Unexpected Facebook message the other night: an old friend from middle school delivered a thumpin’ to her husband and was arrested for assault and battery.
I don’t know the circumstances at all—not that that really matters. It’s domestic violence and it’s wrong and it’s not the way for a couple to solve a conflict.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I am fascinated. I conceptualize a woman hitting a man differently from a man hitting a woman. There is a cultural stereotype against angry women: she’s a bitch, or she’s crazy. Women are not expected to lash out, to yell, to scream, to punch or to hit. It’s more culturally permissible—if not in legal acceptance, at least in cultural exposure—for men to be violent. In fact, while trying to find an photo to illustrate this blog post, 95% of the images under the phrases “conflicting,” “hitting” and “fighting” showing people depicted men.
Does our culture grant men all that leeway because of testosterone? I think back to my own relationships and one particularly angry boyfriend I had. He would hang up the phone on me, punch walls, and he once got so annoyed at me that he crunched my hand in his fist. To be honest, I was a little afraid of him and when calmly and patiently addressing his behavior verbally, I had no idea how to express my own anger at him without stooping to his level. (I was 21 at the time, so this may have been my age, as well.) We had a messy breakup and it’s only now that I realize what a complete dick he was. I regret that I let him treat me that way and that I didn’t fight back.
I don’t believe women are less angry at all—I just think men are allowed to show their anger. We’re expected to “be ladylike,” keep it inside or be soothing peacemakers. That is, at least, how I’ve always been. And this internalization of anger has been really hazardous for me.
I’m not trying to make exuses for what my old friend did to her husband. But hearing her news struck a chord with me because I assumed, “Wow, she must have been really angry! Something must have really struck a nerve!” To my own sense of morality, what she did was wrong—but a lot of people, men and women, can understand where’s she’s coming from.
What do you think about the ways men and women express anger in relationships?