Most Women You Know Are Angry — and That’s Alright
August 3, 2017 8:35 AM   Subscribe

Many women you know are angrier than you can possibly imagine. "The responsibility of making men feel safe and unthreatened was interfering with my plan of taking down patriarchy and helping to build a world where the common human experience of being a woman doesn’t have to hurt so much. As far as I'm concerned, boys who only want to be with "cool, chill girls" should try dating in the morgue."
posted by stoneweaver (69 comments total) 102 users marked this as a favorite
 
YES!
posted by agregoli at 8:47 AM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


GRRRRRRRRAWWWWRRRRRYESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:08 AM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


This is one of the only pieces where I've seen her acknowledge her relative privilege and that women's rage is complicated by intersectional issues, but at the same time this left me with that the author feels safe talking about being an angry woman because she is a small white woman who dates men - a woman who is unthreatening and cute. The way she writes it seems that the women she talks to about their anger are similarly situated - white, cis, heteronormative, women who are not seen as threatening by the larger culture. A similar article by a black woman or a lesbian or a trans woman (let alone a black trans lesbian) would not get a similar response, and the author's attempt to deal with that is brief and then circles back to focus on herself.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:14 AM on August 3, 2017 [27 favorites]


What? This makes so many contradictory statements that I can't keep track, nor figure out the point that the author is trying to make. "Choosing to control your rage" is a good thing, the author says, but most of the article seems to be saying just the opposite.

I think that what she's talking about is outrage. I strongly feel that it's important and necessary to feel outraged at injustice, and to voice that outrage, and it's probably true that many women have been socialized not to do that and to keep quiet. But anger is something else. Anger eats away at you and feels awful. Dumping that anger on someone, even someone who arguably deserves it, also feels awful, and incidentally it's so easy to do that many of us do it impulsively, when we wish we weren't doing it. Flying off the handle is the opposite of hard.It happens when you don't even want it to.

Also, hatred is an action? Never heard that one before. People can certainly act out of hatred, but the hatred is a feeling.

I think I agree with the point she is trying to make, but basically this article is a mess.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 9:20 AM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


I love that this is from Teen Vogue.

From about 10 years old to about my early twenties I was terrified of my own anger. She mentions in the article that her anger turned in on herself and manifested as self harm, and I did (and sometimes do) that too. It also came out as cruelty to people who I felt safe around. I'm learning to separate my anger from my fear and my anxiety and feel it as its own thing and its own energy, and without other women vocalizing their related experiences I would never know this about myself. Coming to terms with how furious I am about things beyond my control has been key to reducing my fear, which leads me to be less irrational, which leads to less uncertainty and thus, less fear. The anger is still there, but it's something I'm able to access on good days.

I don't know that this article is the clearest, and I get the impression that it's going to fall really, incredibly flat to most women (who aren't white, or cute, or straight passing, or etc), but for me it speaks to a specific experience and if its presence in a relatively mainstream periodical can help some girls figure out what they're feeling and encourage them to share that with others I'm very glad it's out there. Ten years ago you would have had to dig deep into the annals of weird personal blogs to find something like this.
posted by Mizu at 9:25 AM on August 3, 2017 [32 favorites]


Socialization for trans women* can be really strange, with respect to anger. When you're made to present as male while growing up, your expressions of anger can be lauded, while expressions of other emotions get shut down. Then one day after transition, people start policing your anger, while wishing you'd perform other emotions that they did not want you to show while growing up. It's taken quit ea bit of therapy to get anywhere close to being comfortable expressing a range of emotions and feelings.

Keeping emotions like anger and frustration inside rather than confront the source because it's easier than having rational feelings dismissed for lack of perfect presentation is so stupidly common. It wears on us all.

* I am white, so these thoughts may not apply to people of color as well
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2017 [47 favorites]


This isn't the first article about women's anger that I've posted. In many ways, it's quite similar to the last one. It talks about how our anger is systematically hushed and quieted and moved out of view and minimized with jokes. How reclaiming our anger lets us live fuller lives. Unlike the last article, this one acknowledges that the author is coming from a place of privilege. Using this as a way to dismiss the article is pretty common. "Oh hey, you mentioned this thing and acknowledged it, but not to my satisfaction" where if the thing were never acknowledged or mentioned it wouldn't come up. This is especially true when women write. We're perfectly happy to read and universalize articles by white men, but not women. Women's articles must be perfect or they're a "mess".
posted by stoneweaver at 9:42 AM on August 3, 2017 [98 favorites]


Using this as a way to dismiss the article is pretty common

I am absolutely certain that white cisgender heteronormative / heterosexual women have a lot of extremely valid anger.

I am also sure that even Teen Vogue wouldn't publish an article about what it's like to be an angry black woman where the author suggested that guys try dating at the morgue if they want someone chill.

I think there's a lot of policing inside the feminist community, and a lot of pressure on those of us who don't get to talk about being angry to treat the experiences of white cis straight* women as universal, even when it's really really not, and I think this is worth talking about because this is not universal, and feminism is intersectional or it is nothing.

*I know that Laurie Penny identifies or has identified as bi. To me her writing has always come off as very heterocentric and I think she basically doesn't talk about being queer unless it's convenient for her. If you have a different experience, that's awesome, but I'm trying to avoid this particular derail in advance.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:52 AM on August 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


Some of my most vivid early childhood memories are of being punished for showing even the tiniest amount of anger or sadness, no matter what the provocation, even as the boys around me were encouraged and praised for violence.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:04 AM on August 3, 2017 [30 favorites]


I am also sure that even Teen Vogue wouldn't publish an article about what it's like to be an angry black woman where the author suggested that guys try dating at the morgue if they want someone chill.

I mean, that's a pretty specific phrase, but Teen Vogue has indeed published an article about what it's like to be an angry black woman. (edit to clarify - shared to give teen vogue some credit but also because I do think it is interesting to compare the differences in how Michelle Obama is 'permitted' to express anger versus the average white woman.)
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2017 [21 favorites]


I think there's a lot of policing inside the feminist community

Well, yes, you're doing it right now.

Having RTFA I have no idea what your objection is. She qualifies the essay by acknowledging the privileges she enjoys, and that things are very different for women who are not like her. And then she describes her experience. What would you have her do?

Exactly what would be the acceptable way for her to write this essay?
posted by schadenfrau at 10:08 AM on August 3, 2017 [49 favorites]


Emily's Fist, what I'm getting is an article about Michelle Obama that doesn't really talk about being an angry black woman and is not parallel to this in any way.

Schadenfrau, I don't know what you want from me here. I find the article and Laurie Penny generally to be fairly limited, and I'm finding myself in the position I always find myself when I mention that centering heteronormative white cis women doesn't do much for me - if I don't cheer for them without reservation, I'm an unreasonable bitch who is policing other feminists, which is a bit ironic for commentary in a piece about women's anger.

I was hoping, perhaps vainly, that talking about the limitations of the article would lead to women discussing anger and what it's like to deal with anger as women who may or may not share the author's relative privilege.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:17 AM on August 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


She does not mention fear of violence. The last time my dad hit me was when I was 12, and was specifically because I was expressing my anger in his presence. It is dangerous to be angry in a way that has nothing to do with dating.
posted by emjaybee at 10:19 AM on August 3, 2017 [22 favorites]


Emily's Fist, what I'm getting is an article about Michelle Obama that doesn't really talk about being an angry black woman and is not parallel to this in any way.

I think you crafted this while I inserted an edit (abusing the edit window?) to clarify why I shared, since it was ambiguous. I think it does support your point.

I was hoping, perhaps vainly, that talking about the limitations of the article would lead to women discussing anger and what it's like to deal with anger as women who may or may not share the author's relative privilege.

That sounds rad. I'm all for pivoting the thread in that direction personally.

So, as a queer white cis woman, I feel like my anger is actually more socially acceptable than straight women's anger. Society already has a non-threatening box it can fit me into (angry lesbian) that it has fortified with jokes to keep me non-threatening ("women like that just hate all men.") I think the anger of straight women is more threatening to men who don't know how to contextualize it. See: "not all men." I would be interested in hearing if the experiences of other queer folks reflects that or not.
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:25 AM on August 3, 2017 [28 favorites]


Agree with Emily's Fist*. My anger is less policed because it is easier to dismiss; I've already declared myself unavailable to men, and thus I'm irrelevant to all but the most insecure (and thus sometimes dangerous) men. I think if I still looked femme that might be more complicated, but not having to deal with that flavor of bullshit is one of the reasons I like not being femme, sooo...

I do think being a lesbian has made it easier to identify, acknowledge, and own my anger, particularly at men. I remember a distinct feeling of epiphany when I realized I no longer had to care what they thought of m, except as it pertained to safety -- I no longer had to worry about not pissing them off, or still being attractive or cool, or any of those things. It was incredible. And then I started to see how many of my interactions with men were, in fact, infuriating.

I don't know if it's similar at all, but I think black women get their anger dismissed even more frequently, regardless of how they present or how they identify, which...I mean, it's only barely tolerable to me because I can sometimes retreat into spaces without men. I can't imagine what it would be like to deal with even the level of dismissal I experience as a white lady while also in intimate relationships with men. It for real seems like hell. Just completely exhausting. Like the fact that there are a bunch of women, particularly women of color, who deal with that level of bullshit and still have the energy to show up for causes? A fucking miracle of heroism. And then it makes me sad to think about all the things women could be doing with that energy if they didn't have to use it to just survive all the -isms they're subjected to.

For me, with my personal set of circumstances...it is easier to be invisible to men than it is to deal with them. Unfortunately that's not really a long term strategy, but it's what I can do with my health situation.

*i feel like I've said this before but holy crap I love that username so gd much
posted by schadenfrau at 10:41 AM on August 3, 2017 [24 favorites]


I can't imagine what it would be like to deal with even the level of dismissal I experience as a white lady while also in intimate relationships with men. It for real seems like hell. Just completely exhausting.

Correct on all counts. To paraphrase a tumblr post lost to the mists of time: the day I realized I did not need an intimate relationship with a man to achieve any of my goals - not even that of having a child - or live my life as I desired - that I did not, in fact, need a man for anything, ever, under any circumstances - I got fifty years added to my lifespan and I have never looked back.

There is nothing a man can provide me that friendship with a woman cannot, except perhaps orgasms given my sexuality, and in that case sex toys and masturbation are a much better deal.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 11:12 AM on August 3, 2017 [25 favorites]


Being out as a "lesbian" in the workplace definitely makes my anger less policed. I can quantify this through comparisons of how supervisors have reacted to me before my current job (where I wasn't out as anything), and at my current job. Previous jobs: too angry, too loud, let's work on moderating your tone. Current job: not an issue.

(I'm not even talking dude-rage, of the pounding/slamming/shouting variety. I just mean speaking up about something sucking in the company with any tone other than calm.)
posted by XtinaS at 11:49 AM on August 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


I've told everyone who will listen to me in my life and workplace that I'm a proud feminist. That, and my white cis-privilege, seems to give me an anger-pass, for sure. Now when there's obvious tomfoolery at work, my colleagues all look at me to react. I love it. Be afraid, patriarchy! Be very afraid!!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:54 AM on August 3, 2017 [11 favorites]


I don't know that this article is the clearest, and I get the impression that it's going to fall really, incredibly flat to most women (who aren't white, or cute, or straight passing, or etc)

I think most women can read an article about someone that is not exactly like them and understand where they are coming from, identify the differences with their own experience and still empathize just fine. The author can only write about her own experience and if you think Teen Vogue doesn't delve into a diverse set of issues or have all kinds of guest writers well, you need to read more Teen Vogue. Fashion magazines in general represent a far broader cross section of humanity than magazines about raising chickens in the backyard of your suburban home. The articles may not be philosphical treatises but they generally represent all kinds of people doing their thing.

I thought it was an interesting article. I was not raised like this and have always had a bit of contempt for women who let men walk all over them (even when I try hard not to). So it is interesting to read that, as I suspected, there is a deep well of resentment and rage under there. I knew it!
posted by fshgrl at 12:07 PM on August 3, 2017 [14 favorites]


I am a very kind and supportive manager to my overseas team, which consists of about 30 or so much-older-than-me-men who like me but also know I'm not their age. The main three I work with fucked up royally last week on a project of ours that has given me an actual ulcer due to how stressful it is, so I got stern and told the trio off. I was in Boss mode the whole time and damn, shit got done correctly right away after Boss mode activated.

Today one of those guys called me and spent like 3 minutes trying to assess what kind of mood I was in, and the whole time I was like wtf, you and I talked like 12 hours ago, what is wrong, are you ok. And suddenly he's like, "I know we failed you last week and I am so sorry and also did you know you are very scary because you are and now we are afraid of you so I wanted to get a sense of your mood because I wasn't sure if you were going to be upset with me again".

I had just sent a very affirming email to him and the rest of our team to thank them and praise them for all the excellent work they'd done to fix things.

30 grown men across the sea from me all think I am scarier than our boss because when I am angry, I am scary, even though I don't yell, I don't insult anyone, none of that.

My boss thinks it's hilarious. I am sort of sick about it.

But yeah. I'm scary when I am angry. And this isn't the first time grown ass men have told me so.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2017 [51 favorites]


As a complement to the FPP, a piece by a black writer: Who Gets to Be Angry by Roxanne Gay
posted by mrmurbles at 12:19 PM on August 3, 2017 [22 favorites]


*I know that Laurie Penny identifies or has identified as bi. To me her writing has always come off as very heterocentric and I think she basically doesn't talk about being queer unless it's convenient for her. If you have a different experience, that's awesome, but I'm trying to avoid this particular derail in advance.

As a bisexual woman myself, I gotta say that this is some infuriating same-old-same-old bisexual erasure shit.
posted by desuetude at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2017 [48 favorites]


I don't know that this article is the clearest, and I get the impression that it's going to fall really, incredibly flat to most women (who aren't white, or cute, or straight passing, or etc)

So non white, cute, straight-passing etc women don't have deep wells of rage within them at the thousand cuts and humiliations of existing outside the patriarchal norm? Or are you saying that their rage is essentially different from white, cute, straight-passing etc women?
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 12:35 PM on August 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


I got policed and reported last week for, when I had to get something done within the next 5 minutes Or Else, someone interrupted me and I was all, "I can't help you right now!" I'm not saying I'm right because I know I never am, but good lord, did so much stink have to be made about that? Did so much offense have to be taken over that?

The *slightest* bit of anything other than permanent calm and cheer out of me, and God Forbid. So sue me if I'm human and stressed out and *gasp* sometimes it creeps out even when I am trying to mask and smile as hard as I can! And then people complain that I'm fake. I can't fucking win. Solitary confinement sounds awfully pleasant at times.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2017 [14 favorites]


Can confirm.
posted by odinsdream at 12:37 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a bisexual woman myself, I gotta say that this is some infuriating same-old-same-old bisexual erasure shit.

I've read a lot of articles by a lot of queer people with various identities, and if Laurie Penny hadn't explicitly mentioned somewhere early in her career that she's bi, I would not know it from the content of her articles, or at least the ones that I have read - I do not follow her closely. I would absolutely love it if she included more queer content. I've read a number of her articles waiting for her to mention queer perspectives, notably the one where she wrote about cutting her hair as liberation from the male gaze. It's something that queer women have done for longer than I've been out both for this reason and to identify to each other, and the way she wrote about it was like that context didn't exist. The only perspective she included was that of a woman who dates and is attracted to men.

I'm high on the kinsey scale and often just identify as lesbian because it's easier than offering a long and personal explanation (preference for women, partner is a woman...), but strictly speaking, I'm bi. A big part of my criticism of her is because I want to see more openly bi writers who talk about bi experiences and normalize that and talk about the complexities of it, and I personally do not think she does that.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:47 PM on August 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have a totally made-up theory that because we see so few women in public life (in movies, tv, news, politics) we have many fewer archetypes of women than men.

So when we see angry men, there are other archetypes we can slot them into -- can-do general rallying his troops, 99 pound weakling who is not going to take it anymore, etc etc.

But when we see angry women there's really only one model: angry mommy or angry teacher. And a lot of people respond accordingly.

(This theory goes double for white people with regard to POC where the prevailing angry archetypes are from movies and TV, and they're criminals).
posted by mrmurbles at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2017 [25 favorites]


I'm quite ambivalent about how queer people who choose to live in the public eye represent their queerness. I would love it if they just got to be, you know, people, but that's not the world we live in. And yet telling someone to live their life a specific way is also shitty!

So I don't know. I think it's possible to be disappointed in one person specifically, or with people who have a megaphone and choose not to use it to help other people in specific ways, but it's also, you know, fraught.

For me, Laurie Penny activates my side eye bc of all the press she gave to alt-right assholes. But queer people get to be assholes, too. And in this case she was trying to write for a more general audience, so, you know. There are bigger targets.

We all have a right to be angry. We all should be angry. Let's not forget who the most deserving targets of that anger are.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2017 [7 favorites]


One of the weirdest things about dying my hair purple two years back is that I suddenly got a lot more leeway in 'being angry'.

I had started working with some other teams on a high visibility project. And my manager was regularly hypothesizing that I was being too angry and unapproachable, because a lot of our dept concerns weren't being addressed.

With purple hair, when I spoke up, my concerns weren't immediately dismissed. When I told them that a design proposal wasn't feasible with legal constraints, they listened and stopped trying to explain that the shortcuts were immaterial and could be fixed after the project was live.

It was the exact opposite result I expected when I dyed my hair. I thought it was something I would love, but might need to change back to reestablish some credibility in my professional work. Instead it seems to mitigate my vectors of marginalization - fat, refusal to engage in proper femme presentation like clothing or makeup. The stereotypes are that I'm lazy and given up on life, so purple hair demonstrates a level of self-care that advertises that I'm comfortable with my priorities and comfortable that they don't align with society as a whole. And since I'm comfortable being the person who stands out, there's clearly an internal recalculation that negotiating with me will be easier than trying to ignore my concerns.

Of course, there was a lot of privilege that made it safe for me to wave my freak flag. I'm well educated with well paying professional job, in my 30's with considerable experience. I look white, read as straight, and cis-gendered. So in that context it reads more "eccentric genius" than "immature youth who doesn't understand how the world works".

But hopefully if there are more weirdos like me out there in the world thriving, that makes it a bit more safer for more marginalized folks to draw outside the lines of their own social constraints.
posted by politikitty at 1:17 PM on August 3, 2017 [37 favorites]


I think sometimes, even though white not-strongly-identified-as-queer women are already heavily represented everywhere at all times, it is a necessary onramp or thought-provoker to read a thing from "someone like me".

I don't particularly relate to Penny myself (though I also do not maintain the sort of vicious salt-her-earth loathing that seems only reserved for women, if they've ever done a thing that wasn't good), but I probably would if I was in my teens/20s and there's probably young women and teens, the magazine's target audience, who would also, or at least see her as a peer-type-person and maybe think about a thing because of it. We should definitely be telling young people about anger, why it's important, what it means, how to make space for it, and step one is one's own anger and then step two is other people's. And then you can read ownvoices pieces by not-that-white-woman and start to take that in as well.

And Teen Vogue clearly is aware of that and already working on it, which is awesome.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:29 PM on August 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


> I'm high on the kinsey scale and often just identify as lesbian because it's easier than offering a long and personal explanation (preference for women, partner is a woman...), but strictly speaking, I'm bi. A big part of my criticism of her is because I want to see more openly bi writers who talk about bi experiences and normalize that and talk about the complexities of it, and I personally do not think she does that

Okay, that criticism, I agree with. You just touched a big ol' nerve for me because, while I'm pretty much right in the middle of the Kinsey scale, my partner is a straight cisgender man. So, I'm generally not queer-seeming enough for it to be recognized or acknowledged, but if I self-reference my bisexuality in conversation I catch the tiny eyerolls or I'm "trying too hard" or some such thing. My queerness is either inconvenient or irrelevant, apparently.
posted by desuetude at 1:38 PM on August 3, 2017 [17 favorites]


I don't dare read the article. I spend too much time in "about to explode" mode as it is. My husband said "well, actually, ..." to me the other day and got mad when I replied with a contradiction. I took six big gulps of silence and FUMED for the next 24 hours.

In related news, if anything ever separates us, I will NEVER marry again. I probably won't even date. My vibrator never tells me my opinions are wrong.
posted by corvikate at 1:49 PM on August 3, 2017 [16 favorites]


I liked this line a lot: "Being honest about my anger has made me surer in myself, and my life is now gloriously full of friends and partners who don’t require me to take up less space."
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:57 PM on August 3, 2017 [11 favorites]


The patriarchy is so scared of women's anger that eventually we learn to fear it, too.

YES. I'm not a woman, but I'm so happy to spread this article everywhere.
posted by numaner at 2:09 PM on August 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


I think that maybe what bothers me so much about this article is the implied assumption that all women and girls have the same experience with anger, and the same reaction to that experience. (And it's not just this article. This has been expressed elsewhere, and as feminists we're all supposed to nod in agreement.)

That all girls are socialized to be demure is an American-centric, Anglo-centric assumption to begin with. (It applies to many cultures, but not all cultures.) And that all who were socialized in that way also internalized it in the same way is even less true. Some of us have an anger problem, not a too-self-effacing problem. If I had read this as a teenager it would have been the worst possible advice I could have received.

Part of the problem is with the vagueness of exactly what is being discussed in the article. No distinction is made between acknowledging one's anger, expressing one's anger, and how that anger is expressed. Acknowledging one's anger rather than denying or suppressing it is important, I agree. Expressing one's anger is also affirming, but it depends on how that's done. Blowing up at the wrong person at the wrong time can have a catastrophic effect, that can have lifelong repercussions. There is no cautionary note here.

Outrage is good, assertiveness is good, outspokenness is good, self-knowledge is good. Anger is mostly bad. Being angry sucks. It feels awful, it's hard to control, and can lead one to do things that are hurtful, to ourselves and to others.

Language matters, and the language being used here is obfuscating rather than clarifying. (And I wish my own language skills were better at expressing what I am trying to say.)
posted by Vispa Teresa at 2:21 PM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


who don’t require me to take up less space

I was thinking about this today, and its relationship to anger.

See, I'm in a situation where I occasionally stay in the same house with men--it's a house rented for a research project, and so colleagues and sometimes their partners come to stay for a while. Before this, I never lived with any men other than my stepdad, who is probably best described as "a grumpy baby."

The men come, and they experience discomfort and homesickness and annoyance, just like the women--but boy are they high maintenance about it. I could make a list of all the things that they do and say that would get me labeled "bitchy" or "difficult." Most of them are small things, like walking out on lunch because you "couldn't be bothered" to eat rice again.

(This was said by a man who's been here a month. If you count up the months, I've been here almost two years, and I've never just refused a meal because I didn't like it. I've eaten so many bowls of rice.)

So on one hand, women's anger is suppressed even when we have legitimate grievances. On the other hand, men are given license to express anger over even petty things--basically, they are far more willing impose their negative mental state on the space around them. Likewise, they seem to be far more willing to impose their presence in other ways, such as by playing loud music while you're trying to work...

I'm not saying all of it can be boiled down to "taking up space," those are probably both symptoms of the same thing, but when you said this it just pricked something I've been ruminating about.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:26 PM on August 3, 2017 [38 favorites]


Outrage is good, assertiveness is good, outspokenness is good, self-knowledge is good. Anger is mostly bad. Being angry sucks. It feels awful, it's hard to control, and can lead one to do things that are hurtful, to ourselves and to others.

It seems to me that you are using your own, very personal, definitions here. Language does matter of course but I really don't agree with the way you've given value judgements to outrage and anger as terms, and if I was expressing myself here about anger, I wouldn't feel the need to fall in line with your definitions.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:40 PM on August 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


No distinction is made between acknowledging one's anger, expressing one's anger, and how that anger is expressed.

Sure it is. "Part of me was always afraid that if I stopped hurting myself, I would start hurting other people — but anger does not have to lead to violence.[...] as a society, we still fail to distinguish between emotions and actions, but it’s what we do, not what we feel, that delineates the difference between right and wrong. What matters is not how angry you feel, but what you do with it."

She even discusses that the ways she's allowed to express her anger are less policed than less privileged women, and they experience negative repercussions if they aren't careful how they express that anger.
posted by politikitty at 2:47 PM on August 3, 2017 [14 favorites]


Outrage is good, assertiveness is good, outspokenness is good, self-knowledge is good. Anger is mostly bad. Being angry sucks. It feels awful, it's hard to control, and can lead one to do things that are hurtful, to ourselves and to others.

I really liked that pixar movie Inside Out because I felt like it establishes a framework for how a "negative" emotion is important in your life. Sadness is necessary because it signals to yourself and others that you are hurting, and expressing it can help you to heal from hurt. I think anger is similarly necessary because it signals to yourself and others that you are experiencing unfairness or injustice, and expressing it can help you protect yourself.

Anger is a problem when (like you say) it's petty, or expressed in a cruel or needlessly hurtful way. But the anger itself is a natural part of life. You write that outrage is good but I just see outrage as a nuance of anger.

I think there's no cautionary tale to this article because this is written for people who have real trouble with assertiveness. They're trying to calibrate to where they can even acknowledge their anger as a valid emotion to experience. Those guys Kutsuwamushi mentions who are unable to control their anger could use a similar article about the value of empathy - also an emotion that can be bad in excess, but that's sort of "emotions 2.0" level to me when you look at where many people are starting due to socialization.
posted by Emily's Fist at 2:53 PM on August 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


Many personal flashbacks when reading this article:
- giving the finger to a guy who laid on his horn when I was crossing with the "walk" signal & having him lean out his window to say "that's not very pretty, honey." (It was so blatant that I was supposed to deeply care about whether or not it was pretty, that it actually helped me see what bullshit it all was, so thanks, dude.)
- my mom telling me I needed to go to therapy to deal with my anger after I yelled at my brother for telling me to "be quiet" when I was laughing about a joke in the family car. Why did I have to be quiet and why wasn't I allowed to be angry about being shushed? I'll never know.
- my parents being frightened for me when I responded to street harassment with anger. It was probably reasonable for them to be frightened for me, but so sad that this is the state of things.
- how I loved dating angry men and eventually I realized it was because I wanted to be allowed to be as angry as they were
- how I was continuously told that anger was "bad" and that many other emotions were "bad" and others were "good." How this lead to cycles of denying bad emotion and then exploding. How eventually I learned that emotions are pretty neutral and denying them does not allow you to make decisions about how to react to them.

Thanks for this excellent post.
posted by CMcG at 3:15 PM on August 3, 2017 [24 favorites]


I definitely feel that I pay at price at work for not being a smiley, happy, "girl" at work, when Management clearly favors the peppy, chirpy-styled (and thin and cis and white) women at work. And Management includes women, natch. These women have obviously just accepted a different POV on how to navigate our patriarchy. I'm disappointed, but I can only do what feels right for me.

I cannot do the smiley, happy chirpy girl anymore. After 40-odd years, it's a role I learned to play to perfection, but the cost became much too high for me personally.

I'm not pleased with the work situation, but I also have freedom. When I can be a free, fully human being at work, I respect myself more. And I'm also more fun to be around, ultimately.

It's difficult, because I know when I'm not acting "right" at work, that's more than obvious (pushing back at a Manager for a poor decision or unreasonable request) the socialization is all still there, I just have to push past it and politely and calmly make my point.

It's not easy, but it definitely gets easier as I get more comfortable with myself.
posted by honey badger at 3:25 PM on August 3, 2017 [12 favorites]


I'm scary when I am angry. And this isn't the first time grown ass men have told me so.

This, this a million times! Our society has no template for an angry, assertive woman who is in Boss mode. Jesus Christ, THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY!!!
posted by honey badger at 3:30 PM on August 3, 2017 [11 favorites]


I think there's no cautionary tale to this article because this is written for people who have real trouble with assertiveness

Agree, but the problem I have is that this is not acknowledged in the article. It comes across as "women are like this," which is in itself patronizing.

I agree that so-called "negative" emotions are useful, and that all emotions just are, they are not good or bad. When I say that anger is mostly bad, what I mean is that feels bad in a way that is often not helpful and can lead to bad consequences. It's something that needs to be managed, in a way that sadness does not. Anger is seductive, and it can lure us to feed it. Pema Chodron writes about getting "hooked" by it.

I'm just not liking the generalizations that are brought forth in the article. If I don't relate to it, surely I am not the only woman who doesn't.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 3:31 PM on August 3, 2017


It's something that needs to be managed, in a way that sadness does not.

Disagree for me personally, as a person with depression. Many (most?) emotions, including sadness, can be overwhelming or detrimental if we cannot regulate them, or if we allow them to encompass our lives. People can get hooked on envy, or misery, or gratification.

I don't see any reason to set aside anger as the most dangerous emotion that women should be scared of, lest we get sucked into some irrational screamy mania or whatever.

In fact, I often think more women should learn to feel angry and be angry, instead of feeling broken, or sad, or worthless. To me, if someone treats you horribly, and you react with anger, it means you at least value yourself enough to realize it was wrong you were treated that way.

Instead women are socialized to internalize terrible treatment and hate themselves, rather than burn with fury at the people who try to make them victims.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:43 PM on August 3, 2017 [26 favorites]


I like how an article about how women aren't supposed to express anger has turned into how the writer isn't allowed to express her feelings about anger.

With a bonus side of policing the author's sexuality and her general personality and background.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 4:00 PM on August 3, 2017 [36 favorites]


I'm angry all the fucking time now and I still struggle to express it.
But this week, I wrote a three page Thing for a friendlyco-worker. She's pregnant and according to her I'm the only cool (non-baby-crazy) mom she knows.
So I wrote down mymost important advice for staying sane as a mom.
It started off with, "welcome to motherhood - the state where everybody and their dog know better than you what you should be doing for the sake of your baby, and they're all willing to tell you in great detail." And it went on that way, snarkily. After I was done, I got a bit nervous and deleted the most negative parts, but took the risk and sent it to her.

When I came in the next morning, she'd burst into tears. She hugged me and said it was the most honest, funny and good thing she'd read throughout her pregnancy, and she felt recognized completely. She said the piece was so her.

Then she hung it on her wall of inspirational quotes and made her husband read it. And she said she's so much happier now with her pregnancy.

I mention all this because what I was sharing and validating was anger. Anger and other negative emotions. And it gave her happiness!

Emotions arecomplicated.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:07 PM on August 3, 2017 [39 favorites]


honey badger: Our society has no template for an angry, assertive woman who is in Boss mode. Jesus Christ, THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY!!!

From the stories in the thread, it seems like we're getting more templates. There are the traditional angry mommy and angry teacher, but there are also now the angry lesbian, the angry feminist, and the angry purple-haired freak flag flier. There still isn't the angry anywoman, though; you have to step outside of "normal" (or "normative") in one way or another in order to be acceptably angry.
posted by clawsoon at 4:46 PM on August 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


Is it just me, or are the words of the article dancing up and down slightly? I'm trying to read it on my phone and it's driving me nuts.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:54 PM on August 3, 2017


Instead women are socialized to internalize terrible treatment and hate themselves, rather than burn with fury at the people who try to make them victims.

I've been fortunate enough not to have internalized terrible treatment and hated myself, but I have burned with fury at the people who tried to make me a victim, and I can say from first hand experience that it can poison your life, for years. It is no way some irrational screamy mania or whatever. It is truly terrible and soul-destroying. Can we please stop acting like anger is not a poison? And acting like this perspective is somehow new or uncommon?
posted by Vispa Teresa at 4:54 PM on August 3, 2017


I have always found it near impossible to express anger directly at people who are strangers or acquaintances. On the rare occasions when I do I feel reasonably distraught and ashamed about it. I wish I could tell some aggravating sob off and not feel like I did something TERRIBLE.

On the other hand:
My mother has absolutely no problem projecting angry death rays at anyone if they so much as ask a question without the right tone of voice. Since she has gotten demented there is less and less of a frontal cortex filter so it is pretty full blown ridiculous now but she was always, to some extent, that way. What strikes me about this conversation is how I have often said that if she had been born a man her behavior, while being problematic, would probably been forgiven or at least digested without as much difficulty by those she dealt with, also there would have been less for her to be angry about. Some of her anger was completely legitimate some of it was pretty narcissistic I would say, but I certainly recognize how tough it was for her to deal with squadrons of idiots treating her like a woman, if that makes sense.
posted by Pembquist at 4:59 PM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


In the same way #NotAllMen, #NotAllWomen. It's totally ok for the article not to speak to you. When someone says "women" it's ok to have a different experience and decide that they aren't talking about you. It's ok to mentally insert "many" or "some" in front of "women". We get it that you have a different experience of anger, and I'm really happy for you? But I don't know what you want from this thread and maybe it's time to move on?
posted by stoneweaver at 5:13 PM on August 3, 2017 [17 favorites]


The threshold for expressing anger is so very very low for women. Think "resting bitch face" where they are simply not smiling. Men get excused for losing their temper because they really don't understand what they're doing, they need to learn self control over their anger, or the experience is just very hard for them, and blame and anger is natural. Women are expected to cope without expressing any anger for their situation because that might distress the people depending on them. We are a receptacle for anger socially.

Burn it all down.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:41 PM on August 3, 2017 [27 favorites]


(Just gotta jump in and say I relate to Mizu's take on this SO HARD, now I will go back and read the comments)
posted by Space Kitty at 5:42 PM on August 3, 2017


Can we please stop acting like anger is not a poison?

No. Anger is a natural emotion. It is not possible to avoid anger, as if it were a poison. Life will throw the full spectrum at you regardless. What is poisonous is not allowing yourself to feel an emotion, any emotion, including anger. Swallowing it to let it fester and rot deep inside your muscles and your gut and all the other places it fucks up because you are afraid to feel it fully so that you can let it go is what is poisonous. You are telling people not to feel or express their anger, and you are doing it in a thread about it how dangerous it is for women not to be allowed to feel or express anger.

That is poisonous.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:54 PM on August 3, 2017 [40 favorites]


Sigh. Sometimes when I'm trying to get very precise about something that is important to me I end up getting very terse, and it comes off angry (ironically). I'm not angry and I don't mean to yell at you. I agree that holding on to anger is poisonous as fuck, but that's not the same thing as expressing anger. Expressing it, to yourself, and to others (in varied ways), is necessary for letting it go. So women who aren't allowed to feel or express their anger never get to let it go. That's how we get poisoned. We have to hold it all inside. We have to, as dorothyunderwood pointed out, be the receptacle for everyone else's anger while have no place to put our own. Eventually some women burying it so deep it calcifies inside them, and they're not able to feel it at all.

That is tragic. You can't numb your ability to feel anger without numbing your ability to feel a whole bunch of other things. It's like a part of you dies.

And that's what's demanded of so much of us: be less so that others can be more.

And you know what? Fuck that. I hope all of us get to feel the things we need to feel so that we can be full versions of ourselves. For a lot of us, this is going to start with anger. That's not poisonous. That's flushing the poison out of your system.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:06 PM on August 3, 2017 [10 favorites]


I would like to start acting like we all know that people are wired in many different ways, and that people live many different lives.

Some people are too angry. Some people are not angry enough. Some people lose emotional control when angry, or do sometimes. Other people don't get intemperate, or manage to moderate what they want to say. Some people are hold onto their anger for too long and it becomes a trap, as some people hold onto hurt or envy or sadness for too long and don't move past it. But some people can use a flare of anger as a motivator, to stand up for themselves or others, or to recognize they didn't deserve their treatment.

There's nothing inherent in anger that says it must stay with someone for a long time and curdle into hate or poison. It can be a very powerful emotional tool. It can give you clarity and power in the short term. I think many people who fight for for justice are essentially angry about the injustice they want to end.

I'll say for myself, when I suffered my biggest betrayal in life, that I only started feeling like I was healing when I got angry. Sadness, grief, self-pity, forgiveness - none of those helped like finally realizing, "You know what? Fuck that guy."
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:25 PM on August 3, 2017 [16 favorites]


You know, I've spoken of the joys of menopause before, but I have to say one of the best things is that my constant seething ball of rage that drove me from about 10 until my 40s, has mostly subsided. Don't get me wrong, I'm still angry, but I'm focused angry, rather than generally angry. Some of it is no doubt aging out of the male gaze, which is so fantastic y'all. So fucking fantastic. Some of it is that I just don't give a rat's ass most of the time, so I've just started saying "oh bless your heart" or "its ok darling, I'm sure you're doing your best." to idiots, just to watch their heads explode.

My husband and I had that what would you do if I died conversation, and like a few of the folks upstream, I would never marry again. I would, however, totally invite my spinster friends to all come take a room, and we could recreate the golden girls, only with old punks and hackers.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:28 PM on August 3, 2017 [29 favorites]


Dibs on the first vacancy.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:33 PM on August 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


Oh man. A beguinage for all!
posted by schadenfrau at 6:47 PM on August 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


Crone Cottage on the Mainland? I'm for it.
posted by Emily's Fist at 7:34 PM on August 3, 2017 [9 favorites]


Hey I had thought about making a FPP for this but it was a little one-off, but I think it goes in this thread perfectly: Kim Boekbinder's Head Bitch in Charge (HBIC).
posted by emjaybee at 8:45 PM on August 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


schadenfrau: I remember a distinct feeling of epiphany when I realized I no longer had to care what they thought of me, except as it pertained to safety -- I no longer had to worry about not pissing them off, or still being attractive or cool, or any of those things. It was incredible. And then I started to see how many of my interactions with men were, in fact, infuriating.

I love that feeling of epiphany. Love love love it. I still regularly experience bursts of joy every time I realize how much energy I've freed up for things I care about, now that I no longer date men and don't even miss it. I wrote about my experience of that epiphany in the emotional labor thread a couple of years ago, and I'm just as thrilled about it now as I was then. I don't think I'll ever stop being thrilled about it.

I also remember vividly that when I started to experiment with wearing monastic robes and head coverings, I was taken aback by how profoundly I appreciated having my body entirely covered with loose, flowing clothing – nothing binding, nothing revealing, and nothing that made me body-conscious in ways driven by the male gaze. It freed up a great deal of emotional energy. Soon after that epiphany, floods of tears followed...and then a wave of feminist rage, because I realized how much of my life had already been spent with all that energy tied up in pleasing men.

...it makes me sad to think about all the things women could be doing with that energy if they didn't have to use it to just survive all the -isms they're subjected to.

It makes me sad, too. And angry.
posted by velvet winter at 1:47 AM on August 4, 2017 [16 favorites]


You are telling people not to feel or express their anger,

I am not remotely doing this.

I am saying that this article is superficial, poorly conceived, sloppy, and limits its definition of anger very narrowly. It's also dismissive of the women who don't fit its "all women are like this" mold. But apparently what it expresses is some kind of scared cow that can't be criticized.

I definitely don't buy that that something presented as universal should be read as "insert some but not all" here. That is the height of sloppy scholarship if that's what the author intended.

I am not disagreeing with the gist of the article. I am in fact acknowledging that it resonates for many women. What I object to is that it does not acknowledge that for many other women it does not resonate, and that there are other experiences of anger and other ways in which anger affects people -- ways that are very common but that are treated here as if they don't exist or don't count.

It's very ironic that I am being chastised as not acknowledging other experiences of anger, when I actually am, and the article (and most of the comments) are not. It's as if there is only one way I am allowed to think on this topic. I am also only allowed to experience anger one way, apparently. Also, I don't know my own experience and need to have it explained to me.

Again, please read Pema Chodron if you want to read something thoughtful and thorough about anger.

This comment thread has made me very angry. :) I will try to stay away and not even read the responses. Not sure if I will be able to.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 2:17 AM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Vispa, I hear you. I see you. Whether I agree is irrelevant, but I hear you, and I acknowledge the value of your input.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:53 AM on August 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure why you go back to the idea that her article was presented as universal.

The title leads with Most. Do you really think that women who aren't angry are large enough a percentage that Most is a gross overstatement? Especially when you discuss your own experience around being an angry woman?

She is very clear that her story is hers. And that other factors complicate the expression of anger. She doesn't say that her relationship with anger is shared by most women. She actually discusses the various ways her journey to accepting and expressing her anger was easier as a privileged woman and then links to a queer fat woman of color rather than trying to speak for other women.

It reminds me of an interview Rachel Bloom did about Crazy Ex Girlfriend. And the point was about whether her character was always Jewish. And it was her co-creator who insisted that of course the character should be Jewish, because so much of Rachel Bloom's voice is inherently Jewish. The specificity provided realism, which added to the relatability of the character. That relatability is what allows you to connect with the universality of the character, even though you've introduced differences. Otherwise you have something bland and sterilized it ceases to feel human.

That means that a discussion about a universal trait isn't universally heard. But that's why representation matters. It's not the writers fault for not being all things. That's asking too much from any writer. It gets focus group tested until it says nothing. Instead we need to have other stories promoted so that female anger isn't only presented by cisgendered white women.
posted by politikitty at 11:37 AM on August 4, 2017 [9 favorites]


There are plenty of indications that she's not trying to make it universal. Just from the first four paragraphs
Many women you know are angrier...
Most are pretty good at hiding it...
Young women who come to my events often tell me...
If you stand up for yourself, if you assert your right to self-respect and bodily autonomy, if you raise your voice above a whisper, if you leave the house without a sweet smile slathered across your face, some people will inevitably call you shrill, a scold, a nag, bitter, a bitch.
Some of the angriest women I know are also the sweetest...
Inside, they might be seething with rage...
They’d probably be surprised to find out...
Not sure how much more she could have done to signal "THIS IS NOT A UNIVERSAL STATEMENT" short of including a groveling paragraph at the beginning about how this is just her opinion, please don't be offended, she's not trying to make anybody in particular feel bad, of course this doesn't apply to everyone, etc.
posted by Lexica at 11:51 AM on August 4, 2017 [22 favorites]




Add fat middle-aged women to this.

In June I was in southern OH and on father's day went to a place in Cincinnati that someone on roadfood had recommended for the cheesecake. The owner/manager started in by calling me pet names, then by my 1st name after asking for my id. I pulled out my smartphone and started browsing my favorite sites. Shortly after I was served a tweaker regular walks in with his partner. He stops and asks if that's the meatloaf when he could see perfectly well that it was. I told him to back off. A few minutes later I finish my drink and signal o/m for another. Tweaker decides to jump in and "help". I told him that if I had wanted it I would have asked for it and he screamed that I had better shut my mouth. O/m gets my drink but does nothing about tweaker, who muttered that I'm a toxic bitch and glared as his partner told him to "just ignore " me(which is what he should have fucking done in the 1st place). When they finally left tweaker told me "nighty-night" in a menacing tone. My reply was that what I hated most about the Midwest was the complete inability of its natives to respect the right of others to be left alone. No response.

Not any surprise to me that his kids weren't with him on father's day.

The place no longer serves dessert.
posted by brujita at 12:31 AM on August 6, 2017


True anger story.

After the police took my ex to jail for domestic violece and false imprisonment. The state offered me funds to help me relocate to safer place. The money was conditional upon my going to a woman's center to recieve domestic violence victim counseling. In counseling I was urged to write down my feelings of anger towards my abuser, to really let it all out, everything I was feeling. Then I was to read what I had written to the counselor. So I did exactly that. The counselor looked shocked and said uncomfortably, "Oh, well, you... certainly took that to heart... O. K. well then..." and she changed the subject and moved on to something else.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:44 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


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