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The Politics of Women’s Emotions

“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons” – Hillary Clinton 

What is the problem with women displaying their emotions?

Emotions are viewed as a stain that must be erased, not as evidence of a person’s humanity. Therefore, whenever a person is described as emotional, they are imagined to be reckless, unstable, and a woman.

Women react to issues differently than men by giving into emotions that allow them to be vulnerable. Men, due to stereotypes, detest emotions that make them vulnerable. This, to them, is an ultimate sign of weakness.

The problem with stereotypes is that first, they are made by people but when they persist long enough, people become moulded by them. For example, whoever started the narrative that men are not emotional beings is most likely dead. However, centuries after the birth of this narrative, it has become a guide to live by, a constraining watchword. There has been a gradual transition from “men can’t cry” to “men don’t cry” to “men must not cry.”

In women’s case, the stereotype that women are overly emotional has been peddled so long that this perception is almost inseparable from reality. It clouds people’s judgment of the impeccable track record of a female political candidate or how great the startup idea of a female founder is. This stereotype which has morphed into a constitutive bias is not peculiar to men, women also make decisions based on it.

However, a 2021 study carried out by the University of Michigan has dispelled the notion that women are more emotional than men. Dr Robert Blum, a professor of public health and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University said while the findings of this study showed no biological basis for females to be more emotional than males, there’s still “a strong and global finding that males are socialised to hide their emotions.”

During an ideology interview on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, the correspondent asked some women their thoughts on a possible female presidency and they shared similar stereotypic sentiments. It was a shocking rediscovery, as it showed how sexist conditioning can make people reduce themselves and think low of their gender. 

No matter how low a man’s emotional intelligence is, people will look past that character flaw and support him regardless. Not just that, he will be re-elected over and over as though this inability to control their mood is a desirable feature.

According to Wikipedia, emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. A higher EQ is an important attribute of good leaders. And contrary to assumptions, researchers have proven that women possess a superior emotional intelligence than men.

Downplaying your feelings is not the heroic show of strength as it is thought to be. If anything speaks of an individual’s resilience, it would be their emotional intelligence. It is determined by how well the individual can handle situations and people. 

Often, women are addressed as emotional not only to spite them but to suggest that they are incapable of being reasonable. This language is famously weaponised against women who are in power, contesting for office, vying for a higher corporate opening, pitching to investors, and so on. It is an age-long talking point when arguments about female leadership are raised.

On the other hand, men fail to realize that anger which they are prone to exhibiting is a form of emotion. If emotions are enough to keep women out of office, then men should never be allowed to contest elections.  

History tells us that men have initiated all of the documented wars. These wars were an interplay between two male leaders and their overwhelming inability to temper their anger and act logically. Because of their egos, male figures have instigated and led multiple wars. While wars have destroyed millions of lives, the statistical index of deaths caused by emotional outbursts is negligible.

Hillary Clinton made sure to make a point of that. In her address at the Democratic National Convention, she asks the crowd; “You really think Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander in chief?”

After the 2020 US elections, Donald Trump lost the race for a second tenure. His reaction to this loss was rather child-like. He called for a recount of votes, he accused the electoral body of malpractice, he insisted on remaining in the White House and incited a mob attack at the capitol while Senators were sitting.

Another striking feature is how women’s behaviours are described with adjectives that come off as denigrating. Women who show zest are called emotional but men who act similarly are called passionate. Women who remain persistent are desperate while men are steadfast. This is proof that the problem is not with emotions, the problem is in the fact that people believe that women’s emotions are problematic and the personification of emotions as only women’s traits shapes how females are considered and interacted with. 

There is a lack of self-awareness in men who decry emotions. Human beings are not without emotions. This means that if you don’t show emotions by crying or being agitated, you express in some other way. 

The presence of emotion does not translate to an absence of logic. Neither does the absence of emotions automatically give way to logic. Women are not “too emotional” to lead. Society is too sexist to recognize and submit to female leadership.

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