Kristen Gyles | ‘Men are rational thinkers’
We are all emotional beings. The problem is that one half of the world’s population is consistently being told they are not emotional but rational. And this is the badge of honour they wear. When the going gets tough, they must muster up all the energy they can find to ‘be rational’, which means, of course, no tears. No tears. No diary or journal entries. No seeing a therapist. All that emotional stuff is not for them.
Reputed psychologists have been saying it – “let our boys cry”. They can feel, just like the girls and they can hurt, just like the girls. But when there is societal consensus on the idea that they must be rock-solid in every situation, they eventually start to embody the expectations that are imposed on them and at the onset of a ‘feeling’ popping up, they genuinely get confused as to how to react.
Our boys are drowning under the weight and pressure of having to be okay even when they are not. Many don’t know what it is like to be sorry. Or to be sad. Or to be scared. All they know to do is to get angry, as they are encouraged to do by artistes who will ‘pop off’ or ‘send fi di crocs dem’ when and if their Clarks gets stepped on.
They are told constantly that ‘by nature’ they are rational thinkers while their female counterparts are emotional thinkers (whatever that means), and so naturally our rationally minded boys reason that not only are they better decision-makers than the girls, but that their opinions generally carry more validity. It is really the logical conclusion. This is why so many men are quick to appeal to their ‘intellectual authority’ as the rational thinkers in conversations with females who don’t agree with them. He must be right. He is the rational thinker – the rational thinker who doesn’t think rationally enough to be able to defend his ideas (rationally) when they are challenged by others.
For the same reason, it is felt in so many corporate spaces that female leaders must go further above and beyond the call of duty to prove themselves than the (‘rational’ but definitely not emotional) men.
Once all can be assured that the man won’t burst into tears during the press briefing after a colleague dies, he’s certainly a better option to most women who more than likely won’t be able to contain themselves.
Meanwhile, so many men are at home taking out their non-existent emotions on their family members. Sad. This is the world we live in, or rather, the world we have created. And it all started with “Men are rational. Women are emotional”.
This notion usually doesn’t stand alone, though. There is a not very distant and even more absurd cousin – “Emotion and rationality cannot mix” (Or some variation of the sort). What is highly problematic is when these two ridiculous ideas are juxtaposed. So, women think emotionally, while men think rationally. In the same breath, rationality and emotion cannot coexist. The logical conclusion is that women cannot be rational and men cannot be emotional. It’s quite simple.
The ideas we repeat to our children carry insurmountable influence and should not be glossed over. Some of the silly notions we repeat to them must go, especially when they are not backed by science or research of any kind. While scientific research highlights physical differences between the brain of an adult male in contrast to that of an adult female, the idea that men are inherently more rational than women is just that – an idea. This has not been validated scientifically.
Furthermore, there is hardly a dichotomy between rationality and emotion. In fact, both are needed for sound decision-making. Any healthy and whole-minded individual will be able to engage their emotions while making decisions. This is necessary for a cohesive society in which we all act in ways that don’t negatively impact each other. And an awareness of the subtle differences between things that negatively impact others and those that don’t, are largely aided by our abilities to engage our emotions, especially our ability to empathise.
NO SHAME IN BEING EMOTIONAL
Consider that, while some studies suggest that women are likely to hold grudges longer than men, men are suggested to have a much greater proclivity to risk-taking, especially under stress, with men being approximately seven times more likely to develop problematic gambling addictions than women.
Both of these gender differences relate to emotion. Men and women both have their unique strengths and weaknesses, but rationality and emotionality are very broad categories that simply cannot be owned by either gender.
To go a bit further, the jury (of researchers) is still out on whether or not a number of the perceived gender differences are innate or simply due to social indoctrination. In other words, when a child has a certain gender stereotype ingrained into his/her psyche, they will be more likely to conform to behaviours they perceive as being ‘appropriate’ for members of their gender.
There is no shame in being emotional. We have to start getting both boys and girls to understand this. We are all emotional beings and that is fine. Until we come to an acceptance of the fact that our emotions aren’t imaginary, we will not be able to control or manage them and research has demonstrated that this is where men tend to have a problem.
With the ongoing concern regarding the number of women slain by the hands of violent partners, I hope we will begin to take the socialisation of our boys, specifically, more seriously. We can start by omitting some of the baseless and antiquated stereotypes from our speech.