The scars of others should teach us caution.

5 Jan

There was the time the neighbour liked to touch me, numerous times, mostly blocked from my memory. I’ve bored myself with those stories.

There was the boy who cornered me in an old rusted stairwell, whimpering in his older voice that this was how we played hide and seek, and he had found me, and he could do what he wanted, his hands like fingerless paws on my skin.

There was the boy who thought playing Go-Bots or whatever we were playing meant he could put his hands down the back of my pants before I squirmed away, startled.

The boys who played me like a fiddle between them, daring each other to see how far the sad eyed girl would go.

The boy who thought coercion meant ok.

The friends of my father who leered and tried to grab.

About then I got big enough to hurt back, and mostly, it stopped. Except for the sad drunk times when no one knew how to say no. Those almost hurt more than the others. The ones I really could have stopped.

All have left their marks.


There’s a kerfuffle, which I won’t link to because drama? I’m done with the drama-I have enough kthxbai, but it opened a wound I thought I had closed over, a wound ripped bare by the innumerable hands and fingers and lips and eyes of boys and men, the one a girl learns to live with, learns to take without complaint. The grubby fingernails of a boy, stabbing at areas too soft for blood, the silences they ensure. The silence that overlays.

I understand speaking of it all. Of coming clean on a horrid thing, maybe the horrid thing that once was done. I understand my own almost mute response, the recognition in the thigh of that woman, the tears I never did shed, my response being more defeated than anything, used to the men in my life, the boys even, thinking I was theirs in some pincushion way. I wasn’t angry-I was saddened that my body, my ears and eyes so viscerally responded to that action. That I have been that girl, that woman many times over. That so many of us have, conditioned to accept it as a matter of course.

We make mistakes, all of us. But sometimes you trace back the “mistakes” made against you, and you wonder. Am I a target? Do I draw it to me, like a magnet, these hands, those lips, blank except for lust, unseeing or hearing? How did it take so long to gain the ability to say no, to fight? Why do we insist on not seeing these actions for what they are-a constant waving assault on us, on our women? On us?

Is assault only counted if it’s the most base of crimes, rape? The fingers we’ve put up with, the tongues, do they not lash and molest as well, scald our skin until we’re no longer clean in our own bodies? Giving clearance for small discretions, do we open the door for the larger, letting it swing  clear of our consciences because these other things, the groping and the trapping and the touching, they aren’t that bad?

They build. They rape our minds and our futures, in their way. They allow our sons and brothers to believe that a pound of flesh is just that, flesh for taking, like a slab of cattle stunned on a table. A culture created, but the petty allowances of all of us, women alike. Because I hear the voices of other women saying “it’s not that bad, really”, and it makes me wonder, just how many times they were left alone with their grandfather or their father’s friend, left to anticipate the grab or the leering grin and wagging tongue. Left to fend for themselves.

I’m much stronger than any of those boys. All boys. But the sudden jarring dissonance of that hand on a thigh, those words, so often implied if not spoken. “is this what you want? THIS is what you want!”, the flashback to that girl in someone’s cold bed with warm, molting hands, or standing, scared still under the black stairs of a fire escape-these are the things you cannot escape.

I see cold eyes, frigid eyes that never changed from boy to man. Creatures who never really saw me.

It scares me when women speak with this same coldness, as if the scars we all carry are meaningless. I am more than my scars.

I just wish that none of us had them in the first place.

67 Responses to “The scars of others should teach us caution.”

  1. slouchy January 5, 2010 at 9:38 am #



    It opened a wound I thought I’d closed tight.

  2. Jennifer January 5, 2010 at 9:44 am #


  3. sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    Just bucking my anti-woman tendencies to say this: brilliant, thoughtful, measured post.

    • thordora January 5, 2010 at 9:53 am #

      you are NOT anti-woman and you know that. He admitted his fault-I wish more could do that. I just wish women could be supportive enmasse-maybe that would help stop it.

      • sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 10:05 am #

        Well, *I* know that. Calling me anti-woman is like calling someone who questions politics anti-country. It’s lazy thinking.

        I think the vast majority of women are already supportive – if ‘supportive’ means agreeing whole-heartedly that what Neil did was utterly vile and wrong and hurtful. Just because we hear Neil’s confession and acknowledge it – nod at it, as per Maggie’s post – does not mean we think the offense caused is any less.

        • thordora January 5, 2010 at 10:13 am #

          I guess what affected me was the sense of forgiveness without rancor…BUT, considering how triggered I was by it, I may not be approaching it fairly. It DID take a big person to say what he did to an audience almost completely made up of women.

  4. sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    Oh my god, it was such a trigger for so many people. Understandably so. Funny, though, I think he was genuinely stupefied at the response. Which is … funny. Not ha-ha funny. But I’m glad it all happened. A lot of people learned from it – put so beautifully by the title of your post. Neil too, I hope.

  5. Mad January 5, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Excellent post, Thor.

    Finally weighing in a bit here on the whole kerfuffle. I support Neil in the writing of that post, in the articulation of that incident and of the personal fallout of the incident for him. It was a powerful post and his viewpoint was one that needed to be heard in this community. I also like the discussion that has arisen from it. I don’t even really see it as DRAMA b/c it’s has more heft and insight to it than much of the twit-slapping that goes on out here.

    Like so many others, though, that post and Maggie’s reply stopped me dead in my tracks and it’s taken a full day to start to piece together why. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

    1. His description of that event opened the flood gates of memory for me, memories that are always pushing at the surface but usually neatly contained on a work day. Having all that come flooding in unbidden felt a bit like a mental assault–NOT NEIL’S FAULT, I will be quick to add but there it is.

    2. The notion of silence vs speech is troubling for me. I do not buy wholeheartedly the notion that the truth will set you free, for even in the land of truth there are aggressors and victims. And I might add that when it comes to unsilencing, context is EVERYTHING. Some of the things that have happened to me are incidents I could talk about in this space, openly on the Internet. Others have been forced upon me with their own kinds of shame and silence. I have told all my stories to at least one person, most to more than one person, but with some of my stories I have to be very careful with the telling or else I risk messing up my own life and my own relationships in a way that I (resentfully) am not willing to do. So, I guess I felt some kind of anger with Neil–but not just with Neil with everyone who can assume full ownership of their storytelling–that they have the right and privilege in the first place to tell the story. So many of us who have been that girl in the car have had that voice taken from us along with so much else.

    3. I like Neil. I respect Neil. And I should add that I STILL like Neil and I STILL respect Neil. In writing that post he does not deserve to become a symbol for something bad. And yet, here I am resisting the urge to turn him into a symbol b/c symbolically, Neil is what I need: a smart, insightful, remorseful man, a man capable of understanding what he did and feeling contrition. The two men I would need that apology from are definitely NOT Neil. It’s an apology I will never seek b/c I know it’s an apology I will never get.

    4. Finally, last night I was feeling all knee-jerky about all the knee-jerkiness of the affair. When women cry out about the sexual violence that has been committed against them, we are not tacitly implying that this never happens to boys, that women are never the perpetrators, that your son or your brother or even my husband should be tarred with the same brush. And yet, somehow, whenever women speak about the assaults that have been perpetrated against them, these arguments pop up quicker than pop-o-moles and I sometimes wonder if it’s yet another unconscious and defensive strategy to just make us shut the fuck up already. Or maybe it’s the tacit assumption that as women we should be caring for all potential victims and not simply ourselves, ’cause you know we are biologically determined to be the world’s caregivers. Right? Right.

    Sorry to end the comment on a sarcastic note. The sarcasm makes me think I am not done processing that last issue intellectually.

    As I say, Thor, this was an excellent post and an excellent perspective to be added to what I think has been a difficult but important discussion.

    • Elizabeth (@claritychaos) January 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

      Hi there. Popping in, not knowing many of you. But I was one who brought up the tangential issue of boys as victims, of boys being seen by some as future abusers if not properly trained, so I wanted to comment.

      This obviously triggered a lot of issues for a lot of us. One it triggered for me was the feeling of protection I feel for my sons when people comment how we need to teach our daughters to protect ourselves and our sons not to hurt. This is a theme I personally have encountered a lot recently, and I expressed my hesitation in bringing it up because I knew it was a different issue other than the one being discussed. But Maggie is a friend of mine, and I felt comfortable getting into it on her blog, especially once BHJ made a similar comment.

      By no means did I intend it to convey the message that women should shut the fuck up about being assaulted by men. I’ve been there myself, in fact. And I don’t think that women who speak out about the men who have assaulted them are implying that it doesn’t happen to boys, too. I just wanted to share what the conversation was dredging up for me.

      But it’s an issue I struggle with, one that was triggered by the conversation. And it’s inevitable that a lot of our comments are going to be misinterpreted, as a lot of us don’t know each other and we each come to the discussion with our own fears and scars.

      Regardless, I’m grateful to read these posts and comments, grateful that I’m being to forced to think about what this means for me, for my sons, what I need to teach and what I need to learn. So thank you.

  6. sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    Brilliant comment, Sue. The last bit I’m still digesting – I was feeling knee-jerky about the knee-jerkiness of it all too – but I’m not sure if we’re saying the same thing. I’m interested in that. It’s okay if we’re not saying the same thing – I’m just still chewing on it. My knee-jerkiness was that same resistance you mention to making Neil into a symbol, to declaring him unworthy of being heard or acknowledged.

  7. jeanette January 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    thank you. just thank you.

  8. maggie, dammit January 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    There is so much here, inside of this entire thing that Neil unwittingly sparked. I can’t stop digesting it, because every time I try, every time I read words like yours, I come up feeling different. So many, many, many shades of different.

    I get what Neil is saying. I get what Kelly is saying. I get what Kate is saying. I get what Sue is saying. I get what you are saying. I get what I said.

    The problem is, the truth is some sort of kaleidoscope of all of it. Or, you know, maybe truth is the wrong word. Yep, it’s a terrible word. I think a better one would be “take-away.”

    We can’t erase the hurt. Hopefully the take-away from this whole thing, whatever that is to each of us, will help us empower our children.

    I don’t know.

    • thordora January 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

      I think that’s what I’m taking away from it-two things-that there are shades that haunt us and we don’t always know it, and that we need to be able to recognize the pain, the scars we all have. It’s not a contest. It’s admittance.

      Or maybe it just freaked me out and reminded me too much of what I thought long gone.

  9. slouchy January 5, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    All I know is that yes, it acted as a trigger for me.

    And yes, it’s sparked some good conversation.

    But DAMN. I didn’t want that memory to come flooding back

    Now I feel ambushed.

    And on Twitter, too.


    (And these feelings of mine? Not Neil’s fault.)

  10. slouchy January 5, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Sorry to rant in your comments, Thor. I guess I’m too chicken to rant on Twitter.

    Love you.

    • thordora January 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

      You aren’t ranting. I think quite a few of us were taken off guard but the gut punch of that situation, and the resulting conversation(s).

  11. Titanium January 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Neil’s post was the equivalent of ski tracks leading to unstable snowpack on a 35 degree slope. We can all see the tracks, there’s a sense of horror that they lead to…. there…

    And it triggers a slab avalanche of emotion in every single one of us.

    As it should.

    Layers of ice, old crystalline snow all covered with the fresh new snow of our new beginnings, hopes and dreams.

    On a moderate slope. In the early afternoon of our lives, with all the goodness of our new journey stretched out in front of us.

    And dammit if he didn’t have to go and ski right up on top of it all. The audible cracking sound reverberated and resounded through each one of us; some are caught in the aftermath, buried under the weight and frozen hard and cold. Some are broken, bleeding again- limbs fractured and dislocated. Some are witness. Standing on the sideline, hopefully with avi beacons and probes at the ready, prepared to dig out any survivors.

    We can all agree that the skier in this case, Neil, shouldn’t be hung at dawn. But that didn’t stop the avalanche, did it?
    It was there all along. It’s ours, actually. We own it. Each one of knows where we stand, even when we don’t know. I think this post of his dislocated my spleen. But I’ve got my shovel and I’m looking for survivors.

  12. sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Oh my god, Titanium. That was the best comment I’ve seen on this, anywhere.

  13. kelly January 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    This post is beautiful. You are beautiful.

    OMG. Kate, do you think I was calling YOU anti-woman. Why would I? I consider you a sister. Holy Hell.

    I love this post. I know

    I am suppose to feel sorry for causing drama. But, I don’t. I don’t feel sorry for speaking my mind. I did once. I don’t anymore.

  14. Hannah January 5, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    The whole thing reminded me yet again why I keep my Twitter list small and manageable. I felt totally ambushed by the whole thing – I read Neil’s post because someone retweeted it and whammo, my previously quiet and productive day went totally to shit, because I too was remembering all those small moments over a period of years that I had nicely repressed, thank you very much.

    And true confessions, I was really, really pissed at the number of women who immediately applauded Neil for his “bravery” at telling the story, with no context, on the internet. Um, yeah. Calling up the woman in question and apologizing? That’s bravery. Putting it out there and then standing by the side of the avalanche (beautiful comment up there, by the way) blinking and going “huh? what just happened?” was to me not bravery – it was one more bloody man inadvertantly hurting not one woman, but dozens, with his cluelessness and his inability to understand where many of us are coming from.

    I’ve tried to stay out of it because a) I don’t normally read Neil, so I don’t feel like doing a drive-by critique and b) I am still trying to process in my mind what is knee-jerk panic reaction to painful memories and what is legitimate. But then I read this post, and the comments, and I thought ha! this is probably a safe place to ramble incoherently for a while.

  15. Mad January 5, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    Can I add that one thing that has sickened me today has been the unwarranted and often mean-spirited bullying of Kelly by people extraneous to the issue? Where others engaged her and her ideas respectfully yesterday, today something went very sour and I am furious about it.

    • BHJ January 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

      She took a bite out of me and I bit her back. And that’s my right if i’m to believe all this hullaballo about speaking our minds. I’m sorry I’m a man, Mad, but that doesn’t make me extraneous. I’ve got my own head full of cocks in my childhood memory and I shouldn’t be forced to flaunt them just to participate in a discussion.

      • Mad January 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

        BHJ: I never once said you were extraneous b/c you were a man. That’s pure projection on your part. Furthermore, I do not believe men _are_ extraneous to this discussion at all. In fact, you entered this forum yesterday in an engaged and respectful way over at Maggie’s–whether I agreed with your point doesn’t matter (and might I add the point you made that did not sit well with me was being made by both women and men). I do acknowledge, though, that your point well meant and well played.

        You did, however, make yourself extraneous today on twitter the second you chose to respond as a disrespectful arse instead of an engaged person. I do not agree with a lot what Kelly has said in this last 24 hours but to call her “nuts”, to question her sanity and motives? That was just mean-spirited and evasive. Most people could see that this issue was too sensitve to be treated with barbs and slapstick. Why couldn’t you?

        • BHJ January 5, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

          My “point” was made to Maggie in Maggie’s forum because I was one of the earliest contributors to Violence Unsilenced and it didn’t sit well with me to think that Maggie viewed this issue solely through the lens of men abusing women. If that’s Violence Unsilenced’s position (I don’t believe it is), I would politely ask that my contribution be removed.

          I have an imagination and I’m not stupid. Imagination is my sole access to being a woman, and it’s clear to me, via that imagination, that women have a relationship to fear that men simply don’t live with. However, the 6-year-old boy in me objects to your disagreement and your wish to monopolize fear and abuse. More projection? Than what’s your problem with my objection?

          Regarding how I played ball with Kelly, I’ll cop to being disrespectful and mean-spirited. All the stuff I said lurks in your assessment of Kelly’s last 24 hours. I’m just not as nice as you. But how nice was Kelly?

  16. Hannah January 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    I just read Kelly’s post about the whole thing and YES – she hit exactly on what’s been bothering me since yesterday.

    I guess since I had no prior conceptions of Neil it was easy for me to think “wow, that guy was a douche once – and now he’s being a douche again.”

    I’m sorry to hear she’s getting bashed. It’s bloody typical that 24 hours after an incident like this, women turn on each other instead of trying to get to the bottom of why we’re all upset.

  17. sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Everyone plays a role when something goes sour. Except those who say nothing.

    • Jett January 5, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

      OH MY GOD YES. However….

      No matter your position, if you are of the ilk that places it under your ass-end for fear of being judged or displeasing to the blog populace or ‘unpopular’, well then you deserve the fallout that will eventually place itself square at your feet, begging an answer/statement/declaration.

      I can truck ignorance much easier than I can truck cowardice.

      • sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

        OH MY GOD YES. Okay. So to be clear where I had been too vague – I’d seen Sue and Hannah’s comments above, and I feel like everyone was equally responsible for how things went today. There were unfair and inflammatory statements made all over the place, not only by one person or one ‘side’. And so that was my point.

        And by saying that I don’t mean to imply that I’m on the sidelines neatly munching Thor’s cheezits.

        I’ve chosen rash words in anger before too. I just think it’s inauthentic to blame one person or one stance for a wreck such as this.*

        *Although it’s better here, and now. Thanks, thor. (MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH)

        • sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

          (INTERMISSION I’m neatly munching Thordora’s cheezits. WHOA TOTALLY PERVY.)

        • thordora January 5, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

          HEY! Stop hogging the Cheez-It’s woman! They’re a limited resource around these parts!

          damn…that just made me want poutine for some reason. POUTINE FOR ALL!

  18. Kelly January 5, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    BHJ: You don’t have to flaunt cock to participate. But, I don’t think trying to get the entire internet to call me nuts is really healthy discourse either. I should not have commented on your tweet to begin with. It just felt like you were trying to fuel the flames and making light of things. Maybe it was light to you. Maybe not. I don’t know. I won’t presume to know. I apologized to you for tweeting in the first place and i unfollowed because clearly it is what is best.

    Mad and Hannah, thanks. It is okay, tho. I don’t mind getting bashed if it brings about discussion. There have been some amazing conversations, some hurt, but I have to hope or want to hope that something good will come out of it.

    Kate: I admire you a great deal. Always have. Always will.

    • BHJ January 5, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

      You unfollowed me before I could message you back but I don’t hate you. I was actually speaking from experience, having gone “nuts” on Twitter myself in the past, today too, and I was just trying to tell you that you’ll probably have a different vision of what’s really bothering you and what you were trying to do to Neil in a month or two. That’s all. I don’t think I’m better than you or saner than you or more anything than you. And I think nuts is better than boring. That’s always implied.

      • Jett January 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

        In the heat of the moment it may not have been implied. You of all people know what it feels like when you go feral: We have completely different senses and processes then.

        I hated the way everything got tangled today, and conflict doesn’t usually make me uncomfortable as I believe it is a(n admittedly sometimes extreme) necessary part of both communication AND growth. This last twenty-four hours has found me wanting to pollute myself into oblivion and I’m not typically that person. And now I’m in my head a little, trying to suss out exactly which buttons got pushed when and in what sequence so as to make me default back to the place where I am at my weakest: Jonesing for a hit of something, anything, that will reset my insides just long enough for me to get my hands back on the controls in order to do things in the proper manner.

        The long and the short of it is this: I try to invest my emotions in people carefully, because I want to cultivate relationships and not just have a slew of shallow acquaintances. Today I watched events that were ugly and unnecessary unfold between two people I love and respect, and I was just a mess of wince-peek-wince-peek that made me feel more than a little impotent and crazy.

        Kelly, I adore you.
        Jon, you are my favorite crazy monkey.
        Please kiss and make up.

        (I like this little nest of comments and the way they seem to be unfolding. I think we can be both pointed _and_ polite.)

  19. Kelly January 5, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    I also think it is important that we hear from men. I think every voice matters. I would never want anyone to feel silenced that is why I spoke with Neil directly. That is why at every step I e-mailed, or DM’ed or Twitted him. Next time I will keep it off twitter, tho. I think that just gets to be a circus. Anyway, thanks for letting us use this place as another great forum.

  20. sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    It was a circus from the get-go. You’re not nuts, Kelly. But the whole thing was a farce. BHJ was simply making that point in the very confronting and prickish way that he tends to. With respect to him and to you, he’s a prick with a point.

  21. Kelly January 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    I don’t think my post or my feelings were circus like at all. As I said to you in comments and in e-mail. I don’t write expecting people to agree with me. And, when I have something to say I say it to the person directly, to you, to Neil, to whoever. I also use my blog to express that, just like you, like Neil, like all of us. I know we disagreed on a lot of points. But, I respect that and you. I respected all the things you wrote on my blog, even the ones I disagreed with. I appreciated how you acknowledge my need for anger on my personal blog and appreciated when you e-mailed me to tell me that you stood by me as a friend. It meant a lot. I hope it has not changed. I’m sorry I did not respond to that e-mail directly and immediately. Maybe it would have stopped some of the hurt you felt. As for BHJ, I apologized in DM for commenting on his tweet. I own up to that being totally wrong. It is the only way I know how to do it. I think his point is just that HIS point. The way he kept going and going made me uncomfortable so I told him in DM and I unfollowed. Nothing more to say or do about that.

    • sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

      I wasn’t referring to your post or your feelings. Just to the fracas on twitter. I imagine that BHJ kept going and going because you and Neil kept going and going. I think the whole thing made everybody very uncomfortable for a whole host of reasons, but it has nothing to do with outlawing your feelings. Nobody would ever do that.

  22. BHJ January 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    And Hi Thordora. I’m not sure if I ever introduced myself. I’ve been reading you for awhile now. I’m Black Hockey Jesus.

    • thordora January 5, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

      oh hai. 🙂 Lovely day today, wot?

  23. Kelly January 5, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Bhj: We could make it a pissing contents. Try and see how many people think I’m mean against you, but what is the point of that? Seriously, how is that constructive? I apologized for tweeting at all to you today. I’m guessing your post above is a an apology or at least an explanation of the “nuts” comments. Like I said in DM, you and I should just let each other be. No ill will here.

    • BHJ January 5, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

      Oh I wasn’t asking her if you were mean to me. I was questioning her critique of me for not being nice when you were trying to harm Neil in such a public and ridiculous way, which is to say: not being very nice.

      And if you need to leave me be and act like you’re not bothered, that’s cool. I am bothered. Neil’s a rare beautiful soul and you were banging on him like he needed to carry the burden of every harmed woman on his shoulders. He doesn’t.

  24. Kelly January 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Kate: I think this is where I would disagree with you again. I think everyone assumes I was angry at Neil and he at me in those tweets. But, really go back and read them. I ask him questions. I comment. I say I understand. I say I don’t understand. We don’t name call. We don’t insult. We talk. That is the whole point. You yourself said to ask Neil directly. I did. Should I have done it via e-mail or dm. Maybe. Maybe not. Discussion is good, especially when it is online. He tries and explains. I try and explain. Isn’t that the whole point of community, of conversation? If it is too much for someone they do not have to follow me or Neil. No one is being forced to participate if they don’t want to. .They don’t have to follow Neil. They can just look away. I don’t apologize for those tweets. I don’t think Neil should. I needed Neil to clarify things for me to understand him better. I think that part was important for both of us. Like I said, no one is being forced to read them. But, that is just my opinion. Again, you may see it differently. Doesn’t change how I feel about you.

    • sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

      I wouldn’t unfollow people for making a spectacle on twitter. That feels petty to me, especially since for the most part, the people I follow are my friends. But I’m not the only person who was like OMG PLEASE STOP. It was not the right forum for reconciliation. It makes people feel like they have to wade in and take sides – and so many who are friends both with you, and with Neil. It can only possibly feel like both of you were trawling for validation. Which puts people who feel invested in both of you in a really tricky spot.

      140 character spits don’t allow for the right dignity and care. Not for you or for him. I’m glad you had it, though. I just wish I hadn’t witnessed it.

  25. wn January 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Wow Thor, you know how to throw a party..:*)

    All joking aside (because it’s not funny, in the least, in fact, it was a hard day, for many of us including myself, all for slightly different reasons), the one thing that I kept thinking, as I read through tangential comments and explanations is that although we all come to this from slightly different angles and histories, our collective progress concerning the creation of safe places for the retelling of these stories (even the ones we don’t agree with)… got derailed, in a serious and irreparable way.

    Until today, I believed there to be (among our small-ish community in which I include Neil) a shared goal to have all of this violence become unsilenced, regardless of the details. I didn’t think VU held the monopoly on this or was the only place where people could expect asylum. I thought we were better than this. Collectively, I thought we agreed to create safe places.

    I hope I’m not oversimplifying this or disregarding anyone’s feelings…but I really thought that we had gotten there or at least, among ourselves, much closer to that place.

    I’m not sure exactly when…or how…but this unsilencing somehow got lost when we all started to internalize someone else’s story. It suddenly became about us instead of about the fact that someone felt safe in talking about violence (and their role in this violence) that had taken place so many years ago among a community of perceived peers. Maybe I read the post wrong….but I didn’t feel like I was being asked to forgive him, I simply felt like I was being asked to bear witness to something which was difficult and very personal.

    I’m not condoning or condemning ANY of the parts of Neil’s story. I believe they are his to tell, his to own and his to deal with, but I am a little saddened that this all had to play out like this.

  26. Mad January 5, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    Hey BHJ,
    My discomfort in point 4 above is something I confess to not having processed fully and something I have said outright is not directed solely at you. My desire to carve out and understand the space needed for discourse on issues re violence against women is just that a desire for space–not a desire to monopolize–thus my silence for such a long time, thus my taking it up here, out of the fray, as it were.

    With respect. Peace man.

  27. kelly January 5, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    wn: maggie,s site is for victims. Neil is not a victim. I also think that her sites message has never been so present. The discourse brings it to the present. As for personalizing, is it wrong that women like thor or I write a post about how this affects us on our own blogs. Gah. I sure hope no one thinks that.

    Bhj: of course i am affected. Really affected. But how am i suppose to engage with someone if the only conversation they have with me is to tell me i am nuts or just assume i want to harm neil. If i wanted neil to really, truly perish i would never have even engaged in conversation with him at all. I ask neil questions. I try and make sense of what he did, why i feel the way i do, i write that i am confused and angry and say on both my blog and in tweets that it is and is not about neil. I read and link to his new post so his side and his voice is heard. Am i perfect, no. But, i try. I am just not going to fight with you anymore. it does not get us anywhere. I obviously do not have any clue how to engage you without offending you so i am begging off. Like i said, no ill will.

  28. BHJ January 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    Thanks, Mad. Thanks, Kelly. Sorry, Thor, you know, for your comments section.

  29. wn January 5, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Kelly, good point about site being for victims explicitely…BUT I think it’s an oversimplification, because although VU is for victims…anyone’s blog (yours, mine, etc..) should be a safe place….

    BUT the larger point I suspect I was not able to properly convey is that writing a post about the internalization of an issue is a WHOLE different thing than criticizing someone else for their own post in terms of content, particular slant, etc….keeping in mind that I am not suggesting that we all go back to censorship or anything even close to that.

    I actually agree with ALOT of the points that you’ve been making (am a big fan of yours, I think you know that)…but I am disappointed in all of us, collectively, for the way we’ve handled this externally.

  30. kelly January 5, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    wn: i respect that and agree if maybe just in different ways. Am big fan of you too. Will stay big fan even if we can’t see eye to eye.

    Important Note*
    i e-mailed thor to make sure she was okay with the discourse happening here. She said yes. Thank you, love.

    • thordora January 5, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

      You know I’d just shut the comments off on you if I thought you were being fuckers. 😛

      The fact that so many of us fought for breath after reading his post is reason enough to let you all hug it out..

      • Titanium January 5, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

        It’s definitely been cathartic. Thor, you’re awesome for hosting the dialogue.

  31. Kelly January 5, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    Wn: Thinking about what you said. I think something that bothered me is people thinking I thought Neil should not have written what he did. I never thought that. I actually said on twitter it was good that he did. But, I used my blog to discuss my feelings on it. I think I have that right, even if it is to write about it with anger. That is my space. I didn’t even link to him at first, until a commenter said i owed it to him to link. I was pretty tame in his comment section because it is his blog. I respected that. I did say on his blog I thought it was a fucked up action, but I did not take my comment as far as I felt it should go. That is not my right. I used my blog for that, not the blog of someone else. My space is safe. His safe should be too. But, let’s be honest. People can go there and disagree. Some chick named Susie told me my thinking was “damaged.” I responded to her. But, her comments stands. She has a right to that opinion even if I think it is condescending and hurtful to use the word damage, especially to a victim of sexual abuse, but really just to anyone. I think we run a big risk when we don’t allow dissent on our own blogs. I will never moderate a comment unless it is outright racial or biased like that, but I might not even moderate that. I will just let the person who commented have it. When I tweeted this morning, I tweeted about sex abuse in general. Because the idea of victimization was so fresh on my mind and this presented the perfect opportunity. I think I even said this is not really about Neil. I told people they should unfollow if it made them uncomfortable. Neil twitted to me initially after reading my post and asked if I wanted to talk. I wasn’t ready at first. Then, I was. And, we did. Not sure how that makes my actions slanted or how I have misused social media. Don’t think I did. The thing is, I think when you use your site to share an action that you clearly know is wrong, and you use it because you want some catharsis, well then you should expect to get the negative, and maybe being told by women that what he did was wrong is a good thing, maybe it brings reflection. And, I mean that it can cause us all to reflect.

  32. Kelly January 5, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Okay. Thank you all so much. This kind of conversation really teaches me about you, and so much about myself. Thanks for listening.

    Thor, you are amazing. Thanks for letting us be here and think about your words and our words. I celebrate you, sista-friend.

    Night all.

    • sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

      This *was* really good. It felt more intimate. I know all of you. It felt needed. Thanks for being open, Kelly.

  33. slouchy January 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    something about this dust-up has left me completely tongue-tied — not a usual or comfortable position for me. perhaps it’s because i only recently redefined an incident from my past as troubling, as “not my fault,” as abusive. i identified so strongly with the girl in neil’s post that i wept for her. and of course it was myself i was weeping for.

    but i am here, reading, and i wanted to tell you all that i applaud you for continuing this conversation in such a mature way.

  34. sweetsalty kate January 5, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    (with unusually shrill tone) I can be a fucker, Thor. I can end this right now. Oh yeah. (hops from one foot to the other) (punches the air)

    Self-awareness sucks. Fuckers have less of it. Fuckers must sleep better at night.

    Just saying.

    • thordora January 5, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

      oh good lord kate I just had the image of you bouncing around like yosemite sam and then coke came out my nose….and it was GOOD. 😀

  35. palinode January 5, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Well now I’m just exhausted. Are there snacks?

    • thordora January 5, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

      I have scrabble cheez-its. But you’ll need to arm wrestle me for them.

  36. Kelly January 6, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    Kate: glad you came back. Stayed up hoping you would. I totally get what you are saying about people being uncomfortable. Hated that by-product of it all. Especially when it is you, a good friend feeling that way. Although, I did get a bunch of DM’s from women sharing their stories, saying thanks for voicing what they felt but couldn’t. Telling me they felt validated by my questions and concerns. Neil probably got the same. People share what they think and feel. It is our nature. It shouldn’t be about taking sides. If I fight with a person online that you like you shouldn’t have to show allegiance one way or another. That feels sorta silly and second grade. But, I get it. I do. I get the reaction of the wince. I’ve felt it myself watching others talk about controversial issues. I just think it is important to paint the full picture, that for every person made uncomfortable, someone wasn’t. I’ve read over my tweets to Neil and I’m not angry. I concede to so many of his thoughts. I take care to really listen. He answers. He listens. I guess I just wonder how that can be bad, at all. Is it better to attack, joke, lie, make light? I don’t know. We overhear conversations like the one on Twitter all the time. We participate in them. And, that is all that was btwn Neil and I. I don’t think that was a “resolution” of sorts because I don’t see it as the two of us ever really fighting. I just think it was a conversation, one of a million I’m bound to have with people online. Maybe you felt OMG, and you heard others say OMG! That is really unfortunate, but people disclosed and e-mailed and talked to me in many different forums because of those tweets and for that I felt really astonished and touched. As I am sure they did with Neil. It wasn’t about validation for me. You know my convos in private and online don’t change much. I’m loud and brashy both places 🙂 Either way, tweets are bound to make people uncomfortable. It is just the nature of it. Sorry mine made you so uncomfortable.

    As for being petty unfollowing people who make what you call “a spectacle.” I would hesitate to put a value judgment on that. Sometimes we need to unfollow for space or sanity or to get away. If we explain our motivations, I don’t think any friend should view that as petty. But, again. I hear ya. And, I appreciate everything you have said.

  37. Hannah January 6, 2010 at 7:53 am #

    Jesus, you go to bed early just. once. and look what you miss.

    I’ll just add my own voice thanking Thor for letting this discussion happen here.

    And commending each of you for having such a respectful dialogue even though it is obvious you all have very different opinions and points of view.

    Cheezits for all!

  38. トリーバーチ お店


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