My Grandmother’s Body

Last year, an acquaintance of mine informed me that although he was pro-choice, he thought other pro-choicers (like me) often steamrolled over the very real tragedy of abortion (the baby-killing) in their eagerness to talk about “abstract right”

And then, dear Reader, I shot him.

… okay, I didn’t shoot him. But I entertained the notion. I also blew up at him, which is something I wasn’t doing that often back in 2011 (blogging has made me such a better, more publicly pissed-off human being).

What I said, as I recall, was “ABSTRACT RIGHTS FOR WHOM, YOU PRIVILEGED DIPSHIT? THE RIGHT TO CONTROL MY BODY IS NOT AN ABSTRACT RIGHT TO ME.”

And then I went on a long rant about how not-abstract the right to have an abortion was.

My acquaintance never responded, which I took as a victory.

I mention this incident not because it was unusual – I’ve gotten into lots of fights about abortion – but because of the argument led me to an epiphany. As I, filled with rage, typed up my response, I finally hit on why, exactly, abortion was such an important issue to me.

So why? Why do I care so much?
Because abortion isn’t just about a woman’s right to choose what happens to her pregnancy. It also symbolizes a woman’s right to control her own body FULL STOP. A woman has a right to abortion because her body is her own – not the government’s, not her partners, not her relatives, not the doctors.

There are very few things less “abstract’ than our ability to control our own bodies.

And, crucially, the right to bodily autonomy is not just about abortion. It’s not even just about contraception, or reproductive rights, or consent.

Not surprisingly, I have a story to explain my point.

So, random fact: I actually first started thinking about broader issues of bodily autonomy when I realized that November was pancreatic cancer month. Yes, I know, that seems random. But there is a reason to the random, I promise.

Pancreatic cancer is arguably the deadliest of all cancers in terms of survival rate. The one-year survival rate for all stages is 25%. The five-year survival is 5%. The median survival rate for metastasized or locally advanced cases (which account for 80% of all diagnoses) is 6 to 10 months. Pancreatic cancer kills almost as many people as breast and prostate cancer, yet receives less than 1% of the funds for cancer research – possibly because very few people survive the cancer long enough to become advocates.

A pancreatic cancer diagnosis is basically a death sentence.

When my maternal grandmother was in her early forties, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She turned out to be somewhat of a miracle case, surviving almost ten years before the disease metastasized to her liver and killed her.

Here’s where this story gets back to bodily autonomy. My grandmother never knew she was a miracle case because she never knew she had cancer at all.

Wait! You say. She was diagnosed! How could she not know? Did the doctor give her the wrong diagnosis by accident, or something?

Oh, ha-ha, I wish. In fact, my grandmother’s husband (my… step-grandfather?) and her (male) doctor thought that my grandmother would be devastated if she found out she had cancer.

So they decided not to tell her. At all.

She was horribly sick for ten years without ever knowing why. And she died without ever knowing why.

I realize there may be people reading this who will think my grandmother’s doctor and husband did her a favor by sparing her pain and grief. My father is one of those people – when we talked about my maternal grandmother recently, he said he “could not find fault” in her husband’s decision to lie.

My grandmother was so afraid of death, after all. It was better for her not to know.

Welcome to paternalism.

You know what? Maybe my grandmother was happier overall than she would have been knowing her real diagnosis. But that was not her husband OR her doctor’s choice to make. It was not their body. It was not their life. It was not their choice.

It was her body, her life, her right to know.

But these men thought they knew what my grandmother needed better than she did. They thought they had the right – nay, the obligation – to control her life.

Let’s think about the very real consequences of their decision, shall we?

My grandmother could not make choices about her own medical care, since she did not know what her actual medical conditions were.  Certain procedures must have been unavailable to her, since they would have forced doctors to reveal the secret (there aren’t a lot of reasons to get chemotherapy except cancer).

My grandmother could not make informed choices about how to live her life, since she did not know crucial facts ABOUT her life. She did not know she was living with a deadly illness. She did not know that her prognosis was severe; that doctors thought she would survive a few months or a year, at most. Maybe my grandmother would have made different choices. Maybe there were things she would have wanted to do. But she did not have the information necessary to make those choices. Tragically, she could not even decide how to prepare (or not prepare) her youngest daughter, who was a very young child when my grandmother was diagnosed.

And, although she did not know it, the lie made my grandmother utterly dependent on her husband and her doctor. They were now in complete control of her medical future. They could have chosen not to treat her. They could have chosen to use highly experimental drugs. Her husband could have withheld medication. He could have used his knowledge to manipulate her into making big financial decisions that she would not have made knowing her prognosis.

As far as I know – and I do not know a lot – the doctors and her husband did not abuse their power. I mean, except for the part where they lied to my grandmother for TEN YEARS. Other than that.

But they could have. From the time her doctor and her husband decided to lie to her, to the time she died, my grandmother did not have bodily autonomy. She could not control her own life, or her own body. Other people had that control.

My grandmother died of pancreatic and liver cancer two days before I was born.

***

Paternalism did not kill my grandmother. Cancer did. But paternalism took away my grandmother’s ability to make informed choices about her body and her life.

And this isn’t just a random horror story. It’s the dominant narrative of our past. Women and other minorities have not traditionally been allowed to control their own bodies. Their male relatives did. Their doctors did. The government did. Their owners did, in many cases. The US government sterilized mentally ill women and native women. Hospitals forced – and continue to force – women to undergo dangerous medical procedures without informing them, or seeking their consent. Hell, for over 30o years, black peoples in the United States were considered property.

It’s not just a historical horror story either. In Kansas, a law passed this year that allows doctors to lie to women about their pregnancies if they believe that the information might lead the woman to choose abortion.

Doctors can lie to their patients to stop them from getting abortions.

Bodily autonomy is not just about abortion. But there’s a reason people get so mad when our right to choose is threatened. We know that abortion is just the tip of the iceberg. We know bodily autonomy is not some kind of contingent thing where you can say “you control your body up to the uterus, but after that, it’s in the government hands.” We know what happened to us when our bodies were not under our control. And we’re not interested in going back.

I’m not particularly angry at my step-grandfather, or my grandmother’s doctors. I think what they did was disgusting and unethical, yes. And I’m rather grateful that I don’t have to interact with my step-grandfather. But I’m not that angry at them. I’m angry at the system that made it okay and normal for them to lie to my grandmother. I’m angry at a system that told them it was okay for them to take control of this woman’s body and life. And I’m angry that that system still exists. That we’re still fighting for the basic right to bodily autonomy today. In 2012.

People are allowed to control their own bodies. Women very often are not.

Rebecca West once said: Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. It’s a surprisingly radical notion.

***
Any comments that justify the decision to hide my grandmother’s illness from her will be mocked or banned. So will any that engage in victim-blaming by arguing that my grandmother “must” have figured it out. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. That’s not the point. Of any comments that talk about how difficult it must have been for her husband to hide the truth from her will? Yeah, it was probably hard. You know what would have made it easier? TELLING HER THE TRUTH.

Comment with care


Return of the Feminist Batwoman: Post-Election Edition!

Psst! You! Readers! is CD around?

No? Oh, FANTASTIC. I’m just going to let myself in, then! You guys don’t mind if I take over blogging duties for the day, right? Right!

Feminist Batwoman Returns Bat Woman

Hello!

Yes, yes, it’s me. The Feminist Batwoman. Champion of Intersectional Feminism and Enemy of Restrictive Gender Roles!

I know. Very exciting. I keep meaning to drop in and blog, but C.D. is kinda paranoid, and she doesn’t want me around. Something about the police putting her in jail for being harboring a vigilante blah blah blah.

Also, she’s convinced that people think SHE’S the Feminist Batwoman. Which is obviously not true. CD and I have actually never met! How can we be the same person if we’ve never met!

Anyway. I think the problem with C.D. is that she just doesn’t have trust. I mean, I love that woman, but… seriously. You guys aren’t going to turn me in, right? I’m the Feminist Batwoman! I fight for Intersectional Feminism and Gender Equality Throughout the Shadows of the Interwebs.

AND I have a fabulous mask. Why would anyone turn me in?

Feminist batwoman Returns 2

See what I mean about the fabulous mask?

So now that we’ve established that you aren’t going to turn me in, let’s turn back to CD.

Have you guys noticed that she’s a bit… off, recently? She keeps writing about all this UBER-depressing stuff, and going on long rants and freakouts. Now, as the Feminist Batwoman, I fully support long rants and freakouts, but…

I’m worried that CD has lost her joy.

I mean – did you SEE what happened two weeks ago? The American Election? SHE SHOULD BE OVER THE MOON ABOUT THAT! She should be blogging kitten GIFs and celebratory confetti and explosions ALL THE TIME.

The activist joy should be EVERYWHERE!

Feminist Batwoman Returns 4

So, you know. I thought I would cheer up CD (and bring on the return of the Kitten GIFS!) by reminding her of all of our Great Victories this month.

Maybe if CD remembers all the happy things that happened, she’ll be happier! Can’t hurt, right?

Let’s start at the top:

#1:  Mitt Romney, oppressive douchebag and plutocrat supreme… Defeated!

I will not have to spend the next four years tracking down and defeating his Legion of Anti-Roe judges! I will not have to fight his attempts to turn over Obamacare and get us in more wars and cut the budget for food stamps and medicare and medicaid and social security and education. And hey, we won’t have to deal with his racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and classicism and general… barfiness.

My costume is already SUFFICIENTLY covered in the Barf of Oppression just from fighting to defeat Mitt Romney’s campaign. I’ve had to go to the dry cleaners ten times this election cycle. They’re giving me REALLY weird looks.

Imagine what I would look like if he were president. *shudder*

The Batwoman Bat Woman Hydrology

Just COVERED in slimy oppressive barf

2. President Obama (a somewhat too-conservative-for-my-taste but generally pretty-decent- president) won. And President Obama is someone I can work with. He’s the man who brought us Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and Obamacare and who ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and who passed the mini-dream act. He saved the economy and made insurance companies cover contraceptives and signed the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay law. He passed a bill that made it a hate-crime to commit an assault on someone based on their sexual orientation; he extended employment benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees and he became the FIRST SITTING US PRESIDENT to come out in favor of marriage equality. Oh, and he extended health insurance to four million uninsured kids (why, in the name of the Holy Batmobile, do we have FOUR MILLION uninsured kids in the richest country in the world? QUESTIONS).

Like I said. I can work with this guy.

Batman and Batwoman, Batwoman comics, Batwoman hydrology, feminist batwoman

It can’t be any harder than dealing with Batman.

All good news so far, right? All news that should make CD happy, right?

It gets better.

3. In Maryland, Maine and Washington, people voted to legalize same-sex marriage. YES THEY DID. We broke the 32-state losing streak (including a loss in my – I MEAN CD’s – home state of Wisconsin) with a three state victory! We finally got a popular victory for same-sex marriage!

(although I object to people’s fundamental human rights being put on the ballot, but if they’re going to be put on the ballot, this is the desired outcome)

Batwoman Kate Kane Gay Batwoman Comics JH Williams Greg Rucka

Gay rights being of particular interest to the Feminist Batwoman for… obvious reasons.

Moreover, Minnesota had an amendment on the ballot that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman. You know what happened? Voters said NO. AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME

Batwoman Bat Woman Kate Kane Batwoman 0 JH Williams

BOOOOOM

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate my fellow Anti-Oppression Superhero Alliance member, The Queer Question (also known as Renee Montoya), who led the charge in the fight for same-sex marriage. The Question knows how to stop the Forces of Oppression, y’all.

Renee Montoya The Question Rene Montoya Batman Comics DC

Renee Montoya AKA The Queer Question

Has CD cheered up by now? If she hasn’t, I have even MORE good news for her (because this election is just the gift that keeps on giving).

4. The next American congress will have the highest number of female senators in recorded history: twenty

(which: it is super-gross that 20 is a HIGH number of women in the senate. But we’re getting better).

And let’s talk about those women! Because it’s not just that we’ve got more women senators and representatives – it’s that the ones we’ve got are incredible.

Elizabeth Warren won a senate seat in Massachusetts. I’m quite fond of that woman. She scares Wall Street half-to-death, and is already fighting the Forces of Economic Oppression. Go Warren!

Elizabeth Warren for Senate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Warren Elizabeth

All she needs is an awesome mask. attribution: Tim Pierce

Tammy Baldwin WON A SENATE SEAT in Wisconsin! Tammy Baldwin is now Wisconsin’s first female senator – and the first openly gay member of the senate in US HISTORY.

I’m a huge fan of Tammy Baldwin’s. She’s been my CD’s representative for years (since I’m CD is from Madison).  Her work in the House was incredible; and I fully expect great things in the Senate.

CD, of course, was terrified that Tammy Baldwin – an openly gay woman from the hellmouth of hippie-liberalville (Madison) would have no chance of being elected in Wisconsin. And I do like proving CD wrong.

Tammy Baldwin Senate Tammy Baldwin Senator Wisconsin Senate Race 2012

She’d also look pretty great in a mask

Claire McCaskill defeated Todd Akin (aka: “Mr. Legitimate Rape”). She won the Mississippi Senate seat – one that almost  NO ONE thought a democrat could hang onto – by fourteen points. Because she is an incredible campaigner and she knew how to let Todd Akin hang himself by his own rope.

Claire McCaskill Senate McCaskill Claire Missouri Senate Race

Totally deserves an awesome mask

And to cap off our list of amazing women senators, Mazie Hirono won Hawaii’s open senate seat, thus making history as the USA’S first Asian American female senator. Whoo!

Mazie Hirono Senate Mazie Hirono 2012 Senate Hawaii

She needs a mask, pronto

My good friend and fellow Anti-Oppression Superhero, the Anti-Racist Black Bat (Cassandra Cain) (who happens to be one of the few Asian members of the DC Universe) is REALLY excited about Mazi Hirono’s election.

Cassandra is also rather pissed that it took until 2012 for an Asian-American woman to be elected to the Senate.

Cassandra Cain Batgirl Bat Girl DC Black Bat

Cassandra Cain AKA the AntiRacism Black Bat

The fun doesn’t even stop with senators! The great state of Illinois elected Tammy Duckworth to the House of Representatives. Duckworth served in the Iraq war, where she lost both legs. She is the first female war veteran with disabilities elected to the US House of Representatives.

Tammy Duckworth US Congressional Repreentative Illinois 2012

Awesome woman would also look awesome with mask

You will not be surprised to know that Disability Rights Oracle (Barbara Gordon) was thoroughly pleased by Duckworth’s election!

Batman Barbara Gordon Oracle Disability

Barbara Gordon AKA Disability Rights Oracle

And the great State of Hawaii elected Tulsi Gabbard, another female war veteran – AND the first Hindu member of the US House of Representatives.

Tulsi Gabbard Hawaii, US Representative Hawaii 2012 Hindu

Representative-Elect Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who would  look fabulous in a mask

But the best part of this election – and yes, we haven’t even gotten to the best part yet – wasn’t just that a League of Awesome Women were elected.

5. It was that the League of Awesome Women (in conjunction with the Anti-Oppression Superheroes) defeated the Evil Alliance of Rape Apologists.

Richard Mourdock Paul Ryan Todd Akin League of Rape Apologists

The Alliance’s Leaders are pictured above.

OH YEAH.

Senate candidate Richard “Rape Babies are a Gift From God” Mourdock? DEFEATED.

Senate candidate Todd “If It’s A Legitimate Rape, the Female Body has ways to Shut That Whole Thing Down” Akin? DEFEATED!

House candidate John “The Rape thing” Koster? DEFEATED.

House candidate Joe “‘there is no such exception as life of the mother” Walsh? DEFEATED. By the way, Mr. Walsh, if pregnancy can’t actually kill women, what happened to  Savita Halappanavar?

Vice Presidential Candidate Paul “Rape is just another method of conception” Ryan? DEFEATED.

All congratulations are due to The Consent Culture Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) who took point in the Anti-Oppression Superhero Alliance’s battle with the Evil League of Rape Apologists. I think we can agree she did a pretty fabulous job, no?

Batgirl Stephanie Brown Batgirl Robin Spoiler Consent Culture

Stephanie Brown AKA Consent Culture Batgirl

So, overall, I think the forces of Anti-Oppression did pretty well this election cycle, no?

We defeated the forces of oppression and darkness and plutocracy! We brought down the Evil Alliance of Rape Apologists! We elected a swath of Awesome Women!

Feminist Batwoman Returns Election 5

Time to celebrate, Feminist Batwoman style!

Its definitely party time at the Anti-Oppression Superhero Alliance Headquarters, if you know what I mean!

(No, I don’t mean an orgy. Get your minds out of the gutter).

Stephanie Brown Cassandra Cain Black Bat Batgirl Party

Anti-Racism Black Bat and Consent Culture Batgirl Hugging it Out!
(art by 89g)

Party! Party! Party!

Batwoman Batman February Cover Kate Kane JH Williams

I bought SO MANY STREAMERS

And I totally think CD should join us in this great party of activist joy, don’t you? Now that she’s undoubtedly been cheered up by all our good news!

Wonder woman batman wonder woman pictures

Kyriarchy-Blasting Wonder Woman is Bringing ALL the Confetti!

I mean, come on. We won! Time to stop moping and stop ranting and smell the Victory Flowers, no? Or else CD is going to go all Batman, and be angsty 99% of the time, and no one wants that, do they?

Ordinary Batman Adventures Cat Litter

See what I mean? ALWAYS Angsty. Even around kittens!

It’s time to bring the joy to CD, ANTI-OPPRESSION PARTY STYLE!

I’m just going to check CD’s agenda book and see when she’s got a free slot for the party, shall I? Then we can all persuade her to go.

Huh. Can’t find CD.’s agenda, but… there’s this blog post draft on CD’s computer. I’ll just go ahead and read it (Hey, I’M not Consent Culture Batgirl. Privacy is not my only priority. Also, CD and I are the same person friends!)

Feminist Batwoman Election Returns 6

Well, this blog post is disturbing.

And by disturbing, I mean:

What.

The Everloving.

Fuck?

Montana voters passed a state ballot measure that puts in place a parental notification law: any person under the age of 16 who seeks an abortion needs to notify their parents.  A PARENTAL NOTIFICATION LAW?

Well, HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

OH GREAT, and IT KEEPS GOING.

After helping to pass Texas’ abortion sonogram law, Texas State Senator Dan Patrick is trying to cut off Rural Texans’ access to abortion. Because there’s nothing Dan Patrick cares about more than controlling women’s personal medical decisions!

The head of the Maine Republican party thinks there was voter fraud, because “dozens’ of black people showed up to vote, and no one in rural Maine knows any black people! Mitt Romney says Obama won because he gave “gifts” to women, young people, Latinos etc. Paul Ryan blames the urban vote (*cough* people of color *cough*).

Okay, I know I was complaining that CD seems really pissed off these days? BUT THIS? THIS IS PISSING ME OFF ALL OVER AGAIN.

Scott Walker is trying to end same-day registration in Wisconsin, because the best way to follow up an election full of voter suppression is MORE voter suppression.

In Kansas, the city of Selina passed a proposition that overturns the city’s protections from discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The City of Hutchinson also overturned their city’s discrimination protections.

ARGLEBARGLE.

Proposition 35 passed in California. It raises the penalty for those convicted of sex trafficking to as high as life in prison, which SOUNDS great, until you figure out that survivor groups were against the proposition. Why? Because the bill conflates sex trafficking and sex work, which means that both sex workers and sex trafficking survivors could be penalized, put in jail, put on sex offender registries etc. The bill will probably have a much worse effect on sex workers and victims than it will on actual bad guys. Melissa Gira Grant wrote a smarter and longer analysis of the problems with Proposition 35.

… And Oklahoma passed a constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action practices in state government hiring, education and contracting. But that’s okay, because apparently they weren’t using affirmative action anyway! And it’s not like there’s institutional racism or sexism in the USA, because, as everyone knows, we live in a post-racist and sexist society.

Feminist Batwoman Election 7

… yeah, okay. Maybe there’s a reason CD is still angry. Hell, I’M ANGRY.

You know what? Victory party canceled. We can have a victory party later. I can use the streamers to tie up some misogynists. Kyriarchy-Blasting Wonder Woman can use the helium from the balloons to power her invisible jet. We can throw the confetti in the eyes of the racists.

CD’s right. Our activism isn’t over, not even after this victory. People are still being oppressive asshats. A woman’s ability to choose is still under fire. People of color are still being targetted. Homophobia is still ruining lives. Misogyny is still rampant.

Time to get back to work.

ANTI-OPPRESSION SUPERHERO ALLIANCE, ASSEMBLE!

Batgirl Incorporated Barbara Gordon Oracle Batgirl Stephanie Brown Batgirl Incorporated Stephanie Brown Batgirl Cassandra Cain Black Bat Barbara Gordon Oracle

Renee Montoya Batman Comics the Question Batwoman Bat woman Kate Kane Batman Hydrology

Oh, uh – before I leave to go fight oppression, could you guys do me a favor?

Could you NOT tell CD that I was here?

Like, keep it all hush-hush?

Feminist Batwoman Election Returns 9

Also, you really don’t have to mention that I changed my mind and actually, we can’t celebrate yet because there are so many other things wrong in the world we need to deal with.

She doesn’t need to know she was right. That woman is not a gracious winner.

Just keep it… quiet, is my point. Okay? Okay!

Feminist Batwoman Election Returns 10

Great! I’ll be back soon, faithful readers! In the meantime, I will go forth into the Shadowy Corners of the Interwebs and Fight  Against Restrictive Gender Roles and All the Other Forces of Oppression!

Until next time.

- Your Friendly Interweb Feminist Batwoman.

Feminist Batwoman Election Returns 11

EDIT:

CD HERE. WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO WITH MY BLOG, FEMINIST BATWOMAN?

… oh, fuck. I knew I shouldn’t have had that half-glass of beer and put on the mask left my computer unattended. The Feminist Batwoman is devious. Super-devious. And in no way related to me. Ignore the shot of my shoulder in the last picture. That’s not my shoulder. I’m not the Feminist Batwoman. Yeah. I had nothing to do with this.

I need to change my passwords. AGAIN.

Anyway. Sorry about that, everyone. I’ll try to stay away from the mask keep a better eye on my computer in the future.

Although I do agree with the Feminist Batwoman’s point. We did win a big victory this November, and we should celebrate. But we should remember that there’s still a war on. It’s not time to lay down our weapons yet.

As Consent Culture Batgirl always says:

Stephanie Brown Batgirl Batman comics Bryan Q. Miller
I’m not ready for this to be the end of the fight. There’s so much ground to cover still. More misogyny and racism and homophobia and ableism and transphobia and oppression to uncover and stop. A new, better society to build.
What are you still fighting for?
ETA 2: Okay, FINE, ONE CELEBRATORY KITTEN GIF. But only because of the marriage victories in Maryland, Maine and Washington and Minnesota. And because of Tammy Duckworth and Tammy Baldwin and Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren and Maizie Hirono and Tulsi Gabbard.
Kitten GIF kitten and mother GIF

Have a celebratory kitte

(Hat Tip to Flyover Feminism, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Melissa Harris Perry Show and Shakesville for giving me (and the Feminist Batwoman) all our election news, both good and bad)


“You Need to Be the Bad Guy”: Disability and Abuse on Grey’s Anatomy

Question: Let’s say your wife doesn’t want to get in the shower. So you grab her, pick her up, and shove her into the shower while she screams and yells for you to let go. For good measure, you pin her to the wall while she keeps screaming.

Is that abuse?

Not on Grey’s Anatomy, it isn’t!

[no, but seriously, it is abuse]

[It's also domestic violence]

***

I, uh – I can’t really believe I’m writing this post. Because, I mean, Grey’s Anatomy has done a lot of stupid stuff over the years but – surely – SURELY – they didn’t just portray domestic violence in a positive light? Surely that didn’t happen. Surely I was imagining it.

… No, wait, I didn’t. It actually happened.

The fuck is wrong with you, Grey’s Anatomy?

And yes, I know, I just admitted to watching Grey’s Anatomy. In my defense, I kind of gave up on it after the Ghost Sex season. Yes, I rewatched the first two seasons during my finals – but only because it reminded me that my life, though stressful, could be a lot worse.

It could be scripted by Shonda Rhimes.

But then this fall, my Romantic Interest (hereafter known as the Feminist Philosopher) got me to watch Grey’s Anatomy with him on a regular basis.  And I will admit I’ve been enjoying it. Mostly in a “let’s point out how terrible this plot is” way. Or a “oh, that dialogue was just terrible” way. And sometimes in a “Cristina Yang is my spiritual guru and I will do whatever she tells me to do” way.

Cristina Yang will cut you Grey's Anatomy

Spiritual Guru

Intermingled with my love for Cristina Yang and my enjoyment of the terrible dialogue, however, is a slow-simmering outrage over the show’s treatment of the newly-disabled characters.

Quick recap: at the end of last season, a bunch of the doctors were in an airplane crash. Two of the principal characters – Lexie and Mark – died. Arizona Robbins’ leg was crushed, and later amputated against her wishes. Cristina Yang was diagnosed with reactive psychosis.

The way Grey’s Anatomy is dealing with Cristina and Arizona is killing me. KILLING me. It’s like they’ve got a bingo card of how NOT to write about disability, and they’re trying to check off EVERY SINGLE BOX.

For a while, I held it in. It was just a slow-simmering outrage, and a couple of rants. But Episode 3 (“Love the One You’re With”) officially pushed me over the top. The scene where Callie abuses her wife, Arizona and NO ONE CALLED IT OUT?

And it wasn’t a gross moment? It was a big “Oh, finally, Arizona will realize that her disability makes Callie unhappy too!” moment.

Yeah, that was the end of Ms. Nice Feminist.

NO MORE MS. NICE FEMINIST.

Meredith Cristina Rage Grey's Anatomy

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

CALLIE ABUSED HER WIFE AND YOU MADE IT SEEM JUSTIFIED.

FUCK YOU GREY’S ANATOMY.

Okay. I’m calm. I’m totally calm. I can write this in a calm and mature manner.

Before we get to the problem of Arizona Robbins (who, let me remind you, was ASSAULTED BY HER WIFE), let’s start with the Case of My  Spiritual Guru, Cristina Yang.

After the rescuers finally show up and save everyone, Cristina lapses into a catatonic state, punctuated with brief moments of rage and violence. Her doctors diagnose her with reactive psychosis.

Now, in a perfect world, Cristina’s friends and family would be like “Oh, yeah, she’s got a mental illness because she was in a plane crash and survived for a week with no food/water/medical help and she was keeping all these other people alive. Not super surprising. Let’s let her get the care she needs!

… And if you think that’s how things actually went down, I have a piece of the True Cross I’d like to sell you.

Here’s what actually happened. Cristina Yang is diagnosed with reactive psychosis, and then…

Cue scene where Owen (Cristina’s estranged husband) yells to the psych ward chief that he won’t let them take Cristina to the psyche ward. Cue scene where Owen – the chief of surgery – essentially prevents his wife from getting adequate medical care because he doesn’t want her to go to the psych ward. Cue scene where Meredith, Cristina’s best friend, grabs her by the shoulders and tells her to “snap out of it” because if Cristina doesn’t “snap out of it,” she’ll be put in the psych ward and “pumped full of anti-psychotics.’ Which is apparently the worst thing ever, since anti-psychotics will strip Cristina’s identity away (#NotActuallyHowAntiPsychoticsWorkMeredith) (#SeriouslyYouWentThroughMedSchoolAndYouDontKnowThis?)

Kathy Griffith Really Really GIF

Meredith and Owen fight tooth and claw to keep Cristina from going to the psych ward and getting psych treatment. Do you think they would fight to keep her out of the hospital if she’d gotten pneumonia? Would they be screaming at her and telling her if she didn’t “snap out of it,” she’d be pumped full of antibiotics and her personality would be totally changed?

Of course not.

This is gross on so many levels, I can’t even. As usual, mental illnesses are treated as if they’re The Worst Thing Ever, as opposed to, you know, just another set of illnesses. And Grey’s Anatomy acts like Cristina getting psychosis is the Worst Thing Ever.

Psychosis is the Worst Thing Ever, y’all! THE WORST THING EVER.

And going to the psych ward is the other Worst Thing Ever.

Sooooo gross.

Meredith and Owen’s behavior reinforces the stigmatization of mental illness. PSYCHOSIS, OOOGA BOOOGA. Whereas Owen and Meredith would recognize that pneumonia is an illness, that catching pneumonia is not a person’s fault, and that a person with pneumonia needs TREATMENT, they act like mental illnesses are a character flaw. Psychosis is a stigma, a brand to be avoided at any cost. Cristina can just “snap out of it.” And if she goes to the psych ward and received proper, adequate treatment for her “condition,” she’ll officially be a “psychotic person” and that would be the Worst Thing Ever. Because mental illnesses are the worst thing ever blah blah blah.

Someone shoot me.

Mental illnesses are just that: illnesses. Like all other illnesses, they require treatment. And honestly, to deprive Cristina of  treatment tailored to her illness because you don’t want her to go to the “psych ward” (OOOGA BOOOGA) and you don’t want her to take “anti-psychotics” is tantamount to medical abuse.

Grey’s Anatomy always makes a huge deal about ultra-religious parents who refuse to allow their child to get proper medical care. Don’t they realize they’re doing the same thing with Cristina?

(Well, of course not, because Mental Illnesses are different, and Cristina can’t be Psychotic GRAB THE FAINTING COUCH).

As a person with several mental illnesses, let me be the first to say “FUCK YOU, GREY’S ANATOMY.” You know what? I’ve been pretty close to catatonic in the super-severe phases of my depressions. I’ve never been put on anti-psychotics, but they were on the table, and they still are (some of them can be very helpful to managing depression. Who knew?). I’ve never been to a psych ward, but if things got bad enough, I would hope that the psych ward stigma wouldn’t be enough to keep me away.

The attitude the show – and Owen and Meredith – display towards mental illnesses is precisely the reason it took me twenty five minutes to type up the previous paragraph: because it is so fucking scary to come out as a person with mental illnesses. The attitude of “mental illnesses are the Worst Things Ever” and “mental illnesses mean you’re Crazy” do hurt people with actual mental illnesses. That attitude is part of the reason I was pushed by certain members of my family to keep my depression a secret and to get off anti-depressants as fast as possible (as opposed to when I was ready).

So yeah, FUCK YOU, GREY’S ANATOMY.Th

The show’s treatment of Cristina gets even worse in the scene where Owen (her estranged husband) takes her home and bathes her.

Ick. Ick, ick, ick, ick, ick.

Why ick?

Because Cristina and Owen were more or less estranged before the plane crash. So Cristina’s estranged husband managing her entire life, bathing her, controlling her, while Cristina herself is still catatonic and unable to give consent? Cristina’s estranged husband discussing, in vivid detail, how the rest of Cristina’s life will go? Cristina’s estranged husband deciding what kind of medical treatment she’ll get (or won’t get)?

Very Ick.

Cristina and Owen are no longer in a relationship where there’s some kind of consent implied for these big, major medical decisions. She never gave consent for him to take care of her, and she can’t do it now, since she can’t talk. So yeah, in this context, it is really gross that Owen basically takes control of her entire life.

The worst part is that the bathing scene is meant to be romantic and loving.  Oooh, look at Owen, standing by his catatonic woman, taking care of her, isn’t he the Bestest?

Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp ewww gif

Captain Jack thinks it’s Romantic! (no he doesn’t)

No… he’s not. Bodily autonomy and consent is a thing. You don’t lose it when you go through mental or physical illnesses.

And also, using a person’s illness and/or disability to prove how generous and self-sacrificing YOU are is suuuuuper-gross. Don’t do it. Ever.

Which, fittingly, brings me to the case of Arizona Robbins.

Reminder of Arizona’s condition: her leg was amputated shortly after she was rescued from the plane crash. Although Arizona did not want her leg amputated, at some point she started dying and was unable to give consent for medical procedures, so her wife (and doctor) Callie gave consent to an amputation.

(Question one: why is Callie, Arizona’s WIFE, her doctor? Oh, never mind, this is Grey’s Anatomy where that sort of thing is TOTALLY okay)

Post-amputation, Arizona is super-pissed at Callie for deciding to go ahead with the surgery without Arizona’s condition. She’s also unhappy and depressed and generally in a state of rage over losing her leg.

Now, I will gladly admit that Arizona has not been a particularly pleasant person in the wake of the crash and losing her leg. I would also like to point out that there’s no “right” way to react to severe trauma, and Arizona is not a bad person for not being all smiles and rainbows post-amputation. You cannot control the way you feel.

Hell, I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with Callie being upset and angry and sad at Arizona. You can’t control the way you feel; Callie is not a bad person for having normal human emotions.

But if you can’t control the way you feel, you can, however, control how you ACT on your feelings.

Cue the end of Episode 3. Callie comes home to find Arizona has left her wheelchair. Arizona apparently tried to go to the bathroom without help, but collapsed and urinated on herself.

Callie orders Arizona to take a shower. Arizona refuses.

Okay, yes, Arizona is being a bit silly. Then again, Arizona has just discovered, for what must be the 90th time, that  she can’t do even the simplest tasks on her own anymore. And she’s coming to terms with the fact that she’s going to go through a long, hard process of rehabilitation and relearning her body. That’s not something “easy” to go through. It’s not something most people can just “get over.”

But you know what? Even if Arizona’s behavior had been completely unjustified, there is still NO EXCUSE for what Callie did next.

Arizona refuses to take the shower.
Callie picks her up and shoves her into the shower. Arizona screams for Callie to let her go, and get out; Callie slams Arizona against the shower wall and holds her there while Arizona keeps screaming.

DOMESTIC ABUSE. DOMESTIC ABUSE. DOMESTIC ABUSE.

And yes, Callie is super-emotional and crying. And yes, Callie yells “There’s nowhere for me to go; this is my life now too!”

BUT IT’S STILL DOMESTIC ABUSE.

Least you think I’m exaggerating about the violence of the scene, see for yourself. And this, by the way, is AFTER the grabbing and shoving:

Callie Arizona shower scene abuse grey's anatomy

Callie Arizona shower scene abuse grey's anatomy

Grey's Anatomy Shower Scene Callie Arizona domestic violence

Sadly, because I am female and I grew up in the USA, I only believed my own conclusions about the Super-Gross-Abuse-Scene-Of-Doom AFTER a person of the male gender independently came to the same conclusion. Fortunately, I happened to have a person of the male gender sitting right next to me when the Super-Gross scene happened:

The Feminist Philosopher paused the video and turned to me.

Feminist Philosopher: Well. That just happened.”

Me: “Uh, yeah. You saw the same thing I did.”

Feminist Philosopher: “Callie assaulting Arizona? Yup. Suuuper gross.

So yeah, it’s not just Team Culturally Disoriented Seeing Things over here. Hell, I don’t understand why anyone – anyone – would look at this scene and not go “Jesus H. Christ, what the hell is going on here.”

Hey, I’ll tell you what the hell is going on:

CALLIE ABUSED ARIZONA.

And no one has called it. Not on the show, not – as far as I can tell – in the world of the internet.

Ellen Degeneres That's Gross GIF

So I’m calling it now: Callie Torres physically abused Arizona Robbins. It happened. It is domestic violence.
This is not a “normal” couples argument. This is not okay. This is abuse.

***

Okay, I can hear the critics now. What does this scene – gross as it was – have to do with disability? Callie’s treatment of Arizona is abuse regardless of Arizona’s condition, right?

Right!

If we unpack the scene a bit more, however, it’s pretty clear that Callie’s actions are intimately connected to the show’s attitude towards disability.

There’s a reason why this scene isn’t played as domestic violence. There’s a reason it’s framed to make Callie seem “justified.”

Indeed, from the first episode of the new season, Arizona’s disability has been framed in terms of its effect on Callie’s life. It’s about Callie’s feelings. Callie’s sadness. Callie’s struggles. Callie’s torment. Callie’s guilt. Hell, we don’t even SEE Arizona in the first episode – until we discover she’s lost her leg.

And we don’t see her much in the next few episodes – except when she’s interacting with Callie.

Then we get this beautifully revolting scene in Episode 2, where Callie tells Owen that “the person in that bed” isn’t Arizona, but just a shell of a person with all of Arizona removed. Callie says she thinks that if Arizona loses her leg, Callie will never get Arizona back again.

And Owen then says he doesn’t think he’ll ever get Cristina – his still-catatonic wife – back.

… wow.

Let’s just back up and look at how Owen and Callie have taken their significant others’ Huge Illnesses and made it All About Them.

We need to save Arizona’s leg so Callie gets her back. We need to make Cristina un-psychotic so Owen gets her back.

Wow, I never realized that when people suffer through traumatic illnesses and injuries, their experiences don’t matter at all! It’s All About The People Around Them!
I’m learning so many new things from this show.

Cristina Yang I was surprised too GIF Grey's Anatomy

Cristina Yang Grey's Anatomy I was surprised GIF

Look, being the partner/friend/significant other/family of a disabled or chronically ill person is not easy. And those people deserve support and help and sympathy. My problem isn’t that Grey’s Anatomy showcases Owen and Callie’s emotional meltdowns. My problem is that the show does it AT THE EXPENSE of Arizona and Cristina.

Despite the fact that Arizona and Cristina are the ones actually dealing with trauma and disabilities, their stories are secondary. Their emotions are far less important than those of Callie and Owen’s. The show centers on Callie and Owen’s sadness at their wives’ illnesses/disability, and on how generous Callie/Owen are to stick with them.

Arizona is relegated to the role of a  symbol. She’s not important for herself, but for what she represents – Callie’s tragedy, Callie’s sacrifice, Callie’s generosity, Callie’s emotional struggles.

Hell, Arizona isn’t even able to define herself anymore – it’s Callie who decides that Arizona is “not her wife” anymore, but just a person with all the Arizona scraped out. How Arizona feels, we don’t know.

The show’s writers took Arizona’s voice away and made her silent in her own tragedy.

And what does Callie yell to her wife as she’s pushing her into the shower? Why does she think it’s okay for her to abuse Arizona?

“This is my life now too!”

This is my life now too.

It’s not Arizona’s life anymore. It’s Callie’s. By virtue of Arizona’s disability, she has become less of a person. She’s been relegated to the symbolic.

You know what? This is not Callie’s life. It’s not. Arizona’s life is Arizona’s life. Arizona’s body is her body.

If Callie can’t handle Arizona’s behavior, she can try to have an honest conversation with her. She can go to therapy. You know what? If it’s too much for Callie to deal with, CALLIE CAN LEAVE ARIZONA. She can divorce her. Callie has somewhere else to go. She has a choice. She’s choosing to stay with Arizona.

Arizona, on the other hand, really does have nowhere else to go. She can’t just “leave’ her body when she gets sick of it. This is her reality. This is her life. This is her body.

It’s not Callie’s.

I don’t mean to diminish Callie’s very real pain, or Arizona’s very real vitriol over the past few episodes. But I’m sick of illness and disability being portrayed as “harder” on the family/friends/whatever than on the person experiencing them. I’m sick of shows using disability as a way to show OTHER characters’ emotional struggles and generosity.

I’m sick of narratives that tell us that people with disabilities are less-than-human, that they’re just a broken version of a more perfect person. I’m sick of narratives where Meredith get to say that treatment for a mental illness will strip your identity away. Where Callie gets to say that her wife’s accident has made her “not-Arizona.”

Hell, I’m not even sure why I’m so surprised by this. Grey’s Anatomy has always treated illness and disability as symbols. In the show, the disabled body is nothing more than a shiny toy for doctors to have fun with. People with disabilities are only important insofar as they are symbols. They’re not people.

People with disabilities are not broken. We are not symbols. We are people.

Screw you, Grey’s Anatomy.

***

The worst part of the abuse – and yes, we have only just now gotten to the worst part – is that its for Arizona’s own good. Supposedly.

In Callie’s Super-Important Surgical Case (right before the Shower Scene), her underage patient wants to run off and complete a sailing competition even though it’ll mean losing her leg. Callie tells the patient’s parents that they need to stop her. They need to be her parents. They need to be “the bad guy” so they can save their daughter.

And, of course, because this is Grey’s Anatomy and Grey’s Anatomy has the subtlety of a GIANT SLEDGEHAMMER, Callie’s case is a metaphor for her personal life, and how she needs to be the “bad guy” with Arizona.

In this little equation, Arizona has been transformed into a child. A child. And Callie is her PARENT.

The whole “people with disabilities are just like children” meme has been well-overplayed. Don’t think I didn’t notice the infantilization of Arizona. Don’t think I didn’t notice that she peed on herself (childhood!) and had to be cleaned by her wife/parent (infantilizing!). Don’t think I didn’t notice that you did exactly the same thing with Cristina in the scene where she’s being bathed by Owen (infantalizing!)

Disabled people are not children. We’re not, thank you very much.

And Arizona is not a child. Arizona is a grown-ass woman. Losing her leg does not mean she lost her right to control her own life. Her body is hers. Her life is hers. You do not get to choose what she does with them, even if you think she’s hurting herself.

You cannot control adults’ lives for their own good. You cannot shove your wife into a shower for her own good (you can’t do that to your kid either, actually, because that too is abuse). You cannot take your estranged wife back to your house without her permission and give her a bath (yes, I’m back to Cristina). You cannot choose your estranged wife’s psychological treatment.

That is abuse.

Look, I get it. You see sick people, hurt people, you want to help them. They say no. You say “it’s for your own good.”
But that’s NOT OKAY. You cannot help people without their consent. You cannot force people to do things “for their own good.”

Not after they’re 18 anyway.

Look, this isn’t some kind of fringe issue. People with disabilities are up to four times more likely than abled people to be abused by partners or caretakers. Four times. And part of the reason they’re more likely to be abused – and less likely to seek help (or to get it when they go to the authorities) – is because of stupid narratives like these.

Narratives that emphasize the pain and the generosity of the caregivers and the partners at the expense of the actual people with disabilities. Narratives that portray people with disabilities as children. Narratives that portray abuse as something done for the person’s own good.

Who would ever believe that a woman so generous and selfless that she would stay married to a cripple would commit an act of domestic violence? It wasn’t abuse! It was for Arizona’s own good.

Fuck you very much, Grey’s Anatomy.

Ellen Degeneres You Are Disgusting GIF

Callie abused Arizona.

You showed it as something good and romantic and cathartic.

Fuck you, Grey’s Anatomy.

Arizona and Cristina are not symbols. They’re not tragic parts of other peoples’ lives. They’re not children. They’re not broken. They’re people with real pain and real lives and real stories. So please start treating them that way.

And please don’t give me any Arizona/Callie scenes for another few weeks. I honestly can’t look at Callie without wanting to call the Seattle cops. SHE ABUSED HER WIFE. Send her to therapy.

As a final note: CALLIE ABUSED HER WIFE.

Just say that over and over to yourself until it sinks in.

***

*In order to thank the Feminist Philosopher, who re-introduced me to Grey’s Anatomy AND who was kind enough to let me rant at him for a REALLY long time without ever telling me that I was exaggerating or that I should calm down… I will finish this blog by saying: FUCK YOU, DAVID BROOKS.

(just because)

**ALSO, if you are in the Montreal area, you should go see the play Inherit the Wind, which is going up at McGill Player’s Theater, November 14-17 & 21-24, 8:00 PM. GO SEE IT. I saw it last night, and my reaction was something like this:

Mind Blown Neil Patrick Harris GIF

Hugh Grant Love Actually Dancing GIF

It was pretty damn near perfection. And I’m not just saying that because I know a lot of the people in it and I baked cookies for their bake sale (if I hated it, I would just NOT TALK ABOUT IT on the blog).

GO SEE IT.
oh, here’s a review.


An 11-year Overdue Happy Birthday

Eleven-year old C.D.! LOOK OVER HERE! It’s me! Or you! Or both!

Yes, I know I have red hair now – weird, huh? Anyway, I wanted to wish you a happy eleventh birthday! Remember all those times in 6th grade when you were all “when I’m twenty two, none of this terrible stuff will matter?” Well, I’m twenty-two now, as it happens. And I’ve been thinking a lot about you.

I know, I know. The plan was for me to forget all about that year. I know. But as it happens, there were changes to the plan.

Trust me, you’ll like the changes. Eventually.

***

Oh, hi, dear Readers! Yes, I’m having a conversation with the eleven-year old version of me. Kinda weird, huh?

So, I should probably explain myself before this conversation gets any weirder. As you’ve probably figured out by now, this blog does not (usually) serve as my online diary. True, I discuss a lot of super-personal things on the blog, but it’s not a personal blog per se – it’s a blog about social justice and geekery and pop culture. And rants. Lots of rants.

All this to war you that this post is – well, it’s very personal. It’s not a post about feminism or pop culture, except inasmuch as it is a post about a self-identified feminist (me).

You see, it’s my birthday. Or it was my birthday a couple of days ago – I’m not publishing the post on the day-of because this year, my birthday was on a weekend, and traffic always goes waaaaay down on the weekends.

And I thought: well, it’s my birthday. I should write a birthday post!

So I started writing a nice, upbeat birthday post where I discussed nice, upbeat things. But then the birthday post warped. I saw the ghost of 11 year old CD popping up between sentences, pulling paragraphs off-topic, making me think about things I didn’t really want to think about. Like the fact that I hate my birthdays.

And the fact that when I was 11, I was convinced that at 22 I would finally be happy enough to forget all about that horrid 6th grade year.

I could have fought the warping, I suppose. But I remembered that 11-year-old me was convinced that 22 year old me would be awesome and happy and confident (so happy, and awesome and confident that she would forget all about that horrid 6th grade year). And I figured I owed that 11 year old something for believing in me so hard.

So this isn’t a nice, upbeat birthday post anymore. It’s the birthday post where I give the ghosts free reign.

[Fair warning: this is the part where it gets sad]

Here’s the thing: I usually try not to think about my birthday. My past few have been pretty terrible, for various reasons – family stuff, depressions, anxiety, a darth vader boyfriend, an abusive roommate. Even this birthday was bad, since on the day-of, I had a big fever and spent most of the day in bed praying for someone to rip my throat out (this wasn’t a suicide thing – my throat was SUPER sore).

I also dread my birthdays because they’re… all about me. I mean, the entire idea of birthdays is that they’re *your* special day, right? And the idea of people congratulating me, or saying happy birthday, or giving me presents – the idea of people paying any kind of extra attention to me – makes me feel selfish.

I dread birthdays because, somewhere deep down in the lizard brain part of my psyche, I believe that I don’t deserve that kind of attention – minor as it is – even for a day. I believe that I’m not good enough.

So I feel like I sham, like I’m somehow tricking people into giving me attention.

Yeah, it’s pretty screwed up.

But at the same time, there’s something reassuring about these emotions, icky as they are. Because the feelings of selfishness and worthlessness I get on my birthday? Are a reminder of the fact that I don’t feel that way ALL THE TIME anymore. Those feelings have – slowly, very slowly – stopped being my daily reality.

The eleven year old version of me just fell over in shock: “Wait, what? You mean it’s actually POSSIBLE to spend entire days without feeling like a horrible person?”

Lilo and Stitch, Stitch fainting GIF

Eleven was a bad year for me. I mean, middle school as a general rule was pretty terrible, but if middle school was purgatory, sixth grade was hell. My family had moved back to France for a year. Which was an… interesting experience.

I was introduced to the joys of public humiliation as an education strategy. I was bullied at school. I learned all about kids following you and calling you mean names. I learned about teachers who said “all Americans” were stupid – in front of the whole class, and knowing I was American.

6th grade was also the last year my parents were together. And it was not a good year. Hell, by that point, I was a law-abiding citizen of the State of Denial, and even I couldn’t deny that things were terrible in my family. Really terrible. Now, I was still a law-abiding citizen of the State of Denial, so I was also convinced that if I were the Perfect Daughter(tm), my parents would be happy together again.

You will be shocked to learn that strategy did not work.

On top of everything else,  I was living in the Metaphorical House that Love Emotional Abuse Built. So I spent a lot of time feeling sad and angry and depressed and anxious about all the horrible things happening in my life… and then, because this is the way the Architecture of the House built by Emotional Abuse works, I would blame myself for feeling sad and angry. I would tell myself that I was a terrible person for feeling sad and angry and depressed. I would do everything I possibly could to hide the fact that I wasn’t perfectly happy all the time.

Haunted House GIF

Here there be monsters. And tacky faux-victorian furniture.

Like I said, not a good year.

It was also that year that I came up with a brilliant coping strategy [note that I am nothing if not brilliant in my coping strategies]. Whenever I felt (understandably) sad/angry/overwhelmed/depressed/anxious about all the horrible things happening to me, I would tell myself to snap out of it by saying: “When I’m twenty two, I will laugh about this. When I’m twenty two, I’ll be so awesome that none of this will matter. “

***

So yeah, 11 year old me. I’m finally twenty two. Very exciting!

And, I mean, clearly I’ve deviated from the plan. Clearly I’m still thinking about 6th grade.

I don’t laugh when I think about our year in 6th grade. I don’t think that what happened to us was insignificant. It did matter. It does matter. Remembering certain events still makes me want to curl up in a closet and cry (the Retainer Incident? UGH).

I know we thought that forgetting all those horrible things would make me happy. I know that was the plan.

But here’s the good news, 11-year-old-me. Every year since… oh, the 12th grade… I’ve become progressively happier. And every year since then, you and I have been on a slow but undeniable upward slope.

Things are getting better.

[Everyone else: OH FINALLY, WE GET TO THE HAPPY PART OF THE BIRTHDAY POST]

And seriously, I realize how exquisitely lucky I am that this is true. But it is a fact, dear 11-year old me, that my life – your life – our life – has been on a slow-but-noticeable upward slope for the past five years.

And before you object, Ms. Middle Schooler, that this year I had the second of my major depressions, so how can I say that things are getting better – notice how much more quickly I recovered this time? Notice the fact that I managed to start ablog while in the worst phase of the depression? And that I still was on deans honor list, and that I got a therapist to finally work with me on my anxiety issues, and that I found a treatment (FINALLY) for my migraines?

Yes, I know, it’s a surprise. We were supposed to forget and get happy. But the thing that let me be happy wasn’t forgetting. It was remembering. And confronting. And thinking about all the horrible things until I understood them well enough to see the structure of the House that Emotional Abuse Built. And when I saw the House that surrounded me, I could kick open a fucking window and BREATHE.

And every year, as I dismantle that house more and more, as I discover the dark things lurking in the hallways and the attics and the basements – as I deal with those terrible tacky furnishings and scary paintings and the giant piles of rotting garbage in the basement – things get better and better.

Seriously, house renovations are the best. Try them.

See, 11-year-old-me? I told you you’d like the changes to the plan. It wasn’t a bad plan, don’t get me wrong – I admire your imaginative coping strategies – but I think this adaptation is even better. I think you’d be pretty happy with where we ended up.

[Hey, I think you'd even like the red hair. Eventually. I know I did!]

And you know what? Happy birthday, eleven-year-old-me. You deserve it. I know, I know, the voices in your head are screaming that You’re Selfish and Terrible and Awful and Stuff for your audacity in Daring To Have A Birthday. But those voices have issues. Don’t listen to them.

Listen to ME.

I realize this is too little, too late, given that you can’t actually HEAR me, but: you were a pretty awesome kid. And you managed to be awesome in spite of the House of Tacky Furnishings and Dark Monsters and Scary Paintings and All That Stuff in the Basement.

So thank you. Because if our life is awesome now, it’s because you were awesome back then.

And thanks for believing in me.

I’ll say it again: Happy birthday, 11-year-old me. You deserve a good one.

***

Oh, also, good bad weird news, faithful readers! The Feminist Batwoman seems to be back. I found this picture on my laptop today. So she’s probably been messing with my files again.

… or maybe she was just trying to wish me happy birthday?

Feminist Batwoman Returns

Happy Birthday. Don’t be a misogynist.

It bears repeating, though:  LIKE I KEEP SAYING, I am definitely not the Feminist Batwoman, and she and I have nothing to do with each other. I am a law-abiding citizen, and the Feminist Batwoman is a vigilante, and if you know who she is, you should definitely Report Her to the Authorities.


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