Hormonal hysteria in the patriarchy

Illustration by Tonesha Yazzie

Throughout my life, I’ve continuously observed a trend: Women are emotional and men are discouraged from expressing their emotions when those feelings come out in the form of tears.

I’m not reinventing the wheel by commenting on this social norm, but I want to raise a question: How much do hormones actually play into all this?

Personally, I think it more so comes down to socialization. Many men are taught to suppress their emotions, to view them as weak, which justifies belittling women for their emotions. However, when this conversation comes up, hormones are pointed to as the cause.

Hormones are used to explain gender roles, employment inequality between sexes, tears of women and anger of men. Hormones can justify the apprehension toward placing women’s names in the draft or not letting them into the military altogether. I could go on.

Before I attempt to answer the question at hand, I must acknowledge that in many contexts, hormones are irrelevant. They do not fully define who is a “man” or a “woman.” With that being said, we do know they dictate many aspects of life as either of the sexes.

Women’s cycles play largely into this phenomenon. Periods are one thing, but a woman’s cycle actually lasts a whole month, from ovulation to menstruation. Each stage induces some sort of emotional change.

According to WebMD, “If symptoms are reliably severe enough to interfere with quality of life, it’s defined as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).” PMS includes mood swings, general emotional changes and physical symptoms such as bloating and breast pain.

With that being said, estrogen does play a role in the idea of the “crazy woman.” Now, let’s get into the social aspect.

These real differences between the biological sexes have an impact on life as a man, woman or anything in between.

Women are expected to be submissive and docile, yet are often treated as irrational beings who are impossible to deal with. Of course, these are generalizations, but persistent nonetheless.

The phenomenon of the crazy woman creates inequalities in most fields, professions and aspects of female life.

Women are paid less, a fact I refuse to qualify because it is a fact. Many people justify not wanting to vote for female presidential candidates because women are irrational and may punch the nuclear codes if it’s her time of the month. Women, up until the last half a century, were pushed to be a secretary or teacher while men ruled the world. Women had to wait until the 1920s for suffrage.

Again, I could go on.

These perceptions and exaggerations of what women are or how they behave have been fuel for men to oppress them since the beginning of time. Belittled, talked over and emotional, women are treated differently. Depending on your stance on so many things, you can argue these differences are positive or negative. But when it comes down to it, stereotypes of women create a power imbalance between the sexes.

Even within daily life, I personally experience constant condescension and interruption by a lot of men — to be fair, most definitely not all. We know all men are not the same, nor are all women. The idea of “men” and “women” is becoming an arbitrary binary as society begins to open its eyes.

Nevertheless, women are taught to comply with society’s expectations of them and are punished if they don’t. These expectations are set by the hegemonic group — white men.

Whether or not there is a genuine connection between hormones and stereotypes of women, the ever-present lack of equality will never be justifiable.