“If you want them to listen, you can’t be angry”. I don’t know how many times I Have been told this in connection to discussions around sexist men in the industry. The men in question might not intend to be sexist, but that’s part of the problem.
It is one of my cardinal sins, this wrath. I’m like the Hulk. Actually, I’m more like She-Hulk.
– Here’s the thing Bruce, I’m great at controlling my anger.
– I do it all the time. Like when I’m catcalled in the street, when incompetent men explain my own area of expertise to me. I do it pretty much every day because if I don’t, I will get called emotional, or difficult, or might just literally get murdered.
– She-Hulk, A Normal Amount of Rage
I’m having a harder and harder time to hold that anger in. I have this theory that 22, almost 23 years in the industry has worn down my patience. The problem of course is that when men get angry, their anger is attributed to outside influences. They’re angry AT something. Rational.
When women get angry, our anger is attributed to internal emotional states. Irrational. We’re never angry AT something, we’re just angry because we’re emotional.
This is – to my mind – grossly unfair. Not only are women treated unfairly by just about everyone and everything. The way the world is arranged, we’re not even allowed to get angry about it. If we do, we’re considered irrational and/ or hysterical.
Compare this to “passionate speeches”, “justified outrage” and whatever else you hear when a man gets pissed off. If he’s being truly irrational, most likely he’s just having “a bad day”. Women aren’t allowed “bad days”. If we have one, we’re most likely PMSing.
The truth, however is that our anger is used against us in such an efficient manner that we even police ourselves; “If you want men to listen you can’t attack them or be angry at them”.
According to Barbara Tomlinson, in her book “Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument” it doesn’t really matter if we soothe the dudes or not. Being a woman and expressing an unpopular opinion is still going to paint us with the irrational, emotional brush. It’s just easier to ignore us if we’re not strident.
To adopt a pose of “even-handedness” in order to chastise impoliteness “on both sides” of a civic argument ignores the role of power in establishing a context for reception of ideas. Rather than establishing a “level playing field” for civic exchange, such strictures of textual etiquette allow us to congratulate gratulate ourselves on our independence and neutrality while in effect endorsing dorsing current social relations.
— Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument: Beyond the Trope of the Angry Feminist by Barbara Tomlinson
The deep exhaustion that follows when always having to remain calm, never being allowed more emotional expression than mild concern or careful joy in just about any context is constant.
We say “men aren’t allowed to cry”, which is true and also part of the same stupid, systematic, social way of policing who we’re supposed to be, but women aren’t either. We’re expected to cry though. And when we do, we’re painted as overly emotional and irrational. Do you see a pattern? Pretty much any emotional expression is used against us to deem us less rational, less knowledgeable, less… well. Less of everything.
For me, this has resulted in me being seen as angry when simply expressing myself forcefully and not smiling, and of course as I said in the beginning, that constant “so if you want men to listen…”
The truth is, they never do. I’ve tried so many ways to be heard in my professional life that you wouldn’t believe. The only thing that happens is that they like you better if you smile, soothe, wrap things in silk, use kid gloves etc.
Who wouldn’t? They still don’t listen, they can just ignore you more easily if you don’t look them in the eye and clearly state your case.
We’re raised this way. We’re told from an early age that men are the keepers of knowledge and women are not. I’m not sure where I was going with this, but the title remains. I am angry. Never being taken seriously leaves a mark.