we are young and stupid and raised by wolves
(this is not real life. these are not pictures of me. I am 20-something years old and a woman and passionate about politics and fanfiction and, as far as you are concerned, I only exist online.)
But “he said, she said” doesn’t resolve to “let’s start by assuming she’s lying,” except in a rape culture, and if you are presuming his innocence by presuming her mendacity, you are rape cultured. It works both ways, or should: if one of them has to be lying for the other to be telling the truth, then presuming the innocence of one produces a presumption of the other’s guilt. And Woody Allen cannot be presumed to be innocent of molesting a child unless she is presumed to be lying to us. His presumption of innocence can only be built on the presumption that her words have no credibility, independent of other (real) evidence, which is to say, the presumption that her words are not evidence. If you want to vigorously claim ignorance–to assert that we can never know what happened, in that attic–then you must ground that lack of knowledge in the presumption that what she has said doesn’t count, and we cannot believe her story.
The second reason it’s okay if I’m wrong is that I’m probably not wrong. It’s much more likely that I’m right. Because I am not on Woody Allen’s jury, I can be swayed by the fact that sexual violence is incredibly, horrifically common, much more common than it is for women to make up stories about sexual violence in pursuit of their own petty, vindictive need to destroy a great man’s reputation. We are in the midst of an ongoing, quiet epidemic of sexual violence, now as always. We are not in the midst of an epidemic of false rape charges, and that fact is important here. All things being equal, it’s more likely that the man who has spent a lifetime and a cinematic career walking the line of pedophilia (to put it mildly) is a likely candidate. All things being equal, the explanation that doesn’t require you to imagine a conspiracy of angry women telling lies for no reason is probably the right one. It’s a good thing that juries can’t think this way, that they can’t take account of Occam’s Razor, because—in theory—the juridical system needs to get it right every single time (or at least hold tenaciously to that ambition). But you and I can recognize the bigger picture, because we aren’t holding a person’s life in our hands. Especially in situations like this one, the overwhelmingly more likely thing is that he did it. The overwhelmingly less likely thing is that a pair of bitter females—driven by jealousy or by the sheer malignity of the gender—have been lying about him for decades.
-Woody Allen’s Good Name, by Aaron Bady
"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.
The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”
All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.
And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.”
I finished The Bean Trees earlier this week.
I’d read it once before, in high school, when it struck me tremendously. Those aspects resonated just as much this time, all the more because of my work on Freak Camp. I actually think some of my FC scenes were directly, though subconsciously, inspired by ones in The Bean Trees (for instance, when Sam is sick in Boulder during the first month, and Dean sees his scars for the first time as he undresses him). It’s interesting, as I rediscover books I only read once years and years ago, how the plot can be fuzzy in my memory, but certain lines stand out in stark relief. ”I found bruises, and worse” was one of those. (Another was “I tried not to count whose pile of pine cones was bigger.”)
But oh man, yeah, this struck deep, in a FC light. Though there was less ~destiny~ and choice about it — Turtle’s aunt literally just sat her in Taylor’s car, after all, despite Taylor’s (totally reasonable) protests. (I kept wondering how the aunt chose Taylor, what made her decide to give Turtle to her — and I think it was how Taylor stood up to one of the assholes at the bar, shoving the ketchup bottle back at him. Though her original criteria may have just been “the first single woman who comes along.”) But the whole acquisition of a deeply traumatized (even catatonic, for a long time) child, the struggle to cope and adapt, the steps forward before you’re thrown way, way back.
And oh man, that scene after Turtle’s attacked in the park — when Taylor couldn’t go to her. Fuck, that hurt. I had just arrived somewhere on an errand, and I sat in the car, listening for maybe twenty minutes, even putting in another CD, waiting for some goddamn hurt/comfort, some breakdown where Taylor held Turtle, but we never got it. No, Taylor put in extra-long hours at work while Lou Ann took a week off to be with Turtle, and the next scenes described were the ones with Turtle and Taylor at the social worker’s office. Yes, from the start of when Taylor arrived in Arizona with Turtle, I had been waiting for that “oh God what am I doing with this child, there has to be someone else who should have her” crisis, but this was reallybad timing. Especially because it wasn’t just a crisis over Turtle — it was a much bigger “the world is a hopelessly shitty place, how can I look Turtle in the eye and tell her she’s safe now when it will all be a lie” crisis, which even if it was warranted, did fuck-all for Turtle. (I couldn’t help imagine either of our boys reading that part, how infuriated Dean in particular would have been. Especially because Turtle is all of THREE. Can you imagine if Sam had just been assaulted or harassed, triggered horribly into a relapse, and Dean basically shunned him for the next week? Oh, and don’t even get me started on the next part, when Taylor wasn’t going to fight to keep Turtle, was ready to accept so easily that Turtle becoming a ward of the state was better than staying with her.)
At the same time, after listening to The Lacuna, The Bean Trees struck me very much as a first novel (which it was). Not to say it was bad — just not at full strength. All the nuggets of talent and potential are there, though. But I found some of Taylor’s, Lou Ann’s, and Mattie’s characterization and conversations…a little simplistic, too close to what you get in the cheaper “chick flick” books and movies. But I kept reminding myself they (especially Mattie) were less of a cliche in the 1980s.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Taylor. Lou Ann drove me crazy for the first half, until it became clearer how deep her problems actually were — then I gave her more allowance for her self-abuse and compulsive worrying, if not downright paranoia.
I really, really loved Estevan and Esperanza. (Estevan’s perfect English, slowly corrupted, his dishwasher job, and the line about the telephone wires were also very clear in my memory.) Their story was so tragic and real. I love especially Esteban’s…resignation, even, over Esperanza’s suicide attempt. And I love how Taylor loved him — the first time she had ever been in love — but always held it back, never gave in, all the way through the end.
I’m waiting for The Poisonwood Bible now — which will be entirely new to me — but in the meantime, I gleefully grabbed Holes off the library shelf.
Oh my God, this book. From the opening, I was reminded how this is still among my top favorite books. It also has some incredibly real FC parallels (opening scene, after the first two short prologue-style chapters: a boy — who so, so obviously should not be there — handcuffed in a bus, facing a guard with a rifle over his lap, on his way to Camp.) , and it’s written so damn well. Just exquisite. So many simple sentences and transitions used to excellent effect — I’ll have quotes later. But yeah, the first three pages are so, so effective, they ought to be used in writing classes everywhere.
Also — I remember the movie version being one of the better adaptations of a book, but WOW, I was delivered a sharp reminder of how fucked up it was that they did not cast an overweight kid to play Stanley. Seriously, it is fucked up. Despite how many times I’ve read the book, I was startled by the reminder that he is overweight in the book. God damn it, Hollywood, that was a missed opportunity. When has an overweight child ever been the hero of a movie? They could have done so much good by sticking true to that detail. If I had been the author, I would have insisted on it with everything in my power (which might not be much, yeah).
I don’t particularly like the reader (Kerry Beyer) much, though. He doesn’t deliver the paragraph breaks and scene transitions effectively enough.
wistfulghost asked: I loved your Tips for Healthy Relationship/Unhealthy Relationship posts, they were very informative :) I was wondering if you could write one for an abusive parent/child relationship as well? :)
First of all, I think that many books completely mishandle child abuse. It’s usually in there just to give the main character a dynamic “back story,” but is never really for shedding a light on the effects this kind of upbringing can have on the victim. So, my advice is simply to understand the trauma of child abuse.
- Abuse is an overwhelming experience that creates fragmented states of being for the child (and for the adult survivor of childhood abuse). A person may function very capably at times after abuse, but may also revert internally to being a child who is overwhelmed, which I’ll describe as a child in a state of terror. As opposed to the capable state, a person in the terror state feels trapped, unable to benefit from his or her own cognitive skills to reflect, problem solve, or gain perspective.
- Very importantly, the fragmentation is a response to traumatic experiences that are often not remembered, not acknowledged, or not understood.
- The fragmentation, in response to unremembered experiences, places a person inside a chaotic universe of powerful and unattributed emotions/conditions, such as anger, numbness, anxiety, and depression.
- This fragmentation is a survival technique, the best a child can do to wall-off the terror of abuse. Sadly, the walled-off terror is also “preserved” in this way.
This concerns mostly physical/sexual abuse but emotional abuse/manipulation is equally damaging and most of these notes apply to it as well. Some that stood out to me:
Number 12: "A child is blamed. It’s important to understand that abuse is not a “simple” hit or sex act. Abuse is coercive. The victim is blamed for the victimization. In the process, the abuser exerts control in ways that are torturous and terrifying." Victim is blamed by the aggressor and often the community.
Number 16: “It is my observation that although the abuser sometimes wants an abused child to appear successful in superficial ways to the world outside the family, the abuser doesn’t really want the child to be emotionally accomplished.” Very much true of emotional abuse. This dynamic can also be used to manipulate the child’s loyalties, i.e.: not only praise the child for her accomplishments but define her by them both to prove to the community the child’s (and therefore the parent’s) superiority, but in private infantalize the child, reinforce emotional and mental vulnerabilities (“You don’t have a foot to stand on, you can’t argue, you’re just a child, you don’t know anything,” etc). The effect is partly that a child feels conflicted because she feels valued by the aggressor but simultaneously shamed and belittled, which only encourages the victim to work harder to get into the abuser’s good graces. End result: nothing a victim does is good enough. (And this is a particularly dangerous mentality because it sticks so hard even after the victim is out of the aggressor’s clutches.)
Not going to quote number 17 but in short, society denies abuse, ESPECIALLY when the abuser is a mother. Because a tight-knit community can’t admit that it didn’t notice the warning signs, that it allowed the horror to continue, because then it would feel obligated to accept some burden of guilt. In these cases it’s easiest for the community to convince itself that the victims are to blame, that they’re exaggerating, that they’re rebellious and deserved what they got, etc.
There is a lot of truth in the OP, as well as the notes added just above. This is an extremely good resource.
When I was a kid, I used to go over to friend’s houses and notice that their parents never seemed to bully them or hit them. I assumed this was just because they had a friend over, and that their parents terrorized them all the time when I wasn’t around. I didn’t identify my situation as abuse or reach out to a teacher or counselor because I thought everyone had to live through this. I was probably twenty by the time I realized that some families really don’t humiliate and belittle their kids, ever.
I wish someone had gotten that through to me. I wish instead of saying vaguely and uncomfortably “you can talk to the counselor if you have problems at home,” my teachers had said flat-out “it is not normal to be afraid of your parents, and not normal to be unhappy whenever you’re at home, and you can ask us if you’re not sure if something’s okay or not.” I wish someone could have taught me that wanting to be safe was human instead of selfish.
And I’m probably going to make a whole post about this so I won’t belabor the point right now, but this is why feminists care about media and memes that normalize rape. (Or that stigmatize the words “rape” and “rapist,” but enthusiastically normalize the act of forcing sex on people, as long as you don’t call it that.) Because it tells people that rape is normal, that it’s a popular and accepted way to express romance and/or dominance, and we can’t assume that everyone absorbing this culture knows “of course that’s not how it really works.”
a reader responding to another’s email (http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/01/paternos-legacy-and-ours-ctd.html) on Andrew Sullivan’s blog
The Onion’s article on Jerry Sandusky’s tribute to Joe Paterno (http://www.theonion.com/articles/jerry-sandusky-ill-never-forget-all-the-things-joe,27169/)
Wow, they pull no punches and never flinch. Respect for The Onion. I can only imagine how this article is making Penn State fans froth at the mouth.
the late Christopher Hitchens
-anonymous reader/commenter on Andrew Sullivan’s blog
This sums it all up so much, and I think the last line strikes at the heart of the moral quandary of Freak Camp.
mimblexwimble said: It’s the kind of disgusting situation that shouldn’t need explanation - no one should have to go to some idiot and say, what if he had raped you and you saw the reaction of the students, saw that kind of support for a rapist? What the fuck then?
And I know they weren’t protesting in support of Sandusky, the actual rapist, but anyone who fucking turns his head away, when he knows full and well what is going on - or anyone, who’s just heard a rumor or a hint, who doesn’t make an honest effort to find out what’s actually going on, ARE KIDS BEING RAPED IN YOUR SHOWERS BY YOUR OWN STAFF - yeah, that also indicates a moral depravity. I’ve heard so many similar stories lately, of adults stepping over children who are being held down and threatened with sexual molestation, of parents who never say a fucking word when a Boy Scout leader suggests one of the kids sleep in his tent…it’s so depressing.
I’m trying to remember, though, that the students are young and emotional, this is a gut defense of their hero, and I’m hoping that after some time for it to sink in, they’ll start to feel ashamed of themselves. It’s a hard thing to accept, that someone you look up to can be capable of that. I went through that, to a lesser degree - I had been a fan of Cassie Claire before the plagiariam scandal came out, and I was in such denial at first, until the disillusionment set in.