The next time your husband gets angry, drape a towel over his shoulders like a cape and exclaim, “Now you’re super angry!!”
Maybe he’ll laugh.
Maybe you’ll die.
Actually, I already know why they don’t. Because men’s anger is virtually always validated even when the man in question is wrong or lying. We need look no further than the recent example of Brett Kavanaugh.
Women’s anger, on the other hand, is either dismissed as “cute” (see every rom-com ever) or offensive (see Serena Williams).
It is actually scientifically proven that men’s anger makes them seem more believable where women’s anger makes them seem less believable. Men are allowed to express powerful emotions and are seen as passionate when women express themselves in a similar manner they are seen as overly emotional and not credible.
In a recent study using a lone holdout juror as the setup, researchers found
…that women’s anger worked against them, while men’s anger served as a “powerful” tool of persuasion. When the holdout was a male who expressed anger, participants significantly doubted their own opinion, even when they were in the majority. But if the holdout was a woman who expressed anger, she actually had less influence over participants — so much so that it was the only scenario in the study in which participants became more confident in their own opinion that opposed that of the woman.
The post-simulation perception surveys shed some light as to why they found this dynamic. The male and female holdouts used the same exact typed language, so participants couldn’t judge potential gender differences in communication style or facial expression. Even so, perception biases still cropped up. When the man was perceived as emotional, he was considered more credible for getting angry. But when the woman was perceived as emotional, participants became more sure of their own opinion, even if they considered the woman credible. As the researchers put it: “When a woman expresses anger, this does not just make her seem less credible, but seems to make assessing her credibility irrelevant.”
You can read more about this study here:
Why Angry Men Are More Influential Than Angry Women
The flip side of this is that often the only emotion many men and boys are allowed to express is anger. Most other emotions in men and boys are targeted as weakness and so often those emotions are exchanged for anger. The reality is that often the opposite is true; Frequently, anger is the sign of weakness and the honest expression of fear or sadness is actually the sign of strength and maturity. It turns out the way we are socializing our sons is as unfair and damaging to the boys themselves and the men they become as it is to the women and girls in their lives. In Psychology Today, Avrum Weiss, PhD writes:
There are a lot of social prohibitions against men expressing emotions other than anger, and a lot of social reinforcement for being angry. We think of men who are angry as powerful and more masculine, and men who express sadness or fear as weak and less masculine. Jackson Katz (2006), the author of The Macho Paradox, wrote that “Countless men deal with their vulnerability by transferring vulnerable feelings to feelings of anger. The anger then serves to ‘prove’ that they are not, in fact, vulnerable, which would imply they are not man enough to take the pressure.”
The other reason you don’t see it written with the sexes reversed is that “maybe he’ll laugh” just doesn’t ring true for most of us. Many men would, in fact, actually get “super angry”. From the time we are little girls, women are taught to de-escalate and diffuse a man’s anger as a form of protection: we laugh, we demur, we distract. Men generally don’t need to de-escalate in these situations because they already hold a position of physical dominance so they don’t need to be afraid for their safety. Don’t get me wrong, men can also be victims of domestic violence and verbal abuse. It is always wrong.
I guess what it comes down to for me is that these types of jokes don’t do anything to make the world a better place. Belittling your spouse’s feelings, patronizing them, and infantilizing them isn’t loving and it isn’t funny.
I know some will say I am being too sensitive. But, if asking people to examine why they might be laughing (perhaps the joke hits too close to home) is being too sensitive, so be it.