Way back on Saturday 1 June, I wrote about the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s anger being a probable driver of our impeachment poll numbers. A number, for the life of the Smitch SMcConnell (there is just something dirty and nasty about putting s’s in front of the m’s in his name, don’t you think? Kinda suits him), I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t higher. Why the hell aren’t 70-odd percent of the American people up-in-arms over the rampant corruption, self-dealing, and criminality of this administration? I get why 30% isn’t. They’re his “base.” I get why 10% aren’t. They are the quavering conservatives who can’t quite convince themselves to part with a political party that is nakedly anti-democratic and so clearly authoritarian. But, goodness gratuitous, what is wrong with the other 20% of uninformed disinterested low-information no opinion-havers? What’s leading them by the nose ring to stand idly by as our democracy gets flushed down the shitter?
Male Privilege, Anger, and Status Conferral: the Studies
The answer comes in the form of a series of studies by Larissa Tiedens when she was on the faculty of Stanford Graduate School of Business and who is now the president of Scripps Women’s College. This particular series of studies focused on the emotional mediators of conferring status on people. Hunh? How do the emotions that a person has affect the social status that observers award them with. Specifically, she was interested in anger and sadness.
Study One: Angry Bill vs. Sad Bill
The first study looked at how the emotional displays of Bill Clinton affected observers’ feelings about impeachment. In short, participants felt that angry Bill shouldn’t be impeached and sad Bill should. The gender or political affiliation of the participants didn’t seem to matter.
Loyal reader, bobcabkings, who blogs over at cabbagesandkings524, commented that one of the privileges that white men have is to be angry and have that anger be interpreted as power and status. And, man, did that hit me like a ton of feathers; I mean, knock me over with a brick, why dontcha? Isn’t that right? Men, especially white men, especially white Republican men, are not only allowed to be angry. they are encouraged to. As boys we are taught how to wield our anger, and everyone else is taught not only to accept it, but to reward it with the conferral of status.
This ain’t surprising, is it? I mean, we all knew this, didn’t we? But, is it writ anywhere clearer? Maybe in these other studies that Tiedens did because, as she says in her paper, the finding about Bill Clinton could be just because president, right?
Study 2: An Unknown Politician, Anger, and Status Conferral
Another study she did was much more controlled. She got an actor to play a politician for a short film clip (80 seconds long). The actor read the same script about terrorism in two different ways: one angry and one sad. She checked to make sure that the participants (students in a political philosophy class) were interpreting the actor’s emotions accurately or that the actor was portraying them accurately, the participants all rated the clips they saw on the emotions they perceived. Indeed, they overwhelmingly perceived the angry speech as angry and the sad speech as sad.
Participants viewing the angry clip were (a) more likely to vote for him for president and (b) rated him higher as a political leader. There were no differences based on the gender of the participant. Higher social status was conferred onto the angry man, who I presume to be white (pending the response to a question by Tiedens). But, again, as she explains, mayhaps this is due to special circumstance, you know, politician.
Study 3: Male Job Applicants, Anger, and Status Conferral
So, the intrepid President Professor Doctor Tiedens did some more studies using other emoting models and people. She got students studying for their business master’s degrees to view an actor playing an interviewee for a job. In one video he was angry and in another, he was sad. The interesting thing here is that only a minority of participants would have hired either one, but a plurality of hiring participants would have hired the sad applicant! Ha! Now here’s the nut-kicker, those who would have hired the angry applicant offered him a substantially better benefits package and given a higher position! What?
As she explains, respondents consistently across studies describe people who are sad as being more likeable, but likeability does not result in conferring status. The models who were angry were viewed as being less likeable, but more competent! COMPETENT! Ha! That’s something you don’t often hear in the same dying breathe as the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, eh? But, it may account for some of his delusional followers believing he is competent. It could also cause the nefarious low-information, somnambulant, barely conscious Americans to mistake his bluff and bluster for competence.
In the Tiedens’ political studies, competence drove voting, not likeability.
Expressions of Anger and Status Conferral
But, let’s dig a little deeper into this cesspit of white male privilege. In Tiedens’ studies, her models were not virulently angry. They didn’t shout profanity, sputter spittle, flip over tables, punch walls, or threaten violence and mayhem like a common supporter of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber does. Also, they were not angry at the participants. They weren’t even angry near the participants. The models were safely removed on a video, which does change things. I’m guessing, that the models didn’t say stupid as a dead dormouse things like the Ol’ Pussy Grabber does in his tirades. Or any of the hosts of the Fox what-passes-for-News Network. So, there may be some boundaries on this conferral of social status to angry white Republican men — after all the angry Democrats of Mueller fame were derided as incompetent.
But, is this all there is? If so, it is not very convincing — okay, it is pretty convincing — of white male privilege and understanding the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s low but resilient job-approval numbers and his high anti-impeachment numbers… and it may bode ill for any woman that the Dems nominate for the 2020 race.
Women, Anger, and Status Conferral
It is a science fact that when women display anger, attribution theory suggests that a woman’s anger is attributed to dispositional factors, i.e. she’s an angry castrating bitch. But, when a white Republican man displays anger, it is because some ding-dang-dumb libel done uttered some ding-dang-dumb ass libel inanity that goes against the commonest of senses an the will o’ god. In other words, it is due to situational factors. It weren’t his fault, and you would be angry, too, iffin you were in them exact same circumstances.
If someone breaks a stereotype, they are seen as legitimate targets of abuse. Women are stereotyped as not being overtly angry. So, ergo, when someone sees an angry woman, her anger is not seen as legitimate and the perceiver — in the case of the women running for the 2020 nomination — looks for reasons and ways to subject them to derogatory abuse. We see this in action every fucking day in the media’s coverage of the race so far.
The mainest thing you can do, dear reader, is keep this in mind when you are viewing candidates, experiencing the media coverage of the race, and discussing the race with friends, families, and colleagues. We have to fight this tendency by pointing out when it is in effect and engaging our rational thinking minds to disentangle our habitual reactions,
Categories: Politics, Social Influence
Hey, Jack, thanks for the shout out. So, we have: Anger>>>Masculine & Sadness>>>>Feminine — “Boys don’t cry.” Add to that that likability doesn’t necessarily win elections. Thinking about the women running for the nomination and all this, I tend to think Elizabeth Warren may have the best chance among them. She doesn’t overdo the anger by saying the Rebubes are evil, just that they are wrong and it is bad for people. What she does project is Competence, as someone who does her homework and produces proposals and policies in fully worked out detail, not generalities or simple ideological slogans (in that regard, AOC is looking like her best protege, and maybe even smarter). The trouble is that she and some of the other women running really are (from the white-male-patriarch point of view) scary smart. Also interesting is that Bernie often polls better than Uncle Joe. Biden always seems to be trying to find the “right” thing to say, while Bernie just speaks his mind (actually authentic as opposed to Trump’s fraudulent realness) as he has for decades, and his anger is not overdone and it is clear that the things that piss him off really do and always have.
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I’ve been having a lot of fun digging into the literature around emotion displays and how they are perceived. Enough so that I could write two may three more posts about them. One of the most interesting findings is that people believe that anger and pride are the only two emotions that men express more frequently than women. They are legitimate for men but not for women. Probably one of Clinton’s worst problems was that the GOP was able to paint her as angry.
The other interesting finding is that emotional expressions are considered honest partly because they are not as consciously perceived. When someone is emoting in front of you, you rarely get beyond, “Boy, that person is really xy or z.” It is accepted as a true reflection of your inner self, and it affects the perception of that person just as unconsciously.
My favorite in the race is Warren. I like her politics and her style. She is a good communicator. She really projects passion, enthusiasm, and a can do spirit. She is optimistic and sure of herself. But, she is also a bit mannish in a wonky kind of way. I think it helps in the perception of her competence and her seriousness. She isn’t necessarily likeable — remember Clinton was faulted for not being likeable when evidence suggests that likeability doesn’t drive voting. I saw her in MSNBC’s townhall in Ft. Wayne, Indiana the other night. She was impressive. She really connected with the audience and with individuals in the audience. She had an answer for everything that made sense and, like you said, was detailed and well thought through.
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