The Cancellation of Gina Carano

I really enjoyed The Mandalorian, it’s a very well made production, actually, I think I prefer it to the Star Wars films (don’t shoot me, unless you’re a Storm Trooper, in which case, fire away, you’ll never hit me anyway!). I think there’s still a long way to go, but it was great to see a strong woman character in a prominent role, the character of Cara Dune, played by Gina Carano.

There’s been a bit of a dilemma I’ve considered for many years now, which is around separating the art, from the artist. For the most part, I can still enjoy, for example, certain pieces of music, written or performed by people who have expressed opinions or done things that I don’t agree with, or even that I’m fundamentally against. Although I can still enjoy what someone does, without agreeing with what they say or do, I think it’d be fair to say, that it does change my relationship with the art. It may be, that my enjoyment is interrupted by my thoughts and feelings associated with the artist, at worst, those feelings could be bad enough, to make me not want to have anything to do with the art anymore.

Around the time of the end of the second season of The Mandalorian, I became more aware of Gina Carano, and sadly, I was disappointed in what I was hearing. It seems some of Gina’s comments, mainly on social media, had a strong emotional effect on some people. I hadn’t really looked into them in depth, the gist of it was that Gina is quite conservative, there were accusations eluding to her being the kind of person who has strong views, possibly against people having to wear masks during the Covid Pandemic. I think the thing that caught my eye, was that something she’d written, or done, was considered by some, to be transphobia. It seemed fairly straight forward. From what I understand, Gina felt she was being pressurised into putting her gender pronouns on her social media profile. I think people, even cis gender people, making their pronouns known, is a good thing, it helps those of us who are non-binary, or transgender and so forth, feel more accepted. However, I think it’s up to individuals if they wish to show their pronouns, and certainly, I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone to feel like they are being pressurised into it. I don’t know the details of what happened, Gina’s feelings are important, so are the feelings of those who feel marginalised.

There are differences of opinion, but all opinions are valid, whether I agree with them or not. Someone holding an opinion that I disagree with, is not a problem in itself, people have a right to freedom of thought. People have a right to freedom of expression too, but one of the problems I see increasingly, that goes along with the notion of freedom of expression, is the way some people, seem to act on those opinions, as if they are entitled to use their freedom of expression, without considering the consequences.

For me, I think consequences of freedom of expression, is mainly about relationships, how we relate to each other. Perhaps every set of interactions we have with another person, or people, is a relationship. I think that the healthier our interactions are with each other, the healthier those relationships are. The healthier the relationship, the better the connection, regardless of differences of opinion. A better connection, means greater empathy with each other, and empathy, I think, is crucial to resolving conflict.

Having empathy for someone, doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with someone. I see empathy as a skill, it can be learnt, it can be switched on, or switched off. I think people in general, perhaps more so in modern society, switch empathy off, often. I think this happens in part to protect ourselves from our own feelings, because sometimes, having empathy for someone else, can result in exposing our own feelings about ourselves and the world around us, this can be painful. Maybe it’s not just empathy though, compassion, having it, and showing it, is important.

There are things that perhaps we all do sometimes, which helps to switch off our empathy and compassion, ultimately, to protect ourselves, even to make it easier to use offence, as a defense. If we switch off empathy in a situation of conflict, it can make it seem easier, emotionally, to fight back against a perceived threat.

One ‘tool’ some people use, to switch off empathy and compassion, is humour. In particular, humour that could be perceived as passive aggression. This leads me back to Gina Carano. It may be, that there were people who felt attacked by something that Gina had written in response to a suggestion around displaying her pronouns. I’m not commenting on whether or not anyone was actually attacked, more the perception. Perhaps people who were interacting with her, had switched off empathy, assumed she was inherently ‘wrong’. What I think I do know though, is that Gina Carano’s response, was to display joke pronouns on her profile. Obviously, with something like that, there’s no explicit reason given for it, but I think Gina herself said it was just humour, in relation to feeling pressurised into displaying her pronouns. I am not so sure it was just humour though, sure it was funny, but I doubt the intention behind it, was simply to make people laugh. Instead, I suspect, this seemingly small act, this piece of humour, was passive aggression, directed at those who she felt were pressurising her. I could of course, shrug it off, on its own, it’s not a big deal.

I think often, particularly in social media arguments, there’s a kind of contextual isolation that happens, probably as a form of defense. What I often think I see, are people isolating comments, quotes, from wider context. A piece of writing by someone, can be broken down, even sentence by sentence, and then in doing so, a single sentence can be pointed at, fixated on. By isolating only part of the argument, that part of the argument, may seem harmless on it’s own. The statement might be a truth. Then some people might apply a fallacy to this, which is that because this one piece of writing is true, or just seemingly harmless, it in someway invalidates the arguments of others, and in turn this can diminish the feelings of others, who see the wider context.

In the case of Gina Carano, it may have been a small piece of passive aggression, manifested in humour. This can be pointed out, and people can be told “look, it was just a joke, it’s harmless”. Maybe Gina felt overwhelmed, angry (this is not wrong, it just is), and she simply reacted in a way that she’s learnt to react. If that’s the case, at the point at which she did what she did, she probably had empathy and compassion, switched off, she may even have known this, and felt justified, because she felt under attack. Was it a healthy thing to do though? I think probably not. Who wants conflict? In the heat of the moment, a quip, a piece of passive aggression, can be the go to thing, it’s easy to do, and we might tell ourselves “I don’t give a shit what they think”. What’s the most likely result though? If Gina had paused for a moment, grounded her feelings, she may have still thought that she has a right to freedom to expression, and indeed, she has, but what about the consequences of exercising it? Even if she still concluded that she doesn’t care about the people the passive aggression might be aimed at, would it still be a healthy thing to do? I think not, and the reason I think that, is because it probably wouldn’t be exercising self care. It might make her feel ‘good’ for a while, ha, she sure showed those idiots, but it was never likely to resolve the conflict, in an unwinnable fight. She threw a punch, maybe a good punch, but one that had the effect of getting punched back even more, because the result of her seemingly harmless bit of humour, was that she was perceived as being transphobic.

Ah, but, of course! Gina wasn’t responsible for what happened next, right? She was just exercising her freedom of expression, that’s more important than anything else? It was justified? She was under attack. If people respond badly to a bit of humour, that’s their problem?

Gina thinks she’s being punched, she punches back, she’s a better fighter, she has to win. Except this is not a fist fight, and it’s probably not a fight that is winnable. It’s a conflict of opinions, in a relationship, between strangers, with little or no connection, no empathy, no compassion for each other. The conflict is probably unwinnable, simply because its a conflict of opinions, either side could declare themselves the winner at any point, but the fighters will either just get fed up, and walk away with a false sense of achievement, or feeling like it was utterly pointless, or it’ll just keep going with no end. Really, perhaps the goal here is not for a side to win, but for both sides to find a way, to stop punching each other, and effectively hurting each other. It probably needs to be up to the individuals involved, to change what they are doing, rather than expecting the other side to change, or trying to force them to change. This may mean, that one or both sides, might have to do something that they might feel, is making a concession, or even showing weakness. It might even be, in my fight analogy, that someone has to in effect, drop their guard, and just allow the other side to throw their punches. This is fine though, because, it’s not a real fight, no-one is getting physically hurt.

In the case of Gina Carano vs The Pronoun Warriors, perhaps Gina was driven to punch back, because she though she had a right to. She also had a right to choose not to fight back though. Then again, I suspect fighting isn’t all about hitting your opponent until they fall over, anyway.

Gina could have just walked away, but then, I suspect, that didn’t seem like an option, maybe because she was stuck in the fight, not seeing that it wasn’t a real one, one that is truly winnable, with structure and rules that are set out beforehand, and maybe because she felt she was justified in using her freedom of expression, however she wanted to, regardless of consequences. Unless you really enjoy the thought of potentially spending months or even years, stuck in an annoying, unwinnable situation, continuing with the same tactic, doesn’t seem appropriate. Maybe it’s not a case of enjoying it, maybe the fight is a distraction. When we’re fighting, we’re focused on the fight, not on other stuff, such as messy, painful feelings, perhaps about other things that are going on or have happened in our lives. So in that respect, it’s potentially a form of avoidance behaviour. You probably can’t avoid yourself forever though, and the older you get, the more you fight, and the less you’re dealing with things that are more important. As time goes by, it can be more and more difficult, to get out of the fight, and most of the time, you’re probably fighting yourself.

There may have been another option. Being assertive. It’s okay to be annoyed, or angry. Gina may well have been justified in feeling whatever it is she felt. If the subject causing these feelings, is important enough, it may not be healthy to be passive about it (although, there may be a better outlet for feelings about it). If we’re passive, emotions such as anger can manifest themselves somewhere else, unhealthily. Passive aggression is one way in which normally being passive, or feeling like you don’t have a voice, manifests itself. My point, so far, has been that I don’t think passive aggression is a good way of getting yourself heard, respected, or your beliefs accepted. Instead, it’s likely to push people further away, and to push someone further away from themselves.

Assertive Communication, involves communicating your thoughts and feelings, in a way that is empowering for you, and respects the opinions of others, even if you disagree with them. All opinions are considered valid, there’s no right or wrong opinion, these are opinions, thoughts, feelings, ideas. We may disagree intensely with someone else’s opinion, their opinion might even seem abhorrent to us, but it’s still a opinion that is valid. Crucially perhaps, whilst being passive may not be a good option, being aggressive, in a situation where there’s no physical threat in particular, is also generally not a good option either. Probably immediately, the most important thing to do is to walk away, or just pause. Clear your head, then be aware of your emotions, but bring them down to a level where they are not in control of your actions. If you then wish to continue to make your point, the best option, is could be to do so assertively. That can be hard, because it means you’ve got to change the way you do things, which probably means accepting that you can’t make other people change, at least not directly, through aggressive communication. Once you’ve let go of the unhealthy defenses, and of the overwhelming emotions, you are free. Once you are free, you may start to be more aware of yourself, as a whole, also more aware of those around you, including those who may be trying to fight you still. Things that people say or do, can still hurt, be aware of the pain, consider why you’re feeling it. Is the pain really a direct result of the immediate situation, or might it be a manifestation of something that has happened in your life before? If it is the latter, then remind yourself that you are not there anymore, you are safe. You have your freedom of expression still, but you are also now in control, you can choose how you use that freedom to get the healthiest result. Understanding that perhaps your perceived opponent, although you disagree with them, may actually have plenty in common with you, they may be stuck in the same place you were stuck in. Listening is very useful. What you may find then, is that things that seemed like a personal attack on you previously, actually weren’t really about you. Asking questions can be good, it can not only reveal useful information, but it can also cause the other person to slow down, and think. By being interested in the other person’s opinion, even if you think you don’t agree with it, it can have the effect of the other person, feeling valid. It’s possible that what they say may irritate you, but the content of what they are saying, is only part of the importance of it. From here, it’s possible that dialogue begins, and from that dialogue, both sides, can connect, particularly if you guide the conversation more toward things you might have in common.

After a while, it’s just possible, that what seemed like an endless fight to the death, becomes two people, or more, having a conversation. The conversation can still be feature a disagreement of opinion, it may still never on the whole, be resolved with all people in agreement (it might though!) but importantly, it won’t be so distressing, it’ll be on more common ground, understanding, and can lead to peace.

The Bottom Line

One of the psychological concepts I started to learn about as member of a Therapeutic Community for people like me, those with Personality Disorders or similar traits, is that of the “Bottom Line” . My understanding of my Bottom Line is that it’s the way I feel about myself by default, my Bottom Line consists of my basic feelings of self worth. These feelings about how I value myself, normally reside in my subconscious, they were probably formed mainly out of early experience either before I had language or enough language to be able to think about them. Since I had never thought about my Bottom Line, I had never really been aware of it and because I’ve never been aware of it, it’s just been something that is part of me and happens to me. This might be alright, if my Bottom Line was positive, reinforcing and self validating.

Another idea I’ve learnt on my journey, is that children have some basic “Relational Needs”, there are some more obvious needs, such as having Stability and Security, then there are things like the need to show love and have it accepted and the need to feel validated. How these needs are met (or not met) in early childhood, form the basis of how we react to the world through the course of our lives.

What’s my Bottom Line?

I think that my Bottom Line goes something like “I am unacceptable”, “I am wrong”.

I’m just going to note that the moment I wrote those words, I experienced what I think is anxiety, I can even feel a physical reaction happening, I feel shaky, my hands and feet are tingling, I am on edge and I want to stop writing. I think it’s possible that just writing about my Bottom Line, is triggering my Bottom Line. My Bottom Line is pervasive.

When I started writing this blog post, I rewrote the first few lines several times, because my Bottom Line says that I am unacceptable, whatever I write is going to be unacceptable, not good enough. Even worse, I think my reaction to my Bottom Line has stopped me from having a blog at all because it’s going to be full of things I write and anything I write will be unacceptable. When I talk, I feel what I’m saying is unacceptable and often I search for validation for people around me. It’s really nice when other people tell me that I am acceptable, it makes a big difference to me but my Bottom Line is so strong it still tends to supersede any external validation that I receive. I think what’s happening here is the interaction between how I feel about myself by default and how I hold in mind my relationships with people around me. My earliest relationships, with parents and family, were disrupted and not only has that made my Bottom Line negative it has also undermined my trust in those close to me, actually, everyone, including myself. No one, not even I can be trusted. I am unacceptable and everyone else can’t be trusted because I feel they are going to abandon me. The closer I get to someone, the more I fear being rejected and all the while, my Bottom Line is telling me I am unacceptable therefore the things I do and say are going to be wrong and make people reject me. This is a frightening, vulnerable, stuck position to be in.

I’m pausing now, to be aware of my emotions, because right now I’m getting so anxious my ability to think and type has become severely disrupted. I am ok, it’ll pass. Rather than continuing to write, I’m going to take a break and ground myself before continuing.

Re-reading my words above, about not being able to trust anyone, which I wrote quite some time ago now, I now feel I was being particularly harsh on myself, and those close to me. I know that it is simply not true that no one can be trusted. I have a best friend that I trust completely. My best friend is actually very similar to me, so I also know that I can indeed, trust myself! It’s just more difficult for me to trust people, than it may be for others. The more I connect with someone, there may be more risk, but there comes a point at which I feel connected enough, listened to, understood enough, and after that point, trust kicks in, and generally, I think it remains.

The Foundation Of The Bottom Line

Where does my Bottom Line come from? I have mentioned about early experience and feelings of rejection but the answer is more complex. I think my Bottom Line developed initially from a very young age, if I was to pinpoint that age, I’d say it was around the age of 3. Seemingly simple things can have very profound and lasting effects on children, in my case I think there are 2 (possibly related) issues I faced as a 3 year, that have left me with the Bottom Line of feeling unacceptable.

One of those issues I’m going to highlight is my habits around eating (possibly now recognised as an eating disorder). Certainly it’s not uncommon for children to develop a disliking for certain foods, there’s a classic “eat your greens” scenario which I know many people will have experienced. When I was about 3 years old, it seems, very quickly that I started to reject certain foods, mostly vegetables. That rejection at its most extreme, meant retching at the dinner table in front of everyone and crying. The reaction to this, by young parents from a traditional working class background where money and food is scarce, was, I think, anger and aggressive communication (or even behaviour in the act of trying to physically force me to eat the food). What I don’t think I got was acknowledgement and understanding of why I was like this but then, it’s difficult to do so with a 3 year old who doesn’t have the language to comprehend what’s happening to them, let alone explain it. My thoughts on this now is that if a child goes through this, the healthiest thing is to accept it’s happening, give them a comfort zone, show them love and care then introduce the foods bit by bit. In hindsight, I think the reason for my rejection of the food, initially, was simply down to smell, taste and texture, something about those foods was too intense for me. I have considered the possibility of autism here because it fits but it’s difficult to say for sure. I didn’t get comfort and care around my eating habits, I felt powerless over myself and I was in full view of everyone. The reactions of my parents, family members and others I think had the effect of making feel I was wrong, eating the food is normal, I should be able to do it, whether I like it or not I must eat, I should eat it, my parents have worked hard to provide the food that I’m refusing to eat, they may not like it either, I should eat it too, so “get it down you”. I think my parents may have felt invalidated themselves, as it seemed like I was rejecting their care.

The result of all of this trauma around food was that I feared eating meals and I felt unacceptable and wrong (my Bottom Line). Whenever I knew a meal was coming up, I became very afraid, defensive and/or withdrawn. I also felt I had no power at all, it was inevitable and of course my behaviour around eating would add to the experience being traumatic when the inevitable happened. I felt trapped by doing something fundamental to my wellbeing and by people who were responsible for me, the most important people to me who were supposed to be there to care for me but were instead trying to make me do something that traumatised me. Another result of all of this was that I would fear eating around anyone because the trauma around food would happen, for example, when I visited friends and ate there. My mum started explaining to people that I don’t eat vegetables, which made me feel worse, I was being singled out, I was a ‘freak’ who should just get over it and get on with it. The result of feeling like a freak was to withdraw even more.

Another thing that probably contributed to my Bottom Line, is that as a child, sometimes I would talk, a lot (other times I would not talk much at all and be completely withdrawn). So, me talking a lot is not in itself, a problem, but the way some people reacted to their annoyance at me talking a lot, probably was.

This is still the case now, but it’s got better, and still is getting better. It happens a lot with my writing, and with the rise of the Internet, and messaging people becoming more popular, it’s a bit of a minefield. I get very interested in subjects, my thoughts and feelings can flow out so fast my fingers can’t even cope with it, and I can miss out entire words, sometimes changing the point of what I’ve written. I can write a lot, and I think sometimes this can be overwhelming for people. Then when I read it back, my bottom line kicks off at me, suggesting that I may have even ruined an entire relationship simply by writing so much.

A specific incident around me talking a lot, one that really sticks in my mind was during a lesson at school (possibly an English lesson). It’s very simple, I was talking a lot, I’m sure it was disruptive to the class, I accept this. The issue was the reaction of the teacher, I think his name was Mr. England.

So there I was, perhaps 12 or 13, talking (but not necessarily saying anything ‘wrong’ as such), then, the teacher picked up a roll of gaffer tape, and proceeded to gag me with it by wrapping it around my head, covering my mouth so I couldn’t speak. I think the rest of the class were either silent or laughed, adding to me feeling invalidated, just for being me.

Rules For Living

Over the course of my childhood I think there were many things that forged and reinforced my Bottom Line of feeling unacceptable and wrong. From a very early age, actually my most immediate reaction was not only to withdraw internally but to physically isolate myself. I remember (looking back now) that I felt lonely and depressed. When staying with my grandparents I remember spending time on my own in the old coal outhouse or shed, in a dark mood. I know my moods were something people noticed because, for example, I once overheard a grandparent talking to my Mum saying that I was quite a “morose” child, this is quite something to say about a small child. I am not even sure I knew what this word, “morose”, meant, but I kind of instinctively know from the tone of the conversation. Although at other times I was hyperactive and talked lots, very fast. I used to walk out of school, one time I remember most of the class chasing me down the corridor because I had felt powerless, unacceptable and running away was the only means of control I had. I used to go and hang around in the subway that was used for the local car factory, on my own, feeling lonely, isolated and unwanted but also ashamed of myself and afraid of the repercussions from my actions. By the time I was a teenager, I ate poorly and mostly on my own, I would get my dinner and then go up to my room to eat it alone. Once I started spending less time at home (from the age of 15) I simply would not eat properly, I would binge drink alcohol, walk very fast from one part of my city to another, on the way I’d stop at small shops, I’d buy chocolates and packets of biscuits and I would binge eat. I didn’t tend to make myself vomit, I just kept eating, for example, I could eat 2 whole packets of chocolate biscuits to myself, feel ill, rest then keep going. I think my metabolism must have been very active, possibly a combination of walking a lot and stress, plus just how I’m built, so I didn’t put on weight, even though I was stuffing myself with sugary products, I lost weight. I was pale, very thin and experiencing a lot of anxiety, including about how I looked. Later on in life but actually not that much later, when I was 18, I met the person who would become my girlfriend for 22 years, she introduced some new foods to me, I trusted her like I’d never trusted anyone and I began eating more healthily, although she’d often spot that I hadn’t eaten for a long time. After 22 years that relationship ended and I realised just how dependent on her I had been because I felt myself slipping back into old habits, I just don’t want to cook food for myself, I don’t want to care for myself because I am not worth it and this is not how my life is, I forget about eating unless it’s eating something quick that reminds me of a place of comfort. I have made progress though, partly as a result of being in a Therapeutic Community where once a week, 3 of us would cook for everyone. I have been on holiday to Cyprus where I decided I would try to let go and eat things I wouldn’t normally eat and it was ok, I didn’t necessarily enjoy everything but I tried and nothing bad happened, I felt safe and I felt I had power for deciding, relatively quietly, without fuss, to do it. I think I did this because I wanted to be loved, rather than doing it for myself though. I think I may have made so little fuss about it, that people around me have barely noticed I’ve had such a problem with food. I have learnt to be good at covering these things up though, and employing what my care coordinator later described as “sophisticated defences”.

I think the things I’ve talked about above, the things I’ve done, such as isolating myself, are what are sometimes called “Rules For Living”. They are a reaction to the threat of my Bottom Line being triggered (AKA “Trigger Situations”). The Rules For Living that are based on a Bottom Line of “I am unacceptable” tend to be unhealthy themselves though, it’s poor risk assessment and management because 3 year olds (or even some 18 year olds) don’t have the language to develop good healthy reactions to things going wrong.

My Bottom Line still exists, it’s very strong, it’s right here now but something very profoundly different is happening and it’s happening simply because I’m aware of my Bottom Line. Instead of being ruled by my Rules For Living, I now have the language and thought to be aware of my emotions and work out how to rewrite, remove, replace or simply manage that feeling of being unacceptable. Key to this and to probably all of my psychological issues, is having compassion for myself, having compassion for that 3 year old, I was never wrong, I was never unacceptable, I am valid. The struggle here is that my Bottom Line doesn’t want me to believe any of that. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely free from this but what I do know is that I have changed for the better and I can function better than ever.