Women Give Men Too Much Power

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Burford: In your book "Nasty Women," you state that men are more word-oriented. But aren't women considered more verbal? Carter : Yes, but research on gender differences has proven that men tend to take words more literally and to hear them in more sweeping terms. Let's say a woman asks her husband to pick up a half-gallon of orange juice after work. When he arrives home empty-handed, she's irritated. She might offhandedly say, "You are so irresponsible. He believes she's saying he's irresponsible in general.

He thinks, "What about all the months I paid the mortgage? Does one slipup erase all my effort? And why is she overreacting? With his self-esteem wounded, he may launch into a defense about what it means to be responsible. She gets frustrated because he's so caught up in words that he doesn't acknowledge her feelings -- and that's usually because he doesn't remember how important feelings are to her. Take the quiz to find out. Burford: What if the man really is irresponsible? How do you communicate that without inciting a gender missile crisis?

Carter : If you decide you want to keep the man around, don't use the word irresponsible. You can call him a jerk or even an ass and it won't devastate him, because what is a jerk? That's not concretely definable. But what a man feels when you call him irresponsible is what a woman feels when you call her a bitch. It's the ultimate insult. So if you're angry at a man, just call him a bitch. Burford: Suppose a woman tunes in to her partner's intentions but he doesn't reciprocate by hearing her needs.

How can she convey her frustration without becoming a nag or know-it-all? Carter : She can get his attention through action. If a man leaves his pajamas on the floor, a woman might get so upset that she'll accuse him of disregarding her feelings. Then for two days, he'll pick up the PJs to avoid an emotional outburst.

But if two men were living together, one would simply say to the other, "Do you think you could put away your smelly pajamas before my girlfriend gets here? So his roommate finally says with a grin, "The next time you leave your pajamas out, I'm gonna burn 'em in the backyard.

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When the other guy looks for his PJs, he finds a smoldering pile of cloth. That's how men operate. They don't call each other irresponsible or accuse each other of not caring about feelings; they simply burn the damn pajamas. For a woman to get a man's attention without bruising his jujube doll, she has to show rather than tell.

Burford: You've written that when a woman begins to care deeply for a man, he becomes her home-improvement project. Carter :A woman often marries a man for his potential. If women married men for who they actually were, there would be far fewer marriages. When a woman loves a man, she says to herself, 'I could improve him.

Once we're together, things will be different. Since I began my practice in , I've heard this refrain hundreds of times. I try to get it across to the woman that what she sees is what she gets.

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This is him. If he's drinking every Friday and Saturday night, look forward to a lifetime of weekend alcoholism. He may cut out Friday, but he'll still be a drinker.

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Men tend to resist change. In fact, one of the most prized characteristics of a man's friendship with other men is total acceptance. When a woman begins to encourage a man to live up to his potential, he misunderstands that as her overall dissatisfaction with him. What he feels is tantamount to what women feel when men don't hear and respond to what they say they need. Carter :The man may initially improve according to her recommendations -- remember, he has a lot invested in what she thinks of him.

But over time, he becomes slower to respond. The there's the day when she inadvertently steps on his jujube doll with a spiked heel, and it's so painful that he snatches his self-esteem back.


Inside the Mind of a Man: The Top 5 Things That Make Men Tick

That's the day she loses significant influence. He tries to make himself not care what she thinks, which is why she begins to feel he's emotionally distant. He stops connecting. He doesn't look her in the eyes unless he's angry.

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When the marriage is on the brink of breakup, the woman drags him into my office. That's when I hear what almost any therapist can tell you is the most repeated phrase among men: "No matter what I do, I can never please this woman. According to this script, power is meritocratic; those who earn it do so individually through their own hard work.

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Power has a particular look and a particular sound: tall and deep-voiced. Power is all-encompassing: a partner and children are the backdrop for a life centered on the pursuit of greatness; family indicates that the powerful person is grounded enough to be trusted, but the family is fundamentally a body that benefits from the powerful person, not a body that benefits him and fundamentally enables his success.

Within this story of meritocracy is the promise that anyone can achieve political power and success if they are good enough and if they work hard enough; that elected offices have for so long so wholly rested in male hands suggests simply that men have long been more worthy of them.

When You Stop Caring, Results Come

As a result, and by necessity, barrier breakers have largely followed this same script, from the practical to the descriptive to the aesthetic. When women and people of color did gain political power, their ascension was often used to prop up the existing meritocratic narrative: They had achieved, and so anyone can. This narrative of American political power is pervasive enough to be largely invisible. The women who folded themselves into the existing story were perhaps not so much doing it intentionally as acting according to the script on offer, without much space to imagine something different.

But as more women have entered the political realm, they have created more space for authenticity over self-aggrandizement. This is especially true as politicians come from a wider diversity of communities and backgrounds, each with different norms around authority.

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Rashida Tlaib, a new representative from Michigan and one of two Muslim women now serving in Congress, showed up to her swearing-in in a thobe, a traditional Palestinian robe, asserting that her story is not one of American Horatio Alger achievement but of a particular, and particularly marginalized, place in the world. Ocasio-Cortez posted an Instagram photo of her swearing-in with a caption detailing all of the ways she and her family had struggled. Noting she is the youngest congresswoman in history, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez made explicit the fact that her success is not a story of bootstraps but of a web of support.

From these women, the message is clear: Their strength comes from collaborative, generational efforts to move toward the good. The promise of America is not the possibility of individuals going at it alone and achieving in a high-profile way as a result, and the purpose of politics is not personal empowerment.