Why Don’t Men Get Called Out for Temper Tantrums?


double standards temper tantrums

The recent controversy surrounding Serena William’s outburst at the US Open has got me thinking about the double standard of how differently men and women are treated when they stand up for what they believe. No matter where you stand on the controversy, it still speaks to the ongoing double standard of expected behavior for men and women. When a man raises his voice to prove a point, he is being assertive and strong. He is justified in his actions. On the other hand, when a woman does it, she is being childish and weak. Why don’t men get called out for temper tantrums?  

The expected behaviors of men and women, including their emotional responses to things, are passed down from generation to generation in our respective families and cultures and are shaped by the times we live in. Few people question these assumptions because that’s how we were raised. And if no one questions the behavior, then it becomes a “way of life.” For example, I grew up in a patriarchal family, but my parents were very much a team. With all of our school activities, they divided and conquered.  She cooked; he cleaned. At the same time, when it came to behavior, we (three girls) were taught to be “ladies” and act like “ladies.” Ladies did not throw temper tantrums or act inappropriately. I always wondered how the narrative would have differed if we had had a brother. Would he have been taught be behave like a gentleman? Would behaving like a gentleman include being taught to not throw temper tantrums, too?

The irony in all of this is that before we become adults when we’re still children, it’s okay for us to have temper tantrums, regardless of our gender. I wonder when the distinction between behaving “like a man” and behaving “like a woman” starts. Does it begin at puberty, or do we place those distinctions on our children at birth? If so, how do we change the narrative? Change certainly doesn’t happen overnight. As I mentioned earlier, much our expected emotional responses are passed down to us and are shaped by the times we live in.

So, what sparks the change? Dialogue and publicized current events like the Serena Williams’ outburst. I love how both women and men are now speaking about the different gender inequalities, like pay scale and sexual harassment.  It has certainly sparked my curiosity about how I can address these biases with my daughter. 

Regardless of gender, all of us are prone to having temper tantrums, men and women alike. Rather than teaching our children to behave like “gentlemen and ladies,” let’s teach them to behave like good humans. Let’s teach our children to speak up for what’s right and that it’s okay to raise their voice when needed.  Let’s teach them how to address their feelings and that it’s okay to feel mad or sad.  For my husband and I, the change in the narrative begins with us. We are raising our daughter to know that she will always have a voice.

How do you address gender biases with your children? 


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