On Labeling Women “Crazy”


Fashion runway bride, with bridal straightjacket.

Today’s insight comes from Dr. Nerdlove. Though not an official doctor or anything, good advice for every one involved.

Because finally, there is someone willing to call out the casually passive practice of calling a woman “crazy” for what it is,  abusive.

I’ve had to quit telling stories about crazy exes or women I’ve dated.

The problem was that I started realizing that when my friends and I would talk about our crazy exes or what-have-you, more often than not, we weren’t talking about ex girlfriends or random dates who exhibited signs of  genuine mental health issues. Now I did have a few where I would qualify my story with ‘No, I don’t mean ‘we broke up and I can’t be bothered to figure out where things went wrong, I mean that she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and was starting to show signs of genuine paranoia,’ but for the most part, crazy meant ‘acting in a way I didn’t like.’

There are certain words that are applied to women specifically in order to manipulate them into compliance: ‘Slut’, ‘Bitch’, ‘Ugly/Fat’ and of course, ‘Crazy’.

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‘Crazy’ may well be the most insidious one of the four because it encompasses so much. At its base, calling women ‘crazy’ is a way of waving away any behavior that men might find undesirable while simultaneously absolving those same men from responsibility. Why did you break up with her? Well, she was crazy. Said something a woman might find offensive? Stop being so sensitive.

When someone talks about the woman who he broke up with because she called too often or seemed get emotionally involved faster than he was comfortable with, because she got angry with him over the way he acted, she was always arguing with him about stuff or even that she wanted different things from the relationship, it’s not uncommon to hear ‘That’s why you don’t stick it in the crazy.’ The man is absolved of any responsibility for the break up; it’s not because he was willing to pretend to be on the same page as her regarding the future of the relationship because it was convenient and meant that he could continue sleeping with her, it’s because she was crazy. It’s not because he was unwilling to discuss her concerns. She’s crazy, case closed, time to move on to the next woman without pausing to reflect.

…gaslighting is a term used by psychologists to describe abusive behavior where a person is made to feel as though their emotions and reactions are irrational, even (dare I say) crazy. By constantly minimizing and dismissing someone’s reactions, we make them feel uncomfortable with themselves and cause them to start to doubt their own feelings. If they’re being told over and over again that what they’re feeling is irrational or unreal, that what they’re feeling is somehow out of whack, then they start to accept that maybe it is.

Gaslighting – minimizing their feelings, reframing them as being unreasonable – is classic abusive behavior. It’s telling someone that they don’t have a right to the way they feel because what they’re feeling is wrong. Their feelings or their concerns or behavior isn’t “rational”. Once you take away their right to their feelings, it’s that much easier to manipulate a person into the way you want them to behave.

The trend of labeling women ‘crazy’ is part of the culture that socializes women to go along to get along. When women are told over and over again that they’re not allowed to feel the way they feel and that they’re being “unreasonable” or “oversensitive”, they’re conditioned to not trust their own emotions. Their behavior – being assertive, even demanding or standing up for how they feel –  becomes an “inconvenience” to men and they’re taught not to give offense and to consider the feelings of others before their own.

Read the entire article at http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2012/07/labeling-women-crazy/
And for those still curious about the “why” of this behavior, as in why do some men do it. The Dr. even offers a bit of insight.

I was notoriously self-absorbed. It wasn’t that I thought that I was the greatest thing ever, it was just that I didn’t really stop to spare too many thoughts for others. I was willing to make an effort for others, but only so far as it didn’t really inconvenience me past a “reasonable” point. I didn’t want to have long drawn out conversations about how my behavior made my girlfriend feel and I certainly didn’t want to get dragged into what I saw as unnecessary drama.

As a result… well, I wasn’t willing to consider how others were feeling. When the woman I was dating would try to explain to me how the way I treated her felt,  I would tell her that she was seeing things. She was overreacting to inconsequential stuff. She was being over-sensitive, reading things into what I was saying or doing that just weren’t there.

The subtext to everything I was saying was simple: “You are behaving in a way that I find inconvenient, and I want to you to stop.” I wasn’t willing to engage with her emotionally and address her very real concerns because I was too wrapped up in my own shit to think about other people.

In a nutshell, run run run the next time you run into a guy who constantly minimizes your position.

Be Ordinary


We must be willing to be completely ordinary people, which means accepting ourselves as we are without trying to become greater, purer, more spiritual, more insightful. If we can accept our imperfections as they are, quite ordinarily, then we can use them as part of the path.

But if we try to get rid of our imperfections, then they will be enemies, obstacles on the road to our “self-improvement.”

-Chogyam Trungpa

What’s the Big Deal About Gossip?


Eh.

Gossip is *such* a double-edged sword.

When it comes to gossip you usually have two camps. The first being “gossip is horrible and never to be done.” The second being “ooooo guuurl tell me what sh*t happened last night.”

And then there are those of the second group who love to re-distribute their recently heard intel to everyone else, regardless of if the intel has been fact-checked and verified.

There are also others who love to start gossip; and sometimes, those people doen’t even need to see anything to get the gossip going.

It’s easy to demonize gossip and those who spread gossip but are those who demonize all who gossip right?

If you were to trust in religion and other forms of thinking that come from non-scientific origins then yes. Religious types and most who subscribe to “rules of thumb” or “common sense” thinking and tend to be all-or-nothing, tend to label all gossip as bad and nothing good can come out of it. (Even though when they talk to their friend about someone possibly being a child predator because so-and-so’s child got the bad touch from this person, this person is indeed gossiping. And something indeed good is coming out of that gossip. Oddly specific example, I know.)

However if you believe in science, then you may know that not all gossip is bad. For example, a 2012 study from University of California, Berkeley, suggests that gossip can help us “police bad behavior, prevent exploitation and lower stress.”

And in 2006, the American Psychological Association (APA) published an article about the “evolutionary past” of gossip and what that past means to us now.

“Natural selection, he theorizes, pressured people to learn as much as possible about the people in their social network-be they an authority figure, potential romantic partner, teacher, political ally or enemy. Knowing about other group members helped people eschew risky alliances, by informing them, for instance, which group member might double-cross them.

“In the process, gossiping also helped facilitate bonds by showing others we trust them enough to share information. …”

Read about the University of California, Berkeley study on the UC Berkeley News Center website. (Is it just me or does the article neglect to mention the title of the study?)

Read the APA story “Bonding over others’ business.”

The point isn’t to completely turn a blind eye to gossiping. Vicious, malicious rumor-mongering is never something to be praised. With that said, finding out indirectly that your buddy is hurting because of money or because a partner just left them or maybe even learning that that guy you’re dating has an issue with impulse control is not such a bad thing and might even be beneficial to your personal health and the health of your social community.

 

5 Tips On Buddha’s Way of Forgiveness and Reconciliation


It’s so great to know that this website can help some people, whether it be helping someone discover Buddhism or helping someone with anger or even helping someone feel emotionally validated.

One of the most popular posts on this website is “Buddha on Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Right & Wrong.”

When I wrote this post, I was definitely deep in the middle of trying to figure out my actions vs. the actions of someone else. It was a hot emotional storm, I needed answers. I looked to Buddhism because it’s what I practice.

Anyhow, I think it’s time to revisit the Forgiveness and Reconciliation text. One reason is because it’s been awhile since I’ve read the text and even as I re-read it now, the text has great points that should be kept in mind when faced with dealing with forgiveness or reconciliation. Another reason is because, “why not?”

Tip 1

The Buddha says forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things

Forgiveness is finding a way to be non-reactive and unperturbed by what has happened to you.

That’s the goal and as simple as it sounds, it can be a hard goal to achieve. It means deciding not to retaliate or seek revenge. It also means that you -even- forgive the other person for harming you.

And the thing with forgiveness is that it’s something that can be just for you. Like treating yourself to ice cream. You don’t have to explain to the other person why you are at this state. You don’t even have to tell them. Forgiveness is ultimately for you.

Reconciliation means “a return to amicability.” A return to amicability requires trust being reestablished. Trust is established when respect is shown by both parties for the “mutual standards of what is and what is not acceptable behavior.”

However, if you or the other person do the things below, a return to amicability (and trust) may not be possible at all.

a)Deny responsibility for your actions or maintain you did nothing wrong.

b)Insist that the other person’s feelings don’t matter or that they have no right to hold you to their standards of right and wrong.

c)Do not admit that you hurt the other person and were wrong to do so.

d)Do not promise to show restraint in the future.

Doing any of these things hurts the ability of the other person to trust that you will not hurt them again in the future and this makes a return to amicability mighty mighty hard to do.

FYI: If you are the person who was hurt, you aren’t scott-free from duties either.  You need to conduct the process of reconciliation in a respectful manner.

Tip 2

The values of the culture matter

Sometimes, you’ll find out that it’s not just one person out of whack in your situation. Sometimes it’s the entire fucking culture that’s out of fucking whack. An example of this can be like the following:

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“some people have recommended living by a non-dual vision that transcends attachment to right and wrong. This vision, however, is open to abuse as well. In communities where it is espoused, irresponsible members can use the rhetoric of non-duality and non-attachment to excuse genuinely harmful behavior; their victims are left adrift, with no commonly accepted standards on which to base their appeals for redress. Even the act of forgiveness is suspect in such a context, for what right do the victims have to judge actions as requiring forgiveness or not? All too often, the victims are the ones held at fault for imposing their standards on others and not being able to rise above dualistic views.

This means that right and wrong have not really been transcended in such a community. They’ve simply been realigned: If you can claim a non-dual perspective, you’re in the right no matter what you’ve done. If you complain about another person’s behavior, you’re in the wrong. And because this realignment is not openly acknowledged as such, it creates an atmosphere of hypocrisy in which genuine reconciliation is impossible.”

*****

It may be impossible to avoid running into communities like this but you can still do the work it takes to have values in yourself that can contribute to you being able to create future peaceful reconciliations.

If you are in the right, reflect on your own actions before you accuse another of wrongdoing. Ask yourself the following:

Am I free from unreconciled offenses of my own?

Am I motivated by kindness, rather than vengeance?

Am I really clear on our mutual standards?

If you can answer yes to all these questions then bring up whatever issue you have. Again, this may be easier to write on paper than to practice in life; and that’s okay.

Tip 3

Frame the acceptance of blame as honorable

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the ideas of conducting the process of reconciliation in a respectful way and creating values in yourself that can contribute to a peaceful reconciliation.

Encourage the thought that the honest acceptance of blame is a honorable act without shame.  The Buddha says, this is the way to make progress in your spiritual development.

“the ability to recognize one’s mistakes and admit them to others is the essential factor in achieving purity in thought, word, and deed”

Psychology too says the same about apologizing being a means to mature development.

Tip 4

Ground rules matter

Communication is most likely the most important part of reconciliation. One thing to find out is the “root intention” of the people or parties involved. “If those intentions were irredeemably malicious or dishonest, reconciliation is impossible.”

Try to stick to the major wrongdoings that caused the dispute. Promise not to dig up and use the other parties “minor offenses.” If both of the parties have committed wrongdoings, then both parties need to confess to their wrongdoing.

Ultimately the goal of all of this is to help both parties gain a mutual understanding of what actions created the disharmony and then the goal after that will hopefully be a promise to try and avoid those actions in the future.

“Even if the parties to a reconciliation agree to disagree, their agreement needs to distinguish between right and wrong ways of handling their differences.”

Tip 5

Not all disputes will be resolved

How sad my face gets when I read this tip, but it is unfortunately true.

“There are times when one or both parties are unwilling to exercise the honesty and restraint that true reconciliation requires.”

And there you go, a quick review on the great Bu-tastic way Buddha has framed forgiveness and reconciliation.

KQED’s Forum Talks With Sex At Dawn Author


In societies where women are not shamed about sex, they have just as many lovers as men and fight over their rights just as vehemently as men.

This is what I heard on the radio as I pulled into the parking lot at work.  At that moment, I felt completely validated, gobsmacked and elated. I had to find out who this was and what this show was about.

The man talking was psychologist Christopher Ryan, co-author of the book “Sex at Dawn.” It’s a book that traces the evolution of sexual thought and practices; reflecting on how society and its shape has influenced the bonds of matrimony and relationships between men and women. But you hear more about the book on the show Ryan was on, KQED’s Forum show.

Ryan was on Forum discussing the topic “Are Humans Meant for Monogamy?” A topic that has been looked at often in Western subcultures that investigate ideas about sex and love.

Are Humans Meant for Monogamy?

I suggest you take a listen to the program. Ryan goes over some interesting subjects and one of my favorites is him going over the cultural rules of a hunter-gather society and how that is reflected in the OWS movement.

Another great topic is how having farms and growing crops changed how humans interacted with the world and each other.

And my .02 cents to the person who asks why women aren’t vocal about being promiscuous, even if single. Although a woman can say she is promiscuous and doesn’t want a partner a thousand times, it doesn’t mean they will find a partner who believes they mean what they say or that they will find a partner who doesn’t take casual to mean, I can be an insensitive and inconsiderate person to you.

After awhile you just stop being vocal.

.o2 cents, for real.

How Love And Intimacy Can Work


Where do you stand at with your relationships? Can you initiate a sexual relationship only when there is passion and intimacy? Or can you initiate a sexual relationship where there is intimacy and commitment but no passion?  I guess that’s where the mystery lies with this Triangular Theory of Love, it talks about feelings but says nothing about sex.

Read more about the Triangular Theory of Love at http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/community/slzctr/stdcsl/stdcsl_triangular.pdf

It’s Not You, It’s Him: Men Who Gaslight


Yashar Ali  may be either a brilliant diabolical writer who wants to get laid or just an insightful guy who likes to be helpful.

Ali’s article “A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not ‘Crazy'” is one of those rare articles that gets it right and brings to light a topic that many women must struggle with.

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You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!

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That dreaded feeling a woman gets when she wonders “Was I right to do or say that? Am I getting too angry about this or do I have the right to be angry over this?”  This nagging self-doubt can suck the confidence out of even the most well-adjusted, perfect woman.

This habit, whether it be because we’re woman and it’s an evolutionary trait or whether it be something that developed via cultural influence, it exists. And unfortunately, it is a habit that can be used against us.

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Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said?

When someone says these things to you, it’s not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling — that’s inconsiderate behavior. 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 this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.

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Women have a hard time sticking up  for themselves. I don’t mean the act of sticking up for themselves but being convinced they should stick up and keep sticking up for themselves.

It is far too easy for a man or significant other to simply say “you’re overreacting” and expect the conversation to end at that. If the conversation continues, the next steps will be convincing the woman she is also crazy or dependent or [insert defect here]. With all that negative feedback it’s hard for a woman to stand her ground. (And heaven forbid if she cry or show some kind of weakness because then she’s manipulating the person.)

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I think it’s time to separate inconsiderate behavior from emotional manipulation, and we need to use a word not found in our normal vocabulary.

I want to introduce a helpful term to identify these reactions: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.

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Robin Stern Ph.D.  and author of the book The Gaslight Effect: Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Your Truth, writes that “Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another’s reality. This is done by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person.”

Stern’s evaluation of gaslighting is a little cliche after that though, with her mention of the “Gaslight Tango” which is “the dance you do with your gaslighting partner, where you allow him to define your reality.” Cliched because like a lot of psychology authors, these authors somehow know that we know our realities and the thoughts that make our reality exactly; and because of that, are of course just as responsible as the person doing the gaslighting.

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The form of gaslighting I’m addressing is not always pre-mediated or intentional, which makes it worse, because it means all of us, especially women, have dealt with it at one time or another.

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.

My friend Anna (all names changed to protect privacy) is married to a man who feels it necessary to make random and unprompted comments about her weight. Whenever she gets upset or frustrated with his insensitive comments, he responds in the same, defeating way, “You’re so sensitive. I’m just joking.”

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Gaslighting can be as blunt as this or…

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But gaslighting can be as simple as someone smiling and saying something like, “You’re so sensitive,” to somebody else. Such a comment may seem innocuous enough, but in that moment, the speaker is making a judgment about how someone else should feel.

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Ali finishes his article with a conclusion about why women take such treatment and what it means if women continue to take this kind of treatment.

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Why?

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.

When these women receive any sort of push back to their reactions, they often brush it off by saying, “Forget it, it’s okay.”

That “forget it” isn’t just about dismissing a thought, it is about self-dismissal. It’s heartbreaking.

No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them.

They say, “I’m sorry,” before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings.

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

These are the same women who stay in relationships they don’t belong in, who don’t follow their dreams, who withdraw from the kind of life they want to live.

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.

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As far as I am concerned, the epidemic of gaslighting is part of the struggle against the obstacles of inequality that women constantly face. Acts of gaslighting steal their most powerful tool: their voice. This is something we do to women every day, in many different ways.

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. And gaslighting is one of many reasons why we are dealing with this public construction of women as “crazy.”

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Read the rest and the comments that follow at  The Current Conscience.

(9/11/12 — Yes, as women are human, I am sure women gaslight men but as I am a woman who has been gaslighted by men, I only felt the need to speak about my own experience as a woman.)