Penelope Trunk annoys me. I understand the appeal. She makes it clear that she writes and advises from her perspective. Even when she pronounces things as absolute truths with citations (often not very good ones, but there, we all cherry pick our sources to correspond to our prejudices), it is still clear that she’s writing from her lived experience. That is the appeal: that her advice, her pronouncements, her webinars, whatever – they all come from her experience, and are expressed as close to transparently as possible.
It’s that “as possible” that I’d like to play with now.
She edits (of course). She has an editor (of course). So her posts aren’t really scream of consciousness. I suspect her “classes” aren’t completely unscripted either.
That isn’t important to me, but it is important to her (or rather to the Penelope Trunk persona – what the inner woman thinks or feels is something I can’t determine, and I don’t need to determine). She has stated that complete openness is important to her because of the secrets of her childhood. She states that openness is her defense (that may be my inference, rather than her direct statement).
I have no reason to doubt her – except –
There’s all this niggling annoying stuff going on. She’s anti-feminist (I suspect she’d say post). She’s picked an apparently liberal open (that word again!) voice in which she espouses horrendous ingrained misogyny.
– Marry by twenty five
– Have kids by thirty
– Don’t rock the boat about harassment in the workplace
– Have plastic surgery
– Be empowered by ownership of your actions even if you’re accepting blame for actions against you
And the topper.
The scary one.
The sad one.
– Stay with your man if you have kids. Even if he hits you. Even if he hits you in front of the kids.
– Women are to blame for the abusive actions of others
Her mother was at fault when her father hit her. Because her mother was oh so dreadful and provocative.
She is at fault when her husband beats her. Because she is provocative. She does things he hates.
I’ve left the room when adults threw tantrums. I doubt if I’m the only one.
Please understand, it’s not wrong to respond to horrible behavior of other people. You have to respond somehow. (Even saying nothing and bowing your head is a response. It isn’t even a submissive response if you’re bowing your head to cover up your smirk or rage or, more to the point, when your actions are driven by your own thoughts and meaning, and not by those of the louse making a song and dance.)
It’s right to call out horrible behavior (when you can do so safely). It’s wrong to indulge in further and more horrible behavior because “she started it!” (That, effectively, is what Penelope says her father did, and her husband does.)
Grownups, at least people I think of as grownups, respond to other adults misbehaving by calling it out and not rewarding it.
If someone raises their voice, you say “Please don’t raise your voice,” and then you ignore them until they’re acting more sensibly, and with a normal tone of voice. Or you say: “I’m not going to respond to you until you apologize for your tone, and moderate it. I’m leaving the room now.”
Or if someone insults you, you say “Wow. That was rude.” And you ignore them.
If someone threatens you – well. Do you enjoy that sort of thing? I don’t. I don’t enjoy anger at all. I don’t enjoy other people’s malice and rage directed at me (or at anyone really.) Nor do I enjoy my own anger.
So anger – I walk away.
Threats, I may or may not call out, but I don’t respond to at all well.
Why do others?
Penelope Trunk (or please, please, please her husband) enjoys the intensity of anger and of a clear attentive response. That is, I think, what’s happening. He doesn’t attend, and she needs that, and she knows he can explode. But she thinks she controls the explosions, and I think she does not. Those explosions are because of internal events in Matthew. Her actions trigger responses only because he has given himself permission to (for example) throw her against furniture sometimes.
Because all of this is really in his head, not hers, when she polices her own actions, she still can’t guarantee her safety.
That she “causes” his explosions of rage is a fiction they’ve both bought into. It’s a fiction none the less.
And that’s what I wanted to say!
I’m glad for her that, if she needs to feel that she controls something, and believing that her actions can control the explosions and abuse gives her some control, that she thus believes herself to have control. But it’s not real. It’s an illusion of control.
He beats her because he believes there are justifications for it.
It really is that simple.