Note: This article talks primarily about men and women – referring to ‘male assigned at birth’ and ‘female assigned at birth’ respectively and the social conditioning that goes with it.
Women are hormonal.
Women are too emotional
Women express too much.
These are some common statements we hear about women on a daily basis. Terms like ‘hormonal’, ‘emotional’ and ‘expressive’ are used either to define women or to belittle anyone having these emotions with statements like ‘stop crying like a girl’ or ‘you are as hormonal as a woman’. I have always found this really strange since everyone has hormones and emotions. How come these terms are just used for women?
As I read more into it, I found one answer to this , which is the answer to many societal questions – PATRIARCHY!
Even though men have received a great amount of ‘privilege’ because of patriarchy, they also have to deal with the attached shortcomings of it. With privilege comes the pressure to not be sensitive or expressive. Basically, men are taught to ignore anything that is least bit feminine – clothes, diction, expression and emotions!
Children are brought up with the stereotypical conditioning of – men ‘do’ and women ‘feel’. Boys are taught not to cry and not to express their emotions because they are ‘men’. But at the same time, if they express their emotions through anger, they are rewarded and it adds to their ‘prestige’ in the society. Therefore, anger is the primary emotion men are allowed to feel, and the rest, they keep it under the wrap.
Lets say, you have been really busy – not had the time to arrange your wardrobe. You pile clothes one over the other, without properly arranging it. If this continues for a longer time, the pile is likely to dismantle and create a bigger mess. Keeping your emotions under the wrap or brushing them down the carpet is like the messy pile of clothes that can explode at any time. What happens when the mess explodes? You feel vulnerable, maybe anxious and even frustrated. But since you are only taught to express one emotion – it all comes out in the form of anger!
Anger is a form of vulnerability. As a person who is a male assigned at birth, society doesn’t let you be vulnerable. The need to escape vulnerability instead of dealing with it leads to irritation and irritation causes anger to last longer and strengthens it. Thus, you are looking for ways to get angry when you are irritated. It’s a vicious cycle and patriarchy has trapped men in it.
This vicious cycle along with other societal expectations from any men causes stress, and frustration.
This state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration and anger that occurs in males and is associated with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations, stress and the loss of male identity is called IRRITABLE MALE SYNDROME. (Diamond, 2004)
This is similar to Premenstrual Syndrome, popularly known as PMS, experienced by women during their menstrual cycle. In layman terms, it is similar to being so emotionally sunburnt that you are constantly irritated. So, hey! Women are not the only one who are ‘hormonal’.
Anger can be expressed either inwardly or outwardly. If men express their anger inwardly, they tend to develop feelings of depression and the need for isolation. If they express their anger outwardly, they tend to become aggressive and violent. Men suffering from IMS can go both ways depending on their innate personality type.
They are constantly agitated, on edge and unable to relax. They feel as though everyone is looking for ways to irritate them. Similar to PMS, huh? The difference between the two syndromes is that comparatively. women know and understand the emotions they are feeling and they are okay with expressing them. On the flip side, men with IMS have no idea what is happening to them and how to deal with these new emotions they are suddenly feeling. So, they develop a distorted lens and blame others for how they feel.
They understand there is a problem, they acknowledge it, but they blame the problem on the other person and refuse to work on themselves. If your male family members or counterparts or friends are acting in a similar way and blaming you for how they are acting – with no fault of your own, they are probably developing IMS.
And if you are a man reading this and think you relate to a lot of what is written, congratulations, you are hormonal too!