What's Bugging Women?

11 years ago

At the wedding of my brother-in-law two weekends ago, I was slightly taken aback by how many times well-wishing toasters joked about his new wife’s fear and loathing of bugs. Ever since she had taken up residence with my husband’s brother, Gwenn has not been forced to call her dad or friends for help whenever a bug popped up in her apartment. (For the record, this is not uncommon in even the tidiest and cleanest of New Yorker’s apartments.) The newest member of my extended family could rely on her hubby to take care of these creepy little problems for her.

As the resident insecticide in my household, I chortled upon hearing this. Whenever my husband sees a six- or eight-legged uninvited guest in our home, he screams and runs away. This is particularly annoying to me as sometimes it manages to disappear before I can appear on the scene with my murdering equipment. I’m not asking my squeamish husband to kill the things, but can’t he at least monitor their activities until I get there? In fact, my husband hates bugs so much that I finally convinced him, after three years of constructive arguments, that we should get a pet rabbit because bunnies kill bugs. (Note: this is not a true statement, but it was very effective and some experts believe that roaches and other varmints are repelled by the smell of animal litter, which I do think helped us a bit in the long run.)

I adore my husband for many reasons, and one of them is that he is not afraid to admit his stereotypically “girly” fear of bugs. However, as I’ve been reflecting on my brother-in-law’s wedding, I began wandering how many women vs. men have entomophobia. Men as stereotypically portrayed as big, strong, and protective (fearing not even those multi-legged prehistoric critters that sometimes appear and make me nervous), keeping the pretty little lady safe from harm that is unlikely to occur from killing a roach, even if it is completely disgusting.

Erin at I Don’t Buy It, in her beautiful post about her dying grandmother, noted that:

She credits herself for my non-fear of bugs and things-that-crawl from my time in her garden and the things that i would encounter in the raspberry patch and rows of beans. I do remember running screaming from the berries after tossing the harvest into the air after a daddy long legs found his way into the bucket. But i went back in.she explained he had every right to be there, and the good wirk he did.

This made me realize that women who are in direct contact with the earth – gardening, farming, tending plants, etc. – are of course less likely to fear bugs. Insects are a fact of every day life and play an important role in keeping plants and soil healthy. It seems that women who garden also can distinguish between “helpful” and “destructive” types of bugs.

On the other hand, Amy at Lively Days wrote about her fear of bugs because of a tragicomic recent run in with a mosquito:

I have a fear of bugs… I know it’s a phobia because my fear is completely irrational. I know that most bugs won’t hurt me, but they freak me out so bad that they cause me to become overly anxious.

Maybe my phobia started as a child. I remember my parents telling a story about how I wouldn’t go outside for an entire summer because I was afraid a bug would land on me (I must have been really young because I don’t recall this). My parents also used to get cockroaches in their house because they live in a damp area. Several roaches have crawled on me over the years (one even managed to get inside my coat once), so these experiences traumatized me.

Aside from an occasional bee sting (thankfully I’m not allergic to them), I’ve never been harmed by a bug. My fear might seem more legitimate if a bug had actually hurt me somehow… People probably think I’m strange when they see how I react to bugs. But for whatever reason, that is one thing I just cannot deal with.

I think Amy is being too hard on herself. Her fear of bugs sound completely legit to me based on finding a roach in her coat (I shudder to think of this). And even if her dislike of bugs doesn’t have a grounding from some childhood experience, we are all entitled to have a thing or two that we “just cannot deal with.”

However, if someone finds themselves crippled with fear, as the anonymous blogger at if I wrote you found herself one day this past August, maybe it is time to seek help. Staying locked in a room because one fears sighting a bug cannot be healthy for anyone. She notes, “I really, really need to deal with this phobia. I guess I'm just lucky that none of them were lurking around when my parents were gone, otherwise I would have spent the entire week in my room.”

In all my blog reading about people with fears of bugs and people who fear things other than bugs, I only found one man who admitted to fearing creepy crawlies. Greg at 1 Happy St. highly recommends that those who want to avoid insect bites and the creatures who cause them use OFF! In fact he loves it so much that he feels it would make a great holiday gift or birthday present. (Needless to say, I don’t think OFF! is going to appear on the Top 10 Feminist Gifts list that I will post on BlogHer on Dec. 13, but as long as I am digressing, please feel free to email me at cussandotherrants AT gmail DOT com and let me know if you have any more exciting recommendations or if you do think OFF! would be a great gift.)

In conclusion, my decidedly unscientific survey of whether more women than men are afraid of bugs (and why) seems to indicate that more women are certainly willing to write about their phobia than men. It also surprised me by how many women really hate bugs and live in semi-irrational fear of them, not that this is necessarily a problem or result of some gender divide. (My husband insists that he does not fear bugs, he just doesn’t like them. “They don’t like me either,” he claims, “which works out just fine that way.”) Interesting stuff.

Where do you stand (and with how many legs) on the topic of insects and spiders?

Suzanne blogs about her fears of bikini waxing and life’s other misadventures at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants. Her husband did, in fact, help her kill a roach this morning.

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