Controlling? Who, Me?

A while ago I shared some of my thoughts on women wanting control (see The Vexing and Contentious Woman) with a friend of mine.

Her response: “I don’t have any issues with control.”

Huh? I beg to differ.

She’s one of those passive-aggressive (p-a) types who very quietly let you know EXACTLY who you should be and what you should do.

It’s control by shame and innuendo. Sometimes you aren’t even sure the comments are aimed at you (e.g., “the time for complaining is over,” “it’s a great gift to be content”) —  but you feel guilty anyway. Sometimes the pressure is more overt, but still coated in kindness and suggestion.

Know that kind of person? Feel controlled? Yep.

That’s what I call the “gentle and quiet” woman who isn’t so gentle.

Yes. We women all control our little worlds in many ways, loud and soft. Rather than tell more stories, I thought I’d list a few of the ways.

Feel free to add some more in Comments. But don’t you dare disagree! LOL

The many faces of female control:

  • The dripping faucet: if I repeat myself often enough, they will hear… and obey
  • The withholder: do what I want if you want to get what you want (doesn’t have to be spoken to make the point)
  • The victim(a version of the passive-aggressor): oh, woe is me, please
    help ME for a change (photo by Simon Law)
  • The hinter (another kin of the p-a): “Isn’t it trash night tonight?” “Wow. Look how long the grass is!”
  • The after-the-fact slammer: you KNOW when you’ve not obeyed the controller, in a myriad of ways – nasty statements, tears, loud voice, subtle hints (p-a again), payback, put downs, etc. (so, let’s avoid THAT again and do what she says next time…).
  • The sex-bucket: the clothes and make up do all the work; might as well put a ring in your nose

Which do you practice?

Which have you experienced?

Got any more to add?  Comments, please!!

[Next up: The Essence of Femininity]

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11 thoughts on “Controlling? Who, Me?

  1. Wow, Marcy:

    Those are fantastic illustrations about faux “gentle and quiet spirits” – those passive-aggressive controllers who don’t admit (or know) they control.

    And who control our minds to think that they don’t control either, because they are so polite and rational and smile as they neatly put us into straightjackets…

    with our cooperation, of course.

    I’d take the dripping faucet anyday.

  2. How I act willfully — less about acting, more interior — it’s about willing what can’t be willed — willing someone to stop feeling what they’re feeling, or doing what they’re doing, or even willing my own feelings away, or circumstances.

    Lately I suppose I notice it most in parenting, when I’m tired of repeating a rule yet again, or when I’m busy and don’t want to have to get up to help with X, and so on.

    It’s like Jesus when he learned of John the Baptist’s death, and went up on the hill alone to pray, and the crowd followed him, and so he put off his grieving to teach and feed the crowd, and then he took time that night to grieve and pray. That’s willingness.

    I still draw a blank thinking about what forms of willfulness I’ve been subjected to — other than, I suppose, other people’s demanding expectations, especially when couched in polite and coming-alongside-to-help terms. Oppression that masks itself as benevolence is perhaps the worst kind.

    My so-called “Africa dream” is a great example. I dreamed I was in a mental hospital. I yearned to go back to Africa (I went one summer on a mission trip, and it was an interesting and significant trip psychologically). I tried to leave, with the usual trying to run but feeling like I’m running through waist-high water, even kicking against the walls to try to get some momentum. Just before I get to the doors they slide closed. I collapse sobbing, the orderlies “escort” me to a tv room and deposit me there, telling the other slackjawed patients that I was crying about the color of the Jell-O, in other words, that my crying was not important.

    Or my cooperating teacher during my first attempt at student teaching. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but somehow she always seemed to be talking nicely as if she wanted to help, but it always felt like opposition and oppression. I quit under her — it was bad enough I was willing to give up on all the grad school I’d done so far, just to get away from her.

  3. I just remembered another one! The “God’s Handmaid” controller. You know, the woman who uses Bible verses and the phrase “God told me” to let you know exactly how you should behave. Can’t believe I forgot the Pharisee of women in my post…

  4. Somewhere in youth and childhood I got the idea that it was sinful just for me to want anything or pursue it, so I’m coming at this from a different angle. I’d use the word “willfulness” about what you’re calling control. Willfulness is fighting reality, trying to will what we want. Instead, we can ask, act, all the while accepting that reality is what it is even when we don’t like it, and that God is sovereign. The sappy Serenity Prayer is relevant.

    I have the same challenge with parenting, and again, given my angle, I have to also remember that my needs and wants DO matter, even in parenting. The balance really is hard to find.

    • Marcy! When I first read your comment, I started singing in my head from Sound of Music. LOL “Somewhere in my youth, or childhood, I must have done something good. ” Lousy theology. Sappy song. But I LOVED that scene.

      I totally hear what you are saying. It would be interesting to ponder what kind of “willfullness” YOU were subjected to that let you know you could not pursue what you wanted. How do you act “wilfully” now? I know I experienced control in a variety of ways, and I give as I was given (though I hope I am much more aware of doing so). Interesting stuff to think about.

    • I think there’s a difference between legitimately needing/wanting to get things done/see things happen and attempting to control one’s universe out of sinful desperation, a lack of trust in God, a fear of death (in the end, the fear that we are nothing, nobodies). If I pay attention, I can feel the desperation driving my need to control me, others, and even God. The first step, however, is realizing that I am driven to sinfully control. Then I can start to listen to my motivations.

      How does that relate to parenting? Wow. For me, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference. When am I “controlling” my kids for their good vs. my need? When is it about them vs. about me? Sometimes hard to tell, but always worth asking…

  5. Hmmmm. I am feeling uncomfortable. I hate looking at myself.
    That being said, I will still attempt to answer your question, being a people pleaser from a long line of people pleasers….

    So my favorites are hinting and withholding. I would like to think I am getting better, but that would be deluding myself. Maybe deluding myself should be another one. As long as I keep that log in my eye, then your speck looks pretty big. My focus is all off. BTW I hate that verse 🙂

  6. I would only add “the bully.” There are some women out there who masterfully combine the aforementioned very subtly to suit the situation/audience but turbo-back it so that you feel you must submit. Usually this is not so quiet; the bully will passionately and authoritatively speak so as to stun others into submission. Lovely.

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