With my senior year coming to a close, I find myself reflecting on my high school career. This reflection is partially due to the onslaught of sentimental clap-trap that has overtaken my news feed, posted by my emotional Facebook friends.
I’ve noticed a trend throughout these melodramatic posts: people wondering nostalgically about what they were known for in high school. Because I already know what I was known for, and pondering it isn’t that much fun for me, I can’t relate to these Facebook statuses.
As you may have noticed, I’m not afraid to voice my political opinions. Because of that, my peers assumed it was okay for them to be very vocal about their opinions of me. They saw me as a representative of a very undesirable kind of feminism, “angry feminism,” so the kids in my town didn’t feel entirely cruel sending me hate tweets, publishing my address, and telling lies about me at school.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to portray myself as some tragic bullying victim. In the grand scheme of things, the backlash I receive is not that bad, and I probably deserve a small percentage of it. Sometimes, when I put on melancholy violin music and think really hard about how there are people out there who have nothing better to do than hate on a girl they don’t even know, I can summon up a tear for humanity. But ultimately, I don’t care.
I understood why I was branded an angry feminist, but the second label that I accrued truly perplexed me: slut. I generally found my peers to be undateably annoying and sticky, which left me very few options in terms of people to be “slutty” with. I was no less annoying than the people around me, of course, but the fact that I was certainly never sticky gave me a sense of superiority.
So, considering even little old me was described as “slutty” proved that the word had no real meaning, and could be used against any woman regardless of how sexually active she was. Honestly, I doubt any female person made it through highschool without being called a slut at least once, and I was no exception. The word “slut” didn’t phase me, but being shrugged off as an “angry feminist” got under my skin.
I don’t believe in the “angry feminists” versus “nice feminists” dichotomy, because I believe that all feminists — every woman who fights tooth and nail for her humanity — is angry, and rightfully so. It’s no secret that sexism infuriates feminists, and we’re doubly infuriated that the majority of the world treats female oppression as nonexistent or natural.
Ignorance is truly bliss, and I understand the impulse to ignore uncomfortable truths in hopes they’ll just go away. Part of being a feminist, however, is educating ourselves on the evils of society so we know what we’re up against. Personally, I dedicate a lot of my time to researching the extent of male supremacy’s detrimental effect on the planet, its animals, and the human population. Every book I read on the subject fuels my rage fire. I believe that rape culture, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, woman-hating religions, and every other manifestation of patriarchy should enrage us all.
Being alive in 2016 and reading decades old texts about the “upcoming feminist revolution” is frustrating to me because the supposed revolution should have happened by now, but in reality societal attitudes towards feminism haven’t changed much since Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman were drafting the Equal Rights Amendment that would never be ratified. I watch as history repeats itself and disproved sexist arguments get recycled, and I begin to lose hope in the future.
Because I am an outspoken feminist, many girls who are desperate to be heard and believed confide in me their experiences with rape and abuse. Each message that I receive from these brave women reminds me of how real the harms of misogyny are, and it breaks my heart.
I am exhausted to the point of anger from examining my behaviors and interests with the diligence of a surgeon, searching for the parts of me that have turned green and sickly with internalized misogyny, and amputating away.
It makes me angry to think of how my early teen years were spent, starved of both intellectual stimulation and calories.
I long to know what I would’ve been like if I had been raised in a society where I wasn’t defined by my sex. Would I be less confused? Would I be less sad? Would I be less angry? I will never know because that’s not the reality.
So, it’s true. I am an angry feminist. I am angry because I have damn good reason to be.
Many feminists, including myself, grew up believing that the subservient status of women cannot be changed. But, now that we’re finally awake, we are fed-up and ready to fight. Then, when we speak out about our experiences as women, someone inevitably dismisses us as being “hysterical,” “bitchy,” “feisty,” and other words used to belittle angry women.
But I refuse to become a walking apology for my rage. In the words of Kathleen Hanna, “I have a fucking right to be hostile, and I’m not going to sit around and be peace and love with somebody’s fucking boot on my neck.” My anger and feminist politics are inseparable, because female anger directly contradicts the traditional role of women as being compliant and sweet. As Nancy Henley describes it in “Body Politics,” women’s nonverbal language is characterized by shrinking, by taking up as little space as possible. For women, anger against male supremacy is a revolutionary act.
A woman’s anger towards sexism means she is ready to take action. Female rage against misogyny says loud and clear: I’m not here to be pretty, I’m not here to perform, and I’m certainly not here to pander to your misogynistic fantasy of women. When you hurt me, you can expect me to cry out in pain and anger. Shaking up the status quo is not possible without righteous indignation.
In her book, “Getting Angry,” Susi Kaplow addresses the subject perfectly: “anger takes the woman out of her earth mother role as bastion of peace and calm, out of her familial role as peacemaker, out of her political role as preserver of the status quo, out of her economic role as cheap labor, out of her social role as second-class citizen. It takes her out of roles altogether and makes her a person. It is no accident, then, that the emotion which accompanies the first steps toward liberation is, for most women, anger.” The fact that women’s rage is so threatening to anti-feminists is no accident, either. Anger is a decidedly unfeminine trait, and when women defy femininity, it calls into question the validity of the gender roles that anti-feminists cling to.
It is imperative that feminists learn to use this anger to our advantage. It is easy to let anger turn into sadness, but we can’t let that happen. Sadness is not productive, neither is unbridled virulence. However, anger becomes a tool of empowerment when it is put towards solving the problem.
The smiles we fake to placate catcallers, our compulsive ego-tending, our perpetual second guessing, body monitoring, self-starvation and self-hate may have forced women’s anger underground, but it cannot be eradicated. Feminists are angry, it’s practically part of our job description. And until I can rage against misogyny without someone calling me an “angry feminist” like it’s a bad thing, I’ll be absolutely furious.