Saturday, May 5, 2007

Self-Indulgent Question: Females, Anger and Aggression

Update: Like him or not, Sarkozy is the victor in the French presidential election by a margin of 53% to 47%.

His acceptance speech reached out to all sides, so let's hope that he'll follow through on those ideas.



I frequently deal with people in (what I think) is a civil yet firm and, if I feel it's necessary, aggressive manner. I simply tend to speak frankly and take no prisoners in a debate or disagreement. I'm also that person to speak up when no one else will. However, on my blog that tone shifts. I can be aggressive, but most of the time, I try to be balanced simply because I don't want to be known for a lack of objectivity.

However, on issues I feel strongly about, I don't mince my words in person or in one-on-one discussion. I'm forceful, and I don't deny it. I wonder if it's because I happen to be both female and black, or maybe just female, that I get a range of critical comments which have nothing to do with my point when I'm firm and aggressive about my point.

Frequently, people point out that you're angry. They'll call on you to be graceful or to be a lady.

I've yet to hear people point out to men that they're being angry in the same way. It seems that if a man gets worked up during a discussion, it's okay. His anger, for whatever reason, is not questioned and is taken to be valid. The only extreme would be if he's angry and he's turning violent. Even then, anger or aggression in men tends to be tolerated because men are "supposed" to fight or even get physical. Also, the male equivalent of "grace" or "being a lady", I guess, "being a gentlemen" is usually only brought up when a man is dealing with a woman.

I'm in a virtual brawl right now where it's me and another female. Actually, for me, I know what I'm saying is spot on, but the main criticism I've gotten is my tone. Guess who told me I needed to be a "lady"? Yep, you got it, a man. Here is a virtual middle finger to you guy.

Also, for those of you who are familiar with the movie Gone With The Wind. I'm always nodding when Scarlett is critical of Melanie in the scene where she learns Ashley is going to marry Melanie. BTW, Melanie is a character I love for she has that quiet reserve I'll just never have. It's just that quiet reserve is always admired in women, but spirit isn't admired quite as much as a positive virtue. When Scarlett hears this news she says what's on her mind. I feel this way when people try to be critical of me.

You'd rather live with that silly little fool who can't open her mouth except say "Yes" and "No" and raise a patch of mealy-mouthed brats just like her!
Of course, she's shushed. There is a long history of spirited women being shushed. Now Scarlett is a fictional character, so let's talk about someone real.

Here is another example, take the recent debate between French presidential candidates Ségolène Royal (Allez Royal!) and Nicolas Sarkozy faced off for a debate.
Sarkozy, Royal battle on after heated TV debate

Centrist Francois Bayrou said he would not support right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday’s runoff.

French presidential rivals Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal traded fresh barbs yesterday after neither delivered a knock-out blow in a heated television debate seen as a last chance to swing undecided voters. The socialist Royal went on the offensive during the debate watched by more than 20 million viewers, challenging her rightwing opponent on his record as a member of the outgoing government and angrily accusing him of “political immorality.” Sarkozy, who leads in opinion polls, said he was “surprised by the degree of aggressiveness” shown by his rival during the exchange that lasted two and a half hours, saying it showed “a form of intolerance.”

Both candidates sought to address their weaknesses during the debate: Royal had to dispel doubts about her presidential stature while Sarkozy faces concerns over his hyper-active personality. Royal, who wants to become France’s first woman president, said Sarkozy “did not dare” repeat during the debate some of the accusations he had directed at her during the campaign. He “reminds me of those children who kick and then cry out to make believe that it was their playmate who hit first,” Royal told French radio.

The most fiery outburst came in an exchange about places for handicapped children in ordinary schools. Royal accused Sarkozy of “becoming teary-eyed” over the plight of handicapped children when it was his government that had dismantled Socialist measures guaranteeing a place for the disabled in ordinary schools. “This is the height of political immorality,” said an outraged Royal. Sarkozy retorted: “I don’t question your sincerity, don’t question my morality. You lose your temper very easily.” “To be president of the republic, you must remain calm,” Sarkozy insisted.

“I have not lost my cool. I am angry and there is anger that is perfectly healthy,” Royal hit back, waving an accusatory finger.

Commentators said Sarkozy scored points for keeping his cool while Royal won kudos for her combativeness in the face-off ahead of Sunday’s vote. “Nicolas Sarkozy did not lose. But Segolene Royal won,” wrote the left-leaning Liberation newspaper, whose front page featured a closeup of Royal’s face, with clenched jaw, and the headline: “Combative.”

But the rightwing Figaro daily said Royal had been “often vague, at times aggressive” and that “at the end of the end, Sarkozy’s self-control shone through.” “She won in terms of style, he won in terms of substance. They both held their ground,” commented pollster Roland Cayrol. The encounter could be decisive in determining the choice of nearly seven million voters who backed centrist Francois Bayrou in the first round on April 22, and who now hold the key to victory. Bayrou was quoted in Le Monde as saying that Royal “had done rather well” in the debate and announced “I will not vote for Sarkozy” even though he did not explicitly throw his support behind Royal.
What's good to see is that the French have responded well to her anger and aggression in the debate. I like the French, sue me.

However, while France isn't going after Royal for her aggression and seem to see it as a positive, I fear that Sarkozy will benefit more because he'll be painted as a man with self-control.

In the latest reports I've read on the French presidential race Sarkozy keeps harping on her aggressiveness. I don't like this guy now, before I had no feeling one way or the other, but who cares that she's aggressive? There have been many aggressive heads of state in history and many have been very effective leaders.

It's just interesting that men are allowed to be passionate and forceful, but when a woman is they have to be told they're upset (like we don't know this already) and she's told to calm down or to otherwise change her behavior.

So to anyone with the gumption to tell me how to handle myself in a disagreement, I'm going to tell you right now to stuff it. I'm just glad I have such good company as Ségolène Royal.

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