Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

Sexual harassment allegations against SEO and tech rockstars

For the past several days, I’ve been watching real-time evidence of a narcissistic culture in the SEO Industry.  These are the people who help your website draw in more visitors; one of the so-called “rockstars” is Joost de Valk, founder and CPO of Yoast (company which provides a popular Wordpress plugin while also educating website owners on and helping with SEO practices).  He has also just been appointed Marketing and Communications Lead for Wordpress.org.

I first heard of the story on the WP Tavern, a Wordpress blog, here: YoastCon Overshadowed by Twitter Storm: Joost de Valk, SEO Industry Leaders Called Out for Objectifying Women

From what I can gather, a few people have been posting and tweeting to bring attention to allegations against De Valk and other “rockstars” which they say have been ignored for years now.  The allegations include sexual harassment and treating women like sex objects.

They pulled out a few tweets that sound bad, but which the intended recipient says was not harassment.  The trouble is, however, that the whistleblowers are now being harassed online, called trolls, while in the WP Tavern comments, many people–mostly men–are scolding them and saying it’s not an issue.  One–a man–even wrote:

OMG…
Imagine a world where no men or women have any sex on their mind. One does not need to be a rocket engineer to conclude mankind would die off in about 40 years. And you beggars are programmers.

If there did not happen anything physical it is OK until anyone involved says it would be too much for her. Even if there happened anything physical is also OK until it was consensual.

So go and find a real issue please!

By the way there are women who hardly ever get noticed by men, i am absolutely sure that case hurts way more than being noticed.

UGH!  There are so many things wrong with the above quote.  First of all, the idea that it’s okay as long as it’s not physical–That reminds me of my ex-friend Richard saying that online harassment of me wasn’t “real” and I was being “ridiculous” because it upset me.  Then, basically saying that it’s worse to NOT be harassed because you’re not pretty enough.

UGH UGH UGH!

Along with this is a total disregard of the fact that the allegations go way beyond a few questionable tweets from years ago.  The independent news website The Overtake went more in-depth than the Tavern did, posting an article with the following:

The SEO-industry’s history is one steeped in gender prejudice, the objectification of women and sexual harassment.

One woman who was afraid of being identified said she had been ostracised and lost friends after calling out senior executives in SEO for inappropriate behaviour. Another described being pushed out of a company after refusing to visit strip clubs. The Overtake has also heard about incidents of alleged groping, sexual comments and other inappropriate behaviour, including rumours of a serious sexual assault in 2014 which was allegedly covered up.

A now-deleted review on job rating website Glassdoor mentioned an incident where a woman says a company CEO put her in a situation where she appeared semi-naked in front of colleagues against her will. The Overtake has seen the review but we have chosen not to reveal further details to protect the victim. –Giada Origlia and Katie Wells, Gaslighting–abuse–cover up–#Metoo is finally spilling out into tech

I’ve also been following the Twitter feeds of a couple of women in tech who are also speaking out about this, confirming that it’s not just something that a few guys made up to make the SEO “rockstars” look bad (an accusation which I’ve seen repeatedly).  The women are speaking of an atmosphere in which they’re passed over for promotions and their contributions minimized because they are women.

And on the Twitter feed of one of the male accusers, I found this thread.  On the feed of another accuser, I found this, linking to a Reddit post which read:

I have been at events in Germany where it’s happened. I’ve heard even worse reports from women at events in Germany where it’s happened – literally illegal, sexual assault stuff, and with no recourse and no followup. Until a few years ago, I was like you and would say “I haven’t seen that at all,” but when I started asking questions and paying deeper attention, I saw it everywhere. It’s heartbreaking. –Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz

A blog post from 2017 speaks of a “coding rockstar” who harassed and groped the writer.  She was told to report him, but like many women, did not feel comfortable doing so.  So then in 2017 she heard him say in a tech talk at a conference,

He started his talk with disparaging comments about women and their role in tech. He followed that up with a derogatory anecdote that his girlfriend’s job was to “do him.” He did not stop there, he went on to attack the group I work with, calling us whiny and making fun of our efforts to make websites more inclusive to people with disabilities. He mentioned (more than once) that he could care less about making his project more accessible to others. –Carie Fisher, There are Weinsteins lurking in every profession–including tech

After reading these posts online, the comments in the Tavern become especially egregious.  I see so much gaslighting and trying to shut down the conversation, trying to shut up the whistleblowers.  I’ve made a few comments myself, trying to alert them to how bad this looks to outsiders, but I’ve been completely ignored.  (Ignore the woman–You mean, like they’ve been doing to the women who are victims of this harassment?)

But no, in the Tavern and in comments to the whistleblowers on Twitter, men (and one or two women) have been, basically, calling it a big nothingburger.  While the whistleblowers and victims have been speaking out and saying it is indeed something and they won’t be ignored anymore.

And the allegations are hardly a revelation–The following was written in 2013, and I’ve seen videos of SEOktoberfest (now yanked from Youtube) proving this is true:

There is no doubt that the technology sector is more than averagely sexist. The reasons for this are multitude and too complex to explore in this blog post, but suffice to say that the technology sector – and the digital marketing sector, as a subset of the tech industry – is infused with a laddish attitude and enjoys pervasive and embedded sexism.

I find this rather unpalatable. I think the tech industry needs more women, and more participation from women. We shouldn’t abide by companies and conferences using objectified women as enticements and attention grabbers. We’re not stone age cavemen any more.

…Some conferences use booth babes – or even Playboy playmates – as enticements, and whenever you see such a prehistoric mentality on display you should strenuously avoid the conference and let the organisers know their backwards approach to marketing ensures you will never participate in their event. –Barry Adams, Fighting Sexism at Digital Conferences

Considering what I’ve seen on gaming forums online, I suppose it’s not so surprising: After all, when I was dipping my toe in such forums in the mid-00s, I saw lots of sexism, lots of “raep” jokes.  That’s where I got the harassment I described above, which Richard dismissed as “not real.”  That’s where you find a lot of techies, the ones who are likely to go into the industry.  And then they wonder why there are so few women gamers or techies….

 

 

 

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EFCA church we left in 2004 has dipped into extremism

(This is being crossposted with the blog by Wondering Eagle, who writes on issues in Evangelicalism and, particularly, the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA).  My post is a bit longer.)

In the older sections of my website, particularly the theological pages and my conversion story,  you will find many writings about and references to a church my husband and I went to for several years around the turn of the century.  This church was the catalyst for my religious searching and eventual conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy.

My husband and I came from different backgrounds–him Lutheran, me Nazarene–so for years we searched for a church that would make us both feel comfortable.  We went to the local EFCA church starting in 2000.  It met in a middle school auditorium, and had about 200 members.

We were there for quite some time, even getting involved in different ministries.  I began helping in the youth group, and loved it.  I was happy being in this church.  My husband (“Jeff”) made friends with the pastor.

I saw little warning signs of extremism way back when we first started there, such as a group who went to witness to a palm reader at her place of business.  But I hoped it was just a few people like that.  Overall it didn’t seem extremist.

Jeff had some trouble with the tithing talk and Evangelical doctrines, and we were a bit uncomfortable around the hand-waving, but we felt we had found a home.  I got used to the contemporary music, and began to like it.  Before, I often had trouble getting out of bed on Sunday; with the Evangelical Free Church, I was encouraged to get back into the Sunday church habit.  I didn’t want to miss a sermon.

Each year, the pastor and several of the teens and adults went to Russia to evangelize.  They helped with a church plant there, or an Evangelical Free church which had been recently started by missionaries and was headed by Russians; they also helped with a church camp.

I didn’t know in those days that the Russian Orthodox Church feels like its toes are being stepped on by all these Protestant missionaries, that they want to rebuild their own church, which was persecuted by the Soviet authorities for so many decades.

I imagine the church that produced so many martyrs during Communism would be upset to hear what my pastor said in church one day after returning from a Russia Team trip: “I visited the Russian Orthodox Church.  It’s not Christian.  It’s full of idols and paganism.”

He used this as an example of how bleak the spiritual atmosphere supposedly is in Russia after Communism.  This must have been in 2003 or 2004; even then, when I had no thought of becoming Orthodox, I knew what he said was wrong.  I knew very little about Orthodoxy, but I did know that people in this Evangelical church sometimes judged other Christians wrongly.

Lutherans were not considered Christian unless they had a “born-again experience”; Jeff resented that.

We had a boy in our youth group who was brought in by some of the teens and eventually had his own “born-again experience”; then we considered him a Christian.  I knew nothing about his background, just what I had been told about his conversion.  When his parents resisted his going to our church and youth group, I thought maybe they were atheists or Pagans who hated Christians.  To my shock, I heard they were Catholic–in other words, that this kid was already a Christian from a Christian family.

As for Jeff resenting the attitude toward Lutherans: He never had a conversion experience, because he was raised in the faith and always believed it.  How can you “convert” to a religion you’ve always been a part of?

What probably made it worse was that there was a former Lutheran in the congregation who felt he wasn’t a Christian until he converted to Evangelicalism.  Once, this person gave me a book, meant for recent converts, to give to Jeff, because somehow he got the idea that Jeff had just had a “born-again experience.”

Another time, the usual sermons were put on hold while the congregation took a series of lessons on how to convert people.  I believe it was the Contagious Christian series.  Some people left during this time, feeling the church had “lost its focus.”

Jeff didn’t like the constant emphasis on going out and doing things, and people constantly “encouraging” him to join the Russia Team or the Cuba Team.  He didn’t feel led to be a missionary, since he did not know those languages, did not like Russian food, and had trouble dealing with people.  He felt like the church members were seen as tools, rather than people who needed to be healed and built up themselves before trying to evangelize other people.

I was raised hard-core premillennialist.  But sometime in 2001, I used several study Bibles–one of them the Oxford Study Bible–to read Revelations.  To my surprise, premillennialism did not make as much sense as the historical or metaphorical interpretations.  I began to lean toward amillennialism.  But premillennialism was part of the Statement of Faith for the Evangelical Free Church.

Shortly after 9/11, the pastor said that most of the people who died that day had gone to Hell because they weren’t Christians.  This pronouncement horrified me.  Even before this, I began wondering if people went to Hell when they weren’t Christians–not because they rejected God, but because they believed truth and deity to be more present in their own religion than Christianity.

What about a Muslim woman who knew something about Christians, but was taught that Islam was correct and Christianity was for infidels, and went through her whole life–all its joys and sorrows–believing she was doing right?  What about Pagans who were kind and loving?  What about agnostics who just weren’t sure?  What about atheists who didn’t reject God necessarily, but just didn’t believe one existed?

What about the Final Judgment, when Christ divided people based on how loving they were, rather than what religion they followed?  I felt like a heretic for thinking this, even though I later discovered that Orthodoxy read the Final Judgment the same way I did.

To become full members of the EFCA, you had to sign a statement agreeing to all the points in the Statement of Faith.  These were considered the essentials; on everything else, you could disagree.  Jeff and I both, though we disagreed in which points, were not in full agreement with the Statement of Faith, so we never became full members.

In 2002, some big tithers had left the church for various reasons, some disgruntled and some simply moving, leaving the church in financial straits.  Once, there had been a building program, which the pastor disbanded due to disagreements between committee members; now, we started going from one building to another because we couldn’t afford our own.

The pastor began preaching heavily on tithing: It must be 10% gross, given to the church, with charitable donations coming afterwards, no matter what your financial situation, or else you just don’t have enough faith.  But we just couldn’t give any more.  The pastor also said that if you couldn’t afford the tithe, there were people in the church who could come to your house, look over your finances, and help you figure out how to do it.  This sent up alarm bells.  The tithing talk began driving people away.

The pastor went on sabbatical and did a lot of reading and praying.  When he came back, probably early in 2003, everything changed.  The tithing talk still came up often, but now there was a new focus.

The pastor must have been reading a lot of books by John Piper and Rick Warren.  He began preaching “Cat and Dog Theology,” which used the supremacy of God doctrine which Piper, a Calvinist, has been spreading in Evangelical circles.  To us, this was strange doctrine, which we had never heard of before.

Coming from Calvinism, it says that every single thing God does is primarily driven by a passion for his own glory–even the Cross.  We knew this was wrong, that the main reason for the Cross and other things was love, though we had no materials besides the Bible to back us up.  I mentioned the supremacy doctrine to my parents, who agreed that it was wrong.

We didn’t want to de-emphasize glory; we merely felt that this strange new theology was over-emphasizing glory at the expense of God’s love for us and everything else in the faith.  All churches we ever attended said that Christ went to the Cross out of a passion not for himself, but for love for us, our salvation.

Now this love for us, this salvation, seemed more like a side effect which just happened to go along with glorifying God.  We could imagine giving God the glory, but could not imagine God primarily seeking glory for himself, like a warrior-king from Beowulf.

The image of the Loving Father was diminished, replaced by a deity that did not seem to care about fairness, justice or mercy, so long as he was glorified.  Don’t grieve for the death of loved ones, don’t pray for their healing, because you don’t know what purpose God has for their suffering or even death.  Don’t pray for your own needs.

Cats believe we’re saved from Hell; dogs go further, believing we’re saved for the glory of God (which figures greatly into the Calvinist predestination doctrine.)  Some people are born to be killed for the glory of God.

Basically, this deity causes death and suffering so he can be glorified.  The doctrines about glory were pounded into our heads every week for months.

And yet the pastor seemed to wonder why we didn’t consider this a wonderful theology.  We watched in disbelief as other members of the church embraced it and began teaching it to others.  Jeff tried to speak to the pastor about it, but felt bullied into agreeing with the glory theology.

We had gone to classes and I had scoured information on the church’s
theology, and there was nothing in there about Calvinism.  I thought
they were pretty lenient about theology.  We didn’t know Piper was Calvinist, just that this new theology sounded “wrong.”  This got me searching the Internet trying to find out where it came from and how to counter it.

I do recall there was a lot of activity between our church and local Reformed churches, but in those days I did not know that “Reformed” meant “Calvinist,” or that our churches could actually be sharing doctrines.  We did not know we were in a church that was becoming Calvinist, since I always thought that Evangelicals were by definition Arminian, that Calvinism was in the strict old-fashioned churches such as the Puritans and the old Presbyterians.

We did not know much about Calvinism, or that all the weirdness we were hearing came from it; all we knew about was the big Calvinist doctrine most people knew about, predestination.

The pastor did once say that the Holy Spirit works on us to bring us to faith, that we don’t do it ourselves, which was a new doctrine to me, but didn’t set off any alarm bells.

John Piper believes this to be a wonderful doctrine, because God’s grace saved us with no regard to who we are; to those of us who are not Calvinist, however, it has terrible implications for those who do not come to faith because God did not choose them.

The pastor began complaining about churches with too many “programs.”  This meant that, for us, all our programs were disbanded or put on hiatus.  No more Sunday School; no more worship team; no more songs which seemed to be about our reaction to God rather than focusing on God.

We now had one worship leader with a guitar, while a PowerPoint setup showed nature pictures.  Doing worship this way wasn’t “wrong,” but it was yet another way that the church was being entirely changed from what we were used to, and that people were being told to stop doing what made them happy.

In early 2003, the youth group was disbanded for lack of money to pay the youth pastor, and the youth pastor essentially fired.  It was so distressing that at least one of the kids cried.

I had helped in the youth group for nearly 2 years, and it had become my life, possibly a calling.  These were my friends.  My weeks revolved around youth group and going to leader meetings.  The youth pastor was my friend and gifted with his work; I loved the antics of the teenagers, especially two of the older boys who were also youth leaders.

The other youth and adult leaders, Jeff, and I tried to get the group back together, but with little success.  The kids started going to other youth groups, and one even said, “I thought we didn’t have a youth group anymore.”

It was now early 2004.  It took me a long time to get over the loss of the youth group.  I resented the pastor for firing the youth pastor.  Fortunately, the youth pastor found new positions; he believed God wanted him to head a new ministry for young adults, which he did for the next several years, and after that he moved on to other ministries.

A thriving Sunday School was one thing which first attracted me to this church.  Now that we had a child of our own and would need it, there was none, and there were fewer and fewer children, as parents began taking their kids to churches which had Sunday Schools for them.

The pastor also began taking scripture out of context to make points (“proof-texting”), heavily using paraphrases, and using various translations–apparently whichever one fit the point best.

Jeff wrote a letter to the pastor about the supremacy of God doctrine and some other things (the church was still losing members–gone from nearly 200 in 2000 and 2001 to about 40 or 50 in 2003), but felt ostracized after that.  We moved to a different church in June 2004.

To this day, we’re still skittish at the words “glory” and “glorify,” afraid of encountering Calvinism again.  Jeff feels the Evangelical Free church was spiritually abusive, especially since it took him a while to recover from it.  Even when he’s in a church and hears the same songs the E-Free church began singing before it turned Calvinist, he fears that church will start going in the same direction the E-Free church did.

And yet, I’m glad we went through this experience, because without it I never would have had an inkling that American Evangelicalism is suffering from great sicknesses: Not only is there materialism and pop Christianity in the churches these days, but bad theology keeps going hither and thither.

By the way, on May 2, 2007, I discovered on the EFCA website that a new Statement of Faith was in the works.  It went into far more detail than the vague 13 statements we were familiar with.  According to page 13 of the third draft revision (no longer available on the Web), “Throughout this Statement, we affirm that God’s glory is the ultimate aim of all God’s works in creation, revelation, and salvation.”

This Calvinist theology was nowhere to be found in the original Statement of Faith; it was not mentioned in the New Member classes; we never heard it in the sermons until the pastor introduced Cat and Dog Theology.  So, essentially, it seems like bait-and-switch.

Has the denomination changed its views in the past several years for whatever reason–reading John Piper, following Evangelical trends of bringing in Calvinism?  Or has the denomination always believed this way, but kept it under wraps for whatever reason?  Supposedly, you could be Calvinist or Arminian in an Evangelical Free church, but the supremacy of God doctrine tilted it toward Calvinism.

In any case, if the old Statement of Faith had been as clear as the third draft revision of the new Statement of Faith, we never would have stayed in the Evangelical Free Church for so long.  Rather, we were given to understand that outside of the 13 vague statements in our version, there was plenty of freedom.  That would have meant freedom to reject the pastor’s supremacy of God doctrine.

We heard in the summer of 2005 that the E-Free church was dying, with so few members they didn’t know if they could get another pastor when that one left.  Around that time, the ad for the church stopped appearing in the newspaper.  In the 2007-2008 phone book, the church’s listing no longer appeared.  For years I thought it was completely gone, especially when another EFCA church moved into town and began to thrive.  (Why have two of the same church in a town this small?)

But a few years ago, I discovered it still exists, under new leadership now, and finally with a building.

I’m not sure what to make of it, because–according to its website–the new version of the church has some very restrictive rules for members, and has changed the names of some Christian holidays to match Old Testament counterparts.  I have also discovered an Internet review from 2012 which says, “Full of religious fanatics masquerading as christians. Stay far away. And, don’t drink the Kool-Aid!”

On their Facebook page is pictures from 2017 of a protest outside of an inter-denominational celebration of Reformation Day.  It included various churches from the city–such as Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans–in order to bring them together.

The Facebook timeline of one of the people in the pictures includes anti-Catholic rants, particularly when he discovers what the celebration is for.  This guy is one of those megaphone street preachers outside of abortion and in-vitro fertilization clinics, who fills Youtube and Facebook with rants and videos about the people who argue with him on the street, clinics, the Catholic view of salvation, etc. etc.  He’s from Illinois, but he was there, participating with our former church at the protest in Wisconsin, presumably as an invited guest.

A flyer in one picture says “Still Protesting.”  In among actual sins–lying, extortion, greed, etc.–are listed homosexuality and unbelief.  In another picture is a picket sign which reads, “Catholics, thank you for being so pro-life, but why worship with those who cannot have salvation?”

And in the post which includes those pictures, someone asks, what are you protesting?  The response: “The errors of the Catholic Church….It is the 500 [sic] anniversary of the Reformation. October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses. Some today want to say the reformation is over. Unfortunately, the divide actually has become wider.  So we are still protesting. Pro= go forth publically.  Test-ing = To test and give witness.  We declare unashamedly still Salvation is the free gift of God.”

So–They’re protesting another Christian church, one which happens to have similar values, during an inter-faith celebration of unity, simply because they don’t agree with their doctrine or with the other denominations hanging out with them.  And saying that they “cannot have salvation”–i.e., that they’re going to Hell because they don’t agree with Evangelicals on how to be saved.

In a PDF posted on the website, I also find an emphasis on male leadership of the church, not just in pastoral positions, but restricting women from any leadership or teaching of men.  Also, according to this PDF, women are to submit to husbands and be quiet in church, learning from men.

In fact, from another page on the website, a couple must meet all sorts of high standards in order to be married in this church, so high that they would not have married Jeff and me.  One of the stipulations is that a couple “conforms” to the “Biblical teaching on the roles of male and female”!  Another is that “Both the man and the woman must be living out consistent Christian lives of worship, growth, giving and outreach.”  How do they define this?  Is it a set number of church visits in a month?  Tithing 10%?  Going on mission teams?  It all seems very intrusive on the life of a couple, who must be allowed to figure things out for themselves.

Poking around on the website, though the leadership has changed, some names I recognize are still there, and the old pastor is still involved.  So these changes are a continuation of what we saw all those years ago–and now it gives me cultish vibes which I never had there before.

For example, I remember the pastor doing a series on wifely submission around 2001 or so, and women and men not being permitted to counsel each other privately.  But I don’t recall restrictions on women teaching men, or such strict rules on who the church will marry.  So what we saw back then, has been taken to extremes in the years since.

This makes it very clear to me that, despite the guilt and depression I felt when we left this church, we dodged a bullet.  Yeah, the Orthodox church has its own issues.  But just as the EFCA as a whole does not appear to be extremist like the church I describe above, neither is Orthodoxy.  My home church is not extremist, for example.

When we went to the above EFCA church, I felt we could be more moderate, and I knew others who were also moderate–several Democrats, in fact.  (Also, in those days I was much more conservative than I am now, with Protestant views of theology.)  But these new revelations tell me that things have changed significantly in the years since we left.  Maybe all the moderates were winnowed out by the preaching on tithing and glory, leaving extremism behind.

 

 

 

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Narrowing down a genre for my novel: Gothic Science Fantasy

Now that my novel is nearing completion, after more than three years of work, a suitable genre is finally becoming clear.  The plot is all in place; I’ve been working on layers of editing and tweaking: sensory details, distinctive language and habits of the main characters, finding irrelevant or redundant passages, looking for things that need more detail or action, never-ending research, etc. etc.

In the process, themes and symbolism are also revealing themselves, even ones which I did not consciously include.  It certainly does not fit into a “pulp fiction” genre category, ie, following formulas and light on meaning or symbolism, while focusing mostly on a quick, plot-driven read.  No, my book reflects the fact that I like to read a lot of literary novels.

There’s a definite romance, two in fact, but it’s certainly no Romance-novel “happily ever after.”  Actually, it’s an obsessive, even destructive romance, in which one of the characters–whether he’s truly a narcissist or not–sure acts like one.  And if you don’t have an “HEA” ending (as the fans term it) in a romance novel, there’s a very good chance your readers will toss it against the wall and never read any of your other books.  (This has actually happened with writers before.)  But if you have an HEA with a hero like mine, it’s likely to get pushback from abuse victims like we saw with Fifty Shades of Grey.

It doesn’t fit into science fiction, either.  I’ve always been more interested in the fantastical science fiction–Doctor Who, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Farscape–and not so much in hard science fiction.  So what if it’s unlikely a humanoid alien ever lived on Mars?  I still want to read about that.  So what if hypnotism doesn’t actually work like in the old movies?  I still like to watch them.

Turns out, “science fantasy” is a term used for that kind of science fiction.  It doesn’t have to follow strict, real-world scientific principles, and can include mysticism or the supernatural, such as the Force or ghosts or fairies.  So my novel–light on the science but heavy on plot, symbols, reflections on human nature, etc.–fits right in.  It also fits because the hypnotism goes beyond what actual hypnotism can do.

(Or does it?  A boyfriend in college hypnotized me and caused a mental link, just like in the novel.  But then, I can never really be sure how much was truly a Link, and how much was him playing with my head.  But the concept is not unheard-of.)

But that’s not all it is.  Not only is there a romance.  Not only is there time travel and a mad scientist.  But there is a focus on the psychology of the characters, so it can be called a Psychological novel.

There are also themes, symbolism, a character-driven story that’s at least as important as the plot, and deeper meaning exploring the depths of human nature, making it fit in the Literary genre.

But then you find those themes which have become prominent over the past few years as I’ve worked and tweaked: Byronic hero, described above.  Svengali, the older man hypnotizing and manipulating the young woman, while another man–the young hero–tries to save her.  The older, aristocratic man obsessed with the young virgin, imprisoning her in a castle.  Dark themes of oppressive religion and questioning, abandonment, betrayal, destruction, death.  Hypnotism.  A character who is also very vampiric, inspiring a dark and erotic fascination not just toward the young woman, but from her as well.

So there you have it: It’s a Gothic.  Because the Gothic elements are not based in the supernatural (other than the hypnotism and the Laws of Time which seem almost like a deity), “Gothic Science Fantasy” seems most fitting.  Also, because Psychology and Literary elements are all very much a part of the Gothic genre, I don’t even have to specify that it’s a “literary” or a “psychological” novel.

So there you have it: I’m working on a Gothic Science Fantasy.   This will help me with the editing and, later, the marketing, because publishers and readers both want to know “where it fits.”  I love genre-bending novels, which this certainly is, but it helps to know where to put it and who to market it to.

(PLEASE NOTE: Comments are turned off here because this is crossposted with my writing blog.  Please post comments there.)

 

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Reblog: When the Abuse Victim Becomes the Abuser’s Ally

John Crippen has just posted on Unholy Charade about abuse victims who help their abuser abuse others:

When the Abuse Victim becomes the Abuser’s Ally

What he writes of is just what I went through with Richard and Tracy.  I could never be entirely sure if Richard was just as abusive of Tracy as he told me she was of him.  There were indications that he could be just as nasty with her, that he himself was a narcissist.  But I can be sure of the abuse I witnessed from Tracy to other people, not just Richard, not just the kids, but other people they knew as well–even friends!

And one of those victims of Tracy’s abuse, “Todd,” experienced the same phenomenon I did: Even though Tracy was the one abusing Todd, Richard stood beside his wife’s abuse and then began abusing Todd as well.  Same thing happened when anyone–me, Todd, some other friend–complained about being abused by Tracy: Richard would stand by Tracy and help her abuse the person.

Pastor Crippen describes this exact same phenomenon, an abuse victim helping the abuser so much that it’s no longer clear who the real abuser is.  He explains that he is NOT talking about abuse victims who keep quiet out of fear of crossing the abuser, or victims who don’t understand what’s going on, but about abuse victims who are themselves mean and nasty to other people.  He describes, for example, a case in which the husband is patriarchal and abusive, but the wife herself targets and reviles the same people her husband does.  If anyone calls out her husband for his abuse, she speaks up and defends him and then holds a grudge against that person.

It was very hurtful to Todd when Richard did this to him; Richard then acted like Todd was the abusive one and that he was overreacting when he cut off relations with Richard over it.  He then went to Todd’s web forum and screwed it up, letting Todd blame it on a resident troll.

It was also very hurtful to me when Richard kept defending his wife’s abuses of me over and over again.  It was hurtful when she burst out at me in narcissistic rage one day, and he–instead of being apologetic and privately letting me know that she was wrong and misunderstood the situation and that he didn’t agree with her–participated actively in her abuse of me.  He also raged at my husband for sticking up for me, because my husband could see that I didn’t deserve what was happening.  When this happened, I felt so betrayed by Richard–yet when we cut off relations with them over it, they acted like we were overreacting.  Just like they did with Todd.

It felt like being on the playground with bullies making fun of me and raging at me, while I’m all alone, because there were two of them and this usually happened when they had me by myself.  With Todd, they made the disagreement public, and pulled in as many people as they could to help them abuse him.  With me, I know of at least one person they pulled in to their side, telling her lies to make her think that *I* was the abuser.  So instead of recognizing that I was legitimately complaining about how I’d been abused, she participated in the abuse, and became part of society’s problem of victim-blaming.

It’s triangulation, a tactic which abusers use on their victims, whether bullying, or domestic abuse, or spousal/romantic partner abuse, or whatever type of abuse.  It’s meant to convince the victim that she deserves what she’s getting, that the abuser is acting normally, that he’s the martyr dealing with her toxicity.

And when an abuse victim helps his or her spouse bully someone else, this is active participation in triangulation.  It’s frightening and confusing for the victim, who oftentimes is not equipped to speak up in his or her own defense.

I couldn’t understand it because Richard knew Tracy was abusive–he told me about it often–and told me even with her standing right there that friends would break off relations with HIM because they couldn’t handle HER.  Yet when she started raging at someone, he would step right in there and help HER.

Pastor Crippen writes:

These kind, sadly, are beyond help. I don’t presume to know completely what makes them tick, but in some way they have made the decision that the benefits of “standing by their man” outweigh the costs of exposing his abuse and leaving him.

This is a helpful post if you’ve been exposed to such behavior.  It helps me because I see that the baffling behavior I witnessed in Richard, does happen now and then.  It’s not unique to that situation, so it may have some psychological explanation (Crippen has a few ideas).  It validates me for statements I’ve made here before, that it’s wrong to stick up for and “support” your spouse when they’re abusing someone else.

Crippen both warns against getting close to an abuse victim who helps their own abuser–they’ll be “one of the angriest and harshest people you ever get sideways of”– and warns against becoming one yourself.

 

 

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One Exvangelical’s perspective: Ditching offensive entertainment

The other day, the shoutbox of my favorite streaming music station, Sanctuary Radio, held a discussion on whether to play music by certain Goth/Industrial bands who have some strike against them: singer who rapes women, Nazi sympathizers, terrible anti-woman lyrics, etc. etc. etc.  Nobody wants to support bad people, but–should we or should we not play their music?

I come at this from the perspective of a childhood in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian subculture.  From my earliest days, I heard about backmasking and that rock music was of the Devil (or “jungle music”).  I thought the devilishness was in the secular bands backmasking Satanic messages and singing about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, so I turned to Christian rock.  My parents didn’t restrict us too much with music, but my denomination’s teen magazine posted letters from youth pastors who said ALL rock music is of the Devil.  That even included the saccharine, poppy tunes of Amy Grant.

It was also sinful just to go into a movie theater, no matter what movie was playing.  I never went to prom because I didn’t want to go to Hell for dancing.

Then I started hearing from The 700 Club how the Devil was in everything: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars (because of the Force), Halloween, stories about witches, etc. etc.  I eventually got away from that, but then Harry Potter came along and Evangelicals went crazy.

Then there were the books your parents didn’t want you to read in high school English because of sexual or other verboten themes.  And you’d read the lists of books which were banned the most often from schools/libraries by conservatives who thought Oh my gosh the kids can’t read that!

And of course, there have always been groups more extreme than mine, saying girls can’t wear pants or cut their hair, you can’t wear shorts, some even taking things so far that you can’t even have music at all, or use electricity.

Nowadays it’s coming from the other direction: liberals saying you can’t watch that, you can’t read that, you can’t listen to that, because now it’s violating other sensibilities: subject matter contains rape, the main character is played by a rapist, it’s cultural appropriation, the movie or its director is racist/sexist/ableist/etc. etc. etc.

I learn a bit about the lives of the classic authors and artists and discover that Picasso was a narcissist who treated his women like crap while also making them addicted to him; that Dostoevsky was a terrible human being; that Charles frickin’ Dickens abandoned his loving wife for a skinny young thing because she got fat after bearing him 10 kids.

I hear countless stories of rock music greats committing sexual assault or statutory rape.

I feel guilty repeating some beloved old line from a Cosby routine, or watching a Woody Allen movie.

Warring shippers for the show Timeless argue that the other side is promoting misogyny: “How can you put Wyatt and Lucy together when he was jealous all season?”  “How dare you put Flynn and Lucy together in this age of metoo?”

I already knew there were guys behaving badly in movies like Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but it had been so long since I saw those movies that I forgot the stuff that Molly Ringwald pointed out.  And yeah, now I can see the problems, the echoes of rape culture, the idea that boys do whatever they want while girls have to stop them–But do we ditch the movies now?

I could see the problem with Mister Mom when I saw it about ten or so years ago: Not just assuming that men can’t parent, but the shades of 50s sitcoms when Mom goes to work, and the house is in chaos until she comes back home.  But do we never watch it again?

Or The Little Rascals–Yeah, it can get racist at times, but it was the 1930s and here were kids of various races playing together like equals.  We grew up with Spanky and Porky and Buckwheat etc.; is it wrong for our kids to enjoy it?

Do we reject Kermit falling for Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show incarnations because she’s a domestic abuser?

And now I hear that Rudolph and some Christmas song I never heard of, are in the crosshairs.  I can’t speak on a song I don’t know, but the whole point of Rudolph is that a bullied reindeer gets honored.  Are we not supposed to depict bullying onscreen now?  Do we stop showing anything bad that ever happens to people and pretend everything’s always great?

It just gets to the point–Where does it end?  Am I to toss out all music, all books, all art, all movies, all TV shows?  Because is there anything out there not touched by, or depicting, some horrible person who did some horrible thing?

It starts to remind me way too much of growing up Fundamentalist and being told to separate myself from worldly things.

From the article Old favorites, outdated attitudes: Can entertainment expire? by Ted Anthony of the Associated Press:

They exist throughout society’s pop-culture canon, from movies to TV to music and beyond: pieces of work that have withstood time’s passage but that contain actions, words and depictions about race, gender and sexual orientation that we now find questionable at best.

…What, exactly, do we do with this stuff today? Do we simply discard it? Give it a free pass as the product of a less-enlightened age? Or is there some way to both acknowledge its value yet still view it with a more critical eye?

…The solutions suggest a general direction: Don’t simply ban or eliminate or delete. Talk about stuff — whether formally, when it’s presented to the public, or informally at home. And involving more voices in the production of today’s popular culture — and the selection, curation and characterization of yesterday’s — can make sense of this more than dismissing the issue as overreaction or scrubbing the leavings of less-enlightened eras.

Let Molly Ringwald have the last word: “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”

 

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