Feminine Pain: Expression vs Normalization

It is a myth that “patriarchy discourages men from displaying emotions,” and a dangerous one.

A variety of emotions, ranging from anger to ambivalence to jealousy (unavailable to women, who are perceived as irrational, cold, erratic) is perceived as valid and more so objective in men. Even the argument that patriarchy discourages all sexes from displaying specific emotions is untrue. Men may be disparaged for sorrow, pain, love, and tenderness, but these emotions are valued more strongly when a man exhibits them. In men these emotions drive entire plotlines characterized as inspirational (see: manpain) while secondary characters face tougher obstacles.

Women aren’t really “allowed” to cry. We are expected. This is a crucial difference. Those tears, comparatively, are of lesser value. This value diminishes proportionately to how much a woman is the wrong kind of woman.

And that normalization of female pain translates to female pain being outright dismissed—in the routine of conflict, in doctors’ offices, in war.

The consequences of these of course reverberate in the most minuscule of details. I learned a long time ago not to cry. I don’t, in front of anyone I don’t have reason to trust. Because who would care if I do? I’m the wrong kind of woman.

Emotions are sacred. Even when they are dismissed or exploited I’ve still received incredulous reactions toward how and when I’ve chosen to conceal mine in these petty details. On one occasion in response to someone’s derision, I’d delivered a snide remark, upon which they demanded to know why I hadn’t just talked to them about the abrasiveness in their approach instead. What reason have I to believe this would evoke a different result when I’ve just been shown evidence in the contrary? It’s incredible to me that people who are voyeuristic or evasive or abrasive are offended when you’re not direct or compassionate with them about these issues, as though they’re owed this honesty. We don’t owe it to anyone to help fix their character flaws any more than we owe it to oppressors to teach them about their oppression.

These are among things we are never told, like how character means more than personality or how solitary the high road is. No one who has hurt you should expect that you’re direct with them when they haven’t created a setting in which they deserve it. And by inflicting that grief in the first place, they’ve in fact worked in the opposite direction. The high road is not yours to take. It’s theirs. Relieve yourself of it.

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