Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Letter of the Day | On matters of gender and emotional expression

Published:Thursday | January 16, 2020 | 12:18 AM


On January 13, 2020, I listened to Dionne Jackson Miller’s interview with Dr Patrece Charles regarding the issue of domestic violence in Jamaica in the wake of two women being murdered by their intimate partners in less than a week.

I was extremely disappointed by at least two points made by Dr Charles during her interview. First, Dr Charles stated that “…women are emotional and men are rational”. Her conclusion thereafter (based on my understanding) is that when a rational being is faced with an emotional situation, they may react in a manner that is not rational, such as murdering their partner. When asked about the validity of the assertion of women being emotional, she defended it by saying that it is a fact that women make decisions based on emotion and men are more rational and logical in their actions. Her assertion is clearly a sexist statement based on gross misinformation and societal stereotypes. If Dr Charles Freeman’s words had any meaningful influence in society, her words would have set women back at least 100 years.

The facts are:

1. There is no evidence that women are more emotional than men.

2. Women and men both experience strong emotions of love, anger, sadness, happiness, etc.

3. Women tend to be more expressive about their emotions in general and positive emotions specifically.

There is a clear difference in how men and women demonstrate the emotions they feel. This can be more attributed to socialisation rather than to biology. It is generally more accepting for women to be expressive with their positive emotions, because this tends to be seen as more feminine and suitable to women rather than men. Men are encouraged to hide emotions that are seen as weak and effeminate, such as sadness and depression, while displays of anger and aggression are seen as representative of strong masculinity. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to hide aggressive emotions as this tends to be viewed as not feminine.

It is due to these stereotypes that women continue to struggle for equality in the workplace and in society at large. It must be clarified that a woman’s ability to make prudent decisions is not impaired by her ability to express her emotions well. Indeed, women have proven themselves to be apt leaders and may even be less emotional than men when making big life-changing decisions. You see, men are taught that displays of aggression are tantamount to displays of manhood and as such, one must wonder how many fights, and even wars, have been started because a leader’s pride or manhood was threatened or questioned.

My second issue is Dr Charles recommendation that persons should make a report to the police if they feel like someone may act on their threats of violence against their partner. The issue with this is that in a society where we throw around threats of murder casually, and where we generally lack the emotional intelligence to productively identify mental health issues, we are ill-equipped to be able to accurately determine whether a statement made by a person in anger is one they intend to act on.

Claudja Williams