A friend shared an article with me last night. The article, written for the Huffington Post was an insightful piece about the various forms of emotional manipulation women are subjected to. The article, ”A Message to Women from a Man: You Are Not “Crazy” ,” by Yashar Ali expose the ways in which men use emotional manipulation to make women feel “crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged.” The article is empowering and moving. My hope is that men will read this and rethink how they speak to women. I doubt they will which brings me to my one real issue with the article.
Ali exerts that men often say things like “Calm down, you are overreacting,” without realizing the emotional damage they are inflicting on women. I was a victim of severe emotional abuse as a child. Statements like “You are crazy” and “Something is wrong with you” were things I heard on a near daily basis for as long as I was old enough to comprehend the power of those statements. As an adult I heard things like “Calm down” and “You are so sensitive” from men in in every male relationship in my life, from my brother to my son to the men I dated.
Upon being told that I needed to “Calm down” when I questioned a behavior or voiced my displeasure with something I was immediately thrust into a defensive position, more concerned with how I was communicating and being perceived, canceling any hope coming to so resolution about the real issue. In certain situations I would become quiet and question my reasoning, in others I would become angry and loud only confirming that I did in fact seem irrational.
I do not believe that men are not aware that this is abusive. They know that by attempting shut a woman down thus lessening her role in their interaction, they have established the dominant, “sane” role in the relationship. I can’t remember one relationship of any nature I have had with a man where he hasn’t said something even slightly disparaging to me. (“You are blowing this out of proportion.” or “Why are you getting so worked up about this?”) Men fully realize that making one of these comments cause women to feel inarticulate, overemotional or slightly insane.
The real issue is not that men do this or whether or not they understand how damaging these remarks can be. The real question is how do we make it less affective? How do we change the way men view women and take the power out these sorts of statements? The issue is truly one with how women are characterized. “We are the emotional beings.” “We are not rational thinkers. “ ”Men think with their heads and women are ruled by their emotions.” These generalizations negate the potential for rational discourse and conflict resolution.
There is an “ah ha” moment for men early on in their female interactions when they realize that shutting a woman down and causing her to doubt herself is an effective way to manage a relationship. From the moment this is realized that behavior is intentional abuse, pure and simple. So how do we fix that? How do we change how women are profiled? Until men learn to view women as equals with their own voices and expectations, a role that is as valid as their male counterparts this can never happen.
Many of my male friends say “women are crazy” when their relationship is troubled. My standard response is “men make women crazy.” But the truth is they are never taught to value women as they should. It is one thing to acknowledge the way men manipulate and abuse women. It is another thing entirely to find a solution to the problem.