Today I wish to direct your attention to another post by Alastair Roberts at Passing The Salt Shaker. Alastair is responding to an article by Damon Young at Huffington Post which says that though men may trust women’s character, promises, and opinions on many matters, men do not trust women’s feelings. Men instinctively assume that women who are disturbed about something are overreacting, and that assumption causes men to distrust women on more serious matters.
Alastair takes issue with Young’s narrowing of the focus to women’s feelings; the issue is bigger than that. Also, feelings are often untrustworthy, whether men’s feelings or women’s feelings. Feelings can lead us to react instead of respond, they can distort perceptions and overwhelm any sense of reason or proper perspective. We should take feelings seriously, but we should not trust them. The more fundamental issue is that men don’t give proper weight to their own feelings. Men are taught while growing up to develop distance from their feelings (man up, take it like a man, grow a pair, don’t be so sensitive, don’t be a sissy, etc.). The rougher interactions which are part and parcel of male socialization require a thick skin. Women don’t usually get this when they are growing up. Thus men and women have completely different approaches to engaging with their feelings. Which means that men and women have different ways of subjectively processing and experiencing the world. So, for a man to trust a woman, it requires a significant, though necessary, amount of sympathetic imagination to place oneself in the shoes of another who sees the world in ways that are significantly different.
Alastair then goes on to list several other obstacles to trust: Women have realms of experience which do not overlap with the experience of men. Men are frequently overconfident in their perspective while women are frequently underconfident in theirs. Some are specific to cases of abuse: The behavioral and psychological effects of abuse can cause victims to seem untrustworthy. There is a profound disincentive to believe that certain people are abusers. And even when there is no choice but to acknowledge the abuse, people want to believe that the obvious consequences should not follow for the abuser. Finally, well-intentioned people seeking to advocate for victims of abuse have spread misinformation, thereby provoking resistance and polarization.
Alastair closes with some questions for thought and discussion:
- Can you think of any additional reasons why men fail to trust women?
- What are some of the ways that men can change their behaviour and attitudes in order to trust women more?
- What are some systemic and institutional changes that will encourage a greater trust of women, especially in instances of abuse?
- How can we be the best advocates for survivors of abuse and raise the profile of these issues in an effective and principled way?