(36) Dear Angry Women

Photo by Aditya Saxena on Unsplash

Listen to the episode and find resources HERE.

INTRO: Hello deep thinkers, this is your host Agrita, and welcome to Mind Full of Everything, the podcast that questions the deeper and bigger things in life, from intersectional environmentalism to self-development and everything else in between. This episode takes on a different narrative to the emotion of anger, by discussing the need for the emotion to not only be destigmatised but also demasculinised, so that women are able to practice healthy expression of their anger and be comfortable in working towards creating a safer environment, for themselves and each other. 

To be honest with you, this episode has been at the back of my mind for far too long. But whenever I’ve wanted to create it, something terrible would just happen in the world and I would feel too insensitive to release it. We feel, collectively, as if 2020 has been the end of the world, as if 2020 was the worst year for humanity and potentially everything after it will go downhill. 2021 is already feeling like that for so many people, even though it’s just begun. I totally understand why we feel this way and we have a full right to do so, to feel this way. It’s been so horrible, particularly for those that are already underprivileged. The pandemic has exacerbated a whole range of inequalities and those on the receiving end know exactly what I mean by this. Whether it’s job shaming, disregard of care home workers, the elderly in care homes, the furloughed, the redundant, the less financially stable, the BIPOC community, small businesses, students, parents, the list goes on. The pandemic has really highlighted the urgency to bridge the ever-increasing gaps in governance and policies that have led to the worsening of livelihoods for those that aren’t wealthy, that aren’t privileged. 

But we need to understand that before the pandemic, life was very hard for a lot of people as well. It’s not like suffering has just begun all of a sudden. A lot of people have had their own battles they were fighting. A lot of us were hurting or we were also starting to heal or learning how to heal, and the pandemic may have, most likely have, halted our progress in growing out of our painful pasts. And if you were one of these people, maybe you were lucky enough to have reduced the impact of the pandemic on your wellbeing because of your tendency to speak aloud what you feel, how you feel it. Maybe you had the outlet of emotions before the pandemic and so were able to escape from the effects of it on you and your mental health, and that is what I call being at a high enough stage in your healing journey and from then on you will continue to rise regardless of what comes away. 

But if you were one of those people that were just getting out of the pain and the pandemic ended up taking over your life, your wellbeing, the way in which you heal, the story will be very different for you. First of all, I really want to say, please don’t feel left out or alone in this feeling of emptiness, fear, numbness, confusion, pain, because a lot of individuals, families, communities, entire countries are experiencing what you are, and this is not add onto your worries that so many people are also struggling and suffering, but to kind of make you understand that this pandemic has hurt too many beings for you to feel as if everything is going wrong with just you. 

But I do believe that after every phase of breaking down, there is a phase of rebuilding and re-strengthening. And when you reached that stage, do you realise that every single time you suffered, every single time you were hurting, things would have been just a little, or a lot, better than what they were if you had the chance to let out what you were feeling, with full force but without damaging anyone. Finally, letting out those emotions in their rawest form, letting not only people closest to you know what’s wrong in your life, but also letting yourself finally come to terms with yourself.

However, I admit that to do that is a privilege in itself. To have an environment where you can be transparent, be open with your emotions and opinions, actively exercise your fundamental right to be your true self without being gaslighted, ridiculed, or silenced, is a privilege that we overlook way, way too much. The fact that I can be transparent on Mind Full of Everything and in my personal life as well is because I have this privilege of knowing how to express my emotions and opinions, because I’ve been in an environment where my opinions and my emotions, my experiences, have been respected and valued. But as I’ve highlighted before, and I will highlight it again, I haven’t always had this privilege and I totally understand how it feels like to be isolated and deemed unworthy, my feelings just not considered in the slightest. And I still experience that, unfortunately, but I’ve learned how to not be hurt by the disrespect. So, I had to actively work to gain the privilege of achieving transparency in my life. 

But am I satisfied with how transparent I am as a person? No. Am I still affected by not meeting social expectations even though I have come far away from the convention? Yes. Is any of these influenced by gendered stereotypes and traditional perspectives on the role of a woman? Absolutely. I say I’m privileged to the extent that I can openly say I’m worried, I’m stressed, I’m lost, I’m sad, I’m hurting. I can openly breakdown and cry a river; I can become reserved abruptly and know that someone will be there to notice dnd ask what’s wrong because they genuinely care. I have that emotional support and I’m extremely, extremely grateful for that.

But deep inside, I know that as I begin to portray my negative emotions, radiate negative energies more than what I usually do, people start finding that very uncomfortable, irritating. They start seeing me as a nuisance. I get when people get frustrated at constantly negative people, I get frustrated at them all the time, people that only complain, that I lash out at people, so are never working towards fixing their problems, but also causing problems other people. But this really isn’t about continued negativity. This is about exercising a fundamental right to feel every single emotion a sentient being feels, and essentially, women have been denied this right from time immemorial. 

Giving myself as an example, in my previous episode I mentioned my relatively large emotional capacity that is inherent to who I am. Unfortunately, this personality trait of being compassionate and kind also is a trait of the proposed ideal female image, that true womxn are innately soft-hearted, kind beings and they are here to give refuge for every single hurt soul, especially their families, particularly men. The fact that I am very emotional, I despise conflict, I often act as a mediator in a lot of cases, I listen to others, actively listen, to others. I’m not scared of being vulnerable and expressing my sadness, furthers the narrative that I tick all of the boxes for that ‘ideal’ image. That I’m an ideal, daughter, sister, lover, I would make a wonderful mother, practically any intimate relationship or woman is in, I fit the traditional female roles pretty well. Just based on the fact that my emotional capacity is relatively large. 

Growing up, I used to see that as a major advantage. If I look like a good person/girl for everyone, that will keep me happy, my relationships healthy, but unfortunately life isn’t as straightforward as that. And frankly, I am very happy that it isn’t. As I continued on to stick to that ‘good girl’ image, the more distant I became with myself and the more I leaned into people pleasing. Even though I felt happy that I didn’t live for others, not realising that that was exactly what I was doing. Pleasing other people. 

Once I finally realised that feeling negativity is not just a part of being human, but an innate part of all sentient beings, did I finally realise that I had been supporting sexist stereotypes, and in the process disturbing my inner peace.So now when I do feel vulnerable, when I do feel like to cry, when I do feel like to say I’m sad, anxious or scared, I say it because I’m a human, not because I feel comfortable to say or do these things because people expect a woman to say these things, to do these things. But like I said, I’m still not satisfied with how transparent I am because defeminising vulnerability and kindness is not the only thing that needs to be happening right now. It’s definitely the first step, but it’s definitely not the only thing we need to focus on. Practicing basic human rights without any form of judgment or suppression is what is needed, be at your sexual freedom and sexual health rights, your right to education, your right to speak out, your right to choose if you want children or not. Your right to healthy food, clean water and a permanent home, your right to work and in relation to this episode, your right to feel angry. 

Anger, which every animal species experiences, has been gendered into a masculine emotion. It’s synonymised with dominance and power, the ability to hold those unable to stand up to angry bodies of power under control, essential elements to patriarchy and the domination of traditional masculinity. When in fact anger is but any of these toxic traits. We often categorise anger and hate into the same group, when in fact they are very, very different. Anger is the firm disapproval of an action of an individual or an unpleasant situation. Hatred is an intense disliking of an individual or a community. The difference between them is our anger strongly dislikes the action, hatred strongly dislikes a person or people. Hatred can be induced by anger that has gone out of control, but anger is not hatred. It’s an emotion that expresses your disapproval. Anger is rational, hate and jealousy are irrational. This is exactly why anger is so important to experience, and even more important that we grant every single person the right to express it, because without anger we don’t know our boundaries, and without knowing our boundaries we continue to be wounded by those are failed to respect or understand us. 

Yet we have denied, constantly denied, womxn this fundamental right to feel this emotion, to express it, and that too frequently. We have let women be transparent with their vulnerability, because patriarchy wants women to just be vulnerable. As soon as a woman becomes assertive, expresses her anger whenever she’s pushed outside of her boundaries, she faces backlash, is labelled arrogant, aggressive, and is also threatened. 

A lot of people dislike using the term patriarchy because they have this delusional mindset that we are in a post-feminist society, that female inequality is a thing of the past, and that discussing gender roles and the need to defeminise vulnerability and emotions is irrelevant to the modern day. But whenever we claim post-feminism, we erase the history of abuse, suppression, femicide and dehumanisation of women that still exists today. Every single time we claim post feminism, we impose our privilege onto those women that continue to suffer at the hands of patriarchy in much more life-threatening ways than what women like myself face. 

I want to ask all those people that claim that we are in a post-feminist society, if we were in a post-feminist society, tell me, why does female genital mutilation, female sex trafficking, female voter suppression, female rights violations, still exist? Why are women needing to buy lipstick-sized tasers to keep themselves feeling safe, being ridiculed for going bra-free or having their hairy bodies on show, being sexualised at such a young age, not being protected enough by the law if they are in abusive relationships, not being protected by the law for revenge porn in many countries, still being paid less than men in the exact same job position? Every single time we say feminism doesn’t exist or shouldn’t exist, we laugh in the faces of those women that are suffering. We let them know that their pain, their experiences, all are meaningless and that they just suck it up and move along because there are better things to worry about. And frankly every single person that thinks feminism should be denounced should really be ashamed of themselves. There is no better way to put it. 

So, tell me, if women are still denied the basic right to essentially live peacefully, doing whatever they please, just like their male counterparts, why shouldn’t we get angry? Why wouldn’t we get angry and why would we fume at people telling us that we can’t even express our anger? I can’t even count the number of times I felt guilty for coming off as aggressive and bitchy when someone has annoyed me or I felt very strongly about a situation. I have even had those highly misogynistic thoughts, again not being my fault, telling myself “my God if you are this hot-headed how will any reserved quiet guy (which is my type) even like you?” or things like “you will end up with no friends if you continue on like this”. I’m proud to say I walked away from that mindset, but it saddens me that I even had thoughts like that, and sometimes those thoughts come back at me but I have to push them away. 

I had those thoughts because I felt that my anger and the way in which I expressed my anger was ruining my image and my femininity. The reason why I can even call myself privileged in the sense that I don’t face sexual repression and manipulation, life threatening financial difficulties, violation of my rights, is because in the past, women finally said that they had enough and let out everything that they were told to keep suppressed, especially anger. I credit absolutely all female liberation movements to the emotion of anger. All movements, both peaceful and non-peaceful. Even the peaceful ones were sparked to the feeling of anger and disapproval of the continued dehumanisation of womxn. It’s anger that let womxn know that there is something very wrong with their lives and how they have been treated, and that something needs to be done to change that. 

But again, whenever women have taken a firmer approach to ending patriarchy, because only strong approaches can dismantle such an ancient system, they have been nicknamed as radicalists, feminazis, men-haters, purely because angry women aren’t the type of women that the world wants to see. They want to see the non-violent women, not the “ready to die for freedom” type. It’s the exact same reason why suffragists were preferred over the suffragettes, despite the fact that voting for women was really catalysed by the militant approach of the suffragettes. 

And the same goes for any protest for women’s rights, be it the Black Feminism movement, Polish protests on the abortion ban, femicide protests in Mexico, the Korean Women’s Democratic Party demonstration for immediate independence from Japan, the women’s protest in London against the Vietnam War, the MeToo movement, driving in Saudi Arabia, and many more. And it doesn’t mean that these movements had to be violent to represent the collective anger of women; most of these movements and protests I mentioned were not even violent. But that’s the exact problem with our perception of anger; anger doesn’t need to be violent for it to be heard and understood. Protesting is one of the best forms of anger that has resulted in a lot of political change. It’s not the only element to permanent change, but it’s a massive part, especially to gain media coverage, but again protests don’t have to be violent to get the message across.

That being said, however, I do not condemn violent protests that are driven with anger and the motive to dismantle failing systems, because then violence is no longer violence, but rather an act of self-defense and defiance against the prolonged injustices done against suppressed groups. Violent protests driven by the motive of hate and destruction gain nothing but further divide. violence driven by anger at continued marginalisation of certain groups is here to cause radical change that is needed. I said this for the Black Lives Matter movement, and I’ll say this now, kindness doesn’t change the world, courage does. That courage that says I’m ready to go against the stereotypes, the categorisation and expectations so that my people gain liberation that every single human has a right to attain. And that courage is always driven by anger of not attaining that liberation at birth. 

I think this narrative on anger being negative has really exacerbated the struggles of women. There are way too many studies, articles and research that has been done on the negative impacts of anger on mental health, relationships, outlooks of life, life in general, and way too little emphasis has been made on the need for anger and the negative psychological impact of anger suppression. We seriously need to be eager to engage in the discussion of destigmatising anger by viewing it as an essential emotion, just like happiness and sadness, instead of it being a catalyst for destruction, because only then can we better understand how to not only control anger, but use it as a tool for systemic change. But alongside that we need to urgently disconnect anger for masculinity and the notion that angry women are the lesser women, the unwanted women. 

Studies in the past have shown that women not only feel angry as frequently an intensity as men, but also act upon it frequently too. For example, a study conducted by a group of scientists at the Southwest Missouri State University surveyed around 200 men and women, and it suggested the same conclusion, but it also found that women were much better at controlling that impulsive responses to anger that their male counterparts, in the study. Some studies have also suggested that differences in brain biology can also contribute to anger management. So, the orbital frontal cortex that controls aggressive impulses tends to be larger in females than males, but again, this really relates more to sex-based differences rather than gender-based differences, and frankly speaking this would play a minimal role in anger portrayal differences relative to the social factors and their influence on anger management. 

Regardless, women that frequently expressed their anger, especially in the workplace, have faced negative consequences, and again, there are studies to show this. For instance, in a study from the Arizona State University looking at jury deliberation behaviors found that when female political candidates expressed their opinions with anger, they lost influence compared to their male counterparts that gained influence when presenting the same argument. A broader Harvard study conducted found that women who expressed their anger in professional contexts were associated with having lower statuses, wages and competence, all of this being the complete opposite for men. The participants that were in the study tended to attribute womxn’s anger to internal factors such as personality traits rather than external factors such as provocation. So, can we even imagine how hard it would be for a woman to report things like sexual harassment, sexism, and or being bullied without having to worry about coming off as too rude and aggressive? Can you even understand how disgusting it is to have to worry about appearing aggressive when you’ve been discriminated against or harassed on the basis of gender? 

Unfortunately, these findings are not shocking to me, but it is still very painful to see angry women are seen as arrogant and aggressive whilst angry men are seen as influential and powerful. And what’s even more sad is that this misogyny doesn’t just exist in the workplace. It exists everywhere. But when I do see women exercising their right to express anger and that too in its rawest form, I generally feel a rush of relief that there are women out there, both in my personal life and famous examples, taking the courage to get out of the quiet and peaceful stereotype so that all women can continue on their legacy

So, to end, I just want to say: 

Dear Angry Women, 

Thank you for teaching us how to be better women by your frequent practices of portraying those emotions that have been so wrongfully deemed as too masculine for any woman to embody. 

Thank you for telling us it’s time to be more human and less of the fabricated, misogynistic image of the ideal woman that locks up all negative energy at the back of her mind and quietly experiences that wrath of the rest of the world.

Thank you for teaching us that is not your anger that defines who you are but the way in which you use your anger as a tool to dismantle our flawed patriarchal systems and help other women rise up alongside you. 

Lots of love, from all of the women learning to unlearn the teachings and definitions of what it is to be a true woman. 

OUTRO: I cannot tell you all how relieved I feel after making this episode! Seriously, anger has always been an emotion that I have been so conflicted with whilst growing up, and now to know that I can finally embrace it without making myself or other, other women, feel bad about it, it’s just so comforting. Let me know how you found the episode and also if there are any topics you really would like me to discuss or elaborate on, please feel free to reach out to me through email or social media. Remember to subscribe to the podcast and newsletter, and do support the show by giving reviews and buying my eco-friendly merch. Thank you so much, deep thinkers for your support and love, genuinely appreciate it! Keep listening to Mind Full of Everything, and I shall see you all next time! 

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