Let Women be Angry

A while ago I wrote about my being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It is sadly common to have a relapse, where you go back to having one or both diagnoses. So it is highly recommended to keep track of your emotional state and, at any sign of depression or similar symptoms, act on them. I did so by going to an appointment with my therapist.

I was surprised by her conclusion. She said that I was not depressive: I was just angry. The problem was that I wasn’t acknowledging that anger for what it was. She stated: “women are raised to be sad, not angry; while men are raised to be angry, not sad”. I have heard this before. And yet, I had never reflected on how easily I accept that I can be sad, while I start worrying the moment I feel anger or frustration (“this must be something else” or “something is wrong”).

This made me think of my teaching. How do I react when my female students show frustration, as opposed as when the men do? Do I perceive anger in the same way when it comes from a female senior rather than a male one? What do I consider acceptable when it comes to showing these feelings?

Sadly, my conclusion was that I probably -and unconsciously- have different reactions based on gender. I’m probably more likely to see an angry boss as overreacting if it happens to be a woman; I wouldn’t be surprised to confirm that I expect female students to deal better with group work problems, since the stereotype is that women are better at emotional labor; I may tolerate stronger expressions of frustrations from male students than from the women. I read more about the topic and add another item to the list: black women have a harder time in this matter, as showing anger in their case makes them fall into the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype.

I am of course ashamed to admit all of this. But I think this is part of aiming to be a more inclusive teacher: everyone, regardless of their experience in working for equality, keeps falling into these traps. Trying to be inclusive is a constant and long endeavour, and it requires frequent reflection and evaluation of our thinking and behaviour.

Let’s take this International Women’s Day to remind ourselves that we should Let Women Be Angry.


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