Taking Back My Power

“Privilege can be defined as the entitlement and authority (unearned) of individuals to perpetuate attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that support oppressive power structures”. – (Liu, 2017) [1][2]

At 6.29am this morning I received the following message to my Twitter account:

message.png

“BTW, could I ask a favour, please? Atheist Republic tweeted a mockery of the crucifixion recently; could you please not RT material like that? Genuine criticism/questions about Christianity are fine.”

This person thought they had a right to ask this of me.  They felt so sure of their stance that they contacted me, a complete stranger, to make this request.  I’m not going to discuss Christianity or the death of Jesus in this blog post, please see my footnote HERE.

So why am I writing a blog about such a message?

There are a few reasons:

  • I am a trauma victim, I am specifically writing my blog concerning that trauma and my journey coping with it.
  • During my life I have been told what to believe, how to react, what not to say, what not to wear, how to look, to defer to my religous superiors and to defer to men.
  • I owe nothing to this person, a complete stranger on the internet.
  • I am taking back my power.

trauma.pngI am a trauma victim, I am specifically writing my blog and tweets concerning that trauma and my journey coping with it.

If you encounter a person who has experienced trauma, they are entitled to feel however they want about what happened to them.  No-one has the right to instruct them how they should feel, how they should react or how they should exhibit these feelings or reactions.  What do I feel?  I’m not actually completely sure about all of my feelings yet, I’m working through them in therapy.  However, I have experienced or done all of these things listed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists:[3]

  • “feel shame and guilt
  • have a sense of numbness, a lack of feelings in your body
  • can’t enjoy anything
  • control your emotions by using street drugs, alcohol, or by harming yourself
  • cut yourself off from what is going on around you (dissociation)
  • have physical symptoms caused by your distress
  • find that you can’t put your emotions into words
  • want to kill yourself
  • take risks and do things on the ‘spur of the moment’.”[3]
anonymous evelyn pic.png
I have to remain anonymous

One of the additional reasons why my trauma is so severe is that I’m nearly 50 years old yet I’m actually still being controlled and affected by two of my abusers.  One of which is the Watchtower organisation.  I am having to remain anonymous on the internet because they hold the threat of shunning over me if I am known to be critical of their organisation.  I would lose contact with my closest family member (other than my children).  I would never be able to speak with them again.  I cannot put her through that, she is old and has had a life of control and abuse herself.  So I have to be anonymous.  In my every day life, this means that I have to control what I say and how I say it.  So for someone to come along and tell me that I should censor my true feelings in the only place that I have where I can truly be myself is disgusting.

“It is worse if:

  • it happens at an early age – the earlier the age, the worse the trauma
  • it is caused by a parent or other care giver
  • the trauma is severe
  • the trauma goes on for a long time
  • you are isolated
  • you are still in touch with the abuser and/or threats to your safety.”[3]

I am learning to cope with the trauma in four main ways:

  • talking therapy
  • blogging about my experiences
  • networking with other ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses on social media
  • humour – which may include memes about religion or religous beliefs.

During my life I have been told what to believe, how to react, what not to say, what not to wear, how to look, to defer to my religous superiors and to defer to men.

This person genuinely believed that they had the right to dictate standards as to what I should tweet.  This person was, of course, writing from a position of privilege.

“Privilege can be defined as the entitlement and authority (unearned) of individuals to perpetuate attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that support oppressive power structures”. – (Liu, 2017)[1][2]

There are many types of privilege.  Here I am specifically referring to two:

Religious Privilege – What is it?  Believing that religion is a good thing or should be encouraged isn’t privilege, but thinking it should have special entitlements is.   When you have any sort of privilege, it is so often the case that you are unaware of it.  This is called privilege blindness.  An example of this is thinking that “criticising your religious belief or identity should have some sort of societal taboo”[4].  Nope, this is your privilege showing.  If you wish to critise my being an agnostic atheist, please go ahead.  It’s your opinion, you’re entitled to it.  However, you don’t have the right to then expect me to alter my behaviour to make you feel more comfortable.  I am entitled to have any sort of opinion, belief or non-belief that I see fit.  I don’t expect you to be an atheist, I respect your right to believe in your God, your religion, you need to check your privilege and allow me to express my opinions.

Male Privilege – What is it?  In addition to the Lui quote above, this quote by Bedford E. Frank Palmer II, Ph.D. sums up quite nicely what male privilege is:

“as a man I am assumed to be competent enough to be listened to and taken seriously”.[2][5]

He also goes on to tell men to be aware:

“Do you assume that women should know that you are a nice/safe guy? … What would it be like for you to actively work towards never placing a woman in a position where she might feel pressured, coerced, or unsafe?”[5]

At this point I’m going to be straight with you.  If you are taking this personally and thinking “not all men”, then you may be part of the problem.  Men that recognise male privilege know that they can be part of the problem but don’t take it personally.  They acknowledge it and try to minimise the imact of that privilege.

As someone who has experienced trauma, I was immediately made to feel that I should doubt myself, I felt pressured, and unsafe.  If you’ve never experienced trauma you may not understand why a message might make one feel this way.  Suffice to say, it is one thing for someone to reply to a post publicly, and quite another aproaching someone privately by means of a direct message.

I owe nothing to this person, a complete stranger on the internet.

Despite this person obviously thinking they have the right to expect me to change my behaviour to suit them, I owe them nothing.  The only people on this planet I owe anything to are my children.  For them I would do anything, for them I would die.  This isn’t up for discussion.  No-one, other than my children, have any claim on me.  This may make some people feel uncomfortable.  At the end of the day, it’s not my job in life to make others feel comfortable.  It’s not my job to pander to other people, unless I choose to do so.  This is not my position in life.

I am taking back my power.

powerful woman.pngI have been robbed of my personal power my entire life.  All of my decisions were decided for me by either my parents, the Watchtower organisation, the elders of that organisation, my ex-husband.  I was never allowed to make decsions for myself without them being questioned, mocked, dismissed, ignored or condemned.  So now, everything I say or do is my my decision.  Which also means that I am responsible, I am owning it all.  It is mine, good or bad.

The support that I’ve received by the vast majority of people that I’ve come into contact with has been incredible.  People of all beliefs, nationalities, genders have been accepting and supportive of my journey.  This is one of the reasons why I know I need to continue on my journey.  I just wish I’d woken up sooner and started speaking out sooner.

I shall finish this blog by sharing with you my reply to this person and also two tweets that I wrote shortly after:

message with reply.png

My reply to this person:

“With the greatest of respect, I reserve the right to react to religious beliefs in any way I see fit. I am done being told how to react. I’m done censoring myself. I find many things offensive about religious beliefs yet I do not say others cannot believe these things. I do not ask people to censor themselves on the internet. I’m done apologising for who I am. If you find that distasteful there’s nothing I can do. Don’t ask someone who is dealing with complex PTSD to temper how they react to trauma. It’s unkind and shows a lack of understanding as to the nature of the damage caused by the trauma. Thank you.”

My tweets:

tweet“In case people reading my tweets don’t quite get it, I’ll spell it out. I’m done apologising for who I am. I will not temper my reaction to trauma I’m dealing with to suit your sensibilities. I no longer meekly do as I’m told. I am me and my feelings are valid. 1/2

If you find my tweets offensive, ignore them or unfollow. Or if they bother you even more, block me. I’m not on social media for a bit of fun. This BS has been my life. I’m owning it, I’m dealing with it, but on my terms, noone else’s. I’m taking back my power. 2/2”

Thank you for reading my blog.

signature

Why am I not discussing Christianity or the death of Jesus here? – This blog post is not about theology.  In case any of my readers are not aware, I’m not Christian, I am an agnostic atheist.  I only ever discuss theology and the Bible in the context of Watchtower teachings.
[1] Liu, W. M. (2017). White male power and privilege: The relationship between White supremacy and social class. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(4), 349-358. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cou0000227
[2] Men’s Intersectional Relationship to Male Privilege – Bedford E. Frank Palmer II, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Counseling Department of the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/who-we-ought-be/201801/men-s-intersectional-relationship-male-privilege
[3] Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Royal College of Psychiatrists – http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsanddisorders/posttraumaticstressdisorder.aspx
[4] What is Religious Privilege? – http://www.secularism.org.uk/what-is-secularism.html
[5] What is Male Privilege? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male_privilege

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