Recently, a very good (male) friend of mine went through a painful and protracted divorce. Through our hours-long conversations, I learned about an author named Lundy Bancroft.
Mr. Bancroft wrote a bestselling book called Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, which seems to have gained popularity in some circles, especially among women. In the book, he identifies and names various patterns of behavior among men that he considers abusive. (An excerpt can be found here. Note that the text doesn't appear in the same order as in the book.)
Some aren't controversial. For instance, a man who displays the abusive behavioral pattern that he calls "The Terrorist" "frequently reminds his partner that he could physically rip her to pieces or even kill her." I think everyone would agree that this certainly qualifies as abusive behavior.
But other behavioral patterns that Mr. Bancroft identifies are dubious, if not downright absurd. He claims to have identified a type called "Mr. Sensitive" whose horrifying character traits include being "soft-spoken, gentle, and supportive" and who "openly shar[es] his insecurities, his fears, and his emotional injuries." How is that abusive, you ask? Well, Mr. Bancroft says that these men, who often have their feelings easily hurt, are actually manipulating women with those hurt feelings.
Mr. Bancroft also identifies an abusive pattern he calls "The Victim," in which a man who claims to have been abused by a previous partner is actually guilty of abuse himself. How so? Because being angry toward a previous partner or blaming her actions for the failed relationship makes it "likely that he was the abusive one."
So, a man who claims to be an abuse victim is actually an abuse perpetrator. That's an extraordinary claim. Surely, there's a mountain of evidence for it. Nope. Just take his word on it. What are you, some sort of abuser?
Are All Men Abusers? (Hint: Yes, They Are)
Reading through the list of behavioral patterns, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Bancroft believes that all men are abusers. If "soft-spoken, gentle, and supportive" men are actually emotionally manipulative abusers, then what man isn't an abuser?
I'm no expert in psychology, but I do know that one of the keys of conflict resolution is to never call people names. If somebody does something really stupid, the appropriate response is to say, "That action was really stupid," not "You're really stupid." That's a subtle but important distinction. The former is fixable; the latter is not. By calling someone "stupid," you've assigned to that person an immutable character trait.
But Mr. Bancroft does this all the time in his book. Any man who does anything wrong isn't just guilty of abusive behavior but is labeled an "abuser." Worse, Mr. Bancroft claims that "men from any of the categories... can turn kind and loving at any moment and stay in that mode for days, weeks, or even months." In other words, once an abuser, always an abuser. Any evidence to the contrary is simply a distraction from the fact that, sometime in the future, the abuser will be abusive again.
This is destructive, evidence-free psychobabble, not self-help.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Mr. Bancroft completely smears and stigmatizes men who suffer from mental illness. He claims that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) "can increase the chance that an abuser will be dangerous and use physical violence." This is pure garbage. Like with most mental illnesses, people who suffer from OCD are not usually violent. In fact, those who have a particular type called harm OCD (in which they experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts about committing acts of violence) may be less likely than the average person to physically harm someone.
Lundy Bancroft Is an Anti-Vaxxer
Surprise, surprise. The guy who gets basic psychology wrong also gets basic medical science wrong: Lundy Bancroft is an anti-vaxxer. Here he is spreading the thoroughly disproved lie that vaccines cause autism. For good measure, he implies that the scientists who reached that conclusion did so through deception.
Here he is spouting typical anti-vaccine propaganda about mercury in vaccines.
This is a double lie. First, vaccines do not contain mercury. They never have. Some do contain thimerosal, which is an organic molecule that contains a mercury atom, but it is scientifically illiterate to call that "mercury." The nature of an atom changes when it becomes part of a molecule. Two explosive gases, hydrogen and oxygen, when combined in the correct ratio form a notably non-explosive, life-sustaining molecule called water.
Second, only multi-dose flu vaccine vials contain thimerosal as a preservative. If you're still afraid of it, you can get a flu vaccine from a single-dose vial.
Also, note that the study he cites is utterly meaningless. Even if getting a flu shot doesn't cause kids to miss fewer school days, the flu shot does help stop the spread of the flu. Older people are the likeliest to die from the flu, so if your family likes grandma, it's smart to vaccinate the kids.
But Mr. Bancroft encourages people not to follow the CDC's vaccination schedule.
Mr. Bancroft, who also considers himself an expert in "child maltreatment," should note that various states have legal precedents suggesting that not vaccinating your kids is a form of medical neglect, which arguably falls under the category of child maltreatment.
Perhaps Mr. Bancroft should add "The Anti-Vaxxer" to his list of abusive behavioral types.