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How Cultural Norms and Stereotypes Shape Emotional Expression in Gender in the United States and the Middle East


Expressing emotions is one of the significant aspects of human life, and releasing emotions is a communication tool. However, emotional expression is influenced by the cultural factors of different communities. Cultural norms and stereotypes are highly involved in shaping a person’s way of expressing emotions, especially among genders. Emotional expression can be done in verbal and nonverbal communication and is influential among people who share the same beliefs about emotional expression (MacArthur, 2019, p.2). Expression of emotions comes naturally; it might happen with or without a person’s self-awareness. Emotional expression is a concept applied to people globally, and it is expressed through crying, laughing, and smiling. Others might use the expression through writing a thank you letter or giving gifts. Understanding the difference in the manifestation of emotions among different genders from different regions provides background information on the interconnection between societal expectations, culture, and people’s identities. This essay will explore the cultural norms and stereotypes that influence the gender expression of emotion, particularly in the United States and the Middle East.

In the United States, individualism is the primary cultural value of the country. In this aspect, one has the autonomy to express themselves. This value emphasizes that individuals can express their emotions irrespective of gender. The cultural norms surrounding emotional expression in the United States have evolved with time. The shift is influenced by the increased individualism in the country, which subjects the change in the society’s values to fit into the diverse cultures in the community. The free expression of emotion among Americans, regardless of gender, is done verbally or non-verbal. This is motivating to the U.S. people in that they can express both negative and positive emotions to the public. People can share their joy, happiness, sadness, anger, and fear in this aspect. The individualism aspect of the American culture has set the same level of gender expression among the country’s citizens (Vishkin et al., 2023, p.6). This implies that any gender can show how they feel without judgment. The gender with the liberty to express emotion suggests that gender equality in the U.S. has advanced, and all genders are valued despite traditional cultural beliefs.

On the contrary, the Middle Eastern culture is more of a collectivistic approach, emphasizing people having social cohesion and living in harmony. In this aspect of collectivism, both genders are expected to uphold the social order to have a harmonious environment. Society has restrained how genders engage in emotional expression. In the Middle Eastern part of the world, which consists of the Arabs and others, the region is dominated by the Islamic religion. The people in this religion are encouraged to be mindful of other feelings as they express them to the public (Kret et al., 2021, p.3). They discourage the display of emotions to the public, especially the negative emotions that might affect others around them. However, this cultural norm is deeply expressed among men from the Middle East compared to women. Men from this region are expected to suppress their weak emotions to maintain their traditional attitude of stoicism among the male gender in the community (Karl & Cormack, 2023, p.721). Men from the Islamic religion are believed to show strength in public, even at their weakest point. This has made them adapt to restraining their emotions to the public; some might express it secretly, while others suffer internally.

Stereotype challenges

Globally, there is positive progress toward the emotional acceptance of different genders. However, gender stereotypes have continued to be a barrier. From the traditional days, men are believed to express emotional restraints due to their masculine nature; they must express assertiveness and stoicism as the tradition demands (Bijlstra et al., 2019, p.5). Men expressing their emotional weakness to the public might face criticism due to failure to express male masculinity power in society. On the other side, women are encouraged to express different emotions because, traditionally, Cultural belief is women are vulnerable; therefore, they should show empathy and other emotions due to the feminine nature of vulnerability. Due to this, the traditional beliefs among genders significantly influence how genders express their emotion from different regions.

In the Middle East, cultural norms and stereotypes are mainly influenced by religious beliefs, historical events, and social factors. The Islamic religion dominates the Middle East and believes in the collective ethos. This belief primarily focuses on the honor of the family and the community. Therefore, each gender is expected to have particular behavior in line with cultural norms. In this region, male, due to their masculine nature, are expected to display their strength, show resilience in the face of challenges, and control their emotions to the public. Men expressing their sensitive feelings are believed to be deviating from the traditional gender beliefs of the Middle East. Conversely, women from the Middle East are expected to express a standard level of modesty and good nurturing (Kret et al., 2021, p.2). They can express their emotion to the public while observing some boundaries. This explains why the men from the Middle East seem to be more aggressive as a way of releasing their emotions to the public.

Moreover, in the Middle East, men and women have conformed to the traditional gender roles that apply to emotional norms. From their traditional perspective, both genders believe that men should express the stoic character and be strong and unemotional to the public (MacArthur, 2019, p.2). On the other hand, the women stereotypically thought from the tradition that they should be caring, gentle, and free to express their emotions. This is the traditional stereotype from the Middle East, which has made many men suppress their emotions. At the same time, some females might feel pressured to comply with their traditional expectation of expressing their emotions. However, the suppression of emotions might have an impact on the individual’s mental health. The conventional in the Middle East seems so hard on men’s expression of emotion, which has given them the masculine, aggressive character and boldness to express their emotions.

In the United States, the stereotype also influences emotional expression. Even though the male and female genders are expected to express different emotions freely, the traditional belief on gender still applies. The male gender, based on masculinity, is expected to express emotions such as aggressiveness and anger to show the power of masculinity. There have been many critics in the community among men who fail to express their masculinity power and instead show sensitivity to emotions in the presence of emotions. Some of these men have encountered social resistance due to failing to comply with the traditional belief of masculinity nature. On the other side, traditionally, the female gender is expected to be gentle and show compassion and sadness based on the situation, forcing them to express their emotions (Davis et al., 2021, p.5). These traditional norms in the community have made some of the people whose gender identity is male or female feel uncomfortable with the traditional beliefs. Women who try to remain strong in the face of an emotional event are sometimes questioned about their feminist nature. Therefore, they have been forced to engage in the traditional belief in complying with what the traditional demands.

The masculine nature of holding strength and suppressing emotion in times of hardship is a challenge in that most of them have developed mental health issues. The expression of emotions, especially at times of sadness and anger, should be accessible to all genders as well as support mental health and well-being (Rice et al., 2021, p.541). The traditional belief in masculinity nature, especially in the Middle East, should be adjusted to support the mental health of people in that region. Coping with emotions should be an individual autonomy, not attached to gender because people have different personalities and therefore express emotions differently. The inability of a person to express their respective emotions might lead to some mental issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Some people have struggled to comply with gender beliefs, which has led to some problems like a struggle to accept the internal emotions that their culture dictates on the genders. Besides, when there is a strong emphasis on emotional expression, it attracts people to have unhealthy coping mechanisms, in that some gender might experience emotional detachment to comply with the gender beliefs. Also, some have expressed excessive emotional outbursts to the public, which might hurt some people around them.

In conclusion, emotional expression is an essential aspect of human life. However, it is influenced by individual cultural beliefs on the genders. The culture shapes male and female gender identity; therefore, the way they portray emotion is determined by the cultural beliefs of particular regions. However, male in all parts traditionally believe that their masculine nature should be insensitive to emotion, and thus, suppressing emotions is the only option. Suppression of emotion has contributed to the increased cases of mental issues among the male gender. The reported cases of male stress, depression, and anxiety might be connected to the continued suppression of emotion when they could have expressed it to relieve their mental burden.


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Davis, B. C., Warnick, B. J., Anglin, A. H., & Allison, T. H. (2021). Gender and counter stereotypical facial expressions of emotion in crowdfunded micro-lending. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice45(6), 1339-1365.

Karl, K. L., & Cormack, L. (2023). Big boys don’t cry: evaluations of politicians across issues, gender, and emotion. Political Behavior45(2), 719-740.

Kret, M. E., Maitner, A. T., & Fischer, A. H. (2021). Interpreting emotions from women with covered faces: a comparison between a Middle Eastern and Western-European sample. Frontiers in Psychology12, 620632.

MacArthur, H. J. (2019). Beliefs about emotion are tied to beliefs about gender: The case of men’s crying in competitive sports. Frontiers in Psychology10, 2765.

Rice, S., Oliffe, J., Seidler, Z., Borschmann, R., Pirkis, J., Reavley, N., & Patton, G. (2021). Gender norms and the mental health of boys and young men. The Lancet Public Health6(8), e541-e542.

Vishkin, A., Kitayama, S., Berg, M. K., Diener, E., Gross-Manos, D., Ben-Arieh, A., & Tamir, M. (2023). Adherence to emotional norms is greater in individualist cultures than in collectivist cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology124(6), 1256.


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