Women are commonly held to be more emotional than men.  I think this statement is grossly misleading, but as with all plausible mistakes, at the bottom of it lie a few misunderstood truths.  Like what?

1.  Obliviousness.  To feel something is not the same as to know that one is feeling it.  Even when a man has the same emotions as a woman, he is likely to be less aware that he is having them.

2.  Selectivity.  Though men are not less prone to emotions in general, they are usually less prone than women are to feeling certain emotions at certain times – although more prone to feeling certain others.

3.  Pride.  Men also tend to be more disgraced than women are by feeling certain emotions at certain times -- although prouder of feeling certain others.

4.  Shame.  Finally, men tend to consider it more shameful than women do to display certain emotions at certain times -- although more honorable to display others.

The other emotional differences between men and women are equally important but more subtle.  For both sexes, good deliberation requires help from well-trained feelings:  We need to feel the right things, toward the right people, in the right ways, on the right occasions, to the right degrees, and because of the right considerations.  This being the case, it cannot simply be the case that to be rational is to be unemotional.  But although, for both sexes, reasoning and emotion are connected, the deliberation of men tends to be connected with emotion somewhat differently than the deliberation of women is connected with it, and this is entirely fitting.

Why?  Because a man is a rational being who is in potentiality for fatherhood, but a woman is a rational being who is in potentiality for motherhood.  So, for example, a woman may be just as courageous as a man, but ideally, her courage is differently inflected, because she is rightly more fearful of harm to her body than he is.  After all, hers carries the future of the human race in a way that his does not.  She must be willing to protect her body for future generations; for the same reason, he must be willing to risk his.


Burning Minds, Thoughtful Feelings