Cathi Carol

Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

Soon? Time.

In Evolution, Materialism, Misogyny, Science, Violence, Women on February 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm

 

 

__________

 

Let’s start by realizing that violence isn’t adaptive genetically
and start discussing the scientific reasons for giving it up,
not making excuses for it or feeling sorry for the perpetrators of it.

February 12, 2011

__________

 

Erika,

I deleted that insulting tweet, sorry [to the reader: a few other insulting tweets]. I can’t and won’t take out my frustration at society on you. I applaud your efforts in writing about science.

It is sickening to read in the press so many pseudo-defenses, like this one, of the recent gang rape, deliberate sexual organ/intestinal mutilation of, and painful, lingering death of a woman in India who was attacked on a bus, and then with her helpless boyfriend forced to stand by, thrown off of it naked, left to die by the side of the road by the conscienceless, empathyless people who committed this offense against not only a fellow human being, against not only their society, against not only humanity as a whole, but against the very existence of our species as an entity in the universe.

We are in trouble. And time is running out.

Human beings are not “lumbering robots” (cf. Richard Dawkins) driven by ricocheting particles since the beginning of time, DNA, or even our brains, to do such things. What these animals did was a choice made by their minds; such choices are made not through reproductive considerations on any level, but through their own self-entitlement, historical societal encouragement of violence and abuse, and apathy toward and hatred of women that is largely ignored and for which excuses are made – even by women – due to the defenses invented by the very people who commit such atrocities.

“She had it coming.” “She’s lying bitch.” “She shouldn’t have dressed that way.” “She cheated on me.” “She was going to leave me.” “I lost my temper due to stress (I’m separated from my children; out of work; my sports team lost).” “I had a brain tumor pressing on my amygdala which affected my hormones.” Pity the abuser, abusers demand; never the victim, who always was somehow at fault for the abuse committed against her (the abuser knows better, but they are master charmers and manipulators or they wouldn’t get away with what they do).

Plenty of people have tumors which affect their hormones. Plenty of people have stress. Plenty of people go through life without mates (when war depletes the numbers of marriageable men, women don’t start gang-raping and killing men.)

Few of us choose to abuse, rape, or kill. And when it happens it’s never the victim’s “fault”. Never. It’s a choice made by the perpetrator. Made by a mind. Encouraged, allowed, ignored by other minds until such behaviors become an expected part of life, habits of living so deeply ingrained that even “science” starts to believe that they are “natural”.

The behavior can change, but it won’t change until people who think they have the right to violence are (depending on the times we live in and the severity of the offense) hunted down and killed in return, or jailed for life, or ostracized from all good society. Then things change.

When people are forced to change their behavior out of self-interest, guess what – they can.

They don’t lumber about as a robots any more; no bouncing particles make them do things they know will take away their freedom; no DNA in their cells forces them to offend against a humanity in which they must be accepted in order to survive. And beliefs and feelings follow. And society as a whole changes, and humanity evolves.

A mind changes the way it thinks, and behavior follows. And DNA changes in response to behavior; or, it would be more accurate to say, everything that you are, down to the very proteins of your cells, changes according to what you think and do. And everything you think and do affects the entire universe.

It’s a heavy responsibility.

There is no defense – psychological, sociological, religious, cultural, or genetic – for violence against women, or violence of any kind, for the matter of that; to pretend that there is is to have been unthinkingly swept along in, to be caught up in, to have bought into the egregiously and obviously false but scientifically fashionable and extremely popular, right now (and even, in some more misguided circles, politically correct) pseudosciences of “evolutionary psychology” and “evolutionary biology” (there is little distinction in the belief set or conclusion making going on at this time).

The problem of violence – in particular, violence against women – is not in the broader context, but in its opposite – it is in the scientific narrowness, the reductionism, the materialism, with which it is currently being addressed, discussed, and decided upon.

(Oh, the poor Indian and Chinese men, too many in number now that they’ve killed all their female children, “simmer[ing] with aspirations and desires that are simply not likely to be realized.” So that explains gang rape. Um, no.)

I was trained, scientifically, for my psychology degree to examine preconceptions in science (cf. Thomas Kuhn), to root out alternative theory (cf. Schuyler W. Huck), and most of all, to trust empiricism.

Or maybe my 40 years of reading science, as well as being born a critical thinker, not to mention a woman when it comes to scientists regarding evolutionary psychology and biology, has given me insight. I seldom buy whatever is being sold out there as “science”.

I have noticed that much of it is discarded, over historical time periods to decades to a few years. Over time, it can’t be denied, most of “science” – from physics to medical science – ultimately is disproved (cf. John P. A. Ioannidis).

There is no evidence that shows that science as a discipline has gotten “better” over the centuries, either. It hasn’t. That would be hard to do considering that it is people who do science, and people haven’t really gotten much smarter merely over the past few centuries.

Don’t get me wrong; I love science, I just find most of what is being published, and ballyhooed in the press, questionable to specious to flat in error. That sounds incredible, I know, but innate intelligence combined with hard-won experience and decades of accumulated scientific knowledge in many fields (due to almost non-stop reading in science, medicine, and psychology since I was, well, five) has turned my natural skepticism and analytical ability into a fully opened mind unable to bear, or perhaps it would be better to say “unable to accept uncritically at face value” dogma, illogic, or faulty thinking of any kind, from the purely scientific to the purely speculative.

Brought up to have an open mind, I am willing to entertain any new idea or belief (nothing else makes life worth living); simply bothering to expend a little effort to think deeply, to apply experience, empiricism, and logic, I find flaws in the reasoning, methodology, or conclusion-making of most belief-based systemics, including most published scientific research.

The scales fell from my eyes regarding “science” soon after college in the 1980s when I noticed that so-called scientifically-based medical-nutritional research (one of my very earliest personal study interests, beginning in my early teens) simply did 180s every few years (so many “medical science” pronouncements I never believed were eventually reversed; e.g., eggs, salmon, and nuts bad for you – no, all these delicious foods are good for you; you only use 10% of your brain – no, you use it all; the appendix is a vestigial organ – no, it is a working one and, logically, we have no “vestigial” organs); this hardened into a permanent deeply analytical frame of mind when “string theory” came into my awareness; having always loved chemistry and physics, awed by the beauty of the Standard Model and enchanted by quantum theory, I was revulsed by string theory at first sight as a “scientific” discipline empty of logic or science.

Since then string theory has morphed itself into unrecognizable monsters of thought that today are slowly crumbling into the meaningless dust (idle grad student minds eager to find something to “work” on, since materialism brought most scientific advancement to a screeching halt in the 1950s, except for what was stolen, surreptitiously, from the quickly-tabooed quantum mechanics) from which they came. These days, after years of continued study, even the beautiful, elegant, and beloved Standard Model is starting to twist my gut (as it also begins to fall apart – try telling that to the scientists working so hopefully, and so futilely, at CERN, where the “cutting edge” of particle physics supposedly is located, currently [...I wonder where it really is? If you know, drop me a line. Just don't send me junk... I suspect it's lingering unlooked-at on someone's desk in a university somewhere]), and I’ve defenestrated field theory as descriptive, a mathematic tool, but having no value beyond that.

There are distinct advantages to being a truly analytical skeptic and neither a scientific specialist nor a believe-from-authority sheeple (I’ve always been told “you ask good questions”).

It’s a fallacy, though widely believed among scientists (especially starry-eyed young ones) and the general public that the scientific method makes science foolproof, humble, and flexible. Hardly. “Science” is largely a belief-based phenomena; at least, that is how it is carried out. The scientific method doesn’t weed out much human bias, hubris, arrogance – or, sorry – stupidity. A little. Not much.

The very, very narrow thinking used in today’s bad science continually being reported in the news as plausible influences public opinion, and that’s not good.

Today, the “evolutionary” sciences are still based on the scientifically-accepted philosophy of materialism.

Materialism was disproved 100 years ago, but it hasn’t died out yet. “Science” like you’ve reported here, which is believed, accepted, and disseminated to the public so uncritically by most reporters, is one of the reasons why.

The press can help to steer the public conversation, government policy, and scientific professional work by calling bullshit when something is bullshit (especially publically harmful bullshit like this), and discussing why. Many journalists do (cf. Paul Krugman, Mary Elizabeth Williams, Tracy Clark-Flory, Natalie Angier, Sharon Begley, David Brooks, just for starters), but most don’t.

Materialism is a philosophy – a philosophy – that was never proved, just accepted by consensus, by belief, by faith, in science (the consensus term in scientific circles is rationalism) and never questioned afterwards (think Descartes’ wide influence) – until quantum mechanics disproved it.

Most scientists, however, wish to hang on to the status quo. Materialism / rationalism is a very ancient and deeply embedded paradigm; most universities still teach materialism / rationalism; most of the public still believes in materialism / rationalism.

Unfortunately, materialism is only a philosophy, a way of looking at the world, not science; and rationalism is actually the opposite of empiricism. How many people know that?

Change is difficult, and scientific thought is actually more resistant to change than religious thought, especially at a personal level.

(I’ll demonstrate. Materialistic thinking in science became de rigueur in the 1500s to 1600s. How has the approach to science changed since then? How has the approach to religion? What has changed in the way that scientists think since the Scientific Revolution in the 1600s compared to what has changed in religious thought, and indeed in cultural thought as a whole, since then? Far less.)

Materialist philosophy in science tries to strip all of reality, which is far, far, far “bigger” than humans can perceive, just like our perceptions are far, far bigger than an ant’s, which are far bigger than a bacterium’s, down to one infinitesimally tiny, narrow little sliver of it, the so-called material (everything is really energy; let’s not forget Einstein’s contribution as the first crack in the old Newtonian, mechanistic, materialist paradigm) and asserts confidently and positively that that is “all there is”.

Well, no wonder people become materialists, especially in college, when most people are enjoying their first taste of intellectual freedom. Materialism is so very, very comforting. It wipes out most of the need to question or to seek – simply believe in materialism, and even science is “finished!” It eliminates existential angst. It reduces if not suppresses completely irrational fear. Whew!

(It is not religion that is “comforting”, atheists; far from it; it is materialism, a very narrow view of reality which shuts most of what we still don’t know, and the questions that raises, from awareness, investigation, and belief – even acceptance, when anomalous experience [definition: what can't be attributed to a materialist explanation] is perceived personally.)

In reality, the material is nothing (or, on another level, it may be considered thought form organized into matrices). We give it all meaning. We created the scientific laws. We think that symbols such as words and numbers really exist.

We even anthropomorphize DNA as having attributes like “selfishness” (cf. Richard Dawkins) and even “meanness” (cf. Burnham and Phelan) – metaphors (kind of) which the press and public take literally and act upon (think, recently, of Ayn Rand, of Enron, even of today’s broader Conservative public social agenda: the disempowerment of women and the killing of the poor.)

Note that the biologists mentioned in the paragraph above, like all of those scientists who are materialists (cf. David P. Barash), attribute behavior to genes, then in the next breath urge us to overcome those same genes, not noticing the internal contradiction, any scientific questions that this contradiction may impose, or even any cognitive dissonance due to the rigid dogmatism inherent in this materialistic belief system.

DNA, as biologists have written, has been shown scientifically to do little but to create the proteins that operate our cells (cf. Rupert Sheldrake). When an illness has been shown to be heritable, that is because a mutation is handed down which recreates the “wrong” proteins in the son/daughter cells as well. But most illness is created environmentally and, I’m terribly sorry to have to break it to you this way, attitudinally – by thought.

But in general, little to no heritability, and certainly no heritability of personality traits or belief systems, has been shown to come from genes, although some scientists, most particularly and wrongly, “evolutionary” psychologists and biologists, are still trying to prove that it does, or falsely think that their studies – misconceived, conducted, and interpreted along those lines – show that it does.

But even twin studies show that identical twins, who inherit identical DNA, can be similar in personalities, belief systems, and even life choices and experiences, or vastly different. Why the individuals in one twin set are similar in the immaterial attributes such as personality and even subsequent life experience and in another are different cannot be – and therefore hasn’t – been explained materialistically.

Scientists were sure that the Human Genome Project would tell us which gene does what in the body (and the “mechanistic” mind) – from which gene caused which disease to which formed a hand to which passed down a belief in God. None of that happened.

Scientists are scratching their heads over that (it’s called “missing heritability”), but instead of turning to new paradigms, they still believe in and are still trying to prove the old ones.

Materialistic thinking, while it has (or had) a place in science, is not strictly true, or even mostly true, and it is time that it is discarded as the only approach in science.

It leads to scientific, and thereafter public, harmful belief, such as “it’s OK to cheat on your partner because monogamy is unnatural in the natural world” to “rape is the result of there not being enough females around”.

No, this is decision-making. And as with all behavior, decisions are the result of thinking, belief, hope, fear, that is created and projected by the immaterial mind; it is the result of the assignment of meaning by mind, for good or bad, right or wrong.

(For the philosophers out there, don’t come back at me with, “There is no such thing as ‘good and bad’, ‘right and wrong’; there is only ‘what is’.” On the contrary, what we see around us, the material, our bodies, the world, isn’t good or bad, right or wrong, and isn’t even what is. What we think and what we do is all that matters.)

Behavior is not driven by genes, not by DNA, and not even by mechanistic materialistic concerns. It is driven by mind, which is not material, no matter how much promissory materialists wish and hope and dream that consciousness were not real.

Mind can be changed. Minds do have free will, despite long, detailed, complex but ultimately specious and false argument to the contrary (cf. Sam Harris).

And to believe that consciousness doesn’t really exist and that we don’t have free will holds back progress in scientific thinking and research (cf. Libet, whose research was widely, almost egregiously, misinterpreted).

The brain engages in electrochemical activity that operates the body in response to consciousness. It doesn’t secrete thought (Pierre Cabanis‘s 200 year old theory, disproved 100 years ago, but still in vogue among materialists).

That the brain “secretes” though and creates consciousness (or that we – who is the “we? – merely “believe” that it does) is the current belief in neuroscience, which it is vigorously teaching us all, despite the fact that as brain scientists cut away ever larger portions of brain, they can’t find where memory is stored, and no one has ever seen a “thought” in the brain. Electrochemical activity, yes; scads of it; electrochemical activity can even be exogenously stimulated which reminds consciousness, or triggers memories, of past events. That is not thinking or remembering.

It is not even logical to assume that the brain is capable of producing consciousness and thought. That’s a very low-level, shallow, illogical way of thinking. Some very important perceptive organs – the eyes, the ears, the mouth, nose and throat – are located near this larger organ which operates the body. That doesn’t mean, automatically, that it can think.

Meat can’t think.

I expect that that will cause problems in the Brain Activity Map project (or “Brain Map”), if that gets off the ground.

But, of course, the Brain Activity Map project would teach us much about how the brain works, and I, personally, as a student of physiological psychology, am very, very excited by the prospect. I hope it comes to fruition.

The good hope for the BAM is that, as neurologist John Donoghue of Brown University put it, “we have additional insights that will lead to better medical devices.”

The bad hope for the BAM is that, as Donoghue goes on to say, “If you understood how thinking emerges from the interaction of many neurons….”

Thinking doesn’t “emerge” from the interaction of neurons, even “many” of them. Thinking causes neurons to interact.

So materialist scientists such as neurologists and neurological surgeons may be disappointed in their hopes for the BAM, as genome scientists were in their hopes for the Genome Project, despite many discoveries… unless, finally, it teaches them to discard the old paradigms and turn toward the new one, now only still one hundred years old.

For reporters to buy false beliefs and the bad science that “emerges” from them, and to write as if we don’t have free will, deceives and hurts the public. Grievously.

As I wrote to you in my Twitter stream, rape is still being interpreted as the woman’s fault, even in science; that is not recognized by many reporters. In this (India) case, rape is being explained, “scientifically”, by the fact that there aren’t enough women! That still makes women, when you think about it, at fault – not men.

Another article I read on the India incident uncritically blames India’s traditional cultural attitudes, which blames their spiritual beliefs, which, however their religious beliefs may have become convoluted toward and tangled up with cultural bias (not examined in the article), still blames women for what happens to them by the fact of their being women. (cf. Gardiner Harris, January 22, 2013, The New York Times).

Just like our Western religions have and often still do. It’s a circular argument.

(I’m not harping on that; I study science and psychology.)

The “science” you cite here is also a circular argument. Women are disrespected, so female babies are aborted or killed, so fewer are born or grow up, which leads to the rape of those who are born and grow up, because women are disrespected.

No, this is correlation. The correlating factors are disrespect of women, the belief that they are inferior to men and therefore may be treated as objects, and the self-entitlement of men in many cultures around the world, including our own, to condescend to, disrespect, and behave dismissively to disrespectfully to violently toward women.

Any excuse. Any at all.

Women are treated as owned objects, as possessions, as pets, as baggage, as balls and chains, as bitches, not as people with minds equal to men’s.

Women around the world may be treated any way a man wishes, destroyed as worthless babies, beat or even killed as adults when a man feels that his entitlement to pseudosuperiority or control is challenged, feels jealousy, fears her potential loss, or, really, he has any stress or fear at all – from unemployment to a sports team loss, and the blame, somehow, in his mind, in the press’s, and in the public’s, always ends up being due to the woman’s choice, not the man’s.

These beliefs, these mental attitudes, this wrong thinking, is so pervasive, so sold, so bought, and so believed, that even many women believe it. Even many women victim-blame women for what happens to them.

And science has taken up the ball from religion, which is beginning to teach more respect toward women, into trying to prove it.

- Cathi Carol

 
Regarding:

Rape in India: A Result of Sex Selection?
Erika Christakis, Time, January 4, 2013

As a Girl in India, I Learned to Be Afraid of Men
Mira Kamdar, The Atlantic, January 4, 2013

The Rape Uproar In India
Andrew Sullivan, The Dish, January 5, 2013
- Calling it an “uproar” is a little dismissive, but good reporting and good links.

For Rape Victims in India, Police Are Often Part of the Problem
Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, January 22, 2013

Another High-Profile Rape in India Highlights Ongoing Problem
Krista Mahr, Time, March 18, 2013
- Indian “officials” are still blaming rape on the victims – in this case, on the couple attacked. “…the Swiss couple erred by staying in a place where there is a higher ratio of men to women… little realizing that the district with 85:100 men-to-women ratio is not the safest place for women”. Sorry, Indians; that didn’t cause the attack. When are scientists planning on debunking these false beliefs? Are they?

 
Related Posts:

Science, Math, Men, Women
April 10, 2012

David Barash and the “Myth” of Monogamy
January 10, 2012

Gullible Scientists
January 8, 2012

Orders of Difficulty
July 8, 2011

The Non-Irony of Slutwalks
August 12, 2011

Evolutionary Biology/Psychology and the So-Called Genetic Adaptiveness of Rape
February 12, 2011

Also see my post categories Evolution, Misogyny, and Materialism.

 
Evolutionary Psychology/Biology:

Today’s evolutionary psychology is a materialist pseudoscience based on false scientific premises and on wrong assumptions about human nature which support today’s cultural, not evolutionary, bias toward male superiority (and entitlement) over women.

The fact is that sexual desire, sexual activity, and sexual jealousy are biologically inherent in both men and women (or perhaps it would be better to say all genders of human being) to the same degree equally. There is far more individual variation than variation across the sexes.

The few books available that get evolutionary psychology right (equating the genders) have been written by those rare psychologists who have spent most of their careers talking to men and women about their relationships, how they really feel, and what works and what doesn’t to maintain a happy and successful pair bond – and then have not applied cultural bias to their findings (such as “co-dependence”) or made-up theories (such as the “Mars/Venus” dichotomy).

Examples of Good Science:

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can – and Should – Be Saved

Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi. Berkley Trade, 2011 (book).
- Bancroft and Patrissi provide a far more realistic view of our evolutionary past than most academic evolutionary psychologists. Bancroft just can’t be beat.

Attached:
The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love

Amir Levine, Rachel Heller. Tarcher, 2010 (book). (Kindle)
- Levine and Heller flounder a bit, generalize far too much, and are sometimes very unprofessional in their personal remarks, but their scientific basics are generally sound.

Books that get evolutionary psychology wrong usually were written by materialist (a scientifically out-of-date philosophy) academics who have spent little of their careers actually talking to people; their studies and conclusions are based on and skewed in favor of both their scientific and their cultural biases and preconceptions.

For instance, they usually conclude that men both desire and engage in more sexual activity than women (wrong; this is reporting error, and if scientists thought about it they would realize that it wouldn’t even be possible), that sexual promiscuity is not only natural but desirable (wrong; even apes, chimpanzees, birds, and other animals get jealous and fight to keep their pairings monogamous), and that pair bonding and monogamy are unnatural, undesirable, and anti-evolutionary (wrong, wrong, and wrong, scientifically speaking).

Unfortunately, such thinking is exemplary of the state of the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology today; worse, evolutionary scientists who engage in such culturally-approved thinking are the ones who get reported upon (and fawned over) in the news media.

Examples of Bad Science:

The Myth of Monogamy
Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People

David P. Barash Ph.D. and Judith Eve Lipton. W. H. Freeman, 2001 (book).

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. HarperCollins, 2010 (book).

Mean Genes
From Sex to Money to Food: Taming Our Primal Instincts
Chapter One at The New York Times (book chapter)
Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan, Perseus Publishing, 2001

Book Review: “Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food, Taming Our Primal Instincts” by Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan
Damian Moskovitz, Atlas Society, October 2001 (book review).

Our Big Brains Can Overcome Our Selfish Genes
Richard Dawkins
From a lecture by Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Understanding of Science, given at the Royal Institution, in London, 12 February 2002.
Posted by Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science,
Oxford University, at The Conversation website.

Under “bad science” there are also the following articles, which are very confused on the science and contain the typical bad advice of reporters not up on the science:

Bad Advice for Cheated Wives
A former escort turned “infidelity counselor” tells women to give their husbands more sex. It’s not the answer.

Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon, April 16, 2013
- Salon’s “sex reporter” writes that “having lots of sex with your husband” is “pedestrian, misguided” advice. She’s wrong. Her parents were right (and so is the woman she writes about, who has listened to the complaints of 1,000 men) that “sex is the glue that holds a marriage together”. Clark-Flory cites only the cultural / evolutionary psychology fallacy that women are, or should be, the “sexual gate-keepers” in a relationship (I shudder for the women who believe this, and the futures of their marriages). Clark-Flory is woefully undereducated about what she writes about; a problem with many reporters, but she can do better (in fact, I list another article of hers in the Resources section below).

I’m Just a Jealous Guy
Carole Jahme shines the cold light of evolutionary psychology on readers’ problems.
This week: Sexual Jealousy.

Carole Jahme, The Guardian, July 6, 2010
- An awful example of how the utter wrongness of bad “evolutionary psychology/biology” has infiltrated the news media and general public opinion. Shame on anyone who promotes such misogynistic wrong thinking.

 
Evolutionary Psychology/Biology:

Today’s evolutionary psychology is a materialist pseudoscience based on false scientific premises and on wrong assumptions about human nature which support today’s cultural, not evolutionary, bias toward male superiority (and entitlement) over women.

The fact is that sexual desire, sexual activity, and sexual jealousy are biologically inherent in both men and women (or perhaps it would be better to say all genders of human being) to the same degree equally. There is far more individual variation than variation across the sexes.

The few books available that get evolutionary psychology right (equating the genders) have been written by those rare psychologists who have spent most of their careers talking to men and women about their relationships, how they really feel, and what works and what doesn’t to maintain a happy and successful pair bond – and then have not applied cultural bias to their findings (such as “co-dependence”) or made-up theories (such as the “Mars/Venus” dichotomy).

Examples of Good Science:

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can – and Should – Be Saved

Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi. Berkley Trade, 2011 (book).
- Bancroft and Patrissi provide a far more realistic view of our evolutionary past than most academic evolutionary psychologists. Bancroft just can’t be beat.

Attached:
The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love

Amir Levine, Rachel Heller. Tarcher, 2010 (book). (Kindle)
- Levine and Heller flounder a bit, generalize far too much, and are sometimes very unprofessional in their personal remarks, but their scientific basics are generally sound.

Books that get evolutionary psychology wrong usually were written by materialist (a scientifically out-of-date philosophy) academics who have spent little of their careers actually talking to people; their studies and conclusions are based on and skewed in favor of both their scientific and their cultural biases and preconceptions.

For instance, they usually conclude that men both desire and engage in more sexual activity than women (wrong; this is reporting error, and if scientists thought about it they would realize that it wouldn’t even be possible), that sexual promiscuity is not only natural but desirable (wrong; even apes, chimpanzees, birds, and other animals get jealous and fight to keep their pairings monogamous), and that pair bonding and monogamy are unnatural, undesirable, and anti-evolutionary (wrong, wrong, and wrong, scientifically speaking).

Unfortunately, such thinking is exemplary of the state of the pseudoscience of evolutionary psychology today; worse, evolutionary scientists who engage in such culturally-approved thinking are the ones who get reported upon (and fawned over) in the news media.

Examples of Bad Science:

The Myth of Monogamy
Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People

David P. Barash Ph.D. and Judith Eve Lipton. W. H. Freeman, 2001 (book).

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. HarperCollins, 2010 (book).

Mean Genes
From Sex to Money to Food: Taming Our Primal Instincts
Chapter One at The New York Times (book chapter)
Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan, Perseus Publishing, 2001

Book Review: “Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food, Taming Our Primal Instincts” by Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan
Damian Moskovitz, Atlas Society, October 2001 (book review).

Our Big Brains Can Overcome Our Selfish Genes
Richard Dawkins
From a lecture by Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Understanding of Science, given at the Royal Institution, in London, 12 February 2002.
Posted by Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science,
Oxford University, at The Conversation website.

Under “bad science” there are also the following articles, which are very confused on the science and contain the typical bad advice of reporters not up on the science:

Bad Advice for Cheated Wives
A former escort turned “infidelity counselor” tells women to give their husbands more sex. It’s not the answer.

Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon, April 16, 2013
- Yes, it is. Or, rather I should say, it can prevent many problems in marriage which wouldn’t otherwise have occurred. Salon’s “sex reporter” writes that “having lots of sex with your husband” is “pedestrian, misguided” advice: she’s wrong. Her parents were right (and so is the woman she writes about, who has listened to the complaints of 1,000 men) that “sex is the glue that holds a marriage together”. Clark-Flory cites only the cultural / evolutionary psychology fallacy: that women are, or should be, the “sexual gate-keepers” in a relationship (I shudder for the women who believe this, and the futures of their marriages). Clark-Flory is woefully undereducated about what she writes about; a problem with many reporters, but she can do better (in fact, I list another article of hers in the Resources section below).

I’m Just a Jealous Guy
Carole Jahme shines the cold light of evolutionary psychology on readers’ problems.
This week: Sexual Jealousy.

Carole Jahme, The Guardian, July 6, 2010
- An awful example of how the utter wrongness of bad “evolutionary psychology/biology” has infiltrated the news media and general public opinion. Shame on anyone who promotes such misogynistic wrong thinking.

 
Resources:

Selfish Gene Theory Of Evolution Called Fatally Flawed
Y. Bar-Yam, Formalizing the gene centered view of evolution, Advances in Complex Systems 2, pp.277-281 (1999).

Back to the Stone Age
Two strong believers in evolutionary psychology tell us how we can live better lives.

Erica Goode, The New York Times, December 31, 2000

Male sexual polymorphism, alternative reproductive tactics, and androgens in combtooth blennies (pisces: blenniidae).
Oliveira RF, Canario AV, Grober MS. Horm Behav. 2001 Sep;40(2):266-75.

Sexual Behavior in Pre Contact Hawai‘i: A Sexological Ethnography
Milton Diamond, Ph.D., Revista Española del Pacifico. 2004. 16: 37-58

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
John P. A. Ioannidis, PLoS, August 30, 2005

Female Sexual Polymorphism and Fecundity Consequences of Male Mating Harassment in the Wild
Thomas P. Gosden and Erik I. Svensson, PLoS, June 27, 2007
Citation: Gosden TP, Svensson EI (2007) Female Sexual Polymorphism and Fecundity Consequences of Male Mating Harassment in the Wild. PLoS ONE 2(6): e580. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000580

They Don’t Make Homo Sapiens Like They Used To
Our species — and individual races — have recently made big evolutionary changes to adjust to new pressures.

Kathleen McAuliffe, Discover Magazine, February 9, 2009

Are we witnessing the end of science?
Almost all the great revolutions in scientific thinking may be behind us,
but the way modern science is conducted stifles radical new ideas

Ehsan Masood, The Guardian, June 22, 2009

Human Nature Today
David Brooks, The New York Times, June 25, 2009
- “Evolutionary psychology leaves the impression that human nature was carved a hundred thousand years ago, and then history sort of stopped. But human nature adapts to the continual flow of information … Individuals aren’t formed before they enter society. Individuals are created by social interaction. … There’s no escaping context. That’s worth remembering next time somebody tells you we are hardwired to do this or that.”

Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around?
The fault, dear Darwin, lies not in our ancestors, but in ourselves.

Sharon Begley, Newsweek, June 29, 2009 (Republished at The Daily Beast)
- A highly intelligent smackdown, um, analysis of evolutionary psych/bio. There was much opposition to this article among evolutionary “scientists” (or perhaps mostly sensationalistic journalists), of course.

Questioning Evolutionary Psychology
Recently, the doubts and questions plaguing the theory of evolutionary psychology
have boiled up to the mainstream press.

Christie Nicholson, Scientific American, July 17, 2009 (notes and podcast)
- Scientific American is not the most up-to-date or reliable resource in general, however.

Skipping Spouse to Spouse Isn’t Just a Man’s Game
Natalie Angier, The New York Times, August 31, 2009
- “Evolutionary psychology” alternative hypotheses.

Why Do Women Have Sex? For the Same Reasons Men Do.
Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon, October 5, 2009

Beyond the Genome
Brandon Keim, Wired, October 7, 2009

Pink Brain, Blue Brain
Claims of Sex Differences Fall Apart

Sharon Begley, Newsweek, September 3, 2009 (Republished at The Daily Beast)

Another Darwinian Fairy Tale Gives Us Old Time Religion in our Jeans.
Or Was That Genes?

Marc Jampole, OpEdge (blog), November 17, 2009

What Do Pleistocene Hunters Have to Do with Poker Anyway?
Absolutely Nothing, Mr. McManus.

Marc Jampole, OpEdge (blog), December 22, 2009

Tiger Woods’ Adultery: The Scientific Defense
A new book argues that dudes just can’t help chasing tail. Give me a break!

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, March 25, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science
David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, November 2010
- “Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors — to a striking extent — still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science.”

Do Humans Prefer Free Love Over the Bonds of Nuclear Family?
Maia Szalavitz, Time – Healthland, November 2, 2010
- No. At least no one in his or her right mind, independently, uninfluenced by cultural pressures to “conform” to counterculturalism.

The top 10 most spectacularly wrong widely held scientific theories
Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle, November 24, 2010
- Note that none of the new theories which replaced the old are any “truer”, and will be replaced in their turn; that science is “better” today than in the past is debatable to completely untrue. Or perhaps some of the older theories (especially those not as ancient and thoroughly discredited as those presented in this article – the operative words here are “eventually discarded” – which can take centuries) will be revived in new forms. That happens a lot, too.

A Roomful of Yearning and Regret
Wendy Plump, The New York Times, December 9, 2010
- What it’s like to cheat and to be cheated on.

Nice Guys Finish First
David Brooks, The New York Times, May 16, 2011

Scientist Tim Flannery Ties Darwinian Myths to Politics of Selfishness
and Myth of Free Markets

Marc Jampole, OpEdge (blog), May 19, 2011

Double Inanity
Twin Studies are Pretty Much Useless

Brian Palmer, Slate, August 24, 2011
- Palmer still believes in the “promissory” science, though, unaccountably.

Men Aren’t Funnier Than Women, but We’ll Keep Pretending They Are
A new study says the female funny bone is equal to the male,
even if it’s not perceived to be.

Amanda Marcotte, Slate, October 20, 2011
- Women are as funny as men. And as smart. Period. End of story.

Steven Pinker’s Book is a Comfort Blanket for the Smug
Andrew Brown, The Guardian, November 8, 2011
- “The factual errors in The Better Angels of Our Nature destroy Pinker’s thesis, rendering it no more than a bedtime story.”

Women’s Progress Marches Backward
Whether you look at job stats or the pay gap, at the movie awards or Sunday morning TV,
it’s been a rough 2011

Irin Carmon, Salon, December 19, 2011
- Why?: 1) The outsized influence over news media, and therefore society, of reactionary fundamentalist religious protest due to their misunderstanding of God’s will regarding what are actually human cultural taboos, 2) evolutionary “science”, which, with little to no actual science to uphold them, remains biased toward those taboos, and 3) women’s reluctance to respond to, fight against, and protest those taboos in public and private – due to those very taboos.

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, Noted Psychiatrist, Apologizes for Study on Gay ‘Cure’
Benedict Carey, The New York Times, May 18, 2012
- It isn’t just women who suffer from misguided “science”, of course. See below, also.

Regretting the Gay Cure
Psychologist Robert Spitzer has more to be sorry for.

Katie Roiphe, Slate, May 22, 2012

Good Scientist! You Get a Badge.
Precious research money is wasted on unreal results,
but we can change the culture of science.

Carl Zimmer, Slate, August 14, 2012

The Brain Chemistry of Social and Sexual Monogamy
Brian Alexander and Larry Young, Slate, November 27, 2012
- This article makes a couple of good points on this topic that most get wrong – an important one being that the powerful cheat at the same rate as the not-powerful (rather than more), and for the same reasons as the not-powerful (rather than different ones). I’ve been pointing that out forever. However, like most articles it is a mixture of the true and the false. The authors still assume that brain chemicals that somehow spontaneously appear in the brain not just influence but can control behavior. That is false. Thinking – thought – mental activity, generated by consciousness using free will, directs all behavior, period. Brain chemicals are generated according to conscious (or subconscious) thought to set up a physiological response, but the thinker is still in control of his or her behavior at all times, regardless of his or her brain chemicals or physiological response. (Think about it and you’ll conclude that this is true, if you can get over the false materialist beliefs that have been sold to society by wrong-thinking scientists.) As well, comparing primate behavior to voles or other critters is dangerously unscientific. Humans in particular can easily maintain or increase the desire, the sex, and the attachment in a relationship, if the relationship is rewarding and the motivation strong. It’s all about choice. (Note: I replaced the non-sequitur titles for this article generated by some Slate title writer with the article authors’ title – still misleading, but better.)

Generation LGBTQIA
Michael Schulman, The New York Times, January 9, 2013

Darwin Was Wrong About Dating
Dan Slater, The New York Times, January 12, 2013
- Reporters turn to the widely-quoted evolutionary scientist Steven Pinker as a so-called “authority”, but he’s an infamous (to me) hard materialist, and an out-of-date scientific resource. He is often looked at askance, viewed with suspicion and concern, as misguided from within even some of the scientific community.

Science: A Relationship You May Not Understand
Tania Lombrozo, NPR, February 25, 2013
- Terrifically condescending, Lombrozo discounts current scientific method while she also retains unaccountable faith in it. Strange.

Sympatric Speciation – Wikipedia

 


 
© 2013 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved. Please do not republish without permission.
 
Last Updated: May 7, 2013
 
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After Abuse, “Eat Pray Love”

In Abuse, Psychology, Violence, Women on February 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm

 
Eat Pray Love
 
In my email today I received an offer from Amazon to buy the film “Eat Pray Love”, which I politely declined (in my head).

But then I added the film, which I liked enough to do so, to my Amazon store. And then I started to think about that, and to wonder why.

I have always had mixed feelings about the film. I liked it; I didn’t like parts of it; I found most of it human and normal, and some of it incomprehensible. I’ve seen it twice, but never all of it (I watched it on DVD and skipped a lot).

So I decided to do some research into the story. My first thought was, “Did Elizabeth Gilbert’s second marriage last?”

I did a Google search and found a 2006 review of Gilbert’s book, “Eat, Pray, Love”, from which the film was made, by Jennifer Egan at The New York Times. (They have pretty decent reviews at The New York Times. Maybe there was something relevant in there. Close enough.)

I found out, of course, that there was much more detail about Gilbert’s life in the book (possibly making what I write below moot; but I suspect, based on the subject matter and most people’s naïveté about it, probably not).

Egan caviled, in the review, at the “perfection” of Gilbert’s life and many of the things that happened to her, doubting them and calling them “magical thinking”.

I found Egan too cynical and a little ignorant. People in touch with their inner selves, and therefore with the Source of life, more often than people who are not are open to and therefore experience what often looks like “magic” to the less sophisticated.

I myself was baffled by what drove, in the film, author Gilbert, who seemed an incredibly nice person, to behave so seemingly selfishly at the beginning of the story in regard to her first marriage.

Did Gilbert or the writers of the film leave out sources of pain in the marriage from which Gilbert needed to escape? And why did she choose to be with such an oddly critical and controlling boyfriend afterwards? Then why did she buddy up so closely to an obviously abusive man at the ashram in India?

And how was it that she seemed to have such a satisfactory resolution at the end of her story? That seldom happens in real life. (That was book reviewer Egan’s final question, as well.)

I can’t help but believe that, as we all do, Gilbert took her problems with her on her travels and still had them at the end of them, new relationship or no new relationship.

And I can’t help but wonder how her new marriage fared, based on how her old one did, which was not well.

People seldom change that much. So maybe Gilbert didn’t, really.

Maybe Gilbert’s problems were, simply, not in her but in her first marriage. Specifically, abuse.

Gilbert blamed the problems in her first marriage, and around her marriage, on herself. But in attempting to change herself afterwards she didn’t, really. Instead, she simply traveled around the world until she happened to get lucky enough to find a better man for her second husband than she had for her first.

She was definitely more cautious – to the point of panic – about jumping into a committed relationship with the second husband than she was the first. That is telling. But perhaps that reflected less on her than she believed at the time.

A better second marriage after getting out of an abusive one doesn’t always happen to abused people, men or women, but it happens often enough for me to find that believable.

In the film, her first husband, portrayed as a little unempathetic, perhaps, but largely innocent and undeserving of being left, could easily be seen as either a wounded, reactive lover or a childish, blaming jerk – maybe, in and throughout their marriage, he actually was the latter.

Childish, blaming jerks are geniuses at portraying themselves to their partners, and to onlooking parties, as the innocent, wounded ones.

My feeling at the beginning of the film, “Boy, she sure is acting unaccountably” was perhaps a reflection of what Gilbert herself believed and reported faithfully, but was not based on reality.

Maybe, instead, it was based on what her first husband thought of her and said to her; no doubt, if he said it once he said it more than once, as abusers try to convince their victims that there is something wrong with them that entitles the abuse and even excuses it as being for the victim’s “own good”, education, or improvement.

Abusers want compliant, willing victims, as they’re less trouble to control, manipulate, and dominate; and they’re very good at either finding them or molding them. There are dozens of tricks in the book of threat and manipulation, domination and control; most abusers use the same methods, learned from the same cultures, having families or peers who encourage and support these behaviors. Don’t think that abusers are not aware that they use manipulation in order to dominate and control; most are aware and consciously choose manipulations that they think or hope will work.

Normal people know that manipulation, cheating, lying, and abuse is wrong; the difference with abusers is that they learn or decide to feel entitled to behave in such ways, and are so rewarded personally for them that they find the behaviors difficult to give up.

Many, many women believe what abusive men tell them about themselves. Women want as much to be loved by men as men by women, and, if naïve and in love, often will either believe the negative things a man tells her about herself, or, if she doesn’t believe them but wants to stay in the relationship because it is good otherwise, will try to ignore them.

Unfortunately, any reaction to abuse but leaving the abuser causes the abuse (verbal, emotional, or physical) to escalate until a break is almost always inevitable.

This is virtually always the case. Exceptions are rare: if the abused woman or man is knowledgeable enough to recognize manipulation and abuse and insists on change earlier rather than later, at the cost of the relationship if things don’t change; if the abuser is amenable enough to change to actually change; if both parties are in love enough and committed enough to their relationship to stay together until the entitlement to abuse is relinquished in the abuser and the abuse ceases unconditionally and permanently, and is replaced by normal relationship needs and expectations – respect, kindness, equality and support – there is hope. But again, this happening with someone used to thinking of abuse as normal, or used to being rewarded for behaving abusively, is rare. The abusers who change are those who have lost relationships important to them in the past due to their abuse, or are about to, and are highly motivated not to lose any more. Still they may need therapy specialized for abusers in order to achieve the goal of a normal relationship.

(As a reminder, not just love, but also respect, kindness, support, and equality are bare minimums in any intimate relationship. Expecting all of these things from an intimate partner is not asking too much; not expecting them, or enduring without them, is asking far too little.)

Change lasting in an abuser is the tricky part. Even if an abuser wants to change, or agrees to change, unless he really “gets” what is wrong, that he needs to give up his pseudosuperiority and belief in his entitlement to abuse and exchange them for a normal relationship, he usually attempts to continue the abuse in some form or other.

“Compromising” is a typical attempt. An abuser (male or female) might say “If I have to change, you have to change, too”, or “That wasn’t abuse; you’re just too sensitive”, or “My dropping my abuse alone isn’t going to keep us together – you’re going to have to accept it sometimes, whenever I can’t help myself.”

In other words, “If I’m going to respect that you don’t want to be abused, you have to respect that sometimes I’m just going to abuse you, anyway – that’s just the way I am, and if you want me to accept you the way you are, you have to accept me the way I am.”

“Compromise”, in an abusive relationship (as opposed to a normal one), is usually not compromise at all, but a covert attempt to continue the abuse.

Abusers may try to convince themselves or their victims (or other people they’re accountable to) that although they’re perfectly entitled to control their victim, they have no control over themselves. This is a widely believed fallacy, even in pop pseudopsychology, which is debunked by noticing that abusers can control their abuse, even stop committing violence in the middle of rage, whenever their own usual practices or reasoning, need for safety, or desire for freedom prompts them to.

You see how confusing it all can be, and is, for the victim, even a victim “merely” of emotional abuse. Telling her that she should leave isn’t the right thing to do, by the way, but just subjects her to more controlling words and behavior that she has to try to deal with and resolve.

Perhaps Gilbert, as many women do when they are having problems in their relationships that are not of their own making, blamed herself, and that was the source of her depression and dissatisfaction.

That I can believe. That makes sense to me, and makes the film make sense, too.

Or maybe I’m being too cynical, now.

Gilbert thought that she was unhappy because she didn’t want to be a normal housewife with a house in the suburbs and kids. That’s probably what her husband was pushing her to do, rather than to follow her dreams to be an author and a traveler.

Not realizing, or wanting to admit, that it was wrong of her husband to ask this of her rather than support her, Gilbert may have decided that, yes, he was right – there was something wrong with her. Luckily for her, she decided to do something about it. She left her husband. Unfortunately, she also left the blame for her unhappiness, which her husband put on her, where it didn’t belong – on herself.

Abuse throws one off balance. It is no wonder that Gilbert felt the need to “find balance” during and after the end of her marriage.

And it is also no wonder that, according to Egan, “By the time she reaches Indonesia . . . ‘the balance has somehow naturally come into place’.”

Balance returns – naturally – when one gets away from abuse. That, at least, was not a “magical” event in Gilbert’s life, or even mysterious – it is what normally happens, naturally, by itself, when one escapes abuse, and does whatever one has to to keep it out of one’s life. Including leaving all abusive relationships behind, as Gilbert finally, fully did.

And I finally discovered, by going to her website, that Gilbert did stay married, the second time – to “That Brazilian Guy From EAT PRAY LOVE”. Her own quote.

 
Related Posts:

I Recommend: The Oeuvre of Lundy Bancroft
December 2, 2013

David Barash and the “Myth” Of Monogamy
January 10, 2012

 
Regarding:

 
Eat Pray Love (DVD)
Eat Pray Love (DVD)
(Blu-ray)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love
One Woman’s Search for Everything
Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Elizabeth Gilbert. Viking, 2006. (Paperback.)
(Hardcover) (Kindle)

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Website.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talks.

 
Resources:

Adult Psychology at my Amazon Store

Is it my fault my husband abuses me?
“Dr. Saltz advises a woman to take her kids and leave her abusive spouse.”
Dr. Gail Saltz, MSNBC – Today Show, April 15, 2009

 
 
 
The Road to Bali
‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ by Elizabeth Gilbert (Review)
Jennifer Egan, The New York Times, February 26, 2006

 
Related Books:

Why Does He Do That?
Why Does He Do That?
Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men


Lundy Bancroft
Berkley Trade, 2003

 
 
 
"Should I Stay or Should I Go?" by Lundy Bancroft
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can -
and Should – be Saved


Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi
Berkley Trade, 2011

 


 
© 2013 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved. Please do not republish without permission.
 
Last Updated: February 5, 2013
 
Kindle this blog and find more book, movie, and music suggestions at my Amazon store.
 
Please contact me via my account at Twitter (you have to have one, too) if you have a comment, a related article to share, want to report an editing error, or find a broken link.

Thank you!
 

I Recommend:  “Gone With the Wind”

In Abuse, Misogyny, Psychology, Recommendations, Violence, Women on August 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm
Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell

 

"Gone With The Wind" - Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind

Margaret Mitchell. MacMillan, 1936.

__________

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"Scarlett" - Alexandra Ripley

__________

 
 
 
 
 

A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning historical epic, Gone with the Wind is brilliant literature as well as an astonishingly naturalistic and engrossing portrait of human nature.

Gone with the Wind is also one of the greatest anti-war and anti-slavery novels of the twentieth century.

A wonderful, and quite famous, 10-Oscar winning film was made of the book as well.

The romance between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler is set in the 1860s during the United States Civil War and Reconstruction.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1900 Margaret Mitchell grew up hearing Civil War stories from elderly ex-Confederate relatives and family friends. From their fond reminiscences, she thought, as a small child, that the South had won the war!

A former newspaper reporter, Mitchell researched the historical, social, and agricultural milieu of the Civil War and Reconstruction era and the events of the war itself meticulously, making the book a fascinating history lesson as well as an intriguing love story.

Spoilers ahead. Do yourself a favor and if you never have, read the book. See the film. You’ll be glad you did.

GWTW usually appears in professionally compiled and published lists of best books and films.

However, as a book written by a woman about a woman main character, many of its “reviews” are dismissive and misogynistic.

For instance, Tom Keogh’s awful sniff on the film is inexcusable; I found it insightful (about Keogh) that he called Clark Gable’s performance (of Rhett) “vital” and “masculine” (very true of Clark Gable’s performances in general) while Vivien Leigh’s (of Scarlett) he reduced to “magnificently narcissistic”.

No, it’s not; Leigh’s is a very sympathetic, and true-to-the-book, portrait of Scarlett.

The talented Leigh perfectly defined Scarlett’s supreme drive for survival during wartime, her immature selfishness and impulsiveness, her mature adult responsibility and tenderness toward her family and friends, her loves and hates, and even her embarrassed sensibilities – feelings and behaviors that all of us, as human beings, have felt or displayed without being considered, or called, “narcissistic”.

(Shame on Amazon for highlighting terrible reviewing and biased perspectives; something Amazon tends to do in too many of their so-called “Editorial Reviews” – read them, as all reviews, with a grain of salt).

Keogh’s commentary is a sample of the way Scarlett O’Hara has been characterized in the uninformed, uneducated, tending-toward-misogyny, as is our culture in general, popular press.

The purpose of this post is to provide another, more modern, more accurate psychologically, perspective of Scarlett and Rhett.

* * *

Scarlett O’Hara has been variously characterized by pseudo-psychologists and unsophisticated readers as spoiled, narcissistic, even mentally ill. The character was none of those things.

In one book of movie reviews I regret peeking into the unintelligent authors of the review actually called Scarlett a “bitch”. Oh, snap. Deep reviewing there (not)! Not to mention extremely misogynistic.

Scarlett was anything but. Scarlett, a doted-on oldest child, confident and beautiful if naïve, as teenagers tend to be, was very bright, assertive, and a good judge of character, although admittedly less empathetic toward others than most oldest-daughter children tend to be.

Scarlett’s female peers were justifiably jealous of her, effectively separating Scarlett from the personality-moderating influence of early peer interaction – something important to the development not only of adult independence but to adult social success (why teenagers like to hang out together away from their families and are so susceptible to peer influence).

Although it’s conceivable that she might have been called a bitch behind her back by the actually bitchy among her so-called friends, if they would have stooped that low despite their well-bred, country upper-class upbringing, Scarlett wasn’t a cruel, mean, stupid, vindictive, or ill-humored person – the type of person often termed a “bitch” today.

Scarlett was an oldest sibling. She was independent and free-thinking naturally. But the oldest sibling is also the protective, substitute-parent sibling, and Scarlett took care of her family when they needed her the most, even if her methods were desperate during very desperate times.

As a matter of fact, it was Scarlett’s second-oldest sister “Suellen” who was the selfish, spoiled, and lazy one of the three sisters in her family.

Scarlett’s problem was that she just happened to have the misfortune of falling in love with someone older who was attracted to her but was unattainable. A good plot point, and a not-unknown situation in real life.

Scarlett was a typical oldest child, receiving the most attention, good and bad, from her parents while growing up; and growing into, importantly for the fate of her family during a terrible war, a natural leader. I can relate. She loved her family and took care of them even in the face of her parents’ condescension and her siblings’ scorn, lack of appreciation, and scapegoating. I can relate. As for Scarlett’s ill-fated desire for the unattainable Ashley Wilkes, well, who hasn’t been there? I certainly can relate.

Don’t believe any of the slander of or psychobabble toward Scarlett that is out there. People who attempt to sum up Scarlett so harshly should know better because they often are psychiatrists and psychologists; unfortunately, these professionals are prone to diagnose mental illness where there is none even in real people.

Typical of the shallow pseudo-psychological assessments of Scarlett I have seen is one by two writers at the comedy website Cracked (I love the website) who apparently haven’t read the book Gone with the Wind or seen the movie, or if they have been exposed to the story, haven’t understood it; that Scarlett demonstrated traits of “antisocial and histrionic personality disorders”.

Below are their arguments for Scarlett’s being “mentally ill”, with my rebuttals.

1. Scarlett continued to love her childhood friend Ashley even after he married someone else, and for a long time after Rhett became her husband.

Well, human nature. Ashley was Scarlett’s first love, and first love, with all its dreamy romance, hopeful idealism, and innocent longing, is the longest lasting. Many people never forget their first love.

Scarlett was a teenager, unworldly and immature, at the time of Ashley’s marriage to his cousin Melanie. Scarlett married Charles (Melanie’s brother, not Ashley’s, Cracked), afterwards, in an attempt to prove her value and desirability to herself as much as to Ashley, then deeply regretted her impulsiveness as the realities of marriage to Charles became apparent to her. She realized very quickly that, situationally, that she had deepened her separation from Ashley, not lessened it. That’s sound introspection.

Scarlett’s feelings of love toward Ashley and her panic and depression at his sudden unexpected marriage were normal feelings. Her last-ditch attempt to communicate her unspoken love to Ashley before his marriage showed immense courage and strength of character beyond her years; this is an ongoing theme in the book.

As well, in Scarlett’s society, people rushed into marriage after they had been rejected to save face. That didn’t make them mentally ill, it made them conformists.

2. During the war, Scarlett “fell apart” for only a few seconds after Rhett left her and Melanie, with a baby, alone out in the countryside amidst warring soldiers from both sides after the burning of Atlanta, to join up almost at the final bugle. Well, Scarlett cried for a few minutes. Many people would have panicked and been captured.

After the truce, rather than let them languish, Scarlett pushed her family and herself to hard work to keep them all from dying of starvation, and to attempt to build some future security. Scarlett married someone she didn’t love in order to save the family farm and her family from worse than starvation when they didn’t have the money to prevent a usury tax sale. The man happened to be her sister’s boyfriend, but you can’t have everything.

The man she married to keep her family from homelessness and destruction, Frank, was killed due to the lawlessness of the time, the Reconstruction, not Scarlett’s necessary refusal to “act like a lady”. Her society frowned on her, a woman, working, but Scarlett didn’t kill her husband; he was killed defending her honor and the safety of their community (something his cohort later realized did more harm than good for their communities).

People who prefer to think negatively about women, especially strong, independent women like Scarlett, conveniently forget that Scarlett, squaring her shoulders, immediately pulled herself together after each rejection that hurt her and each loss that she endured and went on working and striving for the good of her family, and the near-helpless family of Melanie and Ashley, who depended on her, during a time of war, the deaths of their parents and most of their friends, the loss of their social support system, and total cultural upheaval and collapse.

There have always been determined female flirts like Scarlett just as there have always been handsome male ones. To call Scarlett “antisocial”, “histrionic”, or even, as I have read her called, “schizophrenic” or “sociopathic”, is purely misogynistic. These double-standard psychiatric indictments of Scarlett are actually aggressively, and oppressively, woman-hating in motivation.

Blaming Scarlett for her problems also lightly skips over the fact that the book is a dramatic novel. Melanie Wilkes was right: Scarlett did the best that she could for her family, friends, and country, despite her practical and emotional misgivings; literally, Scarlett’s high-spiritedness (if not her morality, maturity, or even her aesthetic taste) saved lives.

More often than not Scarlett sacrificed her own goals, her own desires, and even her own safety for the people she loved.

3. Scarlett treated Rhett Butler badly, pushed him away after he gave her everything she wanted, and took his love for granted until it was too late.

Rhett, a self-described scoundrel, was far more abusive to Scarlett than even Margaret Mitchell gave him credit for.

Rhett told Scarlett and people close to her that he loved her, yet he criticized, diminished, and degraded her to her face at every frustration that he felt at her independence and every refusal of hers to be controlled by him.

Even in the nineteenth century one wouldn’t set about winning the love of a woman by abusing her verbally at every opportunity, condescending to her, sneering at her, cheating on her or raping her. Yet Rhett did all of these things to Scarlett. Would any sane person term such behavior “love”, despite Rhett’s occasional tenderness and good humor?

As wonderful as Mitchell was at depicting human emotion and motivation, far from feeling delighted and singing the morning after a domestic rape, as Scarlett was depicted, any normal human being would have felt anger at the very least, and possibly great fear.

Mitchell excused, or mitigated, Rhett’s rape of Scarlett by portraying it as Scarlett’s sexual awakening. Mitchell did make sure that Rhett had the common grace to feel ashamed of himself afterwards; abusers sometimes do, if they fear loss because of their abuse; often they don’t, because rape is part-and-parcel of an abuser’s objectification of his victim.

Unfortunately for Scarlett, Rhett felt so self-centeredly ashamed of himself that he felt the need to remove himself from their home for an extended period of time, taking their only child together with him. Rhett left Scarlett alone in their house, bereaved of the two people she loved the most, when she most needed apology and comfort, due to Rhett’s self-centered feelings of guilt. Rhett’s abandonment of Scarlett at such a time was further objectification and rejection of her. As a matter of fact, Rhett had always rather made a habit of abandoning Scarlett (and this wasn’t the last, or the worst, instance of it).

Meanwhile, Scarlett was always honest with Rhett about her feelings, recognizing a kindred soul intellectually if not emotionally. She never equivocated with Rhett (barring minor, understandable exceptions); Scarlett was more honest with Rhett than she was with anyone else in her life including her parents, her sisters, her other husbands, her closest defender Melanie, or her first love, Ashley. If it took a “long time” for Scarlett to “realize” that she loved Rhett, well, I’d say that was Rhett’s fault.

Eventually, when Rhett finally came to the conclusion that he couldn’t abuse or control Scarlett into loving him openly, he took the typically abusive action of downgrading and verbally degrading her to her face (“…my dear, I don’t give a damn”), and then flatly abandoning her for good, blaming her for the failure of their relationship in his mind and guilting her, manipulating her, in this way, into blaming herself.

Rhett married someone who was true to herself and yet who loved him unconditionally. Scarlett loved Rhett as he was, without demands, criticism, or attempts to change him. Rhett could have appreciated that, Scarlett’s truly honest, artless, unaffected attachment to him, and had the insight to feel damned lucky that he had her. Instead, he felt entitled to feel superior to her, to judge her, and to go on criticizing her no matter what, while “waiting” for her to change.

Rhett’s tenderness towards Scarlett, his attempts to please her, his support of her dreams, and his respect for her did win her love and loyalty.

But Rhett’s possessiveness, his attempts to change her, and his abuse pushed Scarlett further away from him than her years-long love for her friend and neighbor Ashley was ever capable of doing. Rhett’s superior and condescending attitude toward Scarlett destroyed his marriage to her – not Scarlett’s overly-romantic hopes or ideals.

Married to Rhett, Scarlett’s ardor for Ashley naturally cooled. She never cheated on Rhett, though she had long loved a man whom she’d known for many years before Rhett badgered her into marrying him.

If Rhett had had the courage to overcome his fearful detachment, his secretiveness, his jealousy, and his judgmentalism, feelings incompatible with being an adult human being in love, Scarlett’s love for him, encouraged and undeterred, could have blossomed much earlier into overcoming her attachment to Ashley, and their marriage might have withstood the tests of growth and maturity, time and circumstance.

Instead, Rhett utterly destroyed Scarlett as a human being, and then left her with a shattered heart, tormenting guilt, and painful memories that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

She hadn’t earned that, no matter what she’d done to deserve it.

* * *

Critics of Gone with the Wind have suggested that pre-war Southern plantation life wasn’t as placid and happy as Mitchell depicted, and as many Southerners now imagine that it was; especially, that life for plantation and town slaves in the South Mitchell falsely idealized, romanticized, and ennobled.

That criticism misses the point that the book, a novel, after all, was written from the point of view of its Southern characters, not from contemporaneous or current sociological truth.

In Gone With The Wind the slaves were talked about, thought about, and treated by the plantation owners in a historically-accurate way; it is stressed in the book that the empathetic, intellectual character Ashley Wilkes intended to free his estate’s slaves when he inherited it. It is clear that Gone with the Wind is anti-slavery, as well as anti-war.

* * *

Informational website How Stuff Works reported that Gone With The Wind was “rejected by 38 publishers” before finally being accepted for publication. Perhaps that was a slam. It angered me; I and most fans of the book know better.

The unfinished manuscript of Gone With The Wind was given, reluctantly, by ex-reporter Margaret Mitchell to MacMillan Publishing representative H. S. Latham, who was on a tour of the South in 1935 searching for new authors. Gone With The Wind, previously unseen by anyone except for Mitchell and her husband, was accepted for publication within days of Latham’s acquiring the manuscript from Mitchell. This is a well-known part of the book’s history.

(Where does How Stuff Works get off making things up so egregiously? The website should be called Makes Stuff Up.)

* * *

I have to admit something. After perhaps twenty readings of Gone with the Wind, I sometimes stop reading, now, at the end of the second-to-last chapter so that I can imagine that Rhett and Scarlett work it out. Then I don’t have to cry so wrenchingly, I don’t have to feel such agony, at the end of the book.

This doesn’t work very well because I know what’s coming, but sometimes I refuse to read the last chapter, anyway.

By the way, Mitchell wrote the last chapter first. So she planned to have Rhett leave Scarlett. That takes guts.

* * *

I enjoyed, in a different way, the warm sequel to Gone With The Wind published after Mitchell’s death, Alexandria Ripley’s Scarlett. None of the characters in it were Mitchell’s, but it was full of love and fun to read.

I remember the book even more fondly because of those glorious first-edition Cookies-n-Mint Hershey’s Bars that I ate while I read it. They were divine.

 
About Margaret Mitchell:

Margaret Mitchell’s Obituary in The New York Times
August 17, 1949

Margaret Mitchell House
Where GWTW was written. Very pretty.

Margaret Mitchell at Wikipedia

Books on GWTW and Margaret Mitchell at my Amazon Store.

 
Reviews of GWTW:

All-TIME 100 Novels – Gone With the Wind
“Critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo pick the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923—the beginning of TIME.”
Lev Grossman, Time, October 16, 2005

Movies: 10 All-Time Greatest
Entertainment Weekly, EW Staff, June 27, 2013

Note: As amusingly, warmly soap opera-ish as the first Mitchell-estate-authorized sequel to GWTW, “Scarlett”, written by a woman from the South, is, please definitely do skip the second estate-authorized sequel, “Rhett Butler’s People”; written by a man from the South, it is far too misogynistic to be read, or to be taken seriously in any way as acceptable reading material.

 


 
© 2013 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved. Please do not republish without permission.
 
Last Updated: June 29, 2013
 
Find my book, movie, and music suggestions at my Amazon store.
 
Please contact me via my account at Twitter (you have to have one, too) if you have a comment, a related article to share, want to report an editing error, or find a broken link.

Thank you!
 

Regarding Not Criticizing Your Mother

In Advice, Psychology, Women on April 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

"Arrival" by h. koppdelaney

__________

 

Truth and Opinion

__________

 

I’ve been reading, lately, Emily Yoffe’s “Dear Prudence” advice column.

I’m not actually looking for advice in my “late youth”, as Isaac Asimov used to call it, I’m interested in advice-column advice from a psychological point of view.

I often agree with Yoffe. She can be funny. It’s fun to cheer her on when she’s calling out someone for being a jerk, or bucking up someone who’s been beaten up by life.

Yet for all her humor, Yoffe too often is far more snide, unschooled, and unfeeling than a professional advice columnist ever should have the chutzpa to be. She can be downright snobbish and nasty to many of the people who write in to her column who deserve, rather, to receive comforting, approval, or consent.

(In fact, since posting this article I’ve stopped reading Yoffe’s column. I grew weary of her ignorance and victim-blaming. For an advice columnist, she should know far more about psychology than she does. Perhaps all advice columnists should be psychologists who have studied human behavior for decades and know almost everything about the issues that come up in people’s lives. Yoffe knows almost nothing; worse, she is unwilling to change her opinion even when heavily criticized by people who know far more than she does. She is arrogant, rigid, and defensive. I’ve written about Yoffe before.)

When I deplore Yoffe’s advice it’s usually when she spouts offhand biased religious (video) or scientific prejudices; when she sneers ignorance and condescension to people who have rare but real health issues (if your mother-in-law is deathly allergic to fragrance, and many people are [I'm one], don’t insist on having scented candles at your wedding – selfishly forcing on an allergic person who is necessary at a wedding a decorative item that is not necessary at a wedding? Really. Yoffe approves of this?); and, especially, when she repeats popular but psychologically backwards and harmful advice to people being abused in relationships.

Yoffe seems to assume that anyone who lives with an abuser must be mentally ill; a victim-blaming fallacy. She advises the person being abused to get therapy, which is ignorant and destructive; she’s never suggested therapy for the abuser, which is what would be apropos.

Emily Yoffe is an old-fashioned victim-blamer.

Blaming a victim of abuse (emotional, verbal, or physical) is as inaccurate and harmful as blaming the victim of any other type of violence. It is the wrong response, and it is the wrong message to promulgate and to reinforce to an already victim-blaming public.

There are, however, occasions when I agree in essence with Yoffe’s response to someone, but want to add a bit more to the response to make an even stronger case, as it were.

A self-described “Goddess” wrote in to Yoffe to say that her mother was hurt and offended when Goddess complained about their relationship online.

Goddess felt that her mother-bashing was a sort of exercise in self-realization and self-expression, and therefore acceptable to do in public. She felt that her mother was being “selfish” by being hurt by it. And Goddess couldn’t figure out if she was wrong or her mother was.

In response, Yoffe rightly chided this somewhat clueless woman. But she missed some important issues.

There’s blogging, and then there’s good manners, trust, privacy, and tact – all of which append to any sort of intimate or private relationship. As Goddess’s mother was a fellow Goddess, she deserved some.

It wasn’t Goddess’s mother’s “ego” that hurt her mother (as another self-centered person, a commenter, suggested), it was her daughter’s.

I understand quite well the relief and the healing that talking about, that writing about, hurtful experience can bring. But posting negative emotions about one’s mother seems not really to be a Goddess thing to do.

I’m not defending the mother. Perhaps she was terrible to her daughter. When that’s the case the only thing one can do, as a Goddess, is to keep working on finding ways to get through to one’s mother about one’s feelings, or to leave her in peace.

Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, lovers, friends, coworkers – intimates of all kinds – are special people. They give us trust. They deserve our diplomacy in front of others, our confidentiality, if nothing else.

I know there are exceptions. But if one strives to be a Goddess, the point is one’s own growth, not someone else’s. So I say, if one must write about one’s mother, write to oneself. Or talk to her, if you just can’t stand your feelings. But don’t be so selfish and self-centered that you embarrass her in public.

That’s not a Goddess thing to do.

 
Regarding:

Question: “Mom Offended by My Blog”
Dear Prudence, Slate, April 25, 2011

Question: “Scent Free”
Dear Prudence, Slate, July 12, 2012

Video: “Chinese Jewish Christmas”
Dear Prudence, Slate, December 21, 2009

Question: “Ghostly Visitors”
Dear Prudence, Slate, June 25, 2012

 
Resources:

Sorry, Emily Yoffe:
Blaming assault on women’s drinking is wrong, dangerous and tired.
Binge drinking isn’t at the heart of America’s sexual assault crisis. Sexual assault is.

Katie McDonough, Salon, October 16, 2013

College Men: Stop Getting Drunk.
A response to Emily Yoffe.

Ann Friedman, New York Magazine, October 16, 2013

How not to be terrible when talking about rape.
The rules for accurate rape commentary are a lot like the rules of not being a horrible person. A few pointers.

Katie McDonough, Salon, September 5, 2013

Is it my fault my husband abuses me?
Dr. Saltz advises a woman to take her kids and leave her abusive spouse.

Dr. Gail Saltz, MSNBC – Today Show, April 15, 2009

Why Does He Do That?
Inside the Minds of Critical and Controlling Men
(book)
Lundy Bancroft. Berkley Trade, 2003.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can – and Should – be Saved
(book)
Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi. Berkley Trade, 2011.

Trauma and Recovery
The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
(book)
Judith Herman. Basic Books, 1992, 1997 (revised).

Advice Columnist Ignorantly Slams MCS
leela, Phoenix Rising Forums, July 17, 2012

“I am giving advice about the real world…”
Bad Pictures of My Mediocre Art, June 19, 2012

 
Related Posts:

Soon? Time.
February 28, 2013

After Abuse, “Eat Pray Love”
February 5, 2013

Regarding Not Criticizing One’s Mother
January 20, 2012

We Are Oblivious to the Abuse of Women
December 24, 2011

Dear “Spooked and Suspicious”
November 16, 2011

 



Photo/Art Credit:

“Arrival” by h.koppdelaney
 


 
© 2010-2012 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved.
 
Last Updated: October 17, 2013
 
Please contact me at my Twitter account (you have to have one, too) if you have a comment or citation to share, notice an editing error, or to report a broken link.
 
Thank you!
 

I Also Give Advice to A Criticized Woman

In Advice, Violence, Women on April 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm

"Burning" (detail) by Michèle Meister

__________

 

We Must End Victim-Blaming

__________

 

It terrifies me, sometimes, what Emily Yoffe, in her “Dear Prudence” column at Slate, tells some women to do against their own best interests, mental health, and physical safety.

For example, a woman wrote in to Yoffe about a fit-throwing mother-in-law (see Q: “Topeka, Kan.”), and for her trouble, Yoffe coolly upbraided her.

That was idiotic and cruel. The daughter-in-law’s understandable fear of an abusive, controlling relative was normal. She could have been counseled to talk to her mother-in-law about her inappropriate behavior, perhaps; but in any case, to stand up to her verbal abuse and to firmly resist her control. Taking back emotional and physical control of her own life would do more to help the daughter-in-law get over her bitterness toward her abusive relative than anything else.

Yoffe, unfortunately, has a tendency to victim-blame (like too much of society; which, no doubt, is why Yoffe gets away with it). Yoffe tends to tell abused women that they are the ones who need to change, or have something wrong with them (are crazy), or need therapy – not that the bully or the abusive person does.

And that is just plain wrong. (Yoffe is wrong so much, in fact, that I’ve had to stop reading her.)

Another woman wrote in to Yoffe about her obsessive, critical, “mean” husband, and signed it “What Difference Does it Make?” – a cry for help if I ever heard one.

Yoffe suggesting a divorce lawyer was good. Vacuum cleaner – ha ha!

The couples counseling that Yoffe suggested was beyond a terrible idea, though – it was flat incorrect advice.

Even if the woman managed to get her verbally and emotionally abusive husband to attend couple’s counseling with her, it would be a mistake; the chances are that it would worsen his abuse of her and her situation.

The premise in couple’s counseling is that both people in the relationship are equally responsible for the problems that they are having, and that both need to change their actions, responses, and behaviors (even if one needs to change more than the other). When one of the couple is a bully or abuser, however, that approach is not only incorrect, it can be dangerous for the victim. That approach tends to justify the abuser and can make the victim feel guilty about not wanting to be abused or even wanting to get away from it.

Even worse than couple’s counseling is the standard me-centered counseling for an abusive person alone, however. Standard counseling is meant to encourage people, among other things, to trust themselves, to be positive about themselves, and to give themselves permission to do the good things that they want to do. Encouragement, helpful to a person with a caring and empathetic attitude toward other people, can make a selfish, narcissistic, or abusive person feel even more entitled to his or her immature thinking, self-centered attitudes, and abusive behaviors, not less.

Yoffe also often tells an abused woman to seek therapy to find out “why she stays” in an abusive relationship, or “why she chose an abusive man”.

That attitude, also common in our culture, is based on false premises about why people end up in abusive relationships and why they stay in them once they find themselves in one.

People don’t gravitate to being abused. Abuse can happen to anyone, from the smartest, most active, most savvy woman or man to the most innocent, naïve, or gentle. Abused women and men are not “masochists” (as Yoffe, and much of society seems to believe) – a diagnosis that has even been expunged from psychiatry, which usually leaps to pathologize anyone who isn’t a robot with no feelings or who has had any adverse life event happen to them at all.

Abusers may seem perfectly normal, may even start out in intimate relationships being extremely charming, attentive, and flatteringly focused on their partners. They rarely begin relationships overtly abusive. Abuse becomes apparent after normal trust, attachment, and interdependence have been gained, and usually escalates only long after it has been tolerated as an aberration. Verbal and emotional abuse may be slow to manifest, or, to a naive partner, they may not be recognized for what they are until after they’ve escalated or after the relationship has become one that is relied upon by both partners.

Abusers tend to remove, slowly, a partner’s self-confidence through criticism and their support system through splitting their partners away from their friends, family, and even jobs which could provide escape if needed.

Physical abuse need not be present or ever manifest, or it may begin to occur and then to escalate months, years, or even decades into the relationship. However, emotional and verbal abuse are enough on their own to destroy a person’s happiness, self-confidence, belief in their self-effectiveness and autonomy, and present and future success in life.

Abuse is insidious. By the time an abused partner realizes that something is wrong, the relationship may be difficult to get out of. Break-ups are hard for everyone, but breaking up with an abuser can be downright dangerous.

In the case of divorce or separation when an abused woman has children with the abuser or even when she simply came into the abusive relationship with children, she can lose partial or full custody of the children, and therefore the right and the ability to protect them, even a little, through her presence, from an abusive father’s abuse.

An abused woman may decide to stay in an abusive relationship for that reason alone – paradoxically, to protect her children through her continued presence with them. That can be survival; that can be rational thinking; that can even be good mothering; that is not mental illness.

Our culture too often comes down on the side of an abuser, who is seldom as disturbed by his abuse as the victim is and can remain calm, seemingly rational, and speciously concerned about his family, the people he’s abusing, around witnesses – relatives, friends, police, and judges in family court.

An abusive man generally is able to appear sane and reasonable in front of others while the abused women, due to the abuse, may have become self-doubting, angry, and even terrified.

Children can make getting out of an abusive relationship very difficult and sometimes frightening; yet, it should be attempted, to save the children from witnessing or experiencing themselves as much of the abuse as can be avoided. A woman should look for a children’s court advocate, document the abuse as much as possible for the court, and prepare her case as much as possible while seeking to preserve her safety.

Most killings of women in abusive relationships happen when the woman is attempting the leave the relationship, after all.

Relations are formed for healthy dependence, trust, and support; that’s their purpose.

Despite what some popular pseudo-psychology insists, there is no such thing as “co-dependence” or “addiction to drama” in abusive relationships. Believing that people stay in abusive relationships due to their own desire for excitement, drama, or pleasure in abuse simultaneously blames the victim and excuses the abuser.

Just as there is nothing a householder does that “causes” a burglar to break in and steal, nothing a rape victim does that “causes” rape, no matter how provocatively she may act, nothing a person walking down a street does that “causes” them to be mugged by someone who wants to steal their wallet, there is nothing an abuse victim does that “causes” them to be abused.

Abusers always choose their behavior, and are never provoked into it, no matter what they later report. Everyone becomes angry, scared, or even feels provoked at times. Few of us react by becoming abusive. Abuse happens due to the abuser’s own decision to behave abusively; there is no enabling of abuse and nothing that stops it except getting away from it, if one can.

Abuse is not caused by outside circumstances or someone else’s behavior. Abuse is not caused by drinking or stress or being out of work or one’s sports team losing or one’s spouse nagging one to get off their duff and help with the housework or the children.

Abuse is a choice, always a choice, and it is always based on the false belief that one is entitled to be abusive when one feels like it.

Abuse is the result of wrong thinking.

Suggesting therapy to the abused person is the same as saying, “It’s your fault that you’re being abused”.

Worse, blaming a victim of abuse for the abuse she receives re-victimizes her.

That is wrong.

Outsiders blaming an abused woman for the situation in which she finds herself doesn’t help her, it hurts her more. It reaffirms her abuser’s statements to her that there is something wrong with her, not with him.

Criticizing her, telling her what she “should” do, reaffirms her abuser’s message to her that she is not capable of making her own decisions.

To be helpful to someone who’s being abused, remind her that she’s not crazy, because her abuser keeps telling her that she is. Tell her that she deserves better treatment, because her abuser is telling her that she’s getting what she deserves and that because of who she is she’ll never get any better treatment from anyone else, even if she leaves him. Tell her that she has the right to make her own decisions, because her abuser has taken away her decision-making power from her.

Tell her that you’re available to help her if and when she needs it, whenever she asks for it, because she will never get help from her abuser, no matter how many times he feels ashamed of his abuse and promises to stop it. He never will.

Offer support. Not criticism. Not blame.

Yes, “What Difference Does it Make?” should leave her husband when she is done putting up with him. She doesn’t deserve bullying or humiliation from him or from anyone else, including Emily Yoffe. Or from anyone of us.

The pain her husband is causing her is not her fault, it is his. She’s not the one who needs to change, he is. She’s not the one who needs therapy, he does – specialized therapy for abusers.

Even with therapy, however, the majority of abusers refuse to change unless they are motivated to. The rewards of being abusive – the feelings of power and control, the fun of getting away with manipulation and lies, the freedom to make selfish demands and to get one’s way regardless of anyone else’s feelings, needs, or rights, even one’s spouse or children – these are often strong motivation to continue to be abusive.

Especially when the abuser is supported by his peers, which of course most are, or they wouldn’t be abusive. So few men say to other men, man, you think of your partner that way? You treat your woman that way? Not cool, man.

There’s so little downside to abusiveness in today’s society. Women are called bitches and liars and cunts even by other women, and no one says a word in protest. It’s supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to be cool. It’s supposed to be ignored.

If an abuser loses his or her partner, he or she can always get another one. That charm. That insidious charm that doesn’t mind lying, using, hurting, and becoming more and more selfish and cold as time goes by and she becomes more and more attached and self-doubting.

Stopping abusing, and stopping abuse, is not impossible, but it is hard. Life-long work hard for the abuser; constant vigilance hard for society.

First, we all have to realize and to agree that we need to stop believing that a victim of abuse causes it, allows it, or that any of it is her fault.

 
Regarding:

Question: “What Difference Does It Make?”
Dear Prudence, The Washington Post, March 28, 2011
[The question may have been removed from the Slate version of the article.]

Question: Topeka, Kan.
Dear Prudence, Slate, February 8, 2010

 
Resources:

Sorry, Emily Yoffe:
Blaming assault on women’s drinking is wrong, dangerous and tired.
Binge drinking isn’t at the heart of America’s sexual assault crisis. Sexual assault is.

Katie McDonough, Salon, October 16, 2013

College Men: Stop Getting Drunk.
A response to Emily Yoffe.

Ann Friedman, New York Magazine, October 16, 2013

How not to be terrible when talking about rape.
The rules for accurate rape commentary are a lot like the rules of not being a horrible person. A few pointers.

Katie McDonough, Salon, September 5, 2013

Is it my fault my husband abuses me?
Dr. Saltz advises a woman to take her kids and leave her abusive spouse.

Dr. Gail Saltz, MSNBC – Today Show, April 15, 2009

Why Does He Do That?
Inside the Minds of Critical and Controlling Men
(book)
Lundy Bancroft. Berkley Trade, 2003.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can – and Should – be Saved
(book)
Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi. Berkley Trade, 2011.

Trauma and Recovery
The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
(book)
Judith Herman. Basic Books, 1992, 1997 (revised).

Advice Columnist Ignorantly Slams MCS
leela, Phoenix Rising Forums, July 17, 2012

“I am giving advice about the real world…”
Bad Pictures of My Mediocre Art, June 19, 2012

 
Related Posts:

Soon? Time.
February 28, 2013

After Abuse, “Eat Pray Love”
February 5, 2013

Regarding Not Criticizing One’s Mother
January 20, 2012

We Are Oblivious to the Abuse of Women
December 24, 2011

Dear “Spooked and Suspicious”
November 16, 2011

 
Photo/Art Credit:

Burning by Michèle Meister

 


 
© 2010 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved.
 
Last Updated: November 15, 2013
 
Please find additional book, movie, and music suggestions at my Amazon store.
 
Please contact me via my account at Twitter (you have to have one, too) if you have a comment, a related article to share, want to report an editing error, or find a broken link. Thank you!
 
© 2011 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved. Please do not republish without permission. Thank you!
 

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