Post by Rebecca, WAVAW Relief Staff
Let me know if you’ve heard this before: “Anger is toxic.” “You’d be prettier if you smiled.” “It’s not ladylike to be cross.” “Don’t be a bitch.”
From the time we’re young, women and girls are told not to be angry, to be nice, to smile. But we have a lot to be angry about! Rape culture, objectification, not being taken seriously, or being undermined because of our gender, slut-shaming, the wage gap…I could go on and on. To paraphrase my good friend, A., a brilliant and articulate woman, “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.”
Sure, sitting and stewing in anger, or lashing out, isn’t great. Anger can easily become our enemy if we let it. But enacting our political values, and standing up for ourselves, fuelled by our anger, is empowering! Anger drives change. Throughout history, collective outrage has motivated some of the most significant societal and cultural revolutions. People have channelled their outrage into activism. Anger is cathartic! It allows us to process our experiences and our traumas. It allows us to move forward.
Even self-care can look like anger. Allowing yourself to feel these very real emotions, and acknowledging that this is okay, especially after experiencing trauma or injustice, is necessary for healing. Living in a rape culture is a crazy-making process, and it can leave us feeling helpless, ridiculed, hurt, and angry!
The fact of the matter is, hiding anger, trying to be nice despite trauma, or brushing off controversy as, “I don’t want to sound like an angry feminist…” (something I myself have done in the past) isn’t healthy, and it just reinforces the mindset that women are too emotional, and our feelings are usually irrational and invalid.
So, without a care about being “nice”, or coming off as a rage-y feminist harpy:
I am angry that 1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten or abused in her lifetime.
I am angry that 1, 200 Indigenous women are missing or murdered, and our own long-standing government had made it clear that this wasn’t a priority.
I am angry that I can’t walk down the street without my appearance being policed or commented on – and I risk violent or vitriolic reactions if I don’t smile, or thank these strangers for their “compliments”.
I am angry that I am sent well-meaning email forwards on how to prevent my own assault.
I am angry that I am told to calm down, or called a “feminazi” (or worse) when I try to bring up serious issues addressing sexism.
I am angry that (usually female) gendered slurs are still – still – being used as the ultimate insult.
I am angry that later on, I will probably pass off my own rage with humour because I just don’t know what else to do.
I am angry and I will damn well revel in it!