UnderCover Waitress: When People Get Angry

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When People Get Angry

I almost titled this post "Why Women Get Angry," but then I remembered an incident many years back during a high school level class I was teaching. I said something about "pregnant people," and was immediately corrected by a self-important white boy: "Women get pregnant!" The underlying assumption being that women aren't people. This should make us angry.

There are plenty of valid, reasonable, and perfectly legitimate reasons that people get angry. Misogynists and those who cater to them like to chalk up women's anger to pre-menstrual syndrome, because women are nothing more than our reproductive systems. For example, I blew up the other day on this blog over somebody trying to say that she just can't understand why a women would be uncomfortable having a business lunch at Hooters with the waitress hula-hooping in a tank top and skimpy shorts nearby. The attempt at playing ignorant, the denial, and the audacity that somebody would pretend to be so blind and expect to be taken seriously got to me, and I blew. Check out one of the comments on that post:

If you want people to take you seriously, please refrain from the PMS hysterics.

My expression of absolute outrage had nothing whatsoever to do with my reproductive cycle. If this blog were titled,  "Under Cover Waiter," I dare say the post would have been taken at face value. Instead, I am accused of "hysterics." It takes a misogynist to assume that any display of self-righteous anger is simply the result of menstruation. 

Accusing an angry woman of just being a slave to PMS often has the desired effect. It makes her more angry, thus "proving" his point. 

So, why did Under Cover lose her cool and blow up? Let me count the possible reasons: 

* PMS? Nope. Not this week. And for the record, I seldom suffer with it much these days. 
* My cat died? Nope. Haven't had to bury a pet for about six years. 
* Full moon? Nope. Not superstitious, and wrote the post during daylight hours. 
* Legitimate anger? You're getting warmer. But women aren't allowed to get angry. 

This post is not about Hooters. This post is about society's responses to women's anger. Accusing me of "PMS" was a great example of people who invalidate anger in women. We are not supposed to get angry, and when we do, it is because we are slaves to our hormones and our reproductive cycles. It is never because any reasonable person would be feel anger in the same situation. 

Jezebel has a well-written article about Latina anger. In the case of the Latina, it is not her menstrual cycle that controls her emotions, it is her DNA: 

"And one of the most well-known and perpetuated stereotypes is that of the spicy Latina, which makes it, in effect, impossible for a Latina to express anger in our society. If she does, her anger is not an emotional problem, but rather a genetic one. Latinas can't help but be angry - it's in our DNA, right? This stereotype strips away any sense of human individuality and replaces it with something less human..."

The white woman is told she is suffering from PMS, the Latina is just spicy. In both cases, we can't help it. In both cases, our anger is never legitimate. In both cases, we are invalidated. 

What about angry men? Susi Kaplow describes the angry man: 

"An angry man: someone has infringed on his rights, gone against his interests, or harmed a loved one. Or perhaps his anger is social--against racism or militarism. He holds his anger in check (on the screen we can see the muscles of his face tighten, his fists clench) and then, at the strategic moment, he lets it go. We see him yelling, shouting his angry phrases with sureness and confidence--or pushing a fist into his opponent's stomach with equal conviction. In either event, the anger is resolved; our hero has vented it and is content with success or accepts what he knows to be unmerited defeat."

Nobody tells him to go to bed. Nobody assumes he is just having a bad day. Nobody assumes he is physically ill. Both his anger and even his physical violence is seen as self-righteous, and therefore, acceptable. 

I recommend Susi Kaplow's Getting Angry. Here is the last paragraph from the same, written to women: 

"In the second phase of inturned anger, women can support one another in their attempts at self-definition and change, change which others will try to forestall. And, at the same time, they can start to move together to create new social forms and structures in which individual changes can come to fruition. Controlled, directed, but nonetheless passionate, anger moves from the personal to the political and becomes a force for shaping our new destiny."

Anger is a real, human emotion. We are supposed to get angry; it is part of survival. As a matter of fact, Depression Stalks Women Who Can't Get Angry was published in November of 2010. Heh. I'm not depressed. And I'm not PMSing, either. 


  1. i always retort the "pms" argument with the person having a small penis--funny how insulted they get over the comment too...

    1. Lol! On the same level, equally (ir)rational, and has the desired effect: gets him so upset that it simply "proves" that he is, actually, under-endowed.

  2. I've been going through depression the last year and more, and one of the things I've noticed in myself is a tendency towards irritability from time to time. I've been snappish at people, usually strangers, when I have a bad day, and it's been more or less a recent thing, rather then when I was at the worst of it.

    1. I'm sorry to hear you are going through that, and I hope it improves for you.

  3. It is improving. I'm getting help, working my way through it. Part of it has to do with my sisters, whose behavior has become so toxic that for my own emotional well being, I have to keep out of my life.

    1. I'm glad you are getting help. I don't want to preach or offer advice because I think that is inappropriate; offering compassion is appropriate. But I am glad you have a help network because I firmly believe depression should not be dealt with alone. It is a good thing that society seems to be taking depression seriously instead of minimizing or even stigmatizing it. I am glad you have help! :-)

  4. Hey, great post. I found you through r/blogs and I just wanted to say I really like your stuff. I just started up a blog over at wordpress and we'd love to have you write guest spot for us. We're a little testosterone heavy yet as far as our writers go. Again, great job!

    1. Hey, I already found you through r/blogs, as well! Tirades to Persuede has gotten up votes from me. Would love to guest post and if you are interested maybe you will do so over here. In any case, will be in touch. :-)

  5. Thank you for this wonderful post. The PMS comments always make me feel powerless. It's a tactic used to silence us, belittle us, anger us, denounce our legitimate feelings to nothing more than women being at the whims of biology.

    I'm reminded of the stereotypical angry black man (or woman). Where would the civil rights movement have gone if it didn't adopt a nonviolent stance. We can see it play out in the Sates with their first black president. He can't come off as too bitter or he might scare off his white voters. Walk on egg shells, Obama.

    And then we have the stereotypical angry "ghetto" black woman who is silenced due to both her gender and her ethnicity. Is she PMSing or is she just being an angry black person? Don't show emotion and address real concerns, ladies.

    These stereotypes are just tools used to dominate us and make our concerns seem illegitimate.


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