Lately I have been furious. The kind of fury that comes from a long-sleeping dragon. Beaten down by my parents, then my classmates, then the media, then the greater society around me. The trouble is, I don’t exactly know what to do with that long-overdue rage. It’s been keeping me up at night, causing me to spend exorbitant amounts of money getting Chinese food and donuts delivered to my house. Which results in physical illness + shame, because I knew that those donuts would make me sick. So then I sleep extra long hours because I’m physically exhausted, waking only to wonder if there’s any hope left for women in the world. All the while feeling completely swept up in and overwhelmed by the tidal wave of angry women’s stories overflowing my news feed. The only option left seems to be shutting myself indoors and repeating the same cycle all over again. Sounds an awful lot like depression, right? You know what Freud defined depression as? “Anger turned inward.”
I am furious, and I am uncomfortable. I am not used to honoring my anger. It was a hushed up, shame inducing emotion in my household. It scared me. Even as a toddler, I remember my mother completely shutting down emotionally whenever she experienced anger at the hands of my father. I thought it was my sworn duty to protect her from the angry raging man coming after her, and so I pleaded with them not to fight. He always said to me, “Oh honey, we weren’t fighting, we were just having a discussion.” My mother always explained her lack of assertiveness as a carefully calculated “You have to pick your battles.” They wrongfully assumed that by denying and attempting to hide the damaging effects of their in-turned anger, I would not inherit it. Instead, I learned to model it. When a child experiences an uncomfortable emotion, the last thing they need is to be told that emotion doesn’t exist, or that it’s not safe to express. This teaches us to hide our anger and in some cases, use it to harm ourselves. A socially acceptable and appropriate way of dealing with female fury.
This narrative has been repeated countless times throughout popular culture geared towards young women. We are taught to be demure, quiet, and non-threatening. That by being so we will be more desirable and more marriageable. We see it constantly with powerful women like Hillary Clinton and Serena Williams. Whose loud and assertive behavior is labeled as bitchy, bossy, entitled, and nasty. We are told to wear our hair long and keep our bodies frail. We are taught to focus on our appearance rather than our intelligence. We are treated as less-than, and have begun to believe that we are. Collectively, these are efforts to silence us, make us smaller, and turn our fury into a weapon against us. Every time I do something to harm myself, demean myself, betray myself, or silence myself, I am playing into the oppressor’s mindset. They want me to be made-up and obsessed with my weight. Dependent upon one of them for financial security. Relying on validation that I am lovable and whole only when I am one of two. And yet, I am still livid. If I try to avoid, deny, or stifle that feeling, I am not helping myself. I am helping their cause. Because if I am hurting myself out of fear for my own anger, I cannot be angry at them. I cannot speak against them. I cannot move against them. I am helpless.
Now I understand that my anger is not inappropriate. It is not unwarranted. It is not meaningless or harmful, nor will it destroy my chances of ever attracting a man. Which is all great news, because I am ready to move! Instead of self-soothing with destructive habits or taking on the mentality of your oppressor, do me and yourself a favor. Choose one or more of the following activities the next time you feel like screaming into the void:
- Acknowledge your anger. Recognize that it is warranted. Tell yourself it’s O.K. to feel this way.
- Call your female friends. Ask them if they’re angry and why.
- Take a MMA, Kickboxing, or Martial Arts/Self-Defense class. Take a run, go for a walk, literally move your body.
- Put your anger into words and decide if you’d like to share it.
- Call you Senators and tell them exactly how you feel.
- March, protest, and organize with other furious females. Make your voice heard.