Finding Your Inner Rage
We women have so much anger that is bottled up inside us that has been restricted. It’s time to not let society dictate whether or not anger can be a part of our lives.
As I look through my photo album, I remember how much I hate it. I know I have what my generation calls “a resting bitch face.” I was often told to smile in pictures or was asked about why I looked so angry. I wasn’t upset, I just preferred not to smile in my photos. It was so infuriating hearing the same comment from relatives, specifically. When I was truly upset, I was forced to hide it with a smile. I had to ask myself, what is so wrong with being upset? I envision myself in a rage room. What would it feel like to unleash the seventeen years of anger I’ve been hiding? It would be so relieving. But a true rage room setting isn’t realistic, especially when you’re a teenager. My rage room is my bedroom, a space where I can unleash all of my emotions; once I’m outside of it, no other emotions are allowed to escape.
No one likes an angry woman. I grew up observing people, specifically my mom. My mom wasn’t afraid to say what was on her mind. When she was angry, she was angry. Often when she was mad, she would exclaim her voice or drop stuff. You see it on television all the time, too. In “Don’t Worry Darling,” Alice Chamber does the same thing, she is angry at her husband Jack for betraying her and taking control of her life. She is upset and she yells at him. This wasn’t “normal” behavior for wives at the time. Compared to what I grew up watching at home and on TV, this wasn’t the norm. If angry women are romanticized on TV, why can’t women be upset in real life? Actors are rewarded with accolades for their angry performances, but in the real world, you can’t act like that. In elementary school, there was a girl in my school who would get upset often and would scream. Instead of acknowledging her emotions, teachers would instead emphasize better solutions for feeling anger. A similar situation happened to a boy who got really upset, flipped his desk upside down, and cursed everyone out. The teacher remained quiet and told everyone to go back to work. When the roles are different, there are different reactions.
We were taught anger is not allowed, that anger is bad. We had to engrave it into our heads. As I write this, I am angry. I can’t physically express it since I’ve been told not to. When my mom would get upset, other people would tell her to calm down or that she was overreacting. My mom and I are two different people, she was okay showing her emotions and I wasn’t. I grew up with other girls like this. The reality that I have been accustomed to is a powerless world, stripped of its raw emotions. The numerous times I’ve heard people say rage is not a choice of response is insane. How are you allowed to tell people how to react? Our emotions come to us naturally, instinctively, and freely. However, when we do express ourselves, we are seen as too strong, too aggressive, or too attached.
The Crucible by “Authur Miller” is a great example of how women’s rage is perceived. The play takes place during the Salem Witch Trials, where people, mainly women, were being accused of witchcraft. There would be hearings and once they declared somebody guilty, they would be executed. If a woman showed that they were angry, they were automatically a witch. The women portrayed in the play are looked down upon, sexualized and are seen as having lost a sense of their morality. During that time period, women were treated terribly, and yet society’s scorn towards their anger did not falter. Women died for being angry.
Today, societal consequences towards women’s anger may be less severe, but women still feel like they can’t be angry. Our anger has been suppressed throughout history. Women were labeled as a “witch” or called crazy. The issue in our current society is that women still aren’t allowed to express the emotions they want. The question is: why can’t women just show how they feel? Some overlook this issue and forget that generations of women have dealt with this same problem. It has been embedded into our heads and our anger has been suppressed. While some people are aware of this, it doesn’t change the way society depicts women’s rage.
“I think women’s rage is often very justified and that expressing rage is a risk for a woman socially, it exposes her to being stereotyped as a bitch” said Nia Hurley. Nia is a woman of color who grew up in New York City. She is currently a high school senior who likes to be perceived as having no emotions, but yet is very expressive. When she is angry, she expresses herself in a way that helps release her feelings.
Sara Aziz, a Pakistani woman from Generation X stated that “when we get rid of anger we are left with a vulnerable world. With no anger, we are left with very few emotions. We are forced to be vulnerable.” We are forced to only show our “feminine” side. As defined by Brene Brown, anger is “what we feel when something gets in the way of what we want, or disrupts the way we think things are supposed to be. It’s a highly active state. It makes us want to lash out, fix the perceived problem and hurt whatever caused it”. Anger is normal, it is a basic emotion we need for survival.
“Anger is simply an emotion, it is weird that society can control our emotions,” Sara said.
Anger needs to stop being seen as a negative emotion. Research indicates that, “feeling angry increases optimism, creativity, effective performance—and research suggests that expressing anger can lead to more successful negotiations, in life or on the job” (Robert Biwas-Diener, Todd Kashdan). Anger must regain its original definition: it is just an emotion.
Nia added, “in general, I think anger is viewed as a good thing for men. Something that makes them strong, virile, and desirable.. But for women, it is viewed as a bad thing. It has been deeply ingrained in our psyches: we are not allowed to get angry. When we keep anger in for so long, it needs to be released. “It’s like you just explode” Brendaly Pena (a woman of color, who is also a part of Gen Z) stated. She dealt with keeping her anger to herself to avoid “spreading it.” The term “feisty” is commonly associated with women and their anger, placing a negative label on their feelings and often making women question what they were feeling.
Collectively, all four individuals agreed that perceptions of women’s anger are evolving. When Nia was asked about how her generation and other generations viewed women’s rage, she responded, “I think my generation views women’s rage in a better light, a less stereotypical light than past generations, but still find it irritating. If people are like, yeah, women should be angry, then they’re fetishizing it and they’re like, oh, women are hot when they’re angry. But like, it’s not about being attractive. It’s about being able to express your emotions, how you feel them.” Olivia added, “other women in my life… are trying to learn what anger even means to them and how to express it. There’s something about how we were raised that tells us not to be angry” (a fellow Gen Z).
There is so much unseen anger in the world and it just isn’t healthy. I found myself growing a liking for willow trees. “The Weeping Tree”, as some call it. The tree appears to weep, with its long leaves almost touching the ground. This tree provided me with comfort, and it made me realize that I only showed the emotions I was forced to show. I embarked on a journey to discover my raging fire, and once I found it, I felt liberated. I can only hope that other women can also find their own inner fire.
The idea of this piece came to me in class. It was a class on women’s literature. I had been reading so many pieces with similar scenarios where the woman is crazy and is viewed as just expressing her emotions. This inspired me to do some digging. I had known something was always wrong with the way anger was portrayed but I wanted to know if I was alone in this thought. I knew I had to incorporate other women’s voices and soon began interviewing various generations. I hope this piece inspires women to let themselves be angry and force down the wall behind it.
Seema is a senior at a high school in New York. Recently she had decided to explore the journalism career path a little more. When she isn't drafting thoughts on a paper she is either reading or crocheting. Crocheting she had learned from her grandmother at a young age. She started from making coasters to now making actual clothing pieces. She had not always enjoyed reading, it wasn't until she read "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn (one of her favorite authors) that she realized what she had been missing out on.