A Is for Antagonism
Happy new year. Does it feel like a new year? In many ways, no. This effing Virus is well into its second year now, and many of us are bored, depressed, not too hopeful, wondering when things will go back to normal, or whether we’ve got a new normal. Some of us are seriously isolated. Myself, I haven’t had an in-person conversation with another human that lasted longer than 5 minutes in months – I’ve noticed that people, especially women, seem to have a serious aversion to speaking to middle aged and older women. We’re invisible. But it’s more than that. It almost seems like there is a discomfort and dismissal on the part of those with whom you are trying to engage. It is hard to explain. Strangely, everyone seems to want to engage with weird men of any age, even when they stink to high heaven, are narcissistic, talk too much or too loudly, are offensive, and add whatever you want to the list. Seriously. I just can’t understand why it is more attractive to talk to some repulsive, self-centred pervball, but not to a friendly female who isn’t gaming to rape you or suck your energy with unbridled egomania and scrotal tall tales of imagined accomplishments and prowess.
In addition, I’m finding it really hard to catch the eye of fellow sisters while out for a walk on the street or walking trails – something I usually try to do no matter where in the world I am. I get the distinct impression that there is this bizarre notion that connecting with fellow humans, even just through eye contact, somehow puts you at risk for contracting The Virus. I used to live in the place where I currently am, and it’s not an unfriendly place, generally. But it feels very different here than it used to. Paranoid. And no longer a community. Selective disconnect.
Anyhow, I’m totally off track, but my excuse is that it is my first post of the new year, so some preamble was warranted. I wanted to kick off an hommage – or perhaps I should say femmage, as I love franglais and neologisms, both – to Sue Grafton and her Alphabet series. Years ago, I fell in love with Kinsey Millhone, private detective, with her minimalistic lifestyle, low income, and creative tiny house living space. Her only fault was her constructed and frankly unbelievable heterosexuality – she really never came across as anything but asexual or lesbian to me, but luckily, you could just flip a few pages to skip over the luckily sparse sexual content (thank you 1980’s – it would be a different story today à la 50 shades of shit).
We’ll see how far I get. I’m kicking it off with A Is for Antagonism. There is no recurring character, and this isn’t a novel. And jeez, there is no mystery in what I write, despite the fact that most women just don’t seem to be able to figure out why men do what they do and why they themselves just can’t stop spreading their legs for them. Mystery is not the same thing as willing ignorance and cognitive dissonance, let me tell you. Open your eyes to reality and the privilege you orbit is no longer possible. Case closed!
Now before I get into it, there are tons of A-words I could have chosen here. A is for asshole, assault, aggression, arrogance, affirmative action, ‘alleged’, abortion, and more. But I chose antagonism, a highy underappreciated word.
So let’s go. Very simply put, antagonism is active hostility or opposition. Think of someone who seems deliberately to disagree with everything you say, or someone who pokes at you, saying provocative things that seem deliberately geared towards riling you up or getting some sort of reaction (anger, tears, defensiveness, etc) out of you. Interestingly, in literature, the ‘antagonist’ is typically seen as a villain, nemesis or chief opposition to the hero of the story, designed to cause problems or allow for a plot to exist at all.
I want to talk about antagonism in two specific, but not necessarily unrelated, categories: Male communication styles and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
- Male Communication Styles
Let me draw from one of my ESL lectures on language and communication – I tell all my students that the purpose of language is to try to get what we want or need. It is one of human’s most basic and useful tools. If you don’t communicate, you don’t get what you need, from trying to find food or a toilet in a new place to trying to get a job. Now, to understand how males typically use this tool outside of toilets or getting directions, let’s cover a few truths. a) Males are both wired and socialized to believe that they deserve. Everything and anything they need or want becomes crucial and deserved. b) Males are also wired and socialized to be aggressive, so getting what they believe they deserve is best achieved through aggression of one form or another. c) Most males realize on some level that they aren’t important, have less to offer the world than females, and could be done away with without serious repurcussions in the long run (obsolescence). Most males can’t articulate that, but they know it on some lizard brain level and use aggression and a focus on ‘deserving’ to cover up their biological inadequacies.
But back to language. All of the above factor into the way males often communicate, especially with females they see as threats to their fragile egos in an attempt to prove that they are important, and better, and deserving, and not obsolete. An aggressive communication style is often used on perceived superior women (e.g., intelligent, educated, non-naive, older, uninterested, extremely attractive, and/or sexually unavailable women) and is usually manifested as antagonism. Now, some men use antagonism as a bizarre, but often effective (why? ask a hetero chick, cuz I don’t get it…) means of flirting. But antagonism is most often used by men as an attempt to disarm women, to steal their energy, and to divert their laser focus away from the inadequacies and flimsy lies and exaggerations of said male. Men will question and/or disagree with and/or dissect every statement a woman makes in a conversation. He will pick apart decisions she has made and is describing to him, and criticize everything about it in an attempt to make her defend herself or even fall apart. He will goad her to prove every detail she states, often expecting citations of studies or data. He will often ask her to recite lists of things to prove the extent of her knowledge on a subject and pounce on any error she makes as proof of her inadequacy, even a subject on the outskirts of the topic of conversation.
As I look back, I have have had sooooo many interactions of this sort with males through my life. Now, I’m not surprised – I am often a threat to men as I am smart, educated, well trained in pscyhology, sexually unavailable, I see through bullshit easily, and if I am feeling brave and devil may care, I can give better mindfuckery than I get. I am a massive threat to all insecure men who think they deserve and are used to most women giving them literal or figurative blowjobs for existing. Interestingly, the abusive male living in the house I was renting in when I first moved back to Canada spoke to all the women in the house using this style. I remember one specific conversation involving him, myself, and one of the cock-whipped hetero women, where the male kept picking at the latter over something she did that she was telling us about. She accused him of being jealous, but I countered with an accusation of being antagonistic. Only a month or two later, after he started making threats against my physical safety did I start putting the whole shebang together – which brings me to my second category of antagonist.
2. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
It’s important to note that while many males employ antagonistic communication styles with women, most of these guys do not have NPD. Antagonism can just be a way that males deal with their usually subconscious awareness of their inadequacy and obsolescence as males. Also, note that narcissism and NPD are not the same. You can be a narcissist (very self-centred, vain, selfish) without a personality disorder (ingrained personality pattern that disrupts your day-to-day functioning and relationships). Both males and females can have NPD and thus can be antagonistic, but there are almost double the number of male NPDs than females (likely more because we accept narcissism and abusive behaviour in males and thus may not suspect that a male is anything but normal), which makes sense if you understand the disorder and the biological reality of males. As an aside, published research shows that young people, males, blacks, and, to a lesser extent, other minorities have higher prevalence of lifetime NPD than do older people, females, and non-Hispanic whites. You can google all that if you are interested – myself, I’m not getting into the whys and implications of race or age relationships with narcissistic disorders here – my focus is, as always, on male bullshit and how it affects women and girls. I have a great deal of personal experience with NPD family members, and what I will say is that the abuse they dish out is worse and more damaging to the core self than physical abuse. Most survivors of narcissistic and physical abuse will also tell you that. I’ll write more about my NPD experience in another post.
Antagonism is a chief trait of narcissists, and specifically, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The arrogance, constant arguing, and pathological need to exploit people are warning signs that you are dealing with a very dangerous and destructive person with a problem that is likely never, ever, ever going to change no matter how much you try to help them.
Regardless of whether you are dealing with a weak ass male with ego problems or a true blue NPD, my advice is to get away as soon as you can. If you are stuck in a relationship (family, work situation) with them, you have a decision to make: develop strategies that will allow you to reduce the effects of antagonistic attacks (or avoid them as much as you can), or get the hell out. I always do the latter, but it comes at a very high cost. Worth it to me, but you have to weigh your options according to your own needs.
Posted on January 2, 2021, in Conversations with Men, Language, Male Privilege and tagged antagonism, feminism, narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on A Is for Antagonism.