Donna. on ''masculine'' / ''feminine'' traits. Do they exist?

From Donna.

As far as I can tell, there aren't *really* any "masculine" or "feminine"
traits -- there's a difference only in how we relate to identical traits,
depending on whether those traits are exhibited by a man or a woman. No
doubt you've seen the sheets of paper that are often copied several times
over, passed around the office and placed on campus bulletin boards and
kiosks: When a man asks his wife more than once to do something, he is
reminding her; when a woman asks her husband more than once to do
something, she is nagging him. When a woman wants to birth the children
she raises, she exercising her maternal instinct; when a man wants to sire
the children he raises, he's exhibiting a narcissistic personality
disorder. When new parents are discovered to react to their infant's
crying as "fear" if the child is a girl, but as "hunger" if the child is a
boy, and handle their male infants much more roughly than they handle their
female infants, how can we say we *truly* understand what the words
"masculine" and "feminine" mean?

I understand that in Iran, men are *supposed* to be emotional in order to
be considered "masculine". In the U.S., if men are emotional, they're
"feminine". Now, which one of us is gonna say that we understand biology
SO WELL that we KNOW which culture is "correct" in ascribing what is
obviously a value-laden description to a chromosomal pattern? Not me. And
when you come to learn that there's more than two chromosomal patterns (I
believe the lastest guesstimate was "hundreds"), it makes even less sense
to use only two different words to distinguish between them all!

Last summer, I had an instructor who said "If you use the word `this' in
your papers, I immediately go unconscious: what does `this' mean, anyway?
I want you to be clear and direct in what you have to say". Well, leave it
to me to accidentally leave an occurrence of the word "this" in my writing
-- but I noticed it only after doing a word-search on the file, and AFTER
he'd returned it with no notice that he'd ever gone unconscious while
reading it (he gave me an "A", to boot!). I'm kinda that way with the
words "masculine" and "feminine". I can *usually* interpret any sentence
that includes one or both of those words, but if the speaker/writer isn't
incredibly clear, I don't understand what was said.

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KS> "Um. I have really mixed emotions about how much pain that
KS> someone =in pain= should be "allowed" to inflict on others.
KS> My first reaction was that someone she knew and trusted should
KS> take her aside and tell her that she was being a jerk. I can
KS> certainly support expressing anger towards inequities and bad
KS> treatment, but I see no reason for her to suddenly suspect --
KS> and verbally attack -- people she has known for years who are
KS> NOT abusers."

In general, I'd go for your initial reaction. But I gotta remember that
most of us grow up without learning how to deal with anger -- or, not
learning how to do it very well. What I see happening in a lot of folks
(myself-of-long-ago included) is this understanding of "home" and "family"
and "friends".... you know "home is where they HAVE to take you in" sort of
thing. The closest thing to "standard anger therapy" that I've ever seen
children get has been "take it out on those who love you, because it isn't
socially acceptable to get it out of your system any other way".

On top of that, the other problem I've seen with sudden consciousness-
raising is that suddenly EVERYTHING we grew up learning as "truth" becomes
suspect, and it takes a while to sort out what really *is* truth and what
we've just become inured to throughout our lives.

I'm not saying that it's *right*, and I'm not so sure I want it to become
acceptable on a wholesale level. But, as with the abortion question, I
accept what (to me) seems to be a necessary way of dealing with those
people caught in the middle, while we try to solve the *real* problems.

To use myself as the guinea pig (yet again): my mother (who I've since
learned is rather typical in this regard) can't see a problem without also
seeing *blame* attached. She can't grasp the idea that sometimes, the most
important thing is how to get out of the problem. True, learning how it
happened is often important, too, but only for the purposes of Not Doing It
Again. What this translates into is..... every time something went wrong
in my life, I couldn't express displeasure (or anger or frustration or any
other "negative" reaction) without her immediately jumping to the
conclusion (usually unwarranted) that it was HER FAULT that I was unhappy.
Hey, sometimes it was something she'd done, but she wasn't the only person
in my life, and she wasn't the only person I had to learn to deal with.

But her tirades over (what seemed to her) "being blamed" for every little
thing that went wrong with me or my siblings taught most of us not to say a
single negative thought unless it was *really* important. Well, suppress
all that for very long, and you could quite feasibly have a veritable
explosion on your hands. Though I don't think that all violence can be
explained away in this fashion, I have seen *some* violence that's really
nothing more than Overloaded Negativity That's Just Busting To Get Out Of

No, I don't see any "reason" for this woman to suddenly suspect *or*
verbally attack people she has known for years who are not abusers. But
this (ASSuming, of course, that my diagnosis for this woman was correct) is
not a reasonable thing. "Reason" would dictate that NONE OF US should ever
NEED to have our consciousnesses raised, no? And this is not a reasonable
world. Because it is an unreasonable world, and because she is undertaking
an unreasonable task, I personally don't understand why those who love her
the most can't help her -- somewhat -- by putting up with a certain amount
of unreasonable behavior on her part.

"Debriefing" is a wonderful tool. People who have seen peer pressure cause
other folks to outright lie seem less likely to allow peer pressure cause
*them* to outright lie. If this is truly what she's going through, it
would seem that understanding (and voluntarily agreeing to let her get away
with *some* amount of unreasonableness) would help those unjustly attacked
by her deal with the verbal abuse.

Again, to use my own experiences for brain fodder, I went through several
stages in learning how to deal with my own anger. For years, I suppressed
it as a "negative" emotion -- something no *nice* person (male or female)
ever expressed, although males who were not biologically "unbalanced and
emotional" could get away with letting it escape sometimes. (Because, you
see, since they didn't have funky hormones to mess them up, when they got
angry, everyone could accept that they had a really *legitimate* reason.
You and I may know that's not true, of course, but that's what "everybody
knows is true", and that's what I used to believe.)

When I started to get a clue that I was frustrated about things, and that
denying that frustration wasn't doing me any good, I allowed myself to
express it in different ways. And of course, I was rarely paid attention
to -- "because, you see", those around me would say to themselves, "*I*
couldn't possibly have done anything to act as catalyst for Donna.'s upset,
and so it must be those hormone-things. So I'll pat her on her head, and
wave her away, and never accept that she and I just might have some kind of
a problem interacting". During this stage, Kim, legitimate beefs with
others got whitewashed with the same excuse that used to keep me bottling
things up. Well, yes, my anger was "my fault", in that I didn't "have" to
get angry..... but life is not completely pleasant, people do insensitive
and uncaring things, and I think we deserve the right to get angry over
those things. Unfortunately, taking responsibility for the *emotion* is a
different animal than taking responsibility for the action which acted as
the catalyst for the emotion. Example: I don't have to get angry over a
date who stands me up, but whether or not I get angry doesn't change the
fact that HE STOOD ME UP, and my emotional reaction to such an uncaring act
does not excuse the uncaring act at all.

So I turned to friends to help me deal with life's frustrations. But, of
course, this wasn't their problem, it was mine. Even friendship has its
limits, you know. But I couldn't bring myself to deal with a particular
problem before a friend got fed up with it all. Then, somewhere along the
line, I lucked into a couple of friends with the utmost patience, who
didn't take anything personally that didn't deserved to be. They provided
a haven for me, where I could say anything or do anything, and they would
still care about me.

Finally, I can say that another human being (actually, two) provided the
catalyst I needed to learn to deal with anger. (I keep saying "catalyst"
'cause it is a mess I'd dug for myself (although others acted as catalysts
that helped me get there), but was incapable of escaping without
assistance.) Over time with these friends -- who probably never gave any
conscious thought to this stuff -- taught me to deal with life, by osmosis
more than anything else. These days, it's much easier for me to verbalize
anything that bothers me, and problems don't weigh on me so long before I'm
able to resolve them. These days, fewer things bother me like they used to
-- no doubt a result of finally unwinding all the tension that had been
building up over so many years. These days, I can turn to my husband and
say "Could you help me work this out" AND I can say "would you just let me
bounce some ideas off of you, 'cause I think I can figger this out on my
own but I need a sounding board" ... AND I'm usually accurate about which
problem needs which kind of treatment. (I'm incredibly lucky that he's
willing to be whichever I need him to be.  He's a good one for
this, because he's got a long history of dealing with "negative" emotions
in constructive ways. And yes, I do reciprocate, although I acknowledge
that he does me more good in this area than I do him.)

It's been a long haul since those days of learning to bottle every little
thing up inside. I didn't get into the mess completely by myself, because
someone taught me how to do it, when I was too young to know better than to
learn the lessons. I didn't get out of the mess (as much as I've escaped
it, that is) by myself, either, because it was bigger than I could deal
with alone.

My guess is that this friend of John's -- for whatever reason she's gotten
so weird lately -- is going through something that is bigger than she can
deal with alone, too. I mean, you don't just start attacking people that
you've known (and, presumably, loved) for years for no reason, irrational
though that reason may be, eh? Maybe setting her aside and telling her
she's acting like a jerk would work for her, but my guess is that she
already *knows* she's acting like a jerk, and she's probably fighting with
herself over it all, not knowing how to stop it. I *definitely* would
recommend that, if/when someone does take her aside to tell her she's
acting like a jerk, it be done at a time that she isn't in the middle of a
rant. If she is in the middle of a rant, she'll probably be less likely to
take the pronouncement seriously.

By all of this, I don't want to seem as though I have no compassion for
those loved ones who suffer from the fall-out. I do have compassion for
them. I guess you could say that I have a little more compassion for those
people who, because they've never learned how to cope with anger in a
constructive manner, risk losing relationship after relationship after
relationship. The ones who suffer from the fall-out *can* just distance
themselves from the explosion.... but the person doing the exploding has no
choice other than bottling it up -- unless, of course, the explosive person
somehow manages to stop exploding long enough to learn how to stop
exploding throughout life. Taking one of those superficial band-aid
approaches (to a problem that's highly unlikely to solve itself) is, IMO,
the surest way of increasing the carnage throughout the rest of this
woman's life.