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To think the 'narcissist diagnosis' on MN is sexist?

(68 Posts)
Farandole Tue 14-Feb-17 02:19:56

Not a TAAT, but a general musing.

There have been a huge number of threads lately (although not a new phenomenon) where posters complain that their mother, MIL, SIL etc are narcs.

There are nowhere as many threads complaining of narcissistic fathers, BILs etc.

Considering that studies show that men show more narcissistic traits than women, and are almost twice as likely to have narcissistic personality disorder, I am curious as to why mumsnetters identify narc traits in so many women around them.

My hypothesis is that this is the result of unconscious bias. We don't begrudge men's self-entitlement as much as we do women's. Therefore we are less likely to recognise narcissistic behaviour in men.

One other possibility is that narc mothers are more likely than narc fathers to use their children to fulfill their narcissistic needs, whereas narc fathers tend to see their children as an annoyance, and therefore tend to be neglectful rather than other, perhaps more obvious, narc behaviours. So their narcissism flies under the radar of 'bad parenting', whereas women are branded as narcs.

Am I the only one who thinks this?

For full disclosure - long time poster, no personal interest in this, no narc in immediate family. I'm just puzzled by the over abundance of female narcs in mumsnetters' lives.

treaclesoda Tue 14-Feb-17 02:32:28

There is also the fact that on mumsnet it sometimes feels like a MIL only has to want to see her son occasionally or cuddle her grandchildren occasionally to be labelled as narcissistic. There often doesn't seem to be any forgiveness at all extended to in laws who make even the slightest mistake in interacting with someone. It's always narcissistic or malicious, rather than misguided or clumsy.

Obviously no one is going to feel the need to start a thread saying how wonderful their in laws are, but if you took mumsnet as a reflection of society, every set of in-laws in the country are made up of a narcissistic female and a racist misogynist male.

That's not to say that such people don't exist of course, but the self selecting nature of the site makes it seem that they are the norm rather than the exception.

NightWanderer Tue 14-Feb-17 02:35:01

There are literally loads of threads calling husbands and Exes narcs confused

NightWanderer Tue 14-Feb-17 02:36:24

Sorry autocorrect added that literally. grin

Seriously, there are loads though. I happily call my ex a narcs.

lubeybooby Tue 14-Feb-17 02:57:42

I thought this was gonna be how it was only men that get called narcissist.. quite pleased to see there must actually be some kind of balance here then!

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 14-Feb-17 02:59:24

You've clearly missed my threads calling my FIL a narc.

Farandole Tue 14-Feb-17 03:16:19

I only had a gut feeling when I posted the OP, but a quick MN search certainly confirms my hunch - yes there are many threads on (male) narc EXHs and FILs, but their numbers are dwarfed by the number of (female) narc mother/MIL/sister/SIL threads. This is the exact opposite of what it should be if it reflected the incidence of NPD in real life.

Treacle I agree there's a tendency on here (possibly on the web generally) to see things in black and white and to attribute malicious intent. I see this in a lot of MIL and ex-wives threads.

MagicChicken Tue 14-Feb-17 03:28:03

My hypothesis is that this is the result of unconscious bias. We don't begrudge men's self-entitlement as much as we do women's. Therefore we are less likely to recognise narcissistic behaviour in men.

I usually roll my eyes at many posts that claim to see some hidden or very tenuous misogyny and I think many feminists on MN are far too determined to find it in everything and anything when it's not always there, but do you know what? I think you might be onto something this time.

MagicChicken Tue 14-Feb-17 03:35:25

I do also think though, that it's simply the case that many many women intensely dislike and distrust their MILs and SILs and their DP's ex-wives. All too often the person in question isn't a narc at all - it's just become the new thing to say about anyone you don't like, especially if there is an element of having to compete for attention or jockey for position against them.

I'd be interested to see if there are as many people complaining about their narc mothers and sisters, as opposed to MILs and SILs - I suspect not.

DixieNormas Tue 14-Feb-17 03:37:20

Me too Lubey I think the majority of them arnt narcs, if someone doesn't like you very much their behaviour towards you may not be very nice. Doesn't mean they have a personality disorder

Farandole Tue 14-Feb-17 03:48:04

Yes Magic I'm sure you're right and it is used inappropriately sometimes to validate an OP's dislike of someone. It does seem to be 'in' at the moment.

However, there are loads of threads about 'narc' mums and sisters - I haven't done a tally but at first glance they seem about as frequent as the MIL/SIL ones.

Farandole Tue 14-Feb-17 03:59:47

Actually, scratch that. From my unscientific review of the search function, the overwhelming majority of narc threads are about mothers (not MILs). The next category is exhs, in a much lower proportion. Then you have sisters and MILs, followed by 'others': female bosses, female friends, fathers, FILs, SILs all seem about as frequent. Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be many narc brothers or BILs.

So overall, females and particularly mothers are massively over represented.

Olympiathequeen Tue 14-Feb-17 04:01:07

Mumsnet would fold if it weren't for all the virulent narc MILs to complain about! My MIL is lovely.

SpareASquare Tue 14-Feb-17 04:07:34

I haven't noticed that there are more women, just that everyone seems to be a 'narc' these days. Dr Google diagnosed, of course.

Lessthanaballpark Tue 14-Feb-17 04:14:01

We probably expect more in terms of keeping family relations going from female members than male. Therefore they are more likely to disappoint our higher expectations and seen as selfish.

SuperBeagle Tue 14-Feb-17 04:14:59

In my case, it's that my family has many more women than men, so there are going to be more women with mental health issues than there will be men.

FWIW, my paternal grandmother is a narcissist. My paternal grandfather and my aunt were/are both psychopaths, though. Far worse than pure narcissism.

Pineappletastic Tue 14-Feb-17 04:16:58

My hypothesis is that it's because in a lot of cases if your father has these traits your mother would have left him, or you would have a LC relationship with him based on him being a twat, or it might not be as obvious given how much communication gets left to women in some families (I always speak to my mum on the phone, my dad only answers if she's out).

So basically, we have more issues with narc mothers because of how close we're 'supposed' to be to our mums.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Tue 14-Feb-17 04:32:43

YABU, and pretty much by your own "research" as well. Yes there might be a bias towards mothers/ female relatives being NPD, but as exes figure largely as well, then no, it is not a sexist label.

Farandole Tue 14-Feb-17 04:41:23

We probably expect more in terms of keeping family relations going from female members than male. Therefore they are more likely to disappoint our higher expectations and seen as selfish.

Less, I think you are right.

It is still interesting to see the reversal in proportion though. 75% of all real life NPD sufferers are men. Yet on MN, about 75% of narc threads are about women. This means (if I've got my maths right) female 'narcs' are over represented by a factor of 10.

It's the magnitude of it that makes me think there may be some bias involved.

Farandole Tue 14-Feb-17 04:46:14

Thumb, just because anecdotally some narc threads are about men, that doesn't mean there is no sexist bias to the label.

Trifleorbust Tue 14-Feb-17 07:07:20

I totally agree - rarely applied to men who demonstrate same behaviour.

Trifleorbust Tue 14-Feb-17 07:10:35

And they're rarely likely to be 'narcs' - just jerks.

Huldra Tue 14-Feb-17 07:11:20

I'm a 70s child and my parents & grandparents had fairly traditional relationships, the day to day looking after and all emotional work was left to the women. It was similar in many of my friends houses. If narc is fair or not, surely the desire to control, be critical and manipulate could show in different ways?

Father sniff and turn away at the thought of comforting a crying child, or helping to get the house ready for a party. All that household crap is beneath him, so on the surface wont use any of it to status grab. He may even come across as the fun chilled out one, whilst silly mummy scurries about. He will boast endlessly about his important job at the party. At work change the rules all the time with his staff, get them walking on egg shells, make a massive show of the best wine with clients. With grown up children he shows interest only in the ones that have also got the the top of their careers. The rest know from exclusion that they have disappointed. The mother may try to show her disapproval to a grown up daughter by being citical of their house, colour paint in the lounge. Not realizing that the grown up daughter is in a different world and doesn't judge their self worth in the same way.

Same shit.

DonkeyOaty Tue 14-Feb-17 07:16:29

Ooooooh search is fixed <misses the point>

luckylucky24 Tue 14-Feb-17 07:23:23

I think it is more to do with a general dislike of MIl/SIL that has people looking for labels. MY MIL is a pita sometimes but a good person. Would never deserve such a label. The only Narc I know is a male and was best man at our wedding!

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