Hysterical

Exploding the Myth of Gendered Emotions

Pragya Agarwal

Hysterical by Pragya Agarwal (Hardback ISBN 9781838853228) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook, Downloadable audio

1 September 2022

An urgent exploration of how the gendering of emotions came about, and what we can do to change these damaging stereotypes

‘Read this book and feel furious, uplifted and galvanised to take its findings out into the world and fight for change’ - LAURA BATES

Emotions can be difficult things to define, yet we all recognise them when we feel them or see them in others. How we interpret those emotions and act on them has been heavily gendered, as far back as Ancient Greek and Roman times and – despite the improvements in societal equality – continues to be today.

We’ve all heard the sayings that girls should be ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’, while ‘boys don’t cry’. In Hysterical, Pragya Agarwal dives deep into the history and science that has determined the gendering of emotions to ask whether there is any truth in the notion of innate differences between the male and female experience of emotions. She examines the impact this has on men and women – especially the role it has played in the subjugation of women throughout history – and how a future where emotions are ungendered might look.


“Any time Dr Pragya Agarwal writes something, I want to read it. Her words illuminate the hidden patterns of bias and therefore injustice that impact us. This book will make you question everything you thought you knew about emotions and make you want to reclaim your emotions as an integral part of your full humanity”
Layla F. Saad, Author Of Me And White Supremacy

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”A necessary, thought-provoking book that demands we urgently rethink the terms of the debate on gender and emotion”
Dr Tiffany Watt Smith, Author Of The Book Of Emotions

”Hugely readable and meticulously researched, Hysterical unpicks the myths, stereotypes and double standards that warp our judgments about the way men and women feel”
Mary Ann Sieghart

Hysterical is absolutely fascinating. Like all Pragya’s work this book is both robustly researched and deeply moving. In a whistle stop tour, she traces our gendered and misogynistic assumptions about male and female brains back thousands of years. She demonstrates how these stereotypes have been used throughout history both to create and to maintain a power imbalance between men and women. This book is brave, unapologetic and, at times, rightly furious … all emotions for which women have been labelled hysterical. If Agarwal’s proposal “I feel, therefore I am”, is to be adopted, then read this book and feel furious, uplifted and galvanised to take its findings out into the world and fight for change”
Laura Bates, Author Of Men Who Hate Women

“The world I see is always changed by reading a Pragya Agarwal book and Hysterical is no different - this is an informed, passionate and enlightening book”
Robin Ince, Author Of The Importance Of Being Interested


Pragya Agarwal

Dr Pragya Agarwal is a behavioural and data scientist. She has held a number of senior academic positions in US and UK Universities for over 15 years and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. As well as numerous research papers, she is the author of three widely acclaimed non-fiction books, Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias, Wish We Knew What to Say: Talking with Children about Race and (M)otherhood: On the choices of being a woman, and a book Standing Up To Racism for young children. Her journalistic writing has appeared in the Guardian, Prospect, Forbes, BBC Science Focus, Scientific American and New Scientist amongst others, and her essays have appeared in several literary magazines.

A passionate campaigner for racial and gender equity, Pragya has given keynote talks around the world. She is a two-time TEDx speaker, a TEDx Women organiser and the founder of a research think-tank The 50 Percent Project. Pragya has been awarded the Transmission Prize for making complex scientific ideas accessible and the Nesta Crucible award for scientific innovation.

@DrPragyaAgarwal | drpragyaagarwal.com