Apparently, I’m three weeks too late on this topic but oh well. So Melissa Gorga of The Real Housewives of NJ wrote a relationship advice book – or something like that. I haven’t read the book – nor do I plan to – but according to the worldwide web, she basically advises women to submit and to let their husbands dominate. le sigh… Obviously, that’s disturbing but I’m also disturbed by this response from a clearly feminist writer.
The writer on xojane.com mentions early in her article that Melissa Gorga says her husband is controlling and has been violent when Melissa does something he doesn’t like. The writer even calls him a “control freak” and then says his behavior “borders” on abusive. No his behavior does not border on abusive. His behavior is abusive and he is an abuser, assuming his behavior is as it’s described in this article. And if it is then that makes Melissa a survivor of intimate partner abuse. A survivor who is being mocked and blamed for doing what she needs to do to cope and, ultimately, survive this relationship.
Yes it is unfortunate she portrays abuse, including rape, as the norm and encourages women to accept this behavior. But has anyone considered why Melissa may think this is the norm? Can we show this woman some compassion and consider what she may have endured to get to the point where not only is partner abuse “normal” for her but it’s something she seems to be publicly promoting??
This book and this issue is not about shaming the women who have fallen victim to power and control – especially not when they’ve fallen victim to an extent that they’re now the “poster child” of it, so to speak. Would it be that outlandish to suggest that this book idea came from or was highly encouraged by her abusive husband? Or even if not, that these ideas are ones that have been put on Melissa by men in her life? And couldn’t this book then be exploitative??
I know some people may say that’s a reach. People who might say that she’s acting of her own free will and shouldn’t she then be held accountable for her actions? But is she acting of her own free will? I mean, really is she? It may look like she is but abuse is a complex cycle that is not necessarily about a single act but more often is about an overall pattern of control and coercion. People who are in abusive relationships are told repeatedly that controlling behavior is the norm and/or it is their fault. They believe this because it’s a strong message that someone else has put on them and forced them to internalize. Moreover, they’re taught (aka forced) to act, speak and sometimes even think the way the abuser wants or there will be consequences. When someone publicly “promotes” being abused, we have to question what’s really going on in this situation. And we should never blame this person because no one chooses to be abused. But people do choose to abuse. And then there’s only person to blame – or rather, hold accountable, and that is the abuser.