On “Angry Feminists”
I’m a feminist, and I have been for a long time. And, even though it’s 2016, I see “angry feminist” cracks everywhere-all over the internet, in the real world, even in banter between ourselves because we know it’s basically a central part of how the world views feminism.
And, in the last few weeks, I have definetly been living up to that stereotype. First it was the Stanford rape case, then the re-dredging of the horrific Vanderbilt rape trial, the arrest of this Dutch woman for daring to report her rape. Not to mention this, or this, or this, or a thousand other stories I’m sure you or I have come across this week. It seems like every time I’ve met up with a friend in the last month, we’ve had some devastating new injustice to discuss. And it’s made me so, so angry.
I’m not trying to say that these tragedies and injustices are any better or worse or whatever than those that have happened or will happen. It’s just that, sometimes, these things pile up in your brain until it hurts to have nothing to think about, because your head will just drift back to the steady drip-drip-drip of news stories like these. It’s easy to let yourself get beaten down by these kind of reports, to feel impotent because nothing you do has gone any way to stopping the reiteration of that news cycle.
But this time round, I’ve found myself getting angry. Furious. Apoplectic. Because I’ve seen these stories, or stories like them, so many times before. I’ve seen other examples of the patriarchy (yes, we’re using the word “patriarchy” now, get over it) shitting all over men, women, and everyone in between. I see it when I hear stories from my female friends about being harassed in the street, I see it when my male friends get their emotional and mental problems dismissed with a “man up”. I see it, in broader intersectional terms, when people suggest that the murder of dozens of people was good news because they were in a gay club, when people celebrate the death of a brilliant Labour MP because she supported immigration. In an ever more-connected world, these stories become more and more common, scary patterns beginning to form. And it’s really starting to piss me off, so I finally think I’m getting my head around the angry feminist stereotype.
Firstly, have you read those stories? Have you see how often ones like it reoccur? Have you seen all the ridiculously terrible shit that’s going on in the world at the moment? Of course feminists are angry. Everyone should be. We’re about a hundred and fifty years into feminism being a mainstream concept, and, with regards to some societal notions about gender and conformity, it feels like we haven’t made any headway at all. It’s fustration, it’s fury, it’s a lot of things, because those things are better than being impotently sad at everything that’s going on in the world today.
For me, in the last few weeks, anger has been a way of taking some control over my reaction to the events around us. It’s a way of taking back a little agency against the endlessly horrible news cycle. As far as I’m concerned, sadness (while an entirely rational and fair reaction) is an internal thing, while anger is an external thing- anger drives me to go out and protest, donate money, write about it. When politeness doesn’t work-when politeness doesn’t stop those endless stories dropping into your lap every time you pick up a newspaper- there’s not other option but to get angry. Because anger is loud, and anger is driven, and anger is much harder to ignore. And that’s why I’m no longer bothered by the “angry feminist” stereotype- because I’ve become one.