Wednesday, December 5, 2007


(Ant with Acorn by Tugboat Printshop)

Would you like a concise array of information to deal with the growing illogical movement to declare eggs as having the same status as human beings? Here ya go: When Is An Egg Not An Egg? This article by by Warren M. Hern, M.D., posted at Daily Kos, is just what we all need. It begins:

"An egg is a person. No, an egg is a chicken. A fertilized human egg is a person. An acorn is a tree. A seed is an apple. A set of plans is a house. A blastocyst is a 'pre-born baby.' An adult human being is a 'pre-dead corpse.' Up is down. Black is white. War is peace. Facts are not important. Belief is what matters. And people who know the truth will tell you what to believe." Good science and arguments follow.

(Southern Sierra Foothills)

As long as we're dealing with Right Wing flashpoints, let's share some realistic information about marriage. Stephanie Coontz in the Fall issue of Greater Good writes about the history and function marriage in The Family Revolution. Here's a few excerpts:

"The last century has seen a transformation of marriage and family life. But to address new challenges, we can't delude ourselves into thinking there ever was a Golden Age for couples and families."

"Marriage has changed more in the last 30 years than in the previous 3,000." (followed by details of how and why -- and, no, it wasn't lesbians -- I just WISH we had that much power)

"We must recognize that alternatives to marriage are here to stay. Women's economic independence -- combined with the expansion of consumer products that reduce the need for a full-time housewife, and the decline in society's coercive power over personal life -- means divorce will not disappear. The rising age of marriage is a promising sign for many marriages since it is associated with greater family stability, but it also means that women have a longer period of life in which they can end up as unwed mothers, either by choice or by chance. The majority of Americans, same-sex or opposite-sex, live together outside of marriage for a portion of their lives, and not all these relationships result in marriage. We may be able to create more healthy marriages in the future, but we can never again assume that all dependents, young or old, will be taken care of within first-marriage nuclear families.

"One big cause of marital stress and divorce is the failure of some men to change their household roles enough to match the change in women's work roles. Another cause, researchers are finding, is that couples tend to fall into traditional gender roles after the birth of a child, which can produce resentment in both parents. And one of the main dangers to children after a divorce is the old-fashioned notion of many men that their obligations to their kids end when they no longer enjoy the services and support of the children's mother.

"This failure to change enough is not simply an individual problem but a deeply institutional problem as well.

"Three initiatives seem especially important:

The first is to reverse the trend toward widening income inequality, which makes it more difficult for poor families to enter and sustain marriages, and more difficult for single parents to raise their children in ways that can break the cycle of poverty and relationship instability.

Another imperative is to develop family–friendly work policies that are not just reserved for highly paid, highly skilled workers but are guaranteed to all workers through federal regulation.

Finally, we need to stop acting as if heterosexual marriage is the only place where people incur long-term obligations. Single parents, cohabiting couples, gay and lesbian families, and divorced parents are now a permanent part of the picture. They, too, need support systems to help them meet their responsibilities in healthy ways, along with clear-cut rules to prevent abuse or blatant unfairness when relationships end."

(Chicken demonstrates cat yoga "Playing The Cello" from Hothead Paisan, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist -- Click on the image directly to see a small sequence of the comic)

Comic guide to Buddha (for all those people who have trouble with "teh words".) Taiwanese illustrator Tsai Chih Chung has created Sayings of Buddha -- Teachings on spiritual cultivation. Because even the shallow and non-literate seek enlightenment (although I do wish they'd stay away from literary blogs.)

Feministing has an excellent post and discussion going on right now about a Canadian television ad against domestic violence. (Warning: This ad contains violence and may be triggering.)

While this ad focuses on heterosexual battering, I'm going to piggyback onto their effort by offering information that proved to be lifesaving and life-changing for me several years ago, about domestic violence as it occurs in lesbian relationships. The checklist and definitions will pull up after the fold. I want to thank here the Texas Council on Family Violence and, in particular, Maria Limon for offering me a non-judgmental ear and mailing me these precious pages. My hera.

Domestic Violence: A Definition

Abuse, or battering, is a pattern of behavior where one person tries to control the thoughts, beliefs or conduct of a lover, friend, or any other person close to them. It can include physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, and/or economic abuse.

Battering, also called domestic violence and dating violence, happens in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and straight communities. It crosses all social, ethnic, racial and economic lines. An individual's size, strength, politics or personality does not determine whether she or he could be battered or a batterer.

Domestic violence may include but is not limited to:
--- Physical abuse--hitting, choking, slapping, burning, shoving, using a weapon, neglecting, locking in a room.
--- Isolation: Restricting freedom--controlling personal/social contacts, access to information and participation in groups or organizations.
--- Emotional and Psychological Abuse--criticizing constantly, ridiculing, trying to humiliate or degrade, lying, undermining self-esteem.
--- Threats and Intimidation--threatening harm, threatening children, family or friends, threatening to make reports to authorities that would jeopardize
child custody, immigration or legal status.
--- Heterosexist Control--threatening to reveal lesbian identity to family, neighbors, employers, ex-spouses, or city, state, and/or federal
--- Sexual Abuse--forcing sex or specific acts, assaulting "sexual parts," withholding sex, criticizing.
--- Property Destruction--destroying mementos, breaking furniture/windows, smashing objects.
--- Using Children--using custody of children to control or intimidate.
--- Using Vulnerabilities--using past experience with abuse or violence, an
illness, homophobia or any other vulnerability to manipulate and control.


Emotional abuse in same-sex or queer relationships can be subtle and confusing. The following list is adapted from an article entitled "Lesbian Violence, Lesbian Victims: How to identify battering in relationships," written by Lee Evans and Shelly Banister. The article appeared in Lesbian Ethics, Vol. 4, #1. This may be helpful in identifying emotional abuse.

Here are some good questions to ask yourself:

--- Do I withhold information from my partner about my social interactions for fear of what she may do or say?
--- Do I have the feeling that it is somehow "bad" if I want to be emotionally intimate with someone other than my partner?
--- Does this relationship prevent me from feeling that I am part of a community, or from maintaining a support system?
--- When I am around my partner and other friends or family, am I nervous about what she might say or do to embarrass or humiliate me?
--- Does my partner seem to "take over" my friendships?
--- Do I ever find myself making excuses for my partner's behavior when we are out in public?
--- Do I feel like I am isolated from my friends and family, or feel like I have to stop spending time with my acquaintances and can only be involved with her circle of friends?
--- When I catch my partner in lies and then question her, does she then make me feel like I've done something wrong, or make me question my own sense of reality?
--- Do I have feelings of being controlled, isolated, intimidated or exhausted?
--- Do I experience shame or guilt in my relationship with my partner?

Here are a few examples of coercive behaviors that occur in same-sex or queer relationships:

--- Your lover is so jealous that you limit your contact with other people so that you won't have to put up with her jealous remarks or rage.
--- Your partner finds fault with all of your friends. For example, she may criticize them for being immature, too sexual, or for drinking too much.
--- Your partner decides she wants you to stay in the closet or, go back into the closet for her/your career sake, or for her/your emotional well-being, or because she knows what's best for you.
--- Your partner is always in the midst of a crisis so that you can never leave her alone.
--- Your partner becomes sick, needy or angry when you try to spend time away from her, or with friends and family.
--- Your partner creates embarrassing scenes in front of your friends or family so that none of them feel comfortable visiting you anymore.
--- Your partner always seem to know what's best for you, how to dress, how to be lesbian, who you should talk to, creating a you and me scenario.
--- Your partner tries to convince you that it's you and her against the world and that no one else can or will understand your relationship.

--- You feel like it is easier to go along with your partner than to fight for your own decision.
--- Your partner's explanations always seem to make more sense than yours do, her politics are always more correct, her opinions more important.
--- You watch what you say so that it meets with her approval.
--- Her very presence overwhelms everything else that is happening.
--- She's been out longer than you, therefore she tells you how and what you need to be doing in your life to be queer.
--- She ridicules or belittles your identity as bisexual, trans, femme, butch, etc.

--- Your partner wakes you up to fight in the middle of the night or keeps you from sleeping until she is ready to quit fighting.
--- Your partner criticizes you around a disability you have, belittling it or denying its existence or harmful effects.
--- Your partner tries to convince you if you'd just change your attitude (or something else about your lifestyle, like the food you eat or how much you sleep), you could cure yourself.
--- Your partner controls your access to food and sleep.

--- Your partner threatens to out you to your family or to your job.
--- Your partner threatens to slander you in your community.
--- Your partner threatens to break or destroy things that you love.
--- Your partner silences you with a look or an expression when you are in public.
--- Your partner threatens to physically hurt you or others.
--- Your partner threatens to destroy your car, hide your keys, or otherwise prevent you from leaving the house.

--- Your partner always claims to be politically correct and know the right way to do things.
--- Your partner always claims to know what you are thinking and what you are planning.
--- Your partner always seems to know more about you than you know about yourself.
--- Your partner claims to have friends who report back to her on your activities.

--- Your partner puts you down in a way that makes you think there is something essentially wrong with you.
--- Your partner talks you into doing sexual things which are embarrassing to you or that feel bad.
--- Your partner "jokingly" makes fun of you in front of others.
--- Your partner interrogates you about past lovers or lovers she THINKS you have currently, or that you do have currently.

--- Your partner demands detailed reports from you when you get back from errands or work.
--- Your partner has rigidly defined ways of doing things that you must adhere to, from the way you clean the house, to making beds, washing dishes, driving the car, doing laundry, or your appearance, etc.
--- Your partner is super critical of your way of doing things.

--- Your partner lies to you and then denies it.
--- Your partner contradicts herself in the same conversation and then denies making the contradictory statement.
--- Your partner changes the rules of the relationship without warning or explanation, leaving you constantly confused about what just happened.
--- When you refer to an agreement you previously made, she says she does not remember it, or tells you it did not happen.
--- She tells you that you are irrational or crazy.
--- She convinces you that you are at fault for everything that goes wrong.

--- Your partner surprises you with presents when you least expect it.
--- You learn to believe that your partner is the only person that can make you really feel better about yourself, and when she's being nice to you, you really feel good about yourself and your abilities.
--- Your lovemaking is sometimes sweet, tender and wonderful.
--- Your partner occasionally apologizes for being hurtful or demanding, but the pattern doesn't seem to change.

--- Your partner's experiences of childhood abuse, oppression, or hardship seem more real, serious, or worthy of attention than your own.
--- You never feel that you are doing a "good enough" job supporting your partner around her challenges.
--- You feel responsible for protecting your partner from things that might be "triggers" for her.
--- Your partner attributes her own behaviors to what she has been through without taking responsibility for them or making a plan to change them, while you are expected to be responsible for all of your own behaviors


The idea that lesbian couples are "mutually abusive" is one of the myths most dangerous to victims. It colludes with what an abusive woman is already telling her partner -- that the violence is the responsibility of the victim. Abusive persons have an uncanny ability to frame themselves with charm and certainty as the true victims, and they pull others into that fraudulent reality.

Without proper investigation, attempts to regain stolen power (self defensive behaviors) on the part of survivors can appear "mutually abusive." But when a victim seeks help and is told that she is in any way (even equally) responsible for the violence, she hears that the abuser is right. The message is that she is to blame, therefore has the power to fix the violence, and she returns to her critical self-dissection which is encouraged by her partner. This keeps her more deeply trapped in the relationship, and consequently increases the risk of lethality.

In addition, telling an abusive woman that her partner is equally abusive releases the abuser from responsibility, and eliminates any hope for accountability. She believes not only that she need do nothing to improve her behaviors, but also her sense of herself as victim is fortified .

When service providers (police, courts, therapists and other helpers) collude with the abuser by labeling a relationship as mutually abusive, they share the blame for increasing the risk to the victim. Following is a list of quotes which illuminate the danger of giving credibility to this common falsehood.

"It is not to say that battered lesbians have never been violent towards the women who have battered them. Many have. But the violence is largely self- defense and sometimes is rage at past violations," Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence

"A lesbian who has been battered often believes ...that her experiences of the violence have been "mutual" since she may have knocked her partner down to escape from a room. ..or she may have violently ejected the batterer from her apartment ...or she may have picked up a baseball bat and threatened to assault the batterer if she approached one step closer, or she may have in a rage beaten the woman who had been battering her." Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence

"When I came to believe that I had been abusive to her, I was trapped. How could I leave the woman who sacrificed herself to such an extent as to love a monster like me? It was at that point that she didn't even have to say 'Jump!' I was leaping as high as I could every minute in order to attempt to redeem myself. When I got exhausted from leaping, it was just more evidence that I didn't love her, so I pushed myself until I started getting sick." Anonymous Survivor

"... immediately after separation from the abuser, they were confused about whether they had been batterers, as well as victims. Their understanding of violence and battering in the relationship had become tailored to the belief system of the batterer, and it took careful reflection on issues of control and power for clarity to emerge. Often this process took several months." Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence

"I have always been volatile, I have never been abusive." Anonymous Survivor

"... batterer will threaten to report acts of violence ...pointing out that if the battered lesbian has acted violently to such an extent that she could be criminally liable, then surely she is not battered and has engaged in mutual violence. Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence

"Batterers [almost] always see themselves as the victims of the battered woman. This perceived victimization is repeatedly shared with the battered lesbian." Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence

"For four years I have thought I was the bad guy. She didn't get power in the relationship by yelling, but rather by pouting or long hostile silences. I could never put the finger on why I was so edgy, but eventually I was always the one who blew up, and when I did, she'd point her finger and say 'see, you're crazy, you're abusive.' She'd talk about how difficult I was to live with, and could recite volumes on how I was trying to control her. Now, I'm starting to realize that I was always trying to 'make up' for past violations, constantly feeling guilty, and in a never-ending game of trying to win her elusive trust. It didn't even occur to me to stop and wonder whether I trusted her." Anonymous Survivor

"Since all battered lesbians have engaged in extensive efforts to protect the batterer from exposure as a terrorist and from the consequences of her violence, battered lesbians may continue 'taking care' of the batterer by blaming herself, maximizing her violence and minimizing that of the batterer." Karen Lee Asheran, "The Myth of Mutual Abuse"

"It was like she was constantly telling me that I was stepping on her toes. One day I realized it was impossible not to step on her because her feet were filling the entire room." Anonymous Survivor

"Many battered lesbians are women of substantial physical prowess and power ...who choose not to use this power to control the perpetrator, or would do so only to protect themselves or stop the batterer. The powerful lesbian may not live in fear of the violence of her partner. She may, rather, live in dread of the violent episodes and in anxiety about control confrontations. Even though not fearful, she alters her life to accommodate the batterer and worries that her efforts will not suffice to avoid abuse." Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence

"Often batterers use the survivor's self-doubt to their advantage. Batterers are notorious for labeling the survivor 'mutually abusive' in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions." Karen Lee Asheran, "The Myth of Mutual

"I came to the conclusion that to get away from her I had to be the bad guy. Just about every attempt to put myself first was met with consequences. There was always a cost for anything I did for myself, and usually that cost was guilt. When I became willing to be framed as the bad guy not only by her but by most of our friends, I was able to get away." Anonymous Survivor

"There may be unhealthy psychological interactions that are mutual in
relationships, but we need to be careful not to equate that with 'mutual battering.' Both lesbians may be irritating and hurtful to each other, but that's very different from the power-over, 'squashing' behaviors of batterers." Karen Lee Asheran, "The Myth of Mutual Abuse"

"Our community can help stop lesbian battering. We can begin by reevaluating the terms we use which perpetuate violence against battered lesbians. We can support the healing of survivors insisting that bat terers and community alike not be allowed to hide behind the misconception of 'mutual abuse."' Karen Lee Asheran, "The Myth of Mutual Abuse"

"Lesbians who have fought back to defend themselves not only suffer from the battering, but also from feelings of guilt because they have acted violently. This feeds right into the false notion of 'mutual abuse'; which continues to camouflage the fact that one woman is exerting 'power' over the other. When a battered lesbian believes she is 'mutually abusing' her lover, she actually protects the batterer from confronting herself, which preserves the relationship as it is, and helps the batterer avoid accounting for her actions." Karen Lee Asheran, "The Myth of Mutual Abuse"

"When I realized I would never payoff that huge ledger in the sky, all that flowed her for my past violations, I was able to leave her. Sometimes I wonder if she kept me indebted to her emotionally because I believed so strongly in justice, and because she knew I'd never leave if I thought lowed her." Anonymous Survivor

"While I was involved in the relationship, one of the therapists we went to told me that if I would just trust that the abuser loved me, she would stop abusing me. Later, we went to a different therapist for couple's counseling. After we separated, the batterer told me that our therapist had told her in an individual session that she thought we had been mutually abusive." Anonymous Survivor

By the time we got to couple's counseling, I was so angry for all the stuff she had never taken responsibility for, that I was the one who looked out of control. It was the first time that I had any hope of getting support for what I thought was happening, so I let it all spill while she sat there calmly faking concern. Very quickly she was able to get the therapist to sympathize with her about how difficult it was to live with me. They agreed that I had an anger control problem, and I was sent to anger management classes. After learning to suppress my anger, I had no means of defending myself. I became really depressed, and eventually suicidal." Anonymous Survivor

"Invariably batterers blame battered women for the violence they inflict--alleging that if only the battered lesbian had not provoked her, the batterer would not have been violent; that the batterer is really under the control of the victim, helpless in the face of her behavior, and compelled to violence." Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence

"The analysis of lesbian battering assumeS that it is a rarity that a woman who is a victim of lesbian battering becomes a batterer later on in the relationship with the same person who battered her...patterns of control and terrorism precipitated by battering are not easily undone. There would have to be an incredible shift in the power of the partner so that the battered lesbian acquires the power to use violence as a tactic to control and terrorize her mate. This might happen where the batterer becomes physically or mentally disabled and consequently loses the power behind the implied threat of violence. Merely a realignment in economic security between the couple is not likely to shift power enough to make violence an effective tool for the victim in controlling the batterer. Furthermore, it becomes even less likely that the power and the availability of violence as an effective tactic of control will continue to shift back and forth between the partners as the imbalance of power shifts." Barbara Hart, Naming the Violence


Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

powerful, powerful, powerful post about abusive relationships.

It needs to be in all caps or something so readers recognize the evil perpetuated by abusers.


kat said...

wow, that's really eye-opening. Puts a former lover's (the one who ruined the name "Myra" for me) weirdness into perspective...