True Empowerment for Women (It Isn’t in 50 Shades of Any Particular Color)

true power

In the crashing and crushing wake of nuttiness that is Fifty Shades of Grey I am compelled to break from my usual format to address the one thing that bothers me most about these books and now the movie.  Here’s a hint, it’s not the sex, though I’m not a fan of that either. Don’t worry, this isn’t a book review.

There are a plethora of criticisms for this series and movie, and I have no intention of addressing them all because lots of people who are more informed than I have already done such a thorough job with them.  My biggest issue is the one word I see repeatedly popping up about it, “empowerment”.  There are many times throughout this series where the poor little protagonist puts up with whatever because it supposedly gives her a feeling of power.  I can’t begin to guess how the author hoodwinks her audience into thinking this is real, I do know that even the BDSM folks have spoken out against this book as blatantly disrespectful to women and their own lifestyle. Maybe that should tell us something.

I absolutely agree with women being empowered, but apparently not in the same way as someone who thinks that empowerment means blindfolding her and whipping her before sex.

My parents raised me to be independent, to be smart, and to be as powerful as my little 5′ 2″ body could be (mostly by using my brains. Mind control is a huge part of this equation).  Here are some of the things they did that I believe actually empowered me to choose well in relationships, to protect myself in potentially dangerous situations and to keep myself as safe as possible.

1. My dad taught me the difference between flattery and kindness, and between attraction and love.

If a guy constantly stares into your eyes, tells you that you’re hot (or even if they’ve learned to use the word beautiful), makes suggestive remarks, but never actually listens to anything you say, I’m gonna go out on a limb here.  That “one thing” your mom, or aunt or dad told you that men want … that guy’s after it.  He doesn’t love you.  He loves himself.  Run.

My dad gave my sister and I another gift in this regards … he built us up constantly.  He was always telling us how smart we were, how pretty we were, how much fun we were, how valuable we were to the world.  There is nothing like hearing those kinds of words from a man who expects nothing in return.  If you’re reading this, daddies take note.  Someone will compliment your daughters.  Someone will make them feel special.  The more special they already feel, the less likely they are to get into a relationship built on empty words.

JamarWeb-115

2. My mom taught me never ever to put up with abuse, of any kind, from a man.

Here’s how she did this.  One day mom was on the phone with a lady who was lamenting that her husband had pushed her.  She asked my mom if this was abuse.  “Yes, of course it is,” Mom responded.

“I thought so.  So, I told him that if he did it again, I’m leaving.”

“Right. You’re missing a key phrase though.  Tell him ‘I’m leaving, and I’ll be back with a baseball bat, to bash your head in.'”  Listening to this conversation and those words coming from perhaps the kindest and gentlest woman I’ve ever met, had a dramatic impact on me.

“Did you mean that?” I asked my mom when she had hung up.

“Of course I did. Do you think for one second that I would allow some jerk to push me? Don’t you dare put up with something like that!”

I haven’t ever come close to being pushed, hit or even tickled too harshly by a man, but it meant something to me to be reminded that I also have power in a relationship … and so does a baseball bat.

3. My mom and dad both taught me that I am not physically stronger than a man.

In light of my last point, this may sound contradictory, but let me explain.  In most cases, no matter how many special secret agent women on tv single-handedly beat six men to a pulp with their mad kickboxing skills, women are not physically stronger than men.  Calm down.  I’m not saying we’re not strong.  I do know women who may be stronger than some men they encounter, but I am not.  And I won’t be.  I’m not built that way.

So, I protect myself in other ways.  I don’t spend my time surrounded by men who would use their strength to do me harm.  I pay attention to my surroundings when I’m out by myself.  I try not to look distracted or vulnerable. And I made sure in the dating world that anyone who wanted to date me talked with my dad or brother first.  Call me old-fashioned, but no man has ever dared to pretend like they would hit me after meeting my dad or brother.  Also, now I’m pretty sure anyone who intended to harm me would take one look at my husband and think, “surely there are less painful ways to die.”  Again, these are the cases where your attacker or abuser is someone you know.  Not all attacks are avoidable, but so many times they are if we just use our heads.

4. My mom, dad, society and all of my life experience taught me that you can’t change someone just by being in a relationship with them.

I actually heard someone rebut an article against the abuses found in Fifty Shades by saying that Christian clearly had problems and Ana was trying to help him.  Christian had been abused by his mother and therefore wanted to hurt all women who looked like her.  Ana loved him through it all, (not sure “loved” is the right word for that), and eventually he came to love her too.  Pardon me while I run for a tissue.

Let’s just not.  Loving people who are damaged is basically what life is all about.  I’m totally for it.  Loving people so that they’ll change … not so much.  That’s not even a good premise for a friendship, let alone a dating or marriage relationship.  How much would you appreciate it to hear someone say, “I’m just loving you in the hopes that you’ll be better than you are right now.”  Geez.  Thanks a lot!

Also, a relationship isn’t supposed to replace therapy.  A girl told me once that it was okay if her boyfriend hit her because he was “really going through something” and she had taken psychology classes on how to deal with people like that.  I’m guessing I don’t have to spell out my reaction to this “logic”.  Wait, is that a baseball bat I see swinging toward his head?

Of course your life is up to you.  Read what you like, watch what you like.  I’m also not trying to change you.  Just don’t deceive yourself.  What you read and watch and the way it’s presented affects you.  It can change your mind in ways you wouldn’t believe.  30 years ago no one would have thought that a book or movie like Fifty Shades would ever hit main stream and sell jillions of copies and make women think it’s cool for a man to control their every move.

Please don’t believe this is a step toward empowerment.  Please don’t think that abuse is okay as long as the victim chooses it.  Please don’t allow yourself to be treated like garbage.  Let’s use our heads.  Let’s find true power.  Let’s pray for the victims of abuse and not try to make it look sexy.  Completely your business.  I’m just sayin …

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Broken Crayons

Crayons
Image courtesy of trashfreeliving.com

I walk around this house all day picking things up.  You would think that my house would eventually get clean because of this, but the truth is there’s always “stuff” where it’s not supposed to be no matter how many times I clean.  Lately, the things out of place that I find most annoying are broken toys, particularly crayons.  My three-year-old is a little creature of habit and lately he has been cultivating a habit of breaking crayons for the mere pleasure of hearing them snap.  Also, there is a lovely feeling of power that fills him when something solid cracks between his herculean fingers.  Behold the mighty Caleb who has the ability to snap crayons in a single blow!  I guarantee you, he is thinking along these lines.

The most irritating thing about broken crayons is that all their potential for coloring is still intact.  They are still as color worthy as before, but now, no one will touch them because they present a slightly more complicated grip, pressure on paper, they aren’t as pretty etc… Grr!  Even Caleb, the great breaker of the crayons himself, no longer has any use for them once they are broken, unless it’s to peel the paper off and leave IT scattered around with the crayons.  Paper ripping is just an added bonus to ruining crayons.

There always seems to be someone in my life who is very difficult to deal with.  I used to think that they were placed especially in my path because I had some sort of knack for working with hardship cases, and now I’ve come to the conclusion that, as I am not the least bit adept at dealing with these people, they merely come into my life so much because there are too many of them to avoid.  Grown up people, looking for the rush that comes with the power to hurt something that appears solid, have snapped them in half with their words, or actions, or an artful combination of the two.  Unfortunately, broken crayons and people are everywhere.

Lately there has been a particularly hard individual.  Don’t worry, if you’re reading this blog and you’ve recently made my acquaintance, it’s not you.  If I thought there was a chance that the person in question read my blog, I wouldn’t mention them at all.  Now that we’ve got that settled, here we go.  This person is more difficult because unlike most of the broken people in my life, I have discovered that I don’t like her.  It’s a weird feeling for me.  I usually like everyone.  Truly, even people that are super broken, unlovely, hard to deal with, I’m all over it.  But not with her.  So here are things I’ve learned about dealing with difficult people …

1. Every person is important because they exist.

People don’t earn importance because of the things that they do.  People are important because they are flesh and blood.  They are living here on this planet, so they’re just as valuable as I am.  They possess just as much potential for coloring this world with their existence, and there isn’t any option about throwing them away just because they are broken in a couple of places and have some of their paper ripped off.  SOMEONE somewhere will have to deal with them.

2. I don’t like everyone and that is just life.  Unfriending them on Facebook just makes me immature.

Again, a very hard concept for me.  I can usually find something about a person that I just love and that makes me connect with them all the better and like them even more.  Enjoying people’s peopleness is usually easy for me.  Here is the shocker of the day.  I almost unfriended this person on Facebook.  I know, right?  The ultimate disgrace!  Being “unfriended” on a social network.  That’ll teach HER to be hard to deal with!  I didn’t actually do that, I just wanted to. But then I realized that, I am actually a grown-up so I should act like it, and all people deserve some dignity … even in the Facebookosphere.

3.  Everyone is broken, just in different places.

There are people out there who find me a difficult person to deal with.  Somewhere, someone might even be writing a blog post about me and how annoying I am.  It’s true.  There are no perfect crayons in the box of the world.  We are broken because the world is broken.  Because people say the wrong things at the wrong time.  Because humanity has fallen.  That’s all.  It’s just us here.  Some of us have just been melted, pressed back into place, and had paper rewrapped around the weak spots, but some people have no one to do that for them.  So their brokenness is just out there, for everyone to see.  It isn’t fair, but it is reality.  I have mostly surrounded myself with people who are willing to put up with my breaks and bulges where I got fixed.  They know that the paper isn’t hiding my other faults very well, but they don’t care, because they love me.  Everyone needs people who pretend the paper is doing its job.  We should be those people for the other broken people.

4.  Jesus liked the broken crayons best.

I imagine that if Jesus came into my house and sat down to color with Caleb, He would not reach for the newest box of crayons.  He would probably use the smaller pieces, the blunt edges, the ruined parts to make his work of art.  When I complained to Jesus about the person I almost unfriended on Facebook, He said as much to me (not out loud).  He reminded me of Mary Magdalene, one of His favorite followers, who was a prostitute before she met Him.  And of Zaccheus and Peter and … of myself.  All of us hopeless cases.  He had the time to mess with us.  He used our broken parts to make His story more beautiful and more interesting.  How could we not take the time for these others?

5.  People stuff does not fit nicely into a crayon box.

There are no really perfect categories for humanity.  We’ve discussed this before.  Shoving people into little boxes just doesn’t seem to work out.  We have no idea of the depth of most people.  I can’t remember who said it, but someone famous who’s name you would surely be impressed with said once that “The most complex character in fiction is not remotely as complicated as the simplest person in real life.”  Something like that was said by someone famous once.  I promise.  You get the idea, of course.  People don’t tell us why they are the way they are.  Most of the time, they don’t even know it themselves.  They don’t apologize for being hard to deal with, for lying horizontal, when you need them to stick up straight so you can fit more things into the box.  People just are what they are.

6. The Earth revolves around the sun … not around me.

Obvious.  I know that.  In my head I know it.  But still in my selfish heart there is the thought that this life is a movie with me as the main character.  Everyone that comes in and out of the scenes does so to further my story.  Wrong.  People who decide that life is all in the pursuit of their own happiness are delusional.  I’ve seen many quotes swirling around on Facebook and Twitter: memes to the effect of, “if someone is in your life that isn’t contributing to your happiness, walk away from them,  Life is too short for that”.  Some are a bit more subtle in their selfishness, “A person who hurts you gives up their right to be in your life”… blah blah blah.  It all comes to the same thing.  Broken people sometimes look for others to break because they think it will make them look less broken.  So they hurt people.  They hurt you, or me.  But life is not just about us.  Sometimes people-breakers have to have someone stick with them.  Someone they have hurt even.  I have had many people stick with me in the past even after I have stabbed them in the back, said the wrong thing to them … hurt their feelings.   I’m glad their only source of humanity wasn’t wrapped up in the wisdom of Facebook memes.  If any of you friends are reading this post, thanks for dealing with this difficult person.  I love you.

So maybe all of this doesn’t help when dealing with the crayon pieces scattered throughout your life, but it helps me.  A little more perspective is always a plus for a brain like mine.  I tend to think that everyone’s life experience is similar to mine, and therefore, they should all behave exactly as I do. However, the ramifications of there being 6 billion Juliens running around in this world are so catastrophic, I just don’t let my mind settle there.

 

P.S. Just to clarify, I am in no way recommending that someone stay in an abusive relationship.  I am talking merely about hurt feelings here, and figuring out people at large.  If someone hits you, or is cruel to you … get away from them immediately.  Someone else can help them with their brokenness.  That doesn’t need to be you.

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