Friday, March 30, 2007

Angry Women

Dr. Helen has an interesting post on women and anger. She quotes this British study which finds that women are angrier than men.

New research that examined the responses of 22,000 people over 50 years has found that women are more likely to feel angry and persistently frustrated than men.

They also are more likely to act on their frustration in an unhealthy manner, choosing passive aggression over non-violent confrontation, psychologists say.

And Hell really has no fury like a woman scorned, as thirtysomething women with no partner are far more likely to report angry feelings than those with partners.

The survey also found that both men and women tend to mellow in middle age, and that angry children do not necessarily become angry adults. A link also was established between economic status and anger, as low-income children are more prone to tantrums and distress.

Humorously, the study found that old men are mellower than old women, who get angry, "falling out with their friends, getting irritated by strangers in the street and feeling frustrated by the vagaries of modern technology."

The researchers say this could be linked to a feeling of powerlessness women have in a patriarchal society, but as Dr. Helen points out, why did women seem less angry in the past when society was far more patriarchal?

I have some guesses, but they are completely unscientific. Part of that anger could be that we have more time and energy to stress out over things that our foremothers wouldn't have had the time to get upset about. There could also be a sense that we should be angrier about slights and problems that used to be considered either normal or just trivial (for instance, an overcharge at the store). People seem have a sense of entitlement that wasn't present in previous generations, and they are much more likely to react (and overreact) in angry ways.

But I think the other reason women may seem angrier than men is that the expectations of feminism demand it. Read a few feminist blogs and you'll see what I mean. How could a joke about a feminist in a come-hither pose in front of a well-known philanderer become such a cause for outrage? In the old days, before so much feminist angst, if someone had made a comment like this, the subject would have blown it off. But in the age of feminist outrage, one must be completely offended at every possible slight.

The study also points out that women tend to behave in passive-aggressive ways.
Dr Dryden, who runs a clinical practice in London, said his work with patients suggests women respond to anger in a less constructive manner than men.

He said: "Instead of using it as an opportunity for assertion, they tend not to deal with it directly, often becoming passively aggressive, talking behind people's backs, or taking feelings out on other people.

I've always been the sort of person who wants to "get it all out" when I'm angry or there's a problem. It seems to me that being direct and getting the confrontation over works better than the sort of cloak-and-dagger, mind-manipulation stuff women tend to be known for. Unfortunately, when you confront passive-aggressive people with what they are doing, they get even angrier, denying that they are doing what they are clearly doing.

Dr. Helen uses the study as a springboard to muse about angry women and the web.
It would be interesting to do a study of all of the anonymous posters of insults on various blogs around the web and see if proportionally, there are as many (or more) women who pen the insults (I am not talking here about discussing issues--I mean ad hominem attacks). Because if that is the case, that more women are behind the anonymous insults, it indicates that deep down, women have learned little from feminism over the last years--they are still too afraid to come out in the open in an assertive and constructive manner. They are still, ultimately, too intimidated to take real responsibility for their actions. It's no wonder they are so angry.

She may be on to something, although I tend to think of the anonymous posters as men. There are reasons other than passive-aggressiveness or repression to explain why women may not be as willing to identify themselves on the web. There are a lot of creepy people out there and even one's name can make a person a target in real life.