I’m not angry. I’m furious and I’m not alone.
Women have been watching. We’ve celebrated the recognition of female voices, we’ve recognized the power of listening and we’ve unearthed the horrors of collective denial.
The world is facing an extraction period. The grim and devastating truths lurking within every crevice are starting to erupt on the surface. With each discovery, women feel their anger bubble up with it.
The Worst Case Scenario Syndrome
The #MeToo movement has been a powerful force but the justice system is puttering around like a broken down vehicle. It seems as though the gavel only descends on the extremes. It was only after nearly 60 women claimed they were sexually abused by Bill Cosby, that he was sentenced to three to ten years in prison. The fact that the allegations included date-rape drugs appear to be an important differentiator compared to Weinstein’s drug of choice—power.
So where is Weinstein? After dropping $58,000 for a 45-day therapy program, the Times reported that Harvey Weinstein spent his days “waking up early, checking in with his East Coast lawyers and then going down to a juice shop where he order[ed] coffee and a green detox mix with kale and cucumber.”
Weinstein sought treatment for “anger management, nutrition, and several addiction-related behaviors” at the renowned, men-only Gentle Path at the Meadow in Wickenburg, Arizona. Among private pools, desert trails, and organic meals, Weinstein attended therapy in rooms roamed by the likes of Tiger Woods and Kevin Spacey.
He failed to complete the 45-day therapy program, posted a $1 million bail, and continues to fly under the radar in one of his New York City estates.
Screaming Into Pillows
Women are tired of excusing themselves from the conversation to scream into pillows. Women are tired of transmuting rage into tears because the world has an easier time seeing them sad.
What do we call a woman when she loses her sh*t, screams louder than she should, or talks back?
The article Don’t Worry, Be Angry says: “Women in particular—who are socialized over millennia to be accommodating, nice, pretty, and enabling—are shamed when they express anger.” Calling a woman “crazy” is nothing new. The term “hysteria” colloquially refers to ungovernable emotional excess. What is more ungovernable than unrestrained rage?
When Women Get Angry
Women are conditioned not to express anger in the same way as men. When Serena Williams expressed her anger on the court at her 2018 tennis match the press reacted in all sorts of strange ways.
The Toronto Star is quoted saying, “The lady has earned it. Even if this was not her most admirable episode“, as if women are able to dispense their emotions only after paying out the correct amount of gold stars. The Telegraph titled their piece, “Serena Williams unleashes furious rant at umpire as she loses US Open 2018 final to Naomi Osaka” as if her anger was a restrained pet let loose in the yard.
It’s true, women get angry differently.
My anger feels restrained and pushed down like a stomach growl in a quiet room. I feel it disintegrate my insides over time, turning into the acidic bite of resentment.
My anger comes with its own commentary. It comes with a voice that reaffirms itself like it needs to justify its presence.
My anger doesn’t yell or scream, it sneers and snaps like a wolf in a cage. It bubbles like a pot left on high, a lid clanking to be twisted free.
My anger is manipulative. My anger refuses to voice what it wants. It concocts cunning plans to get my way and make others feel uncomfortable for the actions that it quietly disapproves of.
My anger is passive but aggressive. It will drop snide comments and follow them up with mumbled nevermind‘s.
This is the kind of anger that becomes infected after it’s left unattended. This is the kind of anger that creates festering wounds, rather than broken noses. As Thanissara eloquently put it: “Rather than shaping themselves into pretzels in service of distorted and immature power—which leaves them muted, manipulative, frustrated, damaged, and damaging—women can recognize outrage at its root.”
Women, Anger, and the Guilt Hangover
For many women, anger and guilt rarely attend the party without one another. I recall one of the first times I openly expressed my anger. I felt that heart-pounding, adrenaline-surging, red-faced anger. I let that foamy mouthed wolf out of its confinements and watched it run wild in the face of a horror-struck recipient.
Although the anger I felt that day is fuzzy, the guilt I carry for it is still poignant. A little voice inside me says:
The voice that perpetuates a multi-year guilt trip is the same voice that tightens that leash every time I feel my anger rattling inside. It’s as if it’s easier to live with repressed resentment than character-defacing guilt. Women know this well.
When women act against their prescribed social conditioning and act “out of line” they feel the consequences in the form of throbbing regret. This baggage is strapped to us like a life-sentence and the weight of it varies based on the audio volume of that voice in our head. Some of us never get a day off from self-beratement.
Anger and Energy for Social Change
It’s time we unfurl our twisted resentment into full-blown anger. We must recognize anger as worthy of our presence, in the same way we bow down to our joy or grief. When anger is repressed, it’s directed inward and can wear away at its carrier. When anger is magnified outward, it becomes harmful and explosive.
Anger, like any emotion, is a form of energy that can be transmuted into action. We must refrain from becoming immobilized or blinded by anger. Instead, we must give our anger the space it deserves in times of unsettling injustice.