What reaction do you (women) get when someone says: “I think you’re being overly emotional”?
Rage? Confusion? A sudden violent streak that perhaps makes you look for nearby sharp objects? I get all of these and have done for a very long time. In fact, this happened just a few days ago, when a very condescending man told me to ‘not let my emotions get the better of me’ while I was debating the Assange case and the growing epidemic of rape apologism. If only he had known the consequences of that sentence. I like to imagine he is somewhere now, cowering and taking shelter from my rage. I doubt it. He was a bit of a tool.
But I’ve noticed, on many occasions, it’s been said to women to make them question their own argument or to make their argument sound irrational. Even when it is not. I’ve seen it used as a tool of manipulation in debates.
I get angry about it because it belittles not just a person’s feelings but it is directly associated with how women react and therefore an emotional response is considered extreme or less valuable. If someone is talking about rape, I’m not sure how that doesn’t evoke some form of emotional response.
In many cases when I discuss women’s issues whether the gender pay gap, violence against women, genital mutilation, austerity measures which adversely impact women, why wouldn’t I get emotional? I am being threatened or considered second class because of my identity, because of the person that I am. How is that not emotional?
It happens everywhere, everyday. Whether in the House of Commons whilst Davie tells a lass to ‘calm down dear’ or when the BBC interviews women from feminist organisations and pins them on each other, only for the male interviewer, to tell them not to be so ‘shrill.’ Many thanks, Radio 2 (unfortunately the podcast is no longer available).
But what I find most astonishing, is that the feminist movement is sometimes apologetic and keeps its emotions at bay. At times it feels like the movement is guilty of buying into the stereotype of women painted by society. That being emotional is not a good thing and is why women are not listened to.
In fact, many leadership studies have shown that emotional competence and intelligence is that mark of a good leader, manager or CEO. Shame more women don’t get the chance to illustrate this, or more men don’t leave the ‘angry successful man-in-charge routine’ for their lad mates.
I discussed this with my niece (the entire point of me writing!) and she said she had noticed this constantly, from her male friends, all the way through to her lecturers at University. One of which responded to her questions at the end of a class by saying “It’s always the girls that ask more questions, because they are always worried.” Excellent way to not only belittle all the women (not girls!) in your class, but also simultaneously, ensure no male puts is hand up in the future. Job well done.
But I should be honest, I criticise the movement because I am guilty of the same thing. For a long time (and at moments even now) I struggle with my emotional response. I used to think that showing my emotions in an argument (by that I don’t mean openly weeping, I mean becoming angry or more animated) would mean I would lose the argument (as if, I’m brilliant), or perhaps more importantly lose the respect of the other person. Foolishness.
But don’t men get emotional? Well of course they do, but it’s not called emotional, it’s called anger or assertiveness. More positive words. Grr, let’s all beat our chests.
I was having a debate (scratch that, total argument) with a man a few weeks ago, this was about the London riots. As you can imagine, my silly lefty ways, were irrational and emotional. What interested me, was that he too got emotional, but the emotional reaction just came out in a different way. He stood up and made his voice louder and angrier, in an attempt to intimidate me (he didn’t know me very well, clearly). This is an emotional, dare I say, overly emotional response. But it’s from a man, so it’s ok.
I don’t think we should scared of becoming emotional about issues that we care about. Equally, I don’t think we should argue cases without hard facts and evidence. But it’s ok to be both and it’s ok to be “a woman” about it.
A rather wonderful friends of mine said last week; “The most feminist thing I have ever done, is finding my own voice within my feelings and within my family. Feminism is about staying true to who you are, not conforming to who you are meant to be, even if it’s feminists telling you what that is” Quite.
I’ll leave you with this. How about while we fight for an equal place in politics, society and employment, let’s also fight for equality on an emotional platform.