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?