Big boys don’t cry. Right? : A look at rationality vs. emotionality

Rationality vs. emotionality is discussed in chapter three of Cynthia Enloe’s book  Globalization and Militarism. Rationality is associated with manliness while emotionality is seen as feminine. This is seen throughout our social structure and in the way our society thinks about masculinity and femininity. Understanding these two concepts is vital to understanding how men and women are perceived in our society and in the military. The categorization of women as “soft” is used both to keep women out of the political and military field. It insinuates that they are not strong enough to handle the pressure associated with these professions. This categorization also pushes men away from acts that are perceived as “soft” or feminine like calling for peace and not waging war. An obvious flaw of this way of thinking is the correlation of peace to women and war to men. It insinuates that only real men declare war and enter into conflict while women are responsible for calling an end to battle. Of course this conceptualization is entirely problematic.

Acceptable military behavior

Unacceptable military behavior










So, when it comes to the structure of the military and who get to “sit at the table” those who are allowed are only those who have shown a fierce, aggressive stance. According to this belief of rationality and emotionality the only acceptable participants are men.  To be allowed a part in the discussion of national security you have to be able to debate unpleasant things, and handle these talks with fervor. The way a person is able to gain access to be part of the discussion of national security is through this rational sense and expression. Consequently women are not included in this because they are perceived as emotional and soft.   The conception that women are emotional and in the eyes of our society there’s no room or place for the emotional meaning there is no room for women.  Of course the truth is that these concepts have been built through the perception of those living in a patriarchal society leading to a bias and sexist understanding or women’s role and women’s power.

An example of this rhetoric of women being emotional was seen overwhelmingly in the 2008 democratic presidential primary when Hillary Clinton was running. When in an interview Clinton was giving she began to well up while talking passionately about how she feels for the country and how she wants to see the country move forward (and away from the Bush era.) After this surfaced in mainstream news, reporters began condemning her for being emotional then for being cold and heartless. She was spoken of by every news reporter in the mainstream media in some sexist way. Clinton was badgered for being to emotional and other news anchors joked about her passion and her tears being fake. Stating that she was to cold and masculine to genuinely be able to cry. She was the only primary candidate that had this done to them, evidently she was the only female candidate. She was also badgered about the way she looked and the clothes she wore all through the primary election. There was one reporter who joked if Clinton won the presidency the US would be in crisis every time she got her period.  We would have to stop the country a few days every month because she wouldn’t be able to handle her responsibilities. Certainly women are incapable of controlling their emotional and mental capacities when they’re on their period.

The practice of our society is that women hold little value and little power. Women are seen as weak physically and mentally. The structure of the military holds up this conception through the ideal that men are rational while women are irrational. A recent statement made my Rick Santorum, (a candidate in the republican primary for presidency who of late, dropped out) embodies the patriarchal design of our society’s structure of masculinity and femininity. In the speech Santorum stated that women should not be allowed to hold combat position in the US military because it may affect how the male soldiers will react during times of combat. He states that the men will become to preoccupied by the women’s safety and feel the need to protect them like our culture has taught them to do, making the men lose focus on their mission. He’s expressing that men are rational beings but once you throw a women into the mix a man has to express his masculinity by protecting women. These women hold no value as soldiers they only amount to a burden which the male soldiers will have to pick up.

The women who gain access to the military are confined to feminized jobs. Women are not allowed to enlist in the front lines instead women are centralized in jobs that resemble domestic work; jobs like cooks and nurses. Because women are not seen as rational, strong, and valuable enough to stand in a combat role in the military. Although I would rather not see more of the population enlisting in the military that should not be used as an excuse to keep women out of jobs they should be entitled too.

In chapter four Enloe continues her discussion with the extension that feminized characteristics are not only looked down upon in our society and through that women hold no substantial power. But their labor is also used as a last resort when men are no longer available. This can be seen throughout American history. If you look at World War 2 when men were enlisted in the military and engaged in combat with other nations the country needed a workforce so they enlisted women. Yet, when the war ended and the men came back they also took their jobs back and women were supposed to go back home and continue with their domestic duties. The patriarchal structure of society systematically denies women’s power and devalues their labor.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carly Bea
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 18:17:52

    I really like this post. I especially like what you said about there being “no place” for women in politics because they are considered to be more emotional. It is interesting how expressing vulnerability is considered to be a weakness or lack of intelligence/control.


  2. mollygdw
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 18:29:36

    This emotionality versus rationality is a really interesting thing to analyze! It almost seems to me that it’s not even a matter of whether someone is actually being rational or emotional, but rather, if it’s a man then the behavior is considered rational, and if it’s a woman, the behavior is consider emotional. For instance, when Rick Santorum claims that women should be kept out of combat for the male soldiers’ benefit, it seems as though he’s saying that these men will lose all their rationality and be so overcome with emotion and a strong sense to protect that they’ll lose track of their mission, meanwhile the female soldiers are all remaining rational and focused on their mission. Hmm, perhaps it is the male soldiers who should be protected from combat?


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