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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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105 Responses

  1. David
    David February 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm |

    Nice guy. I’m surprised nobody has given him twenty years of jailtime for all that bullshit.

  2. Juke
    Juke March 1, 2011 at 12:01 am |

    Ugh, he’s like Mel Gibson. Such terrifying men.

  3. RD
    RD March 1, 2011 at 12:15 am |

    Fuck.

    David: Nice guy. I’m surprised nobody has given him twenty years of jailtime for all that bullshit.  

    I’m not.

  4. RD
    RD March 1, 2011 at 12:17 am |

    P.S. trigger warning?

  5. April
    April March 1, 2011 at 12:48 am |

    The fact that Two and a Half Men exists makes me believe that none of us deserve nice things.

    LOL, and seriously. It’s by far the worst sitcom in existence.

  6. Mohandas
    Mohandas March 1, 2011 at 12:59 am |

    I get it. You don’t like Charlie Sheen. You condemn his violent ways, and his violence against women.

    In violent, condemning words. Condescending, mean, and the type-written analog to spitting on him.

    You’re against violence, yes?

    Then where is the compassion for this obviously troubled human? Don’t get me wrong: his behavior (and his “acting”) are offensive to me as well. I just can’t help but note the irony of using violent, hurtful, judgmental words to point out how violent, hurtful and judgmental this guy has been. I would think if you were truly opposed to violence, we’d be hearing some compassion in this piece.

  7. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage March 1, 2011 at 1:42 am |

    Didn’t read the linked article, but did it mention the time he “accidentally” shot at Kelly Preston, leaving a flesh wound?

  8. Lance
    Lance March 1, 2011 at 3:22 am |

    You may consider this an odd angle at which to approach this story, but I’m starting to wonder if the current cultural acceptance of cocaine is starting to take a toll. I just got back from watching Cedar Rapids, where a character goes on a long, semi-accidental coke binge, and it’s treated for laughs, harmless fun with virtually no negative consequences. Similar stuff has been happening in a lot of other R-rated comedies out now.

    It seems today I run into more people who do cocaine, and who don’t treat the substance with the respect and care it deserves. It used to be that people were a lot more aware of and careful about its negative effects. Now, a lot of people seem to forget that there are negative effects at all. One of those is that it can have a very destabilizing influence on people, particularly those who have the money to access near-unlimited amounts of it or are predisposed to certain instabilities.

    Perhaps the recent celebrity meltdowns tied to coke use (Sheen, Lohan, etc) will serve as this generation’s unfortunate reminder about the fact that you need to be careful about what you do. I just hope it doesn’t go as far as it had to during the last generational reminder, when so many celebrities were lost to heroin in the 90s.

  9. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla March 1, 2011 at 8:24 am |

    Lance: You may consider this an odd angle at which to approach this story, but I’m starting to wonder if the current cultural acceptance of cocaine is starting to take a toll. I just got back from watching Cedar Rapids, where a character goes on a long, semi-accidental coke binge, and it’s treated for laughs, harmless fun with virtually no negative consequences. Similar stuff has been happening in a lot of other R-rated comedies out now.

    Perhaps. But I think it’s more like if someone has a propensity for violence, being coked makes it more likely that they will be violent. Violence and woman-hating is in Sheen’s nature; his addiction has just amplified it.

    “Two-and-a-half dudebro rapists-in-training” is the most execrable sitcom I have ever watched.

  10. norbizness
    norbizness March 1, 2011 at 8:37 am |

    Does he technically register in the celebrity death pool if he is called, while living, to heaven to sit at the right hand of God?

  11. Florence
    Florence March 1, 2011 at 9:14 am |

    auditorydamage: Didn’t read the linked article, but did it mention the time he “accidentally” shot at Kelly Preston, leaving a flesh wound?  

    I was going to mention this too.

    Lance, I don’t think people in general forget that drugs have a negative influence, I think addicts deny the negative effects of their drug use, one hallmark of addiction. People around them, typically drug users themselves or people with low abilities to set healthy boundaries, also make a lot of excuses for drug users and their “eccentricities”. Most people with healthy boundaries, even recreational, non-addict drug users, will see the difference between control and uncontrolled and draw the line.

    Addiction is a progressive disease, and one that is also more often than not co-morbid with other mental illness. Someone who starts off as a mild user to self-medicate said illness will be able to “handle” their drugs, as it were, continue to go to work, maintain relationships, and have a family, but five or ten or twenty years down the line BECAUSE of the progressiveness of addiction, will suffer devastating consequences that they still manage, somehow, to deny.

    Sheen, an annoying, egomaniacal ass, but a human being nonetheless, is at a crossroads where he can either acknowledge that he is an addict and acknowledge all the trouble he has caused to the people in his life, including family, friends, and professional contacts, or he can stay on the roller coaster until it throws him off. It’s sad, and it sucks when public figures have to serve as an object lesson for the rest of us, but really this is pretty much what advanced addiction looks like. Take heed.

  12. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 1, 2011 at 9:44 am |

    If Charlie Sheen were clean and sober, he’d still be an abusive asshole. Abusing people is very separate from addiction. You feel entitled to hurt, belittle, and control those closest to you. In Sheen’s case, he feels entitled to act this way towards women.

    So yeah, his rambling meltdown is likely a result of his addiction. But his abusive behavior towards women has two things fueling it–his assholishness and his misogyny.

  13. Florence
    Florence March 1, 2011 at 9:56 am |

    Sheelzebub — Totally agree, and I don’t want to excuse one for the other. I do want to point out that addiction is often tied to emotional abuse because of the addict’s need to lie, hide, and mindfuck the people around them into helping them keep the addiction alive, but that’s a totally different thing and I do not intend to excuse Sheen’s behavior towards women because I empathize with the addiction. I’m in tangent-land.

    Dude is an asshole to women and I’m appalled by how entertainment media has chalked his “crazy”, “outrageous”, “bad boy” behavior up to some fakey persona, and vilified and blamed the women in his life as though they put themselves near him to be abused. It’s a gross example of how anything is excusable for powerful men as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the bottom line, even if that means publicly, unapologetically hurting women like they were put there for your amusement.

  14. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin March 1, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    I hope he seeks treatment, but until he admits he has a problem, he’ll never do it. It’s the toughest thing in the world to get an addict to admit that he/she is an addict.

    These days, I try not write anyone off, but his whole personality offends me profoundly. I think if he ever showed any real vulnerability we might be sympathetic, but he’s never sought that or felt any need.

  15. gidget commando
    gidget commando March 1, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    I’m so sick of big shots getting away with beating the crap out of women and keeping their money, their jobs, and all their big-shot perks until they aggravate the wrong man. It would be so nice to think we counted.

    Silly me.

  16. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 1, 2011 at 11:03 am |

    I would think if you were truly opposed to violence, we’d be hearing some compassion in this piece.

    Sheen’s had nothing but compassion and breaks for what he did to women. The women involved? Have been pretty consistently vilified as gold-diggers, whores, bimbos, and asking for it. How telling that you don’t mention the women he assaulted and abused, or urge compassion for them.

  17. Mohandas
    Mohandas March 1, 2011 at 11:04 am |

    Jill:
    Nope, sorry — physical violence against women is not nearly the same as “judgmental” words about a celebrity on the internet that said celebrity is never going to read. Give me a fucking break (and actually, I’m pretty offended that you’d even compare this post to actual violence). Talk about de-valuing women.
    Also, being opposed to violence doesn’t mean that I have to be nice to every abuser.  

    Yeah, I get it: actual violence isn’t the same as verbal violence. But it stems from the same energy. Even in your response to me, you show hostility. That’s born of the same impulse that, in other people, can become physical aggression. If you can claim to be against violence (presumably toward BOTH genders) and rationalize verbal violence, then your argument loses it’s moral high ground.

    And……you can be mad at or offended by psychiatrically challenged overpaid actors, but if you really hope to see a reduction in violence overall, I’d encourage you to check in with your own heart and see where you can root out some similar impulses.

  18. William
    William March 1, 2011 at 11:10 am |

    I think getting hung up on the drug angle here iBipolar Disorders problematic. There are three things going on with Sheen, in my view. The first is that he seems to be in the midst of a Manic or Hypomanic episode, suggesting Bipolar Disorder. The second is that he probably used enough cocaine to develop the kind of mild physical dependence coke can produce. I think the drug use is an attractive thing to talk about because it gives us the illusion of safety, that someone like Sheen could be so easily fixed by just getting them to “admit they have a problem” and seek treatment. The real “addiction” for him is more likely avoiding the nadirs of Bipolar and chasing the high of mania (its a shockingly common self-medication pattern for people with that diagnosis); cocaine is really just a tool rather than a root cause. The third is that he’s an abusive piece of crap.

    Those first two things? Personal and not really open to judgmental commentary in my eyes. The last one? Absolutely worth a public shaming regardless of what else might be going on in his life. The manic behavior and bizarre statements might be entertaining, but I think it distracts from the core thing here: Charlie Sheen threatens, and even attempts, to kill women on a pretty regular basis. I have a lot of trouble seeing whats funny about that.

    As for empathy for this poor, struggling, hurt human being? Fuck it. If someone has come looking for help and become a patient I can empathize with almost anyone because I believe that empathy can be healing in certain therapeutic circumstances. I don’t owe the same to any piece of human offal that rolls by, wallowing in it’s own monstrosity and breathlessly waiting for it’s children to grow old enough to be indoctrinated.

  19. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 11:13 am |

    I think Mohandas is a troll. And even if Mohandas is not a troll, statements like this should be disregarded/mocked/maligned in much the same way:

    Yeah, I get it: actual violence isn’t the same as verbal violence. But it stems from the same energy.

    Offensive, yeah, but anytime someone brings “energy” into a serious conversation, it’s just laughable.

  20. benvolio
    benvolio March 1, 2011 at 11:23 am |

    I’m pretty giddy that Sheen is still single. I bet all he really needs is the love of a good woman.

    [/sarcasm]

  21. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 1, 2011 at 11:39 am |

    you show hostility

    You’re being pretty hostile yourself, cupcake. Odd how it’s only a problem when it’s a woman getting pissed off at a man getting away with abuse. You can blather on and on about how it’s the same energy, but here’s the difference–Jill’s not dating Charlie Sheen. She’s not verbally degrading him or humiliating him. She’s not emotionally abusing him or tearing him down. She’s not physically assaulting him.

    You, however, are trying to equate justifiable anger over abuse with abuse. Which is something a lot of abusers tend to do.

  22. Mohandas
    Mohandas March 1, 2011 at 11:50 am |

    All done. Good luck with everything. I came here via a post from a very compassionate male friend of mine who encouraged me to read this piece. I thought I’d put out some thoughts on the nature of violence, and what I get back is “shut up, you stupid bad person”. So, as much as I was hoping for a genuine back-and-forth, there seems to be a pretty deep commitment to victimhood here, and an unwillingess to challenge clearly long-established views. So…..have at it. I’ll be gone, and those of you who feel compelled to be verbally cutting and condescending can revel in it in my absence. Oh, well.

  23. Florence
    Florence March 1, 2011 at 11:53 am |

    William: As for empathy for this poor, struggling, hurt human being? Fuck it. I don’t owe [empathy] to any piece of human offal that rolls by, wallowing in it’s own monstrosity and breathlessly waiting for it’s children to grow old enough to be indoctrinated.  

    Can someone embroider this on a pillow, STAT?

  24. groggette
    groggette March 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    *flouncity flounce flounce*

  25. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    “I thought I’d put out some thoughts on the nature of violence, and what I get back is ‘shut up, you stupid bad person’.”

    Actually, what you did was say a version of, “Shut up you stupid, bad person–you’re just as violent.” On a blog that has a lot of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence on it, about a post that takes a very privileged, 45-year-old man with a history of abuse to task for his violence, and takes the culture that allowed him to get away with it to task.

    So fuck right off and flounce away, asshole.

    I’m with William. I don’t owe an abuser a shred of empathy.

  26. Athenia
    Athenia March 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    When he talked about his two live in girlfriends (which looked to me to be in their late teens to early twenties), he said “They don’t judge me.”

    I immediately translated this to mean, “They don’t control me.”

    Later on the reporter asked him if the “goddesses” have a say in household matters and he replied, “Yes, but I am 22 years older, so I have more life experience….”

  27. William
    William March 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm |

    Mohandas: I’m compassionate, but outside of the consulting room my compassion has limits.

    My parent’s generation had something of a love affair with the non-violence your namesake (usually) advocated. My father was gassed in a public park while singing about peace to soften him up for the truncheon wielding stormtroopers of a mayor who cut his teeth participating in race riots. My mother was assaulted by the border patrol of a country in which she held citizenship for traveling with a man who was not her husband. I’ve been beaten, threatened, and raped by people who hold a position of power over me.

    So when you come here “hoping for a genuine back-and-forth” about violence and then decide to make accusations of victimhood before flouncing off when people don’t fawn over how enlightened you are for being privileged enough to not be angry I’m somewhat less than impressed. I’m more Stonewall than Savannah and Charlie Sheen isn’t someone I’m terribly concerned about treating with kit gloves. Hell, its not as if Jill were raising the black flags and calling for Sheen’s blood: she was just being (arguably) mean to him, verbally, somewhere he’ll likely never see, in order to criticize the repugnance of his behavior. I fail to see how calling him doubleplus ungood has any effect other than obfuscating the actual horror of his actions that the media has somehow managed to avoid.

    Also, you need a new handle, friend

    My non-violence does admit of people, who cannot or will not be non-violent, holding and making effective use of arms. Let me repeat for the thousandth time that non-violence is of the strongest, not of the weak.

    I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor.

    Those who are victimized by violence get to talk about it’s negative effects and try to advocate peace. They also get to fight back. The powerful, those who oppress, those who commit violence in order to protect their privilege, do not have the right to hide behind a commitment to nonviolence in order to protect their power. And thats before we even get to the deeply problematic gender roles that are embedded into Gandhi’s theories of nonviolence which one could easily argue were socially violent themselves.

    But hey, I’m probably just being emotional…

  28. Here’s my Feministe Question about Radical Childcare « my ecdysis

    [...] reaction?  Is it that people want to react to more posts about Charlie Sheen’s assholery or popular and well-covered issues such as white [...]

  29. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm |

    benvolio: I’m pretty giddy that Sheen is still single. I bet all he really needs is the love of a good woman.
    [/sarcasm]  

    I know you’re joking, but I keep hearing that he lives with two women who he refers to as “the Goddesses”?

  30. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm |

    Mohandas: All done. Good luck with everything. I came here via a post from a very compassionate male friend of mine who encouraged me to read this piece. I thought I’d put out some thoughts on the nature of violence, and what I get back is “shut up, you stupid bad person”. So, as much as I was hoping for a genuine back-and-forth, there seems to be a pretty deep commitment to victimhood here, and an unwillingess to challenge clearly long-established views. So…..have at it. I’ll be gone, and those of you who feel compelled to be verbally cutting and condescending can revel in it in my absence. Oh, well.  

    Thank YOU for schooling us. Imma just sit around and feel all victim-y today. Anybody wanna join?

  31. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm |

    Also, you need a new handle, friend

    Yep.

  32. abby jean
    abby jean March 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    i’m also a bit troubled by the lack of compassion for sheen, a person experiencing significant mental illness and substance abuse. while that doesn’t excuse or explain his abusiveness in any way, and while the societal tolerance of his abusive actions towards women is disturbing and upsetting, the “humor” at the end of the original post and the throwaway line that he’ll likely be dead struck me as inappropriate.

  33. nathan
    nathan March 1, 2011 at 2:47 pm |

    William and others,

    I can understand your frustration with Mohandas’ appearance in this conversation. And certainly, Charlie Sheen has done little to earn anything but contempt. In fact, I’d agree with Sheezelbub’s point that no one owes Sheen any empathy.

    However, I find it disturbing how quickly comments about non-violence and linking that to how people are treated in posts are summarily dismissed, and even grounds for a nasty dismissal of the person who said them.

    When Rep. Giffords was shot, many folks, including on here, pointed to the violent rhetoric directed towards her and other Democrats as being connected to what happened. A few days ago, there was a lot of talk about the damaging impact of a Jill Stanek cartoon. There are routinely conversations on this blog about the simple use of a word like “crazy,” and how that impacts people who comment on this blog. All of these discussions are, in part, about how words and images can, and do, have strong impact on those who experience them.

    So, even though you and others see Mohandas as condescending and troll-like, I’d say he/she is pointing out a fault-line here. It seems to be ok to spew hateful personal attacks at someone like Charlie Sheen because he “deserves it.” The same goes for right wing politicians who peddle policies that are repugnant. It moves from that action or policy is fucking awful and person X is being an asshole, to that person is a piece of shit unworthy of being considered human.

    This, to me, is where things go downhill. Because if you look at the hate rhetoric of right wingers, it tends to be totalizing. Person X or group X is so wrong that they are not only not worthy of any compassion, but are not even human. Which again, is different from saying, for example, that Charlie Sheen was being an ass when he did X. Or Glenn Beck was being an ass when he said Y.

    I’m not interested in defending Mohandas because he/she didn’t stick around and engage folks long enough, nor did he/she specifically engage anyone in particular through the comments made – which perhaps is why some took his/her comments as condescending. In fact, I really didn’t feel Jill’s post was all that hateful. She took a few mild shots, but mostly she’s pointing out the sickening reality around celebrities like Sheen that lets them continue to get away with damaging behavior.

    However, it’s actually possible to turn this into an argument for displaying some compassion. Specifically, knowing that letting celebrity men get away with abusing women is absolutely destructive to everyone involved, one can say the only compassionate response is to stand up and demand an end to such behavior. And the social patterns that allow it to more easily occur. Jill’s post is already on the way there, as are some of the comments here.

    People like to equate compassion with being nice and kind. But that’s a false understanding of compassion. With someone with a track record like Sheen, being nice and kind is the exact opposite of compassion. He needs to be pulled off the public pedestal, removed from the spotlight, and shown exactly how damaging his actions have been.

    But when comments slide into someone being inhuman or a monstrous piece of trash, it sounds an awful lot like the rhetoric of those whose actions we are fighting against. And I’d hope that would at least cause people to pause here.

  34. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat March 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm |

    It’s rather hard to feel much compassion for a person who doesn’t seem to have any compassion for others. Yes, Sheen is ill. But he is using that illness (or rather, his vigorous denial of it) to hurt a lot of people, and has been for a very long time, and that’s not acceptable behavior. I draw the line at allowing my misfiring brain to hurt anyone other than myself, which is REALLY hard sometimes, so why should Sheen get a pass?

    Mental illness is an explanation, not an excuse.

  35. RD
    RD March 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    Mohandas: I get it. You don’t like Charlie Sheen. You condemn his violent ways, and his violence against women.
    In violent, condemning words. Condescending, mean, and the type-written analog to spitting on him.
    You’re against violence, yes?Then where is the compassion for this obviously troubled human? Don’t get me wrong: his behavior (and his “acting”) are offensive to me as well. I just can’t help but note the irony of using violent, hurtful, judgmental words to point out how violent, hurtful and judgmental this guy has been. I would think if you were truly opposed to violence, we’d be hearing some compassion in this piece.  

    Haha really?

  36. samanthab
    samanthab March 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm |

    Verity Khat, I’m not following you. How can you use an “illness…to hurt people?” Illnesses, or the denial of them, aren’t in of themselves weapons. Also, mental illness is NOT an explanation for a prolonged pattern of violence against women.

  37. William
    William March 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    However, I find it disturbing how quickly comments about non-violence and linking that to how people are treated in posts are summarily dismissed, and even grounds for a nasty dismissal of the person who said them.

    That might be a valid critique if anyone here were actually advocating violence against Sheen of if the discussion somehow involved violence. It hasn’t, so the whole nonviolence thing is something of a red herring. What Mohandas was asking for is that people show compassion to the point of not being sarcastic or judgmental for a man who attempts to kill women with alarming frequency. That smells less like nonviolence and more like disregarding actual violence against women in the name of keeping the discourse civilized.

    To be more blunt, the call for nonviolence here strikes me as thinly veiled devaluation of women.

    When Rep. Giffords was shot, many folks, including on here, pointed to the violent rhetoric directed towards her and other Democrats as being connected to what happened.

    Which you’d likely see here again if there was something labeled a “hit list” with Sheen’s name on it. There isn’t, so I have to wonder why merely criticizing a man is being perceived as violence.

    Also, perhaps there is a difference between violence in the name of oppression and violence aimed at oppressors…

    A few days ago, there was a lot of talk about the damaging impact of a Jill Stanek cartoon.

    Which, again, depicted real violence. There has been none suggested against Sheen here. The closest you get is Jill’s guess that his current mode of being is likely to kill him soon. Thats an observation, perhaps expressed cruelly, not violence.

    There are routinely conversations on this blog about the simple use of a word like “crazy,” and how that impacts people who comment on this blog.

    Mad persons have faced slurs leading to violent oppression as a matter of course. “Crazy” is one of those.

    Charlie Sheen is a wealthy, well connected, heterosexual, conventionally attractive, cisgendered son of a wealthy, well connected, heterosexual, conventionally attractive, cisgendered star. He isn’t an oppressed person. No slur was directed at him. You’re comparing minor sarcasm directed and at privileged person to real oppression.

    I’d say he/she is pointing out a fault-line here.

    Perhaps if “don’t be mean” was a categorical imperative…

    It seems to be ok to spew hateful personal attacks at someone like Charlie Sheen because he “deserves it.” The same goes for right wing politicians who peddle policies that are repugnant. It moves from that action or policy is fucking awful and person X is being an asshole, to that person is a piece of shit unworthy of being considered human.

    No, I do not believe that people who oppress others through violence deserve the same protection from oppressed persons that oppressed persons deserve from them. I do not believe that the powerful and the weak ought to be treated in the same way. I do not believe in blind equality. I do make value judgements. I do not believe that what is wrong for one is what is wrong for all. I do believe that oppressed persons and their allies have the right to do things in self defense that powerful people would not have the right to do to defend their privilege.

    This, to me, is where things go downhill. Because if you look at the hate rhetoric of right wingers, it tends to be totalizing. Person X or group X is so wrong that they are not only not worthy of any compassion, but are not even human. Which again, is different from saying, for example, that Charlie Sheen was being an ass when he did X. Or Glenn Beck was being an ass when he said Y.

    What you seem to be missing is that no one here is advocating Sheen’s death. No one here is saying he ought to be killed. No one here is even saying he shouldn’t be considered human (though I admit I was close to that particular line). He wasn’t “being an ass” when he tried to murder women on multiple occasions in the past, he was attempting murder.

    Are you really having trouble seeing the difference between oppressed persons aggressively criticizing someone who has tried to murder other oppressed persons in the past and relatively powerful persons openly advocating the murder of oppressed persons in the name of patriarchy? Do you really not see a difference here?

    However, it’s actually possible to turn this into an argument for displaying some compassion

    Possible, sure. But…its not the responsibility of the oppressed to show compassion to their oppressors. Its nice when it happens, sometimes, but the oppressors don’t get to expect it.

    People like to equate compassion with being nice and kind. But that’s a false understanding of compassion. With someone with a track record like Sheen, being nice and kind is the exact opposite of compassion. He needs to be pulled off the public pedestal, removed from the spotlight, and shown exactly how damaging his actions have been.

    And how do you suggest we do that? Remember, the opening “fault line” you believe was exposed here was Jill’s lack of compassion in the opening post. It was exposed by a trotting out of “nonviolence.” Now I could talk the nature of compassion with you, I’d even wager that my understanding runs a bit deeper than yours given my training, but what has me riled isn’t the notion that Sheen deserves compassion but the context in which it was presented.

  38. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    Nathan, where did Jill advocate for violence against Charlie Sheen? That poster was summarily dismissed because they were being patronizing and frankly, cruel to many people here who have actually survived domestic violence and abuse. No one here went on about Second Amendment Solutions or calling for Charlies Sheen’s death (which is the MO of the right wing).

    Frankly, I find this attitude that it’s okay–and even morally right–to shut down very valid displays of anger demonstrated by people who are often silenced, dismissed, and ignored to be quite chilling. It is deeply alienating when a supposed ally would rather silence us and moralize to us about The Proper Way to Behave and Express Ourselves–when a supposed ally would rather ignore the fact that we are often shamed when we express anger, shamed about abuse we may have had to deal with, and silenced. See: the idea that calling someone abusive, saying they are being an asshole, and saying they can’t hide behind addiction issues to excuse it is the same thing as calling them less than human. FFS.

    Jesus.

  39. abby jean
    abby jean March 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm |

    i keep drafting and deleting comments about this, but the idea that pushing back against the idea that it’s ok to include a throwaway line about sheen’s surely impending death, the idea that including a “humorous” quote from sheen to illustrate his current unhinged state is “shutting down very valid displays of anger” is bullshit.

    it’s not ok to point and laugh at people who are clearly and demonstrably experiencing mental illness and substance abuse. those conditions do not excuse or justify his very bad and reprehensible treatment towards women, for which he should unquestionably be held accountable. but nor do they mean that it’s “humorous” to point out the things he’s been saying to various media outlets. and it certainly doesn’t justify a comment of impending victory for whoever has him in their celebrity death pool.

    there are women with mental illness. there are women who have substance dependency. how is it feminist to imply that those conditions are hilarious? how is it silencing to point out that some compassion might be appropriate? how is that demanding that the oppressed show compassion to their oppressors?

    1. Cara
      Cara March 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm |

      To add to what abby said (which I think is pretty spot on), I think it’s entirely possible to condemn oppression without being oppressive. We expect people to be able to point out that Rush Limbaugh is a horrible person without conflating that with the fact that he’s fat. We expect people to be able to point out that Ann Coulter is a horrible person without mocking her looks or calling her a slut or saying “I bet she’s on her period” or insinuating that because she’s an outspoken woman “she’s going to cut off some guy’s nuts.” Or whatever the case may be. There are ways to mock on the basis of oppression that don’t involve straight up slurs.

      And yes, Charlie Sheen is very privileged in almost every other aspect of his life. But so is Ann Coulter. This is about more than just these individuals. It’s about the social attitudes that talking about such people in an oppressive way reinforces. Addiction isn’t a reason for jokes when it happens to someone we don’t like and a reason for sympathy when it happens to someone we do.

      I don’t think Sheen’s addiction is funny. I don’t think the possibility of his death as a result of addiction is funny. I also think he’s a shitty, violent misogynist and abuser who has been enabled in his abuse. I don’t see why these things should be seen as opposing in any way.

  40. Stoner with a Boner
    Stoner with a Boner March 1, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    Ironic to go under the name Mohandas….

    Gandhi promoted passive resistance. He went on a hunger strike to resist English colonialism.

    Here is a link to another act of nonviolent resistance:
    http://www.deccanchronicle.com/neutral/naked-protest-846

    I doubt these tactics would have the same meaning in western culture and would probably come across as a cheap PETA display

  41. RD
    RD March 1, 2011 at 5:13 pm |

    Sheelzebub: If Charlie Sheen were clean and sober, he’d still be an abusive asshole.Abusing people is very separate from addiction.You feel entitled to hurt, belittle, and control those closest to you.In Sheen’s case, he feels entitled to act this way towards women.So yeah, his rambling meltdown is likely a result of his addiction.But his abusive behavior towards women has two things fueling it–his assholishness and his misogyny.  

    Yeah. I’m a little disturbed how many of the first few posts on this thread are about drugs and/or addiction. Guess what, this is about his violence against women, and coke doesn’t really have a lot to do with it. Plus blaming the coke lets him off the hook.

  42. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 1, 2011 at 5:17 pm |

    Abby Jean, you want to criticize the death pool comment, go for it. I have made no such jokes, but I’ll answer your post because you seem to be conflating my comments about Nathan and Mohandas shutting down and shaming abuse survivors who are expressing (perfectly valid) anger with joking about mental illness.

    People are reacting to the assertions that Jill’s words were violent–and somehow the same as the exhortations on the part of the right to kill liberals, to resort to second amendment solutions, etc. or that it’s the same as being the abuser. I am also objecting strenuously to the false equivalency that calling him what he is–an abusive asshole–is somehow violent and the same as saying he’s less than human–another ridiculous assertion that was made. And yes, that is silencing and shaming rhetoric.

  43. abby jean
    abby jean March 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm |

    Sheelzebub – i read your comment as defending the OP as well as some of the comments as valid displays of anger and that’s why i responded to it. if that’s incorrect conflation on my part, i apologize for it.

  44. abby jean
    abby jean March 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm |

    well, i am a different person that the commenter making comparisons about violence, and i am making a different point. i haven’t referenced or quoted that person and making my own, independent point about the original post, the inclusion of the charlie sheen quote that was labeled as “humor,” and the inappropriateness of the death pool comment. and the point i’m making is that content encourages laughing at and marginalizing people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. i don’t know how i can be any clearer about this. this is not a defense or reiteration of that previous dude. this is saying that being so flip about mental illness and substance abuse – and i’ve qualified this in all my previous comments by emphasizing that those conditions do not and should not excuse or mitigate his violence and abuse of women – shouldn’t be happening here. the end.

  45. abby jean
    abby jean March 1, 2011 at 5:29 pm |

    because mental illness and substance abuse are more serious disorders than just “is he sober at this exact instant.”

  46. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 1, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

    And let me say this–Mohandas didn’t just point out that s/he didn’t think that Jill’s comment about the death pool was not okay–he went on about how her words were violent and made shitty comments about “victimhood” (another way to shut down and dismiss survivors) As someone who has been in an abusive relationship, I found that belittling and demeaning.

  47. RD
    RD March 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

    Sheelzebub: you show hostilityYou’re being pretty hostile yourself, cupcake.Odd how it’s only a problem when it’s a woman getting pissed off at a man getting away with abuse.You can blather on and on about how it’s the same energy, but here’s the difference–Jill’s not dating Charlie Sheen.She’s not verbally degrading him or humiliating him.She’s not emotionally abusing him or tearing him down.She’s not physically assaulting him.You, however, are trying to equate justifiable anger over abuse with abuse.Which is something a lot of abusers tend to do.  

    WORD.

  48. RD
    RD March 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm |

    Nathan, Charlie Sheen IS a piece of shit. Yes he’s human, but so are all the worst monsters. Being human is a prerequisite really, for being someone like Charlie Sheen.

  49. RD
    RD March 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    Sheelzebub: Nathan, where did Jill advocate for violence against Charlie Sheen?That poster was summarily dismissed because they were being patronizing and frankly, cruel to many people here who have actually survived domestic violence and abuse.No one here went on about Second Amendment Solutions or calling for Charlies Sheen’s death (which is the MO of the right wing).

    I’ll be the first then I guess. I hope Charlie Sheen dies a slow, slow, miserable, painful death. DIAF asshole, literally.

  50. Gentleman Cambrioleur
    Gentleman Cambrioleur March 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm |

    Great, and now even more people are going to think that us bipolar people are one manic episode away from attempting murder.

    I sometimes behave irrationally when manic. I string long elaborate sentences that barely make sense and go for four-hour-long walks and sing at the top of my voice in the middle of the street and make elaborate plans for world conquest (through literature of course). I may get irritable and snap at people or act superior when they wonder what is going on. What I will *never* do, even when my self-restraint button is turned off, is hit a woman or try to murder her, because I have no interest in doing that. Most people don’t.

    Personally, though, if I was to attempt murder or anything assholeish really, I wouldn’t want people to have *compassion* for me. I would want them to hold me accountable. I would be throwing other bipolar people under the bus by implying that we are incapable of sound moral judgment if I was to act any other way.

  51. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 6:50 pm |

    I’m listening to some of the clips from the interview right now, and it’s very striking, his attitude about that piece of drek (Two and a Half Men) being his fiefdom. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d treated his co-workers this way all along. I point this out just because, well, I suspect there aren’t many staff who are sad to see this go.

  52. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm |

    So, apparently Sheen has been a 9/11 Truther since 2006 as well. Why haven’t people been boycotting this show for years already?

  53. annalouise
    annalouise March 1, 2011 at 9:26 pm |

    I think it’s inarguable that Charlie Sheen is mentally ill and it’s been well known for a long time that he has been a drug addict in various stages of recovery, so I think it’s dishonest to say otherwise. It’s also dishonest to say that he was sober when he did any of the things he did, because I bet you a million dollars he was not. It’s also silly to say that his behavior, from his self-aggrandizing delusions, to his obsession with control, to his narcissism, to his violent behavior isn’t perfectly symptomatic of being a cocaine addict who is spiraling out of control.

    I’m not saying we can’t laugh at bizarre shit he’s saying or respond to his bizarre self-aggrandizing shit by pointing out that he is violent, controlling and seriously ill. It’s not really a bad thing for him, since obviously people (including people in the media) have been silent in the face of his increasingly irrational behavior for a long time, which has allowed him to keep believing that he has magic from his fingers etc etc. But it makes me uncomfortable for people to joke too thoughtlessly about his death or for people to act like the bad things he’s doing are completely unrelated to his mental illness.

  54. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 9:48 pm |

    annalouise: He was drug-tested, and was indeed sober for the interview. It’s possible that he was in withdrawal, but we don’t know this for sure either.

    It’s insulting to people with bipolar disorder to scream “oh, that is soooo bipolar” every time a celebrity exhibits boorish behavior. We are not doctors. If he has ever been diagnosed, it has not been released to the public. And I’m glad we do have doctors because people too frequently like to posit that some random person’s mental illness is “inarguable.”

    Finally… IF Charlie Sheen turns out to have a mental illness… What exactly does this have to do with the post? Really? Because the post isn’t about that. All of this apologism for a coddled asshole who has committed multiple violent assaults against women–assaults that, by the way, *are* a matter of public record–is ridiculous.

  55. annalouise
    annalouise March 1, 2011 at 10:03 pm |

    The fact that Charlie Sheen is a cocaine addict, which is a mental illness is not arguable. He’s described himself that way. He’s been in treatment for cocaine addiction for over 20 years. Let’s not pretend that we’re not making fun of a person with a mental illness by lying and saying we “can’t know” that someone with a decades long, very public history of inpatient treatment for mental illness is mentally ill.

  56. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 10:14 pm |

    Cocaine addiction causes some symptoms that *mirror* mental illness. It is not in itself a mental illness. He has a very long, very public treatment of *drug abuse treamtent.* And he now says he beat cocaine addiction with his mind. So, you know… Go watch the recent interview clips.

    Finally, I have no patience for people like you who seem to think that addiction means that one should not be held accountable. And especially not when we’re bloody talking about someone who has all the resources in the world at his fingertips, who could *easily* access help. Sorry, no. Addiction doesn’t make someone beat women/damage property/be anti-Semitic.

  57. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 10:15 pm |

    oops, I meant a long *history* of drug abuse treatment.

  58. nathan
    nathan March 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm |

    It’s fascinating how no matter what, only a few things are targeted in the comments I left above. I never defended Sheen at all. And I deliberately said I only saw a few “minor shots” in Jill’s original post because I thought Mohandas’ reaction to it was an over-reaction. In addition, I also said “Specifically, knowing that letting celebrity men get away with abusing women is absolutely destructive to everyone involved, one can say the only compassionate response is to stand up and demand an end to such behavior. And the social patterns that allow it to more easily occur.” Maybe that wasn’t a loud and forceful enough condemnation for some of you all, but it seems like none of that matters because it appeared that I was defending the comments made by Mohandas.

    Sheelzebub – the “victimhood” comment Mohandas made, coupled with the immediate disappearance, is exactly why I said above that I didn’t want to defend him/her.

    William, I appreciate that you actually addressed most of what I wrote. And I agree with a fair amount of it as well, even if it seems like we are in disagreement. I gather you are quite versed in non-violence methods and philosophy, but you know nothing about my background. The last time I brought out some of my personal history with activism and the rest, it was seen as an attempt to prove “street cred,” so I won’t go there. I find myself editing, and re-editing every word when I do comment on this blog, and as a result, what I do write tends to be stilted.

    “its not the responsibility of the oppressed to show compassion to their oppressors.” I really get the sense you didn’t read what I said about compassion in a case like Sheen’s. It’s not about niceness, kindness, or holding back outrage. But again, I get the sense that no matter what I say here, it will be viewed as an attempt to silence by some.

    I’d like to co-sign with what Cara wrote. She said more clearly much of what I was wanting to get at.

  59. Kristin
    Kristin March 1, 2011 at 11:04 pm |

    William, I appreciate that you actually addressed most of what I wrote. And I agree with a fair amount of it as well, even if it seems like we are in disagreement. I gather you are quite versed in non-violence methods and philosophy, but you know nothing about my background. The last time I brought out some of my personal history with activism and the rest, it was seen as an attempt to prove “street cred,” so I won’t go there.

    Oh, ffs, Nathan, the reason most of us didn’t go into it is that it’s not germane to the conversation. We made fun of Mohandas because he CLEARLY brought non-violence lingo into the discussion in order to prevent people from saying something “too negative.”

    One of my graduate degrees is in peace studies, etc., and by the way, “violent energy”/”negative energy” does not in fact come into play in non-violent praxis. New Agey condemnations of negative “energy” were dismissed, not actual non-violence. You are derailing, and William simply had the time to sit and explain patiently to you why you were wrong.

    And, yes, people do tend to pick apart comments that merely derail the actual conversation. The issue is not disagreement–it’s your willful *misreading* of the post and thread. Seriously, cry me a river.

  60. William
    William March 2, 2011 at 12:07 am |

    The fact that Charlie Sheen is a cocaine addict, which is a mental illness is not arguable.

    Yeah, but its also not really related. Cocaine doesn’t make people do things they don’t want to do, it just disinhibits them. The same is true of most drugs. These things we’re seing Sheen do? They aren’t the magical product of a mental illness which serves to banish all reason. They’re who he is when he has stopped giving a shit what other people think. Maybe he was sober when he did some of the things he did, maybe he wasn’t, doesn’t matter. Cocaine doesn’t have a side effect of violent misogyny, Sheen brought that all on his own.

    I know its not the most popular thing to say, and I know it pokes holes in the comfortable little illusion of the violent mad man, but most mad people I know are far more likely to hurt themselves than someone else. I’m mad, I work in a building with nearly 200 patients who are mad enough that they cannot safely live on their own. Some of my patients have hurt people, a not insignificant number have killed people, most are far more likely to be victimized than to victimize someone else. The violent patients tend to fall into three groups. One group consists of people who were delusional and very scared and did something based upon the information they had available to them at the time. Even though they’re the stereotype of the violent madperson they are by far the smallest group. One group is made up of people who, though mad, did more or less what I would have done in their situation but ended up getting screwed because our society doesn’t believe mad persons deserve to defend themselves. The final group consists of, well, bad people who did bad things. They would have been dangerous had they not been mad, all madness did was define some of the contours of how their violence was expressed or made it more difficult for them to avoid capture. Sheen, as near as all the evidence we have can tell us, falls into the third group.

    So yeah, he’s mad and he’s an addict. He’s also a schmuck. Maybe Jill could have crafted her schadenfreude a bit better, but what she seems to be making fun of isn’t so much is madness or his addiction but the ugly thing that those realities expose.

  61. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 2, 2011 at 12:20 am |

    Nathan,

    (1) Faux Ghandi’s statements were an off topic derail so dismissing them was not a dismissal of non-violence, but rather of a conversation that was not relevant to the OP. Not liking someone’s violent behavior is not an act of violence. Thinking or expressing that someone does harmful things is not violent. Thus there was no reason for Faux Ghandi’s call for non-violence.

    (2) Compassion is at the core of my own person philosophy so I’m going to take some issue with you here because I think practicing compassion requires a change of frame. IMO every person is deserving of compassion, but no person is entitled to compassion. Practicing compassion requires the realization that other human beings may for whatever reason be unable to express compassion in certain situations and that is okay. I try to view every person with compassion, but I have my limits as does nearly everyone. Demanding that people to move beyond their limits for compassion, particularly where those limits are based on experienced oppression, is callus.

    Comment from the SO who is presently busy (paraphrasing):

    (3) Please understand that your relative position of authority as a male person means in the larger community your thoughts may be accepted with lower levels of scrutiny. In this space that isn’t the case. In addition keep in mind that as a privileged person when your words can have multiple interpretations it will be assumed that you are acting like a privileged person until you demonstrate otherwise. All of which is pretty much fair and falls under the “penumbra”* of learning about how your privilege effects others. If it makes you feel better, I do the same thing, but I think the experience makes me a better writer and a better thinker.

    *penumbra is a direct quote and the word of the day!

  62. Jadey
    Jadey March 2, 2011 at 12:33 am |

    (Just as an aside, but the use of the name Mohandas isn’t necessarily limited to Mohandas Gandhi references – it is an actual name that people have. I’m not saying that our commenter here Mohandas couldn’t possibly have been using a deliberately referential pseudonym, but it’s not a given.)

  63. Bhuesca
    Bhuesca March 2, 2011 at 1:39 am |

    Just want to add…again…that lack of present drug usage does not equal a lack of mental illness OR a lack of effects of prolonged drug usage. I mean I suppose drug users could be blamed for any sustained effects of their free choice to use drugs…but I thought this site was pro-legalization…and at any rate, I can’t see that it would ever be responsible to so sweepingly critique behavior when mental illness may be an issue.

    Between this and the “crazy” on the previous thread, this site is turning very ableist lately.

  64. RD
    RD March 2, 2011 at 2:17 am |

    Bhuesca: Just want to add…again…that lack of present drug usage does notequal a lack of mental illness OR a lack of effects of prolonged drug usage. I mean I suppose drug users could be blamed for any sustained effects of their free choice to use drugs…but I thought this site was pro-legalization…and at any rate, I can’t see that it would ever be responsible to so sweepingly critique behavior when mental illness may be an issue.
    Between this and the “crazy” on the previousthread, this site is turning very ableist lately.  

    Oh please. Cocaine did not make him violent toward women.

  65. RD
    RD March 2, 2011 at 2:19 am |

    That’s on him 100%.

  66. Medea
    Medea March 2, 2011 at 4:57 am |

    Bhuesca: I thought this site was pro-legalization

    I don’t think the site has any official stance. Opinions of the contributors and commenters may vary. This came up in a post written by a drug user some time ago.

  67. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 2, 2011 at 6:21 am |

    I am going to echo William here–there are plenty of people with serious mental health issues who do not assault or abuse others in any way. Being mentally ill does not make you violent, nor does it make you abuser.

    Being an entitled misogynist douchebag is a really strong factor in making a man abusive, however. It frankly chills me that some of the recent posts about this seem to skip right over this. Sheen’s supposed mental illness and addiction did not cause him to assault his wife, his girlfriends, a sex worker, and other women he knew.

  68. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. March 2, 2011 at 6:27 am |

    @Jadey,

    You’re right…I jumped to conclusions based on the context. My bad.

  69. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 2, 2011 at 6:28 am |

    I’ll also say, as someone who HAS dealt with mental health issues (and who was in an abusive relationship), that I find this rhetoric about how Sheen’s supposed mental illness or well-known addiction made him do it really fucking insulting. Abusers will hide behind shit like that–yet oddly enough, they have enough control to not abuse people who are not vulnerable or part of groups who are typically disbelieved, dismissed, and told to suck it up since the abuser is such a nice guy (or since the abuser is having issues). It’s bullshit. It also erases those of us who’ve been on the recieving end of abuse who have also had to deal with mental illness ourselves.

  70. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 2, 2011 at 6:50 am |

    Nathan, this is what you said: “However, I find it disturbing how quickly comments about non-violence and linking that to how people are treated in posts are summarily dismissed, and even grounds for a nasty dismissal of the person who said them.”

    No, you didn’t focus on what Mohandas said, but you did basically condemn anyone who criticized him. I’m sorry that you don’t like it that it comes off as shutting down people who have justifiable anger, but Mohandas basically did shut people down, and many of your comments in your post furthered that. Not to mention, it was disingenous–not to mention insulting to survivors of abuse–to conflate it with right-wing rhetoric and violence:

    So, even though you and others see Mohandas as condescending and troll-like, I’d say he/she is pointing out a fault-line here. It seems to be ok to spew hateful personal attacks at someone like Charlie Sheen because he “deserves it.” The same goes for right wing politicians who peddle policies that are repugnant. It moves from that action or policy is fucking awful and person X is being an asshole, to that person is a piece of shit unworthy of being considered human.

    Being angry that someone gets away with abusing women is NOT spewing hateful and personal attacks. You drew a false equivalence–you said that Mohandas (what’s this about you not defending him?) pointed out a “fault line” and that people here who expressed anger at the indifference to his abusive behavior were calling him less than human and subjecting him to ugly personal attacks.

    Now, you may not agree with my view of your comments–that they were silencing and belittling. But that will happen on a post. And for all of your assertions that no one read your post in its entirety and they were cherry-picking, well, you seem to be doing quite a bit of that yourself.

  71. Florence
    Florence March 2, 2011 at 8:41 am |

    There’s no consensus on what ableism is, even among those of us who live with various dis/abilities. I’m grossed out that folks are turning up here to sensitively tone police those of us who believe that yes, Gladys, even the mentally ill and drug addicted among us are accountable for our actions. Accountability is a benchmark in all recovery programs — that means both owning the bullshit we pulled on others AS WELL AS acknowledging that others’ anger, frustration, and hurt caused by our bullshit is both righteous and justified. For those of us who have been on the receiving end of violence and harassment by addicts/mentally ill people, there is very little reassurance in being educated about whatever disease is redefining the offender’s boundaries.

    Sheen has been enabled by his handlers and the public to let his disease progress over twenty-some years. Yes, that really, really sucks for him, but chances are the man has also been told that if he doesn’t plant his feet on the ground and learn to manage his illnesses that he will lose everything. He is accountable for ultimately choosing to work a program or coast on his fame. He chose to coast on his fame, and also managed to shoot, hit, threaten, and god knows what else, many of the women who came in his way.

  72. William
    William March 2, 2011 at 8:49 am |

    I can’t see that it would ever be responsible to so sweepingly critique behavior when mental illness may be an issue.

    Between this and the “crazy” on the previous thread, this site is turning very ableist lately.

    I would argue that treating Sheen differently because he is mad is a lot more ableist than calling him repugnant while he is mad. Madness comes in a lot of forms and it can lead to a lot of different symptoms, but one of the things it almost certainly does not do (with the exception of certain severe organic disorders) is make people irrational and uncontrollable. Even clearly psychotic people still have reasons for why they do what they do. Those reasons might not be clear unless you’ve known them long enough to know the contours of their delusions but they’re still there. Its patronizing and frankly othering to suggest that all mad people are just adrift in a madness that has nothing to do with who they are and are not responsible for their behavior.

    Sheen didn’t attack women because he incorrectly thought he was in danger. He attacked them because he felt that he had a right and could get away with it. Maybe the combination of cocaine and madness made him more aggressive than he might otherwise have been because he was more impulsive or cared less about the consequences, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t responsible. The fundamental motivation to be violent and to hurt others in order to get what you want is still rooted in entitlement and misogyny. Thats still not on him. To say that madness somehow mitigates his responsibility forgives Sheen for his misogyny, devalues women, maligns the vast majority of mad persons who do not hurt others, and casts suspicion on that small group of mad persons who hurt others because they are afraid.

    Misogyny is not madness.

  73. saurus
    saurus March 2, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    William: There are three things going on with Sheen, in my view. The first is that he seems to be in the midst of a Manic or Hypomanic episode, suggesting Bipolar Disorder. [...]

    I don’t think we should armchair diagnose people with disabilities. I think it’s fine to recognize that our assumptions and speculations about someone may incorrectly assume that person is neurotypical, but I doubt any of us have a relationship with Charlie Sheen that is appropriate for establishing a diagnosis. I think armchair diagnosis really opens up a can of worms…and I don’t think we should contribute to the pattern (at Feministe and in real life) of linking every negative or outlandish behavior to disability. Yes, there might be “reasons” and causes for people doing bad or weird things – but disability is just one of myriad potential explanations, and our frequent application of it suggests that a) we think non-disabled people are a lot more homogeneous and “normal” than we really are, and b) we think disability is more closely and exclusively tied to this sort of behavior than it is.

    That said, I think the sentiment behind bringing up disability – i.e., “what if we’re being too harsh to someone who (to who knows what extent, and for who knows what reason) isn’t responsible for their behavior/actions” – is fine. Which is why we shouldn’t be too harsh on anyone, whether we think they may be disabled or not. That doesn’t mean being “nice” or uncritical or accepting of that person’s loathsome behavior, but it does mean being kind – on a deeper human level – and fair. And if we can’t help but be mean to someone – which may be fair, depending on how hurt or offended we are – we should try to stay out of it.

    Do I think being mean or “too harsh” to Charlie Sheen is a serious transgression? Of course not. I don’t think it’s ideal, but I also don’t think the packaging for Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups is ideal; i.e., these things are pretty trivial. But when we’re working within our communities, and working on stuff that matters (no, I am not including celebrity gossip in “stuff that matters”) I do think it’s important to factor in those aforementioned myriad reasons that people can do bad or weird things and practice kindness (again, I’m not talking about niceness, and again, disability is just one of those myriad reasons and should not be the exclusive or primary one we jump to). I think we should practice kindness not just because that saves us from putting someone who isn’t entirely responsible through the wringer, but because maybe we can do this whole movement thing without wringers – maybe we can *only* do this whole movement thing without wringers.

    Like, if we start asking ourselves, “Jeez, am I not allowed to be mean anymore?!” then I think we should step back and ask ourselves why our supposed entitlement to being mean or saying petty insults is something we’re devoting our energies to fighting for…

    Anyway, once again, in case anyone feels their hackles rising, I am not talking about withholding disapproval or critique, I’m talking about not being mean or unnecessarily insulting *in contexts that matter*, if we can help it. This comment of mine builds off of that discussion upthread, but it is not a judgment on whether the original post or any subsequent comments are appropriate or “allowed”.

  74. William
    William March 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm |

    I don’t think we should armchair diagnose people with disabilities. I think it’s fine to recognize that our assumptions and speculations about someone may incorrectly assume that person is neurotypical, but I doubt any of us have a relationship with Charlie Sheen that is appropriate for establishing a diagnosis.

    Thats a fair point and one I would generally hold to. Part of why I brought it up was because it was already in the discussion and I wanted to be able to set it aside because it seemed that some people were conflating madness with the kind of misogynistic abuse that seems to be part of Charlie Sheen’s presentation.

    That said, I am a clinical psychologist and I primarily work with patients who present with more severe symptoms. I’m well acquainted with Manic and Hypomanic episodes. I was careful to say that he seems to be in the midst of a Manic or Hypomanic episode, not that he is because we really don’t have enough data. His recent interviews and what we know about his behavior is consistent with that theory, as is his pattern of substance abuse. A Manic or Hypomanic episode suggests a Bipolar diagnosis. Still, the reason I mentioned it was to address the disturbing trend I was seeing of some people conflating Sheen’s seeming madness with his abusive behavior. I was trying to point out that, while mad folks can certainly be abusers, madness does not itself make one abusive.

    Yes, there might be “reasons” and causes for people doing bad or weird things – but disability is just one of myriad potential explanations, and our frequent application of it suggests that a) we think non-disabled people are a lot more homogeneous and “normal” than we really are, and b) we think disability is more closely and exclusively tied to this sort of behavior than it is.

    I absolutely agree. I’m actually not much of a fan of the way in which we understand and attempt to categorize human behavior. I think that what you’re talking about is certainly a discussion worth having, and its one that I have tried to have both on the personal and academic/professional levels for some time now. That was actually part of the point I was trying to make there: mad or not Sheen’s abusive behavior isn’t a symptom of some possible disability but a personality trait. I think that when we try to explain away immorality as madness we come dangerously close to returning to a time when we understood madness as immorality.

    Which is why we shouldn’t be too harsh on anyone, whether we think they may be disabled or not.

    I’m generally in agreement with you except when it comes to people who willfully oppress or abuse others. Disability is a word we have to describe a state in which someone is less privileged due to an inability to conform with the demands and expectations of society. Oppression is the use of power to coerce and abuse those who are less powerful. Disability does not, and I would argue cannot, lead one to oppress someone else.

    And if we can’t help but be mean to someone – which may be fair, depending on how hurt or offended we are – we should try to stay out of it.

    Sometimes the consequence of “staying out of it” is that the person you’re not criticizing because you can’t not be mean is that that person continues to abuse someone else. Once someone has crossed the line and become an abuser there are other people involved. Someone like Sheen, who has actually tried to kill women in the past purely because of his own sense of entitlement, cannot be ignored or necessarily treated with kindness. This is not a personal meltdown in which a man falls to his nadir causing harm only by allowing those close to him to see his degeneration. Sheen’s fall involves the willful use of violence against others, that must be confronted.

    I think you’re absolutely right that we should avoid willful cruelty, I’m just not sure you can always confront and critique abue in a way that is never harsh.

  75. nathan
    nathan March 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    Kristen J.

    I appreciate your comments. If anyone thought I was demanding compassion, that was not my intent. To be honest, Kristen, I tried to refrain from going in-depth into how I see compassion in action because 1) I could see even using the word was bringing negative experiences to mind for some commenters 2) bringing spiritual/religious views into discussion here has always been a miserable experience all around 3) because compassion isn’t the same feeling and action in every situation. Sometimes, it’s a soft feeling and action. And sometimes, it’s being “tough” and even “harsh” in appearance – which is what I feel dealing with celebrity men like Sheen requires.

    “In addition keep in mind that as a privileged person when your words can have multiple interpretations it will be assumed that you are acting like a privileged person until you demonstrate otherwise.”

    Yes, I can see this. Even with all my writing skills, I find myself at a loss on here sometimes as to how to express what I believe, and also be mindful of all the ways in which whatever words I choose might cause more difficulties, regardless of intent. I have to say though that sometimes, the level of dogpiling and quick dismissal on here are really challenging to watch and experience. I find myself writing and re-writing everything to death. I can imagine others, men and women, are doing the same, wanting to express something, but not wanting to be blown out of the water in the following responses.

    Finally, back on topic, something that hasn’t come up here is the way in which we – collectively – worship celebrities and fail to hold them accountable for their damaging behavior. This is especially true for male celebrities. How many male actors and singers have been features of posts here and else? How many sports figures? It’s endless. And when you look at comments – there’s a large enough contingent that basically want “their star” to get “help” so they can get back to entertaining people. And the defenders run across the gender spectrum.

    One of the main reasons I get frustrated with people just getting pissed at celebrities like Charlie Sheen and calling them every name in the book is that, in the end, nothing seems to change. A month later, another celebrity doing asshole things appears to be the target for the week. So, I’ll admit that this frustration – and the desire to be in conversations where discussion might lead to possible action – color my words.

    I apologize to everyone for the times in which this view makes what I say sound condescending or silencing.

  76. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub March 2, 2011 at 2:35 pm |

    Finally, back on topic, something that hasn’t come up here is the way in which we – collectively – worship celebrities and fail to hold them accountable for their damaging behavior.

    I agree with you. This is VERY headdesky.*

    *I know it’s not a word.

  77. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil March 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm |

    This is VERY headdesky.*

    *I know it’s not a word. Sheelzebub

    But it should be. I think that’s an example of the inverse of “You can wordify anything if you just verb it!”

  78. Kristin
    Kristin March 2, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    One of the main reasons I get frustrated with people just getting pissed at celebrities like Charlie Sheen and calling them every name in the book is that, in the end, nothing seems to change. A month later, another celebrity doing asshole things appears to be the target for the week. So, I’ll admit that this frustration – and the desire to be in conversations where discussion might lead to possible action – color my words.

    Well, I keep saying I can’t understand why the public hasn’t been boycotting this piece of shit show for years. Beyond that, what kind of action? We’re just bystanders. We’re not in any position to stage an intervention.

    I keep hearing people say that the media is spending too much energy dissecting Charlie Sheen’s downfall, and I largely agree with this. But every time someone suggests that we’re contributing to this problem simply by talking about it–and I know you never said it explicitly–I get frustrated. Everyone *else* is talking about it, so why shouldn’t someone with a thoughtful feminist perspective be talking and writing about it too? Unless I have the ear of, I don’t know, Rupert Murdoch or the head of any other major news franchise, I don’t really feel that what I’m saying seriously affects the media climate. And I think that posts like this enrich what started out as an intellectually impoverished sideshow.

    Beyond any of this, I have no idea what you mean by “action.” People could be writing letters to CBS (as I think people are already doing)? I’ve participated in non-violent civil disobedience and protest on several occasions. Never regarding the misbehavior of a TV star. I frankly don’t see how on earth a discussion of “non-violence” could ever be relevant to this.

  79. nathan
    nathan March 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    Kristin,

    A fair question. You do mention a few possible actions already, in boycotting and letter writing.

    “We’re just bystanders.” Perhaps it seems that way, but it’s not. Nearly everyone writing on here, I’d imagine, participates in and consumes some level of pop culture, be it music, movies, or sporting events. And those individual choices each of make about what we support, put money into, and how we talk about it add up. Sure, those at the top control a lot of what gets puts out, who gets famous, and how they are portrayed – but the same is mostly true in politics.

    Beyond the kind of examples you raised – boycotts, letters, etc. – I’d add being more thoughtful in general about what each of support in pop culture and how we react when someone like Charlie Sheen abuses women and goes off on anti-Semitic rants. There is probably even other ways to address all this, but I’m at a loss as to what would be the next, larger steps.

    But we are certainly not bystanders, and in some ways, figuring out methods to publicly address the destructive, oppressive behavior and subsequent dismissal of responsibility by celebrity figures is almost as important as legislative measures and social movements. Because for better or worse, as it is now, people like Charlie Sheen influence millions – and somehow, that kind of influence needs to be countered.

  80. Kristin
    Kristin March 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm |

    nathan: My point was merely that we are not in a position to stage a personal intervention with Sheen. Of course, we’re consumers, and of course we should speak thoughtfully about pop culture–and pop culture news. Which Jill has done here.

  81. Asinknits
    Asinknits March 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm |

    My personal belief is that whilst it is perfectly OK to criticise Charlie for being a violent, misogynistic and entitled arsehat, piling on him because he is exhibiting behavior that appears to be hypomanic or manic is not OK. What worries me is that if we accept attacks on people who are mentally ill for their illness who also happen to be arsehats, can we defend in future people who are just mentally ill, without being arsehats?

  82. saurus
    saurus March 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm |

    William:
    That said, I am a clinical psychologist and I primarily work with patients who present with more severe symptoms. I’m well acquainted with Manic and Hypomanic episodes. I was careful to say that he seems to be in the midst of a Manic or Hypomanic episode, not that he is because we really don’t have enough data. His recent interviews and what we know about his behavior is consistent with that theory, as is his pattern of substance abuse. A Manic or Hypomanic episode suggests a Bipolar diagnosis. Still, the reason I mentioned it was to address the disturbing trend I was seeing of some people conflating Sheen’s seeming madness with his abusive behavior. I was trying to point out that, while mad folks can certainly be abusers, madness does not itself make one abusive.

    I feel you, although coming from a critical perspective I don’t think being a clinical psychologist necessarily adds much credibility to one’s psychology-related analysis. You know as well as I do, I’m sure, the problems and limitations of psychology in its current incarnations (i.e., routine massaging of data to demonstrate statistical significance, inadequate representation and sample sizes in studies and practices, non-universal philosophical conceptualizations of health/mind/body/etc, blah blah blah) and while I don’t mean to throw the baby out with the bathwater, advanced training in clinical psychology can come with its own little set of bad habits and faulty assumptions; just as the average person’s pop psychology knowledge does. I’m not trying to school you, here – I’m sure you’re more than familiar with everything I’m talking about – but I think it’s important to push back against the “expert” pedestal, lest anyone reading feel inclined to put you on it.

    I’m generally in agreement with you except when it comes to people who willfully oppress or abuse others. Disability is a word we have to describe a state in which someone is less privileged due to an inability to conform with the demands and expectations of society. Oppression is the use of power to coerce and abuse those who are less powerful. Disability does not, and I would argue cannot, lead one to oppress someone else.Sometimes the consequence of “staying out of it” is that the person you’re not criticizing because you can’t not be mean is that that person continues to abuse someone else. Once someone has crossed the line and become an abuser there are other people involved. Someone like Sheen, who has actually tried to kill women in the past purely because of his own sense of entitlement, cannot be ignored or necessarily treated with kindness. This is not a personal meltdown in which a man falls to his nadir causing harm only by allowing those close to him to see his degeneration. Sheen’s fall involves the willful use of violence against others, that must be confronted.I think you’re absolutely right that we should avoid willful cruelty, I’m just not sure you can always confront and critique abue in a way that is never harsh.  

    I guess when I think about kindness versus niceness, a good example is the prison industrial complex. There are some people – a minority, but still, some people – in prison who have really done some awful, violent, abusive, abhorrent things. Do I think we need to be nice to these people by sending them care packages and telling them we love them anyway and all that shit they did is forgiven? No. Do I think that kindness requires that they have human rights and basic dignity and opportunities for rehabilitation, if possible? Yes. Or a more personal example: if your partner cheats on you with another person – a person who you trusted, or whatever – and you see this “other person” in the street sobbing uncontrollably, niceness does not require that you take them inside and make them tea, but kindness requires that you approach them to see if they require help. And a final example, if someone you care about makes a racist joke, niceness may require that you keep your mouth shut because calling them out would hurt their feelings, but kindness may require that you pull your loved one aside and explain why that was not cool.

    That said:

    a) I don’t think it’s within everyone’s capacity to be kind to everyone in every situation – sometimes it would just be too hard, and unfair to ask of anyone – but I think we can try to hold ourselves back from being outright mean.

    b) My advocation for kindness, as I stipulated, isn’t really about Charlie Sheen, which is a case I consider trivial – i.e., I don’t think lambasting him in this context is mean, nor meaningful in any way really – but it’s about the work we do “in the field” – whether that field is our house or our wider community. Like, if someone in our community effs up politically, we don’t have to be “nice” and gloss it over, but we do have to be kind and refrain on ganging up on them en masse with accusations and mockery and insults. Why? Because yes, this person might be disabled. Or poor. Or ESL. Or who knows what. But also: because I think it’s vitally important that we learn to deal with disagreement and conflict and adversity without hurting each other just for the sake of inflicting damage.

    Anyway, now I’m just rambling.

  83. samanthab
    samanthab March 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |

    Jill, as a person of the Bipolar I persuasion, while I appreciate your larger points, I don’t think it is “mean” as much as much as “privileged” to be indifferent to people who flirt with death on a daily basis. the Venn Diagrams of privilege get pretty fucking headspinn-y, but as someone whose contemplated suicide on a daily basis for months on end as part of her mental illness and did NOTHING (*no*t saying I’m a saint, just saying I’m know much crueler people than I than have never spent their lives this way) to earn that, I will say that the “death watch” as a “joke” isn’t knocking Sheen as directly as it is a wide range of people who are suicidal because they are suicidal…and that’s it. Not because they terrorize women and children, but because they were goddamned born with the genes that lead to Bipolar disorder, addiction, etc. I mean, honestly, is Sheen reading Feministe? Eh, he’s busy, and he’s not your audience.

  84. Florence
    Florence March 2, 2011 at 8:11 pm |

    SamanthaB, I disagree. Celebrity Death Watch is a dark, morbid, but relatively well-known thought game. Jill referenced something that already exists in the world — she is saying nothing about suicide at all, generally or specifically.

  85. RD
    RD March 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm |

    Yeah I didn’t get the impression that was about suicide. From someone who has attempted suicide many times and been suicidal off and on for many years btw.

  86. RD
    RD March 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm |

    Not suicidal now though, and actually hopeful I won’t be again (at least not to that level).

  87. William
    William March 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm |

    I feel you, although coming from a critical perspective I don’t think being a clinical psychologist necessarily adds much credibility to one’s psychology-related analysis.

    I agree…kinda. Its pretty likely that Sheen fits diagnostic criteria but you’re right, when you’re talking about flawed criteria you’re going to end up with a flawed understanding. Still, given that its already in the discussion I feel its probably worth at least addressing and, much as I might loathe the DSM, I do know it well enough to be able to say “yes, but even though that tag might apply it doesn’t mean what you think it does.” The only reason I think talking about a potential diagnosis is important here is to distance the stuff Sheen does that isn’t mad (being an abuser) from the things that might be (grandiosity, bizarre speech, etc.). I think a lot of people are likely to use the fact that he is mad to ignore the fact that he is an abuser and I think its worth separating the two so that mad persons aren’t asked to take responsibility for Sheen.

    Do I think that kindness requires that they have human rights and basic dignity and opportunities for rehabilitation, if possible?

    I get that, I think its just that we disagree. My own experience of abuse has left me with somewhat less interest in using resource to rehabilitate than to segregate. Beyond the basic necessities of survival, I have trouble justifying using limited resources to help victimizers rather than victims. More than that, and I realize that this is a deeply personal outlook, I feel that aggressive public shaming of abusers is important because it has the potential to give pause to other abusers who might witness those consequences. To crib a bit from Foucault, I’m not entirely opposed to old “marks on the body” punishment rather than “marks on the soul” discipline when it comes to those who have willfully harmed others for their own ends.

    I don’t think it’s within everyone’s capacity to be kind to everyone in every situation – sometimes it would just be too hard, and unfair to ask of anyone – but I think we can try to hold ourselves back from being outright mean.

    I’ve got a mean streak and I admit that its countertransferential. I tend to be a bit more viscous when it comes to abusers because thats whats gotten me through the night a lot of the time. Someone like Sheen triggers that for me. I don’t necessarily feel the need to hold that back unless I’m acting in a professional capacity, but if thats what helps you make your world a better place then I’m all for it.

  88. nathan
    nathan March 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    Saurus – comment 87 – excellent! The distinctions made there are exactly what I was trying to get at earlier, but was too tied up in editing myself to get them out. In addition, linking any talk to how we act in our communities, and in the world tends to be where I’m coming from all the time.

    Niceness is often part of the problem because it tends to help keep destructive and oppressive behavior in place. And people routinely confuse being nice with kindness or compassion, which aren’t fixed in appearance. (i.e. might look nice, might look harsh, depending on the circumstances.)

    Kristin, yeah, I hear ya. Certainly, there’s nothing we can do about Sheen’s situation personally.

  89. kloncke
    kloncke March 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm |

    To cast my opinion-vote in the democracy of thread-dom:

    Agree that it is fine and positive to criticize Sheen for violent misogyny;

    Agree that in doing so, the OP relied on jokes that can reasonably be construed as mockery related to addiction and/or mental illness.

    I don’t think that was the intention, but as a reader I agree with Cara and abby jean that it was the effect.

    The larger meanness- and anger-of-the-oppressed questions, though possibly a little tangential, are interesting and relevant to my life and feminist organizing. Because: from what I’ve observed it seems very difficult, in mean humor, to be specific enough to be funny without making the joke at the expense of an oppressed group. Asshat, douche canoe, and piece-of-human-offal get us so far, but mean-humor seems to get a lot of its punch from remarking on the target’s particular characteristics, not their more general jerkery. And when we mock more specific characteristics, our joke-vocabulary is often shaped by dominant, oppressive stereotypes. (Like the examples about Coulter that Cara gives at 41.)

    Why does this matter to my organizing and feminist work? Only insofar as mean-humor bonding is pretty common among the folks I run with (especially people my age), and I’ve noticed that it often causes more trouble (read: interpersonal drama that impedes group cohesion) than it saves. So I try to think those dynamics through, rather than moralizing about it and being like “mean = wrong.”

    I realize that this Sheen situation is different than my organizing cohort, in the sense that the person being criticized and mocked (the both at once) here is not a part of the in-group, and is pretty clearly an oppressor with significant power (given that he’s just one individual, propped up by male caste power). So I honestly don’t have very strong feelings about the ways that we criticize Sheen (my feminist strategies are less about cultural targets and more about organizing against heteropatriarchal/kyriarchal capitalism), BUT when I read this thread, it helps me to think through the ways that my fellow feminist organizers relate to each other through cutting humor that unintentionally reinforces oppressive discourses, which is actually pretty germane.

    So please forgive the semi-derail but I submit it in the spirit of dialogue across and among feminist strategic vantage points.

    much love,

    katie

  90. Florence
    Florence March 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm |

    One hundred comments in, I’m confused by what the primary offense is in the post. Are we not allowed to be amused or confused by the things neuro-atypical people say ever? Are we never allowed to find humor or wonder or confusion or anger in this aspect of humanity? Because right now it looks like there’s only one acceptable expression regarding mental illness because only certain people online understand it, and if you disagree with that sliver of the community you are assumed to have no experience with disability and are thus expected to shut the fuck up. Because if I’m wrong, this appears to be a giant tone argument. One that oddly obscures the original question, which is asking why the hell public crazy overrides private crazy in Hollywood, and who is paying the price for it.

  91. saurus
    saurus March 3, 2011 at 8:17 pm |

    William: Beyond the basic necessities of survival, I have trouble justifying using limited resources to help victimizers rather than victims.

    I just want to note that there’s a lot of cross-over between victimizers and victims; i.e., most of us are both to some degree. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that to an enormous degree, the victimizer/victim dynamic is created and perpetuated systemically – I’m not saying individuals have no responsibility for their actions, but we should be aware that we’re taught from a young age to oppress and be oppressed. The system is a worse apple than the individual, and sometimes focusing too much on the individual can distract us from the larger machinations that allow for – or even directly encourage – abuse.

    Practically speaking, those two points create challenges. For example, there are some Aboriginal communities in Canada that have very high rates of sexual abuse – i.e., upwards of 80% of the community are victims (and a comparable percentage are victimizers). But most of the “abusers” were themselves first brutally sexually abused in governmental residential schools. So who should society punish, who should society rehabilitate? Does society throw the whole community into prison? Does society shame the whole community? Who gets treated first – do we try to calculate which victims are more “purely” victims? And what do we gain if they’re sent to prison, where rape and violence and dehumanization are routinely used and normalized as weapons to gain power?

    Anyway, I want to stress again that if it’s too enraging or upsetting or simply impossible for you to practice kindness in whatever circumstance, I get that. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not a negative thing, it’s just what it is – our capacity and interest in different kinds of work will vary, for many reasons. I know there are some transgressions for which I am capable of zero kindness; which make me feel downright malicious.

    But I don’t think the whole victim/victimizer thing is entirely cut-and-dry, and I think the decision to harshly publicly shame someone is a very complicated one.

    *Again, for anyone just reading, I am not talking about Charlie Sheen in particular.

  92. William
    William March 4, 2011 at 12:28 am |

    Again, for anyone just reading, I am not talking about Charlie Sheen in particular.

    And that, at the core, is why I have a big problem with how this discussion has been going. It is about Charlie Sheen, he’s at the top of the page, he’s in most of the posts. I think dragging sexual abuse in Canadian aboriginal communities is obfuscatory, I think its a means (likely not conscious) of avoiding the anxiety that comes with people going after an abuser in a cruel way and fearing what might happen if that focus was turned on you. I am always somewhat suspicious of strong calls for compassion for abusers because I wonder what lurks in the background.

    Still, since you brought it up, I know that victimizers are often victims themselves. I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I’m a survivor of a very real attempt to end my access to education because I was, to quote one school administrator, “a nasty little retard.” I’ve seen people in positions of power dismiss physical violence against me because I was considered worthless while at the same time aggressively punishing me for showing any sign of anger. I’m also white, male, middle class, charismatic, intelligent, well-educated, and physically imposing. I have many of the predispositions. The reality is that I could very easily be an abuser and I could very easily get away with it.

    Yet…I haven’t. I’ve been close, I’ve been a bully at some points in my life, I’ve been an asshole, I’ve even overindulged on something that drops my inhibitions and found the hurt and aggressive and scared and rageful part of myself right out in the open, but every single time I have come up to that line I have had a choice and I have chosen not to abuse. I haven’t replicated my abuse. More than that I’ve been horrified by what I’ve found in myself and made active attempts to fix it, sometimes with more success than others. I’ve chosen to devote myself to making the world less painful rather than thrashing about and taking what I can from the wreckage. Does this mean that I never oppress, that I am aware of all of my privilege, that I have never harmed another? No, of course not, but thats where education and hard work comes into play. Thats where being willing to listen, being willing to be checked, actively seeking out resources myself rather than expecting to be hand fed by those who I shouldn’t have hurt in the first becomes important.

    The Charlie Sheens of the world aren’t there and, while it would be great if we could get them there, the reality is that they will not get there unless they choose to try. I’ll show compassion for those who try, I’ll also expect them to be willing to take their lumps because its not the responsibility of the oppressed to soothe their oppressors. Those who do not try, who wallow in their hurt and inflict it on everyone they encounter well…lets just say that if I came across Sheen drowning and happened to have a life preserver on me I’d head to my office and use the time for a patient. I wouldn’t push him in, but there are enough people who are in pain and have not passed it on or who have passed it on and have decided not to do it anymore to waste compassion on those who feel that being animals is something to which they are entitled.

  93. Florence
    Florence March 4, 2011 at 8:41 am |

    Thank you, William, in #97. I genuinely appreciate your clinical and personal experience and levity being brought to the table in these discussions.

    This isn’t a perfect piece, but I really enjoyed the analysis of the Machine’s effect and perpetuation on whatever it is that is currently happening with Charlie Sheen:
    http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2011/03/the_trouble_with_charlie_sheen.html

  94. saurus
    saurus March 4, 2011 at 8:58 am |

    William: And that, at the core, is why I have a big problem with how this discussion has been going. It is about Charlie Sheen, he’s at the top of the page, he’s in most of the posts. I think dragging sexual abuse in Canadian aboriginal communities is obfuscatory, I think its a means (likely not conscious) of avoiding the anxiety that comes with people going after an abuser in a cruel way and fearing what might happen if that focus was turned on you. I am always somewhat suspicious of strong calls for compassion for abusers because I wonder what lurks in the background.

    If you look at my commenting history at Feministe, you’ll find that this is the sort of comment I leave – whether it’s about abuse or something entirely different. I take the OP or themes in the thread and try to use them as a jumping off point for a larger discussion. Many contributors here use the same approach; taking something from pop culture or media or even a personal anecdote and then building off of it. My intention is not to derail or deflect, and it’s irritating when others speculate about my “unconscious” motives, as though you have any idea.

    Here’s what’s “lurking” behind my comments: a lot of the ideas I see about abuse, and victim versus victimizer, hold up really well in some communities. But they do not hold up comparably well in others. For example: “call the cops and throw them in jail”, a common outburst in discussions of rape, isn’t such a simple idea if you’re looking at an impoverished community of color with a very negative and violent ongoing history with police and the legal system. And shaming, exiling, or imprisoning every abuser isn’t such a simple idea if you’re looking at a community – like the ones I’ve mentioned – where that means excising a huge and often emotionally or structurally important chunk of your community.

    I’m not saying your ideas and feelings are wrong; I’m saying they don’t work universally. If you belong to the kind of community where those ideas and practices hold up, that’s great. But I don’t belong to that kind of community; I’m speaking from where I come from.

    I’m also white, male, middle class, charismatic, intelligent, well-educated, and physically imposing. I have many of the predispositions. The reality is that I could very easily be an abuser and I could very easily get away with it. Yet…I haven’t.

    Have you considered that in addition to individual choice, the systemic privileges you have might also deserve some credit for why you haven’t become abusive? Because not everyone has a comparable toolbox of resources. Yes, I believe that choice plays its part. But other factors do too – or would you suggest that communities with especially high abuse rates are just coincidentally populated with an unusually high percentage of “bad people”? I hope you can see the can of worms that is.

    Again, I’m not contradicting your experience here, I’m just saying mine differs – I’ve seen abusive people who did not choose to abuse (or if they did, that factor was negligible compared to the systemic forces at play). I’m not defending their actions, I’m saying that *sometimes* the usual “shame, ban, exile, lock up” outcries just don’t work for every community out there. I’m not commenting on whether those outcries or approaches are morally right or morally wrong; but whether they work for the benefit of the community.

    Anyway, I hope you can agree that neither of our experiences can be universalized. I haven’t assumed bad faith (i.e., that you’re violent or murderous) when you say you’d let Charlie Sheen drown, I hope you don’t assume bad faith (i.e., that I’m “covering up” for an abuser or that I am an abuser) when I say I’d throw him a life buoy.

  95. saurus
    saurus March 4, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    Oh yeah, I forgot my disclaimer – no, for anyone reading, I do not think Charlie Sheen is oppressed. I think he’s a violent douchebag in a hyper-privileged little community of enabling yes-people nest in a wider community of rapt audience members. The whole thing is fucked.

  96. William
    William March 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm |

    My intention is not to derail or deflect, and it’s irritating when others speculate about my “unconscious” motives, as though you have any idea.

    I wasn’t speculating as to your motive but I do generally feel that calls for compassion for abusers are deeply problematic because of the way in which they can soften the response to abuse. I think thats part of what lurks in the background in cases like this: most of us can, on some level, sympathize with someone like Charlie Sheen. Does that mean most of us have tried to kill romantic partners? No, of course not, but we’re not terribly rational animals and once you get below the surface things like magnitude and time become a lot more fluid in our thinking. I think its worth thinking about why, in a world of limited resources, we sometimes spend more time thinking about how we can fix abusers than thinking about how we can help victims. That doesn’t mean that people who argue for compassion are arguing in bad faith or harboring some kind of evil secret, just that motivation and effect are complicated and messy. If what I said came off as suggesting that you’re arguing in bad faith I apologize.

    I’m not saying your ideas and feelings are wrong; I’m saying they don’t work universally. If you belong to the kind of community where those ideas and practices hold up, that’s great. But I don’t belong to that kind of community; I’m speaking from where I come from.

    I get that. For me, communities have been sources of oppression to overcome, not supports that have helped me endure. One isn’t right and the other wrong, you’re absolutely right, but it is very difficult for me to hear some of the arguments you have made because they are so very triggering. When I have heard “compassion for abusers because they have also been abused” in my life it has generally meant “shut up and take it because the alternative is worse.” I know that that isn’t what you mean but, well, we are who we are.

    Have you considered that in addition to individual choice, the systemic privileges you have might also deserve some credit for why you haven’t become abusive? Because not everyone has a comparable toolbox of resources.

    Something about the intersection of my own abuse and disability is responsible for the resources that allowed me to not be an abuser. The systemic privileges I possess have, if anything, punished me for not taking what society considers to be mine.

    I think that my systemic privileges have had less to do with me not being an abuser than they have had to do with forming how I have responded to the abusive I have suffered and see others suffering. Having a substantial amount of privilege in some areas, and having disabilities that are largely invisible, has certainly given me the social cover I need to be an aggressive advocate and has likely contributed to my feeling that I have a right to stand up and fight.

    Yes, I believe that choice plays its part. But other factors do too – or would you suggest that communities with especially high abuse rates are just coincidentally populated with an unusually high percentage of “bad people”? I hope you can see the can of worms that is.

    I don’t think its a coincidence. I think that societies which are functioning poorly have fewer controls to restrain the natures of the kinds of people who would be willing to abuse which in turn leads to more abuse and more people who both have the anger and the propensity to be abusers. Its also worth noting that an enormous amount of damage can be done by a comparatively small number of abusive people. Just because (to quote your statistic) 80% of a population has been abused does not mean that 80% of the population has committed abuse. Abusers don’t tend to offend once or twice, they offend in patterns. A society which, for whatever external reasons, lacks the ability to restrain or remove these individuals is going to have an escalating pattern of abuse. That doesn’t mean that they have more bad people, only that they aren’t quite as good at monitoring the bad people any society is going to have. I’d like to see resources focused on helping victims and alleviating the external pressures that make a community like that work poorly (poverty, lack of access to care, patriarchy, etc.) rather than compassion for people who have made an active choice to abuse.

    but whether they work for the benefit of the community.

    I know that this is subjective and people are interlaced but…I’m less concerned with communities than with individuals. Again, this has a lot to do with my experiences of abuse and oppression. I am virtually always going to be less interested in what is good for the community than what is good for an individual victim. If those goods overlap, great, but if they don’t I’m pretty reticent to trade the good of a community for the justice or healing of an individual.

    Anyway, I hope you can agree that neither of our experiences can be universalized. I haven’t assumed bad faith (i.e., that you’re violent or murderous) when you say you’d let Charlie Sheen drown, I hope you don’t assume bad faith (i.e., that I’m “covering up” for an abuser or that I am an abuser) when I say I’d throw him a life buoy.

    I didn’t mean to give the impression that I assumed bad faith from you. Both points of view are needed and both have their good to give. We should be where our passion makes us strong, wherever that happens to be.

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