Working Backwards

A male friend’s question on Facebook:

“I don’t know how a person gets to the conclusion that understanding others’ emotions is a childish thing one is supposed to grow out of and be less understanding of others… How does anyone think that becoming less understanding of the world is maturing???”

My response:

“Because to a patriarchal mindset, emotions themselves are childish, or at best, effeminate — crying when sad or throwing a tantrum when angry are things that babies and children do, and they equate the outward show of emotion with having the emotion itself. Adults don’t do those things (unless they are manipulative women who cry to get their way). “Real men don’t get mad (e.g. throw a fit), they get even.”

“And empathizing with adults who are acting childishly makes you also childish.

“Seriously, this is what all my siblings think of me being upset about my SIL being so rude to me when my dad died. I was “over-reacting” and just need to “get over it”. Being “too emotional” was another accusation. My husband later observed that this was because I cried openly and without shame, and they just couldn’t handle me grieving like that.

“Oh, and as for “how they get to that conclusion” — it’s easy. You work backwards.

“In this case, you start with the incontrovertible “conclusion” that you are morally superior to the person whose behavior you don’t like. Then you find a way to “logically” support that “conclusion”. He does it by heaping scorn on her for being empathetic.

“In other cases, such as mine, you start with whoever you know is supposed to be at fault — I am the youngest and the scapegoat and cannot possibly be in the right over an older sibling’s wife — and then you find “reasons” why. So instead of asking, “Who was really wronged here?” they ask, “What has she done that we can say is the reason she’s at fault?”

“It doesn’t actually have to make sense — to borrow words from Terry Pratchett, it just has to have the “right shape”. If it kind of “sounds good” it will be accepted by everyone who also wants to reach that same conclusion.

“I don’t say it’s a healthy way to operate but I’m very very familiar with it. It sure must be comfortable. No chance of running into anything that would cause you to do any soul-searching.”