as a human (not to mention decrease their experience of sexual satisfaction and relationship intimacy). But it’s not wrong to find someone you love sexy.

When it comes to sexual intimacy in relationships, porn and the prolific sexualized objectification of women acts like a filter through which all experiences (thoughts, desires, sensations, fantasies, words, emotions) must pass. This filter prevents people from seeing each other as they are and as fully human. Although in this case, porn is not the problem, I wonder if his anxiety and possible trauma have become a replacement filter — not objectifying, but still disconnecting, and making it harder for the two for you to be vulnerable, close, and seen.

I appreciate his desire to not want to be part of the problem. No surprises here, but I think it would be useful for him to see someone in therapy, and perhaps for you to see someone too, if this situation is starting to create insecurities, issues, and anxieties for you. Then, when it’s appropriate, you could perhaps see someone who is skilled in doing couples work and uses radical feminist approaches to sex therapy.

It may be helpful for the two of you to read Robert Jensen’s work together (particularly his recent book, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men) and talk about it, or the work of other men who are doing feminist work to dismantle patriarchy. I might also suggest engaging in non-penetrative sexual touching, maybe even without a goal of orgasm, just to enjoy touch while having an intimate connection where the “filter” I mentioned earlier seems to not get in the way. (If you want to learn more, you can look up “sensate focus” and find instructions on how to do this powerful and evidence-based skill I use all the time in sex therapy.) With this kind of sensual and erotic practice, there are far fewer patriarchal scripts to navigate around. I can’t imagine there are pornified, violent videos floating around the internet, depicting people spending quality time together, engaging in non-penetrative erotic touch while they take turns patiently and gently exploring what touch feels good to the other person…

You can send your questions for Hillary, our Feminist Therapist, to info@feministcurrent.com or hillarylmcbride@gmail.com with the subject: “Feminist Therapy,” or tweet her @hillarylmcbride using the hashtag, #feministtherapy. (We will anonymize your questions, unless you specifically ask us to include your name.)

Hillary McBride
Hillary McBride

Hillary McBride is a registered clinical counsellor working in the Vancouver area. She specializes in women's experiences and feminist therapy. Hillary is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, where she researches women's experiences using feminist methodologies. She is the author of "Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image: Learning to Love Ourselves as We Are" and recently won the International Young Investigator Award in Human Sexuality from Taylor & Francis for her research and clinical work on sexuality in mothers.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • calabasa

    I hate to admit this in the “feminist therapist” page, but I feel like giving up.

    I am barely hanging on. I cannot concentrate on my work. I am invited to things, but do not go. When, on a very rare occasion, I do see my friends, I think they can all see my sadness.

    I have been raped and abused so many times, I feel my brain has been changed (diminished) by trauma. I used to be outgoing and fearless. Now I am afraid to even go to social events. I am afraid to meet people. I have never been like this before.

    I live in absolute squalor. I don’t take care of my body, or my health. I have near-constant flashbacks to this relationship and subsequent rape, of last year (when all I wanted was to trust and open my heart again).

    I get up (most days), I shower, I get dressed and put on some make-up, I do work for my students when I need to, I go to therapy. Other than that, I drink, I smoke, I don’t clean, I don’t do anything. I can’t go out. I can’t see people. I don’t stay in touch with my friends (only sporadically). I can’t make new ones. I am simply a completely changed person.

    I don’t know how to get better. Tonight, instead of going to see two amazing women talk about poetry, and participating in other Poetry Festival events (I am a poet), I stayed in my squalid room, eating gelato, watching “Charmed,” and drinking a beer. Several female friends were going to these events, and it would have been good for me, but not only did I sleep until two, I could not mobilize myself to go.

    My friend (who has been there for me) invited me to a private poetry garden party, which starts in about forty-five minutes. I can’t seem to get up and make myself go. I am crying in my room.

    I am 33 years old, and living like this. I am a talented writer, and smart, but I feel that’s all pretty useless now; I cant make myself do anything good for myself. I don’t have the energy or drive necessary to submit my work or submit applications for better jobs. I don’t have the energy to go to the gym, to cook, to better my health. I am afraid to meet people.

    I don’t know if I will ever feel better. It will require such enormous will-power, and energy, to overcome the very real physiological changes a lifetime of trauma has wrought in my brain. I don’t want to give abusers this much power, but I don’t control my brain’s response to abuse. I couldn’t control my severe PTSD this last year. I can’t control this depression now.

    I feel like giving up.

    • FierceMild

      Calabasa, I wish I could just hold you and make the sadness stop. I have felt some of these things too. I don’t know how to help you and I’m just a stranger on the internet, but I care about what happens to you. Please, get help.

    • Leo

      Hey there,

      I can relate, I’m having a very difficult time with my chronic depression at the moment, though mine isn’t to do with men, it’s my health (well, unless you count the arrogant male surgeon who ruined it in the fist place) and my very difficult family, though is not purely situational depression. I just can’t seem to motivate myself to do anything. I know from past experience that the best way to at least improve is to establish a consistent basis of forcing yourself to do activities you’d previously have found enjoyable, even if you don’t feel like it and don’t enjoy it at first, but it’s difficult to get started. Sometimes trying something that is in the general ballpark of your interests, but is a bit different, can help – maybe reading an unfamiliar poet, perhaps in translation from a different tradition, and learning about that, for instance? It can help if you have someone you can get to outright tell you to do specific things, too, because it can get hard to think of doing anything. It sounds obvious, but break down tasks into small pieces, too – don’t look at your whole room, just think ‘I’ll clean this part of it today’. I love music, and audiobooks, putting something on while you do everyday tasks can help with focusing, and can be used as a way to break the task down that doesn’t require you to use too much mental energy – you can break it down by the time it takes to listen to a chapter, an album, even a single song.

      As for your therapy, is that something that’s helpful? I know it can be tough, but don’t be afraid to look for a new one if they’re not well-suited to you. I recently started seeing a new private therapist since the NHS ones were hopeless, it’s the first time I’ve had a female therapist, she seems to listen a lot better and is flexible in her approach, so I’m more hopeful about that. I hope you’re seeing someone good, or can find someone if not. From your description it sounds like trauma may still be the main factor, rather than depression, so you might want a therapist who is really a specialist in that if you’re not already seeing one, it can make a lot of difference.

      I don’t know if you’ve considered medication. It doesn’t suit everyone, but can help for some, even if it’s just to tide you over so you can begin recovering.

      Bes wishes to you, and hang in there.

      • calabasa

        Hi Leo,

        Thanks for the comment. Breaking up my stifling “to-do” list into blocks of time would be helpful.

        I live in the U.S., but I have British citizenship (though I’ve lost my passport and need to reapply again, which is a bit of an arduous process). I’ve considered going to live there for the NHS (if it’s any better than the healthcare I get here), maybe go back to school there (for a second master’s in something more practical), particularly as I’m not too happy with the state of the U.S. at the moment (I know Britain is not particularly much better, however). I’m pretty pissed about Brexit, as I used to be able to just go live and work anywhere in Europe, and I have tons of experience teaching English as a foreign language (I don’t know how you feel about Brexit, but I assume as an obviously intelligent person you must feel upset about it, too, and the ignorance and xenophobia that could lead to such a disastrous vote).

        I’m sorry to hear you’re in the same boat. I have a therapist through a local rape crisis center (cognitive behavioral therapy). I’m not sure how much CBT can actually help with trauma, however, and I don’t have the money for a private therapist.

        I know forcing myself to do stuff would be helpful. It’s hard as the person who abused me is also a writer and HE seems to have had zero problems this year socializing (and seems to be laying the groundwork for a campaign against me, a preemptive strike for when I reenter the community, casting himself in the role of “good guy” etc). So I am bound to run into him when I come out of my shell. I haven’t yet decided how to deal with that (casual ignoring or an offhanded, “hey, rapist,”), but I can’t get to that point until I don’t feel like I’ve been punched in the gut whenever I see him (or have some desire to run up to him and stab him six times in the chest with an ice pick). That will take time.

        Thanks for the idea about music! I’ve been wanting to get more into music and find my own tastes, and maybe I could do that while putting music to tasks I find a bit onerous, like cleaning or grading (I need silence for writing and reading).

        I’ve realized, actually, how much I have stifled my personality in general, my whole life. I think I have been in a near-constant state of dissociation from the time I was young, because of trauma. I think trying to “find myself” would be useful (I am currently trying to get out of a bad living situation, get into an apartment of my own); if I could decorate it, make it my own, that would be a good starting point. Trying to figure out, again, what interests *me* would be good (what interests me and has nothing to do with what men have done to me)…by refusing to face it all these years I have let my trauma define me. I feel ready to not let that be the case anymore. It’s a matter of jumpstarting my brain somehow.

        I like the suggestions of getting someone to tell me what to do (or maybe gently remind me…I know friends and a sister who would be willing), and also getting back into poetry again, or reading a translation of one of my favorites in a different edition…these are all great ideas.

        I hope you’re also dealing with your health problems (I understand that too) and difficult family situation. I’m glad you found a therapist that works.

        Anyway, thank you. 🙂 You’ve been really kind.

  • calabasa

    Oh, I just feel like maybe my brain won’t recover from this. It’s been one abusive relationship after the next (while not looking for it), one trauma after the next, and my capacity for light and joy feels dimmed, if not killed.

    It feels like a lot of hard work to get my brain up and running at full capacity again–work which would be easier if I had money–but I think I can do it.

    I agree that I don’t want to let them win. People who abuse you are trying to put a light out in you. They’re also abusing themselves. I suppose I can emerge from this with some understanding of the way in which men and women are socialized can cause shitty and abusive experiences for both. I mean, this last relationship–well, he certainly entered into it with a predatory mindset, but I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself in for. I gave as good as I got, and took out *all* my rage on him, for letting me down (no, I don’t take out my rage on men who I simply don’t want to stay with or are bad boyfriends; I mean, because he abused and violated me–that’s really letting me down). I think I finally gave myself the space to *go through it,* whereas I had, as you said, been numb for a long time (after terribly traumatic experiences).

    It was strange because me mirrored to me in the beginning what he thought I wanted, and in the end, my worst nightmare. By doing so he forced me into therapy, and forced me to face how I have felt about being beaten up, belittled, and raped by other men. Why would he do such a thing? I have no idea. (Was it just to hurt me in what he thought would be the worst–or best–way possible, or some sort of projective identification? I don’t know if he knows).

    I think there’s an enormous psychic weight on all of us from struggling up in the patriarchy, and men and women in relationships tend to act that shit out. I remember reading an interesting article about how straight people could take a good clue from gay people in relationships, because they have to hash everything out, with no preconceptions–taking care of house chores, giving equal weight to both partners’ professional lives, splitting childcare, emotional labor, sexuality–all of it. There is no presumption that anyone will do one or the other thing, or that one will be dominant or submissive (except, I presume, in cases of heteronormative gay couples that identify as having a “top” and a “bottom” and let that extend beyond the bedroom). I entirely agree…I think men and women have been filled with such absolute shit. I am often not myself in romantic relationships (since I’ve been trained to be passive with men), and then find myself resentful of them taking advantage. When I am myself, that type of man tends to freak out. I have to actively deprogram myself.

    But at this point I don’t even care about love, or men. I need to just survive. And to deprogram myself–for myself.

    But yes, sometimes I feel just awful, like I’ve been crushed over and over and over because of some unfortunate luck as a child, and the fact of being born female.

    I think parenting is to blame for a lot of this too. A lot of us have our “real selves” stolen from us as children, especially if they’re not palatable to the dominant world order (and we are retrained into something else)…I find it ironic that both of the men I have loved who have abused have a)had abusive fathers and b)loved their mothers and c)when not being abusive they were shy, sensitive, and artistic. One of them it was like his father would take hold of him when he’d get violent and mean. The other (though that sometimes happened) it was like, his “vulnerable” self was so hated–his imaginative or sensitive self–he’d created this entire “False Self” (which kept changing), he hated himself, he projected fantasies onto others, part of his “False Self” was his idea of himself of some masculine womanizer (extracting sex from women for ego gain), etc…on the other hand, my “real” self is radiantly disobedient, mischievous, doesn’t give a fuck, and rather aggressive. I was conditioned out of this (told how “bad” this was) because I was a girl. I imagine this first man who abused me was likely beaten, scapegoated, and belittled by his father and called “worthless” because he seemed sensitive. Ditto the second man (he probably cried a lot, and his father was a total jerk to him–neglectful, and, when around, an asshole, and an asshole to his mother), so now he can’t cry at all and is an absolute monster.

    Gender roles really are violence. And it’s kids who are the least “gender-conforming” who are most abused (nowadays, they’re not beaten or brainwashed, they’re just transed)!

    I guess I need to read some self-help books about “healing your inner child.” I can’t keep feeling this depressed. Something’s gotta give.

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you are all right.

  • calabasa

    Gracias Xavi…ya tengo un terapeuta, y tomo drogas para ayudar con la angustia. Actualmente estoy deprimida; quizas necesito otra droga para la depresion? Afortunadamente, aqui donde vivo tambien tenemos aceso a varios servicios para la salud mental, especificamente para las personas pobres (y centros para las mujeres que han experimentado abuso fisico o sexual).

    I’ve thought about it and it seems to me in the past I was able to pull out of trauma-based depressions. Working out, getting fit, and eating well always helped (and I would get back to my old sociable self). Unfortunately this never prevented future male violence (I know, I know, because when men want to be violent they’re violent). However, that’s not the only reason, I think; it’s also because I never addressed my low self-esteem issues, or had therapy for things that had happened to me, so regardless of whether I was feeling better otherwise that low self-esteem and vulnerability to abuse was just like a gigantic open wound in the ocean (it doesn’t matter how happy the fish is, if she’s still bleeding)…there are plenty of fish in the sea, but a lot of them are sharks.

    NOW I am doing the necessary work to be able to implement changes into my life once I feel better (they never tell you about therapy how hard it is or how bad it’s going to feel; it’s like exercise–it hurts at first, but in the end it’s well worth it). It’s the “feeling better” that’s the problem. Yes, I might ask for an antidepressant. (It’s hard to make yourself do something to make yourself feel better–like take a walk–when you feel depressed). I am hanging on enough to work part-time, so I think I’ll be able to get out of this. It’s just a matter of letting my brain recover. I think depression after a year of severe psychological trauma is probably pretty normal.

    Also, it’s a terrible cliche, but it really is important to just want to get better and feel better for yourself. If you’re stuck in the trap of “so I can be better for somebody else,” you’re not actually better. You’re still stuck.

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve also had a hard time. Espero que tu experiencia con tu propio terapeuta te ayude tambien, al menos un poco. I understand months of work is not close to enough. I think sometimes therapists get impatient with us.

  • HillaryLMcBride

    Maybe I’ll write one 🙂

  • Morag999

    You are not alone in your suspicion. It rang false to me too.

  • Tired feminist

    Hi John!

    Here’s how social media works: you add your friends to your profile and they can also add you to theirs, so that you can see what they post and vice-versa.

    You’re welcome!

  • Starla

    Absolutely! This is supported by evidence. There’s an article in the Violence Against Women Journal http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/20/3/293.
    Another thing that helps a lot of people is EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. I have a friend who is engaged in that process who experienced sexual assault trauma and she says it’s more helpful than any other kind of intervention she’s tried so far.

  • calabasa

    Aww, thanks, Xavi! That wasn’t a boring speech at all. (I had to look that up–thanks for the new vocabulary word)!

    I’m glad you commented when I asked for ideas for white elephant Christmas gifts, or I wouldn’t have seen this comment in response to my comment (Disqus doesn’t always give consistent notifications).

    I think you are completely right about the “man/woman” psychodramas, and how they go deeper. They go to the core of patriarchy, I think, and these patriarchal replications in family units, which is why so much violence against women is in the home and in relationships. If you think about it, the strange concept of the “nuclear family” is all about isolating women (an abuser’s strategy) from the larger community. In older patriarchal societies (like, say, ancient Greece) women were simply owned outright and kept as property and offspring-bearers within men’s households (ancient Greeks did not see women as being people the way men were people, even though there were some amazing and defiant Greek women, and lots of Greek goddesses in their lore). More communal societies are not like this; in the “village” model of raising children, women are not isolated by their husbands, have more time for themselves individually and to organize collectively, and this threatens male supremacy. I think one reason soooo many people demonize socialism is because equality for anyone means equality for women, and deep down a lot of men feel useless, and feel that, without enforcing rules, they would not have women in their lives, they would not have mates (not without taking them by force). Meanwhile, we women are programmed to believe we are useless if we don’t have mates, which is ridiculous, because a woman can walk outside and find a boyfriend if she wants to (and I’m not saying this is how it should be, I think this disparity is also a part of the patriarchy; if women were not so pushed and pulled at in every direction by men they might feel a little freer, to be, well free). We have no idea what human sexuality in an egalitarian society would really look like.

    But you’re right that when we’re disordered we attract other disordered people (so getting right in ourselves is important). People do tend to play out each other’s psychodramas–from past abuse, from childhood–if they haven’t been dealt with. Which is not to blame the victims but to try to understand sometimes why we attract certain people and they do unspeakable things they then later can’t explain. There are energetic attractions between us I think we don’t fully comprehend yet. Women and men need to mend the energy between us, and I think it has to happen at a person level at the same time as it’s happening at a political level.

    It must be a very strange thing to live in a man’s head, with all he’s been fed, that crippling mix of entitlement and insecurity. Just bizarre. (Sorry, I don’t mean to put you down. I think it’s great you’re commenting on here, stepping into new territory. We certainly need more men in the fight).

    In any case, you’re right–I shouldn’t focus on what I need to get out of my life, but what I need to get in (that’s a great way to put it). My abuser is still trying to get in (in fact, he texted me last week, “te quiero, sabes?”–his mother is from Spain–and that’s definitely something I don’t want. I’m going to need to change my number). He wants to meet with me and talk about it, but what’s to talk about when it comes to multiple instances of forcible rape that he refuses to admit actually happened? I’m going on a much-needed vacation in July to see some of my dearest female friends, and my sister, and they will kick my ass if necessary (it probably is necessary). This might be just the reset button I need.

    I have several ideas for projects to work on (some I have already begun working on), and thought the play about the White Elephant Christmas party could be one of them.

    Thank you for the idea about the poster! It’s a great one. Two of the women could have two different halves. In fact, I think it would be great if several of the women at this party were in on this (exposing these two men) and working together. You’re absolutely right, by trying to get the bottom half of that poster the rapist would be exposing his guilt.

    Thanks for the great idea! I can see this scene really building itself.

    I lived in Spain for a while when I was in my early twenties. I was teaching just outside of Madrid, and traveling in the mornings around central Spain performing a children’s play I wrote with a partner of mine. I also lived in Sevilla a month, and traveled to lots of parts of Spain (including Las Fallas in Valencia, which was amazing), and up to several beautiful towns in different parts of Galicia and Asturias, but my greatest regret is that I never made it to Cataluña. I really wanted to go to Barcelona! (For some reason there was always some rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona, as if there’s any real competition…I’d say Barecelona even though I’ve never been there)! It’s like the rivalry between northern and southern California; everyone knows which is better. 😉

    You’re right, I’m still pretty young, and there’s still a lot I can do. Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. I hope you are doing better these days, yourself.

    Also, thanks again for the idea. A poster cut in half is great!

  • Xavi

    That’s not true. I had been following this for some months, and reacted to her message asking for help, thus creating the account. Then I got answers, which I didn’t expect, and those answers took such pains at addressing my every point, that it looked disconsiderate to me not to reply. Her answers stopped, my replies did too.
    That the one asking for ideas to be the same person is a coincidence. Had it been someone else, I would have posted equally.
    There was a post that was lost and that wasn’t for Calabasa (which isn’t worth anything), and in the rest of cases I had nothing to say.
    It’s true that appearances are all against me on that one. Anyway, being up here isn’t doing me any good, not just because I’ve been called a stalker, which is quite ugly, but also because it’s a major source of alienation for me. So I’m not looking into this site anymore. You can stop watching.
    Have a very nice Wednesday and protect yourselves.

  • Xavi

    Sorry, second paragraph: “that the one asking for ideas for a theatre play” I meant. Stupid keyboard.

  • unfashionable

    Your “self-care” sounds like self abuse. How about requiring your partner to defend you, publicly and in real time, against their biological family? Why is it okay for your partner to require that you play mind games on yourself in order to gear up for and tolerate abuse? The burden should not be shifted to you to control your partner’s family, you don’t have the leverage. Partner needs more courage.