This is an interesting one, why was I seen as upset by a couple of women when complaining about a service this week and not plain annoyed? I’m sure if I was a man, my complaint would have been seen as me being annoyed or even angry, but you don’t hear that a man is upset when he is complaining about something?
Recently, I found this happened to me during a conversation with three women at my Daughters school where I was complaining about the difficulty getting a response from the accounts area to check the school fee bill. I was complaining about the service and the lack of ability of someone to take a message and return a call. Instead of my complaint being relayed correctly, or even half correctly to the person in charge, the first thing that they said to me when getting on the phone to me this morning was, ” I believe you are upset”. You have got to be joking! After I expressed annoyance and the request for a meeting with who ever was in charge I got that I was upset. This female to female mode of operation just devalues us all. Why are women afraid to call it as it is? I was plain angry, annoyed and somewhat pissed off at the efforts that I, as a paying customer had to go to in order to get a response. I was not merely ‘upset’? But upset is a term that is easily equated with a woman. When I was young, people would describe some women as ‘nervy’ or ‘highly strung’ meaning that they were most likely frustrated with the limitations of their life and expressing this frustration in a ways that were not acceptable. Instead of addressing these issues, particularly men choose to negate the feelings of these women by labelling them with belittling terms like nervy. Other women bought into this and the women who was ‘upset’ was pacified with a Bex powder or sedative to get them back to peaceful submissiveness.
Recently I saw the movie, “hysteria”‘ which is about the events that lead up to the invention of the vibrator around the time at the first female suffragettes were speaking out about the injustice of inequitlty for women and were demanding the right to vote. These women were clearly annoyed, they were frustrated with the lack of opportunity open to them to have self determination in their own lives and agitated for change. The display of annoyance, defiance and outspokenness was at odds with the norm of the day and the view that women should defer to men in all things. Their accepted role in society at that time was to be supporter and carer, a mere object of a man’s desires, not having the ability to shape their own lives. This must have been incredibly frustrating and many women would surely have been angry without fully understanding the reasons for their anger. Unfortunately for many women at the time, this annoyance and anger was seen as abnormal and something that needed to be treated by the medical profession. They were seen as having a mental illness and society at that time just couldnt accept that women could experience the same feelings of annoyance, frustration and anger as men. The condition became medicalised and an illness called hysteria was created. Women who’d persisted in trying to assert their rights were seen as difficult and very often committed to mental institutions suffering appalling conditions as a result.
The film deals with this period in a light hearted way and describes one doctors search for a cure to hysteria. Surprisingly he did this by providing a ‘medical procedure’ that today we would call masterbation, abiet administered by a male doctor in a surgery. At the time females were not considered to be sexual and it was just not even considered that they would need to be satisfied sexually. The treatment worked to relieve the symptoms of hysteria by ‘releasing’ a build up of stress and ‘nerves’.
So lets stop treating each other like nervy, upset women. Lets stop playing into the stereotype of frail, emotional women and as other women, lets start treating each other as individuals that should be respected and acknowledged for the people we sometimes display justifiable annoyance! The whole ‘upset’ tag just serves to put us back in our place of disempowerment – so lets stop doing it to each other.