The curse of vulnerability

I often think about why, when men show what society deems to be an excessive amount of emotion, they are labeled as “pussies”. Pussy, a slang term for the female genitalia, seems to have a deeper meaning in this case. The word is representative of what is considered to be a critical flaw of femininity: being emotional. When men are called pussies for expressing emotion, what they are really being told is that they are acting like a woman, and that acting like a woman is a bad thing.

In The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, the protagonist, Lauren, suffers from what the novel calls “hyperempathy syndrome.” In other words, she is able to experience the emotions of others, which is thought to be a shameful and disgraceful disorder in her dystopian society. One might think that being aware your own feelings, and experiencing empathy rather than indifference towards the emotions of others, could be considered a gift. However, Lauren is looked down upon, even by her own father, because she is able to display vulnerability. It seems as though demonstrating emotion has become synonymous with weakness rather than with the courage that it takes to reveal what you’re feeling. Moreover, weakness is intertwined with femininity, and this mindset only perpetuates negative gender stereotypes. If a woman shows too much emotion, she’s simply living up to her stereotype. Conversely, if a man exhibits these “feminine” traits, he is considered weak, cowardly and even powerless.

I yearn for a world where being told that you’re acting like a woman is considered a compliment rather than an insult.





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