During a social conflict that I was involved with recently, I was called manipulative. Actually, the phrase used to describe me was “intensely manipulative.”
Now, on a personal level, this is laughable. Anyone who has spent at least fifteen minutes interacting with my ADD self knows that I am far too busy attempting to control my own thought process to even vaguely attempt to control someone else’s.
But it did get me thinking. “Manipulative” is an adjective that I’ve heard applied almost exclusively to the female gender. I had thought, for a while, that manipulation was essentially a gendered construct that exists simply because women are socialized away from pursuing their needs and desires directly, and therefore must manifest their own destinies through indirect means.
And that may be true, but in terms of a characterization of any particular woman, I think it’s far more simple. Think of it like a formula.
A person is referred to as “manipulative” if she:
(1) Is a woman, and
(2) Is smarter than the person she is interacting with.
I shall forthwith consider “manipulative” as a descriptor to be a compliment.