Are Women Getting Angrier?
Posted on 17th March 2023
An annual poll suggests that women, on average worldwide, have been getting angrier over the past 10 years. Every year, the poll surveys more than 120,000 people in more than 150 countries, asking what sort of emotions they felt for most of the previous day.
When it comes to negative feelings, specifically anger, stress, sadness, or worry, women consistently reported feeling these more frequently than men. A BBC report found that since 2012 more women than men report feeling sadness and worry, though both men and women have been trending upwards. When it comes to anger, in 2012 the reported levels were similar, however more recently the reported levels for women are significantly higher, with a particular divergence around the time of the pandemic. This is believed to be because women everywhere were feeling intense frustration that the burden of the pandemic was falling disproportionately on them, with a 2020 survey finding that mothers took on more of the domestic responsibilities during lockdown than fathers. This was even the case where wives earned more money than their husbands, working hours were still reduced.
The trend of women becoming angrier is seen more clearly in countries such as India and Pakistan, demonstrated in the data collected by the poll. Psychiatrist Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar believes this to be the result of tensions emerging as women become more educated and economically independent, moving away from traditional family ideals and archaic gender roles. She said, "At the same time, they are tethered down by archaic, patriarchal systems and culture. The dissonance between a patriarchal system at home and an emancipated woman outside of home causes a lot of anger." Dr Vijayakumar commented on this dynamic that she has seen at rush hour in Chennai, India. "You see the men relax, going to a tea shop, having a smoke. And you find the women hurrying to the bus or train station. They're thinking about what to cook. Many women start chopping vegetables on their way back home on the train.". In the past, it wasn't considered appropriate for women to say they are angry, but that is changing. Now that there is the ability to express more emotion, the prominent emotion is anger, at their situation and how every day they have to battle archaic ideals, largely still held by men within that culture.
The pandemic's effect on women's work is also having an impact, one which is going unnoticed. Before 2020, there was progress on women's participation and equality within the workforce. In 2020, this stalled. The number of women in work is projected to be below 2019 levels in 169 countries. The pandemic-related burn out is happening in female-dominated industries, such as care. This pseudo-maternal work is poorly paid, with people in this industry reporting high levels of repressed and suppressed anger. This is believed to be because of the expectation to work tirelessly with limited legitimate boundaries. Soraya Chemaly, an American feminist author who wrote about anger in her 2019 book, Rage Becomes Her, commented that, "Similar dynamics are often found in heterosexual marriage.". She believes that women in the US feel very deep shame about anger, however American women do significantly report higher levels of stress and sadness than men, a statistic repeated across many countries worldwide.
In a way, this may be a good thing. This rising anger is being used and channelled to facilitate change, as more and more women reach a point where they will not continue with the way things are. Rage and anger are important, they allow for things to be shaken up, as people, or men, stop and listen.
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