Why women “ignore” red flags

“when they expect you to be their girlfriend, without being your boyfriend” red flag, Sophie King.

Some people blame men mistreating women, on women “ignoring” red flags. People imply that the fault lies with women, for being too “gullible”, “naïve” and “stupid”:

“How couldn’t you see this coming?”, “you should have known better”, “how could you fall for his bullshit?”, “we all saw the red flags”, “the writing was on the wall!”.

However, the reality of why women “ignore” red flags, is a lot more complex than because they’re “stupid”. Society conditions us (especially women), to excuse, justify and minimise men’s bad behaviour. You can’t blame women for failing to “see” men’s red flags, when they’re continuously sent the message they’re green ones.

On top of being taught by society to romanticise and normalise men’s “red flags”, men manipulate them too. Women don’t “fall” for men’s bullshit, men lead them on through lies and gaslighting, they take advantage of their feelings to emotionally manipulate them. When you’re experiencing such manipulation first-hand, it’s very hard to see “red flags” from an outsider’s perspective.

Also, if you have feelings for someone, naturally you’re going to want to give them the benefit of the doubt. In fact, we’re taught that in order to have a healthy relationship, we have to trust our partner and believe the best in them. However, when we do exactly that but they turn out bad, suddenly blame is shifted onto us. Now we’re “too trusting” and “delusional”.

However, it’s seen as a negative trait within women to be wary of men. You can’t win: wrong to trust men, wrong not to. Trusting = stupid, distrustful = cynical and bitter. It’s confusing being a woman, we’re sent mixed messages:

Men change when they find the right woman” becomes “I can’t believe you thought he’d change”. “Be forgiving!” becomes “what a doormat”. “Don’t hold people’s past against them” becomes “it was obvious they were a bad person”.

How can you blame women for not recognising red flags, when they’re not taught how? When society misleads us by normalising and romanticising toxic traits in men? The truth is, people hate women. They see women being fooled by men, by no fault of their own, as an excuse to degrade them and dismiss them as “stupid”.

The victim-blaming of women, perpetuates the problem further. If women feel “stupid”, it makes them doubt their own perceptions and ability to discern red flags. If women blame themselves for how men mistreat them — that there’s something inherently wrong with them that caused it, they won’t believe they deserve better.

If people actually cared about women, they wouldn’t treat them with contempt, they’d educate them about red flags, they’d empower them to trust themselves and their gut instincts. Instead, women’s feelings are invalidated, they’re told they’re “overthinking”, “overreacting”, “too sensitive”, “paranoid”, “crazy”.

It’s ingrained in women to self-blame when they’re fooled: “how couldn’t I see this coming?”, “I’m an idiot!”, “I shouldn’t have trusted them”. However, hindsight is 20/20. Beating yourself up over what others did to you, changes nothing because you’re not the issue and never was. Even if you were “naïve”, so what! They’re even more in the wrong for taking advantage of that.

I’m not saying don’t learn about red flags, I’m saying no matter how hard we try to see red flags, it’s still the perpetrators fault regardless. You should never be motivated to work on your expectations and boundaries based on shame and fear. Women can’t be expected to predict men’s behaviour, to be clairvoyant, mind-reading. To be FBI agents on high alert for red flags 24/7. That’s not a way to live!

artist and writer based in the UK sophieking.co

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