Needless to say, gender does not determine whether a person is verbally abusive. It does, however, affect the possibility and the style of abuse that may occur. Since female cultural stereotypes dictate that girls and women should be: "nice", "good", "pleasant", "polite", "passive", and "conforming" - it takes a rebellious woman to become an abusive one.
She must rebel against all of the norms. But (unlike boys or men - who are expected to use anger to hide what is considered any sign of weakness, such as: fear, hurt, disappointment or sadness) - women are supposed to express these feelings with vulnerability (and hide their anger).
A verbally abusive woman, therefore, is a bold woman who has dared to become a rebel. Societally, she becomes unattractive to "nice", "good", "pleasant", "polite" men (and other women).
How unfortunate that the rebellion tends to take an abusive path.
Women need to rebel against the limitation and oppression of the stereotypes - they need to dare express anger as anger, but the last thing they need is to become abusive. Yet, very often those women who have the fire to rebel, have also had the misfortune of having abuse and violence to rebel against. This is a formula for becoming an abuser as well. Knowing only the pattern of attack or counterattack - rebellious, abused women quickly learn the lesson of "destroy or be destroyed". Does that sound familiar?
Having rejected the role of victim - they frequently take the only other role available in all of this destructive duel: that of victimizer. Since they are often not the physically strongest opponent, the weapon of choice of abusive women is usually verbal assault, and they often become skilled "lashers" - crushers of spirits.
A son is a common target of an abusive woman. But sometimes, the anger and resentment that abused women carry in their hearts provide the fuel for directing those feelings at themselves and at their daughters. This phenomenon can easily cascade from one generation, to the next. Being female, a woman puts herself (at the the least risk) by targeting their daughters, because daughters are the most vulnerable. And as women, it is the most natural outcome of abuse, to be angry at and abuse ourselves for not being able to make others love us enough to treat us well instead of abuse us.
When the question is raised, "Are women masochistic?" ...the reply is that no one is born masochistic, but some are taught to face in that direction. The traps of the gender stereotypes teach us all (men and women) to believe that: if we are good enough and nice enough, everyone will like us and often even love us, also teaches that if we are mistreated and abused " it's " our fault because we didn't do " it " right.
Abuse by women is justified by the belief they failed the test of goodness and niceness. It is about fault, somehow, and she is blamed and, in turn, blames herself. If she were only more patient, more giving, more loving, more tolerant - she would be more desired and loved. Masochism is the natural outgrowth of this genderized legitimization of abuse. It, of course, spills over onto daughters of abused women. It is their lot.
In the end, they represent both the failure and the threat.
It is not surprising, therefore, that in some cases, the threat for a daughter is even more damning to a woman than her own perceived failures. If a daughter is prettier, smarter, marries better, is treated better (and, God forbid) - is seen as happier, as successful, or more talented - she represents everything an abused and/or abusive mother wants for herself, but feels she can never have (never had).
This daughter is, of course, envied and often seen as deserving of all of the anger and abuse that gets aimed in her direction.
If the daughter fails in her marriage(s), or if she is abused by her husband(s) - or herself, then she is, (psychologically) viewed as deserving of MORE punishment - until she changes. The cycle of women as the abused and the abuser is a very painful and tragic one, that goes on basically unnoticed and unattended in society.
Unless physical harm results - psychological battering of and by women is tolerated and often condoned. Sarcasm and ridicule are seen as a natural part of their relationships. Cutting remarks and cruel put-downs are excused, and crushed self-images and bleeding spirits do not count as punishable crimes. There is no public outcry. It's just the way life is. Pretend it doesn't hurt, pretend you don't feel, pretend you didn't see or hear it. Pretend you didn't mean it. Pretend, pretend, pretend.
The acceptance of verbal abuse depends entirely on pretense and self-deception. The corruption of lies and denial is the key to any abuse, but especially of verbal abuse. The only way out of this destructive pattern and the violence it condones, is integrity.
Liberation begins and ends with truth, with integrity. Oppression is built on lies.
To be liberated:
- Do not pretend to have the right to verbally abuse yourself or others.
- Do not pretend to be justified whenever you are abusive.
- Do not pretend that you aren't angry and hurt when you are abused.
- Do not falsely accuse others of behavior that was not abusive.
- Do not pretend that you are justified when you retaliate.
- You cannot pretend that you don't care.
- You cannot pretend that you can't help it.
- You cannot pretend that you don't see what's going on.
- You cannot pretend that you don't see what's happening.
- You cannot pretend that you are powerless.
It does matter. It is not all right to pretend. If you are to be liberated you cannot pretend.
The first step, therefore, in freeing yourself form this horrendous cycle of abuse (being abused, and then abusing) is to stop pretending. Whether you are the abused or the abuser you must stop any and all pretending. Your protection is the Truth. You must let in The Truth and acknowledge your use of pretense (as a way of escaping the harsh reality). As this is happening, you must protect yourself from using the enlightenment of "clarity" as a weapon, and abusing yourself for having been a pretender.
Liberation must be free of all violence and abuse. Judging and blaming must be transformed into self-reflection and accountability. That is of course, where the problem lies. It is easier said than done.
A woman who is used to reacting by violating either herself or others, is out of control.
She is not reflective, fair and accountable, and to make that shift she must make Herculean effort to stop herself before she reacts. And that means catching herself while her automatic reaction has taken over, and there seems to be no space or time for reflection. The only way this can occur is by a dramatic intervention within her pre-programmed system (the elimination of denial). She must place herself on "alert" and every time an assault-like reaction gets triggered. She must step in front of it and stop it, even if she's in mid-sentence.
Only a strong confrontation of herself at that point will stop the verbal abuse (only a willing reactor can be stopped). Rather than a duel, there needs to be a truce, and then the reflective persona and the reactive persona have to agree on what's fair to say and what has integrity.
For this to transpire, she must find the courage to face down the out of control reactor/abuser behavior. She must be committed to the integrity of accountability and fairness. She must marshal the discipline it will take to stop herself from automatically reacting, and finally. She must use her brains to process complex information coming from within herself and from others.
People are not masochistic by nature, but anyone can learn masochism from the stereotypic lessons along "genderized" empowerments (that girls are taught from birth).
Women who are verbally abusive of others (male or female) are first and foremost abusive to themselves. Just as women learned these lessons, however, a woman can unlearn them, and any woman who is verbally abusive to herself and to others can liberate herself from this destructive pattern. It will take courage, commitment, discipline and brains, but it is not only possible to stop this destructive pattern, it is the greatest accomplishment and most valuable gift you can ever achieve and receive.
The best part of this gift is that it is within YOUR power to attain, and it doesn't depend on others.
Needless to say, it is much easier with the loving support of others, but even if some try to sabotage your efforts, they can never stop them.
Only you can stop abusing yourself and others. It is likely that you will become "depressed" (that will have come as no surprise to this author). Psychological liberation is in your own hands. So, join a support group, get into therapy, and go for it - as if your happiness and your life depended on it.
Because, both do! Me Thinks.