Anger is a volatile emotion. People express and channel their anger in different ways. For me, I don’t know what to do with my anger. It burns me up on the inside. What makes it more unbearable is the fact that I’m a woman.
Simply put, when it comes to dealing with anger, a man is assertive; a woman is hysterical.
Allow me to make my case.
As I follow every rule in the book, walking in the evening with a friend, covered from head to toe I’m cat-called. These occur on roads supposed to be safe for me. I watch as my mother and grandmother are constantly told to shut up because they ‘’don’t know what they’re talking about.’’ Every single time I see or hear a blatantly sexist joke, I watch as people laugh along and the women in the group become increasingly uncomfortable.
I want to scream at those men on roads, get violent, throw rocks, do something, take action. I want to speak up for my mother, stand up against my family members, because she’s not wrong, because I see it in her too, in the way her voice rises, but then goes silent. I want to rant and rave every time I see a crass joke on WhatsApp, another moronic forward about women being shallow, or gold diggers, or air-headed, or nagging.
There’s a constant, impotent fury burning inside me. Someone once said “When men get angry, their power grows. When women do, it shrinks.” When men get angry, they’re allowed to express it freely, but not so much for women. For us, it is an unlikeable trait, unattractive and selfish.
For a lot of men, anger is an asset- helping to sway people, to influence them; but for women, it is binding and constrictive. For women, anger is a liability. From the very moment it is expressed, it has the opposite effect. The woman is dismissed, her opinions and experiences are automatically invalidated.
The current gender norms ensure that young girls aren’t taught how to deal with their anger. From a young age, we’re all taught that anger isn’t for us to express, or even feel. We’re told that it’s unfeminine and that it’s best to swallow it, change it, ignore it. We are told to repress a fundamental emotion. Outrage is not an option; anger is not allowed.
When a woman slaps her harasser, it is she who is questioned and shamed. When a brother frustrates his sister to the point of tears, it is she who is told to not react.
Accountability is constantly shifted from misbehaving men onto their female victims.
A society that cannot acknowledge, and one that actively vilifies the anger of women, is a society that refuses to look into the reasons why they’re angry. To mock and criticize angry women gets us nowhere.
To listen, to understand, and empathize is the need of the hour.
It took an active effort to not dilute my anger for this article. I am tired of having to constantly filter my words and feelings, just so I won’t unwittingly hurt the fragile sentiments of people who might misunderstand my general indignation as a personal attack.
I rest my case here. The bottom line is my anger is valid and it is important. And I will not apologize for it anymore.
Written by Saher Karla for MTTN
Edited by Andrea Xavier Gonsalves for MTTN
Featured image by kelogsloops for beinart gallery
Artwork by Mona finden