Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Abuse is Not Funny [Edit]

*Trigger warning: this post discusses domestic abuse (although not in detail)*

[EDIT: This post raised some interesting questions from various readers. I have since changed the wording of a sentence in the last paragraph. My issue with the pathologizing of female behavior is not to diminish domestic abuse committed by women. In fact, it is an attempt to help differentiate between people complaining about their female partners' annoying behavior and people disclosing their female partners' abusive behavior. The line is sometimes blurred and I appreciate that people are recognizing the importance of encouraging victims of abuse by women to come forward for help. The societal views will not change unless we demand that they do.]

So, I was directed via Facebook to a lol--omg--so freaking funny blog post over at Shrink4Men by Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, in which she trivializes female abusers at the same time as she warns of their danger. The "crazy bitch quiz," which is an advertisement for her remote counseling services offered for a fee via Skype, mixes serious warning signs of abusive relationships ("Do you find yourself making excuses to your family, friends and colleagues for her inexcusable behavior?" and "Does focus solely on her emotional experience while exhibiting little or no empathy for yours? (sic)") with ridiculous, not even funny fake signs ("Is her lipstick a little too red? Is it applied like theater makeup and a tad crooked?"). 

She then continues to say things like "If you think you may be involved with an abusive woman, good luck." and "You’re not alone. They’re everywhere." I fail to see how this is helpful for these abuse victims. Don't we want to aid victims of abuse in escaping the abusive relationship and seeking ways to end the cycle of victimization? Because I don't think saying "good luck" really cuts it as a mental health professional.

(More after the jump)

Additionally, I think Dr. Palmatier is doing us all a disservice with this heteronormative article which seeks to advertise her services. Rather than asking if a partner is a "crazy bitch," why doesn't she seek to help victims identify if they have been victims of abuse without pathologizing all female behavior? This article at Heart 2 Heart will help men (or women) do just that. While this is still a rather heteronormative discussion, it at least puts the focus on behaviors (the abuse) rather jumping to conclusions about people (the abusers). This is important because how many times have we seen conversations and analysis derail because we are focused on a person rather than a behavior? "You're racist/sexist/homophobic," is a conversation ender, whereas, "What you just said seems racist/sexist/homophobic," is so slightly different that most people wouldn't notice the difference unless it was addressed to them. Saying that one particular action is unacceptable allows room for discussion. Saying that patterns of behavior are unacceptable allow for analysis. The victim of abuse more than likely loves the abuser, so it would make more sense to help them see the abuse as a sum of actions rather than as an inherent defect in the person. I'm not a health care professional; I'm just trying to understand the implications of how we approach abusive relationships and the victims of abuse.

As for pathologizing females, the phrasing throughout the blog post and throughout the Shrink4Men blog is strongly suggestive and could color most any woman as a "crazy bitch." Even that phrase is offensive and diminutive. The entire thing stinks of the over-diagnosing of women with borderline personality disorder and the use of such diagnosis to take their rights away. Search "crazy bitch personality disorder" on Google, and your first result will actually be another Shrink4Men post. After that, there are many forum discussions in which men diagnose their women as having personality disorders. They see everyone as having clinical problems. Some of them are so ablist it makes me sick. For instance,  here the original poster, Thrasher, calls someone "psycho" for being depressed. But that isn't the worst of it. As I scrolled down, I found more and more posts that are borderline incoherent and talk about how men are smarter than women:
If you watch the news i have seen a trend where they have stopped interviewing college girls and stick to the college boys. the chicks sound retarded while the dudes are articulate and insightfull.
Watch the interviews of the college students after Giffords was shot. The college guys were incitefull and explained the shooters mind well while the college chicks were saying things like "omg i cant believe it blah blah blah omg ebonics jersey shore what were we talking about again...? (sic)

And then:
Part of the problem is that men fail to donkey punch batshit Barbie; and make her bark like a dog.
By failing to challenge these women on their bizarre and socially un-acceptable behavior? We're all just leaving a damn mess for the next guy. (also sic)
I can't even continue reading to see if anyone starts commenting like a human being. 

The problem I have here, is that we are witnessing the phenomenon of all men are "nice guys" and all women are "crazy bitches." I will address the "nice guy" syndrome in another post because it's one that drives me nuts, but if you need a quick primer on it, check out this community post from Feministing. (In a nutshell, guys who are not actually nice pretend to be friends with women in the hopes that they will eventually change the relationship from a friendship to amazing mind-blowing sexy times and when they see an opening and are turned down for making a move they blow up saying that no women like nice guys anymore. That was a run-on and I don't care. Read the community post.) 

I'm not saying this because women cannot be abusers. They most certainly can and if you know someone in an abusive relationship, it is your job as a friend to try to help him or her. Too many people are suffering in silence from various types of abuse, and men especially seem to have difficulty reporting this. Women do abuse men and other women and men are also victims of abuse by their sames sex partners. This is a serious problem and we as a society need to address it. We can, however, help change this without pathologizing all women and without ignoring the fact that same-sex partners can suffer from domestic abuse as well. If you have suggestions or helpful resources, please feel free to share them in the comments.


  1. Finally someone is speaking out against this dangerous and damaging 'doctor'. Well said!

  2. Finally someone is speaking out against this dangerous and damaging 'doctor'. Well said!