This may well be previously covered ground, but I feel compelled,  lately, to write about the relationship between women, their emotions and their rational selves.  Maybe it’s too ambitious to write for women in general, maybe I might be better off sticking with my relationship with my rational self and my emotions —a personal letter, that has political implications.

I’ll start by saying this. I have noticed that whenever I read an article on the web or in a journal, a letter to the editor, or listen to discussions where the writers/speakers execute incredible, a-contextual leaps of logic or who seem to be dependent on the lack of knowledge of their audience to propel  their perspective, after the intellectual incongruities have soaked in, I then become really passionate. This happens often. It happens sometimes when I am not reacting to inconsistent logic. If I am appreciating a well executed film or literary work, my reaction is often strong.

But this reaction (appreciation or disagreement) always comes after I have ingested the thing (text, statement, film) intellectually. I have a strong emotional reaction only after I have explored the thing rationally.

Why the distinction?

Traditionally, all things emotional have been relegated to the domain of “woman” and all things rational and intellectual have been jealously guarded by the male half of the species. While women have made considerable leaps intellectually in various fields, there is still a way in which they get labelled as ‘being’ emotional when they feel strongly about something intellectual. It is as though the divide between the rational/intellectual and the emotional cannot be bridged, especially if you are a woman. It is as though the reasoning of men can never occur alongside their emotions.

I have been in a few discussions on things religious and political in St. Vincent and I have listened to people react to a particular young lady who has been making waves for her stance on an issue many Vincentians hold dear. What I have heard are statements that describe the young lady’s temperament rather than merits of her stance. These statements include describing the young lady as being “shrill”, “crazy”, “too aggressive” etc. Very little of what I have heard focus on an in depth discussion of the (de)merits of her arguments.  How then is an intellectual discussion to progress, under such circumstances?

In my own case I have heard family and friends (after going a few rounds in a discussion) describe me as being (getting)  “emotional” or “worked up”. Whenever I hear that it always gives me pause. I realize that my points, not matter how strong or weak, have been summarily dismissed. I realize, also,  that I rarely hear the words ‘shrill’ or ’emotional’  being used to describe men when they are in heated discussions.  I realize also, that whenever it is said there is a way in which the person using these words means to condescend to  the receiver, the woman.

Needless to say, once I have recognized this I get, well, mad, which I suspect is a normal human reaction. I especially get ‘worked up’ at this statement because it is an indirect way to silence the woman who is having this discussion. It is a (not so) subtle way of dismissing any case that she would have made either from her experience or from her rational reasoning. It is a way of resetting the order of things disrupted by the ‘shrill’ female.

It is frustrating to say the least, especially after supporting your reasoned arguments with evidence. I made this point to a male compadre, after he had pointed out in one of our many discussions that I was getting emotional. After I explained to him why that wasn’t such a good I idea, he decided, then,  that nothing was wrong with getting emotional in a discussion. Sigh, fishnet don’t see water, and men don’t see patriarchy.

Will this ever change? Or am I getting worked up for nothing?