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Myths on anger and aggression – the difference between the genders


Anger is one of the base emotions of human beings. It’s an innate reaction when we are insulted and
isn’t specific to any particular person. However, it is clear that certain cultures are created by anger
and aggressive behaviour which are dictated by gender. In what ways is anger encouraged amongst
people, and how does it differ between men and women?

Causes of aggression

When it comes to aggressive feelings, we automatically assume they come more naturally to men.
This, however, is a myth. Testosterone attracts a lot of attention but the actual emotions themselves
can be matched by women, especially when expressed verbally. Men are more likely to be
physically aggressive, but research shows cases of women’s physical aggression is under-reported
due to widespread social disapproval. As a result, women are more likely to feel guilty after being
aggressive as it is seen as out of character. The root to men’s and women’s aggression is where the
true difference lies. Women’s aggression comes from lack of self-control and stress. Normally modest and reserved in behaviour, aggression allows women to express frustration more noticeably.
Men’s aggression from wanting to assert control or feeling challenged in integrity. Because of the
culture of hyper-masculinity, if a man feels threatened in reputation, aggression allows him to
reassert dominance.

Aggressive society

Although society is generally not accepting of violence and crimes are distinguished by levels of
aggression, such as assault and murder, aggression itself is actually endemic in social interactions.
Passive-aggression is a common social behaviour, seen in work and recreation, used to subtly show
control and intelligence. It’s the use of normally innocuous behaviours with intent to disrupt, such as
procrastination, confusion or failure. There is a social acceptability which comes with indirect
aggression, which allows us to express our darker, more aggressive sides with non-animalistic
means. Women are more likely to indulge in such aggression due to the avoidance of physicality.
Next time you have a gossip about someone or give a sarcastic comment, notice the aggression that
motivates such behaviour.

Aggression as success

Aggression isn’t always portrayed as a negative quality, but in fact is a tool in encouraging and
promoting success. [Is anger ever a good thing] In a culture surrounding masculinity, sports is a dominating factor, as it provides a controlled environment for aggression to be released and used for achievement. From playing to watching to discussing, sport encourages aggression from men in the form of chants, hooliganism,
fights and in-game contact. Because of this association, aggression becomes a symbol of success,
which can intimidate other men and make them feel incompetent. In this same context, there can be
negativity surrounding female aggression. The association of sports with aggression is embedded so
deep in masculinity, that it is now considered unfeminine. Women are discouraged to show
ambition, determination and ruthlessness in such a way, that sporting women are often looked down
on or derided for being too masculine. For example, female athletes might be viewed as too ‘butch’
or ‘muscly’. In the world of business, because competitive aggression isn’t expected of women,
corporate females are more likely to be considered intimidating than their male counterparts
because of the element of surprise.

Aggression and childhood

The conditions which encourage aggressiveness as part and parcel of one’s personality start in
childhood. For primary school children, male children often form bonds through competition, such
as playing sports on the playground or comparing possessions. Female children are socially
conditioned to be more intimate and generous in interactions, often preferring small groups to talk
and take part in more cooperative and light-hearted play, such as skipping.​

There may be biological explanations as to why men and women show different patterns
aggression, but when aggression is combined with anger, it can bring them to a level playing field.
As the reports of violence committed by women continue to rise and the increase of male victim
publicity continues to grow, we are starting to the stereotypes of aggression become shut down.
Although we are socially integrated to use aggression in different way, it seems one gender can’t
always stick to a set pattern.

If you have anger problems seek professional help or sign up to watch our expert bite sized video series for
tips and strategies for managing it.


This article was contributed by Pink Moods.