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An Emotional Issue
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During the 40’s and 50’s women were identified as sensitive, weak, dependent beings, unable to make a sound, rational decision and easily swayed by pretty colors and emotional appeals. Any opinions expressed by such a being was of course dealt with patronizingly by the omniscient, rational, unemotional male being who made the decisions for the whole family.

Any opinions by women expressed in a voice louder than a whisper were dismissed as emotional, and those women were belittled as getting above themselves and bothering their pretty little heads with things they couldn’t understand.

Do you remember?

This attitude was supposedly swept away by the 60’s and 70’s gender revolution, but think: men who are now in their 60’s (and running the country, the family, our lives) spent their formative years in an ethos where the pater familias made all the decisions, rightly so. Any emotional outburst nowadays still evokes in them the patronizing put-down response, internally if not expressed, dismissing the idea content of the outburst because it is “emotional.”

BUT, on the other hand, any idea or request spoken softly, uninflected or emphasized, can be ignored because it doesn’t seem significant. The female didn’t say it was important. And when she says it’s important, she’s being emotional. Catch-22 for those of you who remember that movie. By the way, the next time he gets angry, asking him why he is being so emotional may just turn the tables on him. (Come to think of it, isn’t declaring war the adult (male) version of a temper tantrum?)

Use of the computer for communication has helped with this conundrum. At work I communicate with my employees and coworkers by email mostly. It’s gender-neutral (and, I might add, ethnicity-neutral). This is a big plus.

But I think stripping messages of all emotional content is a bad idea. The emotion, the feeling, behind an idea provides its energy, gives the trajectory a boost. An idea has to move, touch, and inspire before it is going to be acted upon and before it is going to be passed on to the next person. You might say that the emotion is the virus that carries the essential content, one person catching it from the previous person.

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