To celebrate the upcoming release of my third novel, Driving in Neutral—a love story about claustrophobia—I am running the 75 Days of Phobia series. Some people fear small enclosed spaces, others find a particular woman more sinister.
Alrighty, kids. Lets talk about Pentheraphobia, the phobia that presents a woman as the bad guy, but not the bad guy in a cool anti-hero sort of way, the bad guy in the totally-EVIL-with-no-redeeming-qualities-MONSTER sort of way. This presentation also makes women the butt of a lot of jokes, usually bad ones.
Yes, as the rotten card suggests, Pentheraphobia is the fear of one’s mother-in-law.
I wrote about a feral mother who’d become a feral mother-in-law in my novel A Basic Renovation. Peggy was foul, but she was always foul. She didn’t sprout horns overnight to become the evil monster-in-law. She was a She-bitch from the get-go. I’d really, really like to know the history of this phobia, without any of the Freudy bits about Oedipus and Electra and penis envy. This is not a culturally bound phenomenon. Why is it that mothers in law across cultures get such a bad rap? Who started it?
If you ask me, this is a case of fear begetting fear. A mother worries about her child. A wife worries about her husband. Was the evil mother in-law once an evil daughter in-law? Does it become some vicious circle of fear and loathing? I haven’t quite figured it out, but someone is afraid of someone and that seems to starts the evilness. Or something. There’s a TV series about this phobia called Evil In Law. I had no idea it existed. It runs on ID, the US Investigation Discovery Channel. I haven’t seen it, but I wonder if it explains which fear came first, the nasty mother-in-law or the nasty daughter in-law? I wonder if it delves into the possibility the monster lies within every woman?
I have no issue with my Mother in-law. In fact, I adore both of my in-laws. They are a second set of parents to me and I think I am blessed. But if you have a problematic Mother in-law, help me out here. Leave a a comment to let us know why you think she’s evil.