(tw rape, abuse, violence, ptsd, all the things, goddman)
What I’m trying to do is replace hostility with love and warmth in most of my interactions but never abandon a certain degree of distrust
me too, except when hostility is deserved and/or necessary for self-preservation
Yes, I hope I didn’t make you think I was privileging docility over perfectly called-for and essential hostility. What I am privileging with myself is that, whether or not it is “healthy” to “feel hostile” all the time (a discussion I kinda think is bullshit anyway), when I am hostile I make myself that much more vulnerable. When I say “if you don’t stop I’ll hit you” I get “well we better reassess the entire history of your rape and abuse! You’re probably the real abuser!” and when somebody assesses that I am a bitch, I get told, “well! no wonder you got raped! we’re done supporting you.”
And beyond that, one of the long-term forms of abuse I’ve experienced is this constant, constant control of my affect. My mother (whose brutish low-class bitchiness I admire) would hit or scream at me if I argued, if I cried, if I raised my voice, if I said anything to her in response to her yelling. I wasn’t allowed to speak. Fun fact about me: some of the aids at one of my first daycares actually thought I was mute, so I would never speak, and I would never be asked to speak and rarely be spoken to. That sort of thing changed as I got older, as my mom changed, and as my mom started to assimilate me (in good and bad ways) into her world. Her world is one I’ve spoken of before, the world of a poor woman. (It’s important to note she’s a poor white woman.) A woman whose existence made her a target of violence constantly but who adapted by turning into a shit-talker. And in some places, “shut your mouth or I will kick your ass,” while…not great…really does sort of function as a moderation. Sometimes it makes stuff worse.
What really sucked was moving. I could have a mother like that in Pontiac but when we moved to Rochester it was a hell of a lot different. Raising your voice in a store in Rochester could get you banned. Once, in middle school, my mom volunteered with an event and she saw the school librarian call a special ed kid “retarded” and my mom went off on her. She was never invited back and I was routinely treated like shit by those adults.
So, for me, it’s so much. It’s knowing that mouthiness is a cultural survival tactic for those closest to me, especially developed by the wives and mothers and daughters of working-class violent alcoholics. The way my mother was, that is the femininity that socialized me. But at the same time, I know it was more than cultural, it had everything to do with her decades of ptsd, not to mention the regular old harsh mental illness. I was being socialized to become her and I was also being victimized by her.
But I learned to manage these things, to a degree: I can be a mouthy, independent woman who gets hostile to people who treat me shitty. And I can also pretty easily tell when “waaah don’t threaten to punch someone that lives hundreds of miles away from you, that’s a physical threat” is likely not coming out of the mouth of a poor, abuse surviving women. I try not to trigger anybody when it comes to violence and I really want to stop doing that kind of thing, but you can’t deny that that “respectability politics” is culturally bound. I will forever believe that. The people who read my tumblr largely didn’t watch their mom threaten to kill an adult man for trying to approach her six-year-old-daughter, and then get restrained by the cops about it.
So what I’m saying is, these approaches are not wrong. But these approaches might get me hurt. People have said that my lack of docility was part of why I got raped. People call me unruly, over and over, again, and tell me that my unruliness negates the access I deserve to help and support as a survivor of violent and sexual abuse.
I’ve been using all these fair excuses, “it’s not okay to tone police a survivor and make the support they get contingent on how polite they are,” but it’s not helping me. It’s true and I will say it til I die, but I need to keep myself safe. I’m scared. I want things to get better.
And, please don’t think this applies to anyone but me unless you want to, I sometimes get consumed by it. I bite my tongue until it bleeds. I internalize anger at things I shouldn’t. I recognize in this that “animalistic” (sorry for the word) instinct to treat everything as a threat, and my body finds itself in a preparation for self-defense 24/7. And it’s killing me. It’s destroying my body. And my life, and my relationships. I wanna work on it. And it’s making me feel like I might turn into my mom, as much as we are the opposites in so many ways. I refuse to become her, even if I want to internalize the best parts of her.
Finally, I want to say that I am wholly, forever, in support of public anti-rape tactics which are violent in nature. I extend this to most justice-oriented organizations! We owe everything we ~~chant, wheatpaste, and stencil~~ to the black panthers, (and their comrades in Brown Pride and indigenous groups), Cuban groups, various feminist movements, ACT UP, bash back. (The issues that arise here should be addressed themselves.)
But at the same time, I have with my own eyes watched countless activists march with “kill all rapists” posters and turn around and tell me, “you know, when you use violent imagery [vaguely in reference to my friend who is a rapist], it triggers all of us. Your rapist is probably a survivor of violence!” I can think of a handful of my anti-rape activist peers who turned out to be rapists themselves. I will always, always stand by a survivor’s deployment of “kill yer rapist” and gun imagery but I have also begun to consider how much that sort of thing ends up acting as fronts for rapists and abusers (yeah I’ll say it) infiltrating safe spaces. This is not a black-and-white issue.
I would also remind everyone that violent rhetoric does trigger survivors, and that is not always a tone-policing accusation. It’s just something to think about! Tag your guns, and so on.
But I maintain, with all of me, that an ant-rape movement which doesn’t make a space for hostility of survivors is committing violence against survivors. Is controlling their bodies. Is slyly drawing connections between their unsanctioned affect and the violence committed against them. Don’t ever do that to people.
And don’t say “but unsubstantiated rape accusations are abuse,” because it’s false and shitty. And don’t say “their yelling at me is abusive” in terms of a rape survivor defending themselves, that’s bananas and it’s also, basically, stage one of becoming an abusive husband a la Lifetime movie.
Listen to people who find your hostility triggering as survivors of traumas. But do what you gotta do! Seriously. It’s so important that as rape surpporters we let that happen. And for those of us who have been trained in peer intervention in rape and abuse, we know that we can’t always handle everyone’s affect, because of our own baggage. That’s when we find ways and people who can, and give ourselves some space to decompress.
I, personally, have a long history of being controlled physically and affectively that just emerges inside of me constantly, every day, in violent ways. And I will never say it’s my fault, but when I embody my trauma I find myself punished for it in ways that just make everything so, so much worse. And it’s their fault, it’s not my fault. But if I wanna survive, I have to learn some better displacement methods. For now.
I also want to ensure that my warranted hostility doesn’t bleed out onto my relationships with people I care about. I don’t want to get easily annoyed by Lucas or Ashley. I don’t want to get mad at my internet friends for fully accidentally reblogging from an abuser. I want to be able to say “hey I love you, this person sux, you shouldn’t reblog them” because I swear to God that always works, and it almost always brings me closer to people. And I really don’t want my fear of retaliation to push me back into myself, the way I was growing up, to distance myself from loved ones. I really don’t. I want to be capable of warmth and love. For fuck’s sake, I swear I’m not hitting anyone, and I am not ready to justify people that do. (I will admit I threw a really heavy shoe at the wall the other day during a panic attack. It didn’t really help me.)
I just want to be okay. I want to be able to live, and it’s a struggle. That’s one of the reasons I don’t really participate in activism anymore, other than that whole “rape activists being rapists” thing.
Anyway, Annie, keep doing whatever you works for you! I’m in support of that. Yell at those fucking bros harassing you. Fight back. Or if you don’t, if you’re scared, don’t let bullshit feminist rhetoric make you feel guilty for not being strong enough.
I was confused when I read this response to my OP and I didn’t realize it came from somebody I know p. well so this sounds so impersonal, sorry!