If we want men to stop playing the “crazy” card and expect women to stop implying that men are stupid, we have to relinquish the power we’ve held in our respective gender roles.
You know the moment. You’re at a backyard barbeque when one of the wives starts telling silly tales of her husband’s misdeeds. She tells them with a smile and may even be hugging her husband when she does it. Still, though, there’s this cord of tension that you can just feel. She’s mocking him in front of his friends and is doing it in such a way that he will seem “sensitive” if he gets upset about it.
It might be called “passive-aggressive”. Instead of saying what’s really bothering her, she lets him know through “a joke.” Others may call it “emotional manipulation.” She’s being mean and then making him feel like he’s over-reacting if he brings it up or gets offended because she was “just joking.”
This gender warfare is the unfortunate side effect of the fight both men and women are having for gender equality.
Maybe as an isolated incident, we can look at this as simple, emotional manipulation. However, this isn’t just one incident. It’s part of a larger pattern where women are seeking control by implying that men are stupid. It’s a move for power in an area where they are feeling a loss of control.
Yashar Ali noted a few years ago, that men engage in a power play with women, too, by implying they are “crazy”. He called this gaslighting and explained that men, when placed in defensive positions, will act and speak in such a way that it is implied a woman is crazy for having the reaction that she is.
Why is there a need to imply that men are stupid?
Men are showing themselves to be exceedingly adept in areas that we have been socialized to see as “feminine” or something that women just do better.
This is the same reason men began engaging in gaslighting…because women were beginning to excel in areas where traditionally men succeeded. This gender warfare is the unfortunate side effect of the fight both men and women are having for gender equality.
Women will lean on the “men are over-sexed” stereotype and make men feel ridiculous for wanting that kind of attention.
While women want to be seen and recognized for things outside of home and family, men want to be seen as capable of being present for all that is involved with home, family, and relationships.
Just as we have seen women shut down in the workforce, we’re seeing men shut down on the home front.
This is what it looks like:
Argue With Our Good Intent When Confronted
It can be hard for any of us to admit when we’ve been let down or when our feelings have been hurt. It’s hard to hear it, too. Women, in an attempt to ease the discomfort, can play the “but look at everything I have done for you” card when a guy mentions being hurt. They dodge the hurt they instilled by listing everything else they have done right. It can make a guy feel like they were overreacting and being unappreciative. Men, in response to the onslaught of “good intent”, usually back off and stay silent, letting the hurt go.
Make You Feel Selfish or Inappropriate for Having Needs
I was recently sitting with a man who walked away from a 15-year marriage. He’d been living in hurt and disappointment for years. He told me how he and his wife bought a large house with the intent of having large family gatherings around the holidays. They wanted their house to be the one that anyone who didn’t have anyone could come and feel welcome. In all the years they were married, they never had one holiday there.
When the time came around for their first holiday came around, his mother-in-law raised a big stink about it, not wanting her own tradition to change. His wife, who had shared his dream for their home, didn’t want to go against her own mother and said to him “Really? You want to take Christmas away from my mother? Who knows how many Christmases she has left?”
If a man misses a social cue, doesn’t understand what’s going on, or becomes frozen at the expression of emotion, women can sometimes reply with something like “Of course you don’t get it.”
Listening to him describe it, it was as if the conversations about their wish for their home never even happened. He was out of his mind for considering such a thing. Yet, she had been there. She had been present for the dream. She couldn’t confront her mother and couldn’t disappoint him so she dodged the whole thing by making him look like a jerk for wanting to spend the holidays differently.
This dynamic can become even more apparent when men are seeking validation, affection, loving gestures, or sex. Women will lean on the “men are over-sexed” stereotype and make men feel ridiculous for wanting that kind of attention. It’s belittling, demeaning, and shaming. Men are left questioning their needs, their worthiness, and their importance in the lives of the people they love.
We Cry or Emotionally Flood
Nothing can stop a man in his tracks or make him forget what he was saying like a storm of emotion or feelings. If we’re emotional and over-reacting to something, men will feel like jerks for still insisting that their thoughts or feelings be taken into consideration. After all, we’re already so upset. Men will often choose not to further burden us and whatever the original conversation was supposed to be, is effectively stopped.
We Imply that a Lack of Insight is a Lack of Intelligence
If a man misses a social cue, doesn’t understand what’s going on, or becomes frozen at the expression of emotion, women can sometimes reply with something like “Of course you don’t get it.” It can be seen in an eye-roll, a glance between two women, or a sigh. However it’s delivered, the message is clear: “Men just don’t get it.”
We Uphold the Belief that there are Things Only Women Can Do
Women can play the condescending “Leave it to me, honey” card just as well as any man. There’s a reason that we’ve needed a dads movement. Women have chosen convenient times to uphold the women’s work stereotype that they’ve tried so hard to dispel. Moms can easily play that card in a parenting debate when in disagreement with their husbands. Men can be mocked for doing parenting differently or for appearing awkward in their attempts to do something. In ways that are subtle and obvious, women keep the bumbling dad jokes alive and circulating.
We Negate Feedback or Feelings When They Aren’t Delivered Perfectly
In The Most Loving Thing a Woman Can Do for a Man, I wrote about how my husband and I ended up in an argument after he mentioned that I’d hurt his feelings. Well, he didn’t just mention it. He snapped at me. He was a jerk. That’s why we had the argument. However, at the end of it, he was right. I was doing what he initially accused me of. I took advantage of his inappropriate delivery to dodge responsibility and make him look the jerk.
We Have to Stop Believing Our Own Hype
For generations, women were socialized to believe that they excelled at certain “feminine” tasks. They were the nurturers, caregivers, and emotional ones. They were “good” at relationships and were the “real” parents.
Men were socialized to believe they were the taskmasters and problem solvers. They weren’t expected to have or talk about feelings. They could earn the bread and leave most everything else to the women.
If we want men to stop playing the “crazy” card and expect women to stop implying that men are stupid, we have to relinquish the power we’ve held in our respective gender roles. Until we’re ready to sit in that vulnerability, both genders will continue to battle the stereotypes they are so desperate to be rid of.
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I loved your article Heather, it simply the truth.. period! I have contortionised my natural way of being to “adapt and be accepted” into this linear, male dominated, competitive messed up western world. AND IM DONE, I have done plenty of self development, played the pathetic games, changed who i am and you know what…… it makes know difference to the mans fundamental clear lack of intelligence, it does not make them any smarter and the dont want to learn new tricks that dont involve someone masturbating all over their ego! so for the men…Im dont with this. I used… Read more »
sorry to say, it is not a need to imply that men think with less emotional intelligence, it is a fact. what good is a world of analytical intelligence when the very thing that is needed for humans to keep their species alive to enjoy and co create from this is ignored and dominated by mens emotional stupidity… Take look at the current state of the world… how is that working out so far? who has been predominately in charge of solving world issues? men? women have not been “allowed to” in the western world
Honesty and tenderness is the key. I think both gender are capable this. We should be able to communicate our needs and vurneralbility openly and clearly. No mind games.
This articulates some of the same dilemmas I have been grappling with. I don’t think any of us are questionning that in terms of balance of power, wealth, decision making, men hold this. And there is a collusion around the dichotomising of gender, which maintains the staus quo. These kind of power imbalances do us all harm, and play out in same sex relationships as well as heterosexual relationships. People are mostly, given the right context, active, dynamic, desiring, pursuant, steady, self-centred, sexually adventurous, receptive, compassionate, wounded, defensive, nurturing, aggressive, creative, wild, longing, wise, foolish, impulsive, considered, kind and so… Read more »
I agree with what you say about redressing the balance: men and women, both human, both great and not-so-great, can learn from each other. I don’t agree, though, that NONE of us are questioning the balance of power, decision making, and even wealth in some instances that men hold. In fact, I think that tends to be one of the main underlying themes of TGMP: that although there is this pervasive impression that it’s a man’s world, the truth is much more complex, and despite certain statistical realities, men are actually relatively powerless and oppressed in many ways. Given the… Read more »
I must be the only person who did not like this article…. I found it to be sexist and part of the problem. I’m not disagreeing with the notion that it’s not right to imply men are stupid and women are crazy. There were too many examples of behaviours that the author attributed to men or women but frankly I’ve experienced these behaviours from both points of view – these behaviours are not a gender issue but are a human issue.
The bottom line is most people are idiots, and this is true regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Also, we’re all idiots from time to time.
For the ladies,for those of you who love Wendy Harmer, etc, the so called comedian, who’s idea of humour is to get on stage and put shit on men for an hour or so, as a form of entertainment, just bear in mind that your contempt for males extends to ALL males (subconsciously) including your own offspring, who naturally copy (ape) your behaviour. So do not be too surprised that in your declining years, when you find yourselves is a nursing home, or similar, and you occasionally get a card on a religious festivity of some sort, that your kids… Read more »
Sorry to everyone for appearing like a chimp typing my responses. These small keyboards on smart phones are killing me!
An outstanding, honest, and fair article. Kudos to you!
And thats how you write an article without being insulting and condescending to those who are supposed to be your audience.
8ball, I couldn’t have asked for a better compliment. Thank you.
Great observation 8ball. Thanks for pointing that out!
I agree with Steve, and also with the others that this was a really good article Heather. As an adlerian trained therapist we use strength based assistance to overcome the shortfalls of life stuff. I just has this conversation with my wife last night about the interactions with her two other female siblings. My wife is the rationale one the middle the materialistic one ans the youngest is the inferior one. My wife comes across as Spockian and uncaring. The middle to outdo the others and the youngest to be perfect and to be honest is perfectly neurotic in that… Read more »
Mark, What a great point….how women are socialized to be around other women and men are socialized to be around other men….I never thought of that aspect but it does contribute so significantly. Excellent point.
Thanks Heather. I do think that that there is a dichotomy of the individual and the group dynamic. One can state an individual view but then cave to the group and i know for me that i’vw learned to resist the urge to shift my viewpoint when it comes up. Your article is very good. It also is part of a grander theme i’i’ve noticed here on the gmp that something is shifting. Less tjan in the general populate but sometimes i’m surprised by comments i’ve heard.. not ofyen or vocal iight add but i”ve noticed them. Not there yet… Read more »
Fantastic, Heather! You explained this so well – I loved it. It’s a great reality check. “…we have to relinquish the power we’ve held in our respective gender roles” I think there is a simple (not easy) way to do this. There is another power we each hold which is too seldom used. And when we choose to USE IT, it automatically disables the power Heather is referring to. In fact, it’s impossible to create any bad feelings while we are using this power. It’s the power to make our partner feel celebrated – cherished – or adored. We can… Read more »
Thanks, Steve, for your thoughtful response. I do think it’s about cherishing the other person and showing appreciation. It’s also about recognizing our partner’s strengths at times when their strengths reflect our own weaknesses. I think that is at the heart of this pattern with people. We undermine things when we don’t feel strong at them. Accepting that someone might be better at something…or even just as good…can sometimes feel so threatening, even when it doesn’t need to be.
Really nice article Heather, thanks for it.
Great article! This card is played by both sexes- not just men. After all, women are more privileged in certain areas.
I think we’re all both stupid AND crazy.
As someone said, “Common sense isn’t really all that common…”
Great analysis. And that feature photo. Nailed it!