I’m an emotional person. I’m passionate, and freely feel joy, sadness, frustration, grief. I don’t see anything wrong with allowing myself to feel. In fact, emotions are a healthy part of living. So why are women’s feelings policed, categorized, and misinterpreted?
Most women have probably been told the following at multiple points in their lives:
“Don’t be dramatic.”
“You’re so emotional.”
“Are you on your period?”
It’s as if women’s emotions are weaponized against us in order to diminish and belittle our opinions. Imagine that!
Or if you’re a man, maybe you’ve heard one of these:
“Don’t be a pussy.”
“Boys don’t cry.”
During college, I minored in women’s and gender studies. In one of my classes, we were instructed to list adjectives for the categories of “men” and “women” written on the board. Men had descriptors like “strong” and “stoic” while adjectives such as “docile” and “nurturing” characterized women.
This was a transformational moment for me. It was one of the first times I’d seen a visual, physical representation of the ways in which emotions that most of us feel, or are capable of feeling, are prescribed to men versus women. Not only does this impact cis people, but also renders trans and gender nonconforming folks invisible by establishing a restrictive binary.
So, clearly, we are socialized to gender emotions. Whether it’s a father chastising his son for crying, men telling women to stop being dramatic when we are passionate and—God forbid—angry. Or pundits and politicians who claimed a woman couldn’t lead America because what if she makes an irrational, catastrophic decision during that time of the month? Since, you know, our current president never exhibits those traits.
Viewing emotions as experiences to be controlled, to suppress, to ignore is dangerous. These sexist practices have significant ramifications on mental, emotional, and physical health. And, often in boys and men, not having an emotional outlet can lead to troubling consequences.
According to The Representation Project, which produced acclaimed documentaries Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In, “Research shows that compared to girls, boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives.”
I recall too many moments throughout my life when somebody dismissed my justified anger and frustration as hysteria. When I was viewed as too “intense” or a “know it all” for passionately discussing a topic. “Can’t you just let it go and chill out?”
Folks of all genders should be able to freely, openly, and genuinely express and feel their emotions. Internalizing feelings for any human proves to be bad for your health and well-being, so let it out and be proud.