Last week, writer Damon Young penned an article in the Huffington Post, which in essence purported that whilst he may trust his wife not to lie, cheat or inflict bodily harm on him, there is an innate reservation he possesses in trusting the validity of her emotional responses.
He ‘assume[s] that her emotional reaction to a situation is disproportionate to [his] opinion of what level of emotional reaction the situation calls for. Basically, if she’s on an eight, [he] assumes the situation is really a six.’ At no point does he say that his dismissive response is legitimate. Rather, he describes a general scepticism about the female view that I believe is pervasive and disturbing.
His article is candid and provocative. It prompted me to recall the numerous times that I have encountered such a response in my own past relationships. I’m sure many women are familiar with being dismissed with a pithy ‘it must be that time of the month’ or ‘you’re over-reacting’. So often have these types of refrains been uttered that I can sometimes question the legitimacy of my own emotions.
Young highlights an epidemic in our cultural norms – one which defines women as having a penchant towards being crazy. Everything a man needs to know in the dating game may be measured along the ‘crazy/hot‘ scale.
Admittedly, there are times when I can get dramatic and might register on the wrong end of this scale. Just a few weeks ago I drunkenly plopped myself down in Frankey’s grass backyard whilst it was spitting with rain. I brawled my eyes out over the latest failed aspect of my dating life. Does feeling things intensely class me as crazy? If I went and stabbed the participant in this unrequited romance with a fork – that would be crazy. Sitting in the rain and letting it all out was quite cathartic. Dramatic? Sure, but it was a culmination and acknowledgement of all that I felt.
We are socialised at a young age to express ourselves to the world around us within the constraints of the established gender ‘norms’. The fairer sex is supposedly allowed to openly cry, express their feelings and to nurture. Meanwhile, our chest beating counterparts are taunted in the playground as ‘girly’ or ‘homo’. It is this neurosis in both genders that facilitate distrust, sexism and frustration. If as a child you are conditioned to be stoical and ‘take it on the chin’, you become sceptical of those who are openly emotional, and you will naturally question its authenticity.
Are we not all imprisoned by gender stereotypes? According to Beyond Blue 1 in 7 young men aged between 16 and 24 experience depression or anxiety each year. As we entrench ourselves in a culture that facilitates gender ‘norms’ we find men unable to ask for assistance, stunted by their distorted sense of what constitutes a man and unable to trust emotional cues.
The idea of gender equality, honesty and mutual trust is a grand one – at times even idealistic because we as humans are flawed and prejudiced. As a starting point we should allow ourselves the vulnerability to feel and reclaim the authenticity in our emotions. Young vowed that “The next time [his] wife tells [him] how upset she is about something [he’s] not sure she should be upset about,” he’s going to “trust her.” Whilst in theory this sounds wonderful, I suggest instead that he examines and expresses his own emotions with more frequency. If he were to recognise what he felt himself, perhaps that would be a bigger step towards dispelling the distrust.