My friend, who goes by Peanut, was discussing this elsewhere on the internet, and graciously gave me permission to quote her in full. The bolding is mine, and I’ve made a minor context edit or two. It’s long, but fantastic.
I have been thinking about something that, about ragey people being considered largely crazy and/or inappropriate regardless of gender. I’m not sure it’s clear-cut either way; I think maybe it comes down to expectations of general non-ragey behavior, and bottling-up effects. I know, for example, that I have certainly seen my male bosses get so angry that they slam phones repeatedly into the cradle, or even throw phones at walls etc; I cannot for my life think of a single example of one of my female bosses doing something like this. I don’t necessarily know that if my female ultra-boss were to do it, it would be perceived any differently than when my male next-in-command boss has done it; but I do know that she’s generally a take-no-shit person with a reputation for being a brutal bitch, and she has NEVER expressed angry outbursts of the sort that my male colleagues/bosses have on occasion expressed.
I think that in general there is more pressure for women to be nice - not just at work but on the street. Smaller people get ignored in peripheral vision when walking, and thus are constantly, subconsciously expected to get out of the way of others, to accommodate the random lack of attention of other people. I was walking with a male co-worker, who is 6’2”, once, and he said, “My god, you have to dodge and weave everywhere you go!” He walks down the sidewalk and people just part like the Red Sea without even thinking about it; my commute is 45 minutes of nonstop oh-hi-let-me-get-out-of-your-way. If I don’t budge - which I sometimes insist on doing, on principle - and end up bumping shoulders with someone who clearly had room to move over (even when I didn’t), the negative and/or shocked reactions I get are really amazing.
Obviously all of this is micro-level stuff, but it adds up. I think, at least. It adds up to greater frustrations, because every single day is a balancing act between “what should be” and “how angry you are allowed to be at the way things are.” But it also makes me think of a general accepted-wisdom fact from when I was in retail management: that, quite frequently, it’s the best employees (and customers) you have who are your biggest thieves. I forget the source right now but I remember reading, for example, that when one particular store installed hidden security cameras, they were shocked that the people doing the most shoplifting were by and large not the teenagers etc, but the repeat customers who made polite conversation and were generally good people. And when I was a manager I was always told not to let an employee’s loyalty or dedication to their job blind me. Because there is a psychological effect of constantly “being good,” and being ill-compensated for it: you feel entitled to more, and you begin to take what you feel you deserve.
The fact is, being consistently undercompensated for the work you put into something breeds a sense that the rules don’t really apply to you, in this very moment. That it’s fluid. Because there is a gut knowledge of what you are entitled to, I think - whether it’s money or personal treatment. I don’t mean entitlement like privilege, I mean entitlement like…you get back what you give. And knowing that you’re giving what is expected of you, but not getting enough back, fosters an environment where “taking” only seems fair.
I do think that women are expected to be nicer to the world than the world is to them, in general. To give more than they get back. Not consciously because they’re women but due to a wide variety of subconscious things that are tangentially or directly related to gender. Like women being smaller and thus pushed around more in public spaces. Or women being considered aggressive and bitchy for expressing levels of frustration that would be considered water under the bridge for men. The consequences of NOT being nice are high.
And I think that being nice, and being treated rudely, and having further niceness in the face of rudeness demanded, repeatedly, every day, does lead you to snap more easily than if you were simply allowed to be neutral, and be annoyed at rudeness. I never, ever block the door of the train when I’m waiting to enter but other people are still exiting. And every single day, while I wait there patiently, holding up the whole line of people behind me just so that the people still on the train can get off without needing to shove everyone, people cut in front of me, and swerve around me, and all I get for it is jammed up against the door of the train once I do finally board, with my face in someone’s armpit. Every morning. For years.
And that builds up. And when it does build up, I feel a sense of entitlement, to finally explode. I mean, I’m SO NICE. Who would BETTER deserve to explode every now and then? I think there’s a reason that it’s typically us nice, polite, conscientious women who seem to struggle with this. We feel undercompensated for our general social etiquette, and we feel entitled to lash out in a heated moment every now and again. We all seem to feel like there is this flip side of us, pehaps because if we weren’t all such good little Jekylls we’d never have needed to pull the Hydes out of our emotional reservoirs. I am thinking specifically of the part in Hyde’s letter where he admits that while he knew people recoiled from him, he did not care.
That’s what those moments feel like to me - a very brief, sometimes fraction of a second, where the way that I feel is more important than the way that other people feel about me.