Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Behind The Complaints About Uppity And Passive Women

When I wrote my post Behind the complaint about victims not avoiding danger there were other complaints I wanted to address so here's the next in the series.

I put these 2 classifications for women together -- even though the complainers seem to want opposite things from women -- because these 2 complaints are often used strategically to box women in so that no matter what they do they can be deemed to be wrong.

The only way for women to succeed in this environment is to refuse to fall into the trap laid by the complainers.

Many people have noted this phenomenon in the harsh analysis of Hillary Clinton's run for US president. Often the same actions on her part or by someone campaigning for her will find one "analyst" declaring her to be an uppity woman while another states that this action proves her to be too passive of a woman to be president. These views tell me more about the analyst's views of Hillary and women in general than they do about Ms. Clinton or her campaign.

When these analysts ask if the US is ready for a woman president, they are really asking if the public is ready to view a woman in a mature way rather than through their stereotypes and the cubbyholes they want women to fall into. If someone isn't ready for a woman president, the lack is not in the candidate but in the citizen. They are admitting that they cannot cope with the conflict between how they look at women and how they look at US presidents. For them the cogitative dissonance is simply too great. Too keep from admitting this these people have to find fault with any woman running for president or any woman who is on a career path which could lead to a run for US president. Sometimes they will stretch this to the point of saying that no US man is ready for the humiliation of being first husband. It's telling that an honored position -- for a woman -- is considered a humiliation for a man.

If a man doesn't want to be treated the way he treats women that should tell him something that he probably doesn't want to hear.

In it's most extreme, those who are overt abusers of women will use these 2 contrasting labels so that no matter what the woman in their life does, her independant actions can be labeled as wrong. The screaming abuser might apologize for yelling, but rarely apologizes for the controlling intent that lies just below the yelling. Abusive men who claim to want husbands and wives to stick to their assigned gender roles will brazenly invade the woman's role by dictating details about the kitchen because what the woman is doing is wrong. Despite all their talk there is no traditional division of labor. The abused wife doesn't get to control her kitchen even though it is her responsibility. The abuser will tell the wife to butt out about what he considers his marital duties, but she'd better not tell him to do the same about her marital duties.

When people look at this abuse as an anger problem, they will miss the point of the anger -- to gain the upper hand in all ways. The intelligent woman must be brought to her knees and then she must be attacked for not standing strong. This abuse is a deliberately no-win situation for the woman.

The insecure man needs to know that his wife who could have chosen a better man will be so disoriented and demeaned that she feels grateful that he puts up with her. Dealing with his own insecurity is too much work.

The fatal flaw in this strategy is that abuse never allows for a truly harmonious relationship. This failure must somehow become the abused person's fault.

The biggest mistake is to accept the attacks on uppity women and passive women at face value. Those who launch these attacks are, by the nature of the attacks themselves, admitting that they are inferior -- or feel that way -- to the one being attacked.

Those who truly have confidence in themselves don't need to be demeaning toward women in general or toward specific women. The demeaners need to project responsibility for the negative consequences of their actions onto women. A controlling man will need to say, "That uppity woman left me because she couldn't handle not being in control all the time." He cannot say, "She left me because my behavior was unacceptable."

The key to understanding this view of women is that it is all about the complainers. The women they complain about stop being fully human.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:46 AM   4 comments links to this post


At January 31, 2008 10:17 AM, Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

As usual, Marcella, a very well-thought-out and intelligent post. It sure calls it on the phenomenon of women being "damned if they do and damned if they don't" by men!

At January 31, 2008 7:46 PM, Anonymous Pizza Diavola said...

A hundred times yes! Thank you for so clearly explaining sexist criticism is always a lose-lose situation for women.

If someone isn't ready for a woman president, the lack is not in the candidate but in the citizen.

Exactly! Who is this hypothetical "we" or "US"? By phrasing the question that way, people avoid claiming responsibility for their own biases and saying, "I don't know if I'm ready for a woman president--because ..." Anyone who is ready for a female president isn't going to ask, "Are we/the rest of the US ready?" they're going to ask, "I'm ready--why aren't you?"

At January 31, 2008 8:14 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said...

Great post :)

As somebody who survived an abusive situation, I think you are absolutely right that abusive men use the "uppity" and "passive" stereotypes in tandem to control women. :( On one hand they tell us how wrong everything it is we do, how wrong all our thoughts and opinions are and if we back down, or agree, they'll tell us how spineless we are, how pathetic and why can't we be assertive like other women, but when we try, they go back to putting us down again. :(

It makes it rly hard to know where to jump and is quite effective in it's goal to keep our self esteem down at all times so that there's nothing we can feel confident in. :\ I wish I saw it as clearly then as I do now.

Thank you for this post :D

At February 23, 2008 10:31 PM, Blogger whatsername said...



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