Why women cry about criticism

Was this click-bait-y and enraging enough? I gave it my best.

At the gym the other day I was thinking about the tired trope that women cry when criticized. I hate this trope for several reasons, none of which I realized are relevant to the actual truth value (whatever it may be) of the trope.

Because the trope does have some truth to it. Women are just more likely to cry than men. This has been attributed to various factors, such as the fact that men are socially conditioned not to cry, or men have larger tear ducts, or to hormonal differences. Since women are more likely to cry in general, it makes sense to assume they are more likely to cry in specific situations. (DEDUCTIVE REASONING, BEOTCHES.)

I wonder if a large part of this must have something to do with two factors. 1). Women are more likely to be empathetic; and 2). Women are inherently more vulnerable in the workplace than men. Because women are more likely to be emotionally intelligent (though not all studies demonstrate this), we are more likely to identify whatever anger, condescension, sexism, or other negative emotion may be influencing the critique (men are often sooooo unaware of their own emotions, saying they are just being “logical” when really they are being just as emotional and biased as women because we are all human and that is how we justify some of our beliefs DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THIS). Not all critiques come with this baggage, of course. But for those criticisms that do come with an underlying layer of emotionally-charged judgment, women are more likely to be better at identifying it and feeling it, even if the criticism is not said outright.

But secondly, and most importantly, I think a reason women are more likely to cry under critique, or react to criticism in ways that other people would say they are taking things too “personally” (another rant I’ll do my best not to go off on), is that women are in a more vulnerable position in society than men, and thus the good will and approval of those around them impact their security more directly than they impact men’s security. The same goes for disapproval — women’s positions are more vulnerable to ill favor and disapproval than men’s positions.

When a man, particularly a white man, faces criticism, his social dominance is not nearly as challenged as when a woman faces criticism. When a woman faces criticism, there is always an underlying worry that the criticizer is looking for ways to discredit her entirely, or to demonstrate that she as a person as a whole deserves more scrutiny and perhaps more censure. Our white supremacy and patriarchal society is always looking to lower women from their positions of power to promote male dominance, and that attitude permeates all criticism women receive. Certainly, we women are aware on some level that this is operating, so all criticism feels different, feels more threatening, simply because it is. It may not be intended to be so, and the criticizer may not feel that he (or she!) is being threatening, but the fact that that criticism does not exist in a void of power equality means that the same criticism feels differently to a woman than it does to a man.

Without the security of privilege, the reactions of others mean more to us and about our standing in the world (including our ability to earn a living and live freely). Those who are disadvantaged quite literally need and depend more on the good will and approval of others to be able to pursue our own well-being, health, and happiness. When we realize how much privilege and power play into disagreement, it’s no wonder that women cry more than men, particularly in situations of social stress. In fact, I’d say we should applaud women for not crying more. If the tables were suddenly turned, and men were able to feel what women feel in our daily lives and know what it’s like to exist, from birth, in a position of underprivilege, they, too, would cry more.

And that is my issue with the trope. I don’t dislike it because it’s untrue, I dislike it because it doesn’t tell the whole truth. I dislike how people like to pretend tears and other non-anger-related public emotional expressions are weakness and use the truth of the crying trope to prop up their beliefs that women are rationally inferior while ignoring the reality that women are actually freaking strong to be able to cry about these real (even if unintended) threats to their security and still keep going, being as strong and badass as they have always been. That’s why.

Women are strong mentally as well as physically. Don’t f*ck with us.

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