Why it’s OK to be angry
I recently wrote an article about sexism in friendship groups, It had been a very upsetting experience for me, so I wrote about it in the hope that if anyone else was experiencing something similar, they would know it was happening to other women too and would not feel alone in their confusion, sadness and discomfort.
My article was generally well-received, but my article might just have made some of my friends stop and think. More than a couple have since deleted me from Facebook, and the resounding chorus I hear is that of the double standard. Everyone else is entitled to feel the way they do about all sorts of things and they’re allowed to express whatever emotion that brings… but me? No. That’s not allowed.
One friend shunned me for deleting someone whose posts were affecting me, and that person doing the shunning turned right round and deleted me for exactly the same reason. They couldn’t deal with my feminist posts so I was a gonner.
I’ve come to realise that I’m seen as somewhat of a radical feminist. I was unfriended on Facebook by some people (men and women) because they feel that my views are too extreme and I post about feminism way too often. I also had to deal with someone who not only refuses to accept that male white privilege is an issue but that I was a hypocrite because I’m white too. Le sigh. Some people post endless pictures of cats, or rabbit on and on about their favourite sport or TV show. That’s people. That’s Facebook.
What upset me wasn’t that I’d been unfriended by people I’d known for years; I’m sure our paths will cross at some point. What got me was the friend who told me that they thought I’d changed. Not just that, though – this person had been discussing me behind my back with some of my other friends. That was the real stinger. This person had gone out of their way to contact people to try to get them to admit that I’d changed. It felt like being back at school, and that brought up some horrible memories.
What these people who had deleted me said reinforced the idea that I’m some unapproachable raging feminazi. I’m not. I’m just angry.
But why so angry?
There is so much to be angry about! And don’t let anyone tell you that there are worse things happening in the world or better things to complain about. Not only are they derailing the conversation but they are also wildly underestimating what our gender has to deal with on a global scale and on a daily basis.
– In 1993, psychologist Sandra Thomas PhD, a leading researcher in women’s anger, conducted the Women’s Anger Study, a large-scale investigation involving 535 women between the ages of 25 and 66.
The study revealed three common roots to women’s anger:
- The irresponsibility of other people
I can relate to all three of those.
I’m angry that women are paid less doing the same job. I’m angry that abortion is illegal in some countries and stigmatised the world over. I’m angry that little girls are being forced to undergo FGM. I’m angry that when a woman is raped some people are more interested in how many ways they can blame the victim than they are in condemning the rapist. I’m angry that, on average, two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.
As you can see, there’s a lot to be angry about.
This doesn’t mean I’m a raging ball of nuclear fury every second of the day. This doesn’t mean I hate men, either; that argument is just so ridiculous. I hate dickheads.
The 4 anger suppression types for women
Deborah L. Cox, PhD, an associate professor of counseling at Missouri State University and co-author of The Anger Advantage, divided female suppressors of anger into four types:
– She knows she’s angry but chooses to hold it in and hopes it will blow over. Most of us are containers at least some of the time.
– She blames herself for whatever happens to her, absorbing the anger she really feels about other people. She’s often full of self-loathing.
– She denies her anger in part because she finds it an ugly trait. She tends to be passive-aggressive, another way women reroute or disguise anger, says Jack. “For example, you say you’ll do something and then not do it. Or you may switch targets, feeling fury at your husband but getting mad at your kids instead.” This is the type that most alarms Cox, who notes, “If you don’t even realize you’re angry, it’s very difficult to do something about it.”
– She contains her anger until she simply explodes, usually at people who are less powerful than she is. “Some women swing from silence to aggressive anger,” says Jack. “But just acting out doesn’t help. That creates guilt and shame and reinforces the notion that anger is bad.”
Any of these sound familiar? They do to me. I’m guilty of turning other people’s anger into self-hatred, but I’m working on that. Being aware of how you personally deal with anger can help you enormously. Because if you’re aware of something, you can start to rationalise it, pick it apart and get to the root of the problem.
That said, it’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to express that anger. It can be good for you. You’ve got to get that stuff off your chest. Otherwise it builds and turns into resentment.
Anger is often seen as something shameful but it can be interpreted many ways, it can be intimidating, passionate, strong, violent… even entertaining. I love an angry comedian. These negative connotations towards anger are instilled in us from childhood. Anger is frowned upon, something not to be tolerated.
There are people who believe that suppression of anger is possibly behind the nature of passive aggressive and gossipy ‘female’ behaviour and there might be something to that, considering women are actively encouraged not to express anger; it’s deemed un-ladylike.
I’ve noticed a lot of articles and blog posts about How to ‘Stop Letting People Get to You’, ‘How to be Happier’ etc and they’re all basically telling you ignore your emotions. Oh, they say ‘acknowledge the emotion’… but essentially do bugger all about it. Women are encouraged to take the high road, don’t stoop to their level, don’t let them get the better of you. Don’t, whatever you do, show anyone that they’ve made you angry. What a crock!
Unexpressed anger leads to resentment and that resentment can morph into something else, something darker. Unresolved anger can often lead to depression and anxiety and if the anger you express is belittled by those around you, that can lead to even more anger. So what can you do?
Owning your anger
I say embrace it. Embrace that anger and really feel it, let it breathe. Investigate it, take a moment to think, man I’m angry, but why? If I had all the power in the world what would I do to the person that has made me angry? Explore your own thought processes and really look at your anger under a microscope, write down how you feel, I find that quite helpful especially if there is no-one to talk to at that particular moment.
Once you’ve written it out you could go a step further (and this is so satisfying) burn the piece of paper. As it curls and greys and the smoke snakes its way to the ceiling you can say to yourself that’s it. Done. That’s not to say you shouldn’t speak to the person who has made you angry, you totally should – but only once you’ve covered the bases and know exactly what it is you feel and how you can express it.
Don’t dwell on anger, that’s the key. Be angry, really feel that anger, express it and move on.
If you’re on social media, texting or emailing, remember that you should only write what you’d be willing to say face to face. It’s too easy to lash out when the person isn’t sitting right in front of you. I’m terrible for lashing out over the internet, but I’m OK with my own anger, and the people who really know me know that a lot of the time what others perceive to be anger is really just my sense of humour. If you’re a feminist you need to have a sense of humour!
So… be angry. Embrace it. Feel it. To hell with gender norms, express yourself!