Another thing about madness is that, as we know from historical and current evidence, women are often diagnosed as mad when they’re reacting to totally abnormal circumstances (eg, life in patriarchy) in perfectly normal, understandable ways. See “hysteria” diagnoses, the overprescription of “mother’s little helpers”, the tendency to label all women “screeching harpies”, and pretty much the entire body of Freudian theory.
Given the things many women live through, nervous breakdowns, psychotic breaks from reality, physical complaints with seemingly no somatic origin, panic attacks, emotional shutdowns, impulsive self-harming tendencies, rage, antisocial desires or tendencies, and the like are really not terrible overreactions: we are basically living in a war zone, and the effects are evident, especially if we are on the front lines (women who exist on more than one axis of oppression at the same time) and have no support.
Take me, for one example. I am a fairly functional person (at least by my own standards), but if you present me with a direct threat (homelessness, imminent loss of already-precarious below-poverty-level financial security, hunger, detainment, restraint, abuse, etc), I will respond in ways that will probably seem pretty fucking “mad.” To be more specific, I will start to panic and behave almost exactly like a terrified caged animal. That does not mean I am inherently mad or there is some mysterious nebulous thing wrong with me (“chicks, man … they’re irrational”) – but it also doesn’t mean I’m faking it for pity or that I can always control it at will, either.
Or I might just get angry and try to speak out or organize, and that also doesn’t mean I’m insane. (“Chicks, man … they’re crazy.”) Women should not be labeled insane for reacting to external conditions. Especially because the psychiatric industry (where many of us end up) does not do anything to help with these external conditions or give us any useful material to cope with them. Women who are labeled mad often have a huge set of underlying circumstances, and it would be good to sort them out in consciousness-raising communities before simply accepting the labels and trying to live them out like acceptable consumer-automatons. These manifestations are not healthy, but they didn’t spring out of nowhere, either, and many of them can be understood if not worked with and channeled to the point that they’re largely overcome.
Interestingly, the blog I reposted that from is a body-acceptance blog … that intersperses pictures of women of all sizes (but mostly not thin) and colors who are mostly unshaven … with reblogged posts that say something to the effect of “feminism doesn’t have the right to take away my makeup!!!”
And a lot of talk about sex-positivity and sexxxxiness. I mean, okay, our society does a bang-up job convincing us that women who aren’t thin are totally undesirable. But why’s it always gotta be about sexy vs. not sexy? Why’s it always still gotta look like the male fantasy idea of sexy, just with extra pounds or extra hair?
For any young woman out there who happens across this (or any other bastion of radical feminism) and thinks I/we think you or other sexually active women are “slutty”:
I want to laugh, because you would seriously be shocked at how many people I’ve slept with. It’s none of your business how many, but there have been a lot. (Like, a number greater than twenty.) They’ve been males and females of various presentations and various levels of social/gender conformity. Some have considered themselves trans, with “ladysticks” or “front holes”, if that’s important to you. And I’ve done some pretty ridiculous stuff, with all kinds of weird props and in all kinds of weird scenarios. I’ve also done it for pay, more than one time. I do regret sleeping with some of the people I’ve slept with and doing some of the things I did, but only because the people were not nice people and their actions in some way caused me lasting harm, or because the things I did were indicative of the mental state I was in at the time – not simply because sexual activity occurred and therefore I feel I’ve fallen from grace or something.
The point is, I’m hardly a virgin, a celibate nun, or someone who’s been in only one long-term partnership for my adult life (although my politics would be no less valid if I were any of those things). I’d be a ridiculous hypocrite, not to mention flat-out wrong and in direct contradiction to radical theory, if I were to think of another woman as “a slut” or judge her sex life, especially in terms of “morality.”
Put the “everyone who disagrees with third-wave feminism is a moral conservative” pamphlets back where you found ‘em, and possibly consider branching out into a wider field of critical thought.
Every time we leave the house, it could end with a struggle to the death. Pleasant thought. Thanks sex-positive social justice warriors, for letting me know that you’re ok with that, really, so long as you get to go to your BDSM “munches” and pretend that you’re badass “sluts.”
Once I got into a conversation with a pro-kink commenter on Rage Against The Man-Chine’s blog, wherein he mentioned that he was so totally unthreatening, nobody would ever know by looking at him that he fantasized about [doing lurid, disturbing sexual things] to random females he caught sight of but didn’t necessarily know.
He went on to remind us that he could be anyone: our librarian, our postman, our grocery store clerk, our professor, our pastor (!) …
And he really got bent out of shape when I told him that was creepy and frankly triggering. Because women know that any random stranger (or person we might even know) could be fantasizing about our violent rape, torture, and/or death. We know that because the handiwork of such random strangers (and people we might know) is broadcast on the news all the time, when they rape and torture and kill women.
I don’t care if some dude doesn’t ACTUALLY rape and torture and kill me or other women (LOL, silly me, just like all these other paranoid women, worrying about rape all the time, am I right?) – I don’t even want anyone fucking thinking about it. If that makes me a frigid uptight thought-policing prude, I will wear that label with pride.
If I’d taken an extra few minutes, I could’ve smoothed the frizzies down and still been ready for face-time in less than 10. I’m not a Scandinavian supermodel, either.
Women are fine the way we are – we really don’t need makeup to look presentable, much less “good”. And no matter what our faces look like or what our hair’s doing (whether we look “good” or look “terrible” or somewhere in between), we are always deserving of love.
I was just telling my semiseparatist underground compatriot Chelsea that all the calmest, least-rapiest dudes I’ve ever known were some combination of a.) vegans and b.) opiate addicts. Clearly that’s not a guaranteed recipe for success, because there are other underlying factors which determine whether or not a dude is going to remain an open misogynist or just chill the fuck out (as some vegans and opiate addicts obviously remain violently misogynist), but that’s the general pattern I’ve observed.
There is some science that suggests veganism lowers testosterone production, and it’s pretty widely accepted among opiate addicts that opiate usage reduces sex drive; I speculated about what would happen if more males (specifically activist males) were to become vegan opiate addicts, and wondered if we would see a bunch of all-male homoplatonic pacifist communes springing up and rape rates going way down.
She asked how one typically acquires opiates, and I said it’s usually in the form of prescription painkillers, hydrocodone probably being the safest and Fentanyl the best. She replied, “So what you’re saying is, we need to get more rads into pharma?”
I think that’s relevant to earlier discussions as well.
My roommates are apparently confused as to why I want to leave. I’m confused by that. Would many people stay after someone else raged at you, threw things, insulted your chronic pain (insinuating you were a weak and pathetic person who was just mining or even faking your pain to get pity), insulted your job and basic personality traits, then screamed at you to fuck yourself and stormed out of the house, all the while sobbing about how you had hurt their feelings and were just asking for what you got?
I hope not. But I know they do. That’s how our society functions, in fact. I’m sure this person’s family (and probably some friends) have done the same thing to her, over and over again, and she’s seen it on TV and in movies, to the point that it’s normalized and she thinks that is just how people interact and react. I know I definitely thought that until I was about eighteen and received some kind of exposure to people outside of my family, their social groups, and my immediate school peers.
This type of violent aggression is indeed normalized, typically when it’s a male being violent against a female. Abuse tends to trickle down, so women learn this kind of abusive behavior from males (from whom it’s socially condoned, excused, and even expected) and often use it against other women (and animals, and children).
And people who have lived through it tend to be compelled to relive it. Especially women, who are socially conditioned to expect it, told to understand and forgive it, taught that it’s their own fault, convinced that they’re “blowing things out of proportion”, and considered to be lying whenever they talk about it. I know I relive abusive situations, or at least enter into them because they’re familiar and I know I can live through them. But they’re not healthy, and I always know I cannot sustain them or just put up with them, and when they reach a certain point of escalation I need to walk away. I resent being told to “give them a chance” or “talk it out” or “try something different.” No. I’m leaving. Have fun finding someone who will take more shit. Goodbye.
Sometimes even then, I have to stay longer than I might want to, because I don’t always have anywhere else to go (or the money to get or stay there) right away. The only time I truly wish I had money is in these situations: so I could say, “I’m leaving now, because you have crossed a line and your apologies are superficial and meaningless,” and I’d be able to go somewhere that very night and start over on my own terms as soon as possible. That sounds silly, but it’s my dream.
Female Silence, Pleasing Everyone, and The Uncertainty of Success
I’m actually a fairly buoyant (I hate that word in relation to people, but for lack of a better word, I can stay afloat in virtually all situations and it is hard to truly sink me to a point which I am totally submerged; there is always Plan B), happy person with a vibrant intellectual and social life.
And I know saying so on the internet does not make it so, but since we probably don’t know me IRL, you’ll have to take my word for it: I make conversation fairly easily with certain strangers and am always thinking about something clever or aesthetically pleasing or interesting, just for the purpose of keeping myself entertained.
But regardless of what my life is actually like or how I actually feel, people are always going to ascribe weird motives to me, either through projection or through an inability to think outside of stereotypes or a combination of both.
If I talk about the things I do and how much I enjoy my life, I am perceived as a careless, vain, hard-partying, and self-important asshole who is trying to lord my happiness over other people. If I talk about my genuine troubles or anything that irritates me, I am perceived as negative, the source of my own suffering, incapable of caring for myself, and a pity-mongerer.
So I’ve often decided that the way around this is to simply be silent, but then I am called rude, pathetic, stupid, cold, “bitchy”, manipulative, and cunning. This isn’t limited to me and my life either: most people, especially women, are held to these same no-win standards. It seems like the only way for a woman to succeed in interpersonal life is if she deliberately lobotomizes herself – either literally, through mood-altering drugs (as the surgery has fallen out of favor lately) or figuratively, through training herself to be as docile and inane as possible.
Which isn’t to say that women are at fault. The blowback for failing to self-lobotomize is harsh: losing jobs, living situations, relationships with friends and family, etc. We’re presented with shitty options and told to choose. If we don’t choose wisely, we are evil and awful and should [insert various violent act/s] ourselves already.
I dunno, dudes, I just want to get back to my enriching, exciting life, whether it’s inner or outer or a combination. I’m not satisfied with self-lobotomy for myself or for women as a class either.
I don’t think I’m better than anyone because I don’t wear makeup. I’m not shaming anyone for wearing makeup. I just know that makeup is socially mandated and many, many women feel hideous without makeup on – when that’s simply not true. (No matter who you are, you are not hideous, with or without makeup.)
I’m hoping at least one woman can look at the pictures and think, “she’s not hideous, and I kind of look like that, so that means I’m not hideous either!”
If it allows even one woman to see a positive representation of someone who looks sort of like she does, that’s what I set out to do.
There's a weird tendency for centrist-liberals to mistake "speaking truth" for "seeking pity."
But of course many of them claim to be so into the intersections of oppression – ergo listening to poor people and people of color and disabled people etc. should logically be very important to them. Except no. They tell us to shut up and stop seeking pity (so they can keep talking about, and often garnering pity from other white middle class people because of, their own middle-class, white experiences).
I don’t know what’s up with that. I honestly do not understand what the mechanism is behind that. Other than an individual approach as opposed to a political approach – micro vs macro, failing to see the forest for the trees kind of shit.
“I used to think also. But I see now I cannot watch anything because of how women are portrayed. There is two anime made for women by women that I recommend for females any age to watch. Otherwise I just read. TV and film are too painful.”
That’s a big part of what I’m talking about. Once one’s consciousness has been raised, it hurts to watch the way women are portrayed. And watching other people try to interpret real-life women through the lens of TV, and/or try to emulate women on TV, is extra painful.
(I am convinced that my roommate thinks I am manipulative and awful because she watches too much TV, where women are portrayed as either simpering pushovers or manipulative and awful [or some combination of the above]. I am actually none of those things, but try telling her that.)
As I mentioned here, I can’t get into anime, but I will take your word for it. Mostly I just don’t watch TV at all. It averages out to about once every six months or once a year.
Reading, however: I also read, voraciously. At least once a day. But I’ve been reading since I was three years old or younger (it was apparently spontaneous learning: I cannot remember a time when I didn’t understand what the written word meant, although of course grasping content has been an ongoing process), so I’ve been reading at an adult level since I was seven, and I also worked in a bookstore for years, so by now I’m a hard sell in that respect too and exasperated by a lot of stuff in print as well. I read a lot of feminist and otherwise radical theory, clinical texts, nonfiction, and stuff written by people on the internet (opinion pieces, speculative fiction, etc). The internet is actually a gold mine for reading material and research. Once I find a good source, I am loyal to it until it dries up or I move on. Can’t say the same for any other kind of media.