The overwhelming global consensus was that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford behaved admirably last month. All over the internet, all over the world, people praised her composure, decorum, and respectful assertiveness. On the other hand, Brett Kavanaugh and Lindsey Graham acted like petulant children throwing a temper tantrum. The fact that they were allowed to act as they did, and not be disciplined for it, was, for many men, shocking.
But for women, while upsetting, it was anything but.
Male emotional leeway
One universal fact of femininity is that men are allotted a certain amount of emotional leeway—a privilege not extended to women. Men are allowed to be turbulent. They are allowed to throw fits. They can act unprofessionally. And once they have done so, they are excused because they are, as their male peers would say, “only human.”
Over my life, I’ve seen so many men act in ways that women would just never be allowed to without severe judgement or punishment. I’ve seen male professors throw fits and insult students in a way that would inevitably put their female colleagues on probation. I’ve seen bosses throw glasses and berate staff, usually female, in a way that would get a woman fired on the spot, or at the very least, sent to anger management classes. Men can be passive aggressive or outright rude. Women cannot.
Because when a woman toes—even remotely—the line of expressive emotion, she’s unbalanced and hysterical. In my wildest dreams, I cannot even imagine a women behaving like Kavanaugh or Graham. It’s laughable. It’d be both career and social, suicide, and confirm the —well established— fact that women are over dramatic and irrational.
See, the rules of female behaviour are rigid and enigmatic. Be assertive, but calmly and with no self-assurance. Apologise for or brush off your success so you don’t look cocky. Act agreeable and cheerful—but not intrusively so. The list goes on.
And men usually can’t see the double standard. I don’t attribute this misunderstanding to malice, just socialisation. If you teach someone from birth that one group of people is completely unbalanced, they’ll confirm it instinctively whenever it shows up. Therefore, I applaud Dr. Ford for the impossible act of succeeding at femininity, albeit for a moment. That said, I wish she didn’t have to.
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