Stereotyping, Bipolar, and Gender: How Do We Cope?
This is about gender stereotypes and bipolar behavior - an issue I know little or nothing about. I can use your help on this.
It started several days ago with a piece I wrote about Teddy Roosevelt, whose grandiosity and manic energy was the stuff of legend. Let’s put it this way - if one of us were to suddenly start acting like TR, someone close to us would be asking if we remembered to take our meds.
Nevertheless, it would be a stretch to give TR a bipolar diagnosis. This is because “functionality” trumps symptoms. In TR’s case, his mania proved freakishly benevolent, a strong breeze that he rode all the way to the Presidency.
Contrast that to the train wrecks the rest of us experience.
In a comment to my piece, Donna asked:
Do you think a woman who tended to have that kind of manic energy and personality would be seen as less fitting a candidate for U.S. President than such a man would be?
Knock me over with a feather. My short answer was that a woman would be regarded according to a very different standard. TR, after all, fit the stereotype of the swashbuckling male. A woman, I fear, would be pilloried for such behavior.
This raises a much larger issue, one - I’m amazed to say - I have not considered before, namely: How does our gender affect the way people around us look at our bipolar behavior?
I’m guessing it depends on how the reigning stereotype matches the particular behavior. So, in certain instances - say if I were to suddenly start dancing on the table - perhaps onlookers would cut me a bit of slack on account of my gender. Or would they be more disapproving?
What if I were to launch a Kickstarter campaign to found a new world religion? I’m guessing here that people would look at me far more sympathetically than if I were a woman. Who knows? Some might even fund my campaign.
But suppose my campaign failed (I really don’t see how it could), and I were to burst into tears? In this case, I’m sure I would be issued a citation for not staying inside my gender-stereotype lane. The world would be pitiless.
Which leads me to wonder: Are we already compensating for this sort of thing, perhaps unconsciously? In my case, the world may see a lot of my exuberant and eccentric behavior, but it never sees my depression. That I keep under strict lock and key.
Could any of this have to do with me being male?
This is Terra Incognita for all of us, but I know you have your own personal insights. Please feel free to share. We can all learn together. Comments below …
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.