Domestic Violence and Gender Stereotypes: We need to talk

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the US Dept. of Justice, domestic violence is described as “… a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. …physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.” This definition is an “area of focus” as part of the “Office on Violence Against Women.” Why is it there? Not once in that definition is gender mentioned. That means that this abusive behavior can be perpetrated by anyone. Now, I would like to point out that I am a woman. I have been on the receiving end of sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological domestic violence. I survived. I got out. Now I look at this conversation from another side and see that we need to alter the way we talk about domestic violence.

More than 830,000 men are victims of domestic violence every year. It is very difficult to find current statistics on domestic violence where a woman is the aggressor. It is even more difficult to find statistics on domestic violence that separate the orientation of the people who are the victims. Yes, I’m talking about women being the aggressor towards men and other women. I’m also talking about men being the aggressor towards other men. Think about every graphic, article, news report, or statistic that you’ve seen recently about domestic violence. Do you recall seeing one where a man was the victim? What about seeing something where one man was abusing another man? Or seeing one where a woman was abusing another woman?

Right now, our society is in the midst of sweeping reforms in the way we view intimate relationships. In the majority of the United States, same sex couples are now allowed to marry. Antiquated laws about cohabitation and racial mixing are being struck from the public record. If we’re going to talk about gender equality, then doesn’t that equality extend to our conversations about victims’ rights? We need to start thinking of everyone as people and put an end to our us vs. them mentality. We need to stop assuming that women are the weaker sex and realize that regardless of gender or orientation, all people have the potential to be abusers, and all people can be victims of abuse.

I vividly recall thinking that something was wrong with my father’s relationship with my stepmother. (I can’t go into detail about all of this because of pending legal actions, so forgive the generalizations.) Looking back on those years he was married to her, I have to ask myself, why did he stay? Was he scared that his masculine identity would be undermined by reporting his wife to the authorities? Was he afraid that no one would believe him? Was he scared that his career in the military would be jeopardized? How did he think his family (parents, siblings, children, etc.) would react? I wish he would have said something. I wish he would have understood that no matter what the outcome of his coming forward was, it surely would have been better to out her as an abuser than to put himself and his children through the tragedy of the way their relationship ended. If he could have seen into the future, would he have made different choices?

In no way do I want to downplay the seriousness of domestic violence against women where men are the aggressor. Instead, I want people to open up the conversation. We need to speak openly about this in order to remove the stigma attached to reporting domestic violence. We need to have these conversations as a society. By talking about this openly, we can set an example for our children. I don’t want my son to think that no one will believe him if he says that someone he’s in a relationship with abuses him. Likewise, I don’t want him to think that only women can be victims of abuse. I also don’t think that we need to be teaching our daughters that they can’t be abusers. This sets them up to think that their abusive behavior is somehow different or less reprehensible then abuse that’s perpetrated by a man. We need to make sure that we stop making light of girls’ abusive behavior so that they don’t grow up to be abusive women. We also need to make sure that when we’re talking to our children about their intimate relationships that we don’t pull punches when we talk about the harsher aspects of being in a relationship with someone. They need to know that no matter their gender or orientation, they have the right to speak out and speak up. No one deserves to be abused.

If you or someone you love is a victim of domestic violence, please reach out. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/

http://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_violence

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_violence_against_men

http://www.safehorizon.org/page/domestic-violence-statistics–facts-52.html

http://www.mintpressnews.com/woman-aggressor-unspoken-truth-domestic-violence/196746/

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Challenge Accepted

So, I’ve finally been nominated for the Ice Bucket Challenge. I’ve read so many comments about it and watched so many videos about it that I decided I should educate myself before dumping ice water on my head. While I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I also believe that we can agree to disagree on some topics and continue to support one another and our causes. I see no point in coming out as against a viral challenge that has (as of 8/24/14) raised over $70 MILLION for ALS research. No matter what your feelings are on water conservation or using animals for scientific research, I’m sure you can agree that seventy million dollars is an incredible fundraising feat. If you are lucky enough to not know anyone who is affected by ALS, then please take a moment to think about someone you know who may be affected by MS, cancer of any kind, PTSD, depression, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, or any other kind of debilitating illness, then perhaps you can understand how this level of awareness and fundraising can impact not only the people researching cures for this illness, but also the people who are physically fighting against any illness, day after day. So, the following is my opinion on the whole ice bucket challenge and the people who may be against it.

Let’s start with the water conservationists. First of all, I would like to ask anyone who hates on this challenge because it is wasting water if they do anything on a daily basis to conserve water. Did you install a low flush toilet in your house? Do you let your lawn die in the summer instead of watering it? Do you donate to drinking water charities? Do you live in a region that is affected by severe drought? Do you time your showers? Ever wash your car at a car wash? Do more than one load of laundry a week? How many times have you thought about water conservation before this challenge became viral? Do you have any idea how the water cycle works? If you don’t want to dump a bucket of water on your head, I don’t care. If you want to criticize someone who does dump a bucket of water on their head because they are being wasteful, then it seems to me that you are missing the point of this fundraiser. If you really want to gripe about this challenge being a waste of water, then put your money where your mouth is and donate to a water charity. I’ve listed some helpful websites at the bottom of this post. So unless you’re Matt Damon (who co-founded Water.org and whom I have yet to see an ice bucket video from) please stop hating on one charity in the name of other charitable causes.

On to our next group, the anti-animal research people. Admittedly, I’ve only heard Pam Anderson come out against the ice bucket challenge on these grounds, but I still feel like it needs addressing. The ALS association has come out with a statement making it clear that all donors can specify how their donations are spent. While they do not say that there is no animal testing being done to further ALS research, they do say that no primate studies are being funded and that all of their research adheres to ethical guidelines. They admit to testing “using model systems such as rodents, flies, and worms to better understand disease mechanisms and to develop therapies.” These same research methods are used by many other organizations to help find treatments for other neurological diseases. I am not in any way saying that I support torturing animals. What I will say is that I don’t believe that the people doing research using worms and mice have any kind of malicious intent towards their research animals. While I wish that no animals ever had to be used as test subjects in order to find cures for human diseases, I am grateful for any treatments that come about through the course of this research, especially if it means that someone I know can have a chance at a better life. If you truly do not wish to support animal testing of any kind, then that is your choice. Please do not come out against one charity in the name of another charitable cause.

I’m not going to address any of the other naysayers, of which I am sure I could find many. I will point out that the ALS ice bucket challenge has not only raised awareness of ALS, but as a side effect has raised awareness of water conservation, medical research, and started countless conversations about what being charitable means. My son is very excited to do the challenge and has been anxiously waiting for someone to challenge him. He’s only nine, so I can’t go too deep with the explanation, but he does understand that this is something that is for a good cause. At first, he was only interested because of all the social media attention, so I thought it was important to explain as much as I could about what ALS is and why this is a fundraiser. I wanted him to understand that this isn’t just a YouTube stunt or something to make him popular. This is actually for a good cause. We are trying to do our part to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. So not only is this all for a good cause, but it can be a teachable moment for our children. It can have a positive impact on our society, if we let it. So please, won’t you sit back and take a minute to reflect on what this challenge actually means? Thanks! I’m off to dump some ice water on my head…

http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html

http://www.goodnet.org/articles/1000

http://www.projectwet.org/donate

http://thedailybanter.com/2014/08/als-association-responds-to-pamela-andersons-accusations-on-animal-testing/

 

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Do I need your permission to be sad?

(This post may contain triggers for some people. Yes, I have a therapist and I have taken medication for depression.)

The conversation I overheard was typical after a week of non-stop press coverage of a celebrity death: why would someone so funny be so sad? I stayed out of this conversation like I’ve stayed out of most of them all week. First of all, I get it. I am that funny sad person. I am that person who smiles and jokes and goes out of my way to make someone laugh, and then goes home and cries because the world is just too much to deal with. I wanted to tell these self-righteous happy people to go f**k themselves. They are so lucky that they don’t get it. I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and OCD all my life. I completely understand how someone who seemingly has a fantastic life could feel so awful, so depressed, that they would decide that existing in this world is just too much.

So let’s clear this up. Depression is WAY more than just feeling sad. Depression is a bone deep feeling and it has a chemical root. If you think that depression means that you’re not happy, you’re wrong. I am happy. I am also depressed. The two are not mutually exclusive. I know damn well that I have a pretty awesome life. There are just some times when I feel like no matter how great things are, living my life is hard. I think of my depression like it is an abusive lover. My depression makes me tired by keeping me awake at night. My depression makes me sluggish. It makes me feel weak. My depression steals my motivation. My depression is omnipresent. My depression tells me I’m fat and ugly. My depression tells me that I am never going to be good enough. Sometimes, I am a passive victim to this onslaught of abuse. Other times, I fight back and crawl out of the hole my depression has dug for me. There are times when I curl up into the fetal position and wish that it would finally finish me off. No matter what I do, no matter how unwilling of a victim I am, my depression is there, waiting for the next opportunity to knock me down.

Have I ever thought about killing myself? Yes. It’s darkly comical to listen to my own thoughts on how messy it is to die. I mean, if I could figure out a way to sterilize my death, then it would be easier to give it serious consideration. Frankly, I have never gone very far down that road because of the guilt I feel about what me dying would do to my loved ones, and how gross and smelly it would be. I think of the damage my death would do to my son. I do not want to leave him all alone. But is it better for him to have a depressed mother than no mother at all?

People are always telling me how great I am. How talented. Smart. Kind. Funny. Loved. I have no doubt in my mind that people genuinely like me and that I have a lot of great friends and people who love me. There is no magic amount of love that will vanquish my depression. Knowing all of this does not mean I can’t be depressed. Sometimes all of this feeds into my depression and I am convinced that I am not worthy of these peoples affection. Thinking about the people who love me will often give me the strength to push through the bad days. Sometimes it just isn’t enough. Sometimes I self-medicate. Alcohol. Shopping. Sex. Exercise. Sleep. But I have learned how to ask for help.

The last few months have been particularly rough for me. It has helped a lot to have someone to talk to. With everything that’s happened this week, and with everyone talking about it like they are experts, I’ve really felt pressure to remain calm and quiet. I know that keeping my thoughts and emotions on lock down will only result in an explosion. It was concerning that I haven’t written in a while. Something that the depression snuck in and stole my motivation to do was write. So, with encouragement, this is my personal thoughts on the matter of depression. It’s real. It does not discriminate. People who suffer from it are often very good at hiding their real pain. No one owes anyone an explanation as to why they are depressed. No one ever has the right to minimize the struggle of being depressed. You do not need anyone’s permission to be depressed. So, to the people who think that we don’t have a reason to be sad, please tell me what you think is a good enough reason and I will tell you where you can shove it.

If you need to talk to someone, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also visit http://www.nami.org  for information on other resources available to you. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/12/robin-williams-success-depression_n_5671898.html?utm_hp_ref=robin-williams

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Quit Drinking The Haterade

Recently, a friend showed me a Facebook post bashing moms who party too much. I won’t go into too much detail, but I’m sure you’ve seen similar posts show up in your news feed from time to time. There are some people whom I’ve unfriended or unfollowed because of their tendency to rant about stuff. I get it. You have an opinion. You’re angry about something. Rant away. When you start calling people out and slinging mud, you’re crossing a line. You’ve obviously drank too much haterade and you need to take a chill pill. Ever heard the saying “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”?… Quit slinging stones. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. We have no idea what is going on in another persons life that is causing them to act the way they’re acting, and that means we have no right to publicly call them out or bash them. We are just as bad, if not worse, then the person we are bashing when we stoop to publicly shaming people.

Whatever happened to “Love thy neighbor”? Whatever happened to it taking a village to raise a child?Why don’t we reach out to each other and lend a helping hand? Instead of judging one another, or tattling on each other, offer some assistance. I am appalled by how quick people are to call the authorities or get litigious. If you can take a minute to actually find out what’s going on, maybe there is something you can do to help. I’ve read several articles lately about women who have had the police called on them for their parenting. This woman was out grocery shopping with her husband and their autistic son when he threw a tantrum, and a bystander in the parking lot called the cops on them and loudly criticized their parenting. (1) This woman left her obstinate son in the car (for a few minutes, on a cool day) while she quickly ran an errand and some “good Samaritan” called the cops on her and she spent the next year of her life fighting the system. (2) Maybe the people calling the cops aren’t parents. Maybe they’ve never had to make these kinds of split second decisions when their nerves are shot and their patience is way past gone. There isn’t a manual that teaches you how to be a parent, nor is there some universal parenting class where you can go to learn everything there is to learn about parenting. Instead, there are laws that are there to ensure our childrens safety, and there are countless unwritten rules and speculative books that try to offer guidelines on what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. In the end, we all pretty much make this shit up as we go along. Most of our kids survive into adulthood relatively unharmed.

Why do we have to shame each other on social media? The person who wrote the aforementioned Facebook post is a mom. She loves her kids. I fail to understand why she thinks that she is the paragon of parenthood and that she somehow has the right to denigrate other mothers. What does she gain by slamming these so called party moms? Instead, wouldn’t it have been better to reach out to these people and see if there was something she could do to help? Maybe try to understand the situation better? If they don’t want her help, then surely shaming them on Facebook isn’t going to change their ways. Why spew vitriol to all your “friends” and make yourself out to be some kind of parenting guru?

I see these posts and these articles and sometimes I am utterly terrified of what people may be thinking about the way I parent my child. Are people judging me for not posting enough pictures of myself on facebook with my son? Are people judging me for posting too many pictures of my son on facebook? When I go out with my friends, are people making assumptions about where my child is? Are they judging me for going out instead of staying home and making memories with my precious son? Parenting is hard enough without having to worry about what all the other people in the world are thinking about you. Hell, life is hard enough without having to worry about that. I just wish people would stop drinking the haterade and start being kind to each other.

1 http://www.salon.com/2014/07/20/the_day_i_was_nearly_arrested_for_having_an_autistic_son/

2  http://www.salon.com/2014/06/03/the_day_i_left_my_son_in_the_car/

haterade http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=haterade

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Debt Crisis – Break Down Your Budget

I’ve come to a decision that I need to be more careful with my budget. So of course I decided to do some research and see what the “experts” say about such matters. That led me to the conclusion that I need to count my monetary blessings and be glad I can make it working just one job. Also, good gravy, no wonder people complain about rental prices! I read a little about the 50/30/20 method of budgeting. Using this method, your essentials (housing, utilities, food, clothing, phone, child care, etc.) should make up fifty percent of your after tax income. Thirty percent of your after tax income should make up your wants (entertainment, dining out, cable or dish, etc.) So you need to have a firm grasp on the difference between a want and a need. The final twenty percent should consist of savings and debt repayment. I am not a big fan of the 50/30/20 method because I like to break things down further, and I like to make spreadsheets. So I did a little more searching and came up with my own little chart. (It follows fairly close to the 50/30/20) I used it to create a spreadsheet that I can plug in gross wages to and come up with a pretty good estimate of what you need to live, depending on what you make.

Housing 30% – Rent or mortgage payments, Utilities 10%, Transportation 10% – Car payments, gas, Food 15%, Clothing 5%, Medical 10%, Personal 5% – Fun money, Savings 10% – your retirement, contributing to an emergency fund, Debt 5%

Of course, I got curious as to what this would look like if I made minimum wage. That was eye opening. Making the current Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25 an hour, your annual gross income is $15,080, which after taxes is roughly $13,021 a year. (My after tax figures are an estimate based on IRS tax tables for calculating FIT and calculating FICA at 7.65%) Using these figures, your 30% housing allowance means you can afford $325.54 per month in rent or mortgage payments. (!!!) I don’t know what the housing assistance is in my town, but I know for dang sure that I can’t find a place to rent in town for that. Even assuming your utilities are included and thus making your allowance 40%, that still only gives you $434.05 for housing. A stretch for a decent place to rent. Plus, you’d still have to come up with your deposit. Then I decided to dig a little more and look up what SNAP (food stamps) will help you with. I just took my situation (single mom with one child) and looked at the chart. I am allowed to make $1,681 per month in gross wages, which works out to $20,172 annually or about $9.69 an hour. That puts my housing and utilities (40%) at $580.62 a month. So, slightly better prospects. However, if you make even one penny more that $9.69 an hour (or you fail to meet other requirements) you no longer qualify for SNAP benefits.

I’m sharing all of this because I think it is interesting. I also think that breaking it down like this is a reality check as to why this countries citizens are having such a hard time financially. Even under my IBR plan for my student loans, my student loan payments far exceed 5% of my income. This leaves me making hard decisions in other areas of my budget and trying to come up with the rest of that money by sacrificing other budget items. Education is just a small part of our nations debt picture. It’s a catch 22 because better paying jobs want you to have an education, and most of us have no choice but to go into debt getting that education. Our country also has a lot of pride, and for every person who may abuse the system and it’s so called entitlement programs, there are countless others who would rather work three jobs than see their families go without.

So, now I will get a bit preachy and say that I firmly believe that we should be educating ourselves about debt. This stuff needs to be taught in school. I would argue that it is far more important to know how to live within your means than it is to write in cursive. If our schools won’t teach our children this, then we need to teach them ourselves. So this means we also have to educate ourselves. Every idea in this post was researched on the internet and born out of conversations that I’ve had countless times. So, continue the conversation. Share this around. Educate yourself. If you want a copy of my spreadsheet (I created it using OpenOffice) shoot me an e-mail and let me know.

http://dss.sd.gov/foodstamps/eligibility/11.13AllotEligChart.pdf

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040tt.pdf

http://money.msn.com/how-to-budget/how-much-should-you-spend-on-weston.aspx

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-much-rent-you-can-really-afford-renters-solutions-186462

http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm  

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Just Bust My Give a Damn Already!

Sometimes it really seems like some people just don’t know how to care about somebody else. You just have to wonder if this is a choice they’ve made. Does it take practice to truly not give a shit about other people’s feelings? Is it a genetic predisposition? How is it possible for some people to be so utterly uncaring? I always want to believe that people can change, but some people just seem to want to prove me wrong. I’m not just talking about one person, but a plethora of people that have come into my life and my friends lives. I am friends with some big hearted people and it tears me up to watch them be mistreated by people. Some of us seem to have cornered the market on caring about people and we seem to attract the opposite. The more we give, the more other people take from us.

For once, I would like to just not care. I want to not cry about stupid boys. I want to not care if someone misses me. I want to not care if someone dreams about me, thinks about me, feels sorry for the way they treated me… to not want to know if they ever really cared for me at all. I want to take all my warm fuzzy feelings about them and rip them out and set them on fire so I never have to feel anything for them ever again. Would that make my life easier? Would it change the person I am? If I could bust my give a damn, could I keep myself from being hurt? Do I really want to be just like them?…

For all the people that take advantage of the love I have to offer, there are more people in my life that appreciate me just the way I am. They reciprocate. If I was uncaring, wouldn’t it mean that I would be just as uncaring towards the people that love me back? As much as it hurts sometimes to love, it would hurt more to never love. The only option that we seem to have is to try to be more selective about who we give our hearts to. Aside from that, we just have to cry with each other in solidarity and love ourselves enough to know that we deserve better.

I’ve said before that love is a four letter word. So is hope. It is both a blessing and a curse to love and hope. When you can see the good in a person, love them in spite of their flaws, you always hope that they will see how much you love them and want to be a better person for you. So when they can’t pull their head out of their ass and appreciate the fantastic woman standing in front of them who loves them, sometimes your hope dying is what it takes to cut the last tie and let go of that love too. I’m not saying it’s easy or that it will happen overnight, but after some time you will be able to honestly tell yourself that you did everything you could, gave everything you had, and you deserve someone who appreciates that. My hope is still in tact. My love is still mine to give. I have to believe that a person exists who will appreciate everything I have to offer. I have to hold on to the hope that I will someday find that person. For now, I just have to go on loving the people in my life who appreciate me already.

My Give A Damn’s Busted http://youtu.be/o40fwZgSFPI

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Not My Coup de Foudre

Once again, my weekend has provided me with ample fodder for blog posts. Three nights and three days of fun in the sun are apparently incentive enough for the opposite sex to try wooing me (and several of my friends.) And by wooing me, I mean ham-handedly “complimenting” me. Oh, and offering to send me pictures of their… parts… Apparently sending D pics is a thing. I have heard stories from several lady friends about their experiences with this. There are the guys that just send you the picture and take you totally and disgustingly by surprise. There are the guys who ask first and don’t wait for a response in the affirmative before sending a picture, so you are grossed out but not completely caught off guard. There are the guys who ask to exchange pics… then there are the real gentlemen who ask first and actually listen to you when you say you don’t want to see that… First off guys, your penis is not pretty. For. Real. There is a reason that you don’t see paintings of penises in the Louvre. (And before you argue with me about the naked babies and Greek Gods, I am talking about just a close up of a penis… like you seem to think we want to see…) Or tasteful art prints of penises for sale at Pier One. I believe that most women do not want to stare at that particular part of the male anatomy for extended periods of time. So please, stop sending us unsolicited pictures of your dick. Yes, I know that you want to see pictures of our boobs and you could stare at them endlessly. I’m also sure that you are getting some thrill out of thinking about us looking at a picture of your dick. Most of us are offended. I’m assuming it must work to your advantage at some point with some women (I’ve never met a girl who gets with a guy because of that…) I know some kind of kinky people, and even they don’t want you to send them a picture of your dick. Enough said.

Moving along… Enough with the butt compliments. Unless you can tell me I’m callipygian, and know what that means, please don’t go on and on and on about my ass. Find something else to compliment me on. Yes, there are endless songs about butts and how much guys like them. Yes, I’m glad you think I have a great butt. Thank you. Move along. And don’t slap it. Unless I know you real well (like, I know your middle name and I’ve met your mama) do not walk up to me and slap my ass. One of these days, I’m going to turn around and assault someone for slapping my ass.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, learn to spell. Learn to spell words like tomorrow. (No joke, more than once it has been sent to me as tomarow.) I get the text lingo and shorthand and all of that stuff. I do. But if you regularly cannot spell it will drive some women away. Call me a hater all you want, but it is something that I can’t get over or around. If The Rock came on to me (Iwouldlosemyshit) (lose vs. loose) and then started texting me and couldn’t spell, I don’t know if I could overlook it even for him. Grammar is a sticking point as well, but more so in conversation. Ignorance is one thing, stupidity is a choice.

So, I will leave you with what coup de foudre is. It is a French term for love at first sight, literally translated to a thunderbolt or lightning strike. It is my second favorite French term, the first being faire du lèche vitrine, “to lick the windows” i.e. window shopping. It just implies SO much more than window shopping…

Thanks for the dick pic https://www.etsy.com/listing/190820250/thanks-for-the-dk-pic-cross-stitch?ref=listing-5

The Sexy Spelling Song (explicit) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPWaC0UK5zg&feature=share

Coup de foudre http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/coup+de+foudre

Faire du lèche vitrine http://foreignparts.typepad.com/foreign_parts/2008/11/%C3%A0-aimer-faire-du-l%C3%A8che-vitrines.html

Callipygian http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/callipygian

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