Monday, April 17, 2017

Avoiding male violence is the single largest expense in my life

Art by Sherry Dooley


**Trigger warning

The Montgomery County, MD therapist demanded to know why I was so upset about my rape 7 months after it happened. I couldn't say anything but sob. I didn't even know a human could endure that level of pain without dying.

How could I stay with a man that raped me every day? I consider the therapist an allegory of my intuition. I knew society and professionals would not be on my side. I know how much society hates the R word and how much more they hate rape victims.

Some of it makes twisted sense. If you get your wallet stolen three times, obviously you’re not taking care of your valuables. You should have learned the first time that your wallet could be stolen. So why can’t you prevent your own rape? You know it’s coming. But the truth is more twisted. We can’t just stop getting raped. And I think that scares people who hate us. It’s not really hate, it’s fear.

After nearly a year of being terrorized I tried to leave. I made plans and let him know. I was not going to be terrorized any longer. But that’s not really the entire truth. I had no job, no family, no car, my best friend had just died—and she was the only person who would never have left me—and, I knew there was no help. This mysterious help people talk about is no more real than Big Foot. But the real reason I left wasn’t because I hated the rape so much. I had lost all confidence and will to live at that point, it meant nothing that I was used and beaten like an object. But when he started beating my animals, that’s when I made the decision to leave. What he did after I left could turn into a Lifetime Movie.

Paul's anger was always out of control. He was always seething with rage and when he didn’t get his way he’d start sharpening his knives or he’d clean his gun. You never think you could get stuck with a man like this. Even if you have high self esteem, they find a way to knock you down until you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.

Despite the rage, repeated rapes, animal abuse, I didn’t consider suicide until years later when I was left impoverished with such bad anxiety my bosses would sense it and fire me or I'd be forced to quit. Like I keep saying, people kinda think rapists are jerks but they really really hate rape victims. It’s a fool proof plan. No one wants to see a rapist in their son, friend, co-worker, or neighbor.

You can’t imagine how expensive it is to be poor.
I’ve literally paid 1000% more for the same thing as other people. To this day, my only options are suicide, jail or house arrest. And out of the three I think suicide is by far the most humane option. I know prison ain’t fun but the house arrest I’m under due to poverty and lack of basic human freedoms feels like the same torture as living with a rapist in some aspects. Funny that. With a rapist I was more respected as a woman than without.

None of this happened overnight. In fact it took about 4 years to get to the point where I was 100% decided on suicide. People say there is hope and things get better but they don’t. The agony of rape and poverty continue to make your life hell. Each day is a new hell that you could not imagine was possible. You can’t get stronger. Strong is bullshit anyways. Men rape us and we are supposed to carry on like good strong women who don’t complain.

The day I left, Paul went to court to file domestic violence protection orders against me, citing that I had threatened him with a gun. I owned no weapons, though he owned an arsenal of several dozen guns, rifles, and knives. On the order he stated he was getting ready for work, but the truth is he knew I was leaving that day so he called off work at some point. He kept threatening my animals but I had no choice but to leave to contest a ticket. If I didn’t, I would lose my license and the ability to run away. But he wouldn’t stop touching my cats after I told him not to, so I threatened to tell the police everything. That night the sheriffs delivered the court order. I was in so much shock (wish I knew this in fact was not shocking but rather male violence protocol) I stopped eating for almost three years.

Most people might wonder why I didn’t do more to protect myself but my only goal was to save my animals. What most don’t realize is that you have a choice, save yourself or your loved ones. You don’t get the luxury of doing both. That’s not how it works.

During this time the city of Gaithersburg animal control division manipulated the system to get me banned from the city. My neighbors upstairs posted my foreclosure notice in all of the buildings in my neighborhood, complained about my dog, and left lot’s of cruel notes at my door. There was no point in fighting them, your instinct kicks in and you know the truth so much clearer than ever.

The county DV unit provided me with a therapist, but she like so many others treated me worse than how my attacker was treated—all because I knew and lived with my attacker. The rape crisis attorney told me I was vengeful. Other attorney’s hung up on me. An attorney at the largest law firm in Maryland became angry when I asked if they represent rapists. They proclaimed that people lie about abuse. The judges ruled in his favor despite records of abuse and the detective sabotaged Paul’s confession. The courts couldn’t help. My old roommate worked for the court system so I was familiar with the ongoings of the judges and attorney’s who do all the things my ex did to me. The police weren’t any different from my ex either. One Montgomery County, MD officer said things and threatened things I can’t repeat here. And most of my friends cut and ran. Despite poverty being the number one reason for planning my suicide, having friends disappear was more painful. But they had to do what they had to do. The truth is that rape brings everyone around the victim down, it destroys their peace and sanctity and I think they knew it on some level. This is why I left my old life behind because it’s not there anymore, there is nothing to salvage.

But you never really leave male violence behind; it’s everywhere. When I finally moved into a safe neighborhood, I’d hear my male neighbors scream at their wives and dogs the way Paul did to me. And one neighbor tried to abuse my dog when he thought I wasn’t looking. He later threatened to kidnap my animals and made strange comments that no one walks away from him—even though I just did. He even said that he’d better never see my dog in the yard. I continue to live with fear in the back of my mind that he’ll make good on his promises. In a way those are the only promises men keep. Trying to stay safe from men like this cost me my life savings. Avoiding male violence is the single largest expense in my life, second to state sanctioned usury.

On my 6 year anniversary I nearly died from an unknown illness. But I know what it was—it was heart break. The agony was so unbearable, I couldn’t eat or drink for ten days. The pain nearly caused a heart attack and yet the hospital refused pain medication. When I returned home from the hospital the county cut off my food stamps. Most people don’t understand that you are not eligible for food stamps unless you work at least 20 hours a week. This means you have to stay in a job that pays you too little to eat. And if you don’t have a job you have to work for free for the county at about 2-3 times the worth of the food stamps and they do not cover transportation expenses making your limited options impossible. Not having pain medication, food stamps and being denied disability has made the choice to kill myself absolute.

But along the way I found some peace when by chance I discovered the most brilliant feminists. They cried with me every day. They didn’t even know who I was and they didn’t care. Many have offered me money and support but the truth is that I’m dead already. And I don’t want to take resources away from those who are living.

My experiences led me to become vocal about rape, rape apology and male sexual violence which includes porn and prostitution. Even though we’re led to believe that porn and prostitution aren’t violence, I think non rapists would feel a repulsion so strong at the idea of women being economically coerced into sexual servitude or risk homelessness that that would be a force they couldn’t ignore. But instead leftist and rightist men both agree that women’s bodies are battle grounds for their war. I get accusations of SWERF/TERF but I think being anti-exploitation is the right thing to do under any circumstance because there is no loophole for rape. I don’t care what excuses anyone presents.

My friends threatened me a lot and I lost a lot of friends. I also got a lot of rape threats as well. It was hurtful, I was confused, dismayed and felt an isolation I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But the outrage directed at me lead me to take it up ten levels. The strange thing is that when you become extremely vocal (is there any other kind?) people accuse you of being a victim of male violence. As if it’s a blight on me. As if my job was to smile the rape away and make men’s crime invisible to protect their image. Being a victim is supposed to invalidate me as a human being or as an intellectual capable of remaining rational. These are the ways in which women are punished for saying no.

Occasionally I get an email from a woman who never spoke about her rape and domestic violence. I don’t know how they lived in silence for so many decades. My goal was to never shut up, ever. Sometimes men choose the wrong damn victim, someone they think will remain silent. They think we’ll be targeted for more abuse if we speak out so it would compel us to remain invisible forever. And they are right, the post DV abuse is worse than any of the direct abuse I’ve experienced. But when women are encouraged and have access to feminism, it changes our pre-programed fear response. You become someone you never thought you would be capable of becoming: an unapologetic woman.

-Anonymous

An excerpt from our upcoming anthology, The Abuse After the Abuse: How Men use Money to Destroy Women.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Call for Submissions - Original Resistance: Reclaiming Lilith, Reclaiming Ourselves


The Girl God is accepting submissions for our upcoming Anthology of women’s writing: Original Resistance: Reclaiming Lilith, Reclaiming Ourselves.

We want to hear from women about their insight into this Goddess and how they have used Her story to resist societies expectations of them and reclaim their personal power. Personal essays (up to 2,500 words), academic papers, poetry and (black and white) art are welcome.


Edited by Monette Chilson, Trista Hendren and Pat Daly

Scheduled publication: June 2019

Please send your submissions to trista@girlgod.org by January 31, 2019.

Submission Guidelines:
Please send your finished piece in a Word document.  Art should be sent in high resolution as a JPG.  You may submit more than one piece for consideration, but due to the volume of submissions, please only send your best work.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our new book for children of all ages, My Name is Lilith!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

It Doesn’t Matter What we Think About the Burqa - Mary Scully


And when all is said & done, after the last tweet & range of views on Islam, religious fundamentalism, the burqa, & the Taliban have been exorcised & the adrenaline has settled, there are these little Afghan girls made homeless by the US-NATO war. 

Few reliable figures exist for the number of Afghan children orphaned by the war through loss or separation from parents. Nearly a decade ago, it was estimated at two million. That is, one out of seven children growing up on the streets scrounging to survive or in an orphanage. We don’t know if these little girls are orphaned; we do know they lost their home to bombing & live in makeshift refugee housing.

So it really doesn’t matter what we think about the burqa; what matters is what we do about the US-NATO bombing.

US-NATO out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq!


Mary Scully




Photo by Massoud Hossaini/AP; Hossaini is an Afghan photojournalist who has long documented the story of Afghan’s orphaned children.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Call for Submissions - Inanna's Descent: Restoring Civilization in Troubled Times



The Girl God is accepting submissions for our upcoming Anthology of women’s writing: Inanna's Descent: Restoring Civilization in Troubled Times.

We want to hear from women about their insight into this Goddess and how they have used Her story or personal descent or a "dark night of the soul" to transcend and transform themselves and the world around them. Personal essays (up to 2,500 words), academic papers, poetry and (black and white) art are welcome.


Edited by Tamara Albanna, Trista Hendren and Pat Daly

Scheduled publication: June 2017

Please send your submissions to trista@girlgod.org by January 31, 2018.

Submission Guidelines:
Please send your finished piece in a Word document.  Art should be sent in high resolution as a JPG.  You may submit more than one piece for consideration, but due to the volume of submissions, please only send your best work.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Mother Medusa: Regenerative One by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

"The Gorgon Medusa" by Sudie Rakusin


I first saw Her in myself, and gave voice to Her, after I had given a paper on Women and Religion, at the Women and Labour Conference in Australia in 1980; and the paper had attracted quite a bit of media attention. I felt myself to be seen as She was: that is, as some-thing completely out in and of, the wilderness – though I did not yet correctly name Her: I did not really know who She was at that time. I did not know my heritage then - my Hera-tage: it was only just beginning to emerge from the Great Below. As a method of processing this experience I had a dialogue with Society as an entity. It proceeded thus:

Society: What is this thing that you are – where do you come from? Who dug you up? You are ghastly. You have snakes on your head for hair. You have demons within you. You are Lillith. You are damnation. Give me a chance and I will be rid of you – the likes of you I had hoped were burnt long ago. But you have crawled forth from the earth again. You have come like a poisonous gas: you will corrupt me and all that I feed on. I wish to exorcise your presence.

Glenys: You are right that I mean to be part of radically changing you. You flatter me to say that I am Lillith. You honour me to connect me with my sisters long gone. Am I so totally opposed to you? Have I grasped so clearly your demons – your shadow? Has some special darkness of yours come to rest so completely in me? When you see me you cringe so … like as if I were a leper – unclean. Am I such a puzzle to you? Do I show so much of your inadequacy?

Society: You are like the one from whose mouth fell toads and frogs. How is it that I honour you with these things? Was Eve honourable?

Glenys: What of Joan of Arc? Your brothers called her witch and burnt her – then they canonized her later when they forgot her potency.

And a little later I added: You wish that I didn’t exist, so in some ways you rob me of my existence. You will, not to give me a mirror by which I may see myself … though you do in a distorted fashion.

At around the same time in my life I had been reading Robin Morgan’s book of poems Monster, and in particular the poem by that name at the end of the book, in which she feels identified in mind, spirit and body - so completely - as monster, by the cultural context and even by her toddler son. She concludes:

May my hives bloom bravely until my flesh is aflame
And burns through the cobwebs.
May we go mad together, my sisters.
May our labor agony in bringing forth this revolution
be the death of all pain.

May I learn how to survive until my part is finished.
May I realize that I
        am a
monster. I am
        a monster.
I am a monster. 
And I am proud.1 

I did feel myself to be this monster, however I wasn’t sure that I could bear it: my inner resources were meager, and I didn’t really know how I could be proud. I had a dream at that time after giving the conference paper wherein I was an ancient woman on the plains dressed in animal skin and holding a spear. Words were spoken to me, telling me to rise up and that my ancient spear would find its mark; there was also notice of future wounding in the process. I felt strengthened in my wild mission to find Her and more words for Her, my wild mission to know Her more deeply.

So off I went to study, across the seas, alone – without family. Amongst the readings in the research process was Barbara Walker’s Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets: including in it an introduction to Medusa, in which Barbara Walker confirmed that despite patriarchal perceptions, Medusa may represent “an ancient, widely recognized symbol of divine female wisdom”.2 She was named at last, and fuller notice of Her character given. Then there was Hélène Cixous’ ovarian work The Laugh of the Medusa, which praised Medusa’s wild beauty, and inspired further action and writing to restore this divine beauty. Hélène Cixous wrote:“Let the priests tremble, we’re going to show them our sexts!”i I was beginning to grasp some threads. My journey with Her was just beginning, though I had no idea: life got busy and it would be another ten years before I really felt Her again, in devastating circumstance as is often Her way.

I was after all a daughter of the patriarchy, and real change in my core being was required: I felt strongly the cultural assignment as sex object, with no sense of organic agency – a colonized bodymind, vulnerable to predation. I was blessed however: my life fell apart. I wrote a little later in reflection:
What did it take… to develop a shell, a protective boundary, to pull the shades on the imposing mostly male Gaze, to allow a fertile darkness within my being, where "I" could begin? What did it take to create this kind of darkness, a safe place to Be, to shut out the world and scream "I"? … A sex object has to completely fall apart before she can rebuild herself in her own image. She has fall into the mud, begin again, perform her own acts of Creation, mold herself of this solid material. It is out of the mud that the lotus blossoms. It does not grow on some pedestal, under the light of the eternal Gaze. … How ironic that our paternal mythmakers made Medusa's gaze the deadly one!3

In the process of rebuilding myself and my life, I began at last to facilitate classes, gathering groups of women for Re-storying Goddess as the classes were named … and so we did this in-forming for each other, filling our bodyminds with noble ancient images and story, and hearing each other into speech.4 In these many classes and workshops I would always invoke the Crone aspect in this way:
There is a time for the waxing and there is a time for the waning. Medusa, Hecate, Kali ... we call you. Once you were not separate, we restore you to your place in the cycle, in the communion.

Gradually I was able to form the question in my mind, and later wrote it into my doctoral thesis5 and then into my book:
What might be the consequences of changing our minds sufficiently, so that Medusa for instance, can be comprehended as metaphor for Divine Wisdom? Many scholars contend She once was understood this way. What might it mean for our minds to welcome Her back? Would that alter the way we relate to Earth, to Being?6

I was able at this time to identify Goddess – “the Female Metaphor” as I named Her, in all Her three qualities, with Cosmogenesis, the Western scientific story of the creative unfolding of the Cosmos, as told by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry.7 They describe these three qualities of Cosmogenesis as “the governing themes and the basal intentionality of all existence”, characterizing the evolution of the universe “throughout time and space and at every level of reality”.8 And so, did I identify Goddess’s three qualities: as primordial and all pervasive Creative Cosmic Dynamic. I now saw clearly Her aspect of Crone, Dark One, as essentially creative: the breaking down of the old, the “waning”, was actually creative, in the context of the whole and larger picture, the communion.9 With Her process She allows space for renewal: I named Her as She Who Creates the Space to Be.

When I began the practice of celebrating the full year of seasonal ceremony in a serious committed manner in 1998 - having noticed the power of such religious practice, the power of speaking with the Mother Cosmos in this way - I always wore a significant headpiece that actually was characteristic of the ancient primordial Medusa, though I did not know it. The artist who created the headpiece had named Her Melusine and that meant very little to me at the time also. The reason I bought the headpiece was because a child – “Stephanie” was her name – saw me trying it on and exclaimed “Fairy!” with delight: I was seduced. I had no idea who She was, and only began to play with the headpiece and the armband that came with it, in the Re-storying Goddess workshops a few years after buying it: indeed all the women played with Her. But with the serious engagement in the ceremonial celebration of the full year of the Seasonal Moments I decorated Her – this headpiece - each time according to the themes of the Season, and wore Her. This headpiece became an entity over the years; I wrote:
As I pace the circle … I see “Her” as She has been through the Seasons … the black and gold of Samhain, the deep red, white and evergreen of Winter, the white and blue of Imbolc, the flowers of Eostar, the rainbow ribbons of Beltane, the roses of Summer, the seed pods and wheat of Lammas, and now the Autumn leaves. I see in my mind’s eye, and feel, Her changes. I am learning … The Mother knowledge grows within me.10
Only gradually have I come to identify Her snake coils and bird wings, as an ancient combination representative of Medusa as Miriam Robbins Dexter describes in this anthology.11 I realize now that I had been invoking Medusa; calling Her into my being, embodying Her in Seasonal ceremony, embedding Her regenerative creativity in my life. As Marija Gimbutas points out, the earliest Greek gorgons as Medusa was, or wherever Goddess appeared as a mask of death, She was never separate from symbols of regeneration.12

I did not “choose” Her. She chose me it seems. I was a space wherein She could grow, and She was re-storing the integrity and nobility of my femaleness: perhaps “the curse” in all its valences of body cycle, spirit and mind that I held in my female being and story, was actually a portal of deep connection to Earth as Mother. My cultural context has tried to ignore this Beauty and ubiquitously abuses it. Was the shame and the horror actually a blessing? Was She – the Medusa and all She represented actually beautiful, as Hélène Cixous and others had perceived? Perhaps this was why they couldn’t bear to look at Her? I began to understand that Her awesome visage was indeed characteristic of any ultimate Deity: fearsome to behold, but it included intense beauty as well as terror.

Still She dawns in me, gradually rising and coming to fullness, the Regenerative One whom She is. Still I learn how the darkness and the shedding of the old, which She represents, is simultaneously space for renewal – one does not happen without the other, whether or not one can see it. Gradually Her ancient knowledge of never-ending renewal is restoring to my being.


© Glenys Livingstone 2017 C.E. / an excerpt from the upcoming girl god anthology, Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom - available for pre-order here.






REFERENCES:

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa” (trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen). Signs 1 no. 22, Summer 1976, p.875-893.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. NY: HarperCollins, 1991.

Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. NE: iUniverse, 2005.

Livingstone, Glenys. The Female Metaphor – Virgin, Mother, Crone - of the Dynamic Cosmological Unfolding: Her Embodiment in Seasonal Ritual as Catalyst for Personal and Cultural Change. Ph.D. thesis, University of Western Sydney, 2002.

Morgan, Robin. Monster. NY: Vintage Books. 1972.

Swimme, Brian and Berry, Thomas. The Universe Story. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Walker, Barbara. The Woman's Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983. 

ENDNOTES: 

1Robin Morgan, Monster, p. 85-86.

2 Barbara Walker, The Woman's Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, p. 629.

3 Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa, p. 885.

4 Nelle Morton used this expression somewhere: “hearing each other into speech”.

5 Glenys Livingstone. The Female Metaphor – Virgin, Mother, Crone - of the Dynamic Cosmological Unfolding: Her Embodiment in Seasonal Ritual as Catalyst for Personal and Cultural Change.

6 Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p. 66.

7Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, pp. 71-79.

8Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.71.

9I develop this further in PaGaian Cosmology, pp. 117-120 in particular.

10Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p. 181.

11Miriam Robbins Dexter, p. 11.


12 Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p. xxiii and p.207.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What Happened to You, Medusa? By Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.

Painting by Arna Baartz



Medusa, what happened to you?
You and your sisters were filled with such grace,
you were all fair of face, with gentle eyes,
you were a priestess of the warrior/wisdom maiden—
what wisdom did you own?
But why did you lie with the sea god
and what did he tell you?
Did you hear only a seducer’s deceiving words,
or did he tell you secrets of sea and land and earthquake?
What did you learn?

Medusa, what is the source of your rage?
Is it betrayal—
did you betray the warrior/wisdom maiden,
or were you betrayed by her?
And what did the hero do to you?
How were you hidden from the sun?
Are you, like all who see you now, threatened
by the vipers that crown you?
Who turned you into embodied anger,
and why do men say you can kill with a single glance?

What mysteries do you—and your writhing snakes—
have to speak to us today?
Did those snakes used to be sparks of goddess
flashing round your head?
What happened to you, Medusa?



An exerpt from the upcoming girl god anthology, Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom.

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com) is the author of Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses, Practicing the Presence of the Goddess, Goddess Meditations, and two novels, Secret Lives and Quicksilver Moon. Her blogs appear every month on her website and on Feminism andReligion, where she is a regular Pagan contributor. She has been writing for the Llewellyn annuals since 2004, and her work has also been published in devotionals to Isis, Athena, and Brigid. Barbara’s day job is freelance editing for people who have good ideas but don’t want to embarrass themselves in print. To date, she has edited more than 300 books, both fiction and nonfiction, on a wide range of topics. She lives in Long Beach, California, with her two rescued Maine coon cats, Schroedinger and Heisenberg. Her doctorate is in English.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Call for Submissions: The Abuse After the Abuse: How Men use Money to Destroy Women



The Girl God is accepting submissions for our upcoming book about the widespread financial abuse of women: The Abuse After the Abuse:  How Men use Money to Destroy Women.

Financial abuse goes hand-in-hand with 98% of domestic violence cases, as well as many marriages and divorces throughout the world - and yet it is rarely talked about.

We want to hear from women about their experiences with this kind of abuse by intimate male partners, past and present. Personal essays (up to 750 words), poetry and (black and white) art are welcome.

Selected contributors will receive a copy of the book when it is published.

Scheduled publication: Late 2017

Please send your submissions to trista@girlgod.org by May 31, 2017.