Tonight I stumbled on the controversy over Alisa Valdes’ latest book, a memoir of how a cowboy got her to stop being militantly feminist, and start being more submissive.
The cowboy turned out to be an abuser, which got feminist tongues tsking, while relational conservatives (is that a term?) loved the idea of women being more submissive.
Because she exposed the abuse in a blog post but then removed it immediately, people began to wonder why she was hiding it.
From Valdes’ blog posts, I see that she is neither “patriarchal” nor deceptive; it’s more complicated than that. I link to her blog below, so you can see for yourself. As for the controversy, read:
Her story is on her blog, here and here. She doesn’t go into the detail that’s in the deleted post, and I could not find the deleted post even in cached form. But it is clear that “the cowboy” was abusive, even though most of the time he acted normally, and that she is not trying to hide that.
[UPDATE 7/4/15: Back when I wrote this, I was not aware of the Wayback Machine. The deleted post describing the abuse is right here.]
I love this paragraph by Valdes, because it’s another writer explaining why people like me share our lives on public blogs and in books instead of hiding it in diaries and private e-mails:
I heard from a man last night who told me he was grateful for me sharing my story, because it made him feel a little less alone, and that is rather the point of my writing career in a nutshell.
One of the many things the cowboy never understood about me was my driving compulsion to write about my own life in a public sphere. He was very private — almost too private, in retrospect.
I, meanwhile, am pretty much an open book. He always thought I was open because I needed attention, but that isn’t it at all.
I am open because I feel like there is a real lack of honesty and genuineness in the world, a lot of people pretending things are okay when they’re not, and I think that does harm to everyone else.
I’ve always been about truth and its capacity to liberate us from injustice and pain, and so I speak my truth and hope that it will connect with someone out there who doesn’t have the voice to put to their own. —Letter FROM My Younger Self
Also, it can extend to friendships, because Richard is full of the charm and charisma Valdes describes, but he is very manipulative, and by his own admission, he is “easily triggered to physical violence.”
The signs listed are in most abusive checklists, but Valdes also eloquently describes them: jealousy and possessiveness, controlling behavior, isolation, holds very rigid gender roles.
This one goes along with my own cause, which I started passionately posting about because, as they both told me, and as I witnessed with Richard, Richard and his friend Chris are both abused by their wives, who also abuse their child(ren):
What I learned from my own abuser is that boys who grow up to hurt women are almost always victims of earlier abuse by their moms. He certainly was.
This doesn’t excuse what he did. I mention it to underscore the need to stop blaming only men for domestic violence. In truth, it’s a whole-family cycle that involves men and women, boys and girls.
Until we stop blaming only men and assuming that it is somehow in their “nature” to harm women, until we stop thinking the solution is to “teach” males that women are human,
until we stop this nonsense about needing to somehow civilize the brutes that are men, until we hold mothers, girlfriends and wives just as accountable for their abusiveness,
the cycle will continue unabated and perhaps even get worse. After all, you cannot convince anyone of your own humanity whilst simultaneously stereotyping, degrading and willingly IGNORING their own. —We Can’t Fix Domestic Violence If We Keep Pretending 40 Percent of the Victims (men) Aren’t There