Competent But Hostile: Intersecting Race/gender Stereotypes And The Perception Of Women’s Anger In The Workplace

Open Access
Dicicco, Elaine Claire
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 16, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Stephanie A Shields, Thesis Advisor
  • gender stereotypes
  • race stereotypes
  • emotion
When displayed appropriately and effectively, anger can communicate status and competence – characteristics that are necessary for success and establishing respect and power among colleagues in the workplace. But for whom is anger beneficial? In this paper, I argue that perceiving an angry target as competent depends on who is expressing the emotion, and that race and gender stereotypes intersect to influence perceptions of black women’s anger. Using an intersectional framework, I propose two competing hypotheses about the perception of black women’s anger in the workplace, relative to the perception of white women’s anger: 1) Given race and gender stereotypes about black women’s aggressiveness, angry black women may be seen as hostile and therefore less competent, or 2) given race and gender stereotypes about black women’s assertiveness and directness, angry black women may be perceived strong and therefore as more competent. To test these predictions, participants (N = 312), recruited through Mechanical Turk, read a vignette depicting a black female, a white female, or a white male target, who expressed either anger or sadness in a work context. The black female target was perceived as significantly more competent, and also as more hostile than the white female target in the anger condition. In the sad condition, the white female target was more competent than the black female target, and previous findings that white men’s anger conveys more competence than white women’s anger was not replicated. This suggests that intersecting gender and race stereotypes differentially impact white women and black women. I conclude that testing these competing hypotheses is a crucial step in moving forward theory about stereotyping and perceptions of emotion.