Imagine being a young teenage girl in your very first relationship you text your significant other and tell them “Hey, just letting you know I’m going out with my friends tonight” or “Hey, I have that study group today. I will see you later.” Then as you enjoy whatever you’re doing you glance at your phone and notice a slew of missed calls and messages from your boyfriend thinking that the worst has happened; but as you check those voicemails and texts it’s just your significant other threatening to drag you out of where you are and to make a scene so everyone knows that you are taken and that no one is allowed to even look at you; because you belong to him, like some sort of property. So of course you don’t want any of that to happen, so you let him know that you are leaving early and will be with him as soon as possible; once you get to their place they right away yell at you and threaten that if you ever hang out with any of your friends again they will make sure that it will never see them again. Or if you ever go to that study group again with that one classmate they think clearly has a crush on you that that will be the end of your relationship and make you feel like you don’t deserve to be with him because all you want to do is cheat on him. You know what he is doing to you is wrong, but you don’t want to lose him; he has told you already that if you ever leave him no one else will want you and it must be true, since it took you a long time for him to notice you; clearly then no one else will want you. Is this a sign of a healthy relationship? An excellent example of how this isn’t, is from a poetry slam performance posted on YouTube called Exes performed by Mila Cuda and Jessica Romoff. These young women do an excellent job highlighting unhealthy teenage relationships during their three minute and forty seven second poem and how some girls think the wrong option is the only option.
The opening of the performance you see Romoff on the left and Cuda on the right back to back, both women at this point are playing a couple having an intense text message conversation that at first goes from love to loss. Romoff is playing as the girlfriend exclaiming how much she loves her boyfriend played by Cuda, slowly throughout the beginning of the text message performance the couple have a normal exchange of good morning texts and what they did the night before. Boyfriend “What did you do last night?” Girlfriend “Homework” Boyfriend “Why couldn’t you facetime?” (Cuda and Romoff) This is a great look into the boyfriend and how the relationship is starting to hint how it’s going to just be about him and not an equal one; meaning that instead of just asking his girlfriend how much homework she had or asking what subject it was on he just asked about himself and why she didn’t drop homework for him. Logically it gets people thinking about how is face timing more of a priority than her homework should be, another great example of building up the logical side of the boyfriends thought process is this conversation. Girlfriend “Hey! How’s your day been?” Boyfriend “Better if it was with you. How was school?” Girlfriend “Good. I got partnered up with my friend Jake for a Bio project” Boyfriend “Whose Jake?” (Cuda and Romoff) Again, another part of the text conversation where the boyfriend starts to slowly show his jealousy, logically the women of this performance want people to start thinking not how protective the boyfriend is by just making sure that Jake is a good guy but he wants to know if Jake is more than just a friend and he should not let his girlfriend be his bio partner at all. His jealousy and rage continue even more throughout the text message performance and how he sees his girlfriend as property and how she should be at his beck and call no matter what she is doing.
The emotion that this performance/ poem has is that it begins with a text message conversation and ends with a cell phone number that isn’t in-service anymore that alone has a powerful meaning that the girlfriend had enough of the abuse that he was putting her through; threatening to take the pills he promised to throw out just because her phone died as she was at school, he then asks and pressures her to send a nude once her phone is charged just so she can ‘make it up to him’ even though she is at dinner with her family. Then they get into an argument and the girlfriend exclaims that she feels pressured being in this relationship and what he is putting her through mentally and emotionally isn’t fair, that it’s not on her what he decides to think or feel and she shouldn’t have to change her life and do things she is not comfortable with just to make him happy and make the relationship grow. Then both Romoff and Cuda turn around and face the audience, as themselves and say one of the most powerful lines in the poem “There are teenage girls everywhere being taught that this is love. Love is not putting your partners’ stratification before your own safety. Love is not jealousy dressed as protection. Love is not confusing your body for his midnight snack. Love is not being forced into anything, even if he has you convinced that you want this.” (Cuda and Romoff) That line and more starts to make the audience feel for young women that have gone through or are still going through what they are talking about; getting deeper into the performance they start to give more examples of what they went through as well with their exes and their friends asking them why didn’t they just leave and get out of the relationship the answer to that question is “It is not easy to weed out the roots he planted in me, and I was captivated by the house he built for me.” (Cuda and Romoff) meaning that their exes as well mentally and emotionally buried them with negative thoughts and feelings that they accepted whatever positive gifts or feelings that he built and blinded them of the things they should’ve saw throughout their relationship. They have not only gotten into the emotions of the women in the audience but the men as well, if you notice some of the men behind them they are also having reactions of unbelief knowing that men actually put women through what they are talking about. Especially creating a story and examples to feed into the audience’s emotions and imaginations of the audience just so they can visualize what young women have gone through.
The credibility of Romoff and Cuda is useful because they are actually using examples of what they have been through in past relationships and demonstrating that what they went through should not be passed as a normal thing for young women to be put through. That young men should not think that they should treat women like an object that they can use and abuse a women like their property; by pressuring a woman to have sex or send nudes when she isn’t comfortable and says no, that they should take that as an answer and that be it. The tone of this performance is very serious since it is talking about a serious topic, this poem was performed at a poetry slam and was filmed and posted on YouTube, by doing some research on both Mila and Jessica’s Instagram pages they first performed this poem in August of 2016, the point of posting performances from this poetry slam was to show the overcoming of struggle and stereotype through expression and redemption. The style of the performance was first having the two women back to back indicating a text message conversation between a boyfriend and girlfriend, then once the conversation is done they face the audience and start their examples of what love should and shouldn’t be; also setting the color to black and white adds to the serious tone of the performance and the video.
In general, some teens will not even see any part of an abusive relationship when to them it is too late to get out if it “One way to recognize emotional abuse, or to recognize that there is a high probability that abuse may take place, is to look at warning signs… one specifically is personal degradation” (Francis and Pearson) many teens that they studied on during this article that I read did recognize this. Which is someone shaming another person knowing they are going to embarrass or get a rise out of the person they are trying to humiliate. Knowing that some teens already can see those warning signs but do not know how to go about getting out of the relationship. The direct logos is to get the audience to think not only about women who have been through abuse but to also take the knowledge from the performance and bring that with them into their relationships, the pathos is the emotions of the text message story and the examples the women use to explain what women go through in those relationships, lastly the ethos is the credibility of Romoff and Cuda and what they have been through and witnessed in their past relationships. Using their dark past with men and creating something so powerful and being strong in sharing those stories not only to an audience but to the whole world is brave and also bringing insight into such a dark topic and speaking on behalf of the young women that have and still are going through this abuse.
Get-Lit Words Ignite. “Mila Cuda & Jessica Romoff- Exes.” YouTube, 23 Aug. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MXRAZ4pjZo&feature=youtu.be
Francis, Lauren and Dominic Pearson. “The Recognition of Emotional Abuse: Adolescents’ Responses to Warning Signs in Romantic Relationships.” Journal of interpersonal violence (2019) https://researchportal.port.ac.uk/portal/files/14080184/The_Recognition_of_Emotional_Abuse_in_Adolescents_POST_PRINT.pdf