I’m sure every woman has been called hysterical at least once in her life. The first time I was called hysterical, or the first time I was aware of it, I was talking to a man about how diversity is important in media. He didn’t think so, and didn’t see my point about how important it is for me as a South Asian girl to see myself portrayed positively in mainstream media. This is an issue that I am very passionate about, so naturally, I was emotional when I was presenting my argument. The man cut me off in the middle of the sentence and said, “We are just having a logical discussion. Why are you being so emotional? You’re hysterical.”
This was, of course, not the first sexist thing ever said to me, but definitely one of the worst. I’ve had people tell me that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, and that if I do get an education, it should be medicine because that’s more feminine (whatever that means). But being called hysterical was one of the most sexist experiences I’ve ever had, because the person who said this to me didn’t even realize that what he said was misogynistic. And to top it off, he was backed up by a woman. For those of you who are reading this and questioning why calling a woman hysterical is sexist, here are a few reasons.
1. It is a way to shut down a woman from making an argument
When I was called hysterical, I immediately shut down. I forgot what my argument was, and I began questioning myself instead. Was I clouding my argument with my gender? Was I even saying the right thing? Was I looking at this too emotionally? Was I being too “girly”? It only took one word. All he had to do was use one word and I shut down. When I recovered, I told him that it wasn’t mature of him to comment on the way I spoke when he didn’t have an actual argument against what I was saying. He told me he was “helping” me so that I don’t do this in the outside world and lose out on actual arguments. Somehow, being emotional apparently means you aren’t making a logical argument, and thus invalidates everything you say.
2. Women don’t even have to be “emotional” to be called hysterical, they just have to disagree with a man
We all saw this during the presidential debate, people even made memes about it. Donald Trump told Hillary Clinton that he had a better temperament than her, while interrupting her for the millionth time by screaming his opinions out. On first look, this was definitely ironic of him, but the whole concept was also very sexist, because Hilary was the calm and composed one between the two, yet was being called too emotional to be fit for president. Like I already mentioned, there are many men like Trump who scream and throw a fit when they don’t get their way, but it is always the woman who bears the brunt of this. If a woman shows even a little bit of emotion when she is speaking, it invalidates her entire argument. But a man doing it is just passionate about what he is saying.
3. Is being emotional even really that bad?
What is wrong if we are emotional when we present an argument? It just shows that we are passionate; that we care about the conversation. It shows investment and dedication. We’re not making any decisions based on our high emotions (which I personally don’t think is bad, but that’s another article), just presenting them in an emotional manner. Women are supposed to be the more emotional beings, but the second we show those emotions, it is wrong. Like I mentioned before, someone as emotional as Trump can be screaming at a composed woman, but his arguments aren’t thrown out because of that. In fact, if Hillary was the one screaming during the debate, people would use that as an excuse to tell us how “women are unfit to run for office.” This just shows that in today’s society, having emotions isn’t bad—being a woman is.