PMS: The Only Reason Women Get Angry?

Anger does not mean I'm PMSing.

Anger does not mean I’m PMSing.

By Fe Hmelar

If I’m angry I must be PMSing?

In middle school I got into a heated argument with my little brother. I was angry because he wasn’t keeping up with his end of the housework. We were yelling back-and-forth, and all of a sudden he exclaimed, “Why are you so upset, are you PMSing?”

I knew for a fact that I wasn’t because it was not that time of the month.

But I was utterly confused. Did my brother — or men, generally — think that a woman must be hormonally imbalanced in order to be upset?

Donald Trump seemed to think so when Megyn Kelly grilled him on sexist comments he had made, calling women “Fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”

He said her criticism was off-base and that, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her — wherever.”

Must be her period. Because why else would a woman feel disgust at demeaning behavior?

A woman never has any reason to be angry other than hormonal imbalance?

When my brother asked if PMS lay at the root of my anger I thought about the many times I have seen my father and other men become upset to the point of yelling. Like I have seen Donald Trump do many times. Yet not once has anyone asked if they were experiencing hormonal imbalance.

On the contrary, when I asked my mom why my dad yelled she would say, “That’s just the way men are.”

So apparently, boys and men are designed to be tough and loud while girls and women are designed to be seen and not heard. Women are not supposed to feel angry.

I think that this is really about society telling women that we must be submissive and do what others want, fair or not. In a complete disregard for women’s personal needs and sense of self-worth.

If we get upset, it’s hormones, not injustice.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 21, 2016, in psychology, women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 58 Comments.

  1. ouch! not really the most appropriate way to justify one’s anger or, not a way for somebody to try and question why someone’s angry it’s probably going to make the person even more angry it’s said that menopause is sometimes blamed for women’s mood swings but that may be true to a degree but not always think too often we take what we hear as gospel and it’s often found it’s myth.

    • Yeah, right?

      Menstruation used to be valued and not seen as something that made women go crazy or get angry.

      And anger is a natural human emotion. That doesn’t only arise for women when menstruating. It’s interesting that the only emotion that it’s OK for men to feel is anger, and the only emotion that it’s not OK for women to feel is anger. (Exaggerating a bit here, but there’s a kernel of truth in that statement.)

  2. In any argument, the participants think their opponent is irrational. That’s human nature, I am sensible and rational, therefore if you disagree with me, you are not sensible and rational. If your opponent is a woman there is a readily available suspicion at hand why they might not be sensible and rational. I’d imagine if you were arguing with a drug addict it would be similar, there’d be a readily available suspicion at hand that you’d been doing drugs.

  3. There’s no proof that the Donald meant menstruates

  4. That attitude is so infuriating. So dismissive.

  5. When men or women don’t feel good they get cranky. When we are younger we don’t have the life experiences to deal with pain and discomfort as gracefully as we do when we are older. I think this is where the angry PMS belief started. When I was a teenager and early 20’s, I got into a lot more fights with my girlfriends when they were on their periods. I think there is a little truth in this belief but less so the older you get.

    • There’s also confirmation bias. Which means that we notice things that match our beliefs and don’t notice the things that don’t. It’s possible that when women were both menstruating and angry you noticed it more than when they were just angry. And PMS is actually pre-menstrual.

      Some researchers did a study where they asked women to record their mood in a daily diary. Later they compared the diary to the women’s menstrual cycles. Turns out that about 20% of the women did experience PMS. But 80% did not.

      • Confirmation bias may have been a factor.

        I wonder the ages of the women in the study. I’m referring to young females from the age they start thier menstrual cycles to 24 years of age.

      • I’ll have to look it up but most studies are done on college-age women (and men) simply because their professors who are doing these studies can easily reach them.

  6. Growing up with 3 sisters, and our constant bickering…I have to admit I used this line of reasoning a few times. Not that I ever believed it to be the case, but because saying this would always cause them to become a bit flustered… It seems this comment by men, at least with my experience, is used not because we believe it, but because it is another tool in our arsenal to annoy…if that makes sense.

  7. About a year ago, I was in a bit of a “texting” relationship with another blogger (never met him). We had a little spat via text and I told him I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t hear back from him for a week. During that time, I was hospitalized for a serious kidney infection. When I explained to him that I had been very seriously ill since we had spoken, his response was that he was sorry, he hadn’t text me for a week because he thought I was on my period…..

    When is that ever an acceptable thing to say, even if you’re thinking it? SMH. Thanks for posting this. It’s REALLY annoying.

  8. not sure if this fits but it should probably go with the issue of breasts but since it’s talking about why whe assume women get angry this doesn’t have anything to do with anger but it’s well, let’s just say it’s what popped into the mind of a 5 or 6-year-old me. I actually had this notion that large breasts meant a woman was pregnant not sure where I got that from as a child but ouch! sometimes when you’re a child your mind is set with an idea but when you’re 5 or 6 you don’t always have a good idea of what’s appropriate and what’s not but that was back in the early years anyway. had I been that age now I’d have really been pulled up for such things but you live and learn. again doesn’t really fit the topic here but it does go with assumptions whether it’s assuming PMS could lead to anger or other such ideas

    • We are all a mix of our culture + experiences + personality. So if you have grown-up learning that women’s breasts get larger when they are pregnant (true) for that PMS creates anger (false), you are likely to hold those beliefs, whether they are true or not.

  9. Interesting discussion on PMS and it’s usage in gender altercations. I have not seen the term being specifically used in Asian cultures as an invective to browbeat women. There is a hill temple in south India that prohibits women aged between 10 and 50 years, or menstruating age, from entry as the presiding deity is believed to be a celibate in meditative stage and therefore not to be distracted by women in the reproductive age group…! The Supreme Court in India has recently recommended that women of all ages be allowed to enter the said temple even though the suggestion is stoutly opposed by conservative males clamouring for continuation of the temple tradition. Thus the controversy rages while the final verdict of the court is still awaited. As for Trump, even he seems to be unsure of most of what he states as part of campaign rhetoric; so it is best left as it is.

  10. yes sometimes its true. When ever we girls are upset or angry, people think we might be PMSing. But thats not the case everytime which they won’t accept.

  11. I don’t know why men’s think that we women’s only get upset or angry when it’s that time of the month! I mean we are also human beings and there is times that we also get angry and it has nothing to do with PMS. Whenever i get upset with my fiance’s his first words are “Are You On Your Period, Or About To Start?” now, that’s when i get even more upset like hello…. why do you think that would be an excuse for me getting mad? No i don’t only react due to PMS. I agree sometimes due to change in our hormones can make us women’s little moody but no we don’t get upset just because of PMS. Females shouldn’t be looked down or ignored when they are upset or angry because males think it’s just PMS, but they should understand that it’s not always only because of PMS.

  12. Males are at fault for assuming in the first place but males grew up thinking that when females do get angry that males automatically assume that it is due to PMS. I was at fault many times for this reason until I knew better from learning about females in biology and from my younger sister. I believe females do stay angry longer than males and my sister (age 25) agrees with me. Until this day, I do not know why that females do. Also, I am not saying that all females stay angry longer than males but more females tend to than males.
    Donald Trump does have the right to say what he wants but in his position, he should of attacked Megyn Kelly professionally through her wrong doings as an example.

    • I hope men don’t feel like they are being made to feel at fault. Women and men don’t always understand each other and I’m hoping that my blog will help to bridge the gap. It would be interesting to see a study on how often women and men stay angry. And consider why one gender might stay angrier longer. I have seen studies showing that women tend to ruminate longer, Which would contribute to staying angry longer — so you might be right. But then why is that? Maybe men are taught to feel more powerful and to be more assertive and deal with things? I know that when I stay angry for a long time it’s when I am feeling more powerless, And the sense of powerlessness adds to the anger and extends it. On the other hand, Donald Trump sure can stay angry for a long time. Hillary brought up one thing and he’s been harping on it all week, even tweeting at 3 o’clock in the morning. Maybe he is feeling powerless to Force everyone to see him as an amazing person. So like I said, it would be good to see a study on who stays angry longer. I’m not sure what Mygan Kelly’s wrongdoings were. It seems strange that it’s okay for Trump to say horrible things about women but it’s not okay for her to call him on it.

      • Some men will take the fault if it ends the argument. I do this because I hate arguing with others. I agree that women and men don’t always see eye to eye and that communicating with each other with reason will help for the best. I feel as if women are more sophisticated than men since women mature faster than men. So women’s thinking process has more function than men. Also, some men’s attitude tends to be more laid back than women. I feel being mad at someone for a long time takes more energy out of me so I rather forgive and move on. Some men are taught those traits but they don’t always apply them. The only time I started to feel powerful was when I started lifting weights and being assertive is still a weakness for me since I am shy.
        I haven’t been following up with Trump or Hillary and all I have been hearing are bad things about both. Kaepernick said something about the candidates that they are evil and it’s up to the voters to chose the lesser evil. But then again, Kaepernick did not stand for the national anthem which I disagree because I served under that flag for the Navy.

      • You cover a lot here. Men seem to be socialized to calm things down in relationships, And where they do so the relationships seem to be healthier. Something that men do this because when they care about the woman they are with they want to not seem like they are being dominating and hurtful.

        Hillary Clinton has been attacked for the last 25 years in an attempt to we can the Clinton presidency and any attempts she makes her power. Most of it is made up.

        On the other issue I can see your point but at the same time the flag represents freedom of expression, Freedom to make a political statement, Right? So you were fighting for his right to protest.

  13. This topic is very relatable to speak of, men have always had the perception that women tend to over-react when they’re menstruating. Men have always point out that when a women raises her voice or states their opinions and stand up for something, they are only temporarily feeling that certain way due to their hormonal imbalance. The point of a women always having to be submissive to whatever the men has to say or not raise their voices is very irritable to men. Women have the right as a human with human emotions to raise their voices and feel anger when irritable, men need to stop being bias and understand that as they feel anger, we as women feel the exact emotion-not only while PMSing.

  14. I can totally relate to this post, I can’t count how many times my brother said “Oh, I get it, you are on period.” when I would get upset. When I try to respond I can’t say anything because I know he would not believe me because I am “hormones”. People want to be right and often times men easily find some reason to shut women up because they do not want be wrong. Also some men like Trump are scared of women taking power from them so they degraded women and invalided their reason for being upset or angry.

  15. I can really relate to this topic as i do tend to see this a lot. Men seem to assume that the only reason as to why a women may be angry is due to psming which obviously is not the case. To use the excuse that she is just psming in order to justify her being angry is not the proper idea. The idea that when women are angry, is looked upon as different or wrong because as stated above, i completely agree with how society has taught women to be and act a certain way and right when they do something out of the ordinary its deemed wrong.

  16. I think PMSing has nothing to do with feeling angry or sad or anything at all. I feel that it has to do more with a psychological factor, we become so self-aware and conscious of our momentarily situation that we create that image in our head that can sometimes translate into “I am angry because I am PMSing.” If we think about it even in some religions they teach that when women are ritually unclean when in their menstrual period and many of as grow up with this ideal. Hence when woman start PMSing some become more sensible than other not because of the hormones but because it is uncomfortable to know that one is bleeding and sometimes in pain. Most of the time some woman are not able to do their normal activities because of the pain they are in, that is where the anger or sadness comes from, from not being able to be themselves.

    • You make a good point about how we can believe something is happening whether or not it actually is. And people also confuse PMS (PRE-menstrual syndrome) with the pain of menstruation, which can indeed get you cranky. But if a woman is angry it’s not simply because she is menstruating, For sure.

  17. I have never thought about the differences between a lady and man getting asked why they were angry. Every time I was asked if I was angry, my male friends did naturally assume I was PMS’ing. However, I have never thought of hormonal imbalance as a reason why a man is angry. I guess since men are portrayed more dominantly in our society, we expect them to be angry and asserting their dominant behavior. More often than not, whenever I would see my uncle or dad getting angry, I would just say ‘oh, typical man,’ but if it was my aunt or mom I would have wondered why they were getting so upset. I don’t think I would have thought they were PMS’ing, but I would wonder why they are getting upset by something so simple. It’s an unconscious thought that asserts gender stereotypes, but I am going to be more conscious of my thoughts in the future and try to not stereotype.

    • It’s funny how often people think that anger means a woman is PMS-ing.

    • Men and women, we’re both a collection of emotions, ruled by the chemical balance in our brain. I’m a man, but yesterday I felt just unable to cope with the day and the problems. Today, same problems, and I feel fine. We all have dozens of chemicals pulsing through our veins affecting our emotions. What’s the big deal if men think women are angry because of a particular one of them? If women think men are angry because of our testosterone, they are probably right!

      • Men can have very high levels of testosterone and be very sweet, gentle people. Estrogen is also tied to aggression. Think of mama bear protecting her cubs.

        Whether it is testosterone, estrogen, PMS, we can use hormones as a way to blame or excuse or limit behavior in problematic ways.

  18. I think it is totally weird that the reason why women get upset is considered to be because of PMS. I really don’t like that men think women are not serious when they are irritated because of PMS. Like adults, young girls who have not period yet get angry and irritated, too, which means that it is a natural emotion for human to get angry, so I felt the opinion against PMS is like gender discrimination. Of course we women do get upset because of period, but it does not happen every time. I hope every man would understand about this and women more.

  19. I have seen many men who said to women “Don’t be mad. Your face is going to be ugly.” They say this phrase to make yelling women silent. I think adults should teach not only girls but also boys about period in elementary schools. When I was ten years old, my teacher collected only girl students in a lecture hall and they told us how to use sanitary items. While we were listening, boy students were students in class rooms. End of this meeting, teacher told us “Don’t tell what we talked here and don’t show boys sanitary items.” I feel men who have never had chance to know about period say insensitive remark as Donald Trump did.

  20. I think this phenomenon reflects the gender inequality problem in the society. People always think that women should be obedient. In people’s minds, women should do household chores, and men should work and make money, so men can lose their temper. ,Although this kind of troditional attitude is not as obvious as before, but it is continuing. Back to the worrior society, women were treated like a property, because they were smaller and easier to control. We all know that is wrong. So, in the modern civilized society, we should establish awareness that women get angry not only because of PMS, also becase they have ability and right to control or express their feelings. It’s normal if a woman get angry.

  21. This is a great article! I think that some men like to always be right, and so to just get their way out of an argument they start insulting women, and that’s not the way it should be! Instead both the guy and the girl should find a solution together. Hopefully today’s generation, both the female and male get to work together rather than one of them, trying to be right most of the time.

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