Dissecting Phobias

People are obsessed with qualifications and experience, especially when a woman dares to speak, so here goes. I grew up in a household with a clinical psychologist parent, showed an early aptitude for understanding clinical psychology, began attending university psych lectures when I was 13, began thinking deeply on and looking for answers on how to define terms such as ‘normal’ at the same age, and then went on to do two university degrees (top of my class) in psychology (including a post-graduate degree in psychological measurement).

So, I’ve read a little, thought a little, and know a little about psychology.

I asked and found out from a real, live expert what phobias were when I was young. I had a few, myself, you see. And over time, academically, observationally, and through firsthand experience, I ended up with a good understanding of what they were, how they came about, how they affected one’s life, and how you could (easily, actually) work to get rid of them.

Phobias still fascinate me.

For those who are also interested and who possibly incorrectly use phobia-related words too much, here’s a basic definition:

An overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger but provokes anxiety and avoidance.

Mayo Clinic

Yeah, that’s what I learned as a child, and what I learned in my dozens of psych classes in university.

An Example: Arachnophobia

One might have an intense fear of spiders. One might have had a frightening experience as a small child, and then, despite no harm coming from any experience thereafter, deliberately avoid thinking about, looking at, or coming into contact with spiders. One might experience severe anxiety, including fainting, panic attacks, nightmares, etc. centring on spiders. All because of a fear, which isn’t, in reality, life-threatening.

And you can substitute other things and situations for spiders and voila! You have a phobia. The phobias are generally only a problem if they severely interfere with you living a normal life. Note also, that it is not common for intense hatred to be part of the phobia. Fear. And avoidance. Using the spider example, the phobic person will avoid and panic, rather than set up a life-consuming vendetta against spiders hoping to rid the world of every last one of them. While fear is considered to be the root of hate, phobias generally don’t refer to hate or aggressive violence as reactions to the object in question.

Phobias as Weaponry

And that was life prior to this century. We panicked our way through life avoiding heights, crowds, snakes, small spaces, clowns, and the dark. It was nothing a few sessions with a shrink or a few alterations to your lifestyle or routine couldn’t fix or help you manage.

But life is very different now. Well-meaning, but shallow-thinking, knee-jerk-reactionary liberals have changed our landscape of fear by weaponizing previously clinical and neutral language.

Phobia has been unofficially redefined by non-psychologists. It has been extended beyond the usual irrational fears and avoidance to mean hatred and violence towards something – and the object in question is always people or groups of people.

Things have gotten out of control.

These weapons serve to silence people through accusations, shaming, guilting, no-platforming, gaslighting, and projecting. By screaming out a simple politically, socially loaded word ending in phobia, the aggressor can avoid deep reading, thinking and analysis and providing thoughtful rejoinders to arguments; can disappear someone they don’t agree with with zero effort whatsoever; and can counter disliked viewpoints with their own culture of unthinking nonsense and hate. It’s sad considering that some (but definitely not all) of these warriors actually come from a place of wanting to be inclusive to those they feel are oppressed. Unfortunately, the pull of easy slogans and jargon saves time and scores brownie points with similarly unthinking peers at the expense of not truly seeing what or whom they are supporting and blacklisting.

With this non-thinking and knee-jerk jargon-slewing, people are increasingly unable to see the difference between stating facts/data, telling one’s personal story/experience, or criticizing the logic of an argument AND outright bigotry. They are all lumped together under a phobia. And in fact, some people have multiple phobias (hate categories) dumped on them depending on how aggressive the labeller is.

Disagreement, fact-stating, and critical thinking are now phobias and bigotry.

The three major ‘phobias’ today are:  Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. There are other less common ones (i.e., ‘whorephobia’), but these are the big three.

Islamophobia: bigotry towards Muslims.

Homophobia: bigotry towards gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Transphobia: bigotry towards trans people.

Personally, I think phobia is the incorrect term – bigotry is correct and it absolutely does exist. BUT the biggest problem is not so much the incorrect definition of phobia, but the absolute overuse of the terms to silence dissenting voices. All one needs to do is shout “…phobia!!!!!!” and the speaker is deemed a bigot and is usually on the receiving end of death threats – and rape threats and misogynistic slurs, in addition, if the speaker is a woman. It is extremely effective in closing down thinking and discourse and from removing feminists from the public online/offline arena.

Disagreement/Statements of Fact  vs.  Hate/Bigotry

Let’s look at how to discern between discourse and hate/bigotry – and please resist the knee-jerk urge to attribute the statements that come second  in my examples (the statements of bigotry) to my state of thinking. I’m providing them as examples that I have read and heard – they are not my own:

  • Believe it or not, you can support equal racial rights and freedom of religion AND criticize the argument of a person of colour or the content of the religious beliefs of a Christian/Jew/Muslim! There is a difference between acknowledging and providing statistics and stories about the very real problem that (a) men of colour rape too or (b) Islam supports violence against women, and saying ‘Americans should never have abolished slavery’ or ‘we should just drop bombs throughout the Middle East’. (a) Statement of fact and (b) statement of opinion and fact vs. bigotry.
  • Believe it or not, you can be a card-carrying member of LGB AND criticize the argument of a gay person. There is a difference between questioning or calling out gay men’s misogyny towards lesbians or women in general, and saying ‘LGB folks must be barred from adopting children’. Disagreement/Questioning vs. bigotry.
  • Believe it or not, you can support trans people’s fight for human rights AND criticize the argument of a MtT/FtT! There is a difference between stating that gender is socialized, there is no such thing as ‘lady-brain’, and that trans women are trans people –> not biological women, and saying “trans people are not human and don’t deserve protection from assault”. Disagreement/Statement of fact  vs. bigotry.

And as stated above, unfortunately, liberal social justice warriors/activists are having trouble seeing the difference and labelling all dissenters or questioners as phobics/bigots/haters and often, ironically, issuing bigoted, hateful, violent threats towards these dissenters in retaliation.

Is this a problem with our education system? How did we get to the point where we can no longer tell the difference between disagreement and bigotry? Or even the difference between fear and hatred? Why are people abusing and misusing language as weapons? And why the hell are feminists the ones most frequently under woman-focused attack for dissenting? And hmmm, why is there no such commonly shouted term ‘gynophobia’ (not that I want that term to exist, but it is curious, isn’t it?)

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Posted on November 19, 2015, in Anti-Feminism, Education, Feminism, Language and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Dissecting Phobias.

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