March 2001
March 2001

The Silence Conspiracy Eunice Scarfe, an award winning Canadian writer is now researching how women have been silenced, how they silence themselves, and how women can be enabled to break these bonds of secrecy.

*1 The major problem in my Marriage and Family Counseling practice is the refusal by many women to clearly and specifically state their reasons for their dissatisfaction. Often a safer topic (eg. leaving his shoes in the middle of the room) is resolved allowing the unidentified issue (eg. his inability to satisfy her sexually) still looming. Some Women don't even appear to present their case at all. The baffled men come in alone. In other situations, the presenting problem has won a male concession. At which time many females backtrack and say, "It's O.K. We can do it your way." When I ask the lady, "Why did you just change your mind?" Her answer is, "I didn't. He didn't get the point. I want him to do it because he loves me, not because I made him do it." (The romance fairy tales are directing attitudes. "I shouldn't have to tell him. He should know how I feel .") My answer is, "He is attending counseling in order to please you, when you back peddle, it confuses him. He believes that venting solved everything and he can return to his former behavior since it appears to not be disturbing you anymore. Men prioritize life's issues topsy-turvy from women.*"

The result is: The wife is furious. To her it is obvious that she has specific issues that she has just addressed, even though she often has sidestepped her real issues. A divorce is in the making, unless I am able to convince each of them to restructure their thinking/ behaviors, and communication. Women are not aware that they have been silenced to not give or to restrict their opinion especially with the major significant other in their life. They have been taught to be nurturers. (The Traditional Role demands an exclusive female obligation to maintain peace and harmony.) The exact same cultural role also precludes men from hearing their issues because they believe that they have the "right" to continue their role without changing themselves to conform with being a couple. The vows pertain to the women, but the men interpret them differently for themselves. The resulting wife's emotions are feelings of being worn down, a loss of identity, apathy, and/or conforming to his way of doing things. Women tell me, "It'll hurt his feelings if I tell him ..." Whether it be a minor complaint or a major complaint. Therefore, the female says, "If he really loved me, he'd know that I'm upset and adjust his behavior accordingly. That's what I would do if it were me. I try to please him. If I see he's disturbed, I don't repeat the actions that created his displeasure." This is maternalistic behavior of accepting the responsibility and guilt for his actions.

Primarily a woman's hormones prepare her to be a nurturer, as does the cultural environment in which she was raised. The Yale brain studies by the Shaywitz couple have determined that women process information on both the left and right hemispheres, while men process only on the left side when asked a nonsensical question. From these studies the scientists have concluded that women process both logically and emotionally, while men develop conclusions from a factual stand point only. Our culture reinforces the initial brain's wiring by encouraging the affections with women and discouraging men's open expression of softer emotions such as crying. (Now tell me if you aren't really put off by a man who cries easily!) Social roles dictate each gender's obligations which we follow according to the ones which we have internalized. (The problem is with three major roles--Traditional, Companionship, & Partnership--demanding opposing responsibilities the marital conflicts would be laughable if they weren't so disastrous.) Try obtaining a po sition without your makeup or hair just so. (Companionship role: Women must maintain their beauty and intelligence.) Speak aggressively and you are considered a bitch (Traditional role requires lady like behavior. A male is expected to be d ominant and aggressive.) The first lady received that b.... label from many a male for what was viewed as interference with a proposed health plan. There was such an uproar that the proposal was dropped. Mrs. Clinton was considered out of line, but New Yorkers are more progressive and are moving into the healthy Partnership roles where gender differences are merging by mutual choice of acceptable behaviors.

Roles substitute outdated mindless reactions where there needs to be mindful commitments and communication. Uplifting Humor is one way in which to restructure a situation. Ones attitude needs to be problem centered. Decide how maturely you and he are acting, then create a scenario as to what you would tell children to do in order to alter their disagreements. Then follow your own advice. Seeing yourselves in a school play yard going "Yeah, Yeah, ya, Yeah, Ya" back and forth towards each other can quickly bring peals of laughter, a more relaxed atmosphere and a willingness to confront the issues squarely.