silencing behavior

Nagging

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Actually, @BrianKelm, you are wrong (see links at bottom of post).

Men and women want to direct their lives, their days and their downtime. This is true for males and females, men and women, boys and girls. No one wants to be constantly reminded that they have failed to do something that someone else wants them to do. No one.

But let’s look at what constitutes nagging, which is a negative behavior typically attributed to women, especially wives, mothers and girlfriends.

“Nagging takes the form of verbal reminders, requests and pleas,” Michele Weiner-Davis, MSW says on WebMD.com. “It goes from a reminder to a nag when the person who is being reminded gets offended.”

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The rest of the WebMD article is filled with well-meaning advice for those who suffer from the horrible habit of nagging others to get what they want.

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I propose that the behavior that is characterized as nagging is nothing more than one person who does not have enough power in a relationship attempting to communicate his or her needs.

In many cases, this behavior occurs because one person feels an unequal distribution of responsibility and desires a true partner in life. But is it just that?

I think what we most often call nagging is simply female leadership and responsibility.

I propose that calling female leadership in relationships and the family nagging constitutes silencing behavior by men and women.

It is also a part of the effort to keep women as objects for men’s pleasure and use.

screenshot rules for women

Really???

This is a perfect example of male power being asserted in potential relationships, right? Men define what is considered desirable in women and women either toe the line or get no men. Except this is a woman. I admit that I am confused by this mentality.

In my English literature classes I marveled at the female writers who never married. For most young women, the idea of never getting married might seem foreign and bizarre. There must have been something wrong with Emily Dickinson; no man wanted her, right? She must have been ugly or difficult or mentally ill.

Nah, she was free to write and that was all that mattered to her (while she cared for her parents and their house, of course).

How happy is the little Stone
That rambles in the Road alone,
And doesn’t care about Careers
And Exigencies never fears—
Whose Coat of elemental Brown
A passing Universe put on,
And independent as the Sun
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute Decree
In casual simplicity—

-Emily Dickinson

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the only way a woman could have any power over her own life was to remain unmarried and have enough money (and an understanding father or brother or lover) to allow her some freedom.

What options were available to women when they had almost no legal rights, could not vote, could not own property and were not allowed to, in most cases, manage their own wealth.

What careers were open to women?

Men could legally beat and rape their wives in most cultures, and still can in some.

Fast forward to contemporary times. We have a man and a woman in a traditional relationship (this is just an example). In most cases, the man can do whatever the hell he wants without question or judgment during working hours. He has a career, might be the primary earner, so he must work long hours. He is unavailable the majority of working hours to handle the hundreds of tasks required to manage a family, assuming there are  children now. Those tasks fall upon his wife even if she works full-time outside the home.

Ask any man who has stayed home while his wife was the primary breadwinner what it is like to manage a family. I encourage you to ask a man because if you ask a woman, her voice has less weight and import to the discussion – that is a whole ‘nother blog post.

Here is an enlightening Huffington Post article from a male perspective about what it is like to be a man in a family and to stay at home with the kids: Douchebaggery and the Stay at Home Dad by Christopher Noxon.

“Must be hard on his manhood,” Noxon says. “Must make up for it in other ways.”

Noxon goes on to describe behavior such as turning “diaper changes into acts of performance art when company is around but who otherwise leave the dirty jobs to mom.”

And this is a big part of the problem: men have had a choice in what domestic tasks they undertake and women haven’t.

Watching old movies about poor women who have been left with a houseful of kids, it is common to hear the comment: “At least the kids and house are clean.”

Would anyone ever say that about a man whose wife ran off and left him with the kids? Of course not. How many times are men forgiven if their kids’ clothes don’t match, hair isn’t combed, and school lunch consists of a peanut butter sandwich and a soft drink (okay, single dad tropes abound here).

Single dads and even married dads often get a pass.

We all know that in the majority of two-income households women still do the housework, cooking, shopping and caring for children (yes, this is documented though changing slowly).

housework3_f

These are responsibilities, not just chores. If they are not done not only do the children suffer but you will end up with child services knocking at your door accompanied by a couple of cops demanding entry (Big Brother is watching).

Yes, this is the scenario that not only floats around in most female parents’ heads, but is also a reality.

So let’s talk about nagging.

In the majority of cases, women are carrying the load of family responsibilities. Most are also working full or part-time outside the home in addition to the full-time job of running a household.

There is a shit-load of stuff that must be done every single day. I can attest that this stuff is exhausting. I can attest that it all needs to be done the next day, too. Again, it is exhausting. It really never gets less exhausting (and is never fun or entertaining).

Let’s examine the common middle class family (and here are some lovely Tweets to help you with this mental picture).

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And then there are these words of wisdom from what looks like a teenage boy:

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These Tweets seem to be posted by spoiled, bratty teenagers and adults who still expect their mommy’s and women to do what? Take care of the family and household.

It is a parent’s job to prepare his or her children for the real world. This involves gradually increasing responsibility while teaching life skills.

In the U.S., there seems to be a problem with this process. Kids are spoiled and entitled and rarely work for what they possess. At what point do they learn how to deal with the responsibilities of an adult life if they are cared for well into their 20s.

Male children have historically been cared for well into adulthood, while female children were taught to care for themselves and others from a young age (I know I am generalizing, but overall this holds true).

We are living in the 21st century. We have equal rights, shared responsibilities, two incomes…

Right?

And yet, women are still taking care of the hundreds of big and small tasks that are required to maintain a household and care for a family.

wife going to bed tasks

By Becky Mansfield, YourModernFamily.com

Nagging?

Nagging???

Hell, women want men (and sons and daughters) to step up. That is what most women want. They want their men to be grownups. Do something that isn’t self-focused. Care for someone else without being reminded or told to do so.

Why does a woman have to ask a man (or a son or a daughter) to do anything? He or she should just do it.

Take out the fracking trash. Wash the dishes. Vacuum the house. Walk the damn dog.

I tell my sons that the goal is responsibility, not task completion.

One of my sons is responsible for two jobs that he does not do unless I threaten him with losing computer access. That makes me a nag, right?

No, it doesn’t. It makes me responsible for his jobs.

And for the Troglodyte young woman “Mimi” who thinks that the perfect woman should stop nagging and take care of herself and “be tight” for her man: what are you on?

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Women perpetuating the myth of nagging is just wrong.

Real men are faithful, responsible, take care of business, don’t treat their partners like servants and sex slaves, and aren’t entitled little boys.

Nagging??? That is NOT the problem.

I want to leave this blog post on a positive note. Thanks @JimParedes for Tweeting this:

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Town and Country Magazine’s article about this subject credits “nagging moms” with helping their daughters to be more successful in life.

A University of Essex in England study found that “the girls with moms who set high standards for them growing up were more likely to go on to college and earn higher wages,” Kristen Lauletti said.

Why is a mother’s leadership characterized as nagging in this article, though?

I think it is time to change the language we use to describe female behavior.

How the church silences women

shhh2I left the church, all churches, because of how the Christian religion views and treats women. I am just sharing this up front (if you haven’t read previous posts).

I have written many times about how the women in my church (and the pastor, who was a woman) used silencing behavior to shut me down, everything from intervening when I was trying to be honest with my husband in counseling sessions to handing me a list of Bible verses about “gossip” when I needed to talk to someone about my abusive husband.

There is something seriously wrong going on. It is common for women who are in bad marriages, some abusive, some not, to be pressured to remain in those marriages no matter what. It is a duty, marriage is sacred, it would be a sin to divorce.

Let’s first talk about the sacred institution of marriage. This is a doctrinal thing. Marriage is mentioned in the Bible, and it is likened to Christ’s relationship to the church. From that analogy, marriage has become primary while the people (and their children) in that marriage are secondary.

“God hates divorce!!!!!!!!”

God probably hates a lot of things, but I don’t think divorce is at the top of his list.

This is a symptom of a much bigger problem. People (individuals) come last in the Christian religion.

Yep. They do.

When duty, or doctrine, is more important than relationship, then you will end up with dysfunction of some kind. And those who put the marriage before the people in that marriage are being dysfunctional. They are encouraging dysfunction. They are perpetrating dysfunction.

I have declared to anyone who wants to listen that I reject the Pauline letters in the New Testament. I think they run contrary to the teachings of Yeshua (he was Jewish, and his name is NOT Jesus — I know, picking at gnats).

Women must remain silent in church. Women must obey their husbands in everything. Women must wear head coverings. Women must wear dresses. Women must…

This is all legalism. Paul was a legalist.

In all of the years that I tried to relate to and communicate with my husband, he often told me that I needed to submit: over and over and over again. He never quoted the verse that commands husbands to love their wives as Jeshua loves the church. He never quoted the verse about how a man who does not care for his family is worse than an infidel.

I was told that it wasn’t my place to discuss _____ (fill in the blank), how I should not do this or do that, how my prayer life was even under his purview.

But when spiritual leaders in a church use the same silencing behavior on their congregations, you end up with a bunch of unthinking, repressed people.

Do you know one of the leaders in my old church stood up and said how much she hated running into this one woman she knew because she was always so down and negative (this was the same person who shut me down with a sheet of scriptures on gossip when I needed to confide in someone).

Dysfunction is prevalent in Christian relationships because of the fear of truth. There is a fear of honesty. There is a fear of reality.

“Don’t interrupt my religious moment with your unpleasant reality, please!”

“Oh, your husband is abusing you? Your reward will be in heaven. You must do your best to submit to him anyway.”

“Shhh, women should be silent.”

The judicial system, encouraged by our Christian heritage (patriarchy in general), permitted husbands to rape their wives in the no-so-distant past.

A man who beat his wife was justified in the last century.

Hell, women didn’t even have the right to vote until 1920, and then civil rights, rights over their own bodies and personal life decisions, took many more decades.

Men rant about how unfair the judicial system is because they say it favors mothers in divorces. Have they not looked at history where a hundred years ago women had almost no rights at all? Children (and their mothers) belonged to fathers/husbands.

Women had to remain in bad marriages if they wanted to keep their children, not be homeless, and have any kind of financial support. There weren’t even many professions available where women could support themselves. Women still make a lot less than men today.

Inequality is ugly.

Why are men threatened by women’s rights? I do not understand why men are threatened by women who use their voices.

And religious men can be the worst. Actually, let me correct myself: religious women can be the worst. I wonder if there is some underlying fear that if a friend has justification for leaving her husband, she might question her own marriage. Things start to get shaky and undefinable when women have autonomy and self-determination. There is a loss of control.

Oh, and here we are: control.

Silencing women comes down to the need to control. And when the church (which is the corporate body and its individual members) silences women, it is exerting control over them, control that it should not have.

What if we let women speak and then decide for themselves? Would the world come to an end?

The justification for Paul’s letter, the historical context — at least what I was taught — was that women would just stand up and speak when gathered in the early church.

Gasp! Choke!!! Oh no!

Some kind of directive was necessary to keep them under “control.”

And today, the church silences women by insisting that they wear dresses, defer to their husbands, defer to their pastors, defer to… well, everyone. Heck, women should speak quietly and not make trouble. Women should…

Silencing behavior. Control.

How long will women put up with such ridiculousness? How long?

For those who are still skeptical, I challenge you to explore gender equality in the Christian religion. The Junia Project is a lovely place to begin.

I challenge you. What do you have to lose? Control?

The silencing of [abused] children

I saw this in my Twitter feed this morning. Of course, it intrigued me as I am focused on silencing behavior right now.

tweet wapo silencing children

This story by federal prosecutor Sarah Chang exposes society’s role in the silencing of abused children.

“Psychiatrists say the silence conveys their sense of helplessness, which also manifests in their reluctance to report the incidents and their tendency to accommodate their abusers,” Chang wrote as an explanation for why children in the videos she watched were often silent, showing little emotion.

It makes sense that these children would feel helpless. The very people who are supposed to care for them and keep them safe are the ones accused of abusing them. What power do children have in such situations?

But why do so many of these wounded, betrayed children remain silent?

But in reality, a voiceless cry is often the most powerful one.

Their abusers are master manipulators. Threats of losing even the abusing parent to prison is often enough to silence a child. That parent might be abusing that child, but he or she is the only parent that child has.

Fear of further loss silences victims.

Chang goes on to describe law enforcement officials, prosecutors and defense attorneys who judge victims based on their emotional responses to questioning.

“Silence can be the most devastating evidence of sexual abuse; it can be the sound of pain itself,” Chang wrote.

Some people close to me have suffered sexual abuse as children. Disclosures were made to me in confidence, in quiet times and in privacy. There was no emotion.

There was shame. There was self-condemnation. There was self-blame. There was little healing to be had because they just didn’t want to talk about it.

What was my part in this silent suffering? Did I bring up the abuse at a later time to offer further comfort? I must be honest and admit that I didn’t. I did not know what to do.

I carried some of the pain with me from that day forward because that is just how I am, but I don’t think I helped even a little bit.

Does society silence the abused? That is a very good question. What do you think?

Women silencing women

Mbathroom_grafitiany women rage against the silencing behavior of men.

A huge battle is going on in the House of Representatives, who want to de-fund Planned Parenthood. That is silencing behavior at its worst.

I have written about how abusers silence their victims, stealing a woman’s power from her little by little until she has virtually none left.

But how many of us, women who believe women should be able to use their voices freely, silence other women?

Is some feminine speech okay and other feminine speech not okay?

What about women who use profanity or talk about sexuality? Is that type of speech okay? What about women who use speech that may be considered vulgar? How about women who use religious or spiritual speech?

Who decides whose speech should be spoken and heard? Religious leaders, sacred texts, family members, the majority of the people in society, our government, civil rights activists, atheists, feminists, and any other –ists you can think of?

Now we are touching upon morality and the myth of the virtuous woman (thanks Dr. Eva Jones for making mythology relevant to real life).

I was using the restroom in my local grocery store chain a few weeks ago and saw some writing on the wall.

At first I just saw the words, “You’re a lady so act like one. Thank you.”

To be honest, those words offended ME.

What defines what a lady is? Are all adult women supposed to be ladies? Why does anyone need to act like anything that they aren’t?

“…refined, polite woman” is the definition of lady one online dictionary provides.

Are tomboys immoral? Should women all wear dresses and speak in soft, lowered voices?

But then I saw that a lot of the words on that wall had been scratched out. I was subconsciously aware that the larger, symbolically louder, words had been in response to some kind of bathroom graffiti. I didn’t really consider the significance of that response until today.

A woman used that stall in that restroom, saw words written by another woman, and decided that they were not appropriate. She scribbled over them, making them unreadable.

One woman silenced another woman.

The unreadable words had been judged unladylike, and therefore, they needed to be silenced.

This goes both ways folks. If someone scribbles “Jesus loves you!” on the bathroom wall and another woman, who is an atheist, scribbles over it to render it unreadable, the atheist is using silencing behavior.

Women with different value and belief systems, with entirely different world views, silence one another every day. Is it possible that this behavior might be what is hindering social evolution in this country?

I wrote a research paper for an English course over a year ago which addressed free speech on college campuses. Most of us who are old enough are aware of what happened on the UCLA – Berkeley campus back in the 60s. Liberal voices, many from outside the campus, were being used to try to effect change. The powers that be, conservative and defensive of the American Way of Life, decided that those voices needed to be silenced. The fallout from that period hindered open discussion about a lot of important issues for decades.

The creation of free speech zones, banning outside groups on the Berkeley campus, controlling what printed material was distributed on campus and more led to a stand-off and arrests. Years later we have access to classified information that revealed the presence of the FBI on campus due to concerns over communist influences.

Fast forward to the 90s and inversely, traditional (often conservative) speech was limited by way of speech codes (the SCOTUS found these unconstitutional). Liberal influences wanted to change conservative ideologies and prohibit speech that could be harmful to women, minorities, and gays.

The problem with this approach is that by silencing people, unwanted attitudes are reinforced, not changed. They just go underground and form even stronger, sometimes more fanatical subgroups. As the persecuted ones, they are ready to do battle for what they believe is true and good.

The end does not justify the means. In the case of silencing others, the means can backfire horribly.

What is the answer? I have a potential solution.

Someone scribbles something about an explicit sex act on the bathroom wall. The next person who enters the stall doesn’t like the content of the message (sarcasm mode coming: her delicate sensibilities are offended); instead of erasing or scribbling out the offensive speech, she writes something encouraging, beautiful, something that represents her point of view in a respectful manner. Why not?

If one woman’s speech is morally superior to another woman’s speech, this should be obvious to anyone who sees them side by side, right?

[I know that writing on a bathroom wall is actually vandalism. This is a hypothetical situation, and is being used as an example of women respecting the voices of other women. I am not encouraging people to write on bathroom walls.]

Many who are conflicted about the feminist cause are conflicted because of seemingly militant, aggressive women who silence the voices of men (and other women who are not as militant or aggressive).

I know what you’re thinking: Have you ever tried to convince a man that he was wrong about something?

It is often like hitting your head against a brick wall to try to get through to a man who has it all figured out: authoritative, conservative, deeply entrenched men who believe they were given the keys to the kingdom because of their maleness. Yes, I have dealt with this, a lot!

How many men will turn around and ask the same question? (Lots of male heads nodding assent to this one. Women can be stubborn and intractable, too.)

Again, what is the answer?

Free speech, without the silencing behavior.

When there is no silencing behavior, power is not shifted from one group to another. Each person and group retains their own power. I love this!!!

Silencing Behavior

I am a gamer. Have been since the late 1970s.

IMG_0231One day I was involved in a lively conversation about the Game of Thrones TV show and books in the game chat on my favorite MMORPG. Three of us had issues with the violence against women and children in the stories. I argued that putting it on TV (as opposed to in print where it can be skimmed or given less attention) was especially disturbing. I felt that such violent content was not necessary to a good story.

Suddenly, the person who really liked the show accused me of calling the show “bad” and “commadeering” (sic) the discussion.

Whoa.

This guy just tried to shut me down. He used silencing behavior.

Screech. Halt. Stop the flow of words. Meaningful communication ends. He hung up the phone.

In the last few years of my life, I realized that my entire family was terrible at dealing with conflict because there was no possibility of engaging in calm, logical discussion. Most arguments and disagreements quickly devolved into name-calling and “shut up!”

That is silencing behavior of the most childish kind, but it has many forms.

When that male player accused me of commandeering the discussion, he was saying that I wasn’t welcome in the conversation, that he had heard enough out of me. He was saying that I should be quiet. That is silencing behavior.

I am pretty good at at spotting silencing behavior because I lived with it for over 25 years in my marriage. As soon as I would start to make a point about anything, if I was right about anything, my husband would either rage, call me names, accuse me of being an ingrate, rebellious, not submissive, or call me ignorant.

I never once heard the words, “You’re right. I never thought of that.” Never.

And remember: I grew up in a family of silencers.

I realize now that those who practice silencing behavior are insecure.

Controllers use silencing behavior. Controller/abusers are insecure. Emotionally healthy, mature, and effective leaders don’t need to silence others.

I found an interesting article on the subject entitled, Are You Silent or Being Silenced? by Kimberly Tilley on LinkedIn.

Tilley writes about those who use silencing to disempower others:

“Once a person attains power over others – via money, influence, or information – he or she is in a position to set the agenda and make decisions that impact others. Most people learn to lead, and a few become great leaders.

However, when an insecure person obtains power, fear drives their actions. Fearful of losing their power or being superseded, they are affronted by suggestions, unable to tolerate doubt, and prone to anger if they are questioned. They use their power to repress others, to restrict conversation, or to prohibit open dialogue.”

Yes, yes, and YES!!!

Sorry. I had never read such a clear description of silencing behavior before. I read articles about how women often use self-silencing as a way to survive in business, government and academia, but not how others wield silencing swords cutting off the heads of dissenters (metaphorically, of course).

Tilley also writes about the Spiral of Silence and Groupthink. I was aware of the dynamics, causes and characteristics of groupthink, but was not aware of the label given to the polarizing behavior described as the Spiral of Silence. I recognized it as a phenomenon, however. I hate gossip because it has ruined important relationships and torn my family apart.

Groupthink is so dangerous that I cringe when I see it (mostly in the media and comments to online articles). Groupthink allowed the Holocaust to occur. Yes it did.

I appreciate the solutions to silencing behavior provided at the end of the article. I tend to get so upset that I am not sure how to respond.

It is all about awareness and change. I love that I can identify and learn to deal with behavior like this. Oh, and identify when I am using Silencing Behavior myself.

Yes, I can.