This. This scrolled through my News Feed today.
It wasn’t an intellectual criticism of Elizabeth Warren. It was a statement about her anger.
“The Angry Woman” or “The Angry Feminist” is a common pejorative stereotype. The Angry Woman is hysterical. She’s not keeping a cool head and, therefore, has no credibility.
This stereotype extends beyond gender. Complaints about racial inequality are made by “Angry Black Men.” Conservative voters are characterized as “Angry White Men.”
If we get the Anger label to stick, we discredit what the person has to say.
The biggest assumption about The Angry Woman is that she can’t handle her anger. She can’t express it and then channel it to effect productive, measurable change.
She doesn’t have permission to welcome the emotion for what it means to all men and women. Anger signals a dislike for something that’s happening to us.
A reasonable criticism of Elizabeth Warren is that she has one speech. She says the same thing on every talk show, in the same order. The government no longer works for the average American; it works for the corporation and the billionaire with an army of lobbyists and a big fat checkbook. She mentions the government profiting off student loans, another strong concern. Then, she cites the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a good and worthy agency, but a relatively minor player.
Because it’s small and frankly, dull, using the CFPB as an example of what needs to be done fizzles out her argument’s closing appeal. I think she should bring in other issues that matter to her and explain them to the American people—Glass-Steagall, for example. Or she should cite real-life examples of people helped by the CFPB, not just say, “We made a shiny agency.”
Do you see what I did there? I criticized a woman’s performance based on how she structured her argument.
I didn’t mention her emotional state…because it wasn’t relevant.
One for the Menfolk
An equally damaging stereotype on the male side of things is “The Cry Baby.” John Boehner is the best public example that enters my mind.
He’s a sentimental guy, and it seems having Pope Francis speak to Congress meant a lot to him. My guess is he wanted the pope’s message about caring for “the least of these”—as well as caring for our Earth—to resonate with colleagues who, in his mind, have lost sight of what it means to be godly.
Sadness, like anger, indicates we don’t like something that’s happening. It carries a tincture of grief without the fire of anger, but both tell us things aren’t going our way.
Feelings Are for Humans
My friends, both men and women get to have emotions—every single emotion. That’s because they come pre-packaged with our human software. Emotions are themselves an important kind of knowledge. They can be as useful as statistics, historical lessons, or quotes from a dead intellectual.
Women can feel passionately angry about something unfair without saying anything unreasonable. The presence of anger doesn’t invalidate the argument they’re making.
“Angry Black Man” and “Angry White Man” aren’t invalidated by their anger, either. In all cases, anger lets them—and us—know they don’t like something that’s happening either to them or to people for whom they care deeply.
Men can feel intense sadness and loss, and they’re welcome to biologically respond to that emotion by crying. Crying doesn’t invalidate them as men. It doesn’t automatically suggest a lack of maturity, leadership, or resolve.
It’s not feminine to cry. It’s not unfeminine to feel fury. All types of humans can be simultaneously angry and reasonable. They can also feel both sadness and steely determination.
Elizabeth Warren and John Boehner have little in common politically, but they’ve both been vilified for public displays of emotion. The presence of emotion doesn’t invalidate an argument.
The content of an argument invalidates an argument.
That goes for Angry Feminists, Angry Black Men, Angry White Men, and Cry Babies, too.
It even goes for people who look completely rational while they say irrational things.