Added: Alina Eggers - Date: 26.02.2022 17:33 - Views: 12547 - Clicks: 7465
Photo illustration by Matthieu Bourel. By Leslie Jamison.
In truth, I was proud to describe myself in terms of sadness rather than anger. Sadness seemed more refined and also more selfless — as if you were holding the pain inside yourself, rather than making someone else deal with its blunt-force trauma. I get sad. By which I mean that at a certain point, I started to suspect I was angrier than I thought. I clenched my fists. I struggled to speak. It demanded attention. The scrutiny of the room made me struggle for words just when I needed them most. It made me dig my nails into my palm. What was that emotion?
It was not sadness. It was rage. The phenomenon of female anger has often been turned against itself, the figure of the angry woman reframed as threat — not the one who has been harmed, but the one bent on harming. She conjures a lineage of threatening archetypes: the harpy and her talons, the witch and her spells, the medusa and her writhing locks.
The notion that female anger is unnatural or destructive is learned young; children report perceiving displays of anger as more acceptable from boys than from girls. According to a review of studies of gender and anger written in by Ann M. A study found that it took longer for people to correctly identify the gender of female faces displaying an angry expression, as if the emotion had wandered out of its natural habitat by finding its way to their features.
A study conducted by the psychologists Ulf Dimberg and L. Lundquist found that when female faces are recognized as angry, their expressions are rated as more hostile than comparable expressions on the faces of men — as if their violation of social expectations had already made their anger seem more extreme, increasing its volume beyond what could be tolerated. If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant.
Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.
Consider the red-carpet clip of Uma Thurman that went viral in November, during the initial swell of sexual-harassment accusations. It shows her very conspicuously refusing to get angry. By withholding the specific story of whatever made her angry, Thurman made her anger itself the story — and the raw force of her struggle not to get angry on that red carpet summoned the force of her anger even more powerfully than its full explosion would have, just as the monster in a movie is most frightening when it only appears offscreen.
This was a question I began to consider quite frequently as the slew of news stories accrued last fall: How much female anger has been lurking offscreen? How much anger has been biding its time and biting its tongue, wary of being pathologized as hysteria or dismissed as paranoia? And what of my own vexed feelings about all this female anger?
Why were they even vexed? But it also had to do with an abiding aversion to anger that still festered like rot inside me.
I get sad — I came to see my own complicity in the same logic that has trained women to bury their anger or perform its absence. As a certain kind of slightly morbid, slightly depressive, slightly self-intoxicated, deeply predictable, pre-emptively apologetic literary fan-girl, I loved Sylvia Plath. I wanted to get it tattooed on my arm.
Whenever I listened to my favorite female singers, it was easier for me to sing along to their sad lyrics than their angry ones. I kept returning to the early novels of Jean Rhys, whose wounded heroines flopped around dingy rented rooms in various European capitals, seeking solace from their heartbreak, staining cheap comforters with their wine.
She cries at cafes, at bars, in her lousy hotel room. She cries at work. She cries in a fitting room. She cries on the street. She cries near the Seine. It took me years to understand how deeply I had misunderstood these women. Rochester burns down the English country manor where she has been imprisoned in the attic for years. It resurrected a definitional prototype of female anger — at least for many women like me, who came of age during the s — at the precise moment that so many women were starting to get publicly, explicitly, unapologetically angry.
Harding was an object of fascination not just because of the soap opera she dangled before the public gaze — supposedly conspiring with her ex-husband and an associate to plan an attack on her rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan — but also because she and Kerrigan provided a yin and yang of primal female archetypes.
Together they were an impossible duo to turn away from: the sad girl and the mad girl. Wounded and wicked. Their binary segregated one vision of femininity we adored rule-abiding, delicate, hurting from another we despised trashy, whiny, angry. Harding was strong; she was poor; she was pissed off; and eventually, in the narrative embraced by the public, she turned those feelings into violence. When the Harding and Kerrigan controversy swept the media, I was 10 years old. Their story was imprinted onto me as a series of reductive but indelible brush strokes: one woman shouting at the media, another woman weeping just beyond the ice rink.
In the documentaries I watched, I found Harding difficult to like. There was another story that rose up in opposition. These two seemingly contradictory versions of Harding and Kerrigan — raging bitch and innocent victim, or bad-girl hero and whiny crybaby — offered the same cutout dolls dressed in different costumes. The entitled weeper was the unacceptable version of a stoic victim; the scrappy underdog was the acceptable version of a raging bitch.
She could be either angry or sad. It was easier to outsource those emotions to the bodies of separate women than it was to acknowledge that they reside together in the body of every woman. Ten years ago in Nicaragua, a man punched me in the face on a dark street. As I sat on a curb afterward — covered in my own blood, holding a cold bottle of beer against my broken nose — a cop asked me for a physical description of the man who had just mugged me.
Maybe 20 minutes later, a police vehicle pulled up: a pickup truck outfitted with a barred cage in the back. There was a man in the cage. I was a white woman, a foreigner volunteering at a local school, and I felt ashamed of my own familiar silhouette: a vulnerable white woman crying danger at anonymous men lurking in the shadows.
I felt scared and embarrassed to be scared. I felt embarrassed that everyone was making such a fuss. One thing I did not feel was anger. That night, my sense of guilt — my shame at being someone deemed worthy of protection, and at the ways that protection might endanger others — effectively blocked my awareness of my own anger. But if I struggled to feel entitled to anger that night in Nicaragua, I have since come to realize that the real entitlement has never been anger; it has always been its absence.
The aversion to anger I had understood in terms of temperament or intention was, in all honesty, also a luxury. Scientific research has suggested that the experience of racism le African-Americans to suffer from higher blood pressure than white Americans and has hypothesized that this disparity arises from the fact that they accordingly experience more anger and are simultaneously expected to suppress it. What good is anger, anyway? In this current moment of ascendant female anger, are we taking too much for granted about its value? What if we could make space for both anger and a reckoning with its price?
Confronting my own aversion to anger asked me to shift from seeing it simply as an emotion to be felt, and toward understanding it as a tool to be used: part of a well-stocked arsenal. I hope that she lives in a world that can recognize the ways anger and sadness live together, and the ways rage and responsibility, so often seen as natural enemies, can live together as well.
This anger is more like an itch than a wound. It demands that something happen. Not Anymore. Supported by.Angry female needed
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Literature Needs Angry Female Heroes