Just Because You Display The Emotional Range of a Teaspoon Doesn’t Mean We All Must

“Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all do”–Hermione Granger, to Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My love of Harry Potter aside, it’s a generally accepted observation that guys display less emotion than girls.

Not that they FEEL less, mind you.  That would be just a tad absurd, would it not?  But they are conditioned to display it less.  Crying is not considered manly.  Anger they can get away with.  Anyone can be happy.  But sadness?  Frustration?  How about that feeling of just being completely overwhelmed?  Not considered manly.

Me, personally?  I respect a guy who is not afraid to admit he does not have it all together.  It’s just really rare, in a hypermasculinized society, to see such a thing.  (Hayley will likely have more to say in this issue, as she is more familiar with men’s issues than I am).

That said, women are traditionally depicted as the weaker sex.  The more emotional sex.  Why do you think the Yin–the dark, wet, emotional side of the universe–is feminine?  There are lots of reasons-~-we were just programmed this way, or maybe it’s our hormones (these are theories).  In reality, of course, the weakness of women in comparison to men is just as socially constructed as virtually every OTHER difference between the genders.  As Gloria Steinem beautifully pointed out in her essay If Men Could Menstruate, women are perceived to be most emotional around their periods.  The interesting thing is that this is the time of the month when women have the LOWEST levels of estrogen in their bodies-~-meaning this is the time in which their hormones are most similar to the levels experienced by men.

Alright, let’s not just blame women and their periods for being emotional.  I think everyone here knows there is a lot more to it.

Yashar Ali, a writer at the Huffington Post, recently published an article about this exact issue.  He explains that when men blame women for their reactions to things by claiming they are “overreacting” and making them feel guilty for feeling the way they do, it is just an example of emotional manipulation.  He goes on to argue that the frequency with which these kind of arguments are used constitutes an epidemic of blame in this country, in which women are portrayed and are taught to believe that they are hypersensitive or crazy because of how they react.

The truth, as Ali rightly points out, is that it is much easier to push burdens onto the gender that has been been conditioned by society to accept them.  It is, as he says, “the ultimate cowardice”.  Rather than admit fault, men (although women may do this too at times, I am focusing on the role of men in this situation) simply shift the burden to women, causing them to doubt whether or not their reactions were rational or whether or not they even had a right to feel the way they did.

And the result is that a lot of women, even confident women, fall victim to this, and lose the ability to express how they feel about situations because they will be shut down and made to feel that they are, in fact, reacting in an inappropriate way.

Women who do this are just as guilty, mind you.  When you point out that your mother-in-law’s comment about how hideous your shirt is was hurtful and she tells you that you’re overreacting, she is just as guilty.

Ali makes a final, excellent observation at the end of his piece in the HuffPost: is it just women who are conditioned to accept these burdens, or is society in general conditioned to believe that what women feel and what women say does not hold the same weight, and that men should therefore dismiss their sentiments?


Ladies, I do not have an answer to that final question, but realize as I write this that you DO have a right to feel the way you do.  When a guy stands you up or a girl disses your clothes or a boss tells you that you are worthless and you are pissed, don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have a right to be.  If some lunatic runs over your pet in the street, don’t let your boyfriend tell you that it’s “just a cat, get over it”.  And guys, stop telling women that what they feel is irrational, that they need to calm down.  Stop shooting down everything they do or say, and for crying out loud, call ahead if you’re going to be late and apologize when you screw up.


~ by Randi Saunders on November 13, 2011.

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