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Anger Reduces Women's Ability to Influence Others

(32 Posts)
NiNoKuni Sun 11-Oct-15 22:18:01

Article here

"men were able to exert more social pressure by expressing anger," whereas women actually lost influence when they did the same thing.

This research supports the results of a 2008 study that found men gain status, but women lose it, after expressing anger. Men are presumed to be angry for a reason, that study concluded, while women's anger is seen as a reflection of internal characteristics, such as a tendency to get "out of control."

I had a few reactions reading this, including 'no shit', 'fuck that' and 'that's why feminists are always branded as angry', but also - does this mean I should police my own tone to exert more influence, or try to subvert this norm by not toning it down but then ironically losing impact? Is it better to be authentic or play the game to win? Is there a way for women to win in the first place? What do you think?

JeffsanArsehole Sun 11-Oct-15 22:22:02

I don't think we should focus on women's anger at all. Instead we should just point out there's no such thing and it's no different from men's anger at all.

It's just another attempt to diminish and paint us as hysterical.

We should encourage people to express anger as its a perfectly normal emotion.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Mon 12-Oct-15 09:21:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChunkyPickle Mon 12-Oct-15 09:26:31

That was exactly my thought Buffy - that you take more notice of men's anger because it's more dangerous.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Mon 12-Oct-15 09:34:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NiNoKuni Mon 12-Oct-15 09:53:19

For me, one of the salient points was that men's anger is seen as rational and externally generated, whereas women's is emotional/irrational and internally generated.

It makes a lot of things that bit clearer, such as why some people tell feminists to make their demands more nicely, or lawyers to not draw attention to harassment, and can dismiss women's anger as not important, not real or just 'her problem'.

I think people are not used to dealing with women's anger. I know when I display it, it makes people nervous. They don't know what to do about it. So in that sense, I do think women showing anger more would help normalise it a bit. But any individual woman doing that runs the risk of a certain level of ostracism or loss of influence.

It really does irk me something chronic that showing anger means I'm taken less seriously than a man would in the same situation. It's such a catch 22, isn't it? Asking nicely doesn't tend to effect sweeping change, but asking more forcefully means people can dismiss you more easily. They've got us coming and going.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Mon 12-Oct-15 10:04:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shovetheholly Mon 12-Oct-15 11:19:34

Spot on, Buffy. It's like we are supposed to make everything we say tentative in case we tread on toes. Any point of view must be prefaced with self-deprecation or subordination. I think girls are 'trained' from a very early age to kowtow to others or to be subordinate in the way that they put a point across.

I therefore wonder if this study can be said to be comparing like with like in any meaningful way. Because I think there are so many more opportunities for men to be 'acceptably' angry in society, and so few for women, that I suspect that when some women become publicly angry it is because they are actually incandescent due to being marginalised and ignored - and that actually men never need to reach that point because they are not subject to the same levels of dismissal in the first place.

NiNoKuni Mon 12-Oct-15 11:21:02

I do notice that, yes. I also think it's a bit circular - people call feminists 'angry' as they're women and, you know, not all quiet and submissive, which means they can dismiss them as irrational. Therefore all feminists are angry, therefore a feminist talking quite calmly can also be dismissed as emotional, irrational and just plain wrong.

I also think that you, Buffy, display quite astounding amounts of reasonableness and calm at times grin I did notice what you're talking about on the sexbot thread a while back, though.

I'm not quiet and unassuming irl. I can talk quite heatedly about some subject, not even feminism, maybe politics, maybe health stuff, world events, that sort of thing. But I use some invective, or intonation, or raise my voice slightly for emphasis and people start doing that shifty looking for the exit dance. I'm not sure it's all a 'woman' thing, since I was largely brought up in a culture that is a lot more, er, forthright than the British one, but it's very noticeable. And it does make me doubt myself sometimes. And other people - not everyone can be such delicate flowers they can't take a good bit of robust debate, surely?

So I do make an effort to police my own tone. And it's really boring and tiring!

But angry men - say Dawkins, or Frankie Boyle, even Ronnie Fucking Pickering - are far more likely to be lauded than angry women. I'm not sure that's all about fear of violence, I think there's another element or two in there somewhere.

shovetheholly Mon 12-Oct-15 11:34:44

grin at NinoKuni. Maybe it's time to stop self-censoring!!

I think the movie Frozen is interesting on this. Don't get me wrong - I think it's rather a sweet film and does represent some kind of belated gender progress. But I do have some issues with the fact that to be in touch with her awesome creative power for Elsa is to be in solitary exile - she can only be in society if she tames and controls her iciness. Yes, thankfully, that taming is through sisterly love and not some awful, patronising and sexist salvation by a bloke. But she ends up doing magic tricks for children in a really domestic setting - which is hardly as empowered an ending as it could be.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Mon 12-Oct-15 11:38:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sausageeggbacon111 Tue 13-Oct-15 12:17:15

One of the things I have found interesting is the differences in body language between men and us. When a man leans in and speaks in it can seem aggressive rather than attentive. We lean in trying to seem attentive but men may see it as aggressive if we are raising an issue or point. I had this pointed out to me that I seemed aggressive when I was keen on listening to an opinion that was different to mine but when I spoke it was almost like they were hearing me two points higher on the volume dial. Perception based on sex, age, race and the issue is not new but when you wish to be heard without seeming to be a whinger it may be you have to be careful about how you speak with your body as much as with your voice.

NiNoKuni Wed 14-Oct-15 11:20:29

But I hate that I have to be careful. Constantly monitoring yourself for potential 'aggression infractions' is oh so tiring and we just don't see men giving it a second thought very often (as holly has pointed out on the thread about Jennifer Lawrence). Even things like the AIBU board here on MN - it's one of the most popular and traffic-heavy boards and could really be seen as one great big consensus-seeking conversation about women's anger. Would there be an AIBU on a Dadsnet?

I don't think there's a way to win (yet). Bore and exhaust yourself to tears censoring and monitoring yourself or lose friends and influence. It's deeply unfair. And I can't find a solution.

shovetheholly Wed 14-Oct-15 11:53:01

Bit of a personal ramble - sorry! If this feels confused it's because I am still quite confused about it, and trying to find my way in the dark.

Aggression/passivity: I have been thinking about this a LOT lately, and even reading some shitty self-help books on the subject. I am convinced that for me personally the concept of 'assertiveness' is a vital third term to break up the binary. I mean this in a structural sense, that I've felt for a long time trapped by this opposition and the impossibility of negotiating it, and I need a route out of that, which is about being able to have a strong and impassioned voice, to be able to occupy a position of confidence and authority. I see assertiveness as an incredibly helpful way of thinking about this - though I think it needs to be taken up and really considered in more detail, because there is a lot of quite facile stuff in the books and basic courses that I need to get beyond. (I do not want, for example, in every situation simply to replicate consensus-building/win-win style ways of achieving agreement that are very gendered, and often those simple models seem to be striving towards this).

Perhaps most of all, though, I want to have this discursive site in a way that doesn't simply replicate the power structures of male discourse, and its ways of shutting others down. So it's having a way of discerning between ridiculous reactions that I don't feel I should have to concern myself with (ones that come from a position of negation on gendered terms, form instance), and reactions that are perhaps a sign that I have in some way overstepped a limit and that I should 'hear' another voice that is potentially hurting. And I'm starting to see that this is perhaps something that needs to be added to acting assertive behaviour - a kind of openness to be proven wrong, or to hearing another perspective. (This is what is so often missing on AIBU!!). It's having a kind of radical uncertainty and humility - not a gendered thing, but something human - WHILE also saying 'Here I stand, and you will hear me in turn'.

grimbletart Wed 14-Oct-15 17:53:07

I was given a good piece of advice about expressing anger by a female mentor many years ago.

If you are really angry don't breathe fire, drip ice.

I found it worked.

slugseatlettuce Wed 14-Oct-15 22:32:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shovetheholly Thu 15-Oct-15 08:21:34

slugs - I haven't read that! It looks awesome, so I have ordered it!

I think you've pinpointed something important. One thing I find really difficult is not being responsibilised by other people for their reactions. I think this is very gendered for me, and has to do with the way I was brought up - it's a very deep, habitual pattern of behaviour to think that I am somehow responsible for the emotions of others. (I suspect this is the case for a very large proportion of women).

And here's the thing - even when I behave assertively and I KNOW that someone's reaction isn't fair or proportionate, I only know it cerebrally, not emotionally. So it still makes me feel really miserable and very, very uncomfortable inside.

I'm working really hard on a kind of confident emotional control, to change the pattern of feeling just awful about a reaction, and to breeze through it more. I have come to understand that being assertive is about that internal response, as well as about actually behaving in the clear, confident, communicative way that you describe. And this is something that isn't really tackled in a lot of the books and courses. I'm absolutely not saying I have this nailed yet - I am literally just at the start of discovering this and trying to change it - but I feel like one of the problems is that I've only seen half the picture before.

(I have to be careful to think about this before I act on it, because I can be an arsehole at times, so sometimes I need to take those reactions into account and apologise!! But it's about trusting my judgement a bit more, even in those cases.)

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Thu 15-Oct-15 08:27:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shovetheholly Thu 15-Oct-15 08:35:31


It's something I'm thinking about in my work right now - whether there are ways of using attentiveness to 'see' a person justly, but also to push back against those unjust people who just brutally bulldoze everyone in front of them.

It's also a big issue in my personal life, because my PIL are extreme bullies and highly PA so I absolutely have loads of chance to practice these techniques - my hand is forced because their demands are so ridiculous that they aren't doable.

BetaTest Thu 15-Oct-15 08:46:35

A man who is angry and has no power is not frightening and can be safely ignored.

A man who is angry and has physical power, political power, or economic power is frightening because he could exercise that power to produce a consequence for the person who is causing him to be angry.

Women tend not to have physical, political or economic power and therefore their anger is not seen as frightening as it has no consequences and hence has their anger can safely be ignored without fear.

If you look closely many of the well known so called 'powerful' or 'influential' women who are held up as role models to other women often have a 'powerful' or 'influential' man supporting them. In fact it is often the case that these so called role models are in fact not at all supportive to other women, do not appear to be angry, adopt male modes of behaviour and expression and in fact support the status quo by subtly undermining other women.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Thu 15-Oct-15 08:48:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shovetheholly Thu 15-Oct-15 09:30:02

OK, this is apropos of nothing - and I'm not a psychologist - and this is so overly simplistic and shit, but thinking about how I grew up:

Boy gets angry --> society signals that this is a fair and proportionate response to the issue --> issue is quickly resolved --> boy emerges with high levels of satisfaction and relatively low levels of conflict between emotion and reason --> taking a stand is safe, boy comes to view assertive emotions as controllable parts of his psychological makeup (possible detriment to 'softer' emotions, however) --> empowerment

Girl gets rationally angry --> context signals that female anger is inappropriate --> girl learns to suppress anger and to find more manipulative ways of getting what she wants, which are less effective and often give power away --> issue is not resolved -->further anger, becoming more hysterical/unreasonable due to frustration --> cultural myths about 'female irrationality', creating further lack of acceptance of female anger --> girl comes to believe that she cannot personally control her own emotions, and isn't responsible for them --> disempowerment.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Thu 15-Oct-15 09:44:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

slugseatlettuce Thu 15-Oct-15 11:29:24

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shovetheholly Thu 15-Oct-15 11:55:50

slugs - I watched the first episode of Mad Men last night (I am permanently about 6 years behind everyone else in TV terms, and about 250 years behind in terms of everything else). Anyway, in case people don't remember back that far (!), Don Draper loses it at an assertive woman client and tells her straight up 'I WON'T BE SPOKEN TO BY A WOMAN LIKE THAT!' And DH was all shock, and I was all 'You think it's changed that much? It's still there, it's just they don't say it out loud like that any more'.

(It's like that JLaw article I posted yesterday - where she says that she's sick and tired of trying to find 'adorable' ways of making points about inequality).

Talking about it, being aware of it, working against it all helps though. I think we are making progress, albeit slowly. #optimist.

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