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Study: Angry Women Aren’t Taken Seriously

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Sorta transcript:

A new study confirms a thing that billions of women already knew: women aren’t allowed to be angry.

I mean, it’s not against the law, or anything, but a woman who is angry in an argument is more likely to solidify her opponent’s opinion rather than change his or her mind. Conversely, a man getting angry is more likely to change his opponent’s mind, or at least encourage his opponent to be less sure of his or her viewpoint.

The research involved subjects reading about a court case in which they had to play the part of a person on the jury. They read about all the evidence, saw crime scene photos, and entered a preliminary verdict before they started debating with other jurors via text message. But unbeknownst to them, they were actually just texting with researchers using scripted responses. All the other “jurors” agreed with the subject except one, who would have either an obviously male or female username and who would either be unemotional or express anger through capital letters.

Regardless of whether the subjects were male or female, they were chastened by the “male” holdout and defiant of the “female” holdout, even though they were using the same scripts.

What’s the takeaway here? Well, for starters, it’s that everything is awful and unfair. Sorry.

But on the plus side, we women who have suspected that we’ve been punished for being too “angry” when a man would be rewarded? We’re not paranoid. So there’s that. Of course, realizing you’re not paranoid is always a bit of a shit deal. Like, “yes, I’m not paranoid, but that means the government really is out to kill me. Great.”

How do we fix this? The most immediate lesson for women to take from this is to never show your anger, which is pretty fucked up and is already a lesson we’ve learned through being repeatedly punished for it. Unfortunately, though, it’s true: if you’re a woman who wants to make a persuasive argument, you’ll be better off doing it by channeling your inner robot vulcan.

Here’s more bad news, though: in this study, at least, the “female” control holdouts who didn’t express any anger didn’t change the subjects’ minds either. They didn’t strengthen the subjects’ own confidence in their position, but they also didn’t shake it. “Not making things worse” isn’t really what persuasion is all about. So we’re going to have to wait on other studies to come out and let us know exactly what specific cocktail of emotions women should rely upon to be taken seriously in an argument.

In the meanwhile, plenty of other studies show us that learning about discriminatory psychological effects like this can help mitigate them. So, maybe, just knowing that you’re less likely to take a woman seriously when she’s angry is enough to make you reevaluate your reaction to listening to an angry woman. That’s why I’m making this video! So that the next time this subject comes up, I can be just as pissy as I want to be about how super fucked up all this is.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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