Reliving Trauma: How Trump’s Brags Affect ME

View More: http://adrienneelle.pass.us/mindy-paintings

self portrait created in the months following my abusive relationship

Like much of America, I was shocked to see the tape showing Trump brag about sexual assault (here). As my friends on Facebook have perhaps noticed, I have been obsessed with this story. I have let important work fall by the wayside because I am so consumed by how the story is progressing and what people are saying about it. And I have just figured out why I have been losing track of goals and interests, why my Facebook has practically exploded with posts. You see, I was emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused by a boyfriend in my early 20s, and I am now reliving the experience of being gas lighted (told I didn’t experience what I experienced) and misunderstood by my community.

 

View More: http://adrienneelle.pass.us/mindy-paintings

self portrait based on one created in the months following my abusive relationship

When my abusive relationship ended, I was left feeling like I had been emptied out and tossed aside. This is because abusers degrade their victims with words and behavior to make themselves feel superior. In addition to this, society puts the burden of proof on the victim, demanding that the victim prove the injustice during their most vulnerable time, that is, just after having their perspective, contribution, and personhood continually questioned.

It took me months to even figure out that I had been abused. This is because the excuses for his behavior were shared not only by him, but also by our community and myself, who were trying to make sense of his behavior as I was experiencing it. It took me so long to identify why I felt so lost because I had to first unravel all the excuses that told me his behavior was not ideal, but still not that bad.

View More: http://adrienneelle.pass.us/mindy-paintings

self portrait created after a particularly difficult interaction with a friend

Once I figured out what had happened during the relationship, I had to process how and why he had demonized me in the months after our breakup. This is another abusive tactic to delegitimize anything the victim has to say, to perpetuate the feeling of being superior, and to direct attention away from the abuser’s inappropriate behavior.

 

And perhaps the hardest part of this whole experience was sharing my insights with my friends and watching helplessly as many picked my ex-boyfriend’s constructed reality instead of valuing my new self-affirming understanding. This is often called secondary trauma, when a victim’s wounds are rejected, leaving the victim to support themselves and confirm their experience for themselves despite their recent experiences of abuse and confusion.

So, why does this matter? It matters because I am having this same experience on a national level. The debates surrounding the tape is what secondary trauma looks like. The only way for me to understand this is personally. I am reliving what it is like to have people disbelieve me and others like me, to have people explain away behavior that has stripped me of my value, and to have people reject my wound, dismissing it as “being emotional” or “unfair.” I am waiting on the edge of my seat, hoping to see my national community do a better job than my early 20’s community. Because, truth be told, if our nation can’t do better, I don’t feel safe being an American. An America that won’t honor the experiences of those who have been used and abused is in no way great. It makes me wonder if it ever will be.

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Michelle Obama speaking in New Hampshire

All of this said, I would like to thank those of you who are speaking out against this behavior, generally and in relation to Trump’s campaign. It means the world to those of us who are re-experiencing our trauma. Also, thank you to those of you who have helped us heal and who are providing balm for our reopened wounds. Thank you especially to Michelle Obama, your words this week have given me strength in a time where I was reminded of my most weak self as well as the courage to write this.

 

 

 

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How to Fart Like A Girl: And other lessons I learned on a Vipassanā retreat

Sacred Art painting by Alison Baumsteiger. Available at Ecoartopia.org and www.redbubble.com.

Sacred Art painting by Alison Baumsteiger. Available at Ecoartopia.org and http://www.redbubble.com.

During the whirlwind that is the end of the school year, I received an email letting me know I had been accepted to a Vipassana retreat in North Fork, California. I had applied to attend months before and after watching my friends graduate I headed north for my adventure, all without knowing what exactly I would be doing during these 10 days of silence. Turns out there are many things to learn, even when there are no books or professors present; here are five of them.

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Painting Women from Judges – Part 3: The Sacred Account of the Levite’s Pîlegeš

This post was originally composed for and published on Feminism and Religion, http://feminismandreligion.com/2015/03/29/painting-women-from-judges-part-3-the-sacred-account-of-the-levites-pileges-by-melinda-bielas/

Reading the story of the Levite’s pîlegeš – found in the Hebrew Bible, Judges 19:1-20:7 – is unlike any other scholastic endeavor I have undertaken.1 The narrative is of a woman who leaves her husband’s house, only to be retrieved by her husband, gang raped on her way to his home, and dismembered upon arrival. This intense violence then escalates to the abduction and rape of more than 400 virgins and the death of many more (Judges 20-21). (more…)

Painting Women from Judges – Part 2: The Woman from Timnah Reframed

(This post was first shared on feminismandreligion.com)

The story of the woman from Timnah, Samson’s first wife – found in the Hebrew Bible, Judges 14:1-15:6 – is often interpreted as yet another wickedly seductive woman who distracts and confuses the heroic judge, preventing him from enacting the deity’s will. I remember the first time I questioned this interpretation: I was an undergraduate student teaching a youth bible study.I asked the high school students in the room what they thought about the Timnah woman and how we might understand the story differently if we read it from her perspective. Neither the students nor I had any idea how to answer these questions because we did not know how to see Samson as anything but a hero. (more…)

Painting Women from Judges – Part 1: Jephthah’s Reflective Daughter

This post was originally composed for and published on Feminism and Religion, http://feminismandreligion.com/2015/02/10/painting-women-from-judges-part-1-jephthahs-reflective-daughter-by-melinda-bielas/

The story of Jephthah’s daughter – found in the Hebrew Bible, Judges 11:29-40 – is a difficult story to read. The first time I read it, I was in my Christian high school Bible class and I could not understand why our teacher did not address the violence done by a father to his daughter. In my experience, Christians dismiss much of the violence done to women in the Hebrew Bible as evidence that ancient fathers, brothers, and husbands really did not care for their daughters, sisters, and wives. Since today men love the women in their lives, the ancient problem is no longer an issue, and we can continue with more pressing issues – or so the unspoken logic goes.

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Into the Woods and Our Relationship with Fairytales

into the woodsAs a fairytale enthusiast, I could not help but watch Into the Woods, as soon as feasibly possible. I was both very pleased and very surprised.

The greatest aspect of stories is their affect on how we understand ourselves, our relationships, and our environment. For example, Beauty and the Beast was my first princess Disney movie and I identified with Belle’s search for an adventure much of my life. Because I felt a connection with Belle; I saw myself through her portrayal, considered many of my relationships to be similar to those she had with the town people; and thought of my small, tight-knit community as similar to hers. (more…)

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

(This post was written by my good friend, Dr. Theresa Yugar, and was originally posted on her blog http://theresayugar.wordpress.com/tag/sor-juana-ines-de-la-cruz/. Check out her new book, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Feminist Reconstruction of Biography and Text.)

The image that appears on the cover of the book was painted with intentionality and for the purpose of portraying Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in a new way unique to this book. Initial ideas were born in conversations between Theresa Yugar, the author, and her former student, Chicana feminist artist, Maria Ruiz, recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University, while the illustration itself was born in a conversation with Christian feminist artist, Melinda Bielas of Claremont School of Theology. The creation of this image was feminist in its collaborative spirit.  (more…)

My Womb: A Creative Retelling of Genesis 2-4

Adam and EveIt had been one week since G*d[1] looked at creation and said that it was very good. Adam and I had spent the last week exploring the garden, it all was as G*d said, very good. It was the eve of our second Sabbath when G*d pulled me away from Adam for a talk. She[2] explained to me that while Adam was right, that we were of the same bone and flesh, that we were not the same. Adam’s flesh and my flesh were created differently so that we would learn to be unafraid of differences in others, but love those that were different from ourselves. Our differences in flesh were both very valuable, one no greater than the other. After she had explained how differences, fleshly or not, were valuable, she told me why my fleshly differences were indeed very good. G*d had given me a womb like hers.[3] (more…)

Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets

Weems, Renita J. Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

UnknownBattered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets is an engaging introduction to the use of violent sexual imagery in the biblical books of Hosea, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Renita J. Weems conducts a textual analysis and wrestles with this metaphor from a womanist perspective, using traditional readings of the text, such as historical and social-scientific methods, as well as newer approaches, such as gender criticism, literary studies, and ideological analyses. The intended audience is acquainted with Hebrew Bible academic research; however, its introductory approach makes it accessible to budding scholars.

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#WomenAgainstFeminism vs. Crazy Bra-Burners

tumblr #WomenAgainstFeministSo, the tumblr feed #WomenAgainstFeminism has been “a thing” for a little while now, and there have been some really good and really bad responses. (Here is one that I thought was one of the better ones, manyhorizons.com.) I personally do not have a problem with people who don’t agree with feminists, as long as they know which ones they disagree with and why. Feminism is such a huge conversation/movement with so many different views and arguments; to suggest you don’t need it because you “are happy in the kitchen” or “love your male relatives” is clearly a misunderstanding. (more…)