Anger: His and Hers
I don’t have to tell any of the ladies here that society is okay with angry men but dislikes angry women. And it is society, not just men; several studies have found men and women feel this way.
To some degree, this is the result of stereotypes. In one very clever study, men and women played the part of a jury. They argued about guilt or innocence via text messaging. But some of the other jurors were actually a computer sending out texts prepared ahead of time. The same text was sent from a female name (Alicia) for some groups, and from a male name (Jason) for other groups. Some of the argument from Jason and Alicia were intended to show anger. This was done by word choice and use of all caps. Angry Jason changed the minds of 18% of the subjects while angry Alicia didn’t change a single mind, male or female. The same exact words with the only difference being the supposed gender. Male anger was convincing, female anger was not. In fact, female anger was more likely to cause people to feel even more strongly that their original position was correct.
Other studies have found that men and women see male anger as situational; he’s angry because of a conviction about the situation, and his anger is seen as passion. Female anger, on the other hand, is seen as coming from the woman’s mind/emotions. Her anger is dismissed, by both men and women, as emotional, overreacting, or the result of not thinking in a clear, logical way.
However, not all the differences are about how we perceive angry men versus angry women. Anger plays out differently in male and female minds. Some of this difference is driven by hormonal differences, with men having more testosterone (which can fuel aggression) while women have more oxytocin (which can fule empathy.) Studies show angry men find it difficult to determine from looking at people what emotions they are expressing. Women didn’t have the same limitation; in fact, anger made them better at reading a person’s emotions. (This is why he shows a lack of empathy in an argument!)
Various studies have shown the frequency of anger is the same in men and women. However, men get angry faster and get past it faster while women take longer to reach anger and then hold onto their anger much longer. Men are more given to both physical aggression and passive-aggressive behaviour as a result of anger. Women are more likely to not express their anger and are more likely to deal with their anger by “writing off” those with whom they are angry.
Men don’t feel good when they hold back their anger, feeling less effective. Women don’t report the same feeling when they suppress anger. However, women are far more likely than men to feel ashamed of their anger, and to label their anger as disabling.
Bottom Line: Yes, you ladies get a raw deal on this. Some of that is perception, but women are guilty of judging male and female anger differently just much as men. Beyond that, there are differences in how men and women process anger, how it affects us, and how we deal with it.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and I find anger less of a problem then when I was a young man!
Comparison of anger expression in men and women reveals surprising differences | UC San Francisco
Why Angry Men Are More Influential than Angry Women | TIME
Anger across the gender divide | APA