Editor’s note: We will be presenting the complete transcripts of all the International Conference on Men’s Issues 2014 presentations here on AVfM in the following weeks. We have already published the first two here and here. Here is the third presentation from the first official day, June 27th: that of Dr. Tara Palmatier, who devotes her entire practice to helping those in abusive relationships with women.
As a special note, this particular presentation was grossly distorted and outright lied about by reporters from both MSNBC and Time magazine, who were apparently working in collusion on a hit piece together to attack Dr. Tara Palmatier and other speakers, male and female, who had the audacity to challenge their worldviews.
As always, our special thanks to Rick Westlake for the transcript. —DE
Okay … Hi! I’m Dr. Tara Palmatier, founder and publisher of Shrink4Men.com. It’s a resource for men who are in relationships with abusive women, and it’s also a resource for the friends and families of men who are in relationships with abusive women. Can everyone see that okay? Do we need to dim the lights up here a little? … Okay.
Before I get started, I would first like to say thank you to whoever it was that scheduled me to follow the legendary Erin Pizzey and Senator Cools: thanks! No pressure, no pressure at all. (Laughter from audience.) Second, I would like to point out that I am the third presenter to speak at the First Annual International Men’s Human Rights Conference, and that would be the third WOMAN presenter. (Applause.)
My, aren’t we an interesting group of misogynists? (Laughter.) I hate to tell you guys, but I think we might be doing it wrong.
Okay, the topic of my presentation is “Equitable Relationships in the Age of Female Entitlement: An Oxymoron.”
We’ll start by looking at the old social contract between men and women versus the new social contract, the rise of female entitlement and narcissism, the vilification of men and boys and the lionization of women and girls, and finally helping men and boys adapt to the new contract.
For centuries, men and women abided by a social contract. Men financially supported and protected their wives and children; women took care of the children, cooked, and cared for the home. Before modern technology, women’s work was often brutally hard, even compared to what men did outside the home.
Over the last 40 or 50 years, feminism has helped blow up the old contract. Some of these changes were necessary and right. Men and women should be treated as equals. Women who possess similar abilities and intellect should be afforded the same opportunities as men. Men and women should be treated equally under the law. Neither men nor women should be pigeonholed by traditional gender stereotypes.
This is not the reality of the new social contract, however. The new social contract, much like the modern marital contract, is incredibly advantageous for women and increasingly onerous and dangerous for men. Feminism has devolved from defining itself as “the radical notion that women are people” to “the radical notion that women are superior.”
Feminism is no longer about equality; it is about female superiority. You do not advance the rights of one group by trampling the rights and humanity of another.
Women have moved beyond equality and empowerment to entitlement, special privileges, and special protections under the law.
In fact, I’d wager that female entitlement is the new female empowerment.
Women have the same rights and privileges as men, without any of the responsibility or accountability. Meanwhile, men have an ever-growing number of responsibilities and constraints imposed upon them, and gender roles that are trickier than ever to navigate.
This is evidenced by the sentencing disparities between men and women who commit similar crimes. That’s Jodi Arias on the [below] slide. It’s apparent in how we as a society reflexively make excuses for a woman’s misdeeds, whether it is infidelity, sexual assault, or murder, and presume men guilty until proven innocent.
The new contract is evidenced in family court, in which women are awarded primary custody 82% of the time. It’s evidenced by the revival of debtors’ prisons for, quote-unquote, “deadbeat dads.” Debtors’ prisons were supposed to have been abolished in this country in 1869.
It’s evidenced in the large number of able-bodied, adult women who are typically the recipients of alimony, sometimes for life. These women are often enabled by the courts to willfully remain unemployed or underemployed, living the lifestyle to which they became accustomed; meanwhile, their ex-husbands live Spartan lives, often unable to save for retirement and even just their basic needs.
It’s evidenced by the national domestic violence campaigns that trot out female victims year after year after year—and their donation jar—yet make no mention of the fact that men comprise roughly half of all victims of intimate-partner violence.
It’s evidenced by the Violence Against Women Act, a set of special laws that gives women special protections, makes special crimes out of violence directed at women, and robs individuals—typically men—of due process, their homes, their reputations, and Constitutional rights.
It’s evidenced by the rampant restraining-order abuse that gives women a tactical advantage in custody and divorce disputes. Restraining-order abuse is so rampant that even attorneys who profit from this broken and corrupt system have acknowledged it.
It’s evidenced by the “rape-culture” hysteria being stoked across American college campuses, where all men are viewed as potential sexual predators. If a male student and a female student have sex, and both are under the influence of alcohol, the female student is immediately considered the “victim” even if she—even if the sex was consensual.
It’s evidenced by the ever-expanding definition of rape, for women, by the CDC and the FBI, while these agencies continue to ignore male victims of sexual assault.
It’s evidenced by the premium we place on women’s and girls’ lives over men’s and boys’ lives. A recent celebrity campaign, Bring Back Our Girls, is an effort to raise awareness about the abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram. Yes, it is awful that these girls were kidnapped. However, we rarely see mention of the greater number of schoolboys who have been murdered by Boko Haram. And make no mistake—they were brutally murdered specifically because they were male, and for no other reason.
One sensitive feminist commenter, when replying to criticism about overlooking the tragic death of these boys, defended the Bring Back Our Girls campaign by rationalizing that, and I quote, “You can’t bring back the dead.”
Hence, the focus on the girls. And, you know, I’ve always been told that women are supposed to be the more naturally empathetic sex.
Women’s health issues are given priority over men’s health issues. Women and girls are afforded more advantages and opportunities in education while boys and men continue to fall farther behind each decade. Recently, celebrities participated in yet another campaign, called Let Girls Learn, urging teachers, parents, and other adult role models to encourage girls to stay in school and be successful. You know, girls are doing just fine, comparatively speaking, in education. In fact, they’re far—doing far, far better than boys.
And I—I have to say, you know, feminists often say they’re working on the issues of men and boys. But so far, the closest I’ve come to seeing any feminist address the crisis of education for boys is Hanna Rosin’s book celebrating The End of Men.
It’s evidenced in the messages we teach our children. “Never hit a girl or a woman, not if she hits you first, and not in self-defense.”
“Teach boys to respect women,” compared to the ever-popular T-shirt, “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them!”
Can you imagine selling the reverse, at Baby Gap … or something?
There are campaigns urging parents to teach their sons not to grow up and become rapists! As if being male means you are more likely to develop into a sexual predator. And, FYI, credible statistics do not support this.
And yet another ridiculous celebrity campaign: Ban Bossy. Sheryl Sandberg, Beyoncé, and other stars are trying to dictate that no one call little girls bossy, even if they’re being bossy. And isn’t telling people what they can say, or not say, being bossy? Frankly, I see “Ban Bossy” as a campaign to empower female school-aged bullies.
In the late 1990s, during my doctoral training, I noticed that many of my male clients were seeking support for anxiety and depression. They were anxious and depressed due to relationship difficulties. Specifically, these men were suffering emotional, financial, and in some cases physical abuse by their girlfriends and wives. However, none of these men recognized their partners’ behaviors as abusive. Even as victims, they had a hard time believing that women could abuse men. I was surprised as well, because none of the psychology programs (all three of them) that I attended discussed female-perpetrated abuse. These men attributed it to their girlfriends and wives being “emotional” or “having issues”—which is true in a sense, but that doesn’t excuse the behavior—and were quick to take responsibility for their partners’ abusive behaviors.
I also noticed a significant difference in the relationship expectations between my male and female clients. The majority of men I worked with had pretty low and, you know, reasonable expectations for their girlfriends and wives, while many of the women I worked with had incredibly high and often unrealistic expectations of men and relationships.
One of my first couples-counseling experiences was with a young married couple; let’s call them Jake and Rebecca. During our first session, I asked Jake and Rebecca about their expectations of one another, because sometimes fixing the issues can be as simple as readjusting expectations. Rebecca answered, without hesitation, “I expect Jake to treat me like a princess.” I tried to make use of therapeutic humor and said, “That’s funny, on your intake form it says you’re a dental hygienist.”
Jake started to chuckle and then stopped when Rebecca gave both Jake and I a look that could melt lead.
(subvocalized: “Whoops!”) I did learn an important clinical lesson that day, and that is, “Flaming narcissists typically do not have a sense of humor about themselves, or their sense of entitlement!”
Unfortunately, Rebecca is not an anomaly. According to psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, authors of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, there has been a 67% increase in narcissistic behaviors and attitudes over the last 20 years, mostly among women. They also estimate that 10% of the population suffers from narcissistic personality disorder—although, let’s get real: it’s the non-disordered people in close proximity to the narcissist who really suffer.
In 2004, the National Institutes of Health found that 14.8% of the U.S. population meets the criteria to be diagnosed with at least one personality disorder, from a sample of 43,000 interviewees. This study did not include Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Schizotypal Personality Disorder, and therefore the percentage is very likely much higher. The results showed a slightly larger number of personality-disordered individuals in the younger age groups. And, that’s kind of understandable, because adolescence, as one of my former professors—he described it as a time of “transient personality disorders.”But you mature and you grow out of it.
So, the percentages diminished successively with each older generation; and according to William Eddy of the High Conflict Institute, since personality disorders generally don’t change with age, this study reinforces the other indicators that personality disorders and traits are increasing in our society with each new generation.
Eddy cites six reasons why personality disorders, including narcissism, are on the rise:
One is instability in early childhood.
Two: Diminishing social glue.
Three: Loss of personal behavior role models.
Four: A society of individuals.
Five: Teaching self-centeredness.
Six: Openness to social complaints.
So, let me summarize this in this really glorious run-on sentence I wrote:
When you add the implosion of the traditional family structure, i.e., the rise and proliferation of single-family households—particularly, to be more clear, single-mother households; the physical disconnection of the Digital Age, in which we’re increasingly engaging with a computer screen, instead of face-to-face interaction; the rise of “reality TV” stars and individuals who gained fame by behaving badly; media messaging that the individual is more important than the collective; four generations of “self-esteemers” who have been taught that they are the “special-est snowflakes that ever snowflaked” just because they are the one-and-only snowflake like them that exists in the world—starting with parents buying their little girls Disney-Princess gear; “Women’s Studies” offered as a legitimate college major, and not just a class—I mean, what do you you say? “What are you majoring in?” “I’m majoring in ME! And the study of people like me!”; our frivolous-lawsuit society; and then you add to that the cult of “female professional victimhood” that requires fresh male villains and increasingly silly male offenses or “micro-aggressions” to perpetuate the belief that men are this ever-present danger to women; and you get a culture that breeds narcissism as a cultural trait, especially in women.
Okay. Now we’re going to get into the next section, which I forgot to make a slide for, which is the vilif—just to remind you, I will say it out loud—the vilification of men and boys and the lionization of women and girls; or as I like to call it, or the alternate title is, “The Shamed and the Shameless.”
While narcissism is on the rise in our culture, according to Twenge and Campbell’s research, women seem to be more prone to it. Why?
I think it has to do with the lionizing of women and girls, and vilifying and denigrating of men and boys, that has taken place over the last 40 or so years.
Men and boys, as has already been discussed by many of the presenters here, are often the butt of jokes; in TV, film, and advertising, they’re portrayed as bumbling buffoons, emotional incompetents, and loutish Neanderthals.
We pathologize male sexuality.
We pathologize the higher activity level and natural rambunctiousness of boys, to the point that we are medicating them with mind-altering drugs—we have no idea how this is going to affect their developing brains over time—just so the predominately female teaching field can have a class of obedient little zombies and make their job slightly easier.
We claim men suck at emotions, but when they do express emotions, particularly anger, we label it as “uncomfortable” or “dangerous.” We call men “wimps”—I realize we have kids here, so I changed my original word—who aren’t assertive in dating; and label men who are assertive but not attractive to the female object of his affection as “creepy,” or my new least-favorite word, “rapey.”
Men are expected to be wealthy, handsome, funny, educated, witty, attentive, strong, and sensitive—but not too sensitive; and women are supposed to be admired and revered, just for showing up.
Men are shamed just for being men. They are shamed for not measuring up to women’s expectations of them. They are shamed for not earning enough money, of not making the women in their lives happy enough. Fathers are treated as secondary to mothers, expendable and replaceable, even though there’s a mountain of research, as Warren (Farrell) mentioned yesterday at the press conference, that shows how essential a loving and involved father is to the psycho-social development of both girls and boys.
I believe men are more susceptible to gender-shaming because of our mother-centric culture.
If a boy is raised to believe it’s his job to make his mother happy and please women, he will be more susceptible to shaming tactics. If he was raised to make his mother happy and his mother was abusive, he will be especially susceptible to gender-shaming tactics.
Meanwhile, we have removed the stigma and shame from bad female behavior. We now view behaviors that were once shunned in women as acts of female empowerment. Being a bitch or a female a–hole is considered a sign of strength in women. Being promiscuous is an act of female empowerment. Demanding to be treated like a princess is condoned and encouraged. We deify mothers, even the bad ones, to the point where it’s become what I like to call the Golden Uterus Syndrome.
Fleece your husband in divorce court and take assets you didn’t earn? “You deserve it! Take that bastard to the cleaners!” Force a man into fatherhood with an “accidental” pregnancy? “Hey, if he wouldn’t commit, sometimes you’ve got to push him into it!”
Physically assault your husband, or some random guy in a club? “You go, girl!”
Murder your ex-boyfriend? “Well, he must have done something to deserve it!”
When men can be shamed just for being men, and women no longer have any sense of shame, it creates a dangerously lopsided interpersonal dynamic between the sexes. Any abuse committed by a woman can be justified to the point where men are blamed for women’s abuse of them, and are labeled “abusive and controlling” when they try to erect boundaries to protect themselves from the abuse they’re suffering.
I’ve worked with countless men who—when they finally worked up the courage to speak with a therapist about their wife’s or girlfriend’s abuse—were asked some variation of “What did you do to make her treat you that way?” Just imagine a psychologist asking a female abuse victim what she did to make her husband hit her, go through her phone, demand all of her e-mail and social-media passwords, call her names, hit her, abuse her in front of the children! Just imagine, if you can, what would happen if a therapist asked a female domestic-violence abuse victim that. It’s despicable, and these therapists should be ashamed of themselves, and not allowed to work with men.
Men who adhere to the old social contract often find themselves at risk of losing their assets, their emotional well-being, their children, their freedom, and even their lives, if they become involved with women who abide by this new social contract in which all obligation, responsibility, and decency fall upon the man; especially if the men legally bind themselves to, and/or reproduce with, these entitlement princesses, personality-disordered predators, and “women-are-superior-to-men” feminists.
In the mid-1990s, I did my masters-level internship at a domestic violence shelter for women and children. I have fairly decent drawing skills and illustration skills, so one of my projects was helping to create a coloring book for K-through-4, for domestic violence education. I included drawings of little girls hitting boys, where the message is, “Little girls don’t hit boys, and little boys don’t hit girls—let’s nobody hit anybody.” And the program director told me to take that illustration out. And I asked her why, because I actually remember hitting a boy I had a crush on, with my Winnie-The-Pooh lunchbox, when I was in the first grade, and Sister Andrene told me, Don’t do that; I got the message. But the director said, “Well, men are physically stronger than women, so we don’t need to tell them that.” You know what? Five-year-old boys really aren’t any bigger than five-year-old girls. And, as I learned during my internship, domestic violence prevention school programs teach children that it’s wrong to hit a girl or a woman under any circumstances, but rarely, if ever, teach the inverse.
Parents teach their daughters to be wary of boys and men who will take advantage of them sexually, control and/or abuse them. We teach little girls that there are bad men out there, and they need to be careful—in fact, some women take it to the extreme and teach their girls and boys that all men are bad. I, for one, believe this is a form of hate indoctrination and child abuse.
Families need to teach their sons about the dangers of abusive women, just like we teach our daughters about the dangers of abusive men. We need to teach our boys to respect themselves, and develop healthy boundaries, even if it is a woman who is trying to violate their boundaries. We need to teach boys it is healthy and right to walk—or run—away from girls and women who are disrespectful, cruel, indifferent, demanding, controlling, demeaning, manipulative, opportunistic, possessive, jealous, emotionally dishonest, unempathic, abusive, crazy, and/or predatory. We need to teach our boys, just like we teach our girls, that it’s not okay for a loved one or anyone to lay their hands upon you in violence, that it’s not okay to be taken advantage of financially—for instance, he earns all of the money, and she spends all of it, while running up debt and refusing to work.
We need to teach men and boys the warning signs and symptoms of abuse, and that there’s no shame in admitting they’re in an abusive relationship; and that men, just like women, don’t owe their abuser a damned thing—except a view of their backsides walking away from them and, in some cases, a trip to the local jailhouse.
Almost done—this is the last page, I swear!
We need to teach our boys that tolerating abuse from a woman doesn’t make them a good man; it makes them victims and suckers, for buying into the bull that “abuse isn’t abuse when the perpetrator is a female.”
We need to provide boys and young men the same information and supports we provide girls and women. Predators come in all shapes and sizes and sexes, and we need to teach our children, girls and boys, how to avoid and protect themselves. We need to stop normalizing predatory behaviors in females, exhibited in high conflict and personality-disordered types, as normal and/or acceptable—they’re not normal. They’re not acceptable. It’s just as bad and pathological when women exhibit abusive behaviors, and they should receive the same public censure, condemnation, ostracism, court fines, and jail time. I implore mothers and fathers to discuss these issues, when they feel it’s appropriate, with their children—and that’s sons and daughters. Trust me, you don’t want women like this as your daughters-in-law.
Young men need to be educated about the dangers of marriage in terms of the high potential for loss of assets, children, and possibly their freedom. Young men should be warned not to mingle their personal assets with marital assets. We should be pushing for legislation that makes prenuptial agreements mandatory—and binding! I would also love to see pre-custody agreements as well; specifically that a man and woman, who wish to procreate, sign a legally binding agreement on how they will handle custody, should they divorce. And—guys out there—if she’s not even willing to discuss that, you probably shouldn’t marry her!
We need to encourage men to report abuse by their wives and girlfriends to their medical doctors and primary practitioners, to file police reports and press charges. We should strongly discourage men from practicing chivalry that is self-destructive and enabling of abuse. And police should be trained and required to enforce the law, without regard to sex.
A rigged game can never be a level playing field. And rigged game is precisely what we have. If we want a future for our children where the standard is to value each other as human beings, then a discussion about all forms of unfairness and inequity must be on the table.
And this conference is a good place to do that.
Thank you! Enjoy your lunch.