Hold onto your butts: a man has admitted that generally speaking, it takes longer for men to believe what a woman says than it would if a man said it. And… exhale. Let's breathe this one out.
Who is this brave soul, and what exactly did he say? His name is Damon Young, the co-founder and editor of VSB Magazine. In an essay for HuffPo republished from a blog called Very Smart Brothas, Young admitted that he doesn't trust his wife, basically:
Panama and I were talking about the Rolling Stone story controversy. It eventually segued to Cosby, which then segued into a realization that there's a common thread in each of these types of stories and the tenor of the conversations surrounding them.
Trust. Well, the lack thereof. Generally speaking, we (men) do not believe things when they're told to us by women. Well, women other than our mothers or teachers or any other woman who happens to be an established authority figure. Do we think women are pathological liars? No. But, does it generally take longer for us to believe something if a woman tells it to us than it would if a man told us the exact same thing? Definitely!
This conversation is how, after five months of marriage, eight months of being engaged, and another year of whatever the hell we were doing before we got engaged, I realized I don't trust my wife.
He trusts her, he just doesn't... "trust" her:
But you know what I don't really trust? What I've never actually trusted with any women I've been with? Her feelings.
If she approaches me pissed about something, my first reaction is "What's wrong?"
My typical second reaction? Before she even gets the opportunity to tell me what's wrong? "She's probably overreacting."
My typical third reaction? After she expresses what's wrong? "Ok. I hear what you're saying, and I'll help. But whatever you're upset about probably really isn't that serious."
Yurgh. Been there. Who hasn't? The commenters on the piece have also been there. Patricia Shepherd, sums it up nicely when writing:
And she's not the only one:
And, I mean, THIS:
Every woman has a story like this. Fuck, every woman has a hundred stories like this. Not trusting what comes out of a woman's mouth is practically a national pastime dating back to the first time a woman suggested a better route to hunting buffalo. But it has slowly extended to mistrust of every aspect of a woman's expression: From the time everyone "corrected" the world's smartest woman to all the endless mansplaining, to the everyday onslaught of disbelief in women's accounts of their own personal experiences, today's world is still one in which women be feelin' unreliable stuff, and it seemingly being up for debate.
No article on the inherent distrust of women by men could be complete with a mention of Yashar Ali's 2011 essay for HuffPo about gaslighting, which explained the commonly used manipulation tactic toward women, drawn from a 1944 film of the same name, that undercuts a woman's every assertion that her feelings and experiences are valid and true. It can be very subtle — a "you're so sensitive" here, a "Calm down, you're overreacting," there — to more serious emotional abuse, such as, as Ali notes, "No one will ever want you."
What woman alive has not experienced this in some form or another, is not intimately aware of having her authority questioned, her opinions ignored, doubted, or silenced, her feelings mocked, belittled, or dismissed? Young notes, that, when it comes to interpersonal conflict with his wife, "if she's on eight, I assume the situation is really a six."
At its essence, this is a form of emotional policing that tells us how we should or shouldn't feel, and reminds us that we are not to be taken as seriously as men, who have the final say in all matters.
Hell, I am grateful at this point when I remark on something I've researched and reported extensively and know to be correct and a man in my presence concedes, "Yeah, that could be true." In my real every day life, men take other men's opinions as facts, and seem more likely to regard women's opinions as suggestions.
A possible theory is that so much of the male identity is about breaking away from a mother's oversight and love, and forming an identity apart from women. Women are counseled to cry openly, express their feelings, play democratically, nurture. Men are encouraged in the opposite direction, and experience enormous pressure to be knowledgeable and successful and correct. Men police other men's behavior with taunts of girliness and homosexuality if they don't conform to appropriate masculine behavior.
But it backs up on them. The repressive male emotional experience is not without a price, and neither is the gaslighting that men do to women when they express any emotion that men don't want to deal with. Ali writes:
...women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.
It's a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don't refuse our burdens as easily. It's the ultimate cowardice.
Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.
He adds that this epidemic is a huge part of woman's inequality that works to rob us of their voice, to silence them. He adds:
I don't think this idea that women are "crazy," is based in some sort of massive conspiracy. Rather, I believe it's connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis. And gaslighting is one of many reasons why we are dealing with this public construction of women as "crazy."
I recognize that I've been guilty of gaslighting my women friends in the past (but never my male friends—surprise, surprise). It's shameful, but I'm glad I realized that I did it on occasion and put a stop to it.
Like Ali, Young is working to change his own response. He links his attitude about the trustworthiness of women's recollections of their own experiences/feelings to the fact that it took a football team's worth of women to make some men even entertain the idea that Bill Cosby could be guilty of serial rape. That a lot of people needed to see video before they believed what women were saying about R. Kelly for years.
He makes it relatable to race issues as well:
It seems like every other day I'm reading about a new poll or study showing that (many) Whites don't believe anything Black people say about anything race/racism-related until they see it with their own eyes. Personal accounts and expressions of feelings are rationalized away; only "facts" that have been carefully vetted and verified by other Whites and certain "acceptable" Blacks are to be believed.
This distrust of women's feelings is so ingrained, so commonplace that I'm not even sure we (men) realize it exists.
And he commits to beginning to shift away from his reflexive distrust by taking his wife's feelings at face value, going forward. But here is the thing: Men's continual distrust of women's feelings and accounts leaves women unable to trust men, too. This sword cuts both ways. A lifetime's accumulation of being dismissed, reduced, marginalized, or ignored will do that to you. Besides, aren't men, arguably, just as untrustworthy as women and their crazy feelings? Women lie to survive. Men lie to look good/stay out of trouble.
Hang on: Do you need a man to back that assertion up? In Bigger and Blacker, Chris Rock does a bit about who lies the most—men or women:
Men lie the most; women tell the biggest lies… A man's lie is like, 'I was at Tony's house.' A woman's lie is like, 'It's your baby.'
What good does thinking this way do for any of us? It's nothing new, but hey—at least a man is saying it. Maybe that means other men will believe it.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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