“The book approaches the topic of anger from the perspective that we learn about anger as an experience of individuals,” began Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, “but…our anger [also] has a place in context.” It’s that context, she continued, that we need to understand.
For Chemaly, the 2016 United States presidential election highlighted the ways in which women’s anger plays out in society, and how it is often trivialized and suppressed – particularly the anger of racialized women. In fact, many women are encouraged to use sadness – a retreat and less powerful emotion – as a way of minimizing or hiding their own anger, due to a fear of “breaking” relationships or feeling shame. This is detrimental to societal progress because anger is “the emotion that makes the most demands of the world around us.” Therefore, we need to allow and empower women to express their anger, and this must start early, because the socialization of anger as “masculine” and sadness as “feminine” starts at infancy and continues into adulthood.
Anger is “the emotion that makes the most demands of the world around us.”
At the end of the discussion, Chemaly noted that men would be shocked if they knew how angry women actually are. However, women are beginning to express their suppressed anger through movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. Unfortunately, the stories women are telling through these movements threaten traditional masculine identities (e.g., that men must be the “protector” and the “provider”), and the result is that many men are responding with denial and even anger. Therefore, men also need to explore the ways in which gender norms restrict their emotions and behaviour, and how they can be good allies. As Chemaly stated, “What men need to think about is that the best way they can help the people they love is to call out other men. [To] stop tolerating the sexism, misogyny, racist humour, etc., and break those fraternal norms…”