Throughout history, women have traditionally been viewed as the fairer, more delicate sex. Older films often show women overwhelmed with distress, fainting into the arms of a man. Even modern television and film often rely on the stereotypical role of the angry or overly emotional women and her calmer male counterpart. Despite the widespread belief that women are more emotional, a 1998 study at Vanderbilt University found that this might not be the case. In this study, men and women demonstrated the same levels of emotion, but the women were more likely to express the emotions through facial and other visual cues [source: Vanderbilt].
The real difference in emotion between the sexes might lie in emotional intelligence rather than feelings of anger, sadness or depression. Scientists consistently find that women possess higher levels of emotional intelligence than men, characterized by a sense of empathy and understanding of others' emotions. In 1995, researchers in Scandinavia discovered that women were better equipped to not only detect, but also mirror, the emotions of others [source: Simon-Thomas]. A similar study in 2003 found that women identified and truly experienced the emotions of others, demonstrating superior levels of empathy to those exhibited by men.
Instead of experiencing the emotions of others, the men in these studies simply recognized these emotions, and then started searching for solutions. The rational parts of their brains trumped emotion, with men switching into problem-solving mode as the women empathized.
This difference in emotional intelligence may actually prove beneficial to mankind. This sense of empathy allows women to fulfill their nurturing roles: The woman acts as a support system to friends and family. The ability to avoid experiencing the emotions of others allows men to focus on the problem at hand, seeking solutions and taking active roles in resolving issues. These differences in how men and women handle emotions can also help you choose the most effective source of help when you have a problem. If you want a sympathetic ear, talk to a female friend. For active solutions, talk to a man, but don't get upset if he appears to downplay how you feel.
It's true that women are more prone to crying than men, at least after they reach puberty. Women have more of the prolactin hormone, which contributes to tears and how much people cry. There also is a difference in the shape of men's and women's tear ducts, although it's unclear whether this is a cause of more crying in women. Another reason women cry more could be that women get depressed more than men, and people cry more when they are depressed. Social mores also permit women to cry, whereas crying is considered unacceptable behavior for men.
Women seem to worry more than men, and it could be that they're also more prone to feeling stressed. In women, the part of the brain that deals with stress is linked to the area that controls hormones and digestion, which is not the case in men. That means that women tend to exhibit more physical symptoms from stress than men. Women also have more stress hormones than men. After a traumatic experience, a woman's stress hormone levels take longer to get back to normal levels than do a man's. Could it be that some of these physiological effects come across as emotional ones?
Although some may believe that women get more jealous about romantic duplicity than men do, it seems that the sexes get jealous over different kinds of infidelity. A woman in a long-term relationship gets upset and jealous if her partner becomes emotionally attached to another woman, perhaps even more so than if he cheats sexually. Allowing for cultural differences, most men, however, would be more upset and jealous if their partners had been physically unfaithful.
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