Why Women Get Angry

Every now and again, I see some post on the internet about how women are all crazy and irrational and oversensitive - normally by a man, though sometimes by women too. It pisses me off for three main reasons: firstly, it silences women by implying that we have nothing of value to say. As a woman who has spent my life studying, I'd at least like a fair contest before men (because it's always men) decide that whatever comes out of my mouth is useless crap. And by fair contest, I mean one where I'm not shouted down and threatened with physical assault, rape and murder unless I shut up.

Secondly, it completely ignores the fact that if women are irrational, everyone is irrational. I'm not saying this out of spite, I'm saying this out of decades of research showing that while humans can and do think rationally, it takes up time, effort and energy and so the brain unconsciously switches to a system that requires less effort, time and conscious thought, and that gives good solutions but not optimal ones. This is why humans make irrational choices. It's not a bug, it's a feature.

Thirdly - and this is what I want to talk about - sometimes women get angry and what men perceive as oversensitive because we have to go through stuff every day that they don't see, because they're blinded by male privilege. So to them it just looks as though we're getting angry over nothing - but we're not.

At this point some people are going to say "It's not the job of the oppressed to educate the oppressors!". Well, tough shit. While women shouldn't have to educate men (and if men are that smart they can damn well go and google things for themselves, in my opinion), I'm not sure if anyone else has written about this - and besides, if I can educate, I want to do some educating. I need to do some educating, because I know men who range from repulsive to wonderful who have no idea about why they'll say something and women will appear to flare up in a halo of righteous fury. I don't ask anyone else to educate, but this is something I'll willingly take upon myself.

It's probably easiest to explain if I take examples - so I'll take the two that most stick in my mind.

Firstly, there used to be an amazingly funny series called Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, which you can watch for free on 4oD if you have an account. It's a parody of bad 80s horror shows, from the old logos and distorted sound to the cheesy acting, cheap sets, special effects failures and the misogyny. Oh, the misogyny...It's very much meant to criticise the prevailing attitudes at the time, but often this criticism takes the form of exaggerating the misogyny to the point where if the one main female character says anything, she's ignored, told to shut up or punched in the face. In one episode, where PMS and pent-up anger cause her to wreak havoc using telekinesis (in other words, pretty much the only time she gets her own back on her misogynistic male colleagues), she is knocked out by one of said colleagues and has a lobotomy performed on her so that she will never again try to stand up to being constantly belittled - and worse (she is frequently assaulted).

Now, I know it's supposed to be criticising the misogyny of the time, and the series as a whole satirises narrow-minded attitudes. At the same time, some women would be uncomfortable with it - I know I get uncomfortable watching the scenes of violence against women in the show - and some men, well, wouldn't get it. (This isn't an insult to those of you that do, I just know a fair few who don't.) This is because that attitude still affects women around the world today. Christ, I'm a privileged white, cis, middle-class, able-bodied, straight-passing woman and I still get assault, rape and death threats just for being a woman who wants to be more than a silent stove slave. I still get told I should stay quiet or face the consequences - and I'm one of the lucky ones. Think about that for a moment.

By and large, men are not singled out and threatened with physical harm, sexual violence or death just for being men who speak their minds. They may be singled out for being poor or disabled or a person of colour or any number of things. They may even be singled out by rabid internet denizens who think that murder is the best solution to someone saying something stupid, because being on the internet tends to lower your mental and emotional age to that of an obnoxious 8-year-old. But off the internet, men are not generally told "shut the fuck up", "get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich", or "get naked already you stupid slut, no-one wants to hear a single thing that comes out of your whore mouth". Neither are they threatened with bodily harm, rape or murder just for being a man if they do want to be more than a housebound baby-making machine, nor are they told that, say, wanting to get a PhD and become a theoretical physicist renders them unmasculine. (As a woman who actually does want to get a PhD and become a theoretical physicist, I have frequently been told and insinuated to that it's unfeminine, that the only reason I want to learn is because I'm too ugly to date boys, and that there must be something wrong with me - something I'll come onto later.) I am perfectly aware that the kyriarchy hurts men too. I am perfectly aware that there are certain professions that men are discouraged from taking on because they're "too feminine". I am perfectly aware that the expectation that men should be the breadwinner surprise, surprise, hurts men. I am perfectly aware that masculinity and femininity, and the idea that these are rigid, defined concepts that people should never transgress (and that there are only two genders), are the conceptual equivalent of poison for the entire human race. But I am also aware that none of this erases misogyny - it only complements the misogyny and joins up into one big shitty ball of gender-based oppression.

Anyway, to my second example...As a woman who wants to go into academia, I sometimes find that people aren't so keen on women being full-time researchers. Certainly the gender ratio in subjects I'm interested in, like physics and maths, is even more unbalanced than in academia as a whole. But getting back on topic, I often find people implying that if you're a woman who wants to go into academia, there's something even more wrong with you than being a man who wants to go into academia. This happens in various ways, but the bottom line is that women in academia are somehow unfeminine.

For various reasons related to me generally feeling slightly threatened by the outside world (don't ask; I blame it on a combination of middle-class upbringing and general neuroticism), I tend to be hyper-vigilant towards sexism and indeed any form of oppression. So when someone cracks an ironic joke about all women in academia having something wrong with them, and if I can't tell that it's irony, I tend to give them a schooling. Having people say that there's something wrong with academic women hits too close to home.

I guess I also revealed some of my own flaws here: I'm neurotic, of course (men, don't take this as an admission that all women are crazy; take this as an admission that this woman is mentally ill, but that this doesn't silence me or make me inferior), and I sometimes can't detect sarcasm if it hits too close to home. I'd apologise for being neurotic, but I don't understand why mentally ill people should have to apologise to mentally healthy people for something that they never chose. One thing I will apologise for, though, is my sarcasm detection failure. This isn't really caused by anything - I'm just a socially awkward person. So I'm not perfect...I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I'm happy to back down if I'm wrong, but at the same time you have to be careful with comedy - even if you have good intentions - because your parody can end up looking exactly like the thing it's supposed to mock. And above all you have to trust the people who experience misogyny every day on what misogyny actually is. At least with me, it's not a particularly personal thing - I don't necessarily think you're a terrible human being, though that's because I think people can change and fundamentally just want to get by. The people who do think one mistake makes you a terrible piece of shit who should kill themselves, however, are very probably worth avoiding; there is only so much time in this world to deal with people and it's best not to waste it on those who don't think you can change.