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Where have all the cowboys gone?
January 11, 2013 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Romance novelist Alisa Valdes' recent memoir The Cowboy and the Feminist describes how she found true love by forsaking her feminist opinions in favor of an assertive, independent cowboy (a staunchly traditional ranch manager) who to her embodied the best masculine qualities. Unfortunately, it turns out that the cowboy's masculine dominance turned into abuse, which Valdes described in a post-breakup blog post. Feminist writer Hannah Rosin, among others, was not surprised. According to Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory, Valdes said she took her post, which tends to contradict her book's message, down at the request of her publisher or agent. (via Lawyers, Guns and Money; warning: possible abuse and rape triggers)
posted by Gelatin (106 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Truth has never been allowed to stand in the way of book sales before, why should it now?
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Cached version of the deleted blog post
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


When are people going to learn that there is no One True Path to happiness in relationships and stop shelling out money for these horseshit books?
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


There really is a book out there to justify just about any ego trip you might have planned. The convenience of modern living!
posted by selfnoise at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Salon article ends on what I can only describe as a horrifying note:

She has a new boyfriend now and, she says, he “wrote the cowboy a thank you note, for having ‘tamed’ me and made me a better woman, which I totally agree with.”
posted by griphus at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [92 favorites]


Thanks for the add, PBZM.
posted by Gelatin at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2013


Well, glad the whole truth came out someplace, at least for a couple of minutes.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:39 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is what happens when people confuse "wanting to be submissive in the bedroom" with "wanting to be submissive in life."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:39 AM on January 11, 2013 [31 favorites]


The deleted blog post is, well, fairly shocking. You have to admire the writer for frankly admitting that she'd made a terrible mistake. "The cowboy" seems to be actually crazy, and not in a fun way...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:40 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


The joke's on her, because most of the best cowboys are gay.
posted by Nomyte at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


So, she traded one total douche bag of a boyfriend for another boyfriend who also seems to have a lot of douche bag potential?

I feel bad for this poor woman, and I hope she gets some kind of therapy.
posted by freakazoid at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I've read it a million times, the cliché: "I used to be a feminist, but now I've discovered the 'Natural Order' and my man who treats me right— What a relief."

Cringe.

It's a jinx. The women who write these declarations typically find themselves in divorce court with decidedly feminist issues within months of writing these self-abnegating confessions. Boy, does their attorney get an earful.

If you are crazy enough to write a story and yell:
I'm NOT a feminist, dammit!— the Furies seize upon you; you are lashed upon the cloven hooves of a million male chauvinist pigs. Betrayal is in the wings.

Whether it's suddenly-dingbat Alisa or liberal Noah, they both miss the sex motive that lies underneath all the shouting.

People want to get fucked the way they want to get fucked— and then make up the most ridiculous rationalizations to explain themselves.
Susie Bright on the revelations about He-Of-The-Sparkling-Stetson
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:42 AM on January 11, 2013 [37 favorites]


I've refused to read Twilight or Fifty Shades not because the vampires are silly in one (they are - vampires don't sparkle in the sun, they BURN) or the sex is too explicit in the other, but because the relationships are so unbalanced.

I'm not surprised that Valdes is a romance writer. There is a lot of fantasizing about excessively dominant men in the romance genre and it's one of the least attractive things about the genre, along with the heteronormativity/Men are from Mars, women are Venus crap (Mars is frozen and (probably) lifeless, Venus is a burning hellhole that would melt your bones). The better writers avoid this (or even subvert it), but still lots of very popular ones play right into it. It's a fantasy, just like being in an apocalyptic wasteland is a fantasy -- exciting to think and write about, great potential for drama, but not nice to live.

I really like how Atlantic article ends - that their relationship had problems precisely because they were playing their gender roles so hard.
posted by jb at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure I'm interpreting this bit correctly:
At the conclusion of the video, he says of his relationship with Valdes:
If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. It doesn't have to work. So consequently maybe I wasn't willing to put up with as much.
On Twitter, writer Isaac Butler described these words as "terrifying," and I wouldn't disagree with that. Part of what is so unsettling about it, I think, is the way that it comes across as so adult and rational; so non-co-dependent, so reassuringly, normally, stereotypically male. He sounds independent, grown-up, and sure of himself—he doesn't need a relationship, but he knows what he wants in one. He's strong. He's a man. He's a cowboy.
Is it terrifying because he sounded so normal but ended up being a nut? Or is that sentence prima facie terrifying in a way that I just don't get?
posted by Skorgu at 8:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is what happens when people confuse "wanting to be submissive in the bedroom" with "wanting to be submissive in life."
posted by wolfdreams01


Thanks - I was writing my comment thinking that I probably should indicate that I'm not talking about consensual kink/BDSM, but couldn't think of how to make it clear.
posted by jb at 8:47 AM on January 11, 2013


At one point Valdes discovers that he has been texting the exact same flirtatious sexual fantasies to her and another woman at the same time, changing nothing but the name of the girlfriend in question.

Real cowboys don't have reception.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:47 AM on January 11, 2013 [26 favorites]


> Is it terrifying because he sounded so normal but ended up being a nut?

I think it's terrifying because this woman wrote an entire book about how awesome this guy was supposed to be, and apparently did everything she could to accommodate him, and he's all like "Well, whatever, I can take or leave her. And I will leave her the moment the relationship becomes something I have to work at."
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:53 AM on January 11, 2013 [23 favorites]


That said, a lot can happen in two years, especially when you’re in a relationship with a man as complicated and volatile as the cowboy
I wonder if this bon mot and the direction of conversation here is indicative of the overarching problem of lumping people into monolithic, stereotyped categories.
posted by k5.user at 8:55 AM on January 11, 2013


She has a new boyfriend now and, she says, he “wrote the cowboy a thank you note, for having ‘tamed’ me and made me a better woman, which I totally agree with.”

The hell?! Seriously?!

I fell really badly for her kid in all this.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


Not to get all No True Cowboy, but that's one smooth-skinned, soft-handed looking fellow.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


True, cowboy.
posted by OmieWise at 9:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even before you get into the sexy stuff, this is kind of a significant problem with a lot of Traditional Womanhood stuff. I spent a lot of years trying to be the sort of daughter my conservative Christian mother wanted me to be, and through all that, have watched her endure some terrible relationships. And watched female friends who were bright, interesting people, fade away as they got absorbed into "submitting" to their husbands and raising too many children too early.

If someone wants to have sex like that, fine, even if they want to have a relationship like that, good if it works for them, but when you start defining it as "this is how women should be," that's when you open the opportunity for abuse. When you define it as "we have, as an equal couple, made this one equal decision that our relationship is going to be structured like so, subject to future renegotiation as necessary", then if the person is an asshole, well, they're an asshole, but it's not your fault. When it becomes about being a Real Man and a Real Woman, then it's usually your fault for not being enough of a Real Woman to keep the Real Man's interest, or not enough of a Real Woman to keep him from having a temper, or whatever.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:10 AM on January 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Alisa Valdes' memoir The Feminist and The Cowboy, in which she rhapsodized about her relationship with a manly, traditional, conservative ranch manager who had taught her to submit and renounce anti-male feminism.

More like The Feminist Strawman and the Cowboy. Feminists aren't 'anti-male'; they're against compulsory adherence to traditional gender roles, and this is a pretty solid illustration of why.
posted by almostmanda at 9:14 AM on January 11, 2013 [56 favorites]


Not to get all No True Cowboy, but that's one smooth-skinned, soft-handed looking fellow.

"Cowboy" sounds sexier than "agricultural middle manager", which is probably closer to an accurate description of his job, no matter how many Stetsons he owns.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:15 AM on January 11, 2013 [56 favorites]


with me blinded by this man’s almost unfathomable physical beauty, which was almost impossible to reconcile with the brutality that this most handsome shell encased.

It's a trope(actually several tropes), dammit!

In her descriptions of the relationship, I am reminded of the "variable reinforcement" style of operant conditioning.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:22 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dislike how gently Hannah Rosin treats her, this clearly called for the stand up comic style point and laugh response.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:22 AM on January 11, 2013


"Cowboy" sounds sexier than "agricultural middle manager", which is probably closer to an accurate description of his job, no matter how many Stetsons he owns.

Entirely tangential, but I'm surprised "Cowboy" hasn't become coopted for nonsensical business jargon more widely. It's probably due; there's already "Ninjas" and "Rockstars" so the middle management layers everywhere should probably get right on that action item.
posted by Drastic at 9:23 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alisa Valdes may be a bit of an idiot - but clearly she is a victim of her own misplaced romantic ideals as anyone else. That she sells her ideas to others only adds to the bonfire of dumbness - but let's remember that NO ONE deserves to be in an abusive relationship. Even a stupid head.
posted by helmutdog at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


Entirely tangential, but I'm surprised "Cowboy" hasn't become coopted for nonsensical business jargon more widely.

It was used a lot in the '90s, most notably for perl and tcl/tk programming job descriptions. For whatever reason, when people want to hire someone to do coding in a high-level scripting language, they want dangerous and arrogant loners. I'm guessing they only had enough money in the budget to hire one person for an oddball, one-off project, so they had to know how to fend for themselves.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have a tremendous lot of sympathy for anyone who has been treated so badly. Still, I am trying to work out how to say something about the long-term preferability of nice guys, without entirely burning my own nice-guy status by doing so.
posted by newdaddy at 9:32 AM on January 11, 2013


"Cowboy" sounds sexier than "agricultural middle manager", which is probably closer to an accurate description of his job, no matter how many Stetsons he owns.

Entirely tangential, but I'm surprised "Cowboy" hasn't become coopted for nonsensical business jargon more widely. It's probably due; there's already "Ninjas" and "Rockstars" so the middle management layers everywhere should probably get right on that action item.
posted by Drastic at 9:23 AM on January 11 [+] [!]


In the UK, "cowboy" , most often used in terms of "cowboy builders" ( builders = construction guys you hire to work on your house improvements ") has long meant amateurs or incompetents are pretending they are competent professionals at some job to scam you out of money with their cheap prices, though the implication is that they do actually do work ( but badly), so it's not a straightforward con ( " these discount management consultants you hired are a bunch of fly-by-night cowboys!")

Not sure where this slang comes from.
posted by Bwithh at 9:32 AM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Alisa Valdes may be a bit of an idiot - but clearly she is a victim of her own misplaced romantic ideals as anyone else. That she sells her ideas to others only adds to the bonfire of dumbness - but let's remember that NO ONE deserves to be in an abusive relationship. Even a stupid head.

Indeed not.

And yet there seems to be a slight cognitive dissonance between
"What I actually wrote [in my book] was a handbook for women on how to fall in love with a manipulative, controlling, abusive narcissist.”
and
he “wrote the cowboy a thank you note, for having ‘tamed’ me and made me a better woman, which I totally agree with.”
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:33 AM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Not sure where this slang comes from.

Acting like a cowboy/being a cowboy/cowboying something is used to describe going into a situation with no plan and (metaphoric) guns blazing. It's usually used as a warning to think about what you're doing before getting into a complicated situation. So a "cowboy builder" makes sense in that they don't have the plans or expertise to do a job, but they're more than willing to go in and screw it up.
posted by griphus at 9:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


In the documentary Shadow Company about mercenaries/contractors/soldiers-of-fortune in history and modern war zones, being described as a "Cowboy" in Iraq was not a compliment.

See Griphus comment immediately above, minus the metaphor.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:40 AM on January 11, 2013


I am so fascinated by this. As PBZM points out, the cognitive dissonance between recognizing her relationship with the cowboy for the unhealthy abusive dynamic it was, and not seeing the general gestalt that guys who write thank you notes to abusive exes thanking them for "taming" their girlfriend, is staggering. I hope she finds what she is looking for someday, but I don't think the new guy is a step in the right direction.
posted by Aubergine at 9:40 AM on January 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


She has a new boyfriend now and, she says, he “wrote the cowboy a thank you note, for having ‘tamed’ me and made me a better woman, which I totally agree with.”

Well you would, wouldn't you?
posted by glhaynes at 9:40 AM on January 11, 2013


I dislike how gently Hannah Rosin treats her, this clearly called for the stand up comic style point and laugh response.

This would be a quite harmful response for abused women everywhere. Pointing and laughing is victim-blaming.

I think the Susie Bright piece (re-linked so I don't have to go back upthread and find the original link) treats the situation just about right.
posted by eviemath at 9:43 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a pretty bad situation all around, but what I don't understand is the (apparently common?) trope of: "I used to be a feminist, but now I've discovered the 'Natural Order' and my man who treats me right— What a relief."

Even if you want a traditionally masculine dude who is all about the machismo, that doesn't have to cancel out being a feminist.
posted by asnider at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ronald Reagan was frequently depicted as a cowboy, especially in non-American political cartoons. It seemed to relate to someone whose first instinct was to resort to violence.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:48 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alisa Valdes Rodriguez's Hater Girls is a pretty underrated -- and yeah, kinda feminist -- YA novel from five or six years ago. I was a little sad not to see another one from her, and more so when I learned what she was doing instead.

I would have all the sympathy in the world for her if she hadn't written a book telling women there was one right way to live their lives. But I still have a heck of a lot of sympathy for her -- it just speaks to the ways in which abuse can totally rewrite your ideas of what's good and what's normal, even for women who are smart and independent.

It's weird that the lead time in big-six publishing is such that a relationship can completely implode in the time before a book saying how great the relationship is can get published, but I have to admit to being a little skeeved out by the unpublishing of the post about abuse. Better to roll with the controversy, I think, than to pretend to publish it as a serious book of advice and how great her life is.
posted by Jeanne at 9:50 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think this is also an example of the "I was attracted to him because he was a strong-willed take-charge kinda guy, but he turned into a domineering abusive asshole" trope.

I would wager that varying levels of abuse was always there, she just interpreted his behavior differently early on when she was more smitten by him and before she started waking up and realizing that he was probably a pretty horrible person all along.

And THEN she goes all Stockholm Syndrome on her blog post and says that she really did need to be "tamed."

I feel a strange mixture of pity and anger about people who simply hand the bat over to someone to beat them with.
posted by chimaera at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys assholes.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


Even if you want a traditionally masculine dude who is all about the machismo, that doesn't have to cancel out being a feminist.

Exactly. The rejection of feminism is only applicable if she wants to insist that ALL women will be happier with dudes like that and relationships like hers. Which, if that's what she was going for, yikes.
posted by almostmanda at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand is the (apparently common?) trope of: "I used to be a feminist, but now I've discovered the 'Natural Order' and my man who treats me right— What a relief.

I blame that Pioneer Woman blog thing. From the about page:

I write daily about my long transition from spoiled city girl to domestic country wife.

Of course she doesn't say anything about being a feminist and having to give up feminist values to be with her cowboy man, but every time I've had occasion to read that site I can't shake the feeling that there's a lot of romanticizing "the good 'ol days". One should be wary.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


No one deserves to be abused, but Christ, this lady is dumb.
posted by stenseng at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]



In the documentary Shadow Company about mercenaries/contractors/soldiers-of-fortune in history and modern war zones, being described as a "Cowboy" in Iraq was not a compliment.

See Griphus comment immediately above.


My husband, a vet(special forces), uses cowboy in this way as an insult. I showed him this story and he said that 'cowboy' fit pretty near perfect as far as he is concerned. My husband is considered by many to be pretty durn 'manly' but he considers guys that act and do this type of thing to women to fakers and cowards. It really pisses him off.

He's actually helped several women get out of relationships like this and helps women who have been victims of rape and domestic abuse deal with feelings of insecurity and safety through doing some counselling with them on things they can do. He's no knight in shining armor type, just a guy who cares about people getting hurt and shit on and does whatever he can to help.

He's a pretty amazing guy. Probably why I married him....
posted by Jalliah at 9:55 AM on January 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


She seems like a pretty unpleasant character, but nobody deserves what she had to deal with.

One of the most disturbing things – aside from what he did to her, aside from the creepy "thank you" note from the new boyfriend which she apparently agrees with – is the way that she's been treated by her publisher and agent. So, she's written a godawful book, a mostly blinkered and inadvertent how-to on shacking up with a misogynist prick. A couple of days before publication, she details how she was beaten, and raped, and how she jumped out of a moving car to escape him before walking 16 miles to her own car. And her publisher's response is ... "Fuck you, take that post down", the silent treatment, sorry you got raped and beaten up, but couldn't you have held off telling everyone until we'd at least got this thing in the shops?

That's fucking callous.
posted by Len at 9:58 AM on January 11, 2013 [33 favorites]


When people say "cowboy" as a compliment, they're thinking of The Virginian.

When they say "cowboy" as less-than-compliment, they're thinking of The Wild Bunch.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:59 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Alisa Valdes may be a bit of an idiot - but clearly she is a victim of her own misplaced romantic ideals as anyone else. That she sells her ideas to others only adds to the bonfire of dumbness - but let's remember that NO ONE deserves to be in an abusive relationship. Even a stupid head.

She may not deserve it, but I can't have much sympathy for her. If she were just abused, then yes, obviously I'd be sympathetic, but she's selling a harmful fantasy to other people as an ideal. The fact that she deleted her blog post disclosing how false her book is just exacerbates what she's done and leaves it out there for misogynists to point to as a feminist who's seen the light.
posted by Mavri at 10:02 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


How to talk to a friend in an abusive relationship.

Obviously we're not all friends with random author and internet personality. But given rates of domestic violence, how you talk about other situations influences how your friends who might be in tough situations expect you will react to their situation. This is rape culture 101 stuff.
posted by eviemath at 10:05 AM on January 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


When I say "cowboy," I think of Yosemite Sam. Not exactly marriageable material.
posted by Nomyte at 10:06 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


(But do let me know if I can provide more helpful links about that rather than a snarky "rape culture 101" comment; since I know that most mefites are well-meaning and that it's not reasonable to expect people to magically know all this stuff just because I've known/been thinking about it for many years.)
posted by eviemath at 10:07 AM on January 11, 2013


Freedom from choice. It's so seductive.

You find a cowboy, or Rev. Moon, or a Pope, or an Emperor, or a guru . . . and all that scary, scary freedom goes away, and you are safe, safe as can be, as long as you obey.

I seriously think this is a primary reason so many young women are careless about birth control.

You get pregnant, and all that scary, scary choice and freedom is gone for the next 18 years. Your identity, your purpose in life, what to do, what your priorities ought to be . . . all subsumed to another person's. So easy. And sometimes so sad.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:09 AM on January 11, 2013 [21 favorites]


> "I am reminded of the 'variable reinforcement' style of operant conditioning."

There is a reason for this. Abusers are often masters of this kind of operant conditioning, having practiced it for years until they develop it into an artform. If your goal is to manipulate, then playing even a little bit of trial-and-error with the human psyche quickly reveals how devastatingly effective this method is, after all.

> "... this clearly called for the stand up comic style point and laugh response."

Please do not laugh at the rape victim.

She is far from the first and will be far from the last to have her mind and body fucked with by an abuser, and been carefully psychologically conditioned to believe that she likes it that way. She had the misfortune to write a book about it before she realized what was going on, and the misfortune to not be over all the effects of it yet even now.

But lots and lots of people have fallen into this particular trap.

Hi.
posted by kyrademon at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [32 favorites]


If I found myself married to Yosemite Sam, I would tease him unmercifully and then I would put him in a hamster wheel and use his energy output to solve America's fossil fuel problem in a heartbeat.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


> "The fact that she deleted her blog post disclosing how false her book is just exacerbates what she's done and leaves it out there for misogynists to point to as a feminist who's seen the light."

This does bother me, but I would like to know her reasons in her own words before automatically accepting second-hand reports that she did so because "her agent" asked her to. She did mention that she thought the post could put her in physical danger.
posted by kyrademon at 10:14 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's totally fair to say that her particular action of writing a book encouraging/admonishing other women to essentially enter abusive relationships was a negative, harmful action that we don't approve of. And we can totally separate that from feeling compassion for her based on this harmful and violent experience that she's still in the process of coming out of and recovering from, and from how we talk about that experience (both for her, and for other women/people).
posted by eviemath at 10:15 AM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


My first thought was to align myself with the "Boy, is this woman stupid!" crowd, but then I thought about the cognitive dissonance acrobatics that I go through on a daily basis in regard to my own life decisions.

Life is a journey; I wish her well on hers.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:16 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thinking about the thank-you note from her current boyfriend makes me seriously wonder whether she has any women friends? I know it's pretty cliched and relies on stereotypes, but I wish she had a friend who would just tell her "Honey, you're doing it again."
posted by benito.strauss at 10:21 AM on January 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ronald Reagan was frequently depicted as a cowboy, especially in non-American political cartoons. It seemed to relate to someone whose first instinct was to resort to violence.
God, I really don't want to defend Reagan, but I think he was depicted as a cowboy, aka, on a horse, because he owned a ranch. And rode a horse. A lot.
posted by atomicstone at 10:31 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thinking about the thank-you note from her current boyfriend makes me seriously wonder whether she has any women friends? I know it's pretty cliched and relies on stereotypes, but I wish she had a friend who would just tell her "Honey, you're doing it again."

Or a sassy gay friend.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:46 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


God, I really don't want to defend Reagan, but I think he was depicted as a cowboy, aka, on a horse, because he owned a ranch. And rode a horse. A lot.

True. It was Dubya who was "All hat, no cattle".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, now I know what my goal will be when I have kids. If I have a boy, to make sure he never ever writes a note like that. If I have a girl, to make sure she never ever has a note like that written about her. Seriously, that is one of the most repulsive things I've ever read.
posted by dry white toast at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


I read, and cringed, through the whole Salon article until I got to that last sentence, whereupon a heaved a heavy sigh of resignation. This is a profoundly broken person and I hope she gets help.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's clear up a few things. Plenty of people choose (and prefer) to be the more submissive partner in their relationships. Some of these people are male and some are female. Often, but not always, this preference goes along with a submissive sexuality. That does not mean their desire for emotional submission is based on a confusion with their sexuality.

Similarly, there are people that prefer to be the more dominant partner in their relationships. Some of these people are abusive, self-centered assholes. Many of them are not.

Being dominant or submissive is not unhealthy. It is not necessarily based on sexual desire. Provided everyone consents and is happy with the arrangement, there is nothing wrong with it.

The problem with this woman is not her desires, but her universalizing of them. Submission is not inherently based on gender, despite the tendency of many people to declare otherwise (actually, it's pretty common for submissive men to proclaim that female superiority is the natural order). The issue of feminism is a red herring.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


The fact that she deleted her blog post disclosing how false her book is just exacerbates what she's done and leaves it out there for misogynists to point to as a feminist who's seen the light.

It could also be that she's signed a contract and is worried about being sued, in addition to dealing with the other crap.

Admitting you were so hugely wrong in public is messy, unpleasant, and not something any of us would do gracefully.

This is far from the first book to be published at the exact moment its underlying premise is exposed as fraudulent. Either it will release and bomb or release and sell for a while due to controversy. Maybe she can write a follow up denouncing her own book and sell that.
posted by emjaybee at 11:20 AM on January 11, 2013


Ronald Reagan was frequently depicted as a cowboy, especially in non-American political cartoons. It seemed to relate to someone whose first instinct was to resort to violence.
God, I really don't want to defend Reagan, but I think he was depicted as a cowboy, aka, on a horse, because he owned a ranch. And rode a horse. A lot.


Well, it's also likely due to the fact that he was an actor who often played the part.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:34 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


because [Reagan] owned a ranch

You're right, I forgot how badly he wanted to be thought to be a cowboy. It's weird when the same word is an insult for some and a compliment for others.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:39 AM on January 11, 2013



"Cowboy" sounds sexier than "agricultural middle manager", which is probably closer to an accurate description of his job, no matter how many Stetsons he owns.

Absolutely, Halloween Jack.

This guy truckles to men who actually own things such as the ranch he manages-- holds his hat in both hands, looks down at the floor and says 'yessir'-- and hates himself for it.

And tries to get his own back by raping and terrorizing her and probably other women, beating the shit out of any other man who looks weak enough and that he can pretend has crossed him, and I would guess is cruel to animals and laughs over their pain.

Crazy? Pretty much garden variety, unfortunately.
posted by jamjam at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Being dominant or submissive is not unhealthy. It is not necessarily based on sexual desire. Provided everyone consents and is happy with the arrangement, there is nothing wrong with it.

posted by dephlogisticated at 1:11 PM on January 11


This is true, but I think it's incomplete. If the dominant partner is using their dominance to manipulate and control the submissive partner to get them to do things they don't want to do, or if the response to disobedience is abuse, even if the submissive partner seems to be okay with it, I think it can still be harmful. I am fine with consensual kink, so please don't read me as saying there's anything wrong with that. But it does profoundly play with your head to be the submissive partner to somebody who is, er, irresponsible with that power. It's important not to allow support for consensual kink to cross over into providing cover for abusers, I think, and unfortunately it's more complicated than "submissive consented so it's okay" since living with a manipulative abuser can compromise your ability to refuse consent, out of a reasonable fear for your own safety if nothing else.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:45 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Looking for cowboys? They're all in Denver right now for the National Western Stock show and Rodeo.

That man in the video does not know how to wear a cowboy hat. His is about three sizes too small.
posted by caryatid at 11:51 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Am I the only person who recalls her kerfluffle with AfterEllen? Valdes is an amusing enough writer, but she's deleted and scrubbed more blog posts than most people have written.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


And more of her various claims and denials. She's a decent enough writer of amusing light fiction, but I'd take this current story with a big grain of salted caramels. I'm sure it'll be a major motion picture, or MOW or something.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:17 PM on January 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


And more of her various claims and denials. She's a decent enough writer of amusing light fiction, but I'd take this current story with a big grain of salted caramels. I'm sure it'll be a major motion picture, or MOW or something.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:17 on January 11 [+] [!]


Huh. That is...pretty interesting. I have to say that there were moments in her blog post that I really did not believe--specifically, the idea that she popped her own shoulder back into joint and then walked/ran 16 miles to her car in the dark after landing face-first on a pile of rocks. I do not mean to trivialize what could be a real occurrence, but coupled with her other bizarre statements and recantations linked by Ideefixe, I am feeling more strongly about the possible embellishment of that blog post. It all seems too...trope-like. Particularly when she describes the way the "cowboy's" eyes would grow "snake-like" when he became angry. That read to me more like something from a romance novel and less like what an enraged abuser really looks like. Again, not trying to trivialize, but it did not read as entirely authentic to me (and in full disclosure, I grew up in an abusive household).
posted by nonmerci at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Particularly when she describes the way the "cowboy's" eyes would grow "snake-like" when he became angry. That read to me more like something from a romance novel and less like what an enraged abuser really looks like.

Actually, that's exactly how I thought he looked in those last 5 seconds of the video, when he narrowed his eyes and said he "wouldn't put up with it." Made my heart stop a beat.
posted by palliser at 12:43 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


After reading the link from Ideefixe (as well as links therein to other related stories), it really seems like this person is a mess, if you're being charitable, or a disingenuous narcissist willing to go to any lengths for attention, if you aren't. From her past history, I wouldn't be surprised if she she denies everything a little bit down the line, or even re-brands the book and the story as "fictionalized autobiography" in the vein of James Frey.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:22 PM on January 11, 2013


Again, I feel really sorry for her kid.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:22 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


We only fight speech with speech, eviemath, belittling Valdes' literary corpus with jokes about her book and life probably helps society. Yes, there are more correct forms of speech but catchy punchlines rock.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alisa Valdes has also discussed her struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder, which may explain some of the earlier posted-and-retracted disclosures: "This pattern of impulse control failure had manifested itself most obviously in various unwise moves I’d made with regards to my career, online. I’d posted scathing letters and blog posts about my employers or business associates, for example, over the past decade, and though I’d incredibly thought at the time that such actions would help me to gain sympathy, these things always turned around to bite me."
posted by Emera Gratia at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


She is a very troubled person. I really think she is being exploited to some extent by her publisher. And that "cowboy" dude is a vile person who should be in jail, full stop.

Apart from my compassion for her and her child, I do think there's something tremendously salutary in having the toxic mythologizing of abusive relationships as sexy submission so thoroughly exploded even before Valdes's book hit stores.

Bullies should never be dom(me)s, and dom(me)s should never be bullies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, Emera Gratia, that link is so amazing. Her lack of perspective in her discussion of how she once lacked perspective but it's all better now is BREATHTAKING.

She really has no ability to comprehend that her own experiences aren't necessarily the experiences of the world's other 7 billion humans. None at all.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sidhedevil:Wow, Emera Gratia, that link is so amazing. Her lack of perspective in her discussion of how she once lacked perspective but it's all better now is BREATHTAKING.

That's nothing. Check the end of the last para:
We often say that there is a bias against fat people in our culture, but I don’t think it’s that simple. I think there is a biological basis for this inherent revulsion toward people who are obese. The physical body is truly a manifestation of our emotional well-being. People who are fat, as I was, walk around wearing their extra pounds as a flashing neon sign to others, advertising their emotional problems. Our bodies are the best barometer we have of how well we are doing, mentally. I know this statement will upset a lot of people, but I posit that most of that upset comes from the discomfort of recognizing a difficult truth.
Christ. I hope her kid ends up okay, despite everything.
posted by Len at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Reformed feminist is bad at picking out assertive, independent males."

One mistake does not condemn all cowboys, gal.
posted by Twang at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2013


Amanda Marcotte on this whole thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:40 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am not a clinical social worker, psychiatrist, etc. and even if I were, I'm obviously in no position to confirm a diagnosis, but I admit I was wondering if she might have Borderline Personality Disorder. I note in the article that Emera Gratia links above that she states that she has a 'mood disorder', which BPD is most certainly not, it's (as the name states) a personality disorder and if not treated/managed does NOT bode well for her long term relationships in general.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2013


She's got a history of saying that she has different psychiatric disorders (apparently she had stated in a blog post that she had bipolar disorder, but then she recanted and deleted the blog post in question). Regardless of her actual diagnosis, I feel bad for her.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:58 PM on January 11, 2013


Whatever she's got going on, it's not an aura of My advice should be listened to and considered sound, and people should buy my books on that basis.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Way back when the only thing I knew about the book and the author was from Hanna Rosin's original review, when I got to the end of it, one of the commenters had included a link to a NY Post story saying that she and the cowboy had broken up. Even though the author seemed pretty annoying, I was so happy and sort of relieved. I thought it was because it made the book look like the piece of shit advice it is, but apparently it was like when an acquaintance tells you they've ended a bad relationship.

Like a lot of things, it was a lot more fun being smugly right when I didn't know the personal details.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


She's got a history of saying that she has different psychiatric disorders

I'm with BigHeartedGuy. I was also thinking BPD before Emera Gratia's comment. People with BPD are prone to intense relationships with few or no boundaries, followed by equally intense rejection or antipathy. Black and white, as she says. They're also prone to overdramatization and exaggeration, not out of a desire to deceive, but because their emotional world is truly one of extremes.

I was once close to someone very much like Alisa Valdes, complete with cowboy mythology. It was difficult, to put it mildly, though not without reward. BPD can be an unforgiving condition, both for patients and their loved ones. I hope Ms. Valdes gets the help she needs.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:25 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


In one of Irwin Yalom's psychotherapy textbooks he says his mentor told him there is only one way to deal with Borderline Personality Disorder patients, and that is to refer them to some other psychiatrist as quickly as possible.
posted by bukvich at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Exactly, Len! It's like she is incapable of understanding that the majority of fat people are not emotional eaters, and that the population of emotional eaters has roughly the same distribution among weight ranges as the overall population.

Because her sample size is always one.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:47 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It isn't unusual for people to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and then have that diagnosis revised to Borderline Personality Disorder, so her inconsistent statements about that, at least, may reflect an evolving diagnosis.

I know several people who have worked with her at different places and on different projects, and each of them found her very challenging to work with, to say the least.

The chick-lit stuff she was writing a while back was very well done, far superior to a lot of other books in the genre. My wish for her would be that she could find a way to do work that showcased her talents.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:53 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I liked the two books of hers I read back in the day, but hoo boy, would I not want to deal with her in real life now. And yeah, the topic of this one pisses me right off.

I am sorry she was abused--and am especially sorry that she apparently keeps being attracted to that. And that she's apparently quite mentally ill. But the more shenanigans I hear about her, the more I want to back away slowly. There's crazy as in mentally ill, and then there's crazy as in...uh, you think things that scare the shit out of me and don't seem right, and that second one is really uncomfortable. Damn, girl.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:05 PM on January 11, 2013


In one of Irwin Yalom's psychotherapy textbooks he says his mentor told him there is only one way to deal with Borderline Personality Disorder patients, and that is to refer them to some other psychiatrist as quickly as possible.

I don't want to pick on you, but this is a horrible statement, and one of the reasons I don't particularly care for Yalom.

In general, not only would I caution against diagnosis over the internet, and lay diagnosis, I'd also caution that Borderline Personality Disorder is overwhelming a diagnosis applied to women in what amounts to a sexist and derogatory way. It isn't that the diagnosis doesn't exist, there are certainly unstable extroverts aplenty among us, it's that the diagnosis has become synonymous with "crazy sexualized woman." Some of the traits that are present in people with Borderline Personality Disorder contribute to that kind of equivalence, but there are others, like the overwhelming prevalence of serious trauma among people so diagnosed, that suggest that the shorthand that the diagnosis represents is unjust and victim blaming. This prevalence is marked enough that some clinicians refer to Borderline as "complex PTSD." People with Borderline can be very tough to work with, but so can people with schizophrenia, and no one recommends running from them as if they were plague carriers.

Anyway, as much as this woman seems clueless, it's raising my clinical and feminist hackles to diagnose her in thread with Borderline.
posted by OmieWise at 4:18 PM on January 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


OmieWise, Ms. Valdes has stated that she has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in several articles, including the one Emera Gratia linked.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:31 PM on January 11, 2013


Ok. That wasn't how the diagnosis surfaced here, though, at least as I read it. That certainly changes things.
posted by OmieWise at 4:36 PM on January 11, 2013


Gawker e-mails her.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:46 PM on January 11, 2013


I am really sorry that this woman was abused, but holy cats, between her blog posts and her email interaction with the Gawker writer, she sounds completely unhinged.
posted by palomar at 5:30 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


griphus: The Salon article ends on what I can only describe as a horrifying note:


I don't want to horrify you further, griphus, but Alisa Valdes pretty much declares on her blog that her relationship with the Cowboy was a dress rehearsal for Real True Honest-to-God Pinky-Swear L-o-v-e Love:

The chemistry with Mike and me was instant, and much greater in depth than it had been with the cowboy. Where the cowboy had been somewhat exotic to me, Mike was from my own kind of background. The cowboy was exciting, like a dangerous ride at the amusement park, and he was addictive as a potent drug, but it was always work for us to communicate because we hailed from such drastically different backgrounds. Mike and I had almost everything in common in that regard, and communication and connection felt effortless. It was just incredibly easy — and yet he was every bit as hot and sexy as the cowboy. But the amazing part of it is that there were some differences that I know I would not have been able to accept before having met the cowboy and been “tamed” from my prior bitchy and controlling state. If I’d met Mike before I met the cowboy, it would never have worked. Now, however? Now I am convinced that God has actually delivered to me my actual soul mate. The rest of it was just necessary (and, yes, at times painful) preparation for meeting him.
posted by bakerina at 9:22 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok. That wasn't how the diagnosis surfaced here, though, at least as I read it.

I didn't bring it up until Emera Gratia pointed it out.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:54 PM on January 11, 2013


From that most recent blog post:
It can be hard as a person of faith to watch your most fervent and desperate prayers go unanswered. This, more than anything else perhaps, is what leads many people to doubt the existence of a loving God. “If there were a God,” many of us ask, “why would s/he ignore me like this?”
God answers every prayer. Sometimes the answer is "No."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:37 AM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


After reading all the links which have been posted along this thread, I end up with the impression, not of a sexually or otherwise submissive woman, one leaving an abusive relationship and casually entering a new one, or with mental health issues, whether it's bipolar disorder or BPD.
No, the impression I get is that of a waning, financially struggling author, trying to take advantage of every passing fad in the publishing world to sell books, and miserably failing at it.
Either that, or Charlize Theron's character in "Young Adult" was actually inspired by this lady.
posted by Skeptic at 2:30 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't bring it up until Emera Gratia pointed it out.

I think the speculation about borderline in the thread itself started with bigheartedguy.
posted by OmieWise at 1:20 PM on January 12, 2013


-God, I really don't want to defend Reagan, but I think he was depicted as a cowboy, aka, on a horse, because he owned a ranch. And rode a horse. A lot.

-True. It was Dubya who was "All hat, no cattle".


Actually, upon reflection, Reagan-as-Cowboy is its own ironic BS.

Reagan was an actor. He played cowboys on TV and in movies. It wasn't till much later in 1974 that the Reagans bought Rancho del Cielo.

So Reagan's swaggering, pseudo-John Wayne image (and the foreign policy associated with it) not only falls under not-a-compliment, it's based on artifice, illusion, and BS.

It was kind of tragic that Reagan believed his own cowboy hype.

It was utterly tragic that so much of America did.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:01 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So Reagan's swaggering, pseudo-John Wayne image (and the foreign policy associated with it) not only falls under not-a-compliment, it's based on artifice, illusion, and BS.

PBZM, I'd bet that you're familiar with Gil Scott Heron's "B Movie", but if you're not, then you're in for a treat.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:28 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reading these articles and the author's increasingly weird blog posts and email exchanges with journalists just makes me wistful for my dream of the day my publisher-prince will come and give me advance $$$ & publicity to write a book about my angsty-yet-privileged days spent working for low hourly wages to buy prescription cat food & not having sex with people and my nights spent reading free stuff on the Internet, i.e. Metafilter & classic novels & Avengers fanfic. Because no one would read this boring book (except my mom), but also in comparison to Alisa Valdes no one would read about me and get super depressed on my behalf, as I now have for her. I mean geeze, I really hope she has or will get some girlfriends with apartments where she can crash and hang out in sweatpants reading Sherlock Holmes with a cat in her lap and just be boring for a while.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:15 PM on January 17, 2013


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