The Fallacy of Rationality: Stop Expecting Women to Respond Rationally to Emotional Manipulation

 

The consistently popular trope of "women are crazy" comes in so many shapes, sizes, and forms, and continues to be perpetuated at such a rapid pace that I often wonder if any man on the planet has actually ever checked himself to combat the sexist rhetoric he is spouting under the guise of his supposed "rationality."

The problem with this story is that it only focuses on the reaction and not the preceding events, because the underlying assumption is that any type of animated, emotional, less-than-calm stream-of-consciousness expression in which a woman openly and unapologetically speaks her mind is the "wrong way" to react, and perhaps she should just shut up and deal with whatever seems to be troubling her.

What often is glossed over is the behavior that elicits said reaction. No one feels good when out of control and desperate. But the spectrum of human emotions and emotional responses is broad and may not always look pretty and feel good. Especially when you have more or less been the recipient of emotional manipulation.

One of the major signs of an emotional manipulator is: "They take no responsibility for themselves or their behavior". (source) This is about accountability. Too often I've experienced personally or watched girlfriends have men intimate over a period of time they have developed emotional feelings and often "attempt to establish intimacy through the early sharing of deeply personal information that is generally of the 'hook-you-in-and-make-you-sorry-for-me' variety. Initially you may perceive this type of person as very sensitive, emotionally open and maybe a little vulnerable. Believe me when I say that an emotional manipulator is about as vulnerable as a rabid pit bull, and there will always be a problem or a crisis to overcome."

The problem is, the woman at this point becomes honestly vulnerable while the emotionally manipulative man has falsified his emotional vulnerability, which is why it is so easy for him to turn around the next day and end things. His fleeting need for validation has been quenched, and the collateral damage is frequently the woman's heart.

At this point- due to the way we socialize men- the rationality factor comes in, and the man expects a women, who has ostensibly been emotionally manipulated and subsequently emotionally hurt, to react unemotionally to a very emotionally charged situation.

We often view rationality as a dichotomy whereas in reality it exists on a continuum. Usually, and particularly in Western cultures, rationality is held in positive esteem, whereas irrationally is synonymous with words like "crazy." Again, these words- through cultural artifacts- are imbued with a gender identity. While anyone with even a slight familiarity of anthropology knows there is no biological truth to gender personality traits, the fact stands that through socialization men and women are taught to respond differently to experiences.

From another perspective, the field of psychology actually considers the process of rationalization to be one of "making excuses" (source). I find often when a man accuses me of "freaking out" (aka I am emotionally processing being emotionally manipulated) and he remains "calm" (aka cold, unfeeling, shut off) this is in actuality his attempt to deflect the mistakes he made, refusing to take accountability for hurting someone, and actually finding a way through the process of rationalization to accuse the woman- who in actuality is reacting quite normally, like a human being with real feelings- of "freaking out" and thus excusing the man's shitty behavior.

The problem here is that men fail to be accountable for their actions and women continue to be seen as crazy for being emotionally manipulated. Instead of  collectively applauding men's robotically cold response mechanism that devalues human emotions and continues to put women in danger- because it is so easy to excuse shitty behavior when we disregard someone as crazy-  we should hold the men in our lives accountable for the ways in which they continue to perpetuate a dangerously archaic patriarchal  ideology that the ability to be "rational" is synonymous with "sane" or "correct" and instead ask how can we create more spaces to allow the healthy expression of feelings, and also minimize the emotional manipulation of women.

I fear most for younger girls who fall prey to this line of thinking and buy into the hype that they are crazy. That they should just shut up and swallow their emotions even when provoked. The internalization of this belief can lead to dangerously low levels of self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness. I know this, because it's happened to me.
 

I don't want to ever raise a daughter in a world like this.

 

Jessie is the owner and operator of Aren’t I a Woman? a blog focusing on intersectional perspectives on mental health and pop culture.