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The Stuff that’s Hard to See

By AnnaBeth Crittenden, Berry College (17c)

I really love Netflix. It’s really embarrassing and kind of a bad habit, but it’s so convenient to have a sitcom playing in the background while you do your homework. I just finished Gilmore Girls (I’m obsessed) and I’m now watching Parks and Recreation (because Amy Poehler is life).

But in my long history of watching TV shows and movies on Netflix, something began bothering me: the relationships. Now, I’m all for love and romance in TV shows; that’s why it sucks that so many of these movies and TV shows glorify emotional abusive relationships.  

Have you noticed that in many of these shows, the guy stalks the girl, or puts her down, or humiliates her and she goes back to him?!? That’s not okay! In fact, that’s emotional abuse.  

Whoa, hold on AnnaBeth…what even is emotional abuse? And how does it relate to these sitcoms you keep talking about? And what’s your favorite TV show?

I promise, I will answer all of your questions.

What is emotional abuse? Simply put is any act that can diminish the sense of someone’s identity, dignity, and self-worth. These acts can include yelling, mocking, threats, intimidation, and humiliation. And, since these acts are usually paired with loving words and gentle control, it’s hard to tell if the relationship is actually abusive.

Honestly, emotional abuse is one of the harder forms to define. But it all boils down to one thing: if your relationship is making you feel worthless, or powerless, or guilty that you spend time apart it might be time to take some steps away.

Let’s look at how this unfolds in some famous movies and sitcoms.

  1. Friends

Let me start by saying, I love Friends. It’s one of my absolute favorite TV shows and Chandler is my spirit animal. But, we’ll leave Chandler out for a couple minutes. I want to talk about Ross and Rachel. I know that they are one of the most famous couples (and on TV Guide’s Best TV Couples of All Time), but even from the beginning of their relationship, Ross showed some signs of emotional abuse.  In season 3, Ross gets jealous. Rachel is gaining more success in her life and work and Ross can’t handle it.  

He starts attempting to control her communication, he tries to keep her away from work, he shows up to her office (while she is working) to remind her of his presence. This is not okay! And, even worse, his jealousy and possessiveness continues even when they’re not in the relationship.  But, at the end of the series, per rom-com rules, they end up together and Ross’s jealous behavior is never addressed.

  1. Gilmore Girls

This is another show I absolutely love. I relate so much to Lorelai Gilmore (in fact, I’m currently sipping on my own cup of coffee). But we need to talk about Rory’s first boyfriend, Dean. He is portrayed as the “nice boy” and the “perfect first boyfriend.” And that’s super dangerous because he is not the perfect boyfriend. He actually shows several signs of emotional abuse.

There’s one episode where Lorelai goes away for the weekend and Rory has the house to herself. She plans the dream night of doing laundry, watching TV, and eating takeout (sounds like a dream, right?).  But Dean doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he gets angry with Rory, basically demanding that she hang with him instead of having a night to herself. And when she asks him not to be mad he says, “I’m confused, but I’m not mad. I’m a saint, but I’m not mad.”

Ummm…so Dean’s a saint for letting his girlfriend spend an evening away from him? Really?

Throughout their relationship, Dean also will routinely call Rory all the time, even to the point where he leaves her 10 voicemail messages. This constant control and constant need to know a current location is not a good sign.

  1. Twilight

First of all, is Twilight even a thing? I don’t even know anymore. But, even if it’s not it is probably the PRIME example of an emotionally abusive relationship. I mean, the man literally stalks Bella, watches her while she sleeps, and attempts to control her EVERY move. And somehow, about 7 years ago it was one of the most cherished and popular love stories. People, you do not want a man to love you like Edward. Don’t fall for a man who tries to control your life and convinces you that you’re nothing without him.

When we constantly see these relationships in the media, we will start to validate them when we see them in our real lives. No relationship should be focused on control; instead, there should be a constant conversation between both people involved.

What other emotionally abusive relationships have you seen in the media? Leave your answer in the comments!

P.S. My favorite sitcom right now is Parks and Rec. What’s yours?


Thanks to Ashley Judd!

People Ashley Judd

Misogyny is the distrust and hatred of women. Ashley Judd recently posted an op-ed piece on The Daily Beast about the use of misogyny in the media, and how we as women internalize these misogynistic messages and replay them to ourselves in the way that we think about and relate to our own bodies.

Women’s bodies are talked about nearly everywhere you go. Our shapes and faces are picked apart and analyzed publicly and privately. It’s as if our only importance in life is our appearance: how thin we are, if our hair is acceptable, if we are considered sexy by the opposite sex. If we do not obtain an acceptable “score” so to speak, then we are somehow less human. Of course we know in our minds that this is ludicrous, but often we still judge one another and ourselves according to this ideal beauty standard. I know I do this. I might see someone walking down the street or while watching a movie and begin judging myself in comparison to them, or judge them in comparison to someone else. As we look at ourselves in the mirror, many of us begin to dissect our bodies–honing in on our many perceived imperfections. We might even berate ourselves with hateful judgement on how we don’t measure up, and we wish we could change our flared nostrils, thick hips or so on. Again this is internalized misogyny at work. We receive messages on a daily basis telling us the same thing:  that we don’t measure up and if only we had smooth silky skin, perfect shiny hair and a chiseled face maybe then we will have achieved something and be worth paying attention to. Here is an excerpt from the article Ashley Judd wrote on her recent experience in the media. 

“As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor 18 years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.

However, the recent speculation and accusations in March feel different, and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.’

I think it is so important for us as women (especially those in the public eye) to start speaking out about this matter. Women and girls are so much more than our appearance, bra size and/or pant size. We have important ideas about how to make the world a better place. We are smart, strong, athletic, good with numbers and yes we are beautiful along with all of that, but we don’t need one else’s opinion to confirm these facts. We as women must support and appreciate one another instead of competing and comparing ourselves to one another in jealousy. Who knows what we might accomplish if we spend our energy, time and resources on improving educating our minds and the world arround us rather than being at war with our bodies?  It’s time the media stopped enforcing the idea that there is one ideal form of beauty and that our self worth depends on how we measure up to that ideal form of beauty. That in and of itself is abusive to the self esteem of women and girls as a whole.

Check out our video on photoshop on our video page to see an example of how women are often encouraged to view their bodies. You can read Ashley Judd’s full article here.


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