Friday, February 14, 2014

Dear Bad Love: It’s Over.


“Just because somebody doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they got.”
Umm. No.
That statement basically justifies being in an abusive relationship because, although it’s hurting you, it’s okay if that person is in love with you. It justifies abuse, because although the other person causes you pain, it is permissible as long as he/she/they love you. And somehow, if you can’t accept his/her/their way of loving you then that is entirely your fault for not understanding love.
Well, I say we look at “bad love” in the face and say no más! Because just like with sex, we must also consent to love.
I grew up with a list of things that I was constantly told I had to fix: speak slower and lower, stand straight, think before you speak, watch your figure, etc. It wasn’t until college that I discovered what a loving environment had the potential to look like. I felt comfort in an all-women’s campus where accepting ourselves as we were was reflected in our inter-personal relationships. So when summer came and I had to go live back at home, I noticed a huge difference and recognized that getting criticized all the time was actually not okay. I recognized that certain things are constructive criticisms while others were things that people in my Dominican family said out of their own insecurities and self-hatred—which was probably brought on by the need to assimilate into white Anglosaxon urban American society. bell hooks writes in All About Love about what it means to have a loving relationship with your children. She argues that parents use authority to punish children, and sometimes abuse them, which becomes confusing for children when this authority is used as a synonym of love.
Unfortunately, our society is far from healing from this cycle of abusive relationships. As women we are taught to tolerate our parents when they body-shame us for being too fat or skinny, not feminine enough, or for choosing to define our own gender and sexuality. We are taught in some religions that God shows his love by making us suffer. We are taught that we have to surrender autonomy over our bodies if we become pregnant. We are taught to accept patriarchy and dynamics of power that result in many women being abused by their partners and then blaming themselves for not recognizing the abuse or for not firmly taking a stand against it. We then imprison some women who do stand up to their abuser. Furthermore, our society shames victims of abuse and dismisses date-rape.
Therefore, from an unsupportive criminal justice system where victims of domestic violence feel-little-to-no-escape, to parents using the “I-do-it-out-of-love” excuse to say hurtful shit, this principle that we should take love in whatever shape it comes defines how many of us perceive intimate relationships. And I believe that self-love is the revolutionary step that can become one of the driving forces to fight against this oppression.
After I finished college, I knew that I had to live on my own immediately. Although I love my family, I realized that I needed to remove myself from that negative environment not just learn to love myself, but also to step back and figure out how to begin a process of reconciliation.
Dynamics of privilege based on the intersections of gender (both defined and perceived), race, class, disability, and sexual orientation create barriers that prevent us from recognizing what it even means to love ourselves and therefore to permit ourselves to pursue not just any love, but the kind of love that we deserve. On Twitter and Instagram, with #feministselfie, we have reclaimed “selfies” and turned them into a way to appreciate ourselves. As a WOC from a low-income single-parent household, self-care isn’t something that happened by instinct, as I’m sure it doesn’t for many others who simply don’t have time to devote to their emotions. But now I am learning to recognize what feels good and what is the kind of love that I want to receive. To me, positive love is a relationship where the other person actually listens. Positive loves means being complimented more than criticized. Positive love means not just hearing “I love you” but also “I support you”, “I want to understand you”, “let’s decide together”. Positive love in a sexual relationship means listening to each other’s bodies. Positive love means caring for the other person’s needs both in the short term and in the long term.
Once we are able to claim the kind of love that we want to receive in personal relationships, then we can also gain confidence to claim the kind of care that we deserve from society: let’s fight for an end to violence against women, let’s fight for the right to abortion, let’s fight for benefits for homemakers and stay-at-home-moms, let’s fight for higher wages and for affirmative action. Let’s fight for an end to this oppressive system that prevents us from loving each other as much as we can. So, what kind of love do you want to receive?
This post was originally published on Guerrilla Feminism [ still by yours truly ;) ]

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