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A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not "Crazy"
September 14, 2011 10:09 PM   Subscribe

A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not "Crazy"
posted by SkylitDrawl (247 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it really "Gaslighting" to tell someone to calm down? I think it's kind of preposterous to assume that no one (male or female) ever overreacts or needs to be told to calm down or relax.
posted by delmoi at 10:15 PM on September 14, 2011 [22 favorites]


I'll just note that the term "gaslighting" has a completely incorrect etymology at Urban Dictionary: Some believe this terminology roots back to the operation of a gas lantern and how it can be turned down in an instant as not to waste fuel (i.e. a persons time) and then turned back up once there is insufficient natural light (i.e. there’s no one else to hang with).
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:17 PM on September 14, 2011


Protip: jerk behavior is not a "gender" issue. Some people are just assholes.

However, if you have such poor "jerk-dar" you can't tell bad people from good... you're probably going to have some interpersonal problems throughout your life.
posted by hincandenza at 10:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Doesn't the whole article beg the question?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:20 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The film "Gaslight", portrays a malevolent husband who systematically tries to destroy his wife's confidence in her own sense of reality and her own decisions. I think that's the point, it's not just about telling someone to calm down.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:21 PM on September 14, 2011 [20 favorites]


Doesn't the whole article beg the question?

Yes.
posted by FormlessOne at 10:21 PM on September 14, 2011


I, for one, am confident this will go well.
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 10:23 PM on September 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


did those lights just flicker?
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 10:23 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gaslighting has some similarity to the logical fallacy of appeal to ridicule, and as such is not a purely gender issue.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:24 PM on September 14, 2011


I could be mistaken, but last I checked both genders were subject to frequent irrational outpourings of emotions due to unchecked imbalances of both neurohormones and regular everyday hormones. Most people, particularly and especially myself, have difficulty noticing when they are so afflicted - pointing it out to them (particularly and especially me) is doing everybody a favor.
posted by Ryvar at 10:26 PM on September 14, 2011


Hm. The way I remember it, Charles Boyer wasn't deliberately making the lights flicker as part of his plot to make Ingrid Bergman think she was insane, like the article says. It was the other way around: the flickering lights were an accidental consequence of him turning on the lights in another room to search for the jewels. But since he was already trying to make her think she was insane, he took advantage of this to make her doubt her own senses about the lights. Which is, come to think of it, a better model of the "gaslighting" described in the article anyway: a long-term strategy of maintaining power over someone that also provides cover from incedental faults.
posted by baf at 10:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Abbie thinks her boss is just being a jerk in these moments, but the truth is, he is making those comments to manipulate her into thinking her reactions are out of whack."

Um, how does the author know?
posted by vidur at 10:28 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this guy for real?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:32 PM on September 14, 2011


I think manipulation implies a conscious effort or intention to control on the part of the manipulator. This article is obnoxious.
posted by fightoplankton at 10:33 PM on September 14, 2011


A Message to Men From Another Man: If you don't feel this article is representative of your experience, it likely isn't. Good for you and better for those in your life. That's no reason to dismiss it out of hand or take it as an attck on all men. Think before you comment -- there's no reason to act so hysterical.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:35 PM on September 14, 2011 [71 favorites]


Guys, y'all are totally overreacting to the article. Calm down and stop being so hysterical.
posted by kmz at 10:36 PM on September 14, 2011 [30 favorites]


This article is obnoxious.
I think you're overreacting.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:36 PM on September 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Aren't we all at least a little bit crazy?
posted by b1tr0t at 10:40 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not "Crazy"

A group of us, men and women, have come to a mutual understanding that we can all agree on, that helps us through the mutual frustrations and misunderstandings:

All women are crazy. All men are dumb.

If you're a guy dating a girl, she's going to react to certain things in ways that seem crazy. If you're a girl dating a guy, he's going to react (or be oblivious to) certain things in ways that seem really dumb.

It's going to happen. Accept it and keep going. :-)
(II can't recall if we've talked about it with bi or gay peeps, I think this will have to happen)

Clearly this guy isn't part of our group :)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


from the article: A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation—pure and simple.

and: I don’t think this idea that women are “crazy,” is based in some sort of massive conspiracy. Rather, I believe it’s connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis.

I've experienced this twice in the past two days, from two different individuals. Both people, when called out on bad behavior, did exactly these things. Shut me down with ad hominems, called me names, called me crazy. It's like there's a script out there that certain personality types like to use. I'm sure it's not limited to men, but I have yet to experience this from another woman.
posted by palomar at 10:50 PM on September 14, 2011 [27 favorites]


delmoi: “Is it really ‘Gaslighting’ to tell someone to calm down? I think it's kind of preposterous to assume that no one (male or female) ever overreacts or needs to be told to calm down or relax.”

Yes, it's gaslighting. Demanding that someone relax, telling them to calm down, invariably has the opposite effect. If you want someone to relax or calm down, you don't tell them to. That's not really how human interaction works.

That is: the main reason anyone has to say "calm down!" or "relax!" in a tense intimate setting is to underline that the other person is agitated or upset.

fightoplankton: “I think manipulation implies a conscious effort or intention to control on the part of the manipulator. This article is obnoxious.”

Manipulation is hardly ever conscious, actually. If evil were that easy, everyone would be good; but the truth is that manipulation is a lifelong habit most people learn from their parents when they're very young, and just think of as natural.

In fact, this article is very, very good. It describes with crystal clarity a problem I see all around me in the interactions between men and women. And while it isn't exclusively one way – I have been on the receiving end of this from a past partner, for example – it's largely something that is targeted at women by men who might not realize what they're doing, but who are being manipulative nonetheless.

I don't know why you find it obnoxious that people point this out. It's only an attempt to make things clear, and thereby to make things a little better, a little easier to bear.
posted by koeselitz at 10:51 PM on September 14, 2011 [73 favorites]


kmz: “Guys, y'all are totally overreacting to the article. Calm down and stop being so hysterical.”

I'm totally with you on disagreeing with lots of the people who prickle at reading something critical like this, but I really, really don't think the tactic of "turning it around and seeing how they like it" is constructive.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


What if you do interact with people who are actually mentally ill? And what if you are just as 'crazy', anxious, and irrational as the people you interact with?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:53 PM on September 14, 2011


That said, I do see 'crazy' applied disproportionately to women as a way to dismiss them.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: “What if you do interact with people who are actually mentally ill? And what if you are just as 'crazy', anxious, and irrational as the people you interact with?”

If you interact with "crazy" people, then you still shouldn't high-handedly demand that they calm down and drill the "you're being crazy, you're overreacting" narrative into them. You'll notice this is emphatically not how psychiatric professionals talk to crazy people. But this should be obvious. Is this an honest question?
posted by koeselitz at 10:56 PM on September 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


Demanding that someone relax, telling them to calm down, invariably has the opposite effect.

On the other hand, telling someone to calm down can be just as instinctive a reaction to triggers as is someone becoming irrationally anxious or upset. So telling someone to calm down is no more inherently gaslighting than is becoming overly upset or anxious in the first place.
posted by Justinian at 11:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Something about that article made me very angry.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 11:02 PM on September 14, 2011


But don't tell me I'm overreacting because I don't like being manipulated.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 11:04 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Crazy.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:04 PM on September 14, 2011


To me, the elephant in the room of this article is that often when someone says "you're over-reacting", it's because the reaction being commented on really genuinely does seem to them to be an over-reaction.

There's definitely work to be done in the area of non-genuine comments, and maybe I hang with a different crowd, but I'm thinking he and I have different ideas about how many of these feelings are genuine.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:04 PM on September 14, 2011


-harlequin-: “To me, the elephant in the room of this article is that often when someone says "you're over-reacting", it's because the reaction being commented on really genuinely does seem to them to be an over-reaction. There's definitely work to be done in the area of non-genuine comments, and maybe I hang with a different crowd, but I'm thinking he and I have different ideas about how many of these feelings are genuine.”

It's funny to me, the people seem to assume that, when you're being manipulative, the feelings you have aren't "genuine." I've had arguments where I said "I think you're being crazy" because I genuinely thought the other person was crazy. But that's still a manipulative thing to say – even if I don't realize it or don't intend it to be manipulative.

Michael Pemulis: “Something about that article made me very angry.”

Maybe I'm out of line in saying this, but I think this article is uncomfortable for a lot of people because they read it as a list of accusations against anyone who's ever used the phrase "calm down." I think it would help if people read it more as a clinical discussion of what's going on in certain kinds of interactions. It's not meant to be an indictment of men as a gender; it's a description of a trend, no more and no less. And if we tackle it head-on, without taking it personally, we can either (a) decide it's not correct and be okay with that, or (b) realize the author has a point and try to make things better.
posted by koeselitz at 11:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm totally with you on disagreeing with lots of the people who prickle at reading something critical like this, but I really, really don't think the tactic of "turning it around and seeing how they like it" is constructive.

You're right, and I usually avoid that stuff myself, but I couldn't resist this time for some reason. Sorry y'all, I was a bit obnoxious.
posted by kmz at 11:11 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


me: “Demanding that someone relax, telling them to calm down, invariably has the opposite effect.”

Justinian: “On the other hand, telling someone to calm down can be just as instinctive a reaction to triggers as is someone becoming irrationally anxious or upset. So telling someone to calm down is no more inherently gaslighting than is becoming overly upset or anxious in the first place.”

But that doesn't mean it's not gaslighting. As the author noted, almost all manipulative behavior, as it occurs in the world, is not conscious or intentional. It's a learned response, an "instinctive reaction" as you call it. That doesn't mean it's not manipulative.

I think we tend to want to believe that "being manipulative" is inherently intentional because we'd like to think that all moral questions are simply matters of decision, rather than unconscious habit. But the psychology of human interaction presents us with this fact – lots of times, a person learns habits that are manipulative of other people without realizing it. The process of self-observation and self-knowledge isn't an easy one, but it's the only way to avoid these kinds of unconscious errors, I think.

This is not to say that I'm immune. I think every single woman I've ever dated has heard "you're being crazy" or "you need to calm down" come out of my mouth. That's one reason this piece was so chilling – because it lays bare something that I think is remarkably ubiquitous and yet almost invisible to most of us.
posted by koeselitz at 11:16 PM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yes, it's gaslighting. Demanding that someone relax, telling them to calm down, invariably has the opposite effect.


No it doesn't. It sometimes works on me, for example, and I've seen it work on others too. It depends on context -- OK, you have a point but let's calm down so we can talk it over is a very different message from calm down because you're crazy or calm down so I can tell you why you're stupid and overreacting. Of course it's also true that everyone can get to the point of emotional intensity that no "calm down' message will work, and for some types it *never* works.
posted by zipadee at 11:20 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Always remember: People are as sane as they need to be.
posted by effugas at 11:20 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


It isn't really useful to generalize so broadly about relations between the sexes. I do think the article describes something that is quite real, a classic passive-aggressive assault. Of course, there really is the occasional crazy women out there, and sometimes people do overreact, so, yeah, limited value.
posted by Edgewise at 11:21 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's funny to me, the people seem to assume that, when you're being manipulative, the feelings you have aren't "genuine." I've had arguments where I said "I think you're being crazy" because I genuinely thought the other person was crazy. But that's still a manipulative thing to say – even if I don't realize it or don't intend it to be manipulative.

I'll grant you that, but at that point, I stop seeing "manipulative" as necessarily implying "wrong".
Every interaction we have with people affects them (and us), life is manipulative in that sense, and it should be.
I tend accept the idea that men and women process some things differently (whether this is nature or nurture I wouldn't know), and where those approaches butt heads, manipulating each other into a kind of mutually-semi-accessible middle ground seems like a practical solution.

If you do something that 25% of the people around you genuinely think is crazy, it's not clear to me that you are gaining anything by not being aware of this disconnect, when you have to continue to interact with those people productively in the future.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:23 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


But that doesn't mean it's not gaslighting.

Yes it does. "Gaslighting" implies a cold-blooded, manipulative attempt to undermine a person's self-confidence, not a reflexive and self-defensive plea to "calm down!" because you're generally uncomfortable with another person's agitation. Didn't you see the movie?
posted by zipadee at 11:24 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


The important thing is it's only gaslighting when other people do it.
posted by michaelh at 11:28 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't know what you're all on about, but I think this article has a lot of valid, reasonable points. Anyone who pays the least bit of attention to how men treat women knows that it's bullshit -- men can be just as moody without having the same condescending reaction that a woman can have. There's an automatic understanding if it's a man and an immediate dismissal if it's a woman.
posted by spiderskull at 11:28 PM on September 14, 2011 [21 favorites]


I didn't see the lights flickering.
posted by benzenedream at 11:33 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The real problem with gaslighting is it sometimes burns the seat of your pants.
posted by brain_drain at 11:37 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Instead of telling someone to calm down, I find it more helpful to include myself, like, "We're both pretty fired up, let's take a step back for a second and regroup." Or "Let's both calm down." Different scenarios call for different language, but you get the drift.
posted by palomar at 11:41 PM on September 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


me: “It's funny to me, the people seem to assume that, when you're being manipulative, the feelings you have aren't "genuine." I've had arguments where I said "I think you're being crazy" because I genuinely thought the other person was crazy. But that's still a manipulative thing to say – even if I don't realize it or don't intend it to be manipulative.”

-harlequin-: “I'll grant you that, but at that point, I stop seeing "manipulative" as necessarily implying "wrong".”

I would suggest that that's because you and I have different ideas of what "wrong" means. You seem to think (from the way you say it) that "wrong" means "an intentional sin which should be exposed and punished," or something like that, whereas I'm talking about something more along the lines of "an unhealthy dynamic that hurts everyone more than it helps them."

And manipulation does hurt everyone more than it helps. It makes the basis of our actions a kind of shaming mechanism. Shame stultifies and paralyzes our ability to be productive and happy. It's not necessary or useful.

“Every interaction we have with people affects them (and us), life is manipulative in that sense, and it should be.”

In what sense? You're hand-waving, but I don't think every interaction meets the criteria of manipulativeness as I've laid it out.

Being manipulative means saying things that are intended to shame people into changing their actions. This is not normal behavior in a happy relationship. I don't say to my girlfriend: "wow, the way you folded that laundry really sucked. I hope you do it better next time." I have met people who say that kind of thing instinctively, without thinking about it, generally because their parents said the same kinds of things. It's still manipulative, because it impacts other people's emotions and shames them rather than directly communicating things like needs and desires.

Does that make sense? I really feel as though this isn't a natural and unavoidable part of life; it's an unfortunate way of living that makes people unhappy and hurts them more than it helps.

“I tend accept the idea that men and women process some things differently (whether this is nature or nurture I wouldn't know), and where those approaches butt heads, manipulating each other into a kind of mutually-semi-accessible middle ground seems like a practical solution.”

Do you believe that there is such a thing as systemic bias against women – that is, do you believe there is such a thing as sexism? If you do, doesn't it make sense that this might be part of sexism? And even if you don't believe these things, and simply chalk those up to the differences between the sexes, doesn't it make sense to say that neither gender ought to engage in manipulation and shaming?

“If you do something that 25% of the people around you genuinely think is crazy, it's not clear to me that you are gaining anything by not being aware of this disconnect, when you have to continue to interact with those people productively in the future.”

As I said above, this is not the correct way to deal with people even when they are "crazy." That isn't to say that denial is the best solution, either – far from it. But the simple fact is that there are more options than just denying any problems and telling a person they're "being crazy, so calm down." We can discuss mental and spiritual problems with people without being condescending.

me: “But that doesn't mean it's not gaslighting.”

zipadee: “Yes it does. ‘Gaslighting’ implies a cold-blooded, manipulative attempt to undermine a person's self-confidence, not a reflexive and self-defensive plea to ‘calm down!’ because you're generally uncomfortable with another person's agitation. Didn't you see the movie?”

The point was that, in this case, "gaslighting" refers generally to manipulative behavior whereby someone shames another person by stating or implying that they're crazy, agitated, hysterical, or otherwise off their rocker. Such behavior is not necessarily intentional. Didn't you read the article?
posted by koeselitz at 11:43 PM on September 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


I think there is also a vicious cycle here. Women are brought up to not use certain means of expression, so when they use something else that is available, it appears crazy to guys who are not aware that the sensible choices (to them) nvolved things that were socially off-limits and not available. So the women look crazier, which reinforces the same limits on socially acceptably communication that produced the appearance of crazy in the first place. And the guys who can't read between those lines (because they've never had to live their lives between the lines) look dumber, and on it goes... :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 11:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh gees, humans are so complicated and shit...
posted by c13 at 11:49 PM on September 14, 2011


Gas bagging.
posted by LarryC at 11:50 PM on September 14, 2011


I oppose using "gaslighting" as a blanket term for dismissing someone's views or telling someone that they're overreacting. The beauty of language is that each word has its own specific meaning. Quoting myself from here:
Gaslighting is a pretty specific term. Gaslighting falls within the category Things That Make People Feel Crazy, and so does this, but gaslighting is when someone makes someone feel crazy by manipulating their physical environment or denying their perceptions of it (e.g., hiding their keys and letting them look for an hour, then putting them back in plain sight; or saying "what? I didn't see a cat" moments after they discussed it together).

There are a lot of vocabulary words that would apply to this situation. For example, minimizing or invalidation.
I think it's worth discussing how often women's statements get dismissed as emotional or overreactive. But I would like to do that without calling it "gaslighting" because that reduces the value of that word to describe one specific kind of particularly treacherous behavior. Some instances of being dismissive might qualify as gaslighting, but not all would. In fact, I don't think it's always inherently abusive to say "I don't see this situation the same way you do; I don't think it merits this intense response." Whereas it IS inherently abusive to manipulate or deliberately lie about someone's physical environment until they start to doubt their very perception of reality, and that's why we need the word "gaslighting."
posted by salvia at 11:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [25 favorites]


A Message to Men From Another Man: If you don't feel this article is representative of your experience, it likely isn't. Good for you and better for those in your life. That's no reason to dismiss it out of hand or take it as an attck on all men. Think before you comment -- there's no reason to act so hysterical.

Take it with a grain of salt, but I think responding to "women are so over-emotional" with "We're not over-emotional - this is an appropriate amount of emotional intensity!" does more harm than good.

Men and women both have emotional reactions to certain stimuli on an individual basis. Whether these reactions are appropriate, too much, or too little is the sort of call that has to be made on an individual basis. In general, telling someone who is emotional or anxious to "calm down" or "quit overreacting" is a piss-poor way to actually help them do those things.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other news, "not crazy" is as much as a generalization as "crazy".
posted by effugas at 11:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz:

whereas I'm talking about something more along the lines of "an unhealthy dynamic that hurts everyone more than it helps them."

That's what I'm talking about too - it's not clear to me that people biting their tongues when they think you're crazy (mistaken or not) is any more healthy than genuine, good-faith communication of that fact.

It's still manipulative, because it impacts other people's emotions and shames them rather than directly communicating things like needs and desires.

In this we differ. To me, you can manipulate someone in an unhealthy way that hurts everyone, using praise and making them feel good about themselves. In fact, this is often a far more effective than shame. Unhealthy manipulation doesn't necessarily mean shame. Shame doesn't necessarily mean unhealthy manipulation.

Yes, I agree the world is awash in systemic biases of all sorts, most definitely including ones against women. I agree there is a sexist and unhealthy dynamic in the way many people communicate with women. The bit that interests me is whether the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater here - how to communicate genuine good faith "I think you're being crazy" in a way that isn't patronizing or condescending.

How would you do it?
posted by -harlequin- at 11:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


-harlequin-: "how to communicate genuine good faith "I think you're being crazy" in a way that isn't patronizing or condescending. "

How could you ever communicate "You're being crazy" in a way that's not patronizing, condescending, or insulting? If you're truly communicating with somebody who's mentally ill to the point of insanity, then you're wasting your breath, and if you're saying this to a woman who is merely having a reaction to something that is more negative or intense than you'd like, you are in fact being inherently insulting, patronizing, and condescending. There is no way to communicate something like that "in good faith". Because it's in inherently "bad faith" to try to paint someone's reactions or feelings as the reactions or feelings of an insane person just because they make you uncomfortable.
posted by katyggls at 12:06 AM on September 15, 2011 [23 favorites]


Re: how to communicate genuine good faith "I think you're being crazy" in a way that isn't patronizing or condescending.

I like salvia's:

"I don't see this situation the same way you do; I don't think it merits this intense response."
posted by -harlequin- at 12:06 AM on September 15, 2011


Metafilter: Shut me down with ad hominems, called me names, called me crazy.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:07 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no way to communicate something like that "in good faith". Because it's in inherently "bad faith" to try to paint someone's reactions or feelings as the reactions or feelings of an insane person just because they make you uncomfortable.

No, I am not referring to situations where you think it's crazy because "they make you uncomfortable", but situations where you think it's crazy because it implies seriously bad judgement. I don't buy that observing seriously bad judgement is inherently condescending, because we all have those moments.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:10 AM on September 15, 2011


We all have those moments of seriously bad judgements, I mean, when we're just too close to something to have perspective.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:13 AM on September 15, 2011


I think this article is uncomfortable for a lot of people because they read it as a list of accusations against anyone who's ever used the phrase "calm down." I think it would help if people read it more as a clinical discussion of what's going on in certain kinds of interactions. It's not meant to be an indictment of men as a gender...

Are you saying we're overreacting? No, seriously. Isn't it emotionally manipulative to put a defensive man who doesn't know how to handle his SO's emotions into the same boat as someone who maliciously misleads and confuses people?

Male defensiveness sometimes uses sexist stereotypes to avoid responsibility or blame or
punishment, and that is certainly a bad thing. It's less clear that having used a sexist stereotype, he automatically deserves whatever blame or punishment he's getting.

Although there's a good chance that a man who would use a sexist stereotype isn't living up to the expectations that his SO has for him in the area of emotional availability and responsiveness.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:14 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


A Message to Men From Another Man

Mark as Junk?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:16 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for your comments in this thread, Koeselitz. This thread made me pretty uncomfortable until they appeared.

AlsoMike, how would you propose that the defensive man of your examples learn to better engage with his SO's emotions, instead of showing how he's (however inadvertently) perpetuating a malicious agenda?
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:20 AM on September 15, 2011


Metafilter: sprayed me with poison nerve gas from automobile exhausts and even lawnmowers
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:25 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


how to communicate genuine good faith "I think you're being crazy" in a way that isn't patronizing or condescending

I start from the premise that maybe there's information I don't know that's informing their response. So: "Hmm. Why do you see it that way?" and continuing on in that vein, asking for more detail. At some point in that process I either learn something new from them that shows me they have reasonable grounds for reacting that way, or they realize and admit that they were in fact being irrational. Or I realize that they really are as crazy as I initially thought but they'll never admit it so at that point I might say, "Hmm...nah, still doesn't make sense to me, for x y z reasons. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:29 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


She was chasing me with a kitchen knife. I get to call that crazy.
posted by scalefree at 12:44 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not too impressed with this stock reaction of "this is a stupid article because it happens to both genders".

Well, SURE it does, but it doesn't follow that we shouldn't examine why it might happen to one gender much more often.

I have personally never heard a woman tell a man to "calm down" or "don't be so emotional". I've also never heard a man asked if it is because of hormones that he's behaving a certain way, although that line of conversation is probably an official Derail™.
posted by greenish at 12:44 AM on September 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


Re: how to communicate genuine good faith "I think you're being crazy" in a way that isn't patronizing or condescending.

I'd say "you seem quite upset" (probably with concern or sympathy), then listen and try to understand. Then I'd decide whether my views are even relevant (it is surprising how often they are not). If they are, I'd share them next: "I see the situation a little differently. I don't think it hurts us overall. True, Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep, and I agree that's really inconvenient. But my guess is that if she leaves them alone, they'll come home. But you don't think they will? What is the scenario that has you so concerned exactly?"

situations where you think it's crazy because it implies seriously bad judgement.

"I'd be concerned that you'd injure someone. What makes you think this is safe?" escalating to "This idea just sounds wildly unsafe! I can't understand why you keep suggesting it."
posted by salvia at 12:46 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


-harlequin-: "No, I am not referring to situations where you think it's crazy because "they make you uncomfortable", but situations where you think it's crazy because it implies seriously bad judgement. I don't buy that observing seriously bad judgement is inherently condescending, because we all have those moments."

The original article however, is clearly not referring to those moments. It's referring to moments when women try to make their valid feelings, concerns, or opinions known, and then get painted as being irrational or crazy for doing so.

I find it a little weird (but unfortunately not that surprising) that so many people are trying to turn this into, "Well what if Ms. Crazypants runs at you with a knife and/or threatens to kick your dog, what then? Are we allowed to call her crazy then?"
posted by katyggls at 12:52 AM on September 15, 2011 [28 favorites]


Obviously the author has some kind of valid point here which hits a nerve with a lot of people.
I just wish he would have gone about this a little differently, because I think this could have been a much more effective tool to create discussion.

1) "A Message To Women From a Man - You Are Not Crazy" immediately starts off on the wrong foot to me. There's just too much implication that a) he's the first man to understand this, b) this message is something that applies to all women, c) he's entitled to tell them whether they're crazy or not.

2) 'Gaslighting' and 'crazy': is it really necessary to create an analogy between cold-hearted, calculated and flat-out murderous manipulation and telling someone they're crazy? or to calm down? Why use 'crazy' instead of 'over-reacting', or 'sensitive'?

3) There is far too much painting with broad strokes here: clearly there are times and places where telling somebody to calm down is a perfectly legitimate response, and I'm pretty sure we all have times when we need to think less emotionally and more rationally.
Possibly history has seen a time or two when a woman has over-reacted and behaved irrationally, which he doesn't care to mention. It seems like it would have been much more productive to focus on things like the 'i was just kidding, can't you take a joke' behaviour, which has less to do with manipulation and more to do with trying to pass off as a joke what you realize you can't get away with as straight-up meanness.

4) I understand why this article is oriented towards women; I'm sure that this specific kind of way of being an asshole is directed more generally at them. But I sure would have liked to read this again written in such a way as to help us all find a way to deal with each other more gently rather than an expose of sexist manipulation techniques.
posted by bone machine at 1:07 AM on September 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I disagree that the article paints with too broad a brush. "Women are crazy" is such a meme in our society that you find it on birthday cards. We -- and the article author -- are not talking about a minority of women addressed by a minority of men. It's a broad cultural trend that tells women they are crazy and tells men there's no damn point trying to understand women because they're crazy, irrational, and unresponsive to an argument that might make sense to a normal person.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:13 AM on September 15, 2011 [48 favorites]


I find it a little weird (but unfortunately not that surprising) that so many people are trying to turn this into

We start with the man in the mirror, and as far as I'm aware, I make all comments to all friends honestly and in good faith. So if there is a systemic problem that I can directly address (ie a problem occurring at my end), the only way for me to make that improvement is to figure out when it's legitimate to call out bad judgement, and when it's a lazy cover-up.

Hammering out the point at which it becomes legitimate (and whether there are better ways even then) is far and away the most useful aspect of discussing the topic, IMHO. More useful, I think, than the original article.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:19 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


-harlequin-: "We start with the man in the mirror, and as far as I'm aware, I make all comments to all friends honestly and in good faith. So if there is a systemic problem that I can directly address (ie a problem occurring at my end), the only way for me to make that improvement is to figure out when it's legitimate to call out bad judgement, and when it's a lazy cover-up.

Hammering out the point at which it becomes legitimate (and whether there are better ways even then) is far and away the most useful aspect of discussing the topic, IMHO. More useful, I think, than the original article.
"

It's great that you are so purely motivated in all of your communications. The point of the article though, was that many men are not, whether unconsciously or intentionally, so adept at communicating with women in ways that are not disrespectful and condescending. It may not be your actual intention, but the attempt to steer the conversation towards "Some people are actually crazy though, amirite?" comes off as trying to dismiss the larger point, that women are often the target of stereotypes and manipulation that implies that their reactions are irrational, crazy, or too based on emotions to be taken seriously.
posted by katyggls at 1:30 AM on September 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


@ArmyOfKittens: You have a good point - the idea is certainly pervasive. What bothers me about it is that the author isn't talking about the 'women are crazy' meme and how it's propagated socially, he's discussing very specific interactions between people, and I guess that's where I feel like it falls down; trying to tell someone that they're overreacting should not be made more difficult by the fact that mass-media and cultural memes are full of stupid. He's confounding people who are doing their best to communicate with assholes and hyper-sensitives instead of making that distinction clear, IMO.

Honestly, I think a bigger issue here is that a lot of men are extremely uncomfortable with expressed negative emotion coming from women. My impression is that is much more the root of this kind of 'you're overreacting, you're crazy' feeling-shaming response.
posted by bone machine at 1:35 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's also a way for men to deal with any behavior from when they don't understand or can't deal with, which for some of us is most of it. "Why did that girl ditch me after two dates?' 'She's crazy', say your friends, which is nicer than saying 'you have issues/you smell bad/you're mostly undateable'.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:40 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ick, I should have said 'trying to communicate your feelings or trying to tell someone they're overreacting', as plainly there are two sides to that conversation, neither of which is helped by any stupid stereotypes.
posted by bone machine at 1:42 AM on September 15, 2011


It's also a way for men to deal with any behavior from when they don't understand or can't deal with, which for some of us is most of it. "Why did that girl ditch me after two dates?' 'She's crazy', say your friends, which is nicer than saying 'you have issues/you smell bad/you're mostly undateable'.

er, from women
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:45 AM on September 15, 2011


bone machine: "What bothers me about it is that the author isn't talking about the 'women are crazy' meme and how it's propagated socially, he's discussing very specific interactions between people, and I guess that's where I feel like it falls down; trying to tell someone that they're overreacting should not be made more difficult by the fact that mass-media and cultural memes are full of stupid. He's confounding people who are doing their best to communicate with assholes and hyper-sensitives instead of making that distinction clear, IMO. "

I'm confused as to how you are getting this impression since none of the specific examples he used sound as if they are people trying to communicate with "assholes or hyper-sensitives". Unless you think it's assholish or hyper-sensitive to be frustrated by a spouse's hurtful comments about your weight or an employee's frustration with her boss's temper tantrums. Also sexism isn't just something that happens on birthday cards and inane TV shows. Using real world examples of how the "women are crazy" meme has actually been internalized by some men and then used against women in real life is a perfectly valid exercise.
posted by katyggls at 1:48 AM on September 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


@katyggls: I do think that both the husband and the boss examples sound like they're pretty clearly dealing with assholes, or at least people who are interested in applying for the position. What I was trying to say, poorly I guess, is that many men may act dismissive of women's emotions. There are times and places when women do tend to let their emotions get the best of them. Neither of those are healthy.

I agree with most of what he says, I guess I just don't feel like the tone of the Message To Women From A Man was the most productive.
posted by bone machine at 2:10 AM on September 15, 2011


From the comments:

Another pattern of gendered behaviour which does this is often termed “mansplaining”. When men explain to women something these women already know (often something of which they have direct experience and the man does not) as if they are teaching these women something new and fascinating.

A great introductory post on this concept can be found here — http://fanniesroom.blogspot.com/2010/02/art-of-mansplaining.html — or you can just google the term to get thousands of examples!"

posted by bonefish at 2:20 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It sounded to me like this guy was really excited about using the term 'gaslighting.' If he had written about what his purported subject was rather than focus so intensely on one extremely specific concept, he probably could have shed more light on the problem.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:54 AM on September 15, 2011


Patronizing article. Speak for yourself, champ (directed at the author.)
posted by gazole at 3:42 AM on September 15, 2011


I remember a (male) friend once saying to me "all mums are crazy", as a self-evident truth. The 'women are crazy' idea is both real and damaging.

But this is a pretty poor way of arguing it. People do overreact and their overreactions are themselves sometimes manipulative. In these situations 'this is an overreaction' is the only response if you're not going to get suckered into a guilt trip. Unfortunately who's right and who's wrong can only be decided on an individual basis.
posted by Summer at 4:07 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The author seems hysterical, perhaps his uterus is disturbed.
posted by snofoam at 4:09 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


A couple of times in the past few months my partner has had to have the "geek, you are fucking crazy" talk with me. The difference between those conversations and the ones above? He is doing it and saying it out of genuine concern and fear. He is not motivated to call me crazy out of defense (even when the triggering event is a fight of some sort), he isn't telling me I'm crazy in an attempt to I nvalidate my response to something. Crazy, as shorthand for my particular mental illness, is something we negotiate around as a team. Calling me crazy, denying my feelings and dismissing my concerns doesn't do shit for my mental illness, it just throws me urn the damn bus in order to win the fight.

But the whole meme of 'bitches be crazy' has jack all to do with ql mental illness, to the point I'm at a loss as to why it has to even get jammed into this article. Invalidating my perceptions isn't about the crazy, it's about power and it's about begin right and smart and all that shit. And it's about avoiding a bigger fight, even if it means being a bigger arsehole. Because the feelings and ideas and conversations and desires of women just aren't important enough to be bothered with, that's why you're overreacting.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:24 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mrs. Scoo, upon discovering a palmetto bug in the house, shrieks like she's being murdered. Telling her she's over-reacting is akin to deliberately fooling her into thinking she's crazy so I can have her thrown in the cracker factory? And this is something only men do apparently? Fuck this guy and the horse he rode in on.
posted by Scoo at 4:37 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


My favorite example of this is subtly portrayed in this brilliant scene from The Graduate.
posted by klarck at 5:01 AM on September 15, 2011


The point was that, in this case, "gaslighting" refers generally to manipulative behavior whereby someone shames another person by stating or implying that they're crazy, agitated, hysterical, or otherwise off their rocker. Such behavior is not necessarily intentional. Didn't you read the article?
The problem with this definition is that any criticism would fall under the definition of "gaslighting" because it undermines their confidence. I would argue that the statements and actions have to be intentionally crazy-making in order qualify. Plus telling someone to "calm down" or that they are over-reacting doesn't question their sanity at all, just their anger levels. Sane people get angry all the time. Which is one thing the article seems to overlook. In this guys view, no reaction (by a woman) is ever inappropriate. That's ridiculous, both men and women over react. (Haven't any of you ever seen those low-rent reality TV shows?)

The article also seems to view women as being so weak and fragile that they can't take even the mildest criticism.
The original article however, is clearly not referring to those moments. It's referring to moments when women try to make their valid feelings, concerns, or opinions known, and then get painted as being irrational or crazy for doing so.
I didn't see the author making any distinctions at all, but rather saying that all instances of telling someone to calm down or relax or that they were acting crazy were 'gaslighting' designed to manipulate and undermine someone.

If this guy wanted to address the issue of men calling women crazy/overreacting/whatever more often then women doing it to men he could have taken a more nuanced approached, other then to say
posted by delmoi at 5:02 AM on September 15, 2011


Denial is such an ugly thing. Especially in men. I think our cultural bias toward devaluing emotional control and discipline makes it easier for us to go off the deep end and seriously overreact when confronted with unpleasant truths about our own emotional makeup.
posted by kalessin at 5:03 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Crazy.
posted by flapjax at midnite


See Also at 10:20.*

*Yes, it's in Russian
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:07 AM on September 15, 2011


A message to the man who wrote this from this woman:

Dude, WOMEN KNOW THIS.

What would really help is if you wrote "A message to other men from a man: STOP TELLING WOMEN THEY'RE CRAZY, BECAUSE IT'S BULLSHIT."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:13 AM on September 15, 2011 [25 favorites]


This isn't about women who are genuinely doing things that are irrational, or that may potentially cause harm to others or themselves.

It is about this alarmingly common scenario:

Dude: Does something genuinely hurtful, thoughtless, or rude.
Dudette: Tells Dude he has done a hurtful, thoughtless or rude thing, and she does not like this thing he has done.
Dude: Reacts to being called on his bullshit by declaring Bitch Crazy. Does not acknowledge that he has done a Wrong Thing.

Dudette: ...

Fin
posted by louche mustachio at 5:14 AM on September 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


I've also never heard a man asked if it is because of hormones that he's behaving a certain way,

"Hormones" doesn't just mean "having her period." Testosterone is also a hormone, so cracks along the lines of "Dude's got testosterone poisoning" or "I could smell the testosterone reek across the room," might count, even if equally ridiculous from a clinical perspective.

That said, while it bothers me that the article starts with an "Hey, ladies - I'm a man (authority figure) here to tell you all it's okay to feel a certain way," which I think is in itself a dubious rhetorical stance, obviously the article is talking about a real phenomenon whereby emotionally-repressed or passive-aggressive men shift unfairly blame in conflict to women. I wish I could say I've never been guilty of this myself; it's shitty behavior.
posted by aught at 5:42 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't it emotionally manipulative to put a defensive man who doesn't know how to handle his SO's emotions into the same boat as someone who maliciously misleads and confuses people?

I wouldn't call it emotionally manipulative, exactly. I do think it's meant to be instructive how the two behaviors lie on the same spectrum, and once that's recognized the defensive / passive aggressive man can do something grown-up and responsible about not contributing to the perpetuation of bad behaviors rather than taking the easy way out.
posted by aught at 5:52 AM on September 15, 2011


That said, while it bothers me that the article starts with an "Hey, ladies - I'm a man (authority figure) here to tell you all it's okay to feel a certain way," which I think is in itself a dubious rhetorical stance, obviously the article is talking about a real phenomenon whereby emotionally-repressed or passive-aggressive men shift unfairly blame in conflict to women.

The tone of the start bothers me for the same reason, but what bothers me even more is that the article is directed TOWARDS women -- rather than directing it TOWARDS the passive-aggressive men who are doing this in the first place.

People in here quote the term "Mansplaining" -- his "hey, I'm a man telling you all it's okay to feel a certain way" is a TEXTBOOK example of "mansplaining," and it pisses us off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:53 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


At least, it pisses ME off. Sorry to speak for others.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:54 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many of you all know a guy who has a bunch of "crazy" exes?

I mean, what are the chances that guy really dated 8 different mentally unstable women?
posted by giraffe at 6:02 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Mrs. Scoo, upon discovering a palmetto bug in the house, shrieks like she's being murdered. Telling her she's over-reacting is akin to deliberately fooling her into thinking she's crazy so I can have her thrown in the cracker factory? And this is something only men do apparently? Fuck this guy and the horse he rode in on.

Well, no. Telling her she's overreacting to her fear of a bug is just a dick move, frankly. But I think you know that. And I think you know that's not what the article is talking about.
posted by palomar at 6:17 AM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I mean, what are the chances that guy really dated 8 different mentally unstable women?

Probably about as good as the chance that someone falls into 8 consecutive abusive relationships during their lifetime.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:18 AM on September 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I hated this. Thanks, author, for mansplaining what women already know.
posted by agregoli at 6:19 AM on September 15, 2011


This article is trying to manipulate me and convince me that, as a man, I'm continually mistreating and demeaning the women in my life. It's destroying my self-confidence that I'm a caring, rational person. I wish there was a term for that.
posted by rocket88 at 6:21 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


It seems to me, the way these conversations usually go is that: Group X (in this case, men) is told by Group Y (in this case, women) that behaviour Z is problematic. Group X is honestly trying to understand Group Y's request, and is basically trying to create a hypothetical rule around the subject.

For example, Group Y relates that it is uncomfortable with having a member of Group X walk behind them late at night on the treat (or, say, tell them they're crazy). Group X asks for clarification with (sometimes exaggerated) hypotheticals - what if it was more than one member of Group Y? Is X ok then? What if a member of Group Y were chasing me with a knife? Is it ok to call that person crazy then? - not to belittle the concerns, but to better understand the problem and to try and create a mental rule around the matter (don't walk closely behind fewer than three members of Group Y after dark when there aren't lots of people around; don't call members of Group Y crazy in a conversation).

Now, to members of Group Y, such details might seem obvious or beside the point; they may even infer that members of Group X are kind of dumb, bringing up these matters. I think it just speaks to how we process information, and I think it would behoove everyone in these discussions to keep in mind that not everyone does that in the same way you do.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:22 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


treat = street (stupid autocorrect)
posted by stinkycheese at 6:26 AM on September 15, 2011


Note to the author:

Mansplaining; almost as damaging as "gaslighting". Women live with this shit every day, we know we're not crazy. You affirming that is going to make NO DIFFERENCE, we're still going to be dismissed as crazy next time we get angry, or sad, or politically involved, or whatever.

Next time, direct your article to those who actually need to hear what you have to say.
posted by lydhre at 6:32 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Next time, direct your article to those who actually need to hear what you have to say.


I agree, although I should point out that its purported focus did not deter (mostly) men from commenting about how this phenomenon doesn't exist, is fair, is a specific attack on how they deal with their loved ones in a specific scenario, etc.

Anyway, women do this to other women too, although in my experience they do it behind her back and in order to suck up to men.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:39 AM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is an interesting topic because I think in trying to avoid harm we can actually cause it. The problem is that people's behavior is controlled by the responses of those around them.

Secondly, regardless of the situation preceding behavior, it is always the expected response to that behavior that evokes it.

Let's make it simple and say for the sake of this argument that this reinforcer can be either the removal of a some stressful problem, or attention. You can see how these two are fundamentally different things - however, often the delivery of both of them is identical.

In this context, a lot of "crazy" behavior can be considered socially inappropriate. I'm not trying to make a moral judgment or lay down rules for conduct - all I mean is that the people viewing the behavior, and towards whom the behavior is directed, would prefer if the behavior did not occur. (The real question is - if you have to act crazy to get someone's attention, then maybe you shouldn't be with them anyway. But that's a whole nother issue.)

The worst part is: even when we act crazy to get attention, we often convince ourselves that we really are being reasonable and just asking for help. Sometimes it takes a kick in the head to make us wake up. Sometimes, that is someone telling us "the way you react to your problems is socially undesired."

Understanding this puts the behavior in question into a new light. I am horrible about this bit in my personal life:

1. If I respond kindly to this unwanted attention-seeking behavior, then I'll have to put up with it in the future.
2. If I respond kindly to this stressor-escaping behavior, then I rob the other of the opportunity to learn how to deal with stress.
3. This persons needs my attention, and if I help them, I will likely be suitably rewarded with attention myself.

It's often considered heinous to talk about adults like this, because they are not babies and they have free will and they are responsible and they would never ever try to get attention and they should already know damn well how to help themselves if that's what they needed. But, it is my view that this is simply not the case.

Adults *do* have tantrums. Adults *do* have situations where they can learn how to be strong and face them.

It's not anyone's "job" to make others into better versions of themselves. At the same time, the actee is under the same attention and stressor relief controls as the actor.

So my conclusion is: This all makes sense to me. The fact that this happens, I understand it. I think that, from a macro view, it is a problem that men treat women as if their problems weren't valid. However from a micro view, it's hard to see a single man who is not acting how he acts because of how he has been trained by society.

My take away? God damn it we should be able to solve these problems. Women should not feel like they are systemically oppressed / gaslighted. People should get the perfect help they need just when they need it and never have to do any extra undesired stuff in order to get it. Sheesh!
posted by rebent at 6:47 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hm, on re-read, I think people might take my comment as "sticking up for the guys cuz women are crazy." I really hope you don't read that out of it.

My belief is that when two people come together, they are as equals, and the actions of one and the reactions of the other are of completely equal stance. Personally, I think that we need to focus a lot more on helping people have more patience and understanding, rather than forcing the "crazy" people to act more "normal." But that doesn't change the underlying causes of behavior, which is what my comment was about.
posted by rebent at 6:51 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter all that much to whom this guy addresses his article - men are still the arbiters of acceptable expression. White men.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:51 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


One thing everyone can do to improve gender relations is stop thinking of "men" and "women" as monolithic types. I know a guy who continually pats himself on the back for his allegedly enlightened attitudes (he wears "THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE" t-shirts and that sort of thing), but still talks about "women" as though they're all essentially the same (mentally, that is). The one time I called him on it he told me to chill out.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:19 AM on September 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


People here seem to be reacting to the "you're crazy/you're overreacting" half of the equation, but that's only half of it according to the author of the linked article: the other half is provoking them into having the crazy overreaction in the first place:
Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction—whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness—in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.
This is his key concept.

A lot of manipulation is unconscious. Perhaps the majority of it—I'm sure we've all seen how even three-year-old kids will attempt (often successfully) to manipulate their parents. Those kids don't know what they're doing, even if they're good at it.
posted by adamrice at 7:24 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this was clumsily handled, as evident by the confusion in this thread.

It is a little irritating to see this dude present this insight as a new thing, when there's whole books written about the historical classification of women's discontents as "mental illness."

Has he never read "The Yellow Wallpaper"? Because it was written by a woman, who clearly understood the whole controlling-women-by-labeling-them crazy idea. In 1892.

At any rate, yes, dismissing normal reactions as crazy reactions is a common tactic of abusers and manipulators, and in a sexist society, probably do get used against women more often.

I'm going to file this piece under "Well-intentioned Mansplaining," give the guy a pat on the head, and say, "That's very nice, now maybe try seeing if other people have already thought of your awesome idea next time."
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 AM on September 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


I should point out that its purported focus did not deter (mostly) men from commenting about how this phenomenon doesn't exist, is fair, is a specific attack on how they deal with their loved ones in a specific scenario, etc.

THAT'S EXACTLY WHY the author needed to talk to OTHER MEN, rather than WOMEN.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


All women are crazy. All men are dumb.

I really resent this generalization, and it's one I hear a lot. I think it's disrespectful to both genders.
posted by estherhaza at 7:35 AM on September 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is a useless article. Women can be emotionally abusive too -- in fact, the worst gaslighter I know is female. Yes, there is a special form of gaslighting in which men make women doubt the appropriateness of their emotions, but I think that if we lined up the gender armies in the trenches, women would win the emotional abuse war handily.
posted by yarly at 7:38 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh, man-up, yarly!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:41 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]




It's very cruel and cynical to assume that any time someone tells a woman to "calm down," or s"top over reacting," that they're consciously or unconsciously perpetuating some kind of paternalist conspiracy.

We could all be respectful, and really truly listen to each other. If you can establish (and maintain) trust and acceptance in your relationships with other people, you might be able to say things like, "you're over reacting," and be taken at face value.

When somebody says, "please calm down," shouting "STOP SILENCE ME" isn't always the appropriate reaction. It certainly doesn't paint the picture of a healthy relationship.

The kind of rhetoric we're getting here does the opposite. It breaks down trust, and deepens divides. Relationships are all negotiated space.Much as it can wound my pride, I do want my partner to be able to tell me when I'm going overboard, and I want to be able to do the same for her.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:44 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow I need coffee, and a personal editor.
Sorry for all of the formatting/grammar/spelling errors. I'm out.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:45 AM on September 15, 2011


Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know....

.
posted by storybored at 7:45 AM on September 15, 2011


-harlequin-: “We start with the man in the mirror, and as far as I'm aware, I make all comments to all friends honestly and in good faith. So if there is a systemic problem that I can directly address (ie a problem occurring at my end), the only way for me to make that improvement is to figure out when it's legitimate to call out bad judgement, and when it's a lazy cover-up. Hammering out the point at which it becomes legitimate (and whether there are better ways even then) is far and away the most useful aspect of discussing the topic, IMHO. More useful, I think, than the original article.”

The original article was useful if you're open to it. You're not, I guess, but that's okay; we can still talk about it.

Maybe start from this, then:

There is a whole vernacular of condescending stuff that people say in a tense situation that is manipulative and destructive, a vernacular that is probably born from narcissism and behaviors learned in childhood. It revolves around telling a person who honestly disagrees with someone you say that they need to "calm down" or they need to "relax" or they need to "stop acting crazy." I wonder if you've experienced this – I know I have. My ex-wife was raised in a narcissistic home, so this was a natural defense mechanism for her; every time there was disagreement, it would get just to the point where I'd get a little agitated, and then it'd be "calm down," or most often "you're being so defensive." This in particular is always a pointless and unnecessary thing to say. If people are being defensive, it's because they believe they have to defend themselves; so saying "you're being defensive" only makes it worse, because it's a tacit attack.

Do you see the character of this interaction? We're not talking about situations where one person is throwing stuff around. We're talking about situations where two people are having an honest disagreement, and one person is pushed into a place where they're slightly agitated. In this situation, statements like "you are overreacting" shut down rational discussion and dismiss entirely a person's argument and position. It's cutting, it's hurtful, and it's not helpful at all.

But you're talking about situations where people are genuinely overreacting. I would submit that those situations are much, much more rare than you seem to think they are. We're talking about situations where people are actually a threat to themselves or others; and I should point out that this is a fine line, given the fact that, in the above dynamic, the manipulator will often play the part of a delicate flower (yes, men often take this role), feigning fear or acting threatened. It's an important distinction that has to be carefully considered. I think this really only qualifies when there is some weapon present or some incipient threat from something material, or where somebody has already gotten actually hurt.

The thing is this: when someone is just overreacting, saying "you're overreacting" is still just a manipulation of their emotions, because it communicates nothing. You can't convince someone by saying that to them – you can't calm them down or ease them out of it – so it's a pointless thing to say. Ditto with "you're being crazy right now." Those things do not help in the moment, even if they're true. The only thing that helps in those moments is trying to get to the root of why someone is acting that way, asking them questions about what their feelings are, respectfully listening but trying to soothe and defang arguments. In other words, respect.
posted by koeselitz at 7:51 AM on September 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


"You know how it looks: “You’re late :)”"

And with one sentence, the author of TFA demonstrates that he has never actually encountered a real, live woman, but would probably like to someday, solely out of anthropological curiosity.

"You're late" doesn't ever come with a smiley after it. It comes in a jaggy-line ice-blue font, punctuated by awkward silence and with the knowledge that any explanation that doesn't involve picking up the kids or a present for her will only lead to a "real" argument.
posted by pla at 7:55 AM on September 15, 2011


I have worked with abused women for many years. If I showed one of them this article, I am confident it would be very validating for them. Ridiculing and dismissing women is a key behaviour in abuse towards women.

On a lighter note, the article is also touching on with the difference in the use of language between genders: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_and_gender
posted by what's her name at 7:56 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


pla: "You're late" doesn't ever come with a smiley after it.

Generalize me harder!
posted by rmd1023 at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2011


oh, sorry...
Generalize me harder! :) :) :)
posted by rmd1023 at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


rmd1023 : Generalize me harder! oh, sorry... Generalize me harder! :) :) :)

...She said, in a jaggy-line ice-blue font, punctuated by an awkward silence and with the knowledge that any defense of my point would only lead to a derailing argument.

:)

Sincere smiley there, BTW. I would say "lighten up", but in the present topic, I suspect that might not go over very well.
posted by pla at 8:03 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


lydhre: “Women live with this shit every day, we know we're not crazy.”

I really, really wish that were true. But honestly I've heard "us women are just crazy" so many times it makes me very sad. Did you catch that part of the article – the part that explained why he was addressing women? He said that he mentioned to a woman friend of his that he writes some articles about women's issues, and she responded: "you mean how crazy we are?" She was joking, but it demonstrated what I think is true: that a lot of women have really internalized this. What -harlequin- said above about his group of friends agreeing that "all women are crazy and all men are dumb" seems to bear this out, too. Hell, so does this.
posted by koeselitz at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


"You're late" doesn't ever come with a smiley after it.

Are you kidding? I have received texts just like that.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The takeaway for me from the response to this and pretty much every article ever written on the internet is this: hi, we live on a planet of 6 billion people. That means that there are (at least) millions of men that are drooling idiots that are out of touch with their emotions, (at least) millions of women that overreact and are manipulative, and (at least) millions of the same but with the genders reversed. Not every reaction by a woman is an over-reaction, and not every explanation by a man is a 'mansplation', and neither are automatically worth of mockery or wrong by their very nature.

Anecdotal fights on the Internet are colossally pointless.
posted by modernnomad at 8:08 AM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Interesting article. I don't know if I've ever truly experienced this myself, despite growing up in the (sexist in that "oh no I'm just being chivalrous!" way) southern US, and seeing it happen to other women all the time.

I do notice that I have the "you're overreacting" reaction to other people, though. Men and women, both. I am extreeeeemely laid back. I get worked up about little things occasionally, but after a few minutes I go back to not caring. So if someone tells me that I'm too sensitive, or that I'm overreacting, I know that they are completely off their rocker. Or if there's something that I get really pissed off about, it's probably a Big Deal. It's a pretty good barometer.
posted by phunniemee at 8:10 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


At least, it pisses ME off. Sorry to speak for others.

You can speak for me, EmpressCallipygos. It pisses me off too.
posted by kalessin at 8:10 AM on September 15, 2011


This is a useless article. Women can be emotionally abusive too -- in fact, the worst gaslighter I know is female. Yes, there is a special form of gaslighting in which men make women doubt the appropriateness of their emotions, but I think that if we lined up the gender armies in the trenches, women would win the emotional abuse war handily.

I hate generalizations. They just don't work. There is no male and female divide among our emotional responses, and there are so many possible reactions, emotional, logical, or just plain ignorant, that it boggles my mind. The theory that men always act one way and women always act another is just inconceivable.*

The one idea I can get behind is experience. When you meet someone, you have no idea how they might react in a particular situation. Over time, as you begin to know this person better, you can more reliably bank on your past experiences with him/her to predict how they might react in future situations. (This is not to say that's always what happens. It's impossible to predict with 100% accuracy what another person, or even you, could possibly do at any given moment.

I do agree that we are a product of our environment, even if our reactions to overreactions (or reasonable reactions) are to immediately dismiss the other person's reaction as "crazy," regardless of whether the other person is male or female. I think people can learn to react in different ways, if they want to, just as people who sometimes actually overreact can learn to get past what may have triggered an emotional meltdown. (I watched a good friend of mine - a woman - have a total nervous breakdown in the middle of a canoe trip, sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, because she forgot to put mustard on her sandwich. She had a full-on toddler tantrum. I also watched a male coworker of mine tell someone else they typed too loudly, and then storm out of the office. These are overreactions.)

I understand the point of the article, but I think the author is coming from entirely the wrong side of this. It doesn't sound as though the author is concerned about stopping the problem to begin with, but only blaming men for their reactions and explaining that women are completely victimized. Some men are to blame and some women are victimized, but this issue will never be so simple as that. Everyone does the wrong thing sometimes, and everyone has their feelings dismissed sometimes.

Sorry for the lengthy comment :) :)



*Yes, I know that word means what I think it means.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 8:14 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the fact that a behavior is unconscious or subconscious does not excuse it. If such a behavior pisses us off or causes harm to us or our loved ones, I would hope that we'd drag it out into the light and talk about it and try to get it stop being done.

I think similarly that if a thing is internalized a good response to it is to drag it out into the light and talk about it and try to stop having it be internalized.

To me, when someone is out-of-hand dismissive or clearly defensive and dismissive, I tend to think "Whoa, that person has a lot of issues - I must have really hit close to a mark!" and then I want to talk about it explicitly - to drag it into the light, get into it and figure out how to go forward without having that be an issue, without having dismissiveness feel like the only or the best option for that person in that context.

It's true that I was raised by idealistic hippies, but having internalized "consciousness raising self-therapy" I have to say that the consistency is really quite high after we actually start talking about the douchey things we want to do each other and why and how we can stop doing it.
posted by kalessin at 8:17 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I liked the article a lot. And I really like the point people have made about manipulation frequently being unconscious. But I want to go back to what somebody said about "what if somebody actually is being crazy?" because it made me think.

While I understand that emotions are an integral part of human beings, disparaging or dismissing them is damaging, and also that manipulation or redirection is bad, can't emotions be still be "wrong" in a sense? If you are with a little kid who doesn't want to share his or her toys, isn't it important that they learn to share? And whether you spank them, give them a talk about being nice, or dismiss their behavior as crazy, you are acting on a judgement call you made about the correctness of their emotions. Obviously there are kinder and more humane ways to ensure emotional correctness, and there are ways that are more and less violent (in the sense that they consciously or unconsciously infringe on another person's sense of self). But you are still judging their behavior and trying to change it, and I don't think we should condemn that out of hand. Just because someone reacts dismissively or manipulatively to you doesn't mean you are not wrong.

What I'm trying to say is, reinforcement of social norms plays an important role in society, and that has to happen somehow. To the extent that it reinforces oppression or unfair power structures (which is what the article is talking about), I'm certainly against it. However at times it also serves to ensure that we can get along.
posted by ropeladder at 8:39 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is no male and female divide among our emotional responses
The theory that men always act one way and women always act another is just inconceivable.

This seems like a straw man to me.

In the same way that there is no divide on emotion responses, there is no male and female divide between the physical height of humans - one is not always this tall while the other always that tall, however... there is still a gender trending difference that is not selection bias. And that trend results in stereotypes that can be used to make predictions - predictions that while very very often incorrect, also tend to be incorrect less often than they are correct, at least when not used thoughtlessly.

Men and women are socialized differently, and do internalize different things, and this does produce differences in responses that trend by gender.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:41 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree with the content of the article linked about the mechanisms and motivations behind gaslighting. I disagree that it's something peculiar to women's experience, though. I think manipulators of both sexes use this kind of manipulation on victims of both sexes. I have an ex-wife who was very skilled in this sort of thing and it took me many years to figure out what she was doing. My current wife plays fair and when I met her the change was refreshing. Casting this as something men do to women is unfair to both sexes.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:44 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops. I just read koeslitz's earlier comment that I had skimmed past before, and it pretty much addresses what I posted about above.
posted by ropeladder at 8:46 AM on September 15, 2011


In the same way that there is no divide on emotion responses, there is no male and female divide between the physical height of humans - one is not always this tall while the other always that tall, however... there is still a gender trending difference that is not selection bias.

Yes, you would definitely target an article on routine mammography to women, but you wouldn't target an article on strategies to get around being short just to women, would you?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:46 AM on September 15, 2011


This discussion seems odd. Why are people defending "you're crazy" and "calm down?" Is that how you frequently talk at work? Or to your friends? To me those do not represent the best forms of respectful communication (labeling, dismissing, issuing commands).
posted by salvia at 8:46 AM on September 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Hell, so does this.

Dude, song was written by Willie Nelson, not Patsy Cline. She just sung [sic] it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:48 AM on September 15, 2011


Men and women are socialized differently, and do internalize different things, and this does produce differences in responses that trend by gender.

I agree with this, but trends are not absolute. Some people are different from their environment, or they learn early on not to dismiss others out of hand. On the other hand, some learn not to be easily dismissed.

Yes, you would definitely target an article on routine mammography to women, but you wouldn't target an article on strategies to get around being short just to women, would you?

Exactly.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 8:52 AM on September 15, 2011


Or are you frequently talked to that way at work? Or by your friends?

I would certainly say it's normal in my experience to be spoken to like that. What's unusual (to me) is to raise an issue of any kind and not be told some version of "you're crazy" or "calm down".
posted by tel3path at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never hear this in real life. I have a pretty flat affect and tend to not take things personally or appear emotional at all, so I suppose it just wouldn't fly in person. In fact, I tend to suffer from not appearing emotional enough, including being accused of lying about an assault because the police thought that I wasn't acting the way women act after they've been attacked.

However, it happens to me online quite a bit, and it only happens when I am known to be a lady. Some people just parse what I'm saying as being emotional and hysterical or something, for reasons completely unrelated to the actual text. So I'm pretty confident that yes, it is a very gendered phenomenon--which isn't to say it never happens the other way around. It does. I do it to men intentionally sometimes. And it's also not necessarily conscious on the part of the gaslighter. It is just a gendered assumption that we've probably all learned at some point, that women internalize and men externalize.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:04 AM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I really resent this generalization, and it's one I hear a lot. I think it's disrespectful to both genders.

Why do you think it's disrespectful? I assume it depends very much on the attitude with with the generalization is presented. I think of it more like calling a spade a spade, but light-heartedly, and it's very much a generalization, a dig at ourselves.
I don't see it as a prescription for us, or a fate we can't escape, and that in some ways it's enlightening to notice when you're being a stereotype to the hilt, then you can try to break out of that rut.

We can point to our responses and with the clarity of distance, be able to say "that's really fucked up" or "I should have known better than to do that" or "you would never have made that mistake", and when we fail in comically stereotypically ways despite our ridiculous amounts of individuality, well, next time we try harder, but in the meantime, it's comical!
posted by -harlequin- at 9:05 AM on September 15, 2011


There is vastly more gaslighting implemented by acting crazy rather than telling people to calm down, perpetrated by both men and women. As a rule, such "crazy" reactions are aimed at controlling the emotional state of another person. You'll find both men and women doing this.

There is however an epic difference between making any discussion about someone's personality traits vs. dealing with the topic directly. And I'd imagine that's the real issue here.

Imagine a girl Sally accusing her boyfriend Jake of not loving her because he masturbates to porn. Jake responds that she's crazy. Sally and Jake have committed very similar mild-gaslighting offenses here, namely they have incorrectly, offensively, and confrontationally generalized deeper personality from behavior. Sally was obviously wrong for criticizing Jake. Of course, he should DTMFA if she continues. Yet initially, he should responded that "Masturbation is normal, harmless and fun, has no bearing upon emotions, helps prevent prostate cancer, and that she should read Dan Savage or Coke Talk." I'd let him slide with "that makes no sense" too, given the absurdity of the situation, but the critical difference is still between "that" and "you".
posted by jeffburdges at 9:13 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


> This discussion seems odd. Why are people defending "you're crazy" and "calm down?"
> Is that how you frequently talk at work?

Occasions for saying "you're crazy" or "calm down" don't much arise at work; everyone is much more careful not to cross the line. There's a lesson there.
posted by jfuller at 9:21 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


All women are crazy. All men are dumb.

It's actually pretty interesting to see how some couples use these stereotypes in an adaptive (though far from ideal) way. For example, my parents, who are consciously liberal but unconsciously old-fashioned, use it to an extent. He would never call her crazy and she would never call him dumb, but they both sort of rely on those stereotypes as a shared fiction that works for them.

This is how my father is dumb: he "doesn't know how" to cook or do the laundry, and man does he make "stupid mistakes" when he tries to do the grocery shopping.

This is how my mother is crazy: when my dad doesn't do certain things she wants him to do or does do certain things she doesn't want him to do, she gets very emotional and is prone to tears or yelling, depending.

This is how it works for them: my mom does all the cooking and grocery shopping but they both get to pretend that it's because she's better at it and not just because she's a woman. (She genuinely seems to enjoy it, for what it's worth.) My dad does these things that my mom wants him to do and doesn't do those things my mom doesn't want him to do, but he gets to pretend that he is making those choices on his own, because his wife is kind of crazy about that sort of thing, and certainly not because she can tell him what to do or not do or because she's actually right about those things.
posted by callmejay at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Assholes trying to shift responsibility for their douchery onto the responses of others is common, and also I would hope, transparent. However I wouldn't want to see all questioning (and criticism) of peoples responses tarred by that brush.

My significant other of many years, after a change in medicine, became very prone to great anger and distress over things that previously did not bother her. She was over-reacting as measured against her own, previous self, and it was also extreme by my evaluation of what response was warranted.

There was no danger, just a lot of distress in someone I cared about. And drawing her attention to the change - something so plain she could unmistakably see it for herself once mentioned - how could she not start to second guess her own responses and wonder how much of what she felt so damn sure of, was just in her head?
It wasn't gaslighting because it wasn't false, and it wasn't malicious, but in the sense that counts - self doubt - it was no subtle undermining, but full-on full bore - she could see that something was wrong.
Of course, her knowing rationally that she wouldn't feel this way at all except for some random stupid chemicals, didn't mean that she could just feel some other way, or that the distress was less distressing.

I don't know that there was a "right" way to approach it - even being tolerant of uncharacteristic anger can take the shape of not taking its validity seriously, which is a stripping of someone's humanity, it was rough, and this may be an extreme case, but I think there are a lot more normal every day situations where people react out of whack, than some people are crediting here. Even just in the sphere of common pills people are commonly prescribed, there is a lot of everyday stuff that messes with you in subtle ways that even if you don't notice, can be stunning to people around you.

From this experience and others, I am not inclined to view our emotional responses as something we are entitled to, or as something that others should not question or criticise. Because of this, I try to gaslight myself - do some self-doubting without prompting, etc.
But I think next time I hear someone criticising a response for douchey deflection reasons, I'll speak up. And if I do it, you speak up.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


All women are crazy. All men are dumb.

I really resent this generalization, and it's one I hear a lot. I think it's disrespectful to both genders.


It also excuses bad behavior by men in particular, in a sort of "boys will be boys" way.

I found this article extremely enlightening, and very, very painful to read.

I understand all the criticisms, and I think many of them are valid. Obviously, this isn't a peer-reviewed sociology article backed up by mountains of evidence; it is a generalization based on one person's experiences. But even though not every man is like this and not every woman is like that, I think he does hit upon a trend that is still largely gendered in Western culture, and one that has a loooooong, long history (wandering wombs, anyone?). I also think that the comments about his improper use of terminology were particularly helpful, and I appreciated learning about the specific psychological definitions of the terms "minimalizing" and "invalidating." That expanded my understanding of the sorts of behavior the author is attempting to talk about. And I most strongly appreciate the comments by the women in the thread who take the author to task for his paternalizing/mansplaining attitude. Many (most? all?) women understand both experientially and intellectually the behavior he is describing, so presenting it like it is something he just discovered is insulting, although I don't think it ever hurts for someone to say, "Hey, I know you know this stuff, I just want to say that I also realize it now and am trying to come to terms with why it is hurtful." I wish he would have addressed the article both men and women (and whites and people of color, and the rich and the poor, and heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender people ... and all other identity groupings that exist in some sort of tension with another) as a way of identifying a common problem and inviting people to reflect upon themselves and work to improve their relationships to others.

All that said... the behaviors he is talking about, whether they are technically "gaslighting" or not, hit me hard. This is pretty much exactly the way my father has always behaved towards my mother. It is the model of opposite-sex relationships that I learned from my earliest ages. As such, it has been the model that I have always based my relationships with women on, and I have suffered for it -- more importantly, I have made other people whom I cared about suffer because of not understanding or reflecting on what I was doing. Sometimes my behavior has been exactly the sort of "manipulation" discussed, both intentional and unconscious -- it's a way of self-justification and protection, a way of maintaining the status quo in the relationship, a dismissal of the validity of the other person. Sometimes it was just an almost completely reflexive action: Woman says "hey that upsets me," I automatically say, "Calm down, crazy!" without even understanding the situation or what I'm doing. But also, often it isn't even intended on any level to be manipulative, in fact intended to be an expression of love and caring. Infantilizing jokes and nicknames, for example. That's the way my dad showed/shows love to my mom. I'm sure she *knows* he's not trying to minimize her, and he doesn't think he is, but in the space between his expression and her reception, the message changes. That's something I've had trouble learning and acting on. So this article brought me face to face in a way I hadn't been before with both the things I do that are (consciously or unconsciously) manipulative/domineering/hurtful, and the things I do that are intended on all levels to be sweet but can easily be interpreted as cruel.

So, thanks for posting, and thanks for the discussion.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:30 AM on September 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


This is hideous, and if I was more on top of my shit I wouldn't be commenting at all. I was probably going to post something counterproductive, but fortunately jeffburdges crystallized some stuff for me in his comment.

What it amounts to is this: when you engage in an emotional display towards someone, you are often demanding something of them. You are not just participating in a pure exchange of feelings. This is part of why people do not share deep pains with acquaintances, and why the polite answer to a casual "How are you doing" is "Good." It is aggressive (generally passive-aggressive) to embroil someone in your issues.

A display of emotion may ask for no more than sympathy, or it may demand all kinds of behavioral concessions. A statement like, "You didn't call last night and I was very upset and anxious" can easily be followed by "If you care about my feelings, you will call every night" -- and even if that is not explicitly said, it may be implied. This is emotional blackmail, in which the sharer tries to force the listener to assume responsibility for the sharer's emotions. In a (perverse) situation like this, to accept the "validity" of the expressed emotions can mean capitulation, in effect accepting responsibility for the sharer's emotions.

Surely there must be some way to demur from assuming primary responsibility for someone else's emotional state. Saying "You're overreacting" may not be the ideal reaction, but it's quick and dirty and it works.

It doesn't help to say that these patterns of behavior are conditioned by background sexism. That's no excuse for being blind to the dynamic underlying the behavior you're criticizing, especially when you're accusing someone of movie-villain-level horrors.

But the writer and audience don't want to understand what's going on in this complex, two-sided interaction.
posted by grobstein at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


"My significant other of many years, after a change in medicine, became very prone to great anger and distress over things that previously did not bother her. She was over-reacting as measured against her own, previous self, and it was also extreme by my evaluation of what response was warranted.

There was no danger, just a lot of distress in someone I cared about. And drawing her attention to the change - something so plain she could unmistakably see it for herself once mentioned - how could she not start to second guess her own responses and wonder how much of what she felt so damn sure of, was just in her head?"


I don't think that is what the author (or many of the people in the thread) is talking about, though. When people are concerned and trying to help another person, like a friend/partner/relative, they are probably likely to address their behavior in a much calmer and more respectful manner, rather than saying, "You're acting like a psycho." I'm sure that when you spoke to your SO about her problems, you did it supportively and making it clear that you were coming from a place of concern; you didn't just say, "Hey, what the fuck is wrong with you lately? Why are you being such a bitch?"
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:36 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


it's quick and dirty and it works.

I don't think that speed or "dirtiness" are usually appropriate ways to deal with complex, interpersonal dynamics, and thus I question what you mean by "works." Yeah, it "works" if you want to get the other person to get the hell away from you (literally or metaphorically) but if you want to continue to build/maintain a positive relationship with that person, it doesn't really "work."
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:38 AM on September 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


A statement like, "You didn't call last night and I was very upset and anxious" can easily be followed by "If you care about my feelings, you will call every night" -- and even if that is not explicitly said, it may be implied. This is emotional blackmail, in which the sharer tries to force the listener to assume responsibility for the sharer's emotions.

Or it can mean "can you reassure me that everything is okay with you and that there was no reason to worry?" or "let's work on a solution to this that works for both of us".

Heading straight to emotional blackmail is pretty extreme and defensive and seems designed to categorize any kind of negative feedback as malicious and manipulative.

Realistically, we all do things that upset our partners, and that is valuable information to have, even if it leads to the conclusion that you do not want to stop doing those things and therefore you might not want to stay with that particular person.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


What if someone actually is being irrational? Is it OK to say, "calm down, let's please try and work this out rationally" in that case or should you just go on shouting back and forth?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2011


Generally, telling someone to calm down and positioning yourself as the rational one when you're both prone to "shouting back and forth" is not a great idea.

I suggest "This conversation isn't going anywhere good and I need to take a break" and then walk away.

There are a lot of options that don't carry an undertone of condescension and completely erase your own contribution to the situation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:15 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


What if someone actually is being irrational? Is it OK to say, "calm down, let's please try and work this out rationally" in that case or should you just go on shouting back and forth?

In these situations, it is best to include yourself and say something along the lines of, "Things are getting kind of out of hand. We should both take a break and then work this out rationally."
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


If people would say "your reaction seems really strong to this, help me understand this better" instead of "you are overreacting" then these conversations might go better. The latter shuts down communication while the former embraces the feelings as legitimate while questioning their expression. It isn't easy, but two people who want to make it work can create a lot of progress this way.
posted by dgran at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Both men and women are influenced by their emotions. Both men and women sometimes behave irrationally. As such, both men and women experience instances of others pointing out that they're being irrational or allowing their emotions to color their choices.

The gender difference comes more in the default assumptions. Women are far more often presumed to be irrational, and irrational in some very specific ways. I have done a lot of little social experiments on the internet as a way of trying to understand you humans, and as such, I vary my gender presentation quite frequently and have seen the differences in how people respond to me as the lady I actually am vs. the man or neuter entity I sometimes parse as.

I think the cleanest example of the difference is, some years back, there was a pretty deceptive looking animated graphic showing the increases in obesity across the US; and it was well-traveled enough that I ended up arguing about it on multiple different forums. Effectively, it was deceptively designed to make the problem seem more severe than it was, and I was pointing out its flaws.

When I presented as male or neuter, people pretty much consistently addressed my points, even if they disagreed. When I presented as female, people assumed that I was overweight and obese and was having a defensive reaction to having my feelings hurt. Straight across the board, too. Nobody ever accused me as a man of being overly emotional and irrational; and in no instance when I was a known female did someone NOT bring up that charge.

I have tons of other examples, too, and it is a very consistent trend. When people know I'm a woman, a fairly large subset of them will address some assumed emotional (and usually selfish) motivation. When they think I'm a man, they address my actual arguments.

I strongly recommend, for anyone who has consistently presented as one gender, to try a little gender bending on some internet forums here and there. There is a very different tone to the responses you get, and you really have to see it for yourself, I think, to appreciate the scope of the problem.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2011 [31 favorites]


grobstein: “Saying "You're overreacting" may not be the ideal reaction, but it's quick and dirty and it works.”

It only "works" because it shames the other person into shutting up. Slapping them across the face "works" in this sense, too, but that doesn't mean it's the right way to proceed.

“A display of emotion may ask for no more than sympathy, or it may demand all kinds of behavioral concessions. A statement like, ‘You didn't call last night and I was very upset and anxious’ can easily be followed by ‘If you care about my feelings, you will call every night’ -- and even if that is not explicitly said, it may be implied. This is emotional blackmail, in which the sharer tries to force the listener to assume responsibility for the sharer's emotions. In a (perverse) situation like this, to accept the ‘validity’ of the expressed emotions can mean capitulation, in effect accepting responsibility for the sharer's emotions.”

"I appreciate that you feel that way. It's not fair to say I don't care about you, though – I didn't know you were feeling upset and anxious. What can we do to make things better?"

What's wrong with that reaction? Why is it we have to forgo actual honest, direct communication in favor of cutting remarks like "you're overreacting?"
posted by koeselitz at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's also the fact that if the woman in question is anything like me, telling her to "calm down" or "be rational (like me)" when she brings up a valid concern will get her to stop talking about whatever it is that you were talking about in a "quick and dirty" way. Many women are self-conscious about being perceived as hysterical, irrational, etc.

It will also result in significant anger and resentment being attached to that issue because you shut down the discussion. That will make whatever it is more difficult to deal with in the long run because she will not just be angry about the issue, she'll be upset that you refused to discuss it with her when she brought it up and she'll also feel guilty and defensive about her own reaction.

If it becomes a pattern, she will start to suspect that you think she is generally irrational or not that bright. She might start to internalize that and become less confident, which is sad. Or maybe she will start to suspect that you are perceiving her through a sexist lens in a way that she will never be able to overcome, no matter how "rational" she is. That will, in turn, make her much more likely to give up on the relationship entirely, or decide that if she is going to be accused of being crazy, she might as well go for it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


I thought this article was amazingly insightful and I've spread it far and wide on my social networks. It was like a punch in the gut for me because of how well it explained so many of my interactions. I have never, ever heard a man say "calm down, you're overreacting" to another man (mefi notwithstanding). This is not to say that it doesn't ever happen, only it's not present in my experience, whereas men telling women they're overreacting is endemic. I've only recently started to stand up for myself and say "you know what, I'm NOT overreacting, and I don't care what you think, X is unacceptable to me, The End."
posted by desjardins at 11:53 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


There's also the fact that if the woman in question is anything like me, telling her to "calm down" or "be rational (like me)" when she brings up a valid concern will get her to stop talking about whatever it is that you were talking about in a "quick and dirty" way.

Also, "rational" can be very gendered. Women get "irrational" or "shrill," and it is attributed to their gender; men get "pissed off" or act like "assholes," but testosterone never works into the picture. When Eliot Spitzer said he was going to "steamroller" wall street, people didn't call him irrational or branded in any sort of gendered way - but had, say, Hilary Clinton been caught at the same level of invective, she would have been lambasted as "shrill" and "bitchy."
posted by yarly at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


You're missing two points, koeselitz.

First, we have a victim of "emotional blackmail" that's responding "you're crazy". Yes, s/he should respond constructively instead, but that obviously requires being the better person. And many people find that hard once the blackmailer piss them off, which is exactly the blackmailer's strategy.

Second, "you're overreacting" isn't nearly so bad as "you're crazy" because the criticism is transient. And obviously "that doesn't make any sense" is better still because the criticism is focused on the flawed logic and moves the blackmail victim towards elaborating constructively. It's all about the "that" vs. "you", like I said.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd like to thank the posters who point out that this writer isn't describing a scene in which an innocent, well-meaning guy makes an offhand comment that upsets a woman more than he expects. He is describing a scene in which a guy makes a comment that he KNOWS will upset a woman, and then tries to weasel out of the fact that he's just said something hurtful by blaming her for "overreacting."

I once dated this guy who had a habit of cracking offhand "your mom" jokes. I don't particularly enjoy "your mom" jokes, because 1) I have a nasty childhood memory of a schoolmate saying something horrible about my mom, and 2) I find it especially gross to hear sexually insinuating jokes about my mother from a guy I'm DATING. I really don't mind them much from my friends, but I don't exactly find them hilarious, because ) 3) they've been done to death and they're just not very funny anymore.

I told him on several occasions that I wished he would stop. I didn't raise my voice or get "emotional"--I just informed him that I didn't find his jokes about my mother to be funny. Each time, as he continued to giggle at his own joke, he said that I was overreacting, that he said the jokes without thinking, etc.

Finally, one day--another "your mom" joke. And I cracked, and got angry, and asked him what the fuck was wrong with him.

The ensuing conversation went something like this.

Him: "Oh my God, you're overreacting."

Me: "I don't CARE. I've told you a million times that I don't like 'your mom' jokes, and you keep making them, even though you know that they upset me. Why on earth would you enjoy making jokes that only make me upset? Cut it the fuck out."

Though he considered this to be an unfair impingement on his freedom of expression (!), he was cowed enough by my anger to agree to stop. Surprisingly enough, though, the relationship didn't last much longer...

Anyways, I'm glad this article exists. I would like for more women to read it so that they can verbally bitchslap the guys who get off on making them feel like shit--guys who are too chickenshit to even own up to the fact that they're being total dicks. There's a big difference between 1) saying something innocuous and being surprised by a strong reaction and 2) saying something designed to upset someone and then lambasting them for being upset.
posted by duvatney at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


I guess the assumption is that someone who is saying they are upset is being "emotionally blackmailing" and frankly, if you're in a relationship with someone who frequently emotionally blackmails you, then you should end that relationship.

Otherwise you're putting a really negative spin on something that normal people do in normal relationships, which is tell their partner how they feel.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Just to add another data point, as a woman this is something I've dealt with somewhat frequently - the basic template this that I say something that an otherwise friendly, rational, and well-socialized man disagrees with, and my objecting opinion is taken to be exclusively due to my overreaction.

The example in the article about the woman pointing out that she was hurt about the fat jokes her husband made - I've had almost the exact same experience (different topic of joke, still hurtful). I brought up how the joke made me feel in a calm way, and was immediately berated for over-reacting. It's frustrating, especially since I know he wouldn't have treated a guy that way.
posted by fermezporte at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


or decide that if she is going to be accused of being crazy, she might as well go for it.

heh. My husband once made the mistake of doing the dismissive, you female overreacting thing. Once.

But, seriously... I'm a really, really logical person, and very steady tempered. What I just mentioned? It really happened. And it had nothing to do with emotions or how women understand or present information versus how men do the same thing. It was something completely mundane. Like, for example, I say "don't forget we need to make a copy of the key before you give it to [person], because we only have one key, and the last time we did this it caused all kinds of trouble because we couldn't get the key back when we needed it."

He says, "oh, I'm not going through all that."

I say, "what do you mean, 'all that'? It's five minutes to get a key made, and the locksmith is right on the way."

He says, "don't worry about it, we won't need the key."

I say, "but we did this before, and we did need the key, and it was a big pain in the ass, remember?"

He says, "It's not a big deal. Why are you making this a big deal?"

I say, "why are you making this a big deal? Is there any reason that you think having a spare key is a bad idea?"

He says, "stop bugging me about the key, we won't need the key."

I say, "um, 'bugging you'?"

He says, "yeah, you're getting crazy about the key."

I say, staring, "'crazy'?"

He says, nervously, "yeah, just calm down about the key."

ENTER HUGE, VAST EXPLOSION, COMPLETE WITH YELLING AND F-WORD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. HOW VERY EMBARRASSING.

I just hate being called crazy.

So now he doesn't ever accuse me of being crazy. And I don't act crazy to show him what crazy looks like. We're both pretty content with that.
posted by taz at 1:02 PM on September 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


I don't know about you guys, and this comment may suffer from my lack of ability to word things eloquently. I don't condone the kind of ongoing emotional sabotage the author talks about, but sometimes I need to be manipulated a little. Sometimes I need my mom or my friends or my boyfriend to push me a little bit in particular direction.

My point...not all of what is technically manipulation is bad. I think manipulation from a few trusted people is useful and probably even necessary. But when a person effectively controls a relationship through the (overt or covert) use of manipulation, that is abuse of power. That's abusing the respect, love, and deference we all naturally feel for our mates, friends, and family.

I felt like the author was saying a relationship where the man habitually and reflexively belittles a woman's opinions and feelings by chalking them up to overly emotional hoo-ha or whatever IS manipulative. I agree with that. But I would also argue there are plenty of women who do this very same thing to men, and it is equally inappropriate in that case also.

In other words, it's not gaslighting to blink the lights once, or once in a while, to cry foul or tell someone to settle down occasionally. But it IS gaslighting if that dismissive behaviour has become the primary way in which you interact with a person.

To me, the ideal relationship is a sharing of power that comes from mutually and willingly giving up power to each other. It's not the woman or the man in any kind of control situation. But when you let someone into your life, there are going to be times when they push you in a direction...and that is not always bad.
posted by FunkyStar at 1:11 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree that not all manipulation is bad. But I also think that the manipulator needs to be ready to step up and pay the price for doing so. Having the, if you'll pardon me, labia to step up and take responsibility for our actions is what's important to me.

If a guy is going to manipulate me, he'd better be ready for my reaction, and I expect him to sit through that reaction and remain communicative as the price for having presumed to have the authority to manipulate me.

I'm not saying I'm going to react violently all the time. But it's a possibility. And if you are going to manipulate me, I want you to be responsible to it and to the consequences of doing so.

What I think happens a lot in situations that the original article was trying to describe (I don't think entirely successfully - the article suffers from some serious framing and context problems) is that folks who are operators, who are manipulating other folks, don't have the emotional or mental wherewithal to stick around and take the consequences.

In fact, someone who is continually grifting, setting up a situation where their partner just keeps taking the manipulative shit and internalizing it are generally the last kinds of people I would suspect would be ethical enough or strong enough to stick around and be responsible to those consequences.

That's the essence of the problem I have with this kind of manipulative set-up, genders of the various personae notwithstanding.

I also have issues with the mansplaining tone of the original article, but that's a second point.
posted by kalessin at 1:32 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that people in this conversation (mostly men) seem so invested in making up scenarios in which it's okay to say someone is overreacting rather than trying to understand and absorb the truth in the article. Rather than getting defensive and jumping headlong into denial and finding exceptions so you can justify this behavior, stop and consider what your reaction says about your attitude and the way you may be treating women.

Are you refusing to accept that this happens to women, even though many of us can cite personal examples? What this does is create a sort of meta-gaslighting effect. What you're saying is that not only are all these examples of gaslighting or shifting of blame false, but the entire subject itself doesn't really exist and is worthy of nothing but derision. So you compound the problem by denying that it exists and that harms women in very real ways.

If you're feeling guilty because you've done this someone, take responsibility and make it right rather than denying it. If you argue that this problem doesn't exist because you've never had it done to you, you're probably a man. If you're a man who thinks you're being "emotionally manipulated", the response to that is not, "Calm down, crazy!". Defuse rather than escalate if you think you're being unjustly attacked. The reverse of that is that you need to recognize when someone has a valid complaint and accept responsibility rather than shifting blame to the other person to cover your own bad behavior. That's not a recipe for a happy relationship, nor is it respectful.

I do feel that the article itself is problematic because I see its author as mansplaining something that women face everyday - the belittling, the gaslighting, the claims that women are overreacting, the differing language used to describe men vs women - but at least the message is sincere and it highlights a very real problem. It probably would have been better if the author directed the article towards other men, rather than addressing women's internalized sexism.
posted by i feel possessed at 1:35 PM on September 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


This has all reminded me of a habit my ex had -- he really, really disliked confrontation, so the few times we had tiffs, he'd try to cut me short by just saying "I don't feel like getting into an argument right now." (Sometimes I let him get away with it, sometimes not.)

I didn't like it when he did that -- but I would have liked it a hell of a lot less if he'd said "you're overreacting" instead. At least "I don't feel like arguing" was taking ownership of his problem rather than trying to shift it onto me.

I have a feeling "you're overrreacting" is just "I don't feel like arguing".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree, EmpressCallipygos. I recently had a little tiff with my boss (who's not a genius in the realm of emotional discipline) wherein one of the things he said that really bothered me was "I'm not upset." because he said when he clearly was.

I talked later with my partner about it and she said that she thought that in his case "I'm not upset" meant "I AM upset, but I don't plan on taking it out on you".

I think that sometimes, we all have code phrases for longer phrases we're not comfortable actually saying and we count on other folks to decode what we really mean. And I think putting that burden on your audience is really asking a lot, often way too much.
posted by kalessin at 1:49 PM on September 15, 2011


Other Men to All Women: Hang On A Second, We'll Decide If You're Crazy Or Not
posted by SassHat at 2:53 PM on September 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


AlsoMike, how would you propose that the defensive man of your examples learn to better engage with his SO's emotions

I think the answer really depends on the specifics of the situation, the relationship and the history. It's painful to be yelled at or to be the target of someone's anger and there's a limit to how much of that you can take. Defensiveness is a strategy for lowering that by putting some distance between you and the anger, and you can do that without resorting to sexist stereotypes or attacking back by leaving the situation, telling her you don't want to argue and so on. It's not a perfect solution because some women will interpret this as a sign of weakness and it will make her even angrier, especially if what she was originally angry about amounts to "You're a failure as a man." She might think or even say something like "Oh, so now you're slinking away like a coward." So that's an emotion that's very punitive.

Sometimes people gear up for a fight, they make a list in their head of all the things they want to say. And they assume that you will be wearing your defensive armor, so they ratchet up the force of what they're saying with the expectation that most of it won't get through. But if you remove your armor and just take the full force of the attack, it can de-escalate the situation because she goes "Oh wait, I didn't mean for that to wound that much!" But that's if you're with someone who is nice. Some people like to vent and don't care how you feel about it. "You're a man, you're supposed to take it."
posted by AlsoMike at 3:00 PM on September 15, 2011


Huh. I've always been very aware of the implications of telling someone to "calm down, because they're overreacting," so I almost never use it (exception to be detailed below) but I'm also surprised by the number of people who say they've never seen it directed toward a man. I'm a guy, and I get very animated when I talk about something that excites me -- whether I think it's great or it makes me angry -- and I get told to calm down all the time. I suspect it's a matter of volume, but either way, I get "calm down" more than anyone else I've ever known.

The one time I did use it, I was standing in line in a Staples, waiting to buy some ... I don't know what. The guy on line ahead of me started screaming into his cell phone, telling the person he was talking to how he was going to "TAKE ALL YOUR CLIENTS! I WILL RUIN YOU!" (Who really says that? This guy, apparently.) Suffice to say, perople were becoming a bit uncomfortable. He made eye contact with me at some point, and when he did, I raised my eyebrows as if to say "Really?", spread my hands to indicate the whole store full of people around us, and in as mild a manner as I could muster, I said: "Dude. Calm down." He hung up, turned around, ignored me the rest of the time he was to wait on line, then left. So yeah: that dude needed to calm the fuck down.

It doesn't mean much, but a quick Google for "Dude, calm down" (which is how I usually hear it) returns 24.9 million hits; "Dude, chill out" (a close second) returns 10.3 million. Someone's got to be saying it to dudes, right?
posted by Amanojaku at 4:07 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy shit. I guess I date really nice people. I would never think about what to do if someone told me I was "slinking away like a coward". Besides break up with them immediately. Damn.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:21 PM on September 15, 2011


How do you cope with a simple statement of hurt feelings that isn't an episode of verbal abuse?

Or what if she told you that you (both) were in a life-threatening situation and that you (both) needed to perform actions to make the situation safe? 

Both situations in which I've been called crazy many, many times over. 

The difficult thing about assertion is that no-one is ever going to like being told they've done something wrong, however nicely you put it. And criticism flows down the hierarchy, not up it. Your boss is allowed to tune out your "When you grab my ass I feel objectified" statement. A woman who outranks a woman is also entitled to dismiss her as crazy, but somehow, almost *any* man is also allowed by society to tune out the crazy statements of almost *any* woman, because women are crazy and overreact... because unless otherwise stated any given man outranks any given woman.

The screaming cellphone guy is another good example. My guess is if that guy were the boss, you might not have said anything whereas the setting put you equal in rank (2 John Q Publics) and his yelling lowered his social value enough to validate the Calm Down. Likewise I doubt that he'd have earned a Calm Down if what he'd said was "Excuse me, you're standing on my foot." 
posted by tel3path at 4:23 PM on September 15, 2011


I wasn't going to comment on this article because it's way too close to home for me and it's not directed at me, being a man, and it's a message from a man to all women.

But, after reading the discussion here, I'm going to throw my two cents in.

I don't think we should gender abuse. Acceptable standards of behaviour should be agreed on and applied across the board. In the examples the author gives, the person saying "you're crazy", or "calm down", or "you're overreacting" is clearly in the wrong and dressing it up with gender does highlight a common male-female interaction. That's great, I bet some women will read this article and feel good, and that's nice.

But this article is about someone being silenced in a bad marriage, someone being silenced at work. The dynamic he's referencing though isn't that simple. It's not just about insults/slights it's about perceived insults as well.

I'm kind of losing my thread here, so let me just simplify this and say that in this situation either party can potentially be in the right or in the wrong(from an outside perspective, because everything is warped when your emotions are running high.)

I've been in ALL four quadrants of this situation at different times. I've been in the wrong, telling someone to calm down because I didn't want to deal with the situation anymore. I've been in the wrong, completely overreacting and yelling at someone. I've been in the right, having a strong but not severe reaction to something hurtful that someone else did. And I've been in the right, having someone scream in my face blaming me for the condition of their own internal emotional landscape. ("You're making me crazy! Now suffer.")

On some of those occasions, where I was the "calm down" party and not the "FFFFUUUU" party this argument has come up. (Because I'm male and I'm specifically talking about my interactions with women, although I've had all of these scenarios play out with other men.)
When I was in the wrong, the other person telling me that I was silencing them by casting their response as an overreaction was exactly what I needed to hear. When I was in the right, being told the exact same thing was the opposite of what I needed to hear, it only made me second guess myself and wonder if I didn't deserve to be screamed at, if I was sexistly silencing the other person, then proceeding to listen to their entire abusive tirade when I should have been removing myself from the situation as fast as possible.

So in this thread we have people who've mainly been on different ends of this accusing people who they think has only been on one end of the dynamic of shitting on their life experience.


--

But to tell you the truth that's not really what the article is about. The point of this article is not that Women Are Never Crazy; The author shouldn't have titled his article with a giant sexist gender essentialist lie. The point of the article is that men should take women seriously. I don't know why he's telling women that, maybe he wants to earn some points or something.

I think men should take women seriously whether or not they're crazy. (Maybe especially when they're being crazy; They can be just as dangerous as any other person.)
posted by TheKM at 4:50 PM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, something I meant to say and danced around..

Any man who has ever been abused by a woman that has had any involvement with feminism has probably had this discussion as an element of an ongoing campaign of manipulation and emotional blackmail.

Some of these heads are hardened by scar tissue and not ignorance and privilege. The framing of this article is wildly antagonistic to anyone with that kind of history.

BUT

Really, this is an open letter to all women from one man so I don't even know why any men are reading this.. it's not addressed to us and we'd be much happier if we didn't pry into other people's affairs.
posted by TheKM at 5:00 PM on September 15, 2011


Any man who has ever been abused by a woman that has had any involvement with feminism has probably had this discussion as an element of an ongoing campaign of manipulation and emotional blackmail.

Would you mind explaining what you mean by this? I actually hope to GOD I'm wrong about this, but it kind of sounds like you're implying that feminism teaches women to be abusive.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:04 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's how I read it too. Can you elaborate? I think, TheKM, that you are maybe relying here on a semantic shortcut that may be obvious to you, but to me, it sounds pretty abusive in and of itself.
posted by kalessin at 5:06 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesn't mean much, but a quick Google for "Dude, calm down" (which is how I usually hear it) returns 24.9 million hits; "Dude, chill out" (a close second) returns 10.3 million. Someone's got to be saying it to dudes, right?

I'm sure someone out there is saying it to actual men, after all you've had it said to you and you said it to the man you mentioned...

But I call women dude, not just men. I have called my grandmother dude before. "Dude" has sort of evolved into a unisex plural, so the number of Google hits really doesn't mean anything in regards to how often the phrase is said to a man.
posted by palomar at 5:09 PM on September 15, 2011


Any man who has ever been abused by a woman that has had any involvement with feminism has probably had this discussion as an element of an ongoing campaign of manipulation and emotional blackmail.

I think you're saying that men who have dated crazy women who incorrectly accused them of violating feminist principles might reflexively cringe when they hear any talk about men oppressing women with sexist actions they're not really aware of. That's kind of a personal problem, though, isn't it? And an indication that maybe you don't really take feminism very seriously? I'm inclined to think that this is another area where if race were the issue instead of gender you would know that this is not a good reason to require that people from the relatively/historically oppressed group tread lightly around you.

I would bet that a few of these women would be considerably less crazy if there were somehow no need for feminism. I'm not saying you should forgive them or go anywhere near them for that reason. But it really warps women and men in all kinds of crazy ways, often starting from the way they see their parents interact with each other. You would find considerably more sane women to have relationships if we all took women, in general, as seriously as we take men.
posted by Adventurer at 5:29 PM on September 15, 2011


Any man who has ever been abused by a woman that has had any involvement with feminism has probably had this discussion as an element of an ongoing campaign of manipulation and emotional blackmail.

Would you mind explaining what you mean by this? I actually hope to GOD I'm wrong about this, but it kind of sounds like you're implying that feminism teaches women to be abusive.


That's not what TheKM is saying, in my reading. He's saying that, in the hands of an abuser, the arguments and rhetorical forms of feminism can become weapons of abuse.
posted by grobstein at 5:30 PM on September 15, 2011


. . . Which really shouldn't be surprising to anyone. I am troubled to see three negative comments immediately after TheKM's post, two expressing puzzlement and one censure.
posted by grobstein at 5:40 PM on September 15, 2011


I'm not sure why "puzzlement" is "negative." I truly did not interpret what he said as "in the hands of an abuser, the rhetorical forms of feminism can become weapons of abuse", and was asking him to clarify what he meant.

Can YOU now explain why you are processing "can you explain what you meant, maybe, because it kind of sounds like you said this bad thing that I'm hoping maybe you didn't mean" as a "negative' thing?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:45 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's saying that, in the hands of an abuser, the arguments and rhetorical forms of feminism can become weapons of abuse.

In the hands of an abuser, though, what can't? If you date an abusive woman who accuses you of racism in order to abuse you, a) does this change how you think about racism in general and people who claim to be oppressed by it, and b) do you go to threads wherein people are talking about a particular unconscious method of oppression and tell them that some people use accusations of racism as a weapon? This always, always happens in threads about feminism, for the very reason that a lot of people seem to feel that the way a whole gender is being kind of partially crushed is not really important; there are bad actors among them who have hurt me, let me tell you about them.
posted by Adventurer at 5:51 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you date an abusive woman who accuses you of racism in order to abuse you, a) does this change how you think about racism in general and people who claim to be oppressed by it, and b) do you go to threads wherein people are talking about a particular unconscious method of oppression and tell them that some people use accusations of racism as a weapon?

I'm not afraid to answer yes to (a) and (b). Depending on the circumstances, I would do both. I don't think it's always relevant, but it sometimes is.

But you can feel free to dismiss the experience of the men in question, and just paint it all as men rushing into a women's thread.
posted by grobstein at 5:56 PM on September 15, 2011


Apologies, that wasn't what I meant to imply. I'm also pretty sure it's not what I said. I wasn't even aware that I would be perceived to be making an implication, having written exactly what I meant.

I'm not generalizing at all, I was saying specifically that women who are abusers and who have studied feminism may (wrongly) employ this topic (men silencing women/not taking them seriously) in support of their abusive behaviour.

I didn't say, mean, or think that feminism teaches women to abuse men, that feminism is about abusing men, or that there is any causal link between feminism and the abuse of men.

I thought I was being clear enough and I hoped I was commenting in good enough faith to receive the benefit of the doubt.
posted by TheKM at 5:58 PM on September 15, 2011


This thread has made me reflect on how great my friends and colleagues are. I work with a lot of people who have STRONG opinions and reactions, and I can't remember a time I've heard this. It'd be more like this:
A: "Blah blah blah! This is a big fucking deal! We need to bring out the big guns!"
B: *instantaneously gathers self* "Really? Let's think this through. I actually see the situation this way. Bringing out the big guns now could really backfire!"
A: *reconsiders or explains why they disagree*
...
After another exchange or two the group decides on what responses to take.

Among friends it would be like this.
A: "Blah blah blah! This is a big fucking deal!"
B: "Oh no, how upsetting!"
A: "Yes, I am SO upset. Blah blah blah."
B: [follow up question]
A: "Blah blah blah. But on the other hand, blah. So it might not be quite as bad as I fear. Anyway, thanks for listening. I feel a lot better."

I just do not see an instance where being dismissive helps anything. If it's about their life, they get to feel however they want. And if you have to decide on action together, it's worth fully understanding their viewpoint and sharing your own. If it's not worth the time to come to understand the difference in your two viewpoints, then you don't respect what they bring to the situation and should probably find a way to stop making decisions with them.
posted by salvia at 6:17 PM on September 15, 2011


I'm not afraid to answer yes to (a) and (b). Depending on the circumstances, I would do both. I don't think it's always relevant, but it sometimes is.

But you can feel free to dismiss the experience of the men in question, and just paint it all as men rushing into a women's thread.


I'm sorry; I'm sorry to dismiss the abuse. But what I thought I was hearing was that you can't take complaints seriously when they've been made against you falsely and maliciously; and the thing is that millions of people, women, have these real complaints, and they are so manifestly real to me that I don't understand why everybody who has eyes and ears isn't a feminist. And so "feminists in turn need to be aware that certain individuals use it maliciously" sounded very beside the point to me, because this is something systemic, and abusive people will use anything they can get their hands on, even the rhetoric of liberation.

I understand how he/you would read this and need to say something about your experience, and how it contradicts the piece. Fighting off your own gaslighting. I guess I'm coming at it from the "argh what can we do" perspective and read everything else as either some sort of request or proposal for or dismissal of action. (In this case I thought I was reading yours as the ever-popular "tone it down or we won't go for it.")
posted by Adventurer at 6:43 PM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think efforts to combat sexism, racism and any other virulent bit of bigotry is hampered by a morality pageant style simplified approach to people who do crappy things, that they are actively doing them from the desire to be evil, instead of merely sleepwalking through life just like everyone else. This video "How to tell people they sound racist" is a pretty good approach but sometimes you have to try tackling an -ism as a general phenomena. Which is what that guy was trying to do, and it didn't feel (to me) like mansplaining as much as a sort of wince-by-text that he simultaneously comfortably identifies as male and this crap tends to be done by men to women.

Actually, this crap tends to be done by anyone to anyone, but it's particularly unfortunate in the face of a culture that decided women were more "emotional" and easily upset. So women (and men) actively wander around believing that females are liable to display erratic social behaviour as a defining social characteristic, up to the point that this is supposed to be a source of reprehensible female power. (The age old anecdote about crying to get out of a traffic ticket). So a woman who wants her views to be taken seriously is shut down easily by being warned her behaviour mimics that of an evil, manipulative "emotional" woman who is selfishly demanding caretaking to get her way.

To try to give it context for people who are reading this as "you have to give crazy bitches their way, always or you are sexist now!", try to think of it from this perspective. The problem is not dismissing temper tantrums, the problem is that there is a lazy norm that many, many people have internalized that all women are going to throw a tantrum. This is a labelling error, especially helped by the fact that actually listening to the complaint will make the receiver uncomfortable and/or motivated to take actions they don't want to. The resulting bad feelings can be attached to the internal belief that they were warding off an attack of female splah.
posted by Phalene at 7:58 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


TheKM: “I don't think we should gender abuse.”

I think here you're making the mistake people often make in these discussions of assuming that we're talking about something in a vacuum. In the real world, abuse is often gendered. It often is conjoined with sexism, all wrapped up in the silly gender games we play. To ignore that fact is not equitable. It would be the same if we insisted that lynchings during the 60s were just "violence" and that saying they're "hate crimes" is "racializing the violence."

If it's off-limits to "gender" wrongs that people do in society, then we have absolutely no way to talk about sexism at all.

I mentioned upthread that this is something my ex-wife did to me all the time; I've experienced this myself, so I'm really not saying that this is something that exclusively men do to exclusively women. But the evidence – real evidence, in the form of repeated cultural tropes and prominent appearances in pop culture – points conclusively toward a society-wide stereotype of women as 'crazy,' 'hysterical,' 'overreacting,' etc. And – well, I feel like I've experienced the other side of this, too; I feel like I've thrown this in the face of women on occasion, and it seems to me that I was in the wrong quite often.

In any case: I'm responding, TheKM, because you gave a pretty nuanced view of things above, so I wanted to say something about this one point that stuck out at me. Overall, though, thanks for your comments.
posted by koeselitz at 9:03 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Koeselitz: I apologize in advance if I'm cherrypicking you here.

I agree that men should take women seriously. My problem with gendering abuse is that people(men and women) both are very vulnerable to their intimate partners in many ways, even if one partner doesn't believe that they are vulnerable, and the other partners vulnerability is portrayed on billboards.

The racism analogy fails for me because black people and white people are not biologically interdependent. Regarding lynching.. I think murder is already illegal and considered wrong in society, and we don't need special rules to punish people harder for murdering people for reasons that more wrong than whatever the normal reasons for committing murder are.

I don't believe in gender essentialism. I think men and women are more alike than they are different. I think the road to gender equality involves a lot of give and take to redistribute the expectations that are place are placed on men and women equitably. I don't believe men are abusive ogre types(aside from the enlighted few) or that women are special healing nurturing types(aside from from the demented few).

Men and women are two halves of a fucked up whole. Whatever capacity men have for abuse women also have and vice versa. No one should ever be treated harmfully. Men should take women seriously. Men as a group, in society, are often allowed to get away with minimizing the feelings of women--however... if all we know is that one man called one women "crazy", you do not have enough information to determine who is being abused in this situation.

Frankly who is this guy to say women as a group aren't crazy? Women aren't allowed to be crazy now? What if they are actually mentally ill? Automatically telling someone they've gone off the deep end is gas lighting them? (For that matter are men crazy? Does anyone abuse anyone out of anything other than mental illness? Are some people just evil and not crazy at all? Can women be evil? Is evil just for men and crazy just for women? If women aren't crazy are men allowed not to be evil? Why can't we just be nice to each other and treat each other with compassion and respect?)

To jump back to race, since people here seem to like using it to explain gender(although I think it's not a very useful parallel because gender is only similar to race in that they're both largely fictitious social concepts) : If this had been an open letter to black people from a white person saying "You are not *WhateverWhitePeopleThinkBlackPeopleAre-IDon'tKnowAndIReallyDon'tWantTo*." I would be offended, as a black person, at a white person presuming to define me either way and I imagine that some white people would give that author an eyeroll and depending on where they were coming from I might join them.


BUT

Really, this has nothing to do with me! This is one man's reconciliatory gesture towards all women and it's so not for me that I feel weird talking about it, it was only the combination of the discussion here and a male author that drew me in. I'm pro-reconciliation! In my cohort(mid-twenties to early thirties in New York) I sometimes feel like the only thing stopping men and women from shooting each other in the streets is that they mostly want to do each other.

(I also get that if this is some kind of war shit, then men are Israel and women are Palestine.. and I'm might be a little bitter about getting blown up a few times and seeing people I care about get blown up too.)
posted by TheKM at 10:57 PM on September 15, 2011


Also, one more thing that occurred to me after I posted. "Traditionally" the home is the domain of women and everything else is the domain of men. Whatever the popular story may be, women aren't weak brainwashed slaves. Presuming to own a woman in your own home must be like sleeping in the tiger cage at your own private zoo.
posted by TheKM at 11:10 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


To answer a couple of your questions, I think that the epidemiology shows that women as a group aren't actually mentally ill so no, it's not beyond the authir's remit to say that. He would be going beyond his remit if he said the opposite, in which case it's "evidence or STFU" time.

It's also true that people who abuse usually aren't mentally ill, though they sometimes appear that way by accident or design. It's more usually a rational (according to their belief systems) choice for getting their own way which works very well and which they see no reason to change.
posted by tel3path at 11:34 PM on September 15, 2011


I don't think women as a group are anything aside from women. They also are not anything aside from men.

Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know, this concept of women as “crazy” has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general.

I think the article would've been way cooler if he'd just said, as he seems to mean, that he realized he wasn't taking women seriously and that this is something men do and that he's sorry for it and will endeavour to change his behaviour and influence the behaviour of other men he knows; I would have signed onto that. Instead he made half of his examples about intimate partner abuse (which is complex, not as gendered as he seems to think it is, and probably outside of his experience.), then dug into gaslighting (which he define very weakly and applies broadly, probably also outside of his experience.), and he does all this under the header "A Message To Women From a Man: You Are Not Crazy"... I would add the subtitle "But I wouldn't know because I haven't been taking you seriously."
posted by TheKM at 12:39 AM on September 16, 2011


Very well put, TheKM.

I didn't immediately read it as quite so offensive as others did, because part of it is him observing the experience of a female friend of his and of having (at least one) woman say to him "we're crazy", apparently from a position of internalized sexism. I do think the objections that he's "mansplaining" are valid, though, despite this.

But I can think of another reason besides "denying own individual participation/responsibility" for his addressing this to women instead of men. Maybe he's afraid that if he addressed it to men, they would just call him... no I won't say it.
posted by tel3path at 12:52 AM on September 16, 2011


Maybe he's afraid that if he addressed it to men, they would just call him... no I won't say it.

What, a woman-lover? That's not much of an insult. Jokes aside I think it's good that he came to the conscious realization that half the population is human, and re-reading my posts I want to explain that I'm not demanding concessions from women-as-a-group. As an individual I try not to ask for more than I offer or to accept more than I can return.

I guess I just reacted (as I'm wont to do) to the sexist dichotomy of women as being inherent victims and men as latent perpetrators. It completely ignores the reality of female strength and male vulnerability. It read to me as "Come, women, give me a pat on the back as I validate your suffering and cede you the moral high-ground in all emotional abuse." Ugh.

I repeat, men need to take women more seriously. I make a conscious effort to take women more seriously.. but I don't particularly believe in gender or gender essentialism and I think it's harmful (and sexist, against everybody) to gender the kind of emotional intimate partner abuse he touched upon.

I hope this isn't too much, but to go back to the race analogy(which I hate): He's currently at the "fetishizing women as a race of Noble Savages" stage.
posted by TheKM at 1:07 AM on September 16, 2011


So true story. The boss put this "calendar girls" style calendar up in the office. It was awful. Naked women working and serving behind the bar of some nondescript pub. Absolutely offensive. I moaned and moaned about this calendar. I said you can't have this here - it's demeaning to women - It's unprofessional - I object to it - It makes me feel uncomfortable. His response. You're overreacting & my wife likes it & it's just a bit of fun. Stop being so sensitive.

I could have throttled him.

So yes - I understand this totally.

But, (and this is a tiny but), women sometimes be crazy. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that there are mental and emotional differences between the sexes and these differences sometimes make interaction hard. Being told to calm down (whatever your gender) by someone of the opposite sex isn't necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, the fact that my OH finds it easy to tell me to calm down, whilst I worry that I'm being somehow demeaning if I do it actually imbalances the relationship. I just thought of that & that's a bit worrying.

If I'm telling you to calm down, and you're calm (but you're disagreeing with my male viewpoint) then that's wrong. If I'm telling you to calm down because you're kicking off and it's escalating a situation, then why not? The difficulty is for *both* of us to understand which of these two situations we're in.
posted by seanyboy at 1:08 AM on September 16, 2011


You don't have to be a gender essentialist to gender this issue. It isn't sexist to point out sexism, either, which the "women are crazy" cultural trope clearly is.
posted by tel3path at 1:09 AM on September 16, 2011


Seanyboy, your boss can tell you to calm down because he's your boss. You are careful about telling your OH to calm down because you know you aren't her boss. Not everybody knows what you know.
posted by tel3path at 1:12 AM on September 16, 2011


Also, you seem to be saying that you are disadvantaged by being presumed sexist if you tell your OH to calm down; that pointing out the sexism is putting the power in women's hands and silencing men.

This doesn't help, because in practice - demonstrably and historically - women are in fact presumed crazy, and if we object to being dismissed in this way it's considered sexist and oppressive. Even though this kind of argument is really a self-centred and disingenuous derail, and basically amounts to escalating from "you're irrational/unreasonable" to "okay then, you're sexist" to "okay then, you're dismissing me and not hearing me out".
posted by tel3path at 1:25 AM on September 16, 2011


Also, you seem to be saying that you are disadvantaged by being presumed sexist if you tell your OH to calm down;
I have no worries about being presumed sexist by the OH. Maybe I sometimes am, but always these things can be worked out. There's enough trust to not require me to be careful in this area.

No - My main concern is that if I tell her to calm down, she's less likely to calm down. Because women are crazy.
posted by seanyboy at 2:06 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think we should become too bogged down in the exact phraseology. "Calm down" can be a perfectly reasonable thing to say to people of either gender depending on the situation.

What requires resistance are insinuations that the female brain is incapable of logic, is awash with mystery chemicals that make her akin to alien species, is irrational and lesser – no matter how these prejudices are expressed.

As ernielundquist observed, anyone who has participated on the internet as "female" and also as "male" or "unknown" (which is usually read as male) will see a difference in how their opinions are received. In fact, if seanyboy's handle were "sheenagirl" there would be a distinct difference in how many people reading his anecdote about the calendar would filter that information. The statement coming from a male is much more likely to be received neutrally, while a female making the same complaint would be thought of as a bit of a troublemaker, jealous that her body is not as good as the girls on the calendar, wasting time on silly issues, lacking a sense of humor, etc.

Women know that they will be taken less seriously (and often be the target of generalized anger) if they identify as female. Pretty much every woman who participates online has examined and evaluated the issue and come to a decision about that. If you are a woman, you do that with every community or message board or online game you join, every time. Even if you've made the firm decision to just be "you," the thought flickers through your head at each new venue. Now, once that bit of info settles in, consider that for most of us everything in our working lives is like this. The most skilled, knowledgeable and experienced woman will generally be respected less than any given man, no matter how superior her performance.

For example, from an older article about blind auditioning for orchestras:

Until recently, these problems also existed in the United States. Prof. Claudia Goldin (a Harvard Economist) and Princeton's Cecilia Rouse recently completed a study of blind auditions in symphony orchestras in the USA. They found that the use of a screen increased the chances of US women in the first round of auditions by 50%, and in the final rounds by 300%. The overall effect of blind auditions has increased the presence of women in US orchestras over the last 20 years from about a 5% representation to 36%.
posted by taz at 2:07 AM on September 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


100% agree. It's about the time when I (once again) pull out the jscalzi blog post that makes the same observation.

I may sockpuppet, see what a change in gender does to peoples behaviour towards me.
posted by seanyboy at 3:19 AM on September 16, 2011


seanyboy : I may sockpuppet, see what a change in gender does to peoples behaviour towards me.

No need, you only have to look over the fence to see that one. When I have directly (and somewhat caustically) pointed out hard factual errors on "sensitive" topics to women here on the Blue, I've had more than one post deleted. When I do the same to males, a mod will usually warn all of us to keep it civil and on-topic sometime a few rounds later.

Funny, actually, how I'll usually rally against proof-of-sexism in every little aspect of our language and workplaces and the shape of teddy-bear eyes and what-have-you... And yet, I can't deny that even crude ol' pla can see the inherent sexism in such subtle expressions of the idea that that women need protection and men can just "take" it.
posted by pla at 3:39 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's so much that the ladeez' delicate sensibilities are being protected so much as... well, to resort to analogy, because frankly I'm not eloquent enough to communicate complex ideas very well (true): imagine that most of the people in the world, and definitely the majority of people with power in the world, are creationists. Imagine that those who believe in evolution are marginalized, mistrusted, targeted, and disparaged. Imagine that everywhere you go on the internet is full of creationists. You might find some special interest sites that allow people who believe in evolution to congregate, but mostly only with each other. But a core group +admins at one big, popular, smart site decides (after long and tortuous discussions) that it supports this evolution idea, and wants to be welcoming to people who believe in it.

In such a case, because the idea is so radical, a lot of creationists belonging to the site, or newly joining the site are going to be insisting that the discussion follow their agenda, because they are the majority, and the power-holders, and absolutely convinced of their right-mindedness. The site might begin to discourage such people from automatically taking over and assuming control of every conversation, not because the evolution-believers are too dainty or weak to defend their ideas, but to head off the same circular discussion arc that begins with some aspect of evolution being put forward as a topic, but then highjacked by the people who insist that the whole idea is a ridiculous fiction that doesn't warrant attention. In order to give the discussion some chance, such comments might be deleted or discouraged.
posted by taz at 4:02 AM on September 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


No - My main concern is that if I tell her to calm down, she's less likely to calm down. Because women are crazy.

Is this a joke? I honestly cannot tell, and after a couple hundred comments talking about how hurtful and unhelpful it is to label half the planet with a blanket dismissal of "women be crazy", at best it comes off pretty tone-deaf.
posted by palomar at 6:36 AM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I have directly (and somewhat caustically) pointed out hard factual errors on "sensitive" topics to women here on the Blue, I've had more than one post deleted. When I do the same to males, a mod will usually warn all of us to keep it civil and on-topic sometime a few rounds later.

I remember having discussions with you on "sensitive" topics (i.e., feminism, sexism, women's rights in general), and it seems to me that your posts are deleted in those threads because you have had a tendency to dismiss the commentary of the women that engage in discussion with you. You have invalidated my personal experiences and flat out called me a liar, and I have seen you do the same to many other female members of Metafilter. Do you do that to men in discussions here as well? If so, those comments should also be deleted. That's not a good way to try to discuss things with people, and I think most likely you are aware of that.

I'm more than willing to talk about sensitive subjects, but it has to be in good faith. Calling other people liars and flat-out dismissing their lived experiences does not create the impression that that kind of discussion is possible.
posted by palomar at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


palomar : Do you do that to men in discussions here as well?

Of course I do. I call it as I see it, and believe it or not, I wouldn't even recognize your handle as belonging to a female had you not just pointed it out (this long after a conversation where it came up, anyway).

That said, I seem to vaguely recall that I erred in calling you a liar once upon a time, and believe I apologized for letting myself get overly emotional. Someone said the equivalent of "calm down, dude", and I did. Funny, how apropos that seems to the present discussion.


If so, those comments should also be deleted. That's not a good way to try to discuss things with people, and I think most likely you are aware of that.

People politely never speaking their mind for fear of offending anyone also does not count as a good way to discuss things.
posted by pla at 7:05 AM on September 16, 2011


You invalidate the lived experiences of other men and call them liars when you don't agree with them? That's the question I asked you, and you said "Of course I do", so I'm just wanting to make sure I'm understanding you fully.
posted by palomar at 7:13 AM on September 16, 2011


palomar : You invalidate the lived experiences of other men and call them liars when you don't agree with them?

Fred's personal experiences very very rarely count as valid evidence when looking at anything with a scope larger than "the world according to Fred". And yes, that applies just as much to me as it does to others.

So, when someone describes a personal experience that I find bordering on the impossible, yes, I will call them on it.

Sometimes, I'll get it wrong.
posted by pla at 7:21 AM on September 16, 2011


Huh.

Well, thanks for clarifying that for me, anyway.
posted by palomar at 7:27 AM on September 16, 2011


Amanojaku: I think you're misunderstanding the article. Here's an equivalent situation: you're standing in line at Staples and the guy in front of you is talking on his cellphone. You say to your friend, "only douchebags talk on cell phones in line, amirite?" and the guy turns around and says "shut up and mind your own business." Then you say, "Calm down, you're overreacting."

You were perfectly in line to say something to someone who was displaying inappropriate behavior in public. And of course men get told to calm down and chill out all the time, but never have I seen it in an equivalent situation. In the analogy above I'd be more likely to hear you (fictional you) respond with "no, fuck you" or walk away or something.
posted by desjardins at 7:37 AM on September 16, 2011


I'm just not sure how this is supposed to be a good way to discuss things:

[In a thread about Topic Q:]

Fred: "I've experienced Topic Q this way -- [gives a rundown of his personal experience]."
pla: "I don't believe that's possible at all, and I think you're lying."
Fred: ...

I mean, how is Fred meant to respond to that? It's not much more than a playground taunt, it seems like Fred has the option of engaging you in a "yes it is"/"no it's not" battle, which is pointless and tedious for the rest of us to have to deal with, or he can ignore you and flag your comments as noise or a derail, which is what they are. Flagging comments often leads to those comments being deleted, but even if the comment isn't flagged, it should be deleted, because it adds nothing of value to the discussion.
posted by palomar at 7:45 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


TheKM: Presuming to own a woman in your own home must be like sleeping in the tiger cage at your own private zoo.

What. I just cannot parse this, and by God I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. Are you saying that men should be afraid that the women in their homes are going to violently attack and eat them? If the home is the "traditional" domain of women, why are women most often abused by their domestic partners in their own homes?

Addressing your other comments: yes, some women can be crazy and abusive. No, you should not have to tolerate another person's screaming tantrums, regardless of what you or she said previously. You're not being sexist if you just walk away from someone screaming at you. I don't hear anyone saying that men should just endure verbal abuse.

What I do hear, and have experienced firsthand, is that any expression of anger is called "crazy" by some men. I can say (calmly) "That's not appropriate in the workplace" and be accused of overreacting. I've said to someone, "Your comment was hurtful" and was told to calm down. I've started to cry and have been told that I'm blowing things out of proportion. In specific incidents, that may have been true. When it happens over and over and over, it's gaslighting. It makes me not trust myself.
posted by desjardins at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


If the subjects were not men and women, but:

--black people and white people
--white people and black people
--Jews and Arabs
--Arabs and Jews
--Christians and atheists
--Atheists and Christians
--Republicans and Democrats
--Democrats and Republicans

would gaslighting-type dismissal be acceptable?

"There's no more racism in the United States, you know. It's all in your heads. You are hypersensitive and politically paranoid."

"The mainstream media is not liberal/conservative. You are over-reading it based on your prejudices."

Nice way to begin a discourse, not.
posted by bad grammar at 4:41 PM on September 16, 2011


bad grammar : "The mainstream media is not liberal/conservative. You are over-reading it based on your prejudices."

I don't know if you meant that as the most sublime of humorous jabs, but the fact that you can't solidly pick a side that the media favors pretty much sums up my stance on this argument...

Sometimes, people (of any gender, race, religion, age, etc) just get emotionally involved, which makes them stupid. Telling them to take a step back does them a frickin' favor.

If you take someone telling you to calm down as "dismissive"... You need to go for a walk. And I don't mean that as a joke - You either already know that person well enough to know they mean it to minimize your input (in which case - fuck 'em, who cares what they think); or you've gotten too invested in the discussion to contribute meaningfully to it and need to take a break from it.
posted by pla at 5:11 PM on September 16, 2011


pla, I read that as two statements, "The mainstream media is not liberal. You are over-reading..." and "The mainstream media is not conservative. You are over-reading..."

I don't believe it's meant to be as you are reading it.

I'm not sure I understand anything in your last paragraph, though -- if I know that someone is intending to minimize my input by telling me to calm down, why shouldn't I interpret them telling me to calm down as a dismissive act on their part? Why do you expect people to just roll over and take it when they're treated badly by others? That's not okay at all, dude.

Since you mentioned upthread that you often do not believe that people are being honest about their lived experiences and that you will call them a liar and tell them to calm down if you feel they're not being honest, it's starting to sound like you really want to be able to continue being dismissive of others, and you don't want to have to deal with being called out on bad behavior.
posted by palomar at 5:27 PM on September 16, 2011


palomar : I read that as two statements, "The mainstream media is not liberal. You are over-reading..." and "The mainstream media is not conservative. You are over-reading..."

Right. It doesn't matter which way you read it - bad grammar, as I took it, illustrated the fact that some people will complain that the media has a liberal bias, and some will complain that it has a conservative bias. The fact that no one agrees on which bias the media has pretty much makes my point.


if I know that someone is intending to minimize my input by telling me to calm down, why shouldn't I interpret them telling me to calm down as a dismissive act on their part?

You absolutely should! If you know that someone means to dismiss anything you have to say, you should in turn ignore them.

If, however, you don't know that they mean their comments dismissively, perhaps you need to go for a walk (ie, clear your head, remove yourself from the situation, calm down) before responding. Not everyone telling you to calm down means it dismissively.

I personally find that an invaluable method of preserving my impartiality - Take that "personal experience" as you will. :)


Why do you expect people to just roll over and take it when they're treated badly by others? That's not okay at all, dude.

I don't think anyone would fairly accuse me of suggesting you "turn the other cheek". ;) More like "make damned sure sure your enemy meant it like that before eviscerating him/her slowly"... Though of course, we all jump the gun some days. I did that to you, once(?), and apologized. So you rightly distrust me, I don't blame you for that. Perhaps we might have ended up the best of friends, but for a teensy misunderstanding. That happens, in this world.


Since you mentioned upthread that you often do not believe that people are being honest about their lived experiences

I did not say that. I said that personal experiences have little-to-no relevance to generalizations. When discussing the plight of the poor, the fact that I grew up in a piss-poor small town and managed to make something of myself (while valid as "proof of concept") doesn't generalize to "everyone can succeed". The fact that some welfare recipients don't cheat the system doesn't mean that we shouldn't look into those who do cheat the system. The fact that some obese people have medical conditions doesn't mean we should consider it perfectly cool that anyone, anywhere might put on an extra 200lbs and not consider it a problem.
posted by pla at 6:23 PM on September 16, 2011


pla, I asked you twice upthread:

You invalidate the lived experiences of other men and call them liars when you don't agree with them? That's the question I asked you, and you said "Of course I do", so I'm just wanting to make sure I'm understanding you fully.

Both times I asked you if you invalidate the lived experiences of other men and call them liars when you don't agree with them, and both times you confirmed that yes, that is what you do.

My wording did not change between questions -- I asked you both times if you call men liars, as you have called me a liar in the past. You said yes, both times. You said yes, you call people liars when you don't agree with their personal experiences.

Now you are saying that's not what you said.

As for your apology for calling me a liar... unfortunately, pla, I have never seen an apology from you, and we've had a fair amount of negative interaction. For instance, in this thread, you were frankly pretty awful to every female poster -- and you left the thread with this comment, in which your "apology" to another user (not me) was, "So... Sorry that I can't just obsequiously give up and agree with you, but so far as I can tell, you may as well have expressed annoyance at all the unicorns shitting Skittles on the sidewalk."

This, by the way, is in response to a woman sharing her personal experiences with being made uncomfortable by men. This is how you talk to women here. It's not good for furthering discussion, it's not helpful in any way at all. You claim that this is how you also talk to men, but I have yet to see you behave so nastily toward another man here. If you could provide me with a link where you're being just as rude and abrasive to a male user as you were to me and the other female users in just that thread alone, please do so. Seriously.

Anyway, with your claim that you never said you call people liars, despite the evidence just upthread that you do in fact call people liars, it's become clear that you have some basic problems with honesty. That's not really something I'm interested in dealing with, and I'd much rather spend my precious free time with people who can treat me like a human being instead of... this. I am serious about that link, though -- if you can show me where you've apologized to me, or where you've been rude and dismissive to another man instead of a woman, I'd be glad to be proven wrong. Really. I mean it. I hope you can do it. And I hope you have a good weekend.
posted by palomar at 7:15 PM on September 16, 2011


Crap. My second link (the one to your last comment in that thread) is borked -- this is the right one.
posted by palomar at 7:58 PM on September 16, 2011


shouldn't this be in memail? seems like it's just between you two.
posted by desjardins at 9:55 PM on September 16, 2011


Well, the discussion in this thread is about the way that some men will call women crazy and totally dismiss everything they have to say. And the discussion pla and I have been having is a great example of that. The links I posted are also fantastic, textbook examples of the discussion at hand.

But if you feel that it's inappropriate for us to be talking about dismissing statements from women in a post about dismissing statements from women, then... uh, sorry, I guess.
posted by palomar at 10:49 PM on September 16, 2011


palomar, it's inappropriate because MeFi threads aren't supposed to be about digging up posting histories and waging grudge matches against each other.
posted by smorange at 2:23 PM on September 17, 2011


Have you tried flagging my comments? If you're concerned about propriety, that's the best method to express your displeasure with my comments. Please notice that a mod has not removed them, nor have I been contacted and told that I am being inappropriate. If you flag the comment it stands a better chance of being deleted, and is much more useful than this.

I do find it telling that I'm the one being told to shut up and stop talking about this. Typical.
posted by palomar at 3:26 PM on September 17, 2011


I wrote what I wrote because you're the one who defended the propriety of your comments. If you choose to see them as anything other than that, I guess that's up to you.
posted by smorange at 4:03 PM on September 17, 2011


them = my comments
posted by smorange at 4:06 PM on September 17, 2011


[Yes, in fact, a snippy back-and-forth exchange between two users should go to memail.]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:30 PM on September 17, 2011


Probably just easier if people didn't flip out over dumb shit in the first place. It's hard to respect somebody who has a breakdown if the towels have been put back in the cupboard upside-down. Tolerance is like a mana bar that diminishes very quickly, and replenishes extremely slowly. If somebody starts frothing at the mouth because of their perception of something, then my perception of them being fucking lunatics, and telling them so, is just as objectively valid.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:34 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't think we were talking about "dumb shit," but rather, valid complaints from women being dismissed.
posted by agregoli at 4:55 AM on September 19, 2011


If somebody starts frothing at the mouth because of their perception of something, then my perception of them being fucking lunatics, and telling them so, is just as objectively valid.

Okay, the next time you have a hissy fit because you think the checkout line you're in is taking too long, we'll tell you you're "being a fucking lunatic because it's just your perception".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:31 AM on September 19, 2011


Okay, the next time you have a hissy fit because you think the checkout line you're in is taking too long, we'll tell you you're "being a fucking lunatic because it's just your perception".

That seems fair enough to me. But I still say this all works best when you try to see the other person's point of view before critiquing their behavior around it. I think we all can agree there are people who use such language (i.e, "fucking lunatic") to control others and some who are just being frank. The whole "valid complaints" versus "fucking lunacy" contretemps revolves around opinion, and without mutual respect the whole thing collapses. My personal experience isn't that men do or don't do the former versus women do or don't do the latter, because these are really personality-specific. I admit I may have a skewed personal experience, but I'm not aware of any research that would give us a population-level view of things. I know for sure we don't need to feed the men versus women angst without pretty objective reason to do so and even then manipulation without good will is always bad, nkay?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:02 AM on September 19, 2011


But when a man takes a woman's calm dissent as a threat and dismisses her concerns...it is more of a problem than a difference of opinion.
posted by agregoli at 8:16 AM on September 19, 2011


Mental Wimp: I agree with you, but it appeared that tumid Dahlia is of a different opinion as to the nature of the issue, and I was addressing him with a somewhat exaggerated example to make a point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 AM on September 19, 2011


If someone is frothing at the mouth or having a hissy fit, it's perfectly fine to say "this conversation is going nowhere, we'll talk later." I have done this many times if the other person is yelling or slamming doors, no matter if their complaint was valid in my view or not. This article is NOT talking about women who express their anger in inappropriate ways. I get annoyed by things my husband doesn't see as annoyances, but I say "would you please not do that" and he'll say yes or no, depending. If I throw a screaming fit because he didn't replace the toilet paper roll, I fully expect him to walk away from me.
posted by desjardins at 9:16 AM on September 19, 2011


Okay, the next time you have a hissy fit because you think the checkout line you're in is taking too long, we'll tell you you're "being a fucking lunatic because it's just your perception".

Instead of telling me about your opinion of me you would be better off hurrying up and self-scanning those wet wipes, I got places to be.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:21 PM on September 19, 2011


Instead of telling me about your opinion of me you would be better off hurrying up and self-scanning those wet wipes, I got places to be.

Oh, stop overreacting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 PM on September 19, 2011


Hey, will you two just let me slide up to the cashier in front of you? I've just got the one can of beer, here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:30 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Scan your own wet wipes" is the new "Find a stranger in the Alps."
posted by taz at 10:07 PM on September 19, 2011


Mental Wimp: “I think we all can agree there are people who use such language (i.e, "fucking lunatic") to control others and some who are just being frank.”

I get the feeling you haven't read this thread very closely, because you're missing things I'm pretty sure some of us established two hundred comments ago.

Manipulativeness is not a quality of intention. One is not manipulative because one means to be manipulative. One is manipulative because one says things that manipulate the emotions of others. It does not matter why a person does this. That's why it's wrong to call someone a "fucking lunatic" to their face, no matter what your intentions are. It wreaks havoc on a person's emotions no matter who they are, and tends to push people to act a certain way to avoid being called that again.

In the same sense, it's wrong to kill an innocent person, whether it's because you want to maintain a specific government or because you think they're guilty of something they're not or because you want to take their stuff. A wrong is committed in all of these cases – intention doesn't matter. People have this inane idea that it's okay to do terrible things if they only do them for the right reasons, but this is clearly not true if you think about moral good for even a few moments.

I am white. There are many people in my culture's history who seem like great people, who did all kinds of nice things and helped lots of people, but who happened, because of their culture or for some other reason, to be racists. I could sit here all day and tell you about how my grandmother's racism wasn't like really bad racism, because she often had a genuine affection for black people, so it was okay that she treated grown adults as though they were children, because she did it out of good intentions.

But intentions don't matter here. What matters is that someone was wronged, and that wrong must be righted. As a white person, it's part of my responsibility, my duty, my familial necessity, to try to right that wrong. And as a man, it's also part of my responsibility to right the wrongs of sexism.

That can't happen until we give up this crap about intentions and explaining away stuff like abusive language ("you're acting like a fucking lunatic") by saying people are "just being frank." It doesn't matter why people do it; it's abusive. And if it's abusive to a woman – even just one woman – then it is part of the pattern of abusive language targeted toward women. That is: it's misogyny.
posted by koeselitz at 11:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would say something like 'it's not nice to call people fucking lunatics in the supermarket checkout line just because you're in a hurry,' but that would be kind of silly now. I guess I'll say what I ought to say: I'm sorry for being a jerk, and I'll go contemplate my bullshit about 'stopping abuse' before trying to peddle it here. Over and out.
posted by koeselitz at 7:30 AM on September 20, 2011


koeselitz: But intentions don't matter here.

I don't know what circles you run in, but "You're acting like a fucking lunatic," can be said in mine without being anything more that a frank statement. And, yes, intentions do matter. It's the difference between being evil and making a mistake in many circumstances. We're not dealing with institutional racism here, we're dealing with two people's human interaction, very much the domain of intention and perception, not "righting the wrongs of sexism," if my understanding holds. As I said, in my experience (admittedly anecdotal, but in the face of a lack of objective empirical evidence, the only thing I can go on) manipulative behavior doesn't have discernible, characteristic genitals. Your experience may tell you differently, but there we are.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:03 PM on September 20, 2011


We're not dealing with institutional racism here, we're dealing with two people's human interaction, very much the domain of intention and perception, not "righting the wrongs of sexism," if my understanding holds"

Well, no, I don't really think your understanding is accurate. The post, and thus the thread, actually is all about righting the wrongs of sexism. That's specifically the thesis of the posted link.

And the reference to institutional racism is absolutely pertinent. I know a guy, a normal dude, late 20s, who would never in a million years think of himself as sexist, who told me without the least bit of self-consciousness that he hated working with women managers (it was a specific position, but for the sake of anonymity, I'll leave it general), because they are too emotional, they get crazy, and then everyone is nervous and on edge.

So, I have no doubt that he worked with some particular woman who was not a good manager, who acted badly, and made everyone tense. There are millions of men who are also bad managers who have outbursts and make everyone tense, and I know for a fact that he's also worked with quite a few of them. But it would never occur to him to say that he dislikes working with men.

If this guy ever reaches a position where he is in charge of hiring a manager, he's not going to choose a woman if he can help it, because he actually believes that 50%+ of the population share this specific characteristic because of their gender. If a man acts the same way, it's not because he's a man, but if a woman acts badly it's because she's a woman.

That's institutional, and why "righting the wrongs of sexism" matters.
posted by taz at 1:25 AM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, no, I don't really think your understanding is accurate. The post, and thus the thread, actually is all about righting the wrongs of sexism. That's specifically the thesis of the posted link.

Note that I'm disagreeing with the post.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:13 AM on September 21, 2011


I know a guy, a normal dude, late 20s, who would never in a million years think of himself as sexist, who told me without the least bit of self-consciousness that he hated working with women managers (it was a specific position, but for the sake of anonymity, I'll leave it general), because they are too emotional, they get crazy, and then everyone is nervous and on edge.

Very cute story, but the fact remains that the post is about calling out manipulative behavior that uses the technique of gaslighting. Dragging all of this other stuff into it is muddying the waters. The post tries to make gaslighting a sexist activity. In my experience, it is not. No one has presented evidence to the contrary other than their own anecdotes. So here we sit.
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:16 AM on September 21, 2011


Cute story? No.

the fact remains that the post is about calling out manipulative behavior that uses the technique of gaslighting. Dragging all of this other stuff into it is muddying the waters.

Quoting from the linked piece:

Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know, this concept of women as “crazy” has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general.

From the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration.


The writer could have chosen to write about the concept of gaslighting irrespective of gender, but he didn't; he talks about gaslighting in terms of men who consciously or subconsciously act in a way that evokes an angry, hurt or emotional response from a woman and then act as though she is irrational for reacting, and he connects it to systemic attitudes that sanction this sort of behavior by constantly imposing and reinforcing the fiction that "women are just crazy."
posted by taz at 8:47 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mental Wimp: “The post tries to make gaslighting a sexist activity. In my experience, it is not. No one has presented evidence to the contrary other than their own anecdotes. So here we sit.”

Nobody here – least of all the post – has said that gaslighting is always a sexist activity. Why are you assuming that's what we're saying? I could just as easily assume that you mean that gaslighting is never a sexist activity, but I don't think you believe that, either.

Can't we agree that gaslighting is often a sexist activity?
posted by koeselitz at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't we agree that gaslighting is often a sexist activity?

Only if we expand the definition of "sexist" to include any reprehensible action by one sex toward the other. Then, of course, it can be called sexism.

To be clear, sexism isn't defined by particular mechanisms of one person oppressing another. It is the systematic use or promotion of the use of methods of oppression by one sex toward another. Sure, gaslighting is one tool in the box, but not one, in my experience, that tends to fall along gender lines. YMMV.

If you have some objective data to show regarding this allegation that it is, in particular, a sexist mechanism, please feel free to share.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2011


What would constitute objective data for you? How would it be measured, other than in anecdotes? What about other phenomena that is widely accepted as sexist, but can't be "objectively" measured other than by people reporting what has happened to them? For example, sexual harassment in the workplace, which often comes down to he said/she said, yet no one denies that it does occur, and that it occurs most often to women. The fact that some men have also been sexually harassed (by women or other men) is not material to the fact that it's predominantly a sexist act against women.
posted by desjardins at 11:15 AM on September 21, 2011


He's posted a follow-up.

Anyway, gaslighting is an interesting subject, and men can obviously be victims, but those who want to use the technique against men don't get that extra collaborative boost-up from a society that likes to promote the notion that women are too sensitive/illogical/emotional/hormonal, while also promoting that notion that women should always try to be accommodating, agreeable and likeable ... plus, this specific article was actually written about a particular flavor of sexism as experienced by women, so that's why we're talking about it.
posted by taz at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mental Wimp: “To be clear, sexism isn't defined by particular mechanisms of one person oppressing another. It is the systematic use or promotion of the use of methods of oppression by one sex toward another. Sure, gaslighting is one tool in the box, but not one, in my experience, that tends to fall along gender lines.”

I confess that I have no idea what this means. Gaslighting is "one tool in the box" of the sexism, but "not one... that tends to fall along gender lines"? Do you mean that you think gaslighting usually isn't sexist? I guess that's what you mean.

“If you have some objective data to show regarding this allegation that it is, in particular, a sexist mechanism, please feel free to share.”

You must realize that we're talking about things about which there can be no "objective data," at least if you mean what I think you mean – statistics, numbers, etc. If you can point me toward broad data about the billions of private individual interpersonal interactions in the world and the psychological intricacies of those interactions, I'll happily wade through it, but I don't think it'll ever be possible to compile such data.

As with racism, this is something that we have to think about objectively without "data." It is possible to look at society, at the people we know and the people we've heard of, and think about the interactions they have. One could say that certain things – being denied a booth at a restaurant, being excluded from certain job positions, etc – isn't inherently racist, but we all know what it looks like and recognize that sometimes this stuff happens as a result of racism.

So all I can do is appeal to your experience of the world. Have you really never heard someone say that "women are crazy"? Honestly? I've pointed over and over again to pop culture allusions to this trope and to common recurrences of the stereotype, but I guess you've never heard Patsy Cline or any of those other things.
posted by koeselitz at 1:56 PM on September 21, 2011


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