Reflections for Women’s Day 2012

I wasn’t brought up with any particular sense of gender roles. There were formal ones, but I never figured out that there was anything I was supposed to internalize in terms of personality, to make me more clearly one gender than another. Even in high school and as an undergraduate, I had no particular impression of gender roles.

When I had my first real job, however, the attacks started. They came from a strange place, because they were coded with gendered meanings I didn’t understand. There were significant problems in this workplace. I learned that when a person in a structurally weak position is trying to point out problems to those who may have more structural power than she, anything she says is dismissed as merely “emotional”. Not only does this silence her criticism and subdue her intellect, most people find the rhetoric that some people are merely “emotional” to be extremely convincing.

Also, if there are men who are unstable, people are less likely to believe they have a problem if they can point to a woman very close by and suggest: “It’s just her perception of me. You know, women — being what they are — can’t see anything straight. They’re very emotional!”

People feel very comforted by this sort of reasoning, as it means they don’t need to do anything about a particular situation. After all, what could they do? Women are going to be emotional and mess things up, because, after all, women are that way in their essence (emotional and messing things up).

This was how I learned how political behaviour has a gendered structure in Western culture, whereby men are innocent and women are culpable.

As for emotions, I wasn’t even aware that I had them. I was deeply repressed. I was behaving so absurdly rationally in a sequence of situations where I was deemed to be culpable for everything that could go wrong. That was when I woke up and began to investigate what emotions I had. I found I had repressed a profound sense of rage, primarily linked to having to leave my homeland, but more generally related to being treated as responsible for other people’s actions.

It was an unusual experience for me to introduce elements of emotion into my behaviour, but I began to turn on the tap of my passions.

Of course, I did this very rationally, with many a strategy. I thought, “What would confuse them most?” and I did that. For instance, I figured out there was an office spy (something I hadn’t figured out before, as my emotional awareness was switched off). I gave her contradictory emotional information in the same chain of speech. “I told her, “I really admire our boss….. But above all, I have no respect for him.” I became unpredictable and the strategy worked. I was able to stop people using me as a scapegoat for what went wrong.

Later, I learned more about the political tactic of calling women “emotional”. It’s designed to get women to play a role of re-connecting alienated and inauthentic men to an entirely different realm of spontaneity and open possibilities.

So, I shut the valve by refusing to be a conduit so that random males could feel their emotions.

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