50 Shades of Gray, abuse in lit, being triggered, misogyny, narratives of abuse, rape culture, self-care, trigger warnings, triggers, writing about abuse
My last blog post was an uplifting little thing about remembering who I am. It was “up.” I was “up” when I wrote it. I am not always “up.” The point of self-awareness and even self-care isn’t to cure yourself of all negativity and struggle. That’s impossible. The point is to be able to recognize your limits, push them but also respect them, adequately cope with bad days, and take full advantage of good days.
Good days are when I sleep through the night, don’t lose my patience with my punkin, write something, and remember to eat and drink water. Maybe throw in a short hike and a favorite song on my car stereo.
Bad days are…my own to deal with, at least for now.
Last summer was bad for domestic violence victims and survivors. That Ray Rice video is something I can’t get out of my head. (Then it came out that some writers had raped some other writers, and there were elements of emotional and physical abuse within those stories as well. Then Ghomeshi. Then Cosby. And on and on. Ugh.)
I was fresh into a complete overhaul of my life and had never spoken out about my domestic abuse survivor status before, until I saw that video and just snapped.
I wrote and published several essays on the topic very quickly. I’m invested in conversations and activism within the literary community that address rape and abuse culture and misogyny. Which means I relive some really nasty stuff on the regular. Which means I’ve pulled back on writing publicly about it, at least for now.
So no, for the same reason I did not want to read Twilight after seeing the movies (dude, Edward, let GO of her arm and stop with the gaslighting already), I do not want to read 50 Shades of Grey.
And let me back up and say that I have this thing where I don’t blog or comment on things I haven’t read. Call me crazy. My Facebook feed is full of comments by people I’m going to go ahead and assume have read 50 Shades because DANG do they have opinions: “He’s abusive!” “She’s liberated!” “It’s consensual!” “It perpetuates the idea that a woman can save a man if she loves him enough and takes enough of his crap!” Hmm, maybe I should read it…
Oh wait, it’s written poorly? Um. I currently have bookmarks in Hillary Clinton’s memoir, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and Sandra Simonds’ The Sonnets. I think I’m good.
I’m not going to waste my time on this book. I don’t want to read about abuse OR not-that-edgy male-dominant hetero sex. I’m not a housewife looking for a thrill, or a survivor looking for something else to be angry about. I don’t want to relate to anything in that book. I don’t want to discuss artistic license and freedom of expression, or how no one really understands the BDSM dynamic if they aren’t into it, or the myriad ways that ANOTHER narrative in which a rich man has his way with a vulnerable woman is damaging society.
I will do that—I will risk my mental health and mood and blood pressure—for a good read, something crafted and thought-provoking, something actually edgy (for real, how boring is most people’s sex? That’s what I keep thinking, and not wanting to think…).
Mostly, I know I will see abuse in this book. I know I will. I see it everywhere. I would like to not see it. Just for a while. I would like to write something that isn’t about being abused. I would like to feel something that isn’t about being abused. I would like to someday write a quintessential thing about being abused and put it all behind me. Someday.
A friend invited me to submit a poem or essay to an anthology of DV and rape survivors. I can’t. For now.
I wrote an essay in response to a new lit mag’s (Lockjaw) publication of a baaaaad poem that glorifies and aestheticizes violence against women. Thinking I would try to publish it, I asked three trusted friends to read it and help me make it better. They graciously did—except that I have changed my mind about publishing it. For now. I can’t.
I wrote an essay about trigger warnings, and that was the proverbial last straw for a while. The Facebook comment thread was 178 deep, and heated, and that was not a good day for me. Society, I will be back some time soon to rip you a new one for silencing me, even temporarily. For now, you can keep your sanctioned abusive smut, your Ray Rices, and your self-righteous academic SWMs (straight white males, not single writing moms! See what I did there, with the blog title? Wink.).
I’m reading three books by three strong women, and through them, I am remembering that I am strong, too. No triggers necessary, and not one shade of gray in that sentiment.