According to various opinions, not all sociopaths are created equal. There are the “non-functional” sociopaths (i.e., serial killers) and “functional” sociopaths (i.e., successful sociopaths). The functional female sociopath uses her lack of empathy to annihilate those pesky male counterparts (or, frankly, anyone who gets in the way), paving the way for woman-kind.
Yay them! Right? I mean, why can’t functional female sociopaths be on the same playing field as functional male sociopaths? Well, they can be. And they are. The last time I checked, evil is still evil. You can put a dress suit and lipstick on it, or you can put starched collars and neckties on it, sociopathy is still a blemish on humanity regardless of how you dress it up.
What I’m referring to is the piece Donna posted last Monday (May 19, 2014). HuffPost Live featured a live chat discussing Digg.com’s article “The Female Sociopath“, featuring the article’s author Merve Emre, Donna, Dean Haycock (author of Murderous Minds), and a diagnosed female sociopath.
Merve’s article describes pop culture’s fascination with femme fatales (e.g., Amy Dunne in the novel Gone Girls). Personally, I don’t think the fascination with “bad girls” is anything cutting-edge (see Susan Hayward in Valley of the Dolls (1967), Jean Gillie in Decoy (1946), Marie Windsor in The Killing (1956), etc.). What disturbed me was the article seemed to paint sociopathic women in a heroic light.
I was also shocked how Donna and Sandra L. Brown were disparaged. Donna took a leap of faith by sharing her past with the public – at the risk of being torn down by naysayers – in order to help others. A few minutes perusing Donna’s website and one will see the countless people she has helped.
Sandra, meanwhile, has a Masters Degree in Counseling and is the founder of many mental health programs.
It seemed ironic, then, to champion women’s rights, yet promote those who destroy other humans beings and then discredit the women who educate and support those harmed by these monsters.
In Merve’s defense, she did state in her response to Ester Bloom’s article (as well as in her HuffPost Live chat) that she wasn’t endorsing female sociopaths, nor referring to the pathology of sociopathy, but was rather addressing the casual way in which the term is thrown around and how it is applied in daily life (such as women in the workplace). I re-read Merve’s article hoping I somehow missed latent sarcasm, but the glorification of female sociopaths loomed too large to ignore. I felt nauseous, because I know the real thing is not admirable in any way.
First of all, I completely agree with Donna and Dean Haycock that labeling fictional villainesses as sociopaths is a slippery slope. Too often the condition is misrepresented.
Case-in-point: Merve states that “Unlike [run-of-the-mill crazies], the functional sociopath isn’t ‘dismissible’ as a slave to her emotions.” Ah, but they are. They are slaves to their condition, which fully dictates their emotions. Unlike healthy women, they do not have the free will to turn their emotions “on” or “off”. They do not have the free will to show genuine remorse or compassion. Oh, they may “feign” kindness, but at the end of the day they still succumb to their apathy-inducing illness.
The reality is, there is nothing appealing about a true sociopath. Having been raised by a psychopathic mother AND father, I am very aware of what it looks like in real life, as well as how gender played a role in each of their conditions. I experienced life with them on a daily basis for nearly 40 years. I spent years working with psychiatrists: the psychiatrists who tried (and failed) to protect others from my mother (as well as my mother from herself) and the psychiatrists who helped me heal from the aftermath of my parents’ evil.
Alyona Minkovski began the HuffPost Live chat with “How similar are [sociopaths] of real life, and the fictional variety? These questions were posed in a new Digg.com article aptly entitled “The Female Sociopath.” However, nowhere in this article did I glean even a hint of how tragic real-life sociopathy is.
Meet my mother:
A woman who lied to, stole from, and cheated her children for the sheer thrill of it.
A woman who framed and gas-lighted her children for the joy of seeing them suffer.
A woman who invented ways to destroy her older children’s marriages because she couldn’t stand the thought of anyone being happy (not even her own offspring).
A woman who slandered others to ruin their careers, simply because she “didn’t like them.”
A woman who belittled, tormented, and abused her terminally ill husband, just because he was in a weakened state and couldn’t defend himself (yes, my father was also a psychopath, but cancer left him a shell of a person in his last days).
Worst of all, a woman who took pleasure in mercilessly tormenting her Down’s Syndrome child (my little brother). A woman who reminded him on a consistent basis that “daddy is dead” because she found it empowering and fun to make him cry.
A woman who sometimes did/sometimes didn’t give her Down’s Syndrome child his heart medication simply for the thrill of having his life teeter in her hands.
I guess the intended meaning of Digg’s “The Female Sociopath” was lost on me. Instead, I saw sociopathic women being blanketed as a group of misunderstood but admirable underdogs who – if society would just gave them a chance – (cue the Stuart Smalley music) they would be good enough, smart enough, and dog gone it, people would like them.
If my little brother were with us today, I think he would beg to differ.