Women are angry too

There’s a fascinating analysis by Jessice Irvine in todays SMH http://www.smh.com.au/comment/this-is-why-middle-class-white-men-are-so-angry-20161125-gsxlit.html about the anger of white middle-income men who are finding their traditional full-time jobs and careers eroded while women have made, relatively speaking, progress on a number of fronts – but off a lower base of course.

Although men are still dominating the top ranks of organisations, many further down the pecking order  are finding they are worse off than their fathers which fuels the anger, she points out, while suggesting a key to addressing this is challenging male stereotypes so that blokes start to take up flexible work and jobs in sectors such as health and caring.

It’s a good point but the article also made me think about anger and gender. Because here’s the thing: women get angry too but heaven help us if we actually show it.

Many of us are furious that women get paid 16 per cent or so less than men on average, and in some areas closer to 23 per cent less for similar work. And livid about the waste of talent when women who have worked hard and done all the things we’re told you should to get ahead  – which I see with so many wonderful friends of mine – have been sidelined and overlooked while mediocre men have whizzed past them up the ladder or got the pay rise.

And plenty of us are ropable that mothers taking paid parenting leave (and it’s still mainly women who take PPL in Australia) are now being painted as greedy for using provisions specially designed to help them remain in the workplace and have a secure financial future. Even with ‘double dipping’, mothers in Australia are not getting as much as mums in the UK, or Sweden or a host of other countries.

I could rant for hours about the way young women are still facing casual sexism and patronising comments on a regular basis. Like the middle-aged, overweight man in charge of  a sports competition who felt he should tell a perfectly normal-sized teenage girl I know that she had put on too much weight to play well any more.

And the domestic violence statistics should make all of us angry and motivated enough to speak out about and find ways to address the horrible litany of tragedy that so many women face.

So there’s plenty to be cranky about but we’ve had to learn to cope because angry women are ridiculed and silenced. The angry men Irvine is writing about, however, are being taken very seriously indeed.

Their anger has been analysed and dissected as a key factor in the US election result and Brexit. Male anger isn’t being condoned necessarily but it has been legitimised.

Angry women, on the other hand, can’t win a trick.  They are often depicted as mad and out of control, hysterical and even hormonal. And yet, occasionally when inequity is glaring, they are also told they should be marching in the streets and demanding action.

Anger is glaringly incongruent with caring and sharing female stereotypes and there are plenty of penalties for those who transgress.

I’ve lose count of the times my irritation and yes, anger, has been used to put me down and silence me. In one memorable exchange some years ago with a senior editor, but in a social setting, I expressed an opinion about a topic and he smiled and told me I was ‘fierce’. It wasn’t a compliment.

It’s not fun being marginalised and that’s what some of these angry men are starting to feel, and their emotion is also fuelled by a sense of entitlement to jobs and breadwinner status.

But the outrage is actually caused by global economic and social change and shouldn’t be directed at women who are still the most likely to be living in poverty and facing violence, and are increasingly providing essential contributions to  family finances.

As Irvine points out the way women earn a living, the jobs and sectors they are clustered in and the pattern of their working lives is actually a window into the future and some disenfranchised men would do well to channel their energy into getting with the program.

Women have been sucking up their second class status for years and told to get on with fighting for progress nicely. We learned to cope and so will the angry white men.

Just about every indicator from health to financial shows more income and social equality helps economies thrive. So maybe it’s time to wheel out some wise advice with a new twist: don’t get mad, get even.

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