Debunking Popular Myths: The Chip on your Shoulder & Policing your Emotions

have a chip on your shoulder

to be touchy, to be easily provoked (During the 19th century, a person in the united states would challenge others to a fight by placing a wooden chip on his/her shoulder and daring them to knock it off, and if the other person did so, the fight was on.)
Let’s look first at how this phrase is used shall we?

Chip on One’s Shoulder

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Case 1

  1. With chip on his shoulder, senior carries men’s soccer team on his
  2. Mike D’Antoni: ‘We Should Have A Chip On Our Shoulder
  3. Ed Bouchette: Harrison Plays Best With Chip On His Shoulder

If you are a sports player, it is ok to play with a chip on your shoulder especially after a loss. You have something to prove to your past and future opponents,  team mates, and the the world.  It seems the media and we the people in turn, love an athlete or someone with a chip on their shoulder when the are part of a narrative we want “read”. Look at this example:

I’m fond of saying that I look for entrepreneurs that have a chip on their shoulder. That they have something to prove. That they’re not afraid to stick their noses up to the establishment.

What happens when the someone who seems to have a chip on their shoulders What happens when its part of a narrative they don’t want to read ? Let me give you an example, from this article

Case 2

How can the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype be challenged?

Written by Mary Isokariari
28/09/2013 10:00 AM

The longstanding stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’ is a way of de-legitimising rational arguments made by black women,  It is strategy for rendering us invisible and voiceless as anything we say that is coming from an informed perspective and supported by evidence is closed down without any effort to engage in discussion. She argued that “it is one of the ways that race and gender confer a double disadvantage on black women that has both social and economic consequences.” You find in the work place this is used against black women time and time again in the appraisal and disciplinary system. It’s blatant racism. It comes up all the time, ‘oh you’re too aggressive, too loud or you have a chip on your shoulder.”

What it boils Down to

To have a chip on one’s shoulders is to at the core means to be provoked. There are allowed and un-allowed provocations. Provoked by loss can rally a team to play hard and return to prominence like the underdog story we love so much the next week or whenever the game is where they destroy their opponents with the same regard for life as the peole who thought up agent orange. This is an example of an allowed provocation.

An unallowed chip on one’s shoulder is to be mad at with social treatment.  A cop threatens to break your arm and beat you up, or no one takes the rape charge seriously, or some company is scheming to take land that rightfully belong to your people or Reservation you call out hoping that a neighbour or a compassionate human being found somewhere, might comfort you in your grief or at least agree that things are messed up and you get angry when everyone stays silent and plays dumb. This is a provocation you are not allowed to vocalize.

What this means in many ways is that unless my provocation can be used as a sensationalist too for larger provocation or money-making then no one care or wants to hear on it. So far  I have noticed in the unallowed episodes of chip having no one questions the person who puts it there or why they did so. I wonder what is the significance of people getting more upset over someone expressing outrage at being abused, than the fact that a grave abuse has taken place ?


The meaning of the phrase ‘chip on your shoulder’ has negative connotations. It could mean that someone simply has a bad attitude about most things, or could imply that a person remains in a negative mood due to holding a grudge. At times in can even denote a persons inability to see past their own opinion or situation.

Is being angry at an ignore rape charge, or angry at victim shaming is that holding a grudge, is that an inability to see past your situation or opinion ? If it is here is the face (Cherice Moralez) of what having a chip on your shoulder looks like, her grudge her negative mood was so intense it took her life. Luckily the judge sentenced her rapist to 30 days in jail and he is now free.

Cherice Morales Rest in Peace
Cherice Morales May You Rest In Peace

The Rape And Suicide Of Student Cherice Moralez Earns Teacher Stacey Rambold One Month In Prison

A former Montana high school teacher due to be released Thursday after serving a 30-day prison sentence for raping a 14-year-old student is “still skating” justice six years after the assault, the victim’s mother said. Stacey Rambold, 54, will leave the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge after completing the term handed down by District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings last month for the 2007 rape of Cherice Moralez. The sentence drew protests for being too lenient and outrage over comments the judge made that appeared to pin some of the blame on Moralez.

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One comment

  1. “I wonder what is the significance of people getting more upset over someone expressing outrage at being abused, than the fact that a grave abuse has taken place?”

    For the same underlying reason that parents in my store buy their 7 year old Grand Theft Auto 5 and think the violence is fine…but a mother returned an ElfQuest graphic novel because it hinted strongly at the idea of consensual sex between unmarried adults (in this case, elves).

    Things that involve violence are tragedies that we can safely shake our heads at and move on without helping. “Leave it up to the authorities, they know what to do.”
    Things that involve actively listening to another’s problems and offering comfort or emotional assistance is, by its very nature, not passive. People can feel safe if mere numbers show that domestic violence kills X men and women a year…after all, it’s just numbers. But having to listen to a woman or man who actually lived through an attempt on their life is less safe, since now it’s at an individual level and could (theoretically) happen to you.

    Our culture is prudish about the wrong situations.


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