Rosalyn Borst | From Silent Containment to Empowering Rage: Gendered Constructions of Anger Expression and Diversion in Contemporary Picturebooks

Rosalyn Borst | Tilburg University | Supervisors: Prof. dr. Helma van Lierop-Debrauwer, Dr. Sara Van den Bossche, and Prof. dr. Odile Heynders | September 2020 – August 2024 | R.E.Borst[at]

Women who express anger are often stigmatised as ‘hysterical,’ ‘out of control,’ and ‘incompetent’. The notion that anger expression is not appropriate for women is learned young. Children between three and five perceive displays of anger as more acceptable from boys than girls. Furthermore, girls are more likely than boys to hide displeasure or anger after a disappointment. Later in life, the tendency to hide negative emotions can develop into a specific way of coping with anger. Instead of expressing anger, many women rely on anger diversions, such as anger containment (e.g., holding one’s tongue) and anger segmentation (e.g., unconsciously evading or preventing anger). In addition to parents and peers, media, such as children’s books, play a role in the socialisation of gender differences. This research project focuses on contemporary picturebooks for young children and examines which social-emotional values with regard to male and female anger these works transmit. The primary aim is to investigate to what extent and how contemporary picturebooks contest or reinforce the stigmatisation of female anger.