pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Are you seriously telling the abuse victim it's his responsibility to set up consequences so his girlfriend will stop beating him? And letting her off the hook with the white-out nonsense? Bad Dr. Drew. BAD.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
One of the things I think Teen Mom deserves credit for is giving some oxygen to domestic abuse, and specifically female-on-male domestic abuse, a topic that gets way too little attention.

Amber, the abuser, is pretty clearly clinically depressed and needs help. The showed her going to a PCP for anti-anxiety meds very early in season 1, but it hasn't been mentioned since (I'm in late season 2). The thing is, the fact that she's depressed doesn't make it less abusive. You can see both her depression and her abuser mindset in her response to 2.10, an episode in which she punched her currently-ex-fiancee Gary in the face with a closed fist, destroyed his stuff, and kicked him in the spine as he carried a heavy object down stairs. She's clearly very mournful, until Gary, with whom she's apparently reunited before taping, says that yes, it would be nice if she in some way demonstrated she loved him. And she immediately jumps on him for not supporting her. She won't even let him finish his sentence about how hard it is to watch her beat him because it makes her sad.

This matches what I've seen in my personal life. Of my friends who have been in abusive relationships*, every one of their partners was depressed, although not necessarily diagnosed as such. In some cases, the abuse even went away when the situation that was causing the depression did. That made it harder for the other person to leave, because it feels like kicking someone when they're down. We need to stop defining abuse as a facet of strength and start identifying it by its effects.

*None of them were being outright assaulted. It was either emotional abuse or failure to recognize their physical needs, like sleep or coddling after an injury.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
The most interesting part of Teen Mom is the couple that gave their daughter up for adoption. In Season 1, the pattern was as follows: Boy is sad about adoption, but girl is devastated, because girl's body knows there was a baby and now it's gone. Very typically gendered reactions. But come season 2, girl is kind of over it. She's still sad, but she's had her pain validated and processed in the myriad of support resources for birth mothers, and she can take comfort in what a good life her daughter has with her adoptive parents. Both kids have been very clear that they could have raised a baby, and would have done so, but felt the adoptive parents could give her a better life. And they're probably right on both counts: these kids seem to have better heads on their shoulders than the others on the show, and he especially seems like a better father than the others, but they're still in high school, and would be swimming against the tide of their very screwed up home lives.

So while "your child is better off" is pure comfort for the girl, who is simply missing her daughter, it's bittersweet for the boy, because the fact that his daughter is better off with her adoptive family makes him feel like a failure as a man, that he was so unable to provide that she was better off with someone else. And unlike his girlfriend, who could go to a birth mother's retreat and find piles of validation just sitting there*, the boy is pretty much alone. Obviously responses to adoption are varied, but nearly all girls and women are going to have common language of hormonal bonding. The landscape for men in much larger: some find out years later or never know at all, some are happy to be off the hook, some participate fully with the mothers in placing the child for adoption, some watch from the sidelines, torn but not wanting it enough to intervene. There aren't any retreats for them. The best he gets is a phone call with another birth father.

It's hard to judge how much of the next part is reality TV editing, since we only hear people talk about it, not demonstrate it, but it seems pretty plausible: both kids shut down significantly post-birth, and stop doing things they used to find pleasurable. Obviously some of that is depression, but a large chunk stems from wanting to prove that they gave up their daughter to benefit her, not them. Honestly, that's something I never thought of in regards to adoption. It seems so win win: baby gets parents who want her and are in a position to raise her well, birth parents get to continue their lives without the encumbrance of a baby. But I was missing just how much people bond with even initially-unwanted children. And while I hate to see them torturing themselves, I really respect where it's coming from.


*For certain very emotionally wrenching definitions of "just sitting there"
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Weirdly, the only part of Teen Mom that seemed exploitative was the reunion special, run by Dr. Drew, a man who has no psychiatric training aside from addiction medicine, but was on a dating advice show with someone who would go on to found a show where the main draw was women jumping on trampolines. Dr. Drew is an idiot.

He seems to buy into the mothers-love-their-children-in-a-way-men-never-can myth, but also automatically takes the side of everyone but the girls. Now, with the exception of the girl that put her child up for adoption, all of the women seem to suffer from significant errors in judgement (and not just because they decided to be parents at 17). But it's not okay to tell a woman that if you just had a bit of time, you could fix her relationship with her completely unengaged boyfriend who refuses to work or do childcare, and calls her lazy when the demands of childcare force her to drop her college classes. And that she shouldn't expect so much help from him because women naturally love their children more than men.

There's another girl who treats her parents poorly, but clearly because they're so awful to her. Dr. Drew may not have known that the mother would go on to be arrested for assaulting her daughter, bu the signs were there such that it was incredibly inappropriate for him to yell at her for falling short in the obedient and dutiful category. But then, I wrote her parents off when they used the existence of her baby as proof she shouldn't get birth control. Apparently in a later episode he sides with a mother who tried to get her recovering-anorectic daughter to diet with her.


...and yet, barely a word on the girl who assaulted her boyfriend in front of their daughter. So in conclusion: Teen Mom is surprisingly good, Dr. Drew needs to not be on television
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Watching Teen Mom, just to see if I missed something book store clerk was implying, and I'm actually sort of impressed. The two moms with relationship drama are boring, but the other two couples show two things I rarely if ever see on television: the aftermath of adoption for the birth parents, and woman-on-man abuse.

I'm not sure what I can say about the adoption couple besides "suck it, people worried about post-abortion syndrome". We tend to whitewash how wrenching it is to give up your baby, and the show does a great job of demonstrating how much they love their daughter and haven't stopped being her parents. The (most) heartbreaking part is that both of their parents attacked them for the adoption before and after because "all you need is love." and continually telling them how awful it is that they gave the baby up.

You actually start out sympathetic to the woman in the other interesting couple- she's trapped inside with their baby all day, she wants to get her GED, her fiancee is unsupportive. But over two episodes you see her get more and more demanding, more and more hostile, ending with (in ep 3, which I'm watching now) her grabbing his throat and slapping him. And you can see how even though he's significantly bigger than her, he feels absolutely powerless to do a thing about it. And how she pulls all the classic abuser moves ("you know I didn't mean to hit you, right?") even though she's not only smaller than him, but completely financially dependent. Where else do you see that, ever?

I know reality TV is a misnomer and I have no idea what's actually happening, and their voice overs make me want to stab the TV, but these are important stories that TV never tells, even if they're not strictly factual.

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