Emotional, hysterical or melodramatic – are some common adjectives that are heaped upon women even today. I remember getting into an accident 11 years ago, which damaged my new scooty and left me with a bad knee injury and multiple bruises. The guy who had bumped me got an earful from me, but then this other dude stepped in and started berating me for creating a scene. “Itna drama kyun kar rahi ho?” he asked and even urged the other party to sneak past me. It was only later that I realised that I had been screaming at the top of my lungs, with tears flooding my eyes. This was an overexaggerated reaction to an accident, as per the guy who intervened.
The humiliation I felt that day, because of my reaction to meeting with an accident, is one of the clearest memories that I have from that day. Despite the fact that two strangers had helped me out at that moment, a woman who offered me water, and another man who helped park my damaged scooty and stayed with me till my husband arrived. For years, when I thought about that day, I would wonder, was my reaction wrong? Was the guy right on his part to berate me for shouting and crying after an accident, and not maintaining my cool? Or was it just that he simply saw my gender and decided that my reaction to the situation was a bit “extra” and thus I needed to be put into place?
But over the years, as I began to identify as a feminist and started paying more attention to how men and women treated each other, this castigation of women as emotional fools who fail to hold themselves together became pretty evident. Men tend to take pride in their ability to remain fearless in worst of situations. They reserve the right to be angry, as it is seen as a mark of masculinity, but they do not want to be seen as vulnerable – that is for the weak. And guess who is perceived to be the weaker gender? Women.
Don’t cry like a girl. Don’t talk about gore and violence in front of women, they can’t handle it. Make sure she has a companion when she gets the bad news, else she will unravel.
Suggested Reading: Teri Bhabhi Hai To Vo Meri Bandi Hai: Why Men Treat Women As Territories To Be Conquered
Emotional women and notion of weakness
It is amusing how crying or an emotional outburst is seen as a sign of weakness. No matter how strong women are – physically or mentally, no matter the fact that they stride through childbirth and childcare, can heave gas cylinders, or be on their toes all day long for the sake of their family, all it takes is the trait of being “emotional” for them to be called weak.
But if and when a woman decides to not put her emotions on display, or to harden up at least in the public eye, does she earn respect? No, instead she is then crititcised for being to distant – cold/unsentimental/un-ladylike. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. One wonders, what is the prescribed balance between displaying your emotions, but not enough to make others feel uncomfortable? And why is it that the society gets to ration our emotional outburst?
There is nothing wrong with being “emotional”. Everyone has their own mechanism to cope with grief, shock, pain, joy or surprise. Some keep their emotions bottled up, others let them out for the world to see. No one is a better or worse person because of how they choose to respond to situations. What is bad though is the way we force women and men to conform to these stereotypes related to behaviour and criticise them even when they adhere to them strictly. We are expected to walk this tightrope by society so that it can control us better.
But unless both men and women see through this manipulation it is impossible for us to break free emote as we deem to be right, not as what society approves, based on our gender.
The views expressed are the author’s own.