It is hard to say when the mind is ruled by emotion and when it is logic that seems to dominate it. Is there a hard and fast rule for functioning at one's optimum level when one is logical or when one is emotional? This becomes even harder when you are a woman and when emotions layer your logic. At such times, there will always be someone (mostly a man) who will say, "You are being emotional" to either wear you down, end the discussion, or make you feel like a worm because you have allowed emotion to intrude into a space ruled purely by logic.
Invariably, the use of the word "emotional," pushes a woman on the defensive because you are instantly conscious of the gender barb targeting you. For, at that moment, "emotional" is possibly the worst thing that you can be, against the cold, hard logic that dominates the world, more so a man's world. Never mind if the issue is emotive like talking about thousands losing their lives and you hear someone say, "things happen!" It is not that women are exempt from the world of hard, cold deductions. They are equally guilty of logic when using the term, "collateral damage", as did Condoleezza Rice during the Iraq War, or Madeleine Albright about the death of Iraqi children during the US sanctions against Iraq.
A lot is spoken in the world of corporations about EQ or Emotional Quotient (Intelligence). If emotion can be tagged to intelligence in the corporate world, why is "being emotional" used as a stick to beat women with?
Entering the Holocaust Museum in Auschwitz will probably be one of the most emotional moments in my life, outside of bearing witness to tragedies occurring in the family and with friends. The deathly silence of the place; photographs clicking guiltily, as most of us, both men and women, wipe our tears, some surreptitiously, others not able to hide them. At that point, if someone were to loudly pronounce, "This happened a long time ago, so stop being so emotional, folks," he would probably be considered insane.
One of my closest emotional experiences was my mother taking me — then a small child — to a friend's house, which had been looted and burnt during the communal riots that beset the town that I grew up in. As my mother and I salvaged whatever we could, from amongst the ruins, I could not stem the horror of my imagination. What if my friend and her family had not been primed about the risks and not left the house? The living-room and bedrooms, where we used to play, "I Spy," were a charred mess. I just followed my mother's instructions, like a zombie, and kept putting all the things that had escaped the fury of the mob, into a large piece of cloth, which we later bundled up. I still wonder why my mother chose to take me along instead of sparing me the sight and the nightmares that followed. Perhaps she was trying to give me an idea of the horrors that communal violence could wreak. Somehow, I never got round to asking her and she is no longer around for me to do so.
And so if anybody uses the term, "things happen," when referring to communal violence, I cannot help but react from my heart. It is a childhood memory that is triggered and the reaction can only be "emotional." To me, emotion is linked with feeling with my heart. Who would care to replace that with cold, hard logic? And besides, who gets to decide which of the two is better?
The author is an independent writer based in Bangalore