I’m angry. There’s a lot of shit going on in this world and I am angry about it. And I want it to be okay that I’m angry. I don’t want people dismissing my intelligence because I have emotions. I don’t want to be demonized for getting mad. I don’t want people to tell me that I am overreacting or need to calm down.
I am angry. And I need that to be okay.
I started writing essays four years ago. I was angry and I came out like a raging bull. Every week when my mom would edit my essays, she would tell me to tone it down. She would remind me, “you catch more flies with honey.” With this in mind, I have held myself back and censored myself so that my readers don’t throw their arms up in outrage or put their backs against the wall. She’s right – the main goal of my writing is get people to engage with important social justice issues. If I come out with guns’ a blazing then I will lose readers. I don’t want that. I if wanted to have a conversation with only those who already agree with me, I’d go sign up for a feminism chat forum. I want to have a dialogue. I want that dialogue to reflect the varied opinions in society, especially those with which I don’t agree.
But, at some point, I have to draw the line. At some point, I get so sick and tired of tempering myself. Black kids are being shot by cops, abortion clinics are being closed, white supremacists are meeting in broad daylight, and sexual assault statistics are soaring. There is so much wrong in this world and I am angry. My anger is justified. In fact, I question those who are not outraged.
But this anger that I have, justified or not, is a liability. My mother’s advice is useful – as a woman, if I want to be well received in this world I need to be likeable. And no angry woman is likeable.
According to Everyday Feminism, studies show that “when men are angry, people tend to lose their own confidence and defer to men’s opinions. When women are angry, the opposite happens.” Further, it’s been shown that people will also choose to work for aggressive men who sound angry, but not with women who are described in the same manner.
This gender role starts at birth. We teach young girls that their anger, regardless of why they feel that emotion, is wrong and out of sync with their femininity. At a very young age, girls intuitively know that to express anger is to put their relationships at risk. Growing up, we know that one of the worst things a girl can be is angry.
This idea that women and girls should never express their anger leads us to (over) police ourselves. A woman’s world is fraught with sublimation. When we are in a meeting, and someone takes credit for our idea, we swallow our urge to call them out. When we are in class and someone says some particularly offensive comment, we often don’t raise our hand to respond. Instead, we sit there and shake our head. Sometimes we do this out of fear of repercussions, or from sheer exhaustion of dealing with the constant patriarchal BS, but most often we do this because we don’t want to be perceived as ‘angry.’
As most women have come to know, there are risks we shoulder when we express our anger. (And for Black women, this rings even more true.) We don’t want to be known as ‘the woman with a temper.’ We don’t want to be ostracized as ‘difficult to work with.’ We don’t want to be labelled a ‘bitch.’ A she-devil. Cunt. Spaz.
Because we know what happens when we call out the bullshit; when we actually say what we are thinking and we don’t hold back our emotions.
It’s a Monday afternoon. You raise your voice, you make solid points, and maybe even drop an F bomb. You are impassioned – you go on a roll and you feel good. But then people get uncomfortable. They stare are you. They widen their eyes at their friends. The silence is deafening and the air thickens. Whispers. Snickering. Most often nothing is said; your comment just lingers in the tension. There is no clash or climactic duel, but you know, from that point on, many people in that room will have some not-so-nice adjectives to describe you.
In a matter of seconds, we can lose our ‘likeability.’ All because we give the world a glimpse into how we are really feeling.
Now, imagine you are a woman, not expressing your anger over a mean professor who isn’t a fair marker or a boyfriend who forget your birthday, but rather a woman who is pushing back against the patriarchy. Now, not only are you disobeying your prescribed gender role of ‘likeability’ but you have the audacity to identify discriminatory institutions and practices. It’s no wonder that feminists are the most hated women of all.
But, as I’ve said before, feminism isn’t about being likeable – it’s about being revolutionary. Feminism, in its fights for equality, is literally built upon a foundation of calling out the bullshit. That is the only way we achieve anything.
So here I am, a woman. A woman who is angry. A woman who wants to scream at the top of her lungs because it feels as though this world is regressing. A woman who wants to yell at every bigot who says that all refugees are criminals and all Black boys are thugs.
With the anger inside me that has been building for too many years, I want to turn to Donald Trump and shout in his face: “FUCK YOU FOR RUINING SO MANY LIVES. FUCK YOUR POLITICS, YOUR APATHY AND YOUR COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR HUMANITY.”
I kid you not, I have rage fantasies. I dream about scenarios where I can finally let off some steam. I replay arguments that I’ve gotten into with the bigot in my Tuesday afternoon class, but this time insert things I wish I felt I could’ve said. I imagine punching the next man that catcalls me. My anger is so repressed, that I have to fantasize about expressing it. There’s a reason why I never daydream about crying – because the world has no problem seeing a woman be weak, only strong.
My mother’s advice is both practical and coming from a good place. But it’s funny, not once in my twenty five years, when I’ve shared just how angry I am about something, has anyone ever replied: “that’s okay.”
So I am telling myself: It’s okay to be angry. That means you care.