Many woman have been brought up with the notion that they are expected to contain their anger, stuff it deep inside and never let it out. I know I was brought up that way. I’m not sure it was explicitly told to me, but I knew my public face was to be nonconfrontational. I was not supposed to display anger in public, and if I did it would reflect on me poorly, in a way it would not for a man.
Of course it is a good thing to be able to manage your anger. But anger that is never let out can eat away at you. There must be a balance. The internet turned out to be a perfect storm recently with several reflections on anger:
1)From the site Jenna Bookish a review of the book Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly. I haven’t read the book the blog author reviews, but her post alone is interesting enough in its commentary of female anger. She makes the point that the societal expectation that women do not express their rage is “a way of limiting and controlling our power”. I remember meeting with a school principal many years ago to discuss an issue that was going on with my children. I one one hand felt the pressure to “stay in my lane” when it came to expressing my displeasure. On the other hand, I felt like I would get nowhere on behalf of my child if I went in there treading a narrow path of acceptably female behavior.
2)The above mentioned Soraya Chemaly opines on rage and Serena Williams. I don’t agree with her about Serena Williams. I believe her conduct was unacceptable. If male players get angry on the court, that is unacceptable as well. I’ve read that Williams threatened to shove a ball down a female tennis officials throat. Those kind of expressions cross the line for me. Perhaps I should root for the home team, but this should have been Naomi Osaka’s day to shine. Its a damn shame it wasn’t.
Chemaly’s article makes many great points. She talks about an early expression of anger, where her dad told her to help her mom with after supper clean-up. She says that she will not do it unless her brother helps as well. Her brother ends up joining the clean up crew. I had no brothers growing up, so I didn’t experience this. I do have one girl and one boy….I wonder if I have unwittingly done similar things.
Go read her article, especially her comments about the motivation for Prohibition.
3)Here is a different take on anger at the blog of The Forgiven Wife. where the author Chris talks Responding to Your Husband’s Sin. In her post she talks about “repetitive sin”, such as a person that has their driving privileges curtlailed related to speeding tickets(I’m assuming that person has paid much money in ticket costs and has had many many tickets). She talks about other offenses such as “misusing alcohol”.
She tells us that we should respond in a healthy and helpful way, and infers we should not show our anger. I’m not sure who defines what is a “healthy” way of defining anger, but I know people who have dealt with a loved one’s alcoholism for a long time are angry, and justifiably so. Alcoholism has a huge reach into the structure of family life.
She states: “Seek professional or pastoral support from someone who will help both of you. The idea isn’t to find someone whose only goal will be to fix your husband’s problem. Find someone who will also help you respond in a way that is healthy for both of you.” Most people would say that the alcoholic has considerable amount of work to do on his own. But again, who decides what the appropriate way of responding is, and what is healthy? For some people the right thing would be for the person with the alcohol problem to move out of the house so that the family can have a rest from the potentially destructive behaviors caused by alcoholism. Update: I am not sure in the initial stages that the priority is here for the “nonsinning spouse” to learn how to respond in a healthy way. But I am getting the impression that anything less than the wife walking on eggshells could be even worse than husband’s chronic alcoholism, etc. Instead of focusing on the actual problem there is an attempt to pathologize any reaction by the wife that the blog author does not find “healthy”. So wrong.
She also states: “Frankly, sometimes we make it even harder for our husbands to come forward about a sin. Your usual reaction may contribute to the temptation your husband faces. For instance, if his temptation is related to his feelings of inadequacy in some area and your reaction is to point out that he’s always messing up, you may be piling on to something that he already isn’t managing well. Your reaction may make the temptation worse as well as making it hard for him to confess.” Honestly if you read anything about the dynamics of alcoholism, the alcoholic wasnts you to feel to blame for their problem. Chris is saying here that if we only behaved in a different way, our husbands would have it much easier. If you’ve ever known people with addiction problems you know it doesn’t work that way. You may have responded in a “healthy” way with “grace” for years, with the behaviors escalating.
This post aimed at the loved ones of alcoholics tells us about the 3 “C’s”.. 1) You didn’t cause it 2) You can’t control it 3)You can’t cure it. Those are certainly wise words.
I have to say I am confused by the post at the Forgiven Wife. Why is this painted as the way a wife should respond to a husband? Why isn’t it generalized to both spouses? A husband or wife would be angry over speeding tickets or addiction. I’m also confused because the post somewhat speaks to behaviors I associate with immaturity. Multiple speeding tickets and a write up for losing your temper at work. One hopes that a certain age one matures and this simply isn’t one worries about, whether one is a woman or a man. My husband and I know a handful of people who seem to be spinning their wheels when it comes to “adulting”. One of them is a grandfather. My husband loaned the grandfather some money recently. He says it is a loan, but he knows his friend the grandfather will likely not pay him back. Another is a woman turning 50 soon.
Do you have differing notions of rage when it comes to men vs. women?
Update to this post: I’ve looked around The Forgiven Wife’s blog a bit more. It seems anger is perfectly acceptable for her husband in the linked post and in other posts in her blog. Not only that if he is angry, he still deserves to be “comforted” in the way only a wife can. I’m not sure why The Forgiven Wife encourages women to walk on eggshells in the event of “repetitive sin” with their husband. And if the walking on eggshells thing really worked wouldn’t the repetitive sin stop? My other thought is that if the children see mom walking on eggshells in response to potentially destructive behaviors like alcoholism, it sends a very bizarre and confusing message if there is an ongoing issue. There certainly is a way to display anger, but letting your spouse know you are angry and frustrated is perfectly okay.
And likewise, if the wife has “repetitive sin” as she describes in the post, I would expect the husband to be frustrated and angry.
I’ve been the person walking on eggshells around others with destructive behaviors. You can only do it for so long, until you let the dysfunction of others make you dysfunctional as well.
There is a book called “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs. Some people love it. In one of the introductory examples the husband buys the wrong card for his wife. I think he buys an anniversary card for her birthday, or maybe vice versa. Eggerichs goes on with the example, how the wife reacts, how the husband reacts. In reading the example I feel the wife is placed in a no win situation no matter how she reacts. While it is not directly said the message in the example but stated more explicitly in the rest of the book, the wife must “respect” the husband. I feel like “respect” means different standards of behavior for the woman than the man? The man can be angry but the woman is to respect/walk on eggshells even in egregious circumstances. Can someone tell me why this is so?