Several friends of mine have written blogs recently focused on the topic of women to women horizontal violence.  This summer, Cristen Pascucci of Improving Birth wrote “Catty B****s”& Why we’re All Losing the Mommy Wars.  Kathi Valeii of Birth Anarchy wrote Healing Womankind As We Heal Birth earlier this week.  Just this morning the Shameless Pamela Madsen wrote The Broken Link: Women Trusting Women for Psychology Today.  Take a second and read all those titles!  I think the titles alone reflect the power that comes from just opening our mouths and calling out our pain.  In less than half a year, we see our focus changing from problem to solution. Which you know I love: emotional release leading to clarity and action, WHA!???


To tell you the truth, it took me a long time to understand what people were talking about when the notion of horizontal violence was first brought to my attention.  I was finally able to focus my sights on a particular question, “Why do people seemingly focused on the same end goal beat each other down instead of hold each other up?” Then I remembered my mom’s story about crabs in a bucket.


My mom has a story she has told me my entire life about crabs in a bucket.  She says, “If you place a bunch of crabs in a bucket and a crab tries to crawl out, the others will pull that crab down.”  She told me this metaphor to describe what it can be like to pull ourselves out of a dysfunctional family.  I think the metaphor applies just as well to those of us trying to pull ourselves out of a dysfunctional society.


I think The Crabs in a Bucket Effect is real, both within the family and society at large.  As I left to go to Barnard College in New York City, my mother offered to buy me a car if I would stay and go to the University of Hawaii.  When I first started teaching about sexuality and birth people actually said to me quite sternly, “You know, you had better be careful!”  When my mom was feeling proud about the massage school she had built, I watched her mother cut into her with words demanding, “You had better remember where you came from!”  When my mom first started as a massage therapist people sure looked at us funny.  I have witnessed a whole lot of crabs trying to pull each other down in my lifetime.


Interestingly, these same crabs have provided some of the most exquisite praise as well.  I can still feel my mother’s caress on my check, the gleam in her eyes and the sweetness on her lips as she would say to me, “I am so proud of you baby.”  The same person who told me to be careful told me I am going to be huge.  I can still see the glow of pride around my grandmother, as she would walk around my mother’s school.   Some of those very people who looked at us funny back in the 80s became our clients and students.


As I ponder the conversations I am privy to on the topic of horizontal violence, I take some moments to think about how I have come to understand the crabs in my bucket.  How has it felt to be a crab?  How have I come to understand the other crabs?


My mom once said to me, “How did you know which one of me to listen to?”  After being confused for a second, I realized exactly what she was talking about.  She was in essence apologizing for the less than supportive things she has said to me in my life.  In response, I looked her straight in the eye, we shared some moments of love and recognition and I said, “Because I liked one better than the other.”


I don’t hate the parts of my family members, myself or anyone else who has sometimes tried to keep the bucket full.  I can actually experience their pulling as a desire for closeness and safety.  My mom offered me a car because she wanted me to stay close to her, not because she wanted me to fail.  People were scared that I might get in some sort of trouble talking about sex, birth and vaginas in a celebratory way.  My Grandmother wanted to know that my mom would still love her even if she achieved greater success than she herself had ever known.  People were nervous that rubbing bodies meant something bad was going on.  So despite the sting many of these behaviors has inflicted upon me over the years, I can see how most of them have been expressions of a sort of love.  Yes their love has been based in fear, but truly find me a person who never expressed love through fear.  Find me anyone who is not a crab.


Every person I sighted in my opening paragraph is a passionate woman, like myself, focused on a mission: Pamela on fertility and sexuality, Kathi and Cristen on the rights of birthing women, me on healing which of course encompasses all of it!  Each one of us aims to make the world a better place with our steps.  Our passions are so great I think sometimes, in quiet moments, we wonder what on Earth in wrong with us?  So we can feel quite frustrated when it seems people are getting in the way of our mission, especially people we feel should be backing us up because we all want to do good.  Don’t we all want out of the bucket!?  Why do those other crabs keep pulling us down?  It hurts!  I get the wind knocked out of me every time!


Before I conclude, I want to first say thank you to each of you who in your own way called this blog forth from me.  You all are amazing people and inspire me every day!  I love walking on this planet with you and doing the work we do in this world along side each other.  In my fantasies we have a huge endowment and we can just get to this already!


In conclusion, I will offer my practice in dealing with The Crabs in the Bucket Effect.


Are you ready????


It might sound kind of crazy!


But hey, it works for me.  Maybe it will work for you too. J


I throw a big old fit!  I might ask someone to love me while I throw the fit.  Sometimes they even join me while I throw it, which is SUPER fun!!  Usually my fits involve a whole lot of, “WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS TO ME!??” and “DOESN’T ANYONE UNDERSTAND!???” maybe even a “No-one wants me to succeed, anyway.” pouts sprinkled here and there.  Sometimes these are over swiftly.  But sometimes, they take days, maybe even weeks.  Of course I have to take breaks for things like food and water, feeding my children, etc.  But I basically just throw my fit until I am done.  Once I feel I have exhausted all my versions of “How could you do this to me?” I often can’t recall why I was so upset in the first place.  I think that might be because it usually doesn’t really matter.  What I do think matters, is that I keep waking up every morning and keep at what I am doing.  For be I crab or human, if I don’t do it, then who will?


~~~Well-behaved women seldom make history ~~~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich



Written with love <3


Nekole Shapiro

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Community.Relationship.Intimacy.Sex.Birth and so much more. Do you know how to find yourself and the space between you and another? Nekole can help you find your way. One small warning....Nekole has been known to change lives!