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Shyness, under the label of, “social anxiety disorder”, has been built up as an “unhealthy”, or “suspicious”, state of mind for people living in modern Western societies. In that it’s behavioral, “symptoms”, suggest a failure to achieve a non-universal set of racial or culturally based values, such as chattiness, individual expression, and assertiveness. Shyness is more and more defined as a problem for which people can, and should, be treated, usually with drugging.

Female shyness 'cute', but male shyness 'bad'Edit

McDaniel (2001)[1] argues that high amounts of concern regarding shyness comes during times when it is thought of as a barrier to the emotional work required to achieve intimacy in hetero relationships for both genders. Shyness in women and children has traditionally been seen as endearing and ‘cute’ (Scott 2004a)[2], and men are given more social stigma as being shy. Media representations of shy male characters focus on the barriers this poses to success at work and in personal relationships (Scott 2003),[3] where the shyness in romantic situations (Gilmartin 1987)[4] implies a tragic, “failure”, to assert one’s masculinity. Shyness is shown as a ‘feminine’ trait in the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem 1974)[5], alongside moodiness, gullibility, soft-spokenness, compassion and unpredictability. Being, “mentally healthy”, typically implies masculine instead of feminine traits (Broverman et al. 1970)[6]. Therefore, shyness being a feminine trait would explain why shyness has been seen as an undesirable attribute, particularly in men. Besides mainstream culture, the relatively underground network of men’s websites acknowledge this phenomena as well, just more to-the-point:

Shyness as desirable in China but not in Canada/USEdit

School peer acceptanceEdit

Shyness and sensitivity has been found in a study to be a highly desired trait among Shanghai schoolchildren.(Chen, Rubin and Sun 1992)[7] "Shy" and "senstive" children were found to be the most sought-out as friends (aka not ostracized). In contrast, the researchers found the opposite in a Canadian setting, with the non-shy being the most sought-after as friends. This is similar to a general stereotype that being shy can be a social asset outside certain Western countries, suggesting aversion to shyness is a cultural or racial triat, rather than a universal biological trait.

General acceptanceEdit

Shyness is also promoted as valuable by adults in China. Shy, reticent, and quiet children are called "guai" in Mandarin, which means "good" or "wellbehaved." Also, children who are sensitive and reticent are said to be "dongshi" (understanding) in China, which is a commonly used term for praising a child there.(Chen, Rubin and Sun 1992) In contrast, in the United States, shyness is usually viewed as deviant and immature (aka something not approved of). (Cheek & Buss, 1981; Rubin & Asendorpf, in press)[8]

Female stigmatizationEdit

Women are stigmatized in a gendered way by shyness-as-disorder as well. For example, in the context of established relationships (Giddens 1991)[9]. This “newly discovered insideous problem” is described as a woman’s inability to assert herself to a point that it poses a serious threat to a particular view of how, “life-politics”, should be. Shyness in women is often seen in western culture as just another, “female malady” (Showalter 1985)[10], as some sort of unnecessarily feminine behaviour.

American psychiatric associationEdit

Those in the APA and other organizations who helped create “social phobia” as a disorder in 1980 (Marc-Antoine 2015)[11] hopefully acknowledged shyness at best occupies a blurred line between health risk and an unnecessarily socially constructed deviance. However, the social construction begets the health risk, with the APA playing a large negative role. A variety of anxiety phenomena is due to drugs (Cohen 1995)[12] rather than biology. Emotional disturbance from shyness is a valid social reaction from shy people who are ostracized more so than others from those who need confidence from *others* based on a certain masculine set of cultural values.

(The above text was originally authored by Wiki admin User:William on Medium for the anti-psychiatric social justice blog Mad in America, it has been reproduced with permission, and may be taken down with subsequent permission)


  1. McDaniel, P.A. (2001) Shrinking violets and casper milquetoasts: shyness and heterosexuality from the roles of the fifties to the rules of the nineties, Journal of Social History, 2001, 34, 3, 547–68.
  2. .Scott, S. (2004a) The shell, the stranger and the competent other: towards a sociology of shyness, Sociology, 38, 1, 121–37.
  3. Scott, S. (2003) Towards a Sociology of Shyness. PhD thesis. School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University.
  4. Gilmartin, B.G. (1987) Shyness and Love: Causes, Consequences and Treatment. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
  5. Bem, S.L. (1974) The measurement of psychological androgyny, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 152–62.
  6. Broverman, I.K., Broverman, D.M., Clarkson, F.E. Rosencrantz, P.S. and Vogel, S.R. (1970). Sex-role stereotypes and clinical judgements of mental health, Journal of Counselling and Clinical Psychology, 34, 1, 1–7.
  7. Chen, X. Rubin, K., Sun, Y. (1992) Social Reputation and Peer Relationships in Chinese and Canadian Children: A Cross-Cultural Study
  9. Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self Identity. Cambridge: Polity Press
  10. Showalter, E. (1985) The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture 1830–1980. New York: Pantheon
  11. Marc-Antoine, C. (2015) A history of anxiety: from Hippocrates to DSM, 2015, Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 319–325.
  12. Cohen, S I (1995) Alcohol and benzodiazepines generate anxiety, panic and phobias, Feb, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 88, 73–77.

See AlsoEdit