Men are angrier than women — and other myths about rage.
Media and literature frequently reflect, and perpetuate, the belief that boys and men are “naturally” angrier than girls and women — and that their anger is righteous and violent. A 2016 study titled “What’s In a Face?” by University of Massachusetts researchers found that most people are predisposed to associate negative and angry facial expressions with men and masculinity. Biases that lead most of us to “see” anger in men’s faces also lead us to commonly interpret women’s faces as fearful or sad. Think of the movie genre of male-led vengeance fantasies, from “A Time to Kill” to “Oldboy” to “Inglorious Basterds”; Liam Neeson feeds his family on this trope, because furious revenge is a dish best served male. Google “angry people” and witness that more than 80 percent of the images are of men, mostly white men.
But research consistently shows that men are no more likely than women to be angry. In fact, women report feeling anger more frequently and in more sustained ways. In early 2016, for example, a national survey conducted by Esquire and NBC found that women reported consistently higher rates of anger. Another, conducted by Elle magazine two years later, revealed the same pattern.
The myth of gendered anger begins with children as young as 3 or 4. A 2011 metaanalysis of research on children’s emotional expression found that adult biases strongly influence how we think about gender and anger: Adults are more likely to describe infants they think are boys as agitated and disagreeable. Other studies show that both mothers and fathers are more likely, when reading to their children, to associate anger with male characters and use words making those connections.