Traditionally when we think of angry women we think, bitch. An image of a hormonal crazed woman pulling out her hair usually comes to mind. Or even perhaps one with a stern look on her face pointing her finger out accusingly. Either way she’s a she-devil you don’t want to mess with. These ideas that mad women are girls gone wild with rage can often be humorous and thus they are unable to be taken seriously. If on the off chance they have the ability to strike fear into the hearts of men then they will undoubtedly also send them running. Either way angry women are not deemed fit or desirable by society’s standards. This may be the reason why women choose to ignore their anger and bury it deep inside their psyches, producing unimaginable damage to their physical and emotional bodies.
I was the kind of child who threw temper tantrums. Unplanned and unimaginable fits of rage that would send my parents into hiding. I didn’t know how to keep my temper under control and they didn’t know how to teach me. As I grew I realized quickly realized that my anger was unacceptable behavior and my parents began to treat every argument as if it was the beginning of World War III. They stopped listening and began only to expect the worst which they dealt with by walking away. I believe that this was when I lost my voice. No one deserves to be screamed at of course, but it also makes me wonder about this feared and shamed emotion. It’s the not dealing with anger that i’m referring to, and more importantly women’s anger.
No one wants to be a bitch, right? In this society women are expected to be polite, soft spoken, and desirable to men. When we think about it, what’s less desirable to a man than angry woman? “Your father doesn’t like it when I yell, it reminds him of his mother. He especially doesn’t like it when you yell. Men don’t like dealing with upset women because it scares them, and men don’t like being scared.” It’s not verbatim, but it’s close enough to the explanation my mother would give me when I’d ask her why my dad would leave the house and take long drives whenever I got upset. I felt unable to express myself with out feeling guilty and instead began on a dark cycle of internalizing my anger.
Anger is not really an emotion. It is simply the top layer to a mass of deeper, darker emotions, such as grief and despair. These are feelings that must be dealt with but when we deny ourselves the right to express anger we are also pushing the pain that needs to escape down more deeply. For women, when we deny ourselves the right to be angry we are in turn denying ourselves from having a solid voice. For example, I’ve been pressured into sexual situations because when polite “no’s” didn’t suffice I didn’t want to become angry and look like a bitch. Due to my fear of being labeled as a bitch I gave up my right to consent. In reality, women’s fear of being recognized as a bitch is a direct result of the men’s fear of women’s anger which produces silencing effect over the voices of women.
I’m currently discovering how to deal with my own anger which stems from my previous trauma. At first, I simply wanted to let it go. I believed that anger couldn’t achieve anything but destruction and bad karma. That it was useless and silly, and that if I could only let go of it I would be free and at peace with my emotions. That’s not true, angercan be useful. It can protect us and allow for the deeper emotions to come to the surface so that they can be dealt with properly. Anger doesn’t have to be associated with destruction or violence, it can be released in many healthy ways. In our society male anger is often more acceptable and it’s easier for us to tolerate a man yelling or standing up passionately than a woman. When we don’t express ourselves we run the risk of losing our voices and internalizing our darker emotions. As women we don’t have to simply “suck it up” we can allow ourselves to recognize how we’re feeling and be direct with our emotions. We’re not bitches, we’re human beings, and as human beings we have the right to act as such.