Thank you, Elizabeth Warren, for tweeting “Well, today, I’m angry-and I own it. I plan to use that anger to take back the House, take back the Senate & put Democrats in charge. Are you with me?” It was so refreshing to hear a woman say she owns her anger and describe how she is going to use it. No denials. No apologies. Acceptance with action.
Anger. That five letter word stirs up so much. Tears, raised voices, tight muscles, clenched fists and an almost immediate reaction to shut it down. This is often a woman’s response to her own anger, because we’ve been taught that it’s not okay for us to be angry – it will make us look unattractive and unhinged. It will make people uncomfortable and we won’t be taken seriously. For women, allowing our anger to be seen can reduce our power, for men, it will enhance their power.
And we’ve seen it play out in politics this week. Brett Kavanaugh angrily defended himself, to the point of tears, and people called him “ compelling “. The accusations made against him have caused him distress, challenged his character and made him angry. Dr. Ford was understandably emotional at times, but for the most part, was poised and well-spoken during her testimony. I have no doubt that her anger lied beneath the surface, but if she had come across as being angry, she would have been written off as a hysterical woman. And then the president mocks Dr. Ford at a campaign rally and I’m left wondering, how are we to speak? She bravely, calmly delivered her testimony and she’s still not being taken seriously, to the point of mockery.
This is one reason why it’s so hard for women to come forward; no matter how they speak, what words they use or how measured their tone is, they will not be taken seriously. It’s enough to make you want to shut up and say nothing and pull the covers over your head. Nothing’s gonna change, so why speak up?
But guess what powers a locomotive? That’s right, hot, burning coal.
I remember hearing Martha Beck say in class once that if we try to fight anger, that’s when it becomes a problem. But if we accept our anger, feel it and let it flow, that’s where we can find answers; it’s where constructive action comes from. Not the types of actions that cause more violence, but the type of action that simply refuses to go along with the status quo and challenges beliefs with steady confrontation. It was anger that fueled Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Betty Friedan, among others. And where would we be today without their accomplishments?
Maybe this is why so many want to continue to suppress angry women. Angry women create change. Adverse reactions to women’s anger are born from fear. As Soraya Chemaly points out in her book Rage Becomes Her, if people were to ask “what’s wrong, how can we fix it”, we would see revolutionary change. Scary for some.
Your anger is not wrong. In fact, it’s probably a signal that something else is wrong. And it’s one of the most powerful tools you have to challenge the status quo. How can you use it to make the world a better place?