It’s OK for women to be angry. The anger double bind

by Jun 25, 2016

Why is it not OK for women to be angry?

The U.K. is reeling from the biggest self-made political catastrophe in decades. Maybe centuries. If you are reading this in Denver, Darwin or Delhi, you may think this is not for you.  But you’re wrong. In some way shape or form it will impact you eventually, so don’t tune out. In the aftermath there have been a number of “come to mummy, give me a hug” type posts on social media. We are being urged to let it all go and move forward. But I’m not Taylor Swift, and I can’t shake it off  – just not yet anyway. What’s interesting is that most of these calming type platitudes have been written by women. Ladies, it’s OK for women to be angry.

Not ready for group hugs

I’m not going to go into any of the issues relating to the campaign. And I understand that it is not in the interests of my overall well-being to harbour anger over a long period. That’s not healthy. But it is equally unhealthy not to be able to say I am angry and frustrated when I am. I do not want to shake anyone’s hand, make-up or do group hugs and find my authentic self. I have as much harmony in me currently as a bad boy band.

This is not a scuffle in an Oxford quad, where we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again. Although the deep-seated reality is this is what it really is. It was an Old Etonian pissing contest with everything to play for, set against a background of a fragmented and divided country. The livelihoods of countries and even continents are at risk. We are paying a price because three men wanted to advance their political careers. The losses and chaos are enormous.  But for some reason it’s still not O.K for women to be angry.  We are expected to commit to finding all these cosy-up, feel-good solutions with touchy feely outcomes.

Women and anger

“It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman,” Old Testament, Proverbs

Female anger carries stereotyping sub-text: a shrewish wife, the mental ex-girlfriend, the feminazi or nagging partner. These phrases are bandied around when people feel uncomfortable around female anger. We are aggressive or bitches.

In the History of Female Anger Stassa Edwards suggests that women are surrounded by a culture of “compulsory positivity.” To deviate from this norm can generate name calling. We’re not go-to team players or we’re “mean girls” or Alpha bitches. Or we’re having our periods. Our anger is not rooted in an emotional response to something rational, but reduced even further to being hormonal. It’s biological.

Research in Pyschology Today suggests that in legal deliberations when women are angry, their credibility is damaged, but for men it is enhanced. So yet another double bind for women. We reward angry men and punish angry women, which penalises us in politics, in our careers and even socially, because we are judged negatively when we are angry. The angry white man is now a whole new demographic on its own.

Read: The angry white male is not who you think 

I am righteously indignant

As a Brit with business interests in France and Spain, I will be immediately impacted, as will the people I work with and those that I employ directly. My economic future, is now very uncertain. My business life on a very stretched budget is likely to be made more complicated. And before anyone comes up with bumper sticker sound bites, I never stop thinking about my children’s future. The next weeks, maybe months will be spent living on a knife’s edge.

Bernie Sanders said :

“Never, ever lose your sense of outrage”

Maybe if there was some acceptance that it was O.K for women to be angry and not to morph us into Barbie doll, conciliatory facilitators, then the world would be a different place. Male anger should not be treated more seriously than women’s. Read: Queen Bee or Rival There’s a big difference

Women need fire in their bellies. We need to pivot right out of our traditional roles of peace maker, get out there, make some noise and kick metaphoric ass. But we don’t, because it’s not OK for women to be angry.

Of course, I will get over this eventually. Sooner, rather than later.  I will step back, neutralise myself and move forward to deal with whatever is thrown at me. I will not go after some Boomer “Leave” voter in Barnsley, however tempted. But right now, my authentic self is spitting feathers.  I am not ready to hold hands and sing Kumbya.

And if I ever came across Nigel Farage, I would without hesitation…. put him on the naughty step for the rest of his days.

O.K  Just kidding. Not really. Worse. Way worse.


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Staff Writer: Career Contributor
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