Women and Self-Esteem

I notice that Margery (the “doormat”) has commented on Matt Forney’s post How to Crush a Girl’s Self-Esteem. (I love Margery’s blog title, which reminds me of a woman who used to write a blog called “Barefoot and Pregnant”.)

I wanted to make a couple of brief comments on three of Matt’s precepts, because I think I can help Margery and other women with some perspective from an older married bloke.

“1. Constantly make her feel inadequate … nothing she does can ever be good enough for you.”

The truth of this is that women seem to like to strive to please. If you find fault occasionally, it stimulates her desire to please; it puts you in the powerful role of critic; and it shows her you are paying attention to her and her efforts. As Julie Cooper the novelist once wrote, “most women like a firm hand”.

Some of my points here seem relevant too. Set the bar high, and keep raising it.

“3. Isolate her from her friends and family.”

The truth of this is that friends and family can have a very baleful influence on your relationship. Inevitably they will criticise you and she will start to mentally concur to some extent. Groups of female friends are notorious, as are interfering in-laws. I have certainly had problems with the former, although not with the latter. Very few in-laws realise that the best way they can contribute is by benign neglect.

“4. Reward her at random intervals”.

The truth of this is rather like my remarks on Point 1. It stops the woman getting complacent. Women mostly like a bit of emotional up and down. It also gives her that feeling we all get from authority: how very arbitrary it can be. Sometimes bosses notice and reward; sometimes they, unaccountably, do not. She will be intrigued and wonder why.

4 responses to this post.

  1. I think the problem that a lot of women, even those of us who have been around a while, have with these posts is Matt’s choice of words, “isolate”, “constantly”, “nothing”, “ever”. They are too absolute for a woman to not feel fear. Whereas I think most men see this and think, “wink, wink” and understand the nuance and move on. What scares us are those men who will not get the wink, wink and take this at face value. So many women tend to think *all* men will take this at face value and therefor THIS MUST STOP!

    If women could just step back and not be afraid of the obsolete language in this post and look past it to see what you have just explained, they would make it easier on themselves.


    • Yes, I was trying to domesticate Matt’s ideas a little. It was me in conciliatory mode, not common for me.

      I think you meant “absolute” not “obsolete”. Yes, nuance is key. Obviously don’t harshly criticise her cooking the day her pet dies, for example.

      I think Matt likes being provocative. I understand the impulse. He has said that his language is not to be taken too literally and that some of his writing has been needlessly inflammatory.

      If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell myself as a young husband to back off a little, and as an older husband to step it up a bit.

      The art is in knowing the dynamic but also knowing how to calibrate your behaviour to the situation. And to the woman, because some women need or want firmer handling than others.

      That said, some men DO have trouble with nuance. What makes it so tricky is that sometimes “too much” works. There are no easy answers …


      • Yes, I did mean absolute; darn autocorrect . . .

        I agree that Matt likes being provocative. I picture him writing these pieces with a cocky grin on his face because he just knows how the most vocal are going to respond. He leads that dance and he is well aware of it. I can’t blame him for doing so. Honestly, it makes me smile as well.

        And no, there aren’t any easy answers. Some people are always going to miss out on nuance, no matter what the subject matter. But to be SO fearful that this is going to happen, especially today when all one need do (99% of the time) is just leave a man who would behave this way, is crazy.

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