A study published in the journal Law and Human Behavior back in 2015 shows that angry women are less likely to influence over others, while it is the opposite when it comes to their upset male counterparts. The researchers set up a deception model in which participants “believed they were engaged in a computer-mediated mock jury deliberation about a murder case.”
What the participants didn’t know is that the other jurors in the simulation were simply reading lines. Four of the five jury members in the mock trial were scripted to agree with the study participant’s verdict of the case, and one juror was a holdout. When the holdout had a “male” name and expressed “his” anger, the participant was more likely to question themselves.
However, when the holdout juror was identified by a typically female name and expressed anger (following the same script), the study participants were more likely to trust their initial verdict and not question themselves.
Dr. Jeanne Vaccaro, a postdoctoral fellow in gender studies at Indiana University, and a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, said:
“My initial reaction [to this study] is thinking about hysteria – and the historical use of hysteria to pathologize women—any kind of eruption being seen as irrational as opposed to grounded.”
According to her, the perception of women as irrational is deeply ingrained in the contemporary cultural psyche, and sexist beliefs are even manifested in the unconscious. People are very often totally unaware of the biases they’re carrying around, and the pairing of the hysterical and the feminine is really strong.
“Even the etymology of the word uterus traces back to hysteria. In the Victorian era, they sent women off to the sanatorium to ‘relax’ or whatever after these [hysterical] ‘episodes.'” – she adds.
Dr. Vaccaro notes that the form of persistent bias seen in the unsettling results of this study isn’t exclusive to women. Emotions of historically oppressed demographics are often not taken seriously even on a person-to-person level. It is the case, for example, when the anger of people of color is written off or used against them.
“People should and can be really angry about post-colonialism, institutional racism, everyday racism, or everyday sexism. Anger is a really justified response to the world we live in.”