From Stigma to Strength: Embracing Women’s Anger in a Changing World
It used to be frowned upon for women to show anger. But the anger-gender-gap is widening, and women are becoming increasingly angry about everything from police brutality to domestic inequality – rightfully so. A brief rundown of female emotions and the power it holds.
The Changing Face of Angry Women:
The image of the angry woman portrayed in the media is often one of fierceness, with intense eyebrows, a cutting tongue, and fiery eyes seeking justice. While this stereotype has been perpetuated over the years, it fails to capture the true depth of women’s anger. Women express their anger in various ways that go beyond melodramatic outbursts, showcasing a more profound and multi-dimensional range of emotions. Recent events have sparked a cultural awakening, prompting women worldwide to explore and articulate their anger, intertwining the personal, professional, and political aspects of their lives.
The Rise of Female Rage in Art and Literature:
A new wave of artistic expression has emerged, capturing the essence of female rage. From female rage films to the “good for her” cinematic universe, literature that embraces gaslighting, gatekeeping, and girlboss narratives, these genres are gaining traction. Unlike conventional genres like science fiction or romance, these portrayals of female rage go beyond surface-level themes, offering complex and nuanced perspectives. This raises intriguing questions about the definition of “female rage” in the media, its origins, and why so many women connect with it on a profound level.
Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Media:
Media consumption often exposes us to violence against women, leading to desensitization. Crime dramas and historical/fantasy shows frequently feature violence, particularly against women, as a means of entertainment or realism. This constant exposure perpetuates a cycle of violence, leaving many female viewers horrified and alienated. Consequently, there is a growing demand for stories where women take control and reclaim their agency. By subverting the expected roles of women as gentle and nurturing, narratives featuring female characters in charge of their anger provide a cathartic and empowering experience.
The Power of Women’s Anger:
Soraya Chemaly’s book, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger,” emphasizes that anger serves a profound purpose, acting as a moral smoke signal that alerts us to inequality and injustice. Women, in particular, have been taught to isolate themselves from anger, even though it is crucial in defending against societal injustices. Examining historical movements, Rebecca Traister’s “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger” showcases how women’s anger has fueled political change. Acknowledging and respecting women’s anger is vital for dismantling societal norms that undermine its power.
Embracing Female Anger and Moving Forward:
To undo the cultural dynamics that suppress the power of women’s emotions, it is essential to acknowledge, notice, and respect women’s anger. By actively seeking out women’s anger, understanding its sources, and listening to their experiences, we can foster an environment that values and validates women’s emotions. While the media’s portrayal of female rage still has a long way to go, efforts are being made to depict women as multidimensional beings, capable of expressing anger while transcending vulnerability. The perseverance of women in the male-dominated media industry has contributed to this positive change.
It is exhausting to see women having to be good in the face of constant violence. It is liberating to see them be vile. Let them rage on.
In Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, Soraya Chemaly writes that anger has a profound purpose: it is a moral smoke signal, alerting us to inequality and injustice. (“Anger is loaded with information and energy,” Audre Lorde said in 1981.) And that’s precisely why women, in particular, are taught to isolate themselves from it.
“It is hard to overstate how problematic the transfer of anger as a resource from girls to boys and from women to men is, not only for us as individuals, but also for our society,” she writes. “This transfer is critical to the maintenance of white supremacy and patriarchy. Anger remains the least acceptable emotion for girls and women because it is the first line of defence against injustice”. Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, out this week, takes a historical long view, examining how women’s anger has fuelled political movements over time. In the epilogue, she describes how energised and clear-headed she felt while writing her book, and how she came to reject the notion that anger itself, rather than its repression, is unhealthy.
So how do we capitalise on this wisdom and undo the cultural dynamic that undermines the power of women’s emotions? “We can change it by doing what the world doesn’t: acknowledging, noticing, respecting, and not shying away from other women’s anger,” Traister writes. “Seek it out, notice it, ask women what makes them angry, and then listen when they tell you. If part of what they’re angry about is you, take it in, acknowledge how their frustrations might reflect your own, even if they’re directed at you. While there is still a long way to go in dismantling the media’s notion of female rage, there have been efforts to show the true multidimensional nature of a woman, her anger and her capacity beyond vulnerability – made possible by the women who have braved the male-dominated media industry.