One facet of femininity is anger control. It has two benefits for the men who impose it. Her self-management assures him a somewhat peaceful life, one beyond contention, challenge, righteousness, and rage. Her management of him saves him from himself, from his own detrimental behavior, from job or career loss, from family and neighborhood disrepute, and from his own meanness and mood swings.
In my youth, pacifist wives, and their antagonistic husbands peopled my immediate environment. How many times did I see self-controlled women restrain and temper the stormy outbursts of their moody or raving husbands. Sometimes it was to protect the children, sometimes to protect others, and sometimes to protect that very husband from himself.
Her inputs were indispensable to the family as a social unit. She held things together by sublimating her own emotions to divert threats, dangers, and abuses. She supplied the calm, the wisdom, and whatever safety was possible. She interceded and intervened to placate his entitlement, to maintain family cohesion, and to soften his injuries. She kept all under control, made excuses for him, agreed with his opinions, and generally took care of business.
But rarely did she intervene on her own behalf because as anger manager she was supposed to have no anger of her own to manage. She was simply not permitted to plead her own case. To attempt it at all, required an inimitable combo of bravery and artfulness. Whenever she became the issue, she was expected to make herself scarce.
For she was more the mother than the lover or friend, more the prop of domesticity than active agent. And certainly, her anger stance, no matter how her relational qualities could transcend its limits, was more imposed than natural.
For this anger work of hers was all for his benefit. He bestowed it, closely monitored it, and promoted it. And he incessantly backed it up with his actions, implications, gestures, more than by his words, which might after all, suggest a weakness or a lack of arbitrariness.
Once again, she could soothe him, humor him, and dissuade him from over-reacting or acting too rudely, but would have to break the habit when she was targeted. She could appease him for his sake, for his friend’s sake, even for his girlfriend’s sake, but not for her own sake.
The perfect set up for the master of the house. A composed wife, a civilizing presence, a humanizer. A mom who sacrifices her anger for the quiet, happiness and intimate ties of the family, gracefully absorbing all instances of family discontent, and anticipating all incendiary moments. She’s the pragmatist, the peace-maker, the gentle adviser, the moralist, and the psychologist. Everything she does elevates the stature of him, his children, his family.
He wins. And she’s eerily defenseless. What good is anger management to her if it leaves her, in company with her daughter(s), wide open to both physical and verbal abuse? The cost of this role of hers is the loss of fight, resistance–and defense. And her prized role turns out to be nothing but one more form of social subordination.