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The righteous rage of women can be a catalyst for social change

Posted on 11.07.2018

In an attempt to make a difference in important social issues, women have begun speaking out and, remarkably, are being praised for doing so. After years of political and social pressures telling women to keep their mouths shut, two new books encourage women to do the opposite: “Rage Becomes Her” by Soraya Chemaly, and “Good and Mad” by Rebecca Traister. The books argue that the often unappreciated rage of women can be a catalyst for social change.

Everyone should read these books to grasp what women are and have been up against. As an 18-year-old, Caucasian female, I have not had much experience with the hardships of women in the workplace or in life. I do, however, support everything these authors are trying to do for the women of the future and agree that women’s rage can change the world.

There is often inequality in the way anger is perceived in terms of gender. In men, it is seen as righteous fury. In women, according to an article from The New York Times titled “I Used to Insist I Didn’t Get Angry. Not Anymore,” it is seen as “hostile.” This dichotomy is amplified on the public stage. Take, for example, Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

Graphic by Ethan Gerling

Graphic by Ethan Gerling

An article from The Cut titled “Hillary Clinton is Finally Expressing Some Righteous Anger. Why Does That Make Everyone Else So Mad?” written by the same Rebecca Traister of “Good and Mad,” recalls how “every time Clinton spoke too loudly into a microphone, America seemed to rear back.” In her memoir about the 2016 presidential election, Clinton herself explicitly talks about how hard it was not to seem angry all the time, writing that “a lot of people recoil from an angry woman.” 

However, Trump’s anger was and is perceived positively. According to Traister, “Anger from women is a liability; from men, it is simply speech.” More recently, in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, when he got angry and showed his emotions, some people still sympathized with him. These are just small examples of how men are treated very differently from women, especially in politics.

According to TIME, the government is trying to strip women of their reproductive rights, limit their healthcare, and have work environments where men sexually assault women and still gain power within the company. And women are still getting paid less than men. There are many justifiable reasons for women to be angry, yet they are not allowed to be without facing scrutiny and judgment. The previously mentioned New York Times notes that, ironically, justified female anger is often turned against itself, so that the woman in question is seen as the threat, instead of the man harming her.

Also, according to a study by Ann M. Kring at the University of California Berkeley, featured in the previously-mentioned New York Times article, women experience more shame and embarrassment after reportedly admitting to being angry. Clearly, women are ashamed of showing their anger.    

I respect these women who have the courage to stand up for what they believe in, and the way they are doing it. As more issues arise, more women are fighting back against years of systemic oppression. However, this isn’t something new. Women have been angry and fought throughout history.

According to TIME, women are not a minority. Even if they were, they should still be seen as “equal” to men. So why do men get more powerful positions or higher pay while women are fighting to keep their reproductive rights and not be seen as sexual objects that men can take advantage of? I cannot imagine little girls learning this as they grow up and thinking that this is what the world has in store for them.

Our country seems so focused on the present and what we want right now and not on the quality of life of generations to come. We would not want fathers to tell their sons that it is acceptable to assault women at work, and that it will not have any effect. We also would not want mothers to have to tell their daughters that they always will have lower pay than men, that they might be raped and there is nothing they can do about it, or that they might not have the same reproductive rights as we have now.

Women have a right to be angry. This surge of female aggression and rage is a long-time coming, after years of being burdened by the pressures of sexism, violence and inequality. Women have had a long fight for what they do have. Even after years of progress, they are still fighting not only for their pay and reproductive rights, but also their emotions.

These women are taking a stand, not only for the present, but also for the future. I have respect for any woman who has the courage to stand up and take a public stance on this subject. I hope people will recognize the message these books are trying to convey, attempt to take the words to heart and consider the future of all women.

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