How dare she?
The reaction to Serena Williams’ call for fairness at the U.S. Open is a case study in gender inequity in sports, the workplace, in public and in private where women are punished for fury and men are praised for telling it like it is.The reaction to @SerenaWilliams’ call for fairness at the U.S. Open is a case study in #genderinequity where women are punished for #fury & men are praised for telling it like it is. Click To Tweet
Rebecca Traister, author of the upcoming book, Good And Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, writes in the Washington Post: “Of course she was mad! She was enraged by being called a cheater, furious at the suggestion that her stature, in this sport that has made her feel so unwelcome even as she has dominated and redefined it, has in any way been anything other than earned. And so, breathless with rage, she said, ‘I don’t cheat to win; I’d rather lose.’ Over and over, she repeated, sometimes pointing her finger at him, ‘You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology.’”
That many critics labelled Williams with the offensive trope of Angry Black Woman complicates the wounding of the injustice.
Such disparity in the justification for anger has been backed up by research. A 2008 Harvard University study shows, “Women who expressed anger in a professional context were accorded lower status, lower wages, and less competence, while the opposite was true for men. In evaluating job candidates, study participants conferred higher status on angry men than on sad men; higher status on angry men than angry women; and higher status on sad women than angry women. Participants were more likely to attribute women’s anger to internal factors (their personality, temperament, etc.) than external factors (like the situation, other people’s provocation).”
According to Maya Salam writing in the New York Times, the firestorm following Serena Williams at the U.S. Open “was a microcosm, in so many ways, of what women face at work daily: penalized for expressing emotion (Serena), and apologizing for their success (Naomi).”
Salam writes that this anger disparity is buttressed by plenty of research. “Another study, of women of color in STEM fields, determined that about 50 percent of women reported backlash when they expressed anger at work, including colleagues and higher-ups calling them out for their tone.”
Traister writes in her upcoming book, “It’s crucial to remember that women’s anger has been received—and often vilified or marginalized—in ways that have reflected the very same biases that provoked it: black women’s fury is treated differently from white women’s rage; poor women’s frustrations are heard differently from the ire of the wealthy. Yet despite the varied and unjust ways America has dismissed or derided the rages of women, those rages have often borne substantive change, alterations to the nation’s rules and practices, its very fabric.”Author @rtraister writes in #GoodAndMad that women's rages have changed rules, practices and the very fabric of this country. Click To Tweet
All this female discontent and anger is reflecting across generations, races and parties. Gaby Hinsliff writes in the Guardian abut Traister’s book, “You can feel it in the air, a sort of fierce crackling impatience with the status quo for women, which has helped to fuel everything from abortion law reform in Ireland and the pussy protests against Trump to the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.”
Hinsliff writes, “Younger women clearly aren’t prepared to put up with what their mothers endured. But many older women too are raging over everything from changes to the state pension age to a trans rights movement that some fear is riding roughshod over vulnerable women’s concerns. They feel ignored or taken for granted by the political parties they have supported all their lives.
So the good news is women are using anger for change.
Author Soraya Chemaly in her new book, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, does an extraordinary job unpacking the sources of anger historically and currently that are fueling the fight for equality in politics, culture, work, families, relationships, everywhere.As author @schemaly writes in her new book, #RageBecomesHer, women are using anger for change. Click To Tweet
“Both men and women respond with anger when another person acts in critical, aggressive, and controlling ways, but many men exhibit those behaviors as a function of being adequately masculine,” Chemaly writes.
“The behaviors that women say cause them to feel intense anger are often those that men display as aspects of traditional masculinity. In women, on the other hand, the controlling and aggressive behavior that men might find enraging indicates that a woman is not conforming to traditional norms.”
And what in this new age of rage, are men doing differently? Indeed, consider that male anger is historically celebrated, seen as amusing or dismissed as a “boys will be boys” explanation. Coming to the Broadway stage this fall is the newly popularized angry old male rage in the form of Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale in “Network,” following an acclaimed London run.
This is a story built around the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” persona of an over-the-hill, out of control man engulfed in flames of fury. Peter Finch first played Howard Beale in the 1976 film, “Network” when back then his declaration of independence was seen as amusing, liberating and perhaps harmless.
Clinical psychologist Thomas J. Harbin, in an upcoming updated edition of Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men, writes of raving men taking to social media: “They don’t have to deal with the consequences of angry diatribes and don’t have to fear retribution. They can say whatever they want to whoever they want and get away with it. They can rant and rave, call people names, make false statements about people, start or contribute to rumors, and sometimes ruin lives — and forget all about it when they walk away from the screen.”
Harbin tells Seth Simons of Fatherly magazine in an interview: “I think over the last 10 or 15 years or so a lot of aspects of our culture have gotten increasingly aggressive. There is an acceptance of humiliating trash talk in sport, many of our political bodies sit and scream at each other instead of getting anything positive accomplished. I think a lot of people value belligerence in and of its own self, so that belligerence is now a virtue.”
In his 2017 book, Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, author Michael Kimmel, who recently was a guest in Take The Lead’s Virtual Happy Hour, writes: “They are white men who aren’t at all happy about the way the tides have turned. They see a small set of swells as one gigantic tsunami about to wash over them.”
As author and minister William R. Alger wrote in the 19th century, “Men often make up in wrath what they want in reason.”
Women who have been marching, protesting and organizing for centuries for human rights, equality and social justice, have been traditionally seen as emotional, hysterical and ineffective. Perhaps that is changing because so many women now dare to put their anger into action.Women who have been marching, protesting and organizing for centuries have been traditionally seen as emotional, hysterical and ineffective. Perhaps that is changing because so many women now dare to put their #AngerIntoAction. Click To Tweet
Chemaly is hopeful. “The desire to be polite, wanting to be liked, a disinclination to challenge norms, and a fear of retaliation all contributed to the gap,” she writes. “Social costs of pointing out prejudice are high, but when women recognize discrimination and the anger it provokes, this heightened consciousness yields positive effects, such as the ability to strategize and confront problems.”
And perhaps, solve them.