Stepford Wife in the Office

A recent work issue has me thinking about “The Stepford Wives” movies.

If you missed the 1975 or 2004 movie, it takes place in an expensive, planned community in Stepford, Connecticut where all the wives have perfect bodies, are content at home with their children and husbands, make dinner every night, are subservient, bland and their favorite two words are “yes dear.” Spoiler: it turns out the men are creating robot replicas of their wives and killing off the flesh and blood wife to live happily ever after with the their idea of a perfect woman.

Historically women have been asked to shrink, most often for the benefit and comfort of men. While some standards are slowly changing, there are cultural norms about how women should look, weigh, age, wear, eat, act and speak. I have discovered that one of the worst things that a woman can do is to act out in anger. Female anger, particularly Black female anger, is seen as scary, unprofessional and out-of-line. Other women tend to shy away from and not support other women who are angry.

Examples of how women are shamed for anger abound. Look how many times President Trump diminished elected female representatives and reporters who challenged him by calling them angry, mad, bad or monsters. He would make their “misbehavior” an issue to shut down the conversation the women were trying to have. Lisa Rina has deployed the “Ooh, you are so angry,” shaming ploy on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills even though it was her underhanded actions caused the anger. Women enforcing the “stay sweet” code is egregious.

Recently I have been in a situation where I was shamed and admonished for anger in the office. No one wants to talk about what made me angry, but rather the focus stays on the fact that I got angry.

I am now thinking about what I do next. My experience, expertise and skills are not valued. I feel like I am being asked to stay in a very small box. It is soul crushing to shut down who you are for peace in the office, but I’m not sure it is worth the fight. I’m trying out the Stepford Wife strategy for now.

I know I am not the only one. How have you handled situations where you became the issue because you got mad?

18 thoughts on “Stepford Wife in the Office

  1. Writer McWriterson says:

    YESSSSS. I am standing up and clapping in response to this post. I wrote something similar to this for my book about menopause and women who’d stayed silent over the years about it.

    Anger in women is handled as though we have mental issues. I’ve been called “crazy” many times in my life because of my anger.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. leelah saachi says:

    In regret, earlier, I have become very small and instantly tried to sweeeetly “explain myself” – to avojd people getting ANNNGRY at myself.The latest years I have not said or done anything, I have felt the anger and done some work on it – and if the behaviour that set it off still goes on, I have made it clear that this upsets me, and invited us both to explore and be curious about why.
    Some parts of me are TERRIFIED of being at the receiver part of anger – since anger so often in my life has turned into physical attack

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ZeroSpace says:

    When I was younger it took the form of laughing at my anger. People for whatever reason thought it was funny. I’m sorry you had to deal with people focusing on your anger instead of the issue. That ironically makes me angry…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. anne leueen says:

    I used to work in the performing arts and anger and extravagant demonstrations of it are not only tolerated but expected. So I was able to express anger quite freely when I felt it was warranted. But if it was not warranted I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want the reputation of being a “Diva”. So it was a fine line.

    Liked by 1 person

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