I saw Captain Marvel a couple weeks ago and it was incredible. But one thing that stuck with me was how she was told she wouldn’t reach her full power potential until she learned how to control her emotions. Yon-Rogg tells her that in order to be a better solider, she needs to be less emotional. That letting her feelings and anger get the better of her will leave her vulnerable and easy to defeat. Before we answer the question ‘do emotions make us weak?’, let’s look at a few facts.
Are women more emotional than men?
The short answer? No, women aren’t more emotional than men. This belief is one of the strongest stereotypes held in Western cultures. Victoria L. Brescoll from the Yale School of Management wrote a paper entitled Leading with their hearts? How gender stereotypes of emotion lead to biased evaluations of female leaders. In it, she discussed how meta-analyses found men and women reported feeling the same levels of certain emotions, such as guilt, pride, shame and embarrassment. But what did differ was the amount of men and women observed expressing these emotions. Simply put, according to Brescoll, women get labelled as the more emotional sex “because they are seen as less able to control the outward display of their emotions compared to men”.
In the past, women’s emotions being seen as unreliable have kept women from owning property, voting, or controlling their own lives. This knowledge, and the reinforcement that they need to get their emotions in check, led to women feeling like they’re being irrational for having any kind of emotional reaction.
So, does this mean women are weak because they display their emotions more often?
However, this isn’t a one sided argument. Men are also dubbed as weak when they display their emotions. Toxic masculinity refers to the view that men should be unemotional and aggressive to appear masculine. Men who cry and talk about their feelings are seen as being more feminine and in turn they’re seen as being weak.
Growing up, boys are taught to “man up” which gives them very little direction on how to deal with their emotions and they get used to bottling it up. This leads to a fear of judgement for being open about how they feel. Letting out their emotions makes them appear weak and less masculine. Instead, “boys will be boys” and are taught to embrace aggression and anger.
There has been a lot of focus on toxic masculinity lately. One notable account was shaving company Gillette changing their slogan from “the best a man can get” to “the best a man can be“. This sparked a lot of outrage, with comments such as this one from Piers Morgan:
I’ve used Gillette razors my entire adult life but this absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away to a company less eager to fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity. Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.
So, do emotions make us weak?
Although it’s the social norm to behave professionally in certain situations, even when that’s the last thing you want to do. But letting your guard down at socially appropriate times is definitely not a sign of weakness. Being aware of your emotions and sharing them with others can actually be seen as a sign of strength. Let’s take it back to Captain Marvel – she was relevant to my point, I promise! WARNING: slight spoilers ahead (though if you haven’t seen the film by now, what are you playing at?!)
As mentioned before Carol suppresses her emotions on the command of Yon-Rogg. But there are still some fights she can’t win. When Carol embraces her emotional side and breaks free from the brainwashing, it turns out she’s bloody damn powerful. She defeats Yon-Rogg and really comes into herself as the badass superhero she is. Captain Marvel is the first woman to star as the main character in an MCU film and she’s already a role model for women and girls everywhere.
Understanding of your emotions can be complicated when you’re not used to thinking about how you feel. But talking about how you feel helps you figure out what’s causing you to feel so emotional. And when you figure out the reason, it makes it easier to find a solution to the problem. A better emotional self-awareness is key to achieving success in your personal and professional life.