Opinion | It’s time to embrace feminine rage

By Anna Fischer, Senior Staff Columnist

If you are a person with a uterus, you have a right to be angry. Truly, everyone, uterus or not, has a right to be angry. But I feel the need to make the specification because feminine rage has historically been devalued, ridiculed and used as a tool for invalidating and silencing female voices.

In a post-Roe world, there’s a lot to be angry about. At least 12 states have banned abortion, stripping women and those who can become pregnant of bodily autonomy and access to safe healthcare. As always, Black women and women of color are disproportionately impacted by abortion bans across the country. This is infuriating. We SHOULD be filled with rage. Anger will always be an appropriate reaction to injustice.

For nearly 100 years, women have been angry. Since the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 where nearly 200 women gathered to discuss political and social equality for women, spurring the first wave of feminism in the West as well as the suffregette movement, women have been angry. But, three waves — maybe four waves, depending on your source — of feminism later, and women are still having to fight for reproductive rights in this country. And I’m angry about it.

Society has disrespected female rage. Emotions of anger that are perceived as “powerful” and “authoritative” in men have been deemed “unnatural” in women. When a woman is angry, she’s asked if she’s on her period or if she needs chocolate, and above all, she gets told to “calm down.” The epitome of the ridicule of feminine rage is the “angry Black woman stereotype,” which twists and demonizes valid anger toward oppression in Black women into a hostile and aggressive caricature of legitimate feelings of frustration.

For years, society has utilized the frustration of women as a way to invalidate tenable claims of oppression and outcries against it. During the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 70s, women called on society to dismantle the systemic sexism that plagued America, and still plagues it to this day. Despite all of the successful changes the movement brought, including Title IX and Roe v. Wade, that generation of feminism is still ridiculed for their bra-burning rage. By the way, mass bra-burning during the second wave of feminism is a myth.

But, that myth didn’t stop the conservative Reaganism of the 80s from portraying feminists as angry, hairy, man-hating hags that are filled with rage about nothing. Believe it or not, using feminists’ own rage as a tool against their platform worked. For years, women rejected the angry feminist indentity, and to this day people are still reluctant to identify as feminists. I’ve met my fair share of people who cringe when I tell them that I’m a feminist — they seem to believe that means I want to castrate all men, turn them into pigs and rule over them like I’m almighty Circe.

In spite of the backlash that feminine rage has historically received, there are still women out there willing to embrace their anger. In the 90s, America saw the rise of the riot grrrl music genre and feminist movement. The riot grrrl genre was entirely about women being angry. They were pioneers of the female punk genre and advocates for feminine rage. In the riot grrrl manifesto, they share their rage — “we are angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl = Bad, Girl = Weak. BECAUSE we are unwilling to let our real and valid anger be diffused.” 

There have been moments of real anger in my life — anger that I didn’t feel was valid enough to share or act on. One of the most outright sexist experiences of my life happened at an auto-repair shop, unsurprisingly. I brought my car in to have the side mirror fixed after it had been smashed. I already had the new mirror, and I just needed a mechanic to install it for me, a simple 15 minute fix. I had an appointment, but when I arrived, the mechanic laughed in my face and told me I just had to “pop it in.” He tried to do it in front of me in vain, and after five minutes of struggling, he took the car into the back.

I waited for almost two hours. I watched as mechanics approached every single man in the waiting room, asking if they needed anything, giving them updates on their cars and treating them like worthy customers. No one approached the 18 year-old girl in the skirt. In that waiting room, I was a second-class citizen. It was because I was a woman. I was not taken seriously.

Eventually, I went into the workshop to find the mechanic. My car had been finished for over an hour. No one felt the need to come tell me. They charged me $150 more than they quoted me for. I was fuming. But society had taught me that I wasn’t allowed to be angry. So I thanked them, paid my bill and cried the entire way home.

I’m tired of suppressing my anger because it makes men uncomfortable. I’m furious about the state of our world, a world that has always devalued women and continues to deny us equality and human rights. So I’m going to be angry. Anger is a natural emotion, for ALL people, not just those with testicles. Never let anyone invalidate your rage. Use it for change, use it for good. Anger is powerful, and that’s why the patriarchy has tried to suppress it for centuries.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for violence. I know that some people have really punchable faces, but physical violence won’t solve systemic oppression. Feel that anger, and then use it to protest and encourage people to vote. If, after that, you still feel the need to punch something, join a boxing class.

No matter how you — safely — decide to express your anger at the broken world that we live in, just make sure you do one thing for me. Never let anyone invalidate your feminine rage. That is the rage of your foremothers. Use it. 

Anna Fischer writes about female empowerment, literature and art. She’s really into bagels. Write to her at [email protected].