Feminism

“Lies Women Believe” review: 193-214

I didn’t think it would be possible to be happy about writing another segment of my Lies Women Believe review, but it is 100x better than dealing with being hacked. I’m pretty sure we’re all good for now, and I am crossing my fingers that never happens again.

This week is Nancy’s chapter on emotions, and part of me just wants to refer you to the How to Win Over Depression review, because it covers a lot of the same ground. But, she throws in her own twists, so let’s tackle them.

The first problem is the gender segregation:

More than anything else, it is probably our female emotional makeup that sometime causes men to throw up their hands and say, “I give up. I just can’t figure you out!” And, in a sense, who can blame them? (194)

She’s been talking about the range of emotions women feel and how we’re shifting through emotional states constantly and how men don’t do that and those poor babies just look at how confused we make them. Two problems: men are not unfeeling robots, and this framing is sexist.

I looked at her list of emotions– confused, ecstatic, angry, frustrated, sad, confident, happy, lonely, and depressed– and thought back over this weekend with my partner. Over three days he was confused, ecstatic, angry, frustrated, confident, and happy (we did maintenance on our cars and watched Michigan crush Brigham Young 31 to nothing). One could argue that my emotional state over this weekend was actually milder and more stable than his (I wasn’t the one working on the cars, and while I know every word of “Victors Valiant,” I’m not a lifelong Michigan fan).

Second, because women are seen as being “more in tune with our emotions,” we’re required by society to do two things: provide emotional labor on demand, and be the “responsible” party in a relationship. Seen an ad recently that caters to just how lazy and incompetent men are at household tasks? It’s the same idea happening here: because men just don’t understand emotions they rely on women to carry the weight. Sure, it might paint men in a slightly negative light (I would argue in this case it doesn’t), but the end result is that women end up doing more of the work– relational or not.

I FEEL SOMETHING, IT MUST BE TRUE

Ok, on the surface, I agree with Nancy. Just because I feel someone might be lying to me doesn’t automatically mean that they are. However, this entire section is a problem because it reinforces one of the biggest problems I’ve had in my life: not trusting my gut.

I’ve read sections from The Gift of Fear, and the bits I’ve read were illuminating. De Becker argues that we should trust our intuition, that it’s telling us something important that our conscious mind may not be able to communicate to us fully. Looking back over the beginnings of my abusive relationship, there were several red flags that made me feel uncomfortable that I ignored because I totally agreed with Nancy: just because I felt something didn’t make it true.

Maybe not, but our feelings are almost definitely worth paying attention to, and are enough of a reason to further investigate an issue, or start a conversation. Our feelings are telling us something, and we can’t just skip on by them with this notion that feelings aren’t grounded in reality (195).

I CAN’T CONTROL MY EMOTIONS

This entire section gets one big NOPE from me. She opens up with a series of hypothetical situations, including this:

You may not be able to help feeling apprehensive about an upcoming medical exam, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop worrying and fretting about the outcome. (197)

Uhm, no, no I can’t. That is the literal definition of anxiety. My anxiety is not usually severe enough to make me want to go through the process of figuring out which medication I need at what dosage, especially not in this strapped-for-competent-doctors area, but I have been diagnosed with anxiety. Sometimes, it gets really bad, like when I first figured out I had a wheat sensitivity. There were a few weeks when I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe I was allergic to everything now and I would never be able to eat again and I was going to literally starve. I knew those thoughts are the kind known as “intrusive” and that they weren’t real, weren’t based in reality, were contradicted by every shred of evidence, but it didn’t stop me from having a panic attack every time I tried to eat something for two weeks.

The next two pages are ripped-completely-out-of-context verses used as platitudes. God said you’ll never be alone so feeling lonely is a lie (198)! The Bible says “don’t worry!” so there’s no situation that could ever happen to anyone worthy of feeling anxious about it (199)!

Blah.

I CAN’T HELP HOW I RESPOND WHEN MY HORMONES ARE OUT OF WHACK

She means menstruation and “PMS.” Quick note about PMS: I can’t tell you the number of times my totally legitimate frustration has been written up to “PMS.” Donald Trump did it recently when he said a journalist had “blood coming out of her … wherever.” PMS- as it’s commonly understood in my culture– is largely an urban myth. It doesn’t mean PMS isn’t real, or that the shifts in our hormone balances have no possible effect on mood, but that “PMS” can be used as a weapon to de-legitimize the female experience. We don’t have a real reason to be upset, we’re just bleeding out our vajajays.

But is that where Nancy goes with this? Of course not. She confuses emotions and moods with impulse control (200). Granted, nuerotypical people can have mild impulse control problems, such as things that belong in the realm of bad habits. It’s common for people to chew our nails, pick at scabs, that sort of thing. But then there’s a whole ‘nother plane of impulse control disorders (like trichotillomania, the compulsion to pull out one’s hair. If you’re not familiar with impulse control disorders, this YouTube channel is an excellent place to start).

So while I don’t use my hormones (which with PCOS are even more “out of whack” than for many women) or my pain as an excuse or a means to justify something like me being irritable and snappish, I do have to have grace for myself. No, I shouldn’t bite Handsome’s head off. But that doesn’t mean I need to make myself feel like shit if I do.

THE ANSWER TO DEPRESSION MUST BE FIRST SOUGHT IN MEDICATION AND THERAPY

For most of this, see the How to Win Over Depression review because she just basically recycles everything LaHaye says. If you needed proof that LaHaye’s mode of thinking is endemic to evangelical culture, here it is.

Nancy does the same thing Tim does: she finds “reasons” for depression completely outside the realm of medical knowledge, like so:

What we do know is that in many cases, physiological symptoms connected with depression are the fruit of issues that are rooted in the realm of the soul and spirit– issues such as ingratitude, unresolved conflict, irresponsibility, guilt, bitterness, unforgiveness, unbelief, claiming of rights, anger, and self-centerdness. (205)

Right here she’s worse than Tim. Seriously– claiming of rights makes one depressed? I’m banging my head into a wall over this, because this is absolutely ridiculous! But it gets worse. A few paragraphs later she calls depression a “temper tantrum.”

Arg gablarg.

The last thing that frustrated me about this section is here:

In the last several decades, we have developed a mind-set that only “professionals” are qualified to help people who are plagued with various emotional or mental disorders. Even many pastors have been made to feel incompetent to deal with these issues and therefore routinely refer to troubled counselees to “the experts.” (210)

Nancy has just amply proven exactly why this “mind-set” is necessary. She just called depression a temper tantrum and talked about impulse control for two pages without ever once addressing the reality of things like trich. She thinks it’s possible for people like me to just “place our hope in God” to stop a panic attack in its tracks. And, hearkening back to her chapter on marriage, she thinks that battered women need to “revere” their husbands (read: not divorce them) or risk losing any chance of being “protected by God” (which gah you’d think if God was in the protecting-battered-women business they’d oh I dunno protect battered women).

For the rest of this, I high recommend these pieces:

Denying the Body of Christ Puts Abuse Survivors at Risk” by RL Stollar
Ministering to Adult Sexual Offenders” (pdf) by Victor Veith, Director Emeritus of the National Child Protection Training Center

Aside: I’ve started a food blog, focusing on oral-allergy-syndrome-friendly recipes, called Cussing Culinaire. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

 

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  • CynicMom

    I wonder if PMS is reported more frequently among conservative groups. Does anyone know? Because this would give proper, submissive women in that culture maybe the only valid or excusable way to express anger or frustration.

  • Must be nice that Nancy apparently has an anxiety-free, depression-free, overall mental illness-free life. Wonder what that must be like – I’ll never know.

  • Margaret N

    PMS was a problem for me. I felt like it was the only time that I had the emotional energy to stand up for myself and be assertive. But since he could point to the calendar and say. “Right on time” he thought it was okay to dismiss anything I said. After awhile I learned to write out what I wanted to say. Then I could edit out the “tone.” And have a better chance of being heard.

  • Molly Dodd

    It sounds like Nancy is starting with a false dichotomy, and projecting it onto how people deal with feelings in a way that might not be warranted. Either both the feeling and the reaction/interpretation are valid and appropriate, or neither is, and they should just disappear. In my experience, that’s not how feelings work at all. Admittedly I’m a woman and not very good at feelings, so I suppose she’d already be a little suspicious. In my experience, a feeling ALWAYS means something, but I might not be able to figure out what it’s telling me. The fact that I’m feeing frustrated is certainly giving me information about myself and the situation I’m in, but it’s possible that information isn’t that my friend is especially tiresome today; it could be that I ought to take a walk or sit in the sun. It might be that I should eat something nutritious, or get more sleep. Or that my friend is being pushy and manipulative, and I shouldn’t get so invested in that dynamic.

  • Jackalope

    One of my LEAST favorite “PMS” stories: a close friend of mine was suicidal when I was a teenager and I spoke w/ a trusted adult about it (not using the big S word since I was too afraid to say it out loud, but saying that I was worried about how depressed she was all the time). This particular adult saw both of us almost every day for an extended period of time, and was familiar with her family history which included severe bi-polar disorder and depression. What was his response?? “Oh, it’s just that time of the month.” I was furious. (I later tried to talk to another trusted adult who knew me but not her; that adult told me confidently that, “It sounds like she’s just trying to get attention.” SERIOUSLY??? Thankfully my friend made it through, but talk about Trusted Adult Fail.) Much later it occurred to me that even if it HAD been PMS, the fact that it was surfacing multiple times a WEEK should have been cause for concern, because that’s not a healthy amount of menstruating.

    My personal experience has been that for a couple of days right before my body begins to be ostentatiously not pregnant, I have more intense emotions. If I’m happy, I’m giddy. If I’m sad, I’m heartbroken. If I’m angry, I’m furious. I’m always an up and down type of person, though, so that feels like just more of the normal to me rather than a problem. For a long time I hated myself because ew! Emotions! But then I finally decided that having emotions isn’t a bad thing, and now I’m much more okay with it. Especially on the months when I’m happy.

    • A literature review of multiple studies on PMS couldn’t find a reliable correlation between pre-menstruation and elevated emotions. Doesn’t mean there isn’t one, though.

      My opinion is that periods are shitty and people tend to feel a lot of stuff more intensely when they feel crappy, or be more irritable or whatever.

      I’m definitely more weepy, but that might just be the vicodin.

      • Jackalope

        Yes, I agree. And I think it’s highly probable that each individual woman’s mileage may vary, given what I’ve heard from the small sample of women in my community. (Also, it bemuses me that some people think it’s perfectly reasonable to be cranky when you’re going through other kinds of pain, but don’t understand why your uterus and cervix tying themselves in knots should make you feel that way.)

  • Catnip

    I just gave the screen the double bird. All that crap about depression is really damaging (of course you know that, just adding a data point). When I was 16, my parents sent me to a “counselor” who told me that my depression was because my boyfriend and I didn’t go to church. Turns out, shockingly, that I was depressed because I have ADHD and my mother is narcissistic. Whodathunk? Oh, and that “counselor”, who was also employed by the school system, turned out to have a mail-order degree in theology, and prescribed me a med that totally messed me up for at least the next 6 months, if not more, and had the potential for liver damage.

    It took me years to even acknowledge that there are good, caring, kind Christians who don’t have their heads up their own asses. I’m glad I did, but that kind of thing tarnishes the image of all Christians, sadly.

    • they’re few and far between, that’s for sure.

  • Sara

    As someone with trich, I was pleasantly surprised to see you talking about it. You are a blogger i look up to, and somehow i feel ‘seen’. <3

  • marciepooh

    “Maybe not, but our feelings are almost definitely worth paying attention to, and are enough of a reason to further investigate an issue, or start a conversation.” AMEN!

    • Jackalope

      Yes. And even if our feelings are telling us that we were treated in lousy ways in the past and so are projecting, there’s still something important there. Maybe this new situation is also abusive/damaging/etc, maybe we’re overreacting, but either way we still need to listen.