It has been a year of exasperation, to say the least. With a misogynist leader (need I name names?) enforcing laws that are hindering the progress of women, bills being discussed in Québec that target Muslim women, and the huge controversies regarding sexual assault allegations being brought up in Hollywood; anger is prominent. No wonder people (more specifically women) are angry and frustrated. By this, I do not mean emotional or bitchy. The anger we feel and express is righteous, and more importantly, essential.
It is essential, because:
1) we still need to assert we are actual living people,
2) anger is rightfully needed to bring attention to situations that still blame women as the inherent “problem” and
3) anger is a natural reaction that is completely appropriate in situations of gendered injustice and exploitation.
Historically, anger is a trait exclusively associated with and expected from men. It is “big,” “loud,” and it is potentially dangerous. As defined by Free Dictionary, anger is defined as “a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.” Despite constantly feeling displeasure and hostility, women are seldom taken seriously when showcasing anger.
In movies, it is stupidly blamed on PMS or a breakup provoking “irrational” reactions (so what if she is angry after being dumped?!) In politics, it is seen as both an emotional weakness and a threat to security. For some reason, society expects women to be quiet and passive in situations of total ridiculousness. This diminishes our existence, and asserts that in order to be righteously angry, we must identify and express ourselves as male.
That is why we need to still assert we are equals. We are human and anger is a natural human reaction. Sure, we do not need to scream at every small disturbance that happens (no one does) But, DO NOT silence or condescend women by treating their anger as irrelevant, silly or cute. Listen to what women have to say, because apparently when we display anger it negates a legitimate issue we are trying to address and instead focuses on the fact that we are behaving outside the feminine spheres of “normality.”
When we consider the systematic issues regarding voices of the oppressed (whether it is impoverished women or privileged actresses in Hollywood) it is no secret that the problems that occur are filtered through a series of harsh questioning through popular media. Moreover, the blame surrounding the individual indicates a perceptual problem. We are not seeing the whole picture of intertwining institutionalized oppression, rape culture and patriarchy. We, as a society, tend to question a victim’s worth and trustworthiness. Instead of acknowledging patterns of rape by powerful men and the controlling tools used to silence and frighten minorities, I hear statements along the lines of: “They need to chill/relax/calm down. Why didn’t they say anything before?”
To me, this is when anger is required. It seems to be the only reaction we can assert that allows someone to actually begin to listen. Instead of blaming and questioning the people who have suffered, try exerting a little empathy and perhaps anger (!) at the situations that occur time and time again.
Finally, when considering current events, it is crucial that we allow anger as a natural, rational human reaction to lead to a better future. As women, our pasts, presents and futures rely on how our feelings can motivate changing an embedded system of colonial and gendered violence. This necessary anger is not traditionally “masculine” i.e. punching it out to feel powerful. It is not inappropriate or irrational. Furthermore, the anger derived from intersectional feminism is not physiological. It is mental, emotional, spiritual, cultural, political, economic and societal. It is needed to correct injustice, it is needed to say to the people in “charge” that our opinions and feelings matter. For women speaking out and pushing for progress, feeling angry is a way of empathizing and saying: “I’m sorry.”
When it comes to anger, there is a time and a place. In everyday life it is important to refrain from getting caught up in minute issues. The best tool to counteract ignorance is education and communication. However, when the problem is so large and apparent, we need a reaction that will have legitimate consequences. Right NOW is a time to be angry at the world. Anger will help us move towards change. Anger will allow women to be heard. Anger is a part of the ongoing process of challenging systematic oppression. Anger is a necessary reaction that leads to necessary action.