The Daily - The Sunday Read: 'On Female Rage'

<p>In this episode, Leslie Jamison, a writer and teacher, explores the potentially constructive force of female anger — and the shame that can get attached to it.</p><p><em>This story was recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publishers like T

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I'm Leslie Jamison. I'm a writer and the teacher and in 2018. I wrote an essay about women's anger.


wrote the piece in early 2018 and actually finish the piece on hospital bed a few days after giving birth to my daughter and now it feels like another Universe. My daughter is 2 and 1/2. We're in the middle of the pandemic. I've been in quarantine with a little toddler running around our tiny apartment, but in so many ways the ideas I was writing about exploring the shaking that can get attached to female and go exploring the potentially constructive force of female anger feel more relevant to me than ever.

And I was thinking a lot about the thrilling the kind of World building force of female anger when I watched representative Alexandria ocasio-cortez Beach last week at the House of Representatives where she was responding to a particular incident of harassment that she'd experienced at the hands of another representative.

but she was using that experience to talk about a much larger pattern of sexism sexual harassment misogynistic mistreatment, and you could see and feel in her words and in her eloquence and in her self-possession the ways in which she was simultaneously motivated by Fury and also Hannah thing that Fury into argument

One of the things that AOC speech was making me think about was the way that audre Lorde describes anger as something that can potentially function of a kind of corrective surgery, which is just anger can be destructive can be horribly destructive, but it's not always destructive.

and when that anger is harnessed and

Turn into a warrant has turned into argument. It can change the world.

So here's my essay. I used to insist. I didn't get angry. Not anymore read by Julia Whelan.

For years, I described myself as someone who wasn't prone to anger. I don't get angry. I said I get sad I believed this inclination was mainly about my personality that sadness with a more natural emotion for me than anger that I was somehow built this way. It's easy to misunderstand to self as private when it's rarely private at all. It's always a public artifact never fixed perpetually sculpted by social forces in truth. I was proud to describe myself in terms of sadness rather than anger why sadness seemed more refined and also more selfless as if you were holding the pain inside yourself rather than making someone else deal with hits blunt force trauma.

A few years ago. I started to get a knot in my gut at the can the cadences of my own refrain. I don't get angry. I get sad at the shrillest moments of our own self declarations IMX. I am not why we often hear in that tiny register another truth lurking expectantly and begin to realize there are things about ourselves. We don't yet know by which I mean that at a certain point I started to suspect I was angrier than I thought.

Of course, it wasn't anger when I was 4 years old and took a pair of scissors to my parents couch wanting so badly to destroy something whatever I could of course. It wasn't anger when I was 16 and my boyfriend broke up with me and I cut up the inside of my own ankle wanting so badly to destroy something whatever I could of course. It wasn't anger when I was 34 and fighting with my husband when I screamed into a pillow after he left the house to our daughter wouldn't here then threw my cell phone across the room and spend the next ten minutes searching for it under the bed and finally found it in a small pile of cat vomit.

Of course, it wasn't anger when during a faculty meeting early in my teaching days. I distributed statistics about how many female students in our department had reported instances of sexual harassment the year before more than half of them a faculty member grew indignant and insisted that most of those claims probably didn't have any basis that all I clenched my fists. I struggled to speak. It wasn't that I could say for sure what it happened in each of those cases. Of course. I couldn't they were just an anonymous numbers on the page, but their shoe volume seemed horrifying it demanded attention. I honestly hadn't expected that anyone would resist these numbers or force me to account for why it was important to look at them.

The scrutiny of the room made me struggle for words. Just when I needed them most it made me dig my nails into my palm. What was that emotion? It was not sadness it was rage.

The phenomenon of female anger has often been turned against itself the figure of the angry woman refrained as threat. Not the one who has been harmed but the one bent on harming she conjures a lineage of threatening archetypes the Harvey and her Talons the Witch and her spells the Medusa and her Rising locks. The notion that female anger is unnatural or destructive is learned young children report perceiving displays of anger as more acceptable from boys than from girls according to a review of studies of gender and anger written in 2000 by Anne and Kring a psychology professor at the University of california-berkeley men and women's self-report anger episodes with comprable degrees a frequency, but women report experiencing more shame and embarrassment in their aftermath people are more likely to use words like Bitchie and Hostel 2.

Describe female anger while male anger is more likely to be described as strong cream reports that men are more likely to express their anger by physically assaulting objects or verbally attacking other people while women are more likely to cry when they get angry as if their bodies are forcibly returning them to the appearance of the emotion sadness with which they are most commonly associated with a 2016 study found that it took longer for people to correctly identify the gender a female faces this playing and angry expression as if the emotion had wandered out of its natural habitat by finding its way to their features a 1990 study conducted by the psychologist School Stenberg and Ella Luna first found that when female faces are recognized as angry, their expressions are rated as more hostile than comprable Expressions on the faces of men as if their violation of social X.

Patient had already made their anger seem more extreme increasing its volume beyond what could be tolerated in what happened our account of the 2016 presidential election? Hillary Clinton describes the pressure not to come across as angry during the course of her entire political career. A lot of people recoil from an angry woman she writes as well as her own desire not to be consumed by anger after she lost the race so that the rest of my life wouldn't be spent like Miss havisham from Charles dickens's Great Expectations rattling around my house obsessing over what might have been

The Specter of dickens's ranting spinster spurned and embittered and her crumbling wedding dress plotting her elaborate. Revenge has a long Shadow over every woman who dares to get mad.

The Michelle Obama podcast is out. Now on Spotify the Series rings listeners inside the former first ladies most candid and personal conversations showing us what's possible when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to open up and to focus on what matters most. Listen free at Michelle Obama is an angry woman makes people uneasy then her more palatable counterpart the sad woman summons sympathy more readily she often looks beautiful in her suffering and no bold transfigured elegant angry women are Messier their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It does if the prospect of a woman's anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the Social Capital. She has gained by being wrong. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself to refrain from recklessness. It's just a civilized

Consider the Red Carpet club of Uma Thurman that went viral in November during the initial swell of sexual harassment accusations. The clip doesn't actually show Thurman's getting angry. It shows her very conspicuously refusing to get angry after commending the Hollywood women who have spoken out about their experiences of sexual assault. She said that she was waiting to feel less angry before she spoke herself. It was curious that Thurman's public declarations were lauded as a triumphant vision of female anger because the clip offered precisely the version of female anger that we've long been socialized to produce and accept not the spectacle of female anger Unleashed but the spectacle of female anger restrained sharpened to a photogenic Point by withholding the specific story of whatever made her angry Thurman made her anger itself the story and the raw force of

I struggle not to get angry on that red carpet summon the force of her anger even more powerfully than its full explosion would have just as the monster in a movie is most frightening when it only appears off screen.

This was a question that I began to consider quite frequently as the slew of news stories accrued last fall how much female anger has been lurking off-screen how much anger has been biding its time and biting its tongue weary of being pathologize does hysteria or dismissed as paranoia and what if my own vaxxed feelings about all this female anchor why were they even vexed it seemed a failure of moral sentiment or a betrayal of feminism as if I were some house siding with the patriarchy overhead internalized is it so thoroughly I couldn't even sparked the edges of its toxic residue. I intuitively embraced and supported other women's anchor but struggled the claim my own

Some of this had to do with the ways. I've been lucky. I had experienced all kinds of gendered aggression, but nothing equivalent to the horror stories so many other women have lived through but it also had to do with an abiding aversion to anger that still festered like rot inside me and what I had always understood as self-awareness, I don't get angry I get sad. I came to see my own complicity in the same logic that has trained women to bury their anger or perform is absence.

For a long time I was drawn to sad lady icons the scribes and bards of loneliness and Melancholy has a certain kind of slightly morbid slightly depressive slightly self intoxicated deeply predictable preemptively apologetic literary fan girl. I loved Sylvia Plath. I was obsessed with her own obsession with her own blood. What a thrill that red plush and Drawn to her suffering silhouette a woman abandoned by her cheating husband and ensnared by the gender double standards of Domesticity. I attached myself to the Mantra of her autobiographical Avatar Esther Greenwood who lies in a bathtub in the Bell jar bleeding during a rehearsal of a suicide attempt and later stands at a funeral listening to the old brag of my heart. I am I am I am

Her attachment to pain her own and others was also a declaration of identity. I wanted to get it tattooed on my arm. Whenever I listen to my favorite female singers. It was easier for me to sing along to their sad lyrics then they're angry ones. It was easier to play Ani DiFranco on repeat crooning about heartbreak. Did I ever tell you how I stopped eating when you stopped calling me then it was to hear her Fury and her irritation at the ones who stayed sad and quiet in her Shadow. Some chick says thank you for saying all the things I never do I say, you know the thanks I guess is to take all the

for you

I kept returning to the early novels of Gene Reese who's wounded heroines flopped around dingy rented rooms and various European capitals seeking Solace from their heartbreak stating cheap comforters with their wine Sasha. The heroin is good morning. Midnight. The most famous of these early picker asks of pain resolves to drink herself to death and manages mainly to cry her way across Paris. She cries at cafes and bars in her lousy hotel room. She cries at work. She cries in a fitting room she cries on the street. She cries near the Seine the closing scene of the novel is a scene of terrifying passivity. She lets a race like man into her bed because she can't summon the energy to stop him as if she is finally lost touch with her willpower entirely.

In life Reese was Infamous for her sadness that one friend called her gramophone needle stuck in a groove thing of going over and over miseries of one sort. And another even her biographer called her one of the greatest self-pity artists in the history of English fiction. It took me years to understand how deeply I have misunderstood those women. I've missed a rage that fueled plants poetry like a ferocious gasoline lifting her speakers, sometimes literally into white now she is flying more terrible than she ever was red scar in the sky red, over the engine that killed her the mausoleum the wax house the speaker becomes a scar this irrefutable evidence of her own pain, but this car in turn become the comet terrible.

Determined soaring triumphant over the instruments of her own supposed to struction.

I always been preoccupied with the pain disintegration of plas speakers. But once I started looking I saw the comment Trails up there angry resurrections everywhere delivering their Unapologetic fantasies of Retribution.

Out of the ash. I Rise with my red hair and I eat men like air.

I'd love to Reese for nearly a decade before I read her final novel wide sargasso sea a reimagining of Charlotte bronte's Jane Eyre whose whole plot leads inexorably toward an act of destructive anger the Mad first wife of mr. Rochester burns down the English Country Manor where she has been imprisoned in the attic for years in this late Masterpiece. The heroines of Reese's early novels heartbroken drunk called and complicated choreographies of passivity are replaced by an angry woman with a torch ready to use the Master's tools to destroy his house.

It wasn't that these authors were writing exclusively about female anger rather than females tomorrow. They're writing hold both states of feeling wide sargasso sea excavates the Deep veins of sadness running beneath and otherwise opaque Act of angry destruction and Plath poems are invested in articulating the complicated effective braids of bitterness, irony anger pride and sorrow that others often misread as monolithic sadness. They explain people like that by saying that their minds are in watertight compartments, but it never seemed so to me Reese herself once wrote It's all washing about like the bilge in the hold of a ship.

It has always been easier to shunt female sadness and female anger into the watertight compartments of opposing archetypes rather than acknowledging the ways. They run together in the cargo hold of every female psyche near the end of the new biopic. I Tonya Tonya Harding's character explains America. They want someone to love but they want someone to hate the timing of the film's release in late 2017 seemed cosmically act it resurrected a definitional prototype of female anger. At least for many women like me who came of age during the 1990s at the precise moment. That's so many women were starting to get publicly explicitly unapologetically angry.

Harding was an object of Fascination not just because of the soap opera she dangled before the public gaze supposedly conspiring with her ex-husband and an associate to plan an attack on her rival figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan but also because she and Kerrigan provided a yin and yang of Primal female archetypes has a vision of anger uncouth and unrestrained the woman everyone loves to hate exploding at the judges when they didn't give her the scores she felt she deserved parting with the perfect foil for the elegant suffering of Kerrigan solving in her Lacy white leotard together. They were an impossible Duo to turn away from the sad girl and the mad girl wounded and the wicked

They're binary segregated One Vision of femininity. We adored rule-abiding delicate hurting from another we despised trashy. Whiny angry Harding was strong. She was poor she was pissed off and eventually in the narrative embraced by the public. She turns those feelings into violence. But I Tonya illuminates with so little press coverage at the time paid attention to the perfect storm of violence that produced Harding's anger in the first place her mother's abuse and her husband which is to say no woman's anger is an island.

When the Harding and Kerrigan controversy swept the media, I was 10 years old their story was imprinted onto me as a series of reductive but indelible brushstrokes woman shouting at the media another woman weeping just beyond the ice rink, but after watching I Tonya and realizing how much these two women had existed to me as ideas rather than as women. I did what any reasonable person would do. I Googled Tonya and Nancy obsessively I Googled did Tanya ever apologize to Nancy. I Googled Tonya Harding boxing career and discovered that it effectively began with her 2002 celebrity boxing match against Paula Jones two women paid to perform the Absurd caricatures of vengeful femininity. The public had projected onto them the woman who cried harassment versus the woman who bashed kneecaps

In the documentary is I watched I found Harding difficult to like she comes off as a self-deluded liar with a robust victim complex focused on her own Misfortune to the exclusion of anyone else is but what does the fact that I found Harding difficult to like say about the kind of women uncomfortable liking did I want the plot line in which the woman who is survived her own hard life abusive mother abusive husband and during poverty also emerges with a likeable personality of a lucky Spirit a determined work ethic and a graceful self-effacing relationship to her own suffering.

Division of Harding in I Tonya is something close to the opposite of self-effacing the film even includes a Fantastical reenactment of the crime which became popularly known as the whack heard round the world in which Harding stands over Kerrigan scouring body baton raised high above her head striking her bloody knee until Harding turns back toward the camera her face defiant and splattered with Kerrigan's blood even though the attack was actually carried out by a hired Hitman this imagine scene distills the version of the story that America became obsessed with and which one woman's anger leaves another woman traumatized.

But America's obsession with these two women wasn't that simple there was another story that rose up in opposition in this Shadow story Harding wasn't a monster but a victim an underdog unfairly vilified and Kerrigan with a crybaby who made too much of her pain in a 2014 Deadspin essay Confessions of a Tonya Harding apologist, Lucy Madison Road. She represented the Fulfillment of an adolescent Revenge fantasy. My adolescent Revenge fantasy. The one where the girl who doesn't quite fit in managers to soar over everyone's without giving up a fraction of her prerogative and I could not have loved her more.

Winter again crouched sobbing on the floor near the training ranked right after the attack in Newsweek described it as the sound of one dream breaking. She famously cried out. Why why why but when Newsweek ran the story on its cover it printed the quote as why me

the single added word turned her shock into Keenan self-pity

these two seemingly contradictory versions of Harding and Kerrigan raging bitch and innocent victim or bad girl hero and whiny crybaby offered the same cut out dolls dressed in different costumes the entitled weeper with the unacceptable version of a stoic victim the scrappy Underdog with the acceptable version of a raging bitch at first glance. They seems like opposite stories betraying are conflicted Collective relationship to female anger that it's either heroic or uncontrollably destructive and our love-hate relationship with victimhood itself. We love a victim to hurt for butt grow irritated by one who hurts too much.

Ghost stories however, insisted upon the same segregation a woman couldn't hurt and be hurt at once. She could be either angry or sad it was easier to Outsource those emotions to the bodies of separate women than it was to acknowledge that they reside together in the body of every woman.

10 years ago in Nicaragua a man punched me in the face on a dark Street as I sat on a curb afterward covered in my own blood holding a cold bottle of beer against my broken a cop ask me for a physical description of the man who adjust mugged me maybe 20 minutes later a police vehicle pulled up a pickup truck outfitted with a barred cage in the back. There was a man in the cage is this him the cop asked I shook my head horrified acutely aware of my own power realizing in that moment. That's simply saying I was hurt to take away a stranger's Liberty. I was a white woman a foreigner volunteering at a local school and I felt ashamed of my own familiar silhouette a vulnerable white woman crying danger at Anonymous men lurking in the shadows. I felt scared and embarrassed to be scared. I felt embarrassed that everyone was making such

But one thing I did not feel with anger.

That nice my sense of guilt my shame at being someone deemed worthy of protection and at the ways that protection might endanger others effectively blocked my awareness of my own and it was as if my privilege outweighed my vulnerability and that meant I wasn't entitled to any anger at all. But if I struggled to feel entitled to anger that night in Nicaragua, I have since come to realize that the real entitlement has never been anger. It has always been its absence of the aversion to anger. I had understood in terms of temperament or intention was in all honesty. Also a luxury

When the Black feminist writer and activist audre Lorde described her anger as a lifelong response to systemic racism. She insisted upon it as a product of the larger social landscape rather than private emotional ecology. I have lived with that anger on that anger beneath that anger on top of that anger for most of my life.

After the Uma Thurman clip went viral the Trinidadian journalist Stacy Marie Ishmael tweeted interesting which kinds of women are praised for public anger has spent my whole career reassuring people. This is just my face.

Michelle Obama was dogged by the label of angry black woman for the duration of her husband's time and office scientific research has suggested that the experience of racism these African Americans to suffer from higher blood pressure than white Americans and has hypothesized that this disparity arises from the fact that they accordingly experience more anger and are simultaneously expected to suppress it. The tennis Superstar. Serena Williams was fined over $80,000 for an angry Outburst against the lines woman at the US Open in 2009. I swear to God all expletive take this ball and shove it down your expletive throat.

Gretchen Carlson of Fox anchor at the time called another one of Williams has angry outbursts in 2011 a symbol of what's wrong with our society today Carlson, of course has since come to embody a certain brand of female empowerment. One of the leading voices accusing the late Fox News chairman Rodger Ailes of sexual harassment. She recently published the book called be fierce stop harassment and take your power back, but the portrait on its cover of a fair-skinned blond-haired woman smiling slightly in a dark turtleneck reminds us that fierceness has always been more palatable from some women than from others.

What good is anger anyway, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum invokes Aristotle's definition of anger as a response to a significant damage that contains within itself a hope for payback to argue that anger is not only a stupid way to run one's life. But also a corrosive public Force predicated on the false belief that pay back can redress the wrong doing that inspired it. She points out that women have often embraced the write their own anger as a Vindication of equality part of a larger project of empowerment, but that its promise as a barometer of equality shouldn't obscure our vision of its dangers and this current moment of ascendant female anger. Are we taking too much for granted about its value?

What if we could make space for both anger and a Reckoning with its price in her seminal 1981 essay the uses of anger audre Lorde ways the value of anger differently than Nussbaum not in terms of Retribution, but in terms of connection and survival, it's not just a byproduct of systemic evils. She argues but a catalyst for useful discomfort and clearer dialogue. I have suckled the Wolves slip of anger she writes and I have used it for illumination left protection fire in places where there was no light. No food. No sisters No Quarter.

Anger isn't just a blaze burning structures to the ground. It also cast the Glo generates heat and brings bodies into communion. Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions Lord rights, which brought that anger into being

Confronting my own aversion to anger asked me to shift from seeing it simply as an emotion to be felled and toward understanding it as a tool to be used part of A well-stocked arsenal when I walked in the women's March in Washington a year ago one body among thousands the act of marching didn't just mean claiming the right to voice. It meant publicly declaring my resolve to use it. I come to think of anger in similar terms not as a claiming of victimhood, but as and owning of accountability I write this as a 8 months pregnant. I don't hope that my daughter never gets angry. I hope that she lives in a world that can recognize the ways anger and sadness live together and the ways rage and responsibility. So often seen as natural enemies can live together as well once upon a time. I have enough anger in me to crack.

The poet Kiki petrosino writes in her 2011 poem at the Teahouse.

I boiled up from bed in my enormous nightdress with my lungs full of burning. Chrysanthemums.

This is a vision of anger as fuel and fire has a powerful inoculation against passivity as strange, but holy milk suckled from the wolf. This anger is more like an itch than a wound. It demands that something happened. It's my own rage at that faculty meeting when the voices of students who would become statistics at our fingertips. We're being asked to hush up to step back into their tidy columns. This anger isn't about deserving. It's about necessity what needs to boil us out of bed and Bill or dresses what needs to burn in our voices glowing and fearsome fully aware of its own heat.

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As a surgeon and president of Howard University, dr. Wayne Frederick believes, even our toughest time can lead to strength and change strengthening in a way that no classroom activity could ever have an Alicia that made all the difference. I talked to a cheevers about how they're managing the current moment and charting a course for the future find that made all the difference anywhere you get your podcast created by Bank of America.
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