I was reading a news story when I came across this link of Top Ten signs You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship. Out of the 10 slides used to illustrate abusive behavior, all either feature an adult man as abuser and/or an adult woman as victim. It uses masculine nouns/pronouns for the abuser and feminine for the victim. The NEXT TO LAST slide acknowledges that women might also be abusers.
Even if we accept the premise that relationship means romantic relationship (I happen to think the term encompasses more relationships, including family relationships), there’s still the matter of women who abuse men, not to mention same sex couples where both the abuser and victim are the same gender. How about a little bit of variation in the photos and the genders of the nouns/pronouns?
I was a college/grad student in the 1980s and 1990s. I was also a reporter/department editor for a campus newspaper. We were encouraged to use either gender neutral language or to vary nouns/pronouns if it wasn’t possible to use gender neutral language. So why is the language of abuse so tied to male as perpetrator and female as victim? Women may get the worst of things in a physical altercation due to size differences, but it isn’t always the man who starts it. And emotional abuse seems to be pretty equal opportunity. I know men who have been emotionally and sometimes physically abused by their female partners.
Furthermore, why are we narrowing relationship abuse down to romantic relationships? If you’re reading this because of your own experience of being abused by a parent with a Personality Disorder and/or addiction, chances are some of the actions/tactics portrayed in those slides look pretty familar. Such as being isolated and unfairly blamed/shamed/berated. For many of us, it was our mothers who did most of that abuse. I know it was in my case.
Why is mother/child relationship abuse swept under the rug the way it is in our society? Even when people are willing to acknowledge it, we are told to “get over it” or “she’s your mother” or “there’s nothing more important than family”. Even when mothers continue the emotional abuse vs. their children into adulthood.
I’m focusing on this slide show because it’s representative of most of the efforts which are out there on emotional abuse. A more accurate portrayal of gender and abuse is necessary for the following reasons:
1) many people, both male and female, who are being abused by women don’t recognize it as abuse. They keep trying harder thinking if they do more or prove how much they love their abusers it will get better.
2) other people don’t recognize it as abuse, which makes it harder for the victims to find support.
3) this kind of emotional abuse of children primes them to become victims of an abuser as they grow up and develop their romantic relationships as teens and adults
Women aren’t inherently kinder and gentler than men. We’re just trained to handle aggressive impulses in a much less direct way. It’s all I can do to prevent my eyes from rolling out of my head when someone speaks up with that “well, if we had more women leaders, there would be less wars” routine. Anyone who believes that never dealt with a NPD mother or a Queen BPD and/or Witch BPD mother.