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Kai Jones

Yes, it's really hard to examine and challenge decisions you've already made and committed to, but doing those things doesn't mean you necessarily have to *change* those decisions. Even being unhappy about some element of the consequences of the decision doesn't have to mean abandoning it: it might still be a good compromise. You might love your husband enough to forgive something in him that you'd disparage in a man you have no emotional attachment to, and that's a good thing, and probably it's true because you know other, good things about your husband to outweigh the bad.

Lyn

I never said anything negative to my friends or family about my college boyfriend during most of our three year relationship. As a result, it was very hard for me to have a sense of perspective about a lot of his troubling behavior and attitudes, including a number of sexist and even misogynist statements and regular attempts to undermine my confidence or order me around.

I hear that. I was in a relationship for many years with a man who, over time, became more and more controlling and manipulative, and who also made a big deal out of how it was a "necessary" part of a "mature" relationship to keep the details of it private. In other words, he would consider it a betrayal of staggering proportions if I were to discuss our relationship with anyone other than him. Whatever happened between us, he said, was for us to deal with and I should come to him with any concerns I had; we would work it out together, no outside input was necessary or even to be tolerated. Being a pretty trusting and loyal person by nature, I took that to heart and none of my concerns and doubts about his behavior were eever shared with the people around me who might have clued me in on a few things, namely things he had said and done behind my back that they knew about but did not feel comfortable sharing with me because I never gave them an opening to do (by expressing my own doubts and unhappiness) that would have made them feel like they weren't meddling in my private business without an invitation. Or they assumed that because I pretended to be happy I really was, or assumed that I already knew what they knew because I never said anything that would make them think otherwise, and so it must not have been a big deal to me even if they thought it ought to be.

The worst part? The things that went on behind my back consisted of him calling up several people that he had become well-acquainted with only through me and griping to them about what a burden it was for him to put up with *my* supposedly unreasonable behavior. And, yes, under the circumstances it did feel like a worse betrayal than sexual infidelity, if only because he had done the one thing to me that he had insisted I *not* do to him as a mark of my commitment and devotion, and because I complied with his request, I didn't find out about it until I'd wasted way more of my life on him that he was ever worth.

With a manipulative and controlling partner like that, there's just no way to underestimate how valuable third party input is, especially when you get to the point of asking yourself "am I crazy to think there's something wrong here?" If the only person you ever discuss your concerns with is your partner, of course the answer will be, "yes, you're crazy" because undermining your confidence in your own instincts and judgment and invalidating your feelings about what's going on is an integral part of maintaining control over you. And it prevents you from getting the outside support you might need to get out of that relationship if and when you stop buying the idea that there really is something wrong and no, you're not crazy after all for thinking so.

Starfoxy

This is, perhaps, where the internet and potential anonymity of blogging are most useful. While there is something to be said for using your real name online, being anonymous could allow a person to go online and share the things that their spouse may be doing in order to get a gague on how normal, or how common that experience is without worring that they have besmirched their spouse's good name to those closest to him/her.
I know I can get online and find a group that has values similar to my own and read about how these people have managed just about anything from learning how to have great sex, to recognizing abuse and getting out of a bad relationship. Very rarely have a seen comments that are a genuine plea for advice go unanswered, (as in "My SO does [blank], is it normal? How do I deal with it?"). I think blogging may be one of the feminist movement's greatest assets simply for it's potential to allow women to seek external input without threatening their personal loyalties.

TangoMan

"consciousness raising" sessions in the '60s and '70s

Good. Better to take the battle into the home than to inflict the ideology onto innocents, like employers and co-workers. If bending is required let it come from the husband and let the costs be focused on the advocate of feminist thought and those close to the advocate.

Assumptions and attitudes about appropriate gender traits and gender roles can be so pervasive

Are you implying that the assumptions and attitudes are all arbitrary?

how we reconcile our sense of loyalty to the men in our lives with the important exercise of analyzing our personal lives through a feminist lens.

More feminists should exercise such introspection. Real-world costs in order to pursue fanciful goals.

mythago

What Starfoxy said. I don't see how it's disloyal to discuss these things openly but with some anonymity.

Arwen

I was in one of those negative "don't talk" relationships: when I met my current husband, one of my dealbreakers was that he be okay with me talking to a select few friends - with, of course, the understanding that once I got straight in my head, we'd discuss the problem. I think there is a world of difference between using outside support to find your own voice and boundries, and merely kvetching for the sake of running your partner down.

Just Me

I've just stumbled onto this site and am finding it really interesting. A lot of "food for thought" here. I am a Christian and believe in honoring my husband. I would never, even under anonymity(sp) belittle or insult my husband. That's not to say that I wouldn't discuss things he does that are irritating to me or baffling. I guess I'm saying there's a line where we're respectful of the other person yet can still express our frustations with that person. I don't see anywhere in my Bible where my husband is to placed on a pedastal to the point that we can't go to a safe place and "vent" about him. It's disturbing to see so many women who believe submitting to their husband means making themselves less of a human.

Happy, thank you for this site. I really appreciate your manner and your diplomacy.

Amanda Marcotte

On the whole, the personal nature of these discussions tends to work out well, even as feelings get hurt. As mythago mentioned on my blog, she aimed so criticism at a way a former boyfriend clearly slacked in my home, and I was defensive because I knew, deep down, that he would never step up and I would have to break up with him. But I did eventually (for a lot of reasons) and I'm so much happier now.

One of the reasons abusers separate their victims from friends and family is because they know exactly this, that talking about your problems will often lead you to realizing that you have to solve them and, if you're being abused, the solution is to leave. In a lesser way, this talking can lead to confrontations at home that result, for the man, in him having to do more work. In every way, the silence issue manages to endorse sexism.

It's frustrating, because we want a good solution but at a certain point, the solution is up to men. Are they willing to care about the women in their lives enough to make the changes at home that create equality? Much to most of the time, the answer is No and that is the hardest thing for those of us who love them to admit of all. It's admitting that the man you love so much that you do everything for him under a cover of loyalty doesn't love you enough to even treat you fairly. It's depressing.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Actually, my husband and I have an explicit understanding that we're both allowed some degree of confiding outside the relationship, but we negotiate it. He sometimes lets me know which of my friends and family members he feels more comfortable about me airing some problem with, and I respect his wishes on that. And I know who he's likely to confide in about me. And of course, since in our case one of the things we both have to deal with is his bipolar disorder, he has his support groups of other people with bipolar disorder, and I have my support group of other family members. And I sometimes blog about the bipolar disorder because he's already outed himself there (and blogs frequently about it on his own blog).

Elizabeth

My husband and I had a very rocky start. If I wouldn't have been able to vent and process to my parents and close friends, I would have died. But because I was able to process, vent, and work things out with helpful feedback, things turned out okay in the end. I think he doesn't love the fact that my closest friends and family know some very unhappy things, but he realizes that it was important if we were going to get through it - that I had to have someone to process with and vent to. To the great credit of my family and friends, they didn't hold it against him and understood that I was processing and venting in a particular context and that he was still an amazing person and someone that, if I could love and be with, they could approve of and be happy with. Point being I think it is not disloyal to process and vent (to a certain extent) with close people in your life and can often be healthy and helpful.

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