Judging Inappropriateness in Actions Expressing Emotion

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Frances Bottenberg, Lecturer (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Actions expressing strong emotions such as anger can be appropriate responses when an agent judges a serious injustice to have been committed. Certainly, a woman can experience these conditions and express herself through actions such as gesturing aggressively, gritting her teeth, or lashing out verbally. If she is consequently labeled “crazy,” “hysterical,” or “a bitch,” what has gone awry? This paper offers an analysis of the common charge of inappropriateness in the case of women’s actions expressing emotion. To begin, I present core normative distinctions that define appropriate emotional expression. Following this, the “double-bind” of women’s actions expressing emotion will be explored with reference to the conflicting normative practices outlined in the first section of the paper. Put briefly, when a female agent surpasses gendered behavioral expectations, she is seen as having failed what can be called the first test of social coping. The perception of this failure shuts down further avenues for interpreting her behavior. Instead, the social inappropriateness of her emotion is used as further proof of irrationality. The arguments of the second section leave no doubt that gendered norms in the case of actions expressing emotions must be rejected both on epistemological and moral grounds. The final section of the paper explores epistemically and ethically viable alternatives for deciding the rational appropriateness of actions expressing emotion.

Additional Information

PhaenEx 9(2): 88-98
Language: English
Date: 2014
expression of emotion, pathologizing emotion, gender norms, gender stereotyping

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