What the Wonder Woman movie means for men

(And by “men” I do mean all those who identify in some way or another as male, without necessarily limiting those people to their body parts or lack thereof.)

I’ve seen the 2017 Wonder Woman movie twice. I’ve rather little knowledge of the DC Cinematic Universe. I know of the many Wonder Woman story arcs without having necessarily read the whole thing. I know a little of the entire intent that William Moulton Marston had when he was creating his famous heroine.

That establishes my comics background.

In my country today, macho culture rules, and rape culture underlies nearly every single social interaction, and also there’s too much misogyny so that most women and people-who-identify-as-female must by necessity don figurative armor whenever they must interact with people of the male persuasion/s and pretty much everyone else in general, including other women and people-who-identify-as-female.

No, I don’t live in the US. I live in the Philippines. We are being ruled by an asshole, who was elected to his position by 16 million voters, a depressing many of whom have since revealed themselves to be assholes. We are being ruled by a murderer, a liar, a woman-hater, and an ass-kisser. He has surrounded himself with men who are all too happy to follow his turdish examples, who are all too happy to discard whatever principles they might have had in the name of power. Remember the saying about absolute power? Yes, the Philippines bills itself as a democracy, but really from colonization onwards it’s been a patriarchy, a kyriarchy, a society in which the loudest assholes triumph.

Which basically makes this place the Front — as in the front of the war — for a person like me. Female, queer, educated, separated from spouse who cheated on me and was emotionally abusive, mentally ill, trying to be woke, in my mid-30s — it’s like I actually am the all-purpose ready-made target and punching bag for rape culture and for macho culture.

And that establishes my personal background.

As I have said, I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice, and my takeaway is: this movie shows us, in often terrible and visceral detail, why feminism is so important. Why is feminism so important? Because look at the members of Diana of Themyscira’s team.

They do not overshadow her, and they openly recognize and admit that they cannot.

But that doesn’t stop them from being entirely human and recognizable and real.

Steve Trevor is a soldier, a pilot, a spy: and there’s no denying that men in those professions have been heavily glamorized as being heroic, being larger than life, having outstanding sexual prowess. He’d have been the actual main character of this story if anyone else other than Patty Jenkins had been the director. But thanks to her, we don’t, and indeed can’t, see Steve Trevor as the all-conquering hero.

We see him with his comforts taken away from him: those scenes with the Lasso of Truth, where he is stripped of everything he uses and tells himself in order to protect his heart/soul/spirit from the horrors of the war. And let’s not forget, one of those scenes has him self-inflict: he voluntarily seizes the Lasso and binds himself with it in order to convince Diana that he’s telling her not only the absolute truth, but also that which is killing him with fear and anxiety.

And, of course, there’s the entire climactic sequence for him, at the controls of an airplane that is nothing more or less than a weapon and an instrument of death: he doesn’t speak once he’s got the plane rising into the sky. He doesn’t need to. We see in his eyes, on his face, that he understands what he is doing, that he understands why he is doing it, and that he understands that he doesn’t want to do it. The camera, and our view, catches every single nuance of the fact that he is going to do something great and good, and that he is also going to destroy himself, willingly — and he flinches, as the camera doesn’t, and we see who he really is, and we don’t fear him or hate him. We salute his courage and determination, neither of which is eroded or harmed in any way by his naked fear of everything he’s doing at that moment.

Sameer is almost presented as the comic relief: until he shows that he is painfully, terribly aware of his situation and of the environment in which he lives. He wants to be an actor, he wants to spend all his time entertaining people, and he has been shut out of his dreams because his skin is the wrong color. He has no problems with admitting that fact to Diana — whom he’s seen performing some pretty incredible feats — he knows exactly who she is, that she’s the focus and the linchpin, and he tells her what was “wrong” with him and neither flinches nor makes light of it. He simply tells her his truth.

Charlie appears as a drunken sot and then he’s presented as not being one: to be very plain about it, he’s already lived through the horrors of the same war they’re all facing, and he cannot escape that war. He cannot be considered to have survived it, not when he’ll be carrying his demons with him everywhere he goes. We’ve seen war heroes succumb to their vices, but with him we see that he’s no hero and he knows it. We’ve seen war heroes fall into depression, but with him we see that it’s entirely possible for someone so afflicted to try and create some kind of hope in others — and for that same someone so afflicted to find hope in something that’s part of him. “Who will sing for us?” indeed: it takes Diana to understand that he is wounded, he’s a victim, and he’s still capable in his own way.

As for Chief: he meets Diana eye-to-eye and he tells her his story, and he is instrumental in telling her — and us — about the value of making something out of nothing. About the idea that each person is complicated and flawed. That’s a poor way of saying it, maybe. But he says, very simply, that people like Steve destroyed his people and people like him — just delivers the facts and leaves it to Diana to wonder, and to try and understand what being like him might be like.

What I am trying to point out here is that we see Diana’s perspective on each of these men, and we see her effects on them: and maybe she can’t understand them completely, but there’s no need for her to make that supreme effort. Indeed, she realizes that it’s impossible to do so. So what does she do? She recognizes that they each have their trials and their suffering — and then gives them the space they might need to be human anyway.

Too many people mock feminism and don’t actually realize that feminism is a Lasso of Truth all on its own: the mere mention of the term reveals the real mindset of the person acting or reacting to it.

Some think feminism means the women will rule the earth under a crushing heel.

Some think feminism means weakness and a preoccupation with what is superficial (and that includes body parts).

I think feminism means recognition. The recognition that I might be strange and complicated and flawed and allowed to be that way — and the recognition that everyone else in the world is allowed to be that way. Genitals don’t matter: self-realization, self-actualization, that matters.

And it’s to the credit of the cast, crew, and director that the Wonder Woman movie really is a story of self-realization and self-actualization.

I wish it might be possible to be Diana in this world. To show that we are all human beings, complicated and flawed and strange and hurting, and that we should never think of each other as inferior because of superficial differences. I know that’s an impossibility — I myself demonstrate that I can’t always do that, when I talk about people here in my own country — but I’m making a good-faith effort to try, every day, every moment.

Best I can do is to keep going, and to keep learning, and to follow the example of Diana of Themyscira.

my anniversary

About two years ago, I saw a mental health professional for the first time. I was diagnosed as having major depression / clinical depression. I started to take medications for my condition. (Two medications to start with: escitalopram and aripiprazole. I eventually dropped the latter one.) I started to go to therapy sessions with that same mental health professional.

At roughly this time last year, give or take ten days, I got broken up with, and had to get out of the house that had been my home for a while, in a big hurry. I moved back in with my family. I was forced to face the facts and the root causes of the problems that I had been having with my ex.

So today is 16 March and I am celebrating the fact that I am alive.

In fact, right now I am not just surviving. I am actually doing well. I have a steady job, I am writing, I turned in a story for submission to a national anthology of new fiction, I am out as a queer woman, and I have shoes and lipstick and crochet and I am alive. I am well.

I got through those dark days. I have no doubt that there will be hard days ahead, too — but I’ve survived, I’ve gotten through, and I was able to ask for help in order to get through those terrible times. I got help, I got meds, and now I have my life in some semblance of actually better working order than it once was.

I had no hope two years ago, and then one year ago. I had no hope. I had no strength left.

I am here, today, and it is my anniversary of life, and I am alive. I am doing well. I am here.

the blunt end of the story

cheating

This post was going around on Tumblr, and I saw it, and I had to write something to go with it, because why even are people talking about justifying cheating on one’s partner/s?

(Yes, I mean that, that can be singular or plural, please read on.)

Here’s what I added:

Speaking as someone who was long-term cheated-upon and then dumped – if he or she or they cheats, just walk away and never go back.

Oh and tell everyone that he or she or they cheats, so everyone else can be protected from that person.

I thought I was allowing my ex-husband to be happy and be polyamorous. Turns out he was abusing the label and designation of polyamory to hurt multiple women at the same time.

Yes, that does mean exactly what you think that implies for me: I was abused by this man for a very long time. I was abused, and the other women he slept with were probably also abused, and I am going to bet that he will wind up abusing whoever he is currently with right now.

If he had actually been polyamorous, I would like to think that he would have put in a little more effort into taking care of his partners. Apparently and not surprisingly, that was beyond his ken. After all, he was only ever into the relationships for himself.

I am for polyamory but never will I be for cheating. I don’t want to hear about cheating being a morally valid choice. I don’t want to hear about normalizing cheating. I don’t want to hear about cheaters whining that they’re good people after all. I have heard those arguments and they are nothing but bull.

Take it from me: if you’re cheated upon, walk away and tell everyone you’ve been cheated upon. Oh, and yes, let the punishment fit the crime. Always.

Polyamory, sure, if it floats your boat and everyone is okay with it. But abuse? Never ever ever.

I didn’t know I was being abused till I got out. I know better now. I want to help. I want to talk about it. I want to fight it.

I need sleep and coffee and food and I know that doesn’t make sense

But I also need a break from the voices in my head, so: here is a quote from the show Elementary, which I think might offer a glimpse into that same unruly head of mine. This is from the episode “The Eternity Injection”.

Sherlock Holmes: If you must know, Watson, I’ve been feeling a little bit down of late. It’s the process of maintaining my sobriety. It’s repetitive. And it’s relentless. And above all, it’s tedious. When I left rehab, I… I accepted your influence, I committed to my recovery. And now, two years in, I find myself asking, ‘is this it?’ My sobriety is simply a grind. It’s just this leaky faucet that requires constant maintenance, and in return offers only not to drip.
Dr. Joan Watson: You have your work, you have me. You’re alive.
SH: I’ve told myself that many times. So many times, it has become unmoored from all meaning. Odd. I used to imagine that a relapse would be the climax to some grand drama. Now I think that if I were to use drugs again, it would in fact be an anticlimax. It would be a surrender to the incessant drip, drip, drip of existence.
JW: I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. What can I do to help? Do you want to talk more, do you want to maybe speak to Alfredo?
SH: Yes, I think perhaps I will see Alfredo. But in any case, I shan’t be using drugs this evening.

Pick myself up, keep moving, try to make some of those movements into steps forward.

here I go again with the part where I battle my self-censorship

(and seriously, self, wtf? you even have a tag on this very blog that says “better out than in”. take your own damn advice.)

So.

Let me begin by putting my confession for today right at the very top of the post, and that confession is: I’m terribly terribly lonely.

Oh and also: there are kinds of lonely, okay, so I’m going to focus on the particular type of lonely that I have been carrying around for a while now.

And in this case “a while” means almost one year.

Except not really, because this kind of lonely is not entirely unfamiliar to me.

Imagine: you present yourself to the world as being happily partnered. You present yourself as being in love and being lucky to be loved. You present yourself as this and that and the other and what the world doesn’t actually see is the part where you’re at home, hidden in the blankets, left to yourself because your so-called partner is spending long hours with his other lovers.

You are not against polyamory. But you are against the kind of polyamory where you can clearly see that your partner is with the others in mind and spirit even when with you, where you see that your partner would rather be kissing the others, holding on to the others. Where you can see that your partner isn’t interested in having sex with you, or does it with you when they’re clearly not there because they’re with the others.

That’s not polyamory, that’s abuse.

I’m okay with polyamory if it means my partner actually is with me when they’re with me. There are different kinds of polyamory, and what I want is the one or the ones in which my polyamorous partner is actually really present in the moment with me when they’re with me.

I know. I’m needy. Too many reasons for that.

And I know that I lived for many years in a relationship that was already falling apart below the surface, so I know how familiar and intimate my particular kind of lonely can be.

So yeah. Next month it will be a year since the relationship I had been in for a long time definitively fell apart.

I’m here, I’m still here, I’m doing everything I can in order to live and to stay alive.

But I am lonely.

I miss being held. I miss having someone to be with, in all the many shades of “be with”. I miss having someone to sleep with, in all the many meanings of “sleep with”. I’ve always been one to crave physical affection and also a lot of reassurance since I’m carrying so many anxieties and issues around. It’s like that song, you know? “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine” and apparently that wasn’t what I had, from 1999 to 2016.

My kind of lonely is something I’m sick and tired of.

And I also feel this kind of anger at myself because why am I still afraid to tell the world about my problems and my hang-ups and my rage? I’m like, really, self, get over the fear that was imposed on you. Better to be flawed and to acknowledge those flaws, better to need and acknowledge that hey maybe your needs are normal and you DESERVE to have those needs filled.

“Missing you at Christmas”

There’s a song people sing in December or so, in my country anyway, and the lyrics, translated, go something like this:

I’m going to have a sad and lonely December, because I miss you
Though I try to force myself to be happy, I’ll be missing you at Christmas

Doesn’t matter where I go, I’m always looking over my shoulder, but there’s no one in the world like you
The strange thing is that there are so many people in the world who’d be better for me than you.

That’s roughly the first verse — it’s not a very long song, all things considered. Maybe it’s a little simple, too, and a little too pat: the singer’s not going to be with a loved one for the holidays, and will subsequently be sad at a time when everyone else is supposed to be full of cheer and good will.

I’ve always loved that song. It can be easy to sing, or you can make things complicated by adding all kinds of flourishes to the melody. And it’s literally been around for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been listening to it every year, and sometimes the cover versions are really heart-rending and sometimes they’re just — meh, you know, like recycled pop pap to cash in on something that inevitably comes true every year.

And this year, yeah, that song pretty much hits too close to home for me.

Especially since the last line of the song is actually:

The problem with Christmas is, this year you’re loving someone else

Um, yeah, hahaha, no.

And it’s such a cold December right now in my part of the world, with a very real promise of rain on the 24th itself, no thanks to what looks like some kind of tropical storm forming in local waters. How much more dreary can it get?

Why am I whining about this now? Why am I more affected by being alone at Christmas than on, say, my birthday? I have no idea. There’s a cold rage churning in my gut, to be sure, and a redoubled sense of being betrayed. There’s the simple lack of skin-to-skin contact. There’s the fact that I have to juggle complicated emotions — and not just mine, but others’ too — when I’m already feeling a little overwhelmed.

In short, welcome to the blues.

Not exactly unfamiliar territory, to be sure, but it’s just a different month, and one that’s fraught with too much surface happiness, so that it feels like an entirely new kind of pain.

It does sound like I should really take care of myself at this time. Self-care has to be the priority — well, it should be, at all times, but right now I need it more than ever.

I am grateful for a few things. I’m only bereft of a romantic partner at this time — I have friends, I have family. There are people in this world who care about what happens to me. I can write again, thank goodness. I can still be moved by stories.

Gotta remember that.

It’s okay to be tearing up.

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

(with apologies to e.e. cummings)

(This post will talk about self-harming, so please take care of yourself — I will totally understand if you feel vulnerable right now, and can’t bear to read further. I hope you’ll be okay. And if you want to approach me about this topic, comment away so we can try to have another kind of conversation. )

I’m a self-harmer. I pick incessantly at the skin around my fingernails. I also have a terrible tendency to pick at the scabs if I get wounded, which actually explains why many of my scars are so darkly pigmented and still visible in many places on my body.

I pick and I pick and I pick and some days I bleed because of my picking. Whenever I pick at the skin around my fingernails, I wind up feeling pain for the rest of the day, and the pain doesn’t go away when I do things like wash the dishes or cut food or pick up a pen in order to write.

My mom gets mad every time she catches sight of the wounds on my fingers. I can’t really fathom the reasons as to why she would feel that way. Maybe she’s afraid of what people might say when they see my hands — but what does that have to do with her? Would people think that she’s inflicting those wounds on me? Or, worse, would people think that she’s one of the reasons why I inflict that kind of pain on myself?

Put it that way, I can see why she gets ticked off.

Okay, that leads me to the question of: why? What makes me pick at my skin to the point of drawing blood, and to the point of creating or worsening scars?

There are many reasons why people might self-harm. They might want to express something that is really hard to put into words. They might want to take control of their bodies and feelings and experiences. They might want to escape bad memories, especially if those memories are of trauma.

Some people who self-harm do it because they feel numb or disconnected or dissociated from their physical selves, and the pain helps them to feel connected to their bodies once again: after all, the brain picks up the signals from the nerves, right, and the pain is an actual physical manifestation, a means of showing that the world is real and that it exists.

That’s my reason: the pain grounds me back in my body. It helps me understand that my consciousness is tied to the physical body that walks around in the world.

Ever since I can remember, I have had these vivid episodes of being convinced that I’m not real, that I don’t exist in this world. I think that the “me” of my brain, meaning all the thoughts running around in my head, is stranded as a passenger in the “me” that is my physical body, the “me” that casts a reflection in a mirror and a shadow on the pavement.

Dissociation is a really scary thing. I have had to convince myself that I am still real and alive and that I must still keep myself safe, fighting through the disorientation of dissociation while walking down a poorly-lit street in the middle of the night. I have had to convince myself that I am still real and alive while looking at my own reflection in a mirror.

For me, and I guess this might be true for other people who might feel this way, intense sensation is a link back to the actual and real physical body — it’s how we know that we’re not just, I dunno, invisible minds and collections of thoughts floating aimlessly through the world. The signals that flash up and down my nerves, which are interpreted by my brain as pain, tell me that what I tell this physical body to do will have a real effect on that same traitorous brain that has already half-convinced me that I’m not real.

Yes, I know it means my hands look frankly unkempt and rough. Yes, I know the wounds become worse the more I pick at them. Yes, I know I bleed sometimes. I don’t see these things as a problem; I see them as proof I’m still in this world and that I can still interact with the keyboard of my laptop, or the glass of water next to my hand.

Many mental health experts think that self-harm is a response to terrible memories and experiences, or that it’s a reaction to trauma. Well, yeah, I’m certainly carrying quite a few of those terrible memories around in my head. I also have self-esteem and self-worth problems, with impostor syndrome and a host of other hang-ups to boot. And I feel like I can’t always contain those memories, can’t always escape the consequences of those thoughts. I can’t always control how my brain works, or how it sometimes throws up a bad memory.

Does reading about self-harm help? I guess it might in my case. The reading tells me I’m not the only one who’s doing something like this. The reading tells me that there is an actual explanation for this thing that I do which my mom excoriates me for. The reading tells me that there are coping mechanisms.

The reading also tells me that what I’m doing is crying for help.

If you think that you might need help, too — please know that you’re not alone. Please know that you can ask for help.

vocals by Philippa Soo, lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda – Burn

This song got stuck in my head this week.

So, again with the twists and turns of recovery: because some of you will no doubt be familiar with this song, and already have the Kleenex lined up because this is a song that does not pull its punches, this is a song that comes at you with every emotion and, paradoxically, a whole lot of cold reason and logic.

But some of you may be hearing this song for the first time and like I said, it’s a song full of emotions and of cold logic. We hear a woman’s voice and we hear her singing to a man, and she tells him off about the thing that he did that wrecked her and left her in pieces, and she tells him what she’s going to do with him.

For my part, I have been afraid to share this song with others, and I am trying to figure out why.

I mean, yes, I identify with many of the songs that I share on the Internet — I still identify with half the songs on my big playlist just because they’ve gotten me through some tough things — but this one. This is the story of what happened in my marriage, and it’s a gorgeous and concise retelling, and why was I afraid to tell people, “If you want to know what happened to me, listen to this song”?

I remember posting a public FB message the night after I got broken up with, that basically said that things were over and I was heartbroken, and you know what? The ex-husband called, and take note that this is not a man who uses FB, and he said that I should take the status down because it was hurting his feelings. Because people were asking him, “Dude, wtf did you do?” It was hurting his feelings.

More fool me, I took the post down.

I should have told him where to stick it.

Why was I supposed to manage his feelings when he did such a bang-up job of wrecking mine?

More fool me.

At least the lines from “Burn” are stuck in my brain now, and they’re the best lines. The world has no right to my heart. He doesn’t. Burned all his bridges behind him, and I know that he will continue to do just that for the rest of however long or short his life is. He will not change, he will demand to be understood and never lift a finger to try and understand.

I will keep burning what is left of him out of my life, because he doesn’t deserve me.

About me

pen02

Out of darkness, yet shall I follow a path of greater darkness. From the mountain crest, far-off moon, give me light.

(和泉式部
izumi shikibu, 978?-)

My name is PJ. I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m from the Philippines. I was previously a PR agency writer and an English teacher. Now I spend my time doing what freelancing work comes my way.

I have a mental illness. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in the first quarter of 2015. I went to therapy. I was put on a course of medications. (I can still tell you what the generic names of those meds are.) At present, I’m off the meds, and I’m not seeing my therapist.

I was, or I guess I should say I still am, married. I loved my husband for the 13 years before we got married, and I loved my husband for the better part of about four more years after we got married, and then, well, there was a sudden breakup.

Or maybe it wasn’t that sudden. Maybe things had been heading towards the precipice, and over it, for a long time. He loved other women, and never stopped looking for other women to love, and for a while I let myself become a willing accomplice and enabler for his needs. For a while I gave up all of my own wants and needs for the sake of staying together with him.

All of this is in the past tense now, except for the fact that I am technically still married.

I saw my husband today. I had braced myself to feel like a wreck after seeing him. I had been getting ready to console myself. I had expected to have to stop and take a moment so that I could focus on the rest of the day.

Today, I looked briefly into his face, into his eyes, and realized that there was nothing left of “us”.

I’m a little surprised that all the feelings that I used to have are gone, and it’s only been six months since we broke up.

I’m surprised and relieved.

Which doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped feeling lonely and sorry for myself. But those things are not exclusive to a breakup. Those things are part of my depression, and always have been. They have been my constant companions through the years, so — well, literally speaking, what else is new?

I’m not new to the blogging thing. And I’m not new to the journaling thing either.

Here I’ll write about myself, and my mental illness, and the things that affect me and make me think. Maybe I’m doing this in the faint hope that someone out there might find some kind of help in what I have to say. Maybe I’m doing this to remind myself of what I need to do and what I have already been through.

(Which means I’m really going to need to put some kind of organization on this blog. Tags or something. But even when I’m writing for myself I only ever pay lip service to the idea of outlines and organizations and things like that….)

(Can I possibly trick myself into thinking that organizing my thoughts here might also help me to organize the rest of my life?)

If you read this and got all the way to the end, thank you. If you read this and decide to follow me and my blog, thank you. If you read this and decide I’m a little bit full of it, well, thanks for reading anyway.

Here I am. And here is my road to that elusive place called Recovery — which is just another step to the promised land called Happiness.