Should Women Get Angry?

Should women get angry?

Should women get angry?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss whether or not women should get angry.

First a quick update:

“8 Confusing texts men send”
Read on my insights and analysis about the meaning and motivation of specific texts by men

Follow me on Twitter – You can now choose to follow me and receive a few words of wisdom on Twitter: @Behavior_Expert

Now, let’s talk about whether or not women should get angry.

I have written many articles about anger.

Anger is the initial emotional response to being hurt, injured or wronged, or, not getting what you wanted or expected.

Anger is not always a negative emotion or response; it can bring about positive change: without anger such as righteous indignation, there would be no response to injustices in the world. For example, we need anger to drive us to take immediate and rapid action to intervene and fend off an attacker in order to protect someone who is being beaten, robbed or bullied.

When anger is directed in the wrong way, it can become extremely destructive (unwarranted violence and abuse against oneself and other people or literally smashing and destroying things and property.) Anger when not dealt with properly can also lead to drunken binges and drug abuse. According to a study in the UK, a man who felt angry was more likely to drink the next day than a man who did not feel angry. And yes, the drinking failed to ease the sorrows or anger. Click to read more.

So, is anger a gender-specific emotion?

Is anger reserved only for men?

What happens when women become angry?

In Rush Hour 2, Chris Tucker plays a policeman chasing a Chinese Triad (crime gang.) In one scene, Chris Tucker is in a final violent confrontation with a woman from the Triad (played by Ziyi Zhang) and when she gets knocked out to the ground, he blurts angrily:

“We could have been a good couple, we could have had something special, but you’re one crazy-ass bitch.”

Incidentally, that line was not in the original script – it was something Chris Tucker adlibbed. Although this is a very comical scene, the point here is that women who express anger are usually portrayed or described as “you’re PMS-ing’, you’re overreacting, you’re being crazy.”

Society has extraordinary disdain for angry women, while rewarding angry men.

“As in prior research, men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness. However, both male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals than on angry male professionals. This was the case regardless of the actual occupational rank of the target, such that both a female trainee and a female CEO were given lower status if they expressed anger than if they did not. Whereas women’s emotional reactions were attributed to internal characteristics (e.g., ‘‘she is an angry person,’’ ‘‘she is out of control’’), men’s emotional reactions were attributed to external circumstances. Providing an external attribution for the target person’s anger eliminated the gender bias.”

Can an Angry Woman Get Ahead? – Status Conferral, Gender, and Expression of Emotion’ study by Victoria L. Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann – Yale University and Northwestern University, 2008

In another study, it was revealed that men who express anger are more likely to be hired than men who express sadness; logically, anger is a highly active emotion while sadness is a passive emotion. Thus, if anger is seen as positive in a professional setting (able to bring about positive change), then why is it reserved only for male professionals and not female professionals?

We approve of male anger but not male sadness; we approve of female sadness but not female anger!

We view anger as a masculine emotion and we view sadness as a feminine emotion: girls get sad, boys get mad.

In fact, another study found that a crying baby (labeled as a boy) was judged by listeners as cries of anger; but a crying baby (labeled as a girl) was judged by listeners as cries of sadness.

Thus, society generally says women cannot get angry;

“Now, in the distaff version of Swift-boating, they are casting Hillary Clinton as an Angry Woman, a she-monster melding images of Medea, the Furies, harpies, a knife-wielding Glenn Close in ‘Fatal Attraction’ and a snarling Scarlett Johansson in ‘Match Point.’” – Maureen Dowd, NY Times, 2006

It must be duly noted that testosterone (the principle hormone in men) will cause aggression and even anger, particularly when levels are high.

However, as noted at the beginning of this article, anger is not simply a physical response to high testosterone levels or part of the “Fight or Flight” response, it is also an emotion caused by an internal processing of external factors.

And while society has deemed male anger as positive and welcomed, but female anger as negative and frightening, the real loser of this approach is not women but actually men because of the extremely narrow definition of masculinity.

Boys and thus, men, are expected to feel and express anger but not sadness, loneliness, loss, fear or emotional pain; stoicism is cultivated and praised in boys while girls are encouraged to express their deeper emotions. Boys don’t understand their emotions and thus they express sadness and other emotions through anger; many men live their lives in pain and ignorance.

Without close emotional connection to men, boys and men have a ‘hole in their soul’, starting with their fathers.

The point here is that taking into account any and all biological and neurological differences between the sexes, both men and women are humans with the capacity to feel, experience, and express a wide range of emotions.

Not allowing a man or a woman to engage in the full human experience, not only damages and destroys relationships, it blocks people from fully experiencing life and fulfilling their own potential.  Telling someone, male or female, you cannot and are not allowed to feel or express a particular emotion, creates the belief “there must be something wrong with me” when they actually have that emotion.

Remember, you are allowed to feel whatever you feel – anger, sadness, loss, resentment, hatred, love, disappointment, betrayal and so forth.

All that matters after feeling the emotion is carefully deciding how you will respond to that emotion.

Let the women experience and express her anger; I encourage men to allow the woman to have her storm. Be the lighthouse that is not shaken or rocked in the midst of the storm, for when she feels safe to express her full range of emotions, she will feel safe to fully express all of her love for you!

If you want to learn more about anger and its impact, read my articles “The truth about anger” – find out with whom you are really angry – and it’s not who you think it is and discover the truth about the way anger hurts and damages your body and health “Anger is catabolic – it breaks down your body”.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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2 replies
  1. Avatar
    Erol says:

    Maybe there’s a difference between “having an emotion” and “being emotional”?
    One may have an emotion that arises and passes away. But if it’s chronic, that may be something to get curious about. If we realize that emotions come from thoughts, why are emotions that important?

    If we look carefully at the thought creating the emotion, is it really true? If it’s a repeated continual thought, is that healthy? For example, a loved one may pass. They may be deep sadness. But it the same emotion is chronic, maybe the person is repeating, “I’m all alone in the world.”

    A chronically angry spouse may be thinking, “no one respects me, not even my spouse.”

    Another way to consider it, is the Dalai Lama, a seemingly balanced man free of emotionality, somehow broken compared to an America?

    So a question is, “are emotions REALLY that essential to a happy life” or have we become an emotionally indulgent culture run by a chatty mind and expectations of perfect? hmmm….

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Erol,
      thanks for your response and perspectives. Obviously, your point is valid: the way to control emotional responses is by clarifying the underlying thought and determining the thought’s accuracy i.e. question our interpretation of the event which is triggering the emotion.

      With regards to the Dalai Lama, I wonder if he would say that he has no spike in emotions or emotional responses. Would you argue that or expect him to be free of all emotions if he were to witness the freeing of Tibet and its people? Would we be critical of him, if he were to cry with joy or intense emotion over such an event?

      Would it be wrong for him or anyone to weep over injustices or the killing or rape of a child?

      Nonetheless, Buddhism teaches a goal of calming the mind and spirit – avoiding “afflictive emotions” and “agitative emotions.”

      “Buddhism is more about human emotions. In the course of that exploration, it will become obvious that most disturbances are stimulated not by external causes but by such internal events as the arising of disturbing emotions. The best antidote to these sources of disruption will come about through enhancing our ability to handle these emotions ourselves. Eventually we need to develop an awareness that provides the ways and means to overcome negative, disturbing emotions ourselves.” _ Dalai Lama

      Many people would be surprised to hear that the Dalai Lama promotes the release of painful emotions:

      Here is an excerpt from his teachings around ethics and emotions

      How about “letting out” my emotions?
      – What of Western psychology’s encouragement of expressing feelings and emotions, even anger? The Dalai Lama recognizes that experiencing emotions such as anger and desire is entirely natural.

      “Certainly many people have endured traumatic experiences in their past, and if these emotions are suppressed, they may indeed cause lasting psychological harm. In such cases, as we say in Tibet, “When the conch shell is blocked, the best way to clear it is to blow into it.” Ethics for the New Millennium

      – That said, he is encouraging us not to feel powerless in the face of emotions, as if we can’t do anything about them.

      “I do feel that it is important for spiritual practitioners to adopt a stance against strong emotions such as anger, attachment, and jealousy and devote themselves to developing restraint. Instead of allowing ourselves to indulge in occurrences of strong emotions, we should work at decreasing our propensity toward them. If we ask ourselves whether we are happier when angry or when calm, the answer is evident. . . The troubled mental state that results from afflictive emotions immediately disturbs our inner equilibrium, causing us to feel unsettled and unhappy.”

      Thanks Erol for you ongoing insights and perspectives.


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