How Women are Told to Manage their Anger

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Updated: Jun 14, 2022
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Growing up, girls, are taught to mistrust their feelings and are shamed for being too ’emotional.” When women are emotional, especially women of color, they are stereotyped into being on their period, or sometimes are predisposed to not get a higher position in the workforce. However, being emotional is something that can come in handy. Wikipedia defines emotional knowledge as “the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others… to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”, (Wikipedia). Emotions as knowledge is important because it is what we choose to do with our emotions that can make a difference in the world. In The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism by Audre Lorde, Lorde touches on the subject on why the emotion of anger is important when it comes to defeating a stereotype.

Women understand from a very early age what the risks and costs of displaying full emotions and, particularly anger, are. Women understand that the double standard of men displaying anger is different from when they display anger themselves. When men display anger, it reaffirms masculinity. They gain power from showing anger that even if it’s ugly and uncomfortable, they are not penalized in the same way as when women do it. “We operate in the teeth of a system for which racism and sexism are primary, established, and necessary props of profit,” (Lorde, 128). For example, recently, there was a hearing between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey. Blasey accused Kavanaugh, a white man, of an act of sexual assault that happened years ago.

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In defending himself, Kavanaugh, although not making any sense, used anger and assertiveness. He was praised in the media for standing up for himself. His anger was nothing more but the power that white men have in our society. The praise he received from this act showed that he had control of the situation. And Blasey, defending herself in a room full of men, wasn’t taken seriously because she spoke up “too late” about the assault. In another example, Serena Williams showed that she was upset at the Umpire and called him a thief in means of standing up for herself, and this made her a “hysterical woman.” She was then put under the stereotype that black women are always angry, or aggressive, or are always in a state of rage. Cartoons were made of her showing the racist stereotype towards black women.

When a woman is angry, she knows her needs, rights, and opinions in a way that she didn’t at any other time. Anger can help women think more clearly, act more decisively, and initiate a needed change. Women can control what they do about the feeling and how they behave in the wake of the feeling. “Anger is loaded with information and energy,” (Lourde, 127). And so, when shutting down somebody’s anger, we are silencing the knowledge they have and saying it’s not valuable to society as a social resource. Silence is not the answer for change, so being angry is important and being assertive about it is key.

In other words, being a “Killjoy” is necessary. In Feminist Killjoy (and Other Willful Subjects), Sara Ahemd states:

“Even talking about injustices, violence, power, and subordination in a world that uses ‘happy diversity’ as a technology of social description can mean becoming the obstacle, as the ones who ‘get in the way’ of the happiness of others. Your talk is heard as laboring over sore points, as if you are holding onto something—an individual or collective memory, a sense of a history as unfinished—because you are sore. People often say that political struggle against racism is like banging your head against a brick wall. The wall keeps its place, so it is you that gets sore. We might need to stay as sore as our points. Of course, that’s not all we say or we do. We can recognize not only that we are not the cause of the unhappiness that has been attributed to us, but also the effects of being attributed as the cause. We can talk about being willful subjects, feminist killjoys, angry black women; we can claim those figures back; we can talk about those conversations we have had at dinner tables or in seminars or meetings. We can laugh in recognition of the familiarity of inhabiting that place, even if we do not inhabit the same place (and we do not). There can be joy in killing joy. Kill joy, we can and we do. Be willful, we will, and we are.” (Ahemd, conclusion)

Ahmed’s point supports Lourde’s point in The Uses of Anger by showing that a silent woman is no good if we want to keep moving forward, especially when it comes to racism. Ahmed points out that anger is not something that women should be ashamed of. Anger is how change has happened in the past and is how the future is going to change, too. “Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change,” (Lourde, 129).

Emily Martin’s The Egg and The Sperm states, ‘By Extolling the female cycle as a productive enterprise, menstruation must necessarily be viewed as failure,” (Martin, 486). Martin is saying that women getting their period is a bad thing. For example, people, primarily males, have the response of, ‘Oh she’s probably on her period,’ when a woman shows any sign of anger or any other emotion. Because menstruation has the negative connotation of being associated with anger, women are not taken seriously. It’s like the arguing point that President Donald Trump used when he said that former First Lady Hillary Clinton was not fit to be president because she was a woman. Because she is a woman, she is emotional, and she could cause a war when she is on her period.

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Throughout the writing, Martin tries to point out the point that women are not as fragile as people make them out to be. “It is not my anger that launches rockets, spends over sixty thousand dollars a second on missiles and other agents of war and death, slaughters children in cities, stockpiles nerve gas and chemical bombs, sodomizes our daughters and our earth…” (Lourde, 133). Lourde points out that women do not do such horrible or unnecessary things that men have done in the past. Instead, the anger that women hold in, the blood that spills out during menstruation, that our voice when angry, is what is good in the world.

Anger is emotional knowledge. When women get angry, change happens. Being angry, assertive, loud, or in control is not something that women should be ashamed of. Audre Lourde does a great job in explaining that action and anger are linked to make a difference in the world. Little girls, especially little girls of color, should be raised away from fear of being angry and they should not feel guilty for ever being angry, (Lourde, 124).  

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How Women are Told to Manage Their Anger. (2021, Mar 22). Retrieved from