I’M the Shrew?

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In the Ambleside Online forums, there’s a small discussion started the other day, about The Taming of the Shrew, the current Shakespeare play in the rotation. Concern was brought up about potential gaslighting that the husband does to his wife. If this is acceptable for children.
I only vaguely remember bits and pieces of the Elizabeth Taylor movie, and don’t remember gaslighting… but I was also very young and didn’t even know what that meant, or that people did such a thing to others…

Anyway, hopping onto the boards today, my last 24 hours… in which I’d been confronted with the last 6 years of my life… came swirling together into one sickening/broken Science of Relations. If you’d rather not read this, that’s fine, but all of it came to a swirling point today, and I’m not sure I like it, so *I* need to say it, for me. Because I am a Shrew, I suppose.

Melody and I read chapter 1 & 2 of Changing Lenses by Howard Zehr yesterday, speaking in the context of how victims are treated by society (dismissed, played off, told to get over it when “it takes too long” to heal, ignored in the justice process… the people who need some sense of rebalance and normalcy the most), and we both wept. I wish I could share the entire chapter on victims here.

Daryl’s father, when he was told why we were keeping our children away from his family, basically told me to “get over it,” the pain I felt that Melody was assaulted, the pain I felt that Daryl’s mother abuses, insults, and manipulates us, the terror that someone called CPS on us for alleged (and inaccurate) things. And then told me (despite that others have proof his wife lies and gossips to cause problems) that I need to apologize to her for saying so.
I’m grateful none of my friends has made me or Melody feel dehumanized that way… still, Zehr paints clearly how most juries, judges, and people dehumanize the victims to help themselves feel comfortable with their own life… and I saw it in my own mother in law before and after Daryl and I were married, then again in my father in law, a couple years into our marriage.
It was assuring in a sad way, that how Daryl’s father and mother (divorced) reacted to our pain, is not unusual… but it’s also not right, healthy, or loving.
The following is referring to the main victim in the beginning story of Changing Lenses, in which a young man mugged a woman he thought was wealthy, thinking she would submit to his wielding a knife to her throat. Instead, she screamed and freaked out, he went nuts, stabbed her multiple times, and took her eye:

“Unfortunately, however, her friends tend to avoid the subject. They tire easily of her story, feeling that she needs to put this behind her and move on. They admonish her not to be angry, and imply in various ways that she contributed to what happened – that she is somehow to blame. They imply that what happened was in some way God’s will. Perhaps she needed to be punished. Perhaps God caused this for some good end. Perhaps God is trying to teach her a lesson. Such suggestions increase her tendency to blame herself and to question her faith.
These reactions by friends and acquaintances are examples of what psychologists have termed ‘secondary victimization.’ When we hear of a crime, when we listen to a victim relate his or her story, we too experience some of the feelings of victimization. Those are painful feelings which we like to avoid. So we avoid the subject and we tend to blame. After all, if we can locate the cause for her troubles in something she did or is, we can distance ourselves from her situation. We can believe that such a thing is not likely to happen to us. That makes us feel more secure.
She therefore had to fight for her right to grieve.”

I didn’t think of it that way… but with Daryl’s family, I always felt I needed to fight to be allowed to grieve (felt that way because half of them attacked us three months before our wedding, saying all sorts of horrific things about 6 weeks after the failed trial – including that Melody would lie and say Daryl abused her too, I was an unfit mother, demanded to see my divorce papers…. and more, while the other family members implied those horrible things afterward or stayed silent/ignoring as much as they could), that our pain made them too uncomfortable – I had to fight for a THIRD time to process through secondary victim (a family member of an assault victim) grief. It just left me in limbo… broken limbo.

Then after the kids were in bed, I read the chapter on sexual assault in Protecting the Gift, to catch up with a reading group.
I broke down shaking last night and used “the script” to deal with feelings of regret and self-blame… because Changing Lenses made me re-realize that I often (far less now) replay how or what I could have done differently to have 12 fools honor my daughter’s victimization by saying, “guilty” instead. And I. just. can’t. Not because someone else tells me to get over it callously, but because it’s breaking me. Burying it alive doesn’t kill it, it makes it fester and crop up in New Ways.

My first husband denied me more than 4 squares of toilet paper at a sitting (this is one of the weirder things, but there was a lot more controlling things he did). He wouldn’t let me see my friends or family until we had 30 days of no arguing. Something would ALWAYS come up that he counted as arguing. It didn’t “help” that I am a Type 4 and was, at that point, very lively. Usually around day 15, but about 6 months in, I had days marked down and I had kept my mouth shut for 27 days. At which point, I started my period and had bowel issues. My husband often followed me into the bathroom and dominated a conversation “between us.” I had three measly squares left on the roll – I was on my cycle and had extra needs for tp beyond that. I asked him for another roll. He looked at me and said, “what?? Why on earth would you do this? Why start an argument, when you are so close to visiting your grandma.” (Who was at that point, in the hospital and not expected to live much longer.) I knew at that very moment that he was never going to let me as long as I stayed married to him, which… I felt guilty to think of divorcing him. Within a few weeks he picked me up and threw me against a wall, and that snapped me to.
Hahaha! Gaslighting is so funny… right?

Today, I got into the AO forums, did some digging online about TToTS, and saw the sun/moon scene referenced by many others as the clue to gaslighting, and felt absolutely disgusted. It’s like reliving my life… only my life involved (accurate) sexual assault suspicions that I was gaslit about, among many other things, by my second husband, and “lesser” insanity by my first.
Hahaha…. gaslighting is funny, right? Because a woman who speaks out needs to be put in her place by the smarter, stronger man… right?

Then I found a woman’s blog about seeing this play by a specific director who apparently thrives on being as “edgy” as possible with his work, and I realized I don’t really want to feel like anyone’s amusement on gaslighting….(I’m editing for profanity, go to her site at your own risk, if you so choose. I’m also italicizing my own hit points in her writing), not that I wanted to before reading this. Anyway:

” At intermission I saw some friends in the lobby and started to unleash some of the s—– I felt hanging out at a ritual shaming of ladies. But, and this is truly the magic of theater, midway through my rant. I got it.

*I’m* the joke!

All the best practitioners will tell you that the role of the theater is to hold a mirror up to society. Imagine the shock of recognition I felt when I saw myself there! Hysterical. Unlovable. Foolish. I totally got it.

I wish this were some kind of cute hyperbole, but actually, I really was embarrassed. In the middle of telling my friends how angry I was, I heard myself and I heard Kate. I saw that character on the stage, her anger made pathetic by the story and by the consent of the audience. I stopped feeling angry, and I resumed feeling small. That’s the genius of the Shrew story. If it pisses you off, it just binds you in the role. Then you can look through the eyes of that character and see the truth of how everyone sees you. It totally works. I sat down and I shut up.

In the next act, Kate’s husband denies her food and sleep and the chance to see her family until finally she breaks, and calls the sun the moon at his command. That is the happy ending. I’d like to say something pithy about it now, but the truth is that the experience of sitting there with that delighted audience succeeded in stealing my anger. Just like with the male actor in the cocktail gown, playing a secondary shrew for the final scene, the rage I was wearing like armor was grabbed away and used to dress someone who was mocking me. And now I just feel stupid, lonely and as though there isn’t any point to trying to get people to think of me as a person.”

There isn’t any point to trying to get people to think of me as a person.
That line echoes deep into my heart. I used to say something very similar to that in the months following the failed criminal trial, to Daryl, about Melody and I – that we didn’t matter, our stories didn’t matter… they just completely brushed all of our pain and suffering to the side like it was garbage. I didn’t have a label for whatever I was feeling, but as we read Changing Lenses yesterday, I knew why it was that it wasn’t until the verdict was read that I felt like I completely, absolutely changed:

“Such neglect of victims not only fails to meet their needs: it compounds the injury. Many speak of a ‘second victimization’ by criminal justice personally and processes. The question of personal power is central here. Part of the dehumanizing nature of victimization by crime is the way it robs victims of power. Instead of returning power to them by allowing them to participate in the justice process, the legal system compounds the injury by again denying power. Instead of helping, the process hurts.”

I felt dehumanized. Like a trash receptacle.

The thought that others see a strong woman who doesn’t quietly sit down and speak sweetly at all times, just accepting everything, as a shrew…. and finds her being gaslit into obedience as something funny…. I’m going to avoid the discussions about it because I’m pretty sure my heart would shatter if I got even a whiff of that right now.
Frankly, regardless of how Katherine is, no one deserves to be gaslit, and I just can’t laugh at that right now… and hopefully never will. She’s not the joke to me… the audience is. Maybe that’s what the Bard actually meant to do. I don’t know.

Let me go back to this…. Burying it alive doesn’t kill it, it makes it fester and crop up in New Ways.
I wonder how lovely Katherine and her ahem… butthole husband will look in 20 years from the narrative, when Kate has been broken, stifled, and mentally/emotionally assaulted day in and day out, having “willingly” been confused into submission or slyly stuffed her voice and freewill down deep into herself to try and preserve some sense of sanity for herself.

And now, this Shrew is going to choose silence on her own.

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Forgive As You’ve Been Forgiven – The Science of Relations | Beautiful Chaos

  2. Pingback: Forgiveness isn’t once | Beautiful Chaos

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