Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting Anonymous

I had a problem. I was powerless over my children and my life had become unmanageable. I needed Parenting Anonymous. Signs of my pathological parenting surrounded me and I could no longer live in denial. The crayon was on the wall.

Every wall in my home, in fact, was decorated by various abstract pieces done in wax crayon, indelible marker and finger paint. These pieces were not framed, but were rather done mural style directly on the walls courtesy of our prolific in-house artist, 2-year-old Lizzy Ann.

She was beginning to create a name for herself too, as her art branched out to other homes. Aunty Myrtle, Grandma Rose and The Smiths next door all had a few pieces of her work. Some people, such as Uncle George, didn't even know they owned a Lizzy Ann because occasionally she’d do her work discreetly in a closet or in places where portly people like Uncle George couldn’t bend down to see. Evidently, my parenting problem was affecting not just me, but also the home decor of those I loved.

Further signs of my problem were the tampered electronics and plumbing issues with which I had to contend. As Lizzy busied herself with artistic endeavors, 4-year-old DJ developed an interest in electronic engineering and apprenticeship plumbing. He attempted at various times to refurbish my DVD player, VCR and PC; as well as refit a bathroom toilet using his Rescue Heroes submarine. When the submarine never resurfaced from the flooding depths of the toilet bowl, I had no choice but to call in a professional plumber to save the drowning toy.

In addition, although I tried my best to cover it up, evidence of my bribery binges was strewn throughout the house, further attesting to my parenting problem. Empty Fisher Price and Hot Wheel packaging littered the halls and the toy boxes overflowed with abandoned toys the children got bored of as quickly as they got them. It became harder to deny my problem when I realized the clerk at the toy store knew my son by name and what brand of toy he preferred.

Yet another indication of my problem was the high tolerance level the children had attained for the briberies of toys and candy. The more I gave in, the more they demanded. Eventually I had to give them three times as much as I once had to in order to get the same behavioral result I desired. Consequently, I discovered that as their tolerance level for briberies increased, my bank balance decreased. Combine that with the expense of replacing household electronics, as well as calling in expensive plumbers, and it seemed that my parenting problem was not only hurting the ones I loved, but also my financial bottom line.

Nearly every aspect of my existence had been impacted in one way or another by my parenting problem. To others I downplayed the impact it had on my life. However, it was impossible to hide my unkempt appearance and blood shot eyes from lack of sleep due to late night kitchen runs for water and jam toast. Furthermore, when I went to speak to someone the hoarseness of my voice gave me away. It appeared that I had a chronic case of laryngitis thanks to the children's incessant requests to hear me repeatedly growl in my best Big Bad Wolf voice: "Little Pig, Little Pig LET ME COME IN!"

I was finally forced to face my problem when my husband, John, confronted me with proof of my diseased parenting. It was after 11 p.m. and the children slept sprawled out in the marital bed as I served John a late supper of chicken nuggets, Goldfish crackers and carrot sticks. I could sense something was bothering him by his silence, but nonetheless was startled when he suddenly slammed his sippy cup down, sloshing chocolate milk all over the table.

He told me he felt like I had lost control of the children. He asked if I had even noticed that our new leather ottoman had mysteriously acquired little puncture wounds all over one side of it. He said it was the final straw and demanded to know what had happened to the recently purchased item. He also wanted to know why he was drinking out of a sippy cup at 11 o'clock at night.

I claimed I didn't have any answers for him, but inwardly presumed Lizzy Ann had something to do with the redesigned ottoman since she was our resident artist. DJ was too busy feeding his grilled cheese and Lego sandwich to the VCR to bother with ottomans.

No, this looked like Lizzy's work, I thought to myself as I knelt down beside "detective" John to get a better look at what he considered to be a crime scene. Apparently, Lizzy was venturing into some sort of contemporary art. 

I did not share my suspicions with John (my general rule of thumb with him is to deny everything no matter how obvious my "guilt" is, but only because I find his incredulity highly amusing). 

Thus, rather than admit culpability or provide the name of the little girl I suspected was responsible (Lizzy Ann), I tried to justify myself and minimize his concerns as best as I could. 

He was not placated. 

He stomped away in anger and frustration to sleep in the playroom using a doll blanket as a pillow. In hindsight, both my parenting problem and the cracks in my marriage were plain. But not at the time. Denial is a blindfold.

Anyway, the mystery of the leather ottoman was solved the morning after John’s confrontation, when I caught Lizzy red-handed. During the endless process of picking up the toys that constantly made their way into the living room, I happened to catch Lizzy intently marching towards the ottoman with a ballpoint pen clutched in her hand.

I managed to grab the pen from her just as she was about to plunge it into the “valued” piece of furniture. I told her "naughty" and then went into the kitchen to put the pen on top of a shelf where she couldn't reach it. When I went back into the living room to see what else Lizzy was getting into I let out a gasp of alarm at what I discovered.

There she was furiously stabbing the ottoman with a SECOND ballpoint pen. She must have had a secret stash somewhere. When I ordered her to stop she only briefly looked at me before basically shrugging her shoulders and resuming her brutal attack on the ottoman with even more fervor. She totally disregarded me as she focused completely on trying to get in as many stabs as she could before the pen was confiscated a second time. She looked like a crazed murderer determined to inflict as much pain on her inanimate victim as possible before her weapon of choice was taken away.

In the middle of all this, DJ came running into the room to see what all the commotion was about. When he saw what Lizzy was doing he immediately cried out, "I want a turn!"

In my diseased mind, I reasoned that since the ottoman was already ruined, I might as well grant DJ his wish and let him have a try, too. At that point I did not see that John had also been awoken by the commotion and was watching the whole proceedings with growing disbelief. He watched, incredulous, as I retrieved the first pen I had confiscated from Lizzy and handed it to DJ.

It wasn’t until I had settled myself on the couch to passively survey the carnage and mayhem that I noticed John standing there and witnessed the look of utter horror on his face. 

It was then I realized I could no longer deny the truth: Hello, my name is Lala and I am a Parentoholic. 

I’m in recovery now. It’s an ongoing process.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rape Culture: Exposing the Rot

In today’s information age, we are exposed at an unprecedented rate to horrific accounts of sexual assault.  It is making some of us uncomfortably aware. And while ignorance may be bliss, it is only blissful to the ignorant. To the socially conscious, to the street-wizened and to the victimized, ignorance is a tool of oppression and a means of propagating injustice and misery. 

This awareness – that our blissful ignorance has been complicit in the brutalization of a significant portion of the human race – is often coupled with a compulsion to act; in other words work, and possibly unpleasant, frustrating, thankless, unblissful work; hence the ignorance is bliss thing. It’s less work and bother to blame the victim. But once you know, you know. You can no longer snuggle up in a threadbare quilt of ignorance and still expect to be cozy.

In the past if you were raped, few people heard about it, unless it was a particularly sensational or gruesome story. As for you, the anonymous one, you were more or less condemned to suffer in the privacy of your own head, with only the pain of your battered body to remind you that you were indeed a human being and not an inanimate object meant for male consumption and communal use, like a public toilet.

Then again maybe that really was all you were worth. Perhaps you deserved it. The societal messages that surrounded you certainly suggested you deserved it or worse yet “wanted” it.

But you didn’t deserve it and you absolutely did not want it.

It seemed the only available options to reconcile this cognitive dissonance between what you were told and what you knew were acquiescence, suppression, denial, rationalization or a big ass bottle of booze and a bevy of pills. There was no easy therapy.

If all else failed, a self-applied noose around the neck and a suicide note would take care of the problem. You were already dead inside anyway, and no one seemed to notice that. They didn’t know about your ordeal nor did they care to know. You were utterly alone.

You were also ashamed.

You were ashamed because even though it conflicted with your reality, the culture and era in which you found yourself told you in subliminal and not so subliminal ways that not only did you want to be raped but you were MEANT to be raped.

All girls, in fact, were hardwired and physically formed to desire rape and used their sexuality to manipulate men into raping them. It wasn’t the man’s fault; he was just doing what the reptilian part of his brain told him to do. Men had no more control than a dog in heat over their natural urge to copulate with any accessible female they could get their molesting hands on, even if that female was an actual duck.

It was thus left up to women, who were NOT cursed to wander the planet with debilitating thoughts of ejaculation every 12 seconds, to act as bodyguards. Men were vulnerable and needed protection from their overwhelming testosterone-directed impulses – impulses which could be triggered by virtually ANYTHING.

Nothing like a sexy gouty toe to tempt a guy.

The male libido was a handicap for men. Women, who did not possess this same handicap, were by default held accountable (because someone HAD to be) for whatever happened to female bodies, even as they were paradoxically prohibited from making choices that affected those SAME bodies.

If you were female and someone raped you, assaulted you, insulted you with gendered hate speech and rape jokes, or impregnated you, the only person you could blame was yourself. You should have been a better bodyguard.

The “good” women who covered their parts, averted their eyes and did as they were told were not a threat to the practice of NOT randomly raping people. These upstanding ladies were still raped mind you, just not as much, or so society was told to believe.

The “bad” women who had opinions, disagreed and dressed how they wanted based on personal style, fashion trends and comfort were fair game. Their appearances and mannerisms prodded at men’s fragile self-control like a fool prodding a rabid beast with a stick.

It was only a natural inevitability then that a man would succumb to his weakness and sexually impose himself on whoever or whatever (there was a guy who couldn’t control himself near a cow and was forced to marry her) inadvertently provoked his hypersensitive arousal.

Stupid people who goaded aggressive animals deserved what they got (although it’s hard to say how the cow provoked her rape. Was it her sexually stimulating “moo”?)

Consequently, accused “rapists” were seen as rape victims. They were lured to rape in the same way Eve lured Adam to defy God. Females were responsible for the evils of men because at the heart of the matter, even though women were the inferior gender, feminine sexuality was a tool of mind control. It didn’t make sense, but when it came to rapists it didn’t have to make sense.

Men were so afraid of this magical feminine power that tricked rapists into committing rape that in certain places women were forced to hide their wicked femaleness under loose fitting clothing, in some cases to the point of wearing heavy black cloaks over their heads like body bags.

Apparently the thinking here was (still is) that females lost their power when men couldn’t objectively see their femininity, when they blended into the background like black ghosts floating before a white sky.

However, there did remain a few astute men, who although may have been blind to stark contrasts, nevertheless understood covering something with a sheet did not literally make the thing disappear. The thing still existed – it still had genitalia – and women were still raped.

But again, since all women were genetically programmed to be consenting whores who trapped men into raping them, rape was not technically rape anyway. There was no such thing as consensual rape, even evidently if one of the people “consenting” was not consenting willingly.

No did not mean no.

Besides, everyone understood that genuine rape was only committed by alcoholic degenerates, drug addicts and psychopaths. Normal men with jobs didn’t rape.

But some of us understand things differently now.

And while the aforementioned attitudes towards rapists and their victims obviously persist today in our, what has been dubbed, “rape culture”, the difference is that what was once ignored is now being examined. This piece of seemingly fresh meat has been kicked over to reveal its rot and the maggots are scattering.

We are seeing things we’ve never seen before.

Just as advances in science and technology have revealed errors in many other once widely held manufactured beliefs, these advancements have also, perhaps unintentionally, revealed gross misconceptions and willful denials regarding rape.

There is no hiding from these realities. The shared knowledge travels along the information highway faster than a rapist can find an alibi or zip up his pants.

Any despicable thing a person does can potentially be recorded by a passerby and shared with the world in the blink of an eye.

It is more difficult, although not impossible, to make the “she asked for it” defence when there is a video that’s gone viral of you and your buddies gang raping an unconscious girl or a girl who is fully conscious and can be heard, seen and felt screaming in terror and agony, begging for it to end.

It is also more difficult to argue rape was actually consensual sex when there is a corpse and a suicide note in the form of a Youtube vlog, which unequivocally conveys the message that the “sex” was not by consent but by force. If a girl would rather be dead than alive with the nightmare of her assault replaying in her head every breathing moment, how can any reasonable person say she “wanted it”?

It is furthermore harder to claim rape only happens to women who behave and dress provocatively when every day we are told of innocent children being even more barbarically violated than their older rape-victim counterparts. 

Then there are the countless women who are raped while minding their own business, walking down the street in anything but a seductive manner, or housed in the seclusion and “safety” of their own homes. Men are also raped.

And we won’t even go into how rape is used as a weapon of war and terrorism.

What is exceedingly clear from this steady stream of rape reporting and female shaming is that the criminal act of rape has little to do with the actions of the person who is raped. The rapist can choose NOT to sexually assault people, it’s as simple as that.

Rapists can walk away from an unconscious, semi-naked or even fully naked girl passed out on a sofa and it’s absurd to claim otherwise.

Despite the dangerous myths surrounding rape culture, the mere sight of a girl, particularly one who is intoxicated and physically vulnerable, does not literally suspend male freewill as all sense drains from his brain directly into his disgusting erection.

The human brain has evolved beyond its limbic system and does have access to higher levels of cognitive functioning. The male brain CAN make the decision to not rape someone despite the state of his body and the rationalizations of his peanut mind. Even rapists were trained as toddlers how to control their base urges, otherwise more of them would be constantly shitting their pants in shame.

But of course there will always be the usual misogynists, religious fanatics and misguided apologists who will refuse to place the blame squarely on the rapist’s shoulders. They will continue to argue, as Nick Ross did, that “rape isn’t always rape”; the victim must take some responsibility. He likens a provocatively dressed female to a “sack of cash” left unguarded at the front door of a bank, or in the middle of a poorly secured airport.

Ah, sorry but NO. Giving in to the temptation of stealing a bag of unchaperoned money that does not breathe, feel pain, have emotions or a brain is NOT the equivalent of forcing yourself on another human being who finds you repulsive. And even if you didn’t make her sick to her stomach – even if she was attracted to you – she STILL would not be interested in having you sexually assault her.

But none of that matters does it? Lowlifes and sadists who choose to think of rape as welcomed seduction are not, as a rule, impressed by pleas to a sense of humanity, video-recorded facts, expert and reason-based opinions, or eye witness testimonies that conflict with their depraved bias. No one, however, was going to enlighten those lesser evolved, semen-controlled cretins anyway.

But don’t give up trying to sway them. Until a thing is dead there is always a grain of hope – no matter how unlikely – that a metamorphosis could occur.

For the more advanced human, though, the ongoing accounts of rape and brutality torment the intellect and generate awareness. Ultimately, it is this awareness that revs up the enormous, slow-to-start, gas-guzzling engine of social change.

The epidemic rape stories are morbid, but they are also vital sources of fuel that can be mined, exported, consumed and recycled. This is the power of the people driving the engine.

Granted, it is not unanimously conceded rape is or ever was an epidemic, nor is it accepted across the board that a rape culture exists.

There remain those who choose to believe rape is nothing more than a minor nuisance that’s been blown out of proportion by radical feminism and mass media, with an agenda to either malign men or create sensationalized news stories for the sole purpose of increasing viewer and readership amongst the unthinking masses.

But whether you believe a disease is a disease or the product of choice makes little difference to the disease’s progression. A carcinoma left unencumbered, undetected and unaddressed will spread. And while the relentless reporting of rape on a daily basis might seem like the cancer, it is actually the first flush of a cure.

As some of humanity takes notice it’s under attack by sinister phenomena and always has been, it is no longer okay to passively sit by as rape after rape after rape occurs without restraint or protest.

Some appendages of humanity, while not completely awake, are beginning to show signs of life. An army of social activism is being assembled in response to the river of human sludge that snakes its way throughout the internet, infecting humanity, spreading hate, inciting violence and ruining innocent lives.

Change is a foot.

But it is a painful change and it doesn’t take much effort to find the source of this pain. Do a quick Google News search and you will find a self-replenishing supply. Turn on the TV or stroll down the street and chances are your brain will be sucker-punched with this repugnant information.

There is the seemingly endless stream of rape cases out of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India involving children and young women, such as the recent report of a 4-year-old who was lured with the promise of a banana and then ripped apart in a violent act of sexual assault. She was found hemorrhaging and later died of cardiac arrest.

The week before, there was a 5-year-old from New Delhi who met a similar fate. New Delhi was also the setting of a gang rape that ignited huge protests demanding something be done about the pandemic of violence against women and girls in India. The 23-year-old medical student was taken hostage on a bus and gang raped by six men in particularly gruesome and sadistic ways while the bus kept in motion. Her companion was beaten to near death. The bloodied twosome was eventually discarded on the side of the road and 2 weeks later the young victim died from her injuries. The family did not want her name released for fear of the shame it would bring the victim’s family.

On this continent, no one will soon forget the deeply disturbing, news-breaking story of Ariel Castro kidnapping, confining, torturing and raping three girls who he kept imprisoned in his Cleveland shack of a house – in the SAME neighborhood they were snatched from – over a TEN YEAR period. How does something like that go unnoticed when there were SO MANY indicators? This is the same insidious cancer referred to above.

Then there are the stories of sexual coercion and persecution that utilize social media in some way. There is the story of a 12-year-old girl from New York who was raped at gunpoint by three teen boys, one of whom recorded the whole thing. The video was then shared on Facebook like a trophy to be admired.

Facebook seems to come up a lot in these tales of horror.

The NY attack is just one in a vast library of instances where a gang rape has been recorded and then proudly shared on Facebook or You Tube as if the rapists had actually accomplished something worthy of applause and recognition.

As the war on rape wages in the US, with cases such as the Steubenville trial where two teenaged football players were found guilty of repeatedly raping a drugged 16-year-old girl at various parties throughout a single evening, in Canada 17-year-old, Rehtaeh Parsons, hung herself as a result of being raped at 15.

After the rape, Parsons was systematically shamed and harassed over the next two years, with the by now familiar custom of sharing images of the assault and engaging in rape-encouraging propaganda via the internet. Before Parsons, a similar fate befell Amanda Todd, who was painted with a virtual Scarlet letter and then mercilessly cyber-bullied until she too was pushed into suicide.

We could carry on with the stories, but there are too many – this blog would never conclude and hopelessness would ensue, brought on by the sheer impossible volume of cases.

But there is, I’ve discovered, an antidote for such despair in stories of protest, action and justice. These are the stories where the muted bystanders and the victims, the apathetic and the apologetic, the paralyzed and the indecisive begin to move and make noise. They stand up from their kneeled positions, readjust their averted eyes, and break free from their restraints to say NO. Enough is enough.

This awakened outrage is seen in the protests of India where common people have been revolting against the tyranny of rape and violence towards women and children, letting their government know they will not stand idly by anymore.

We see the antidote in the groups and projects that spread awareness and take action around the world, such as Everyday Sexism and the Girl Effect, as well as the heroic efforts of the Global Fund for Women and Amnesty International, in addition to many more.

And while these entities are grand, noble, necessary organizations that address large scale human rights issues and the legalities involved, the coolest part of the pushback against rape culture is the boots on the ground stuff. These are the people who are not necessarily fighting to change laws – they are fighting to revolutionize the minds that make and support those laws and the cultural practices and beliefs that justify rape. They are shifting cultural paradigms, informing ignorance and slowly but surely changing the world.