A popular word that is often used to describe feminists today is the word angry, but why is this a bad thing? Are we not allowed to be angry over the systematic oppression of women? Are we not allowed to be angry over the gender inequalities that we face every day? Anger has always been taught to us as an emotion reserved only for men, and the ‘feminists are just angry men-haters‘ narrative only emphasises the fact that society will not only oppress women, but condemn them for having the nerve to be upset about it.
I learned rather early into my young-adulthood that as a woman I’ve been conditioned to be kind. Whilst men are fiery and aggressive, women are meant to balance them with their passive and empathetic nature. This toxic idea is taught to children across the world, causing boys to lock away their emotions to appear tougher and girls to be ridiculed for being angry, loud and ‘unladylike’. As women, we apologise far too much even when the situation doesn’t require it; apologising when there’s no need to only puts us in a subservient position. We apologise for disagreeing, for speaking out and for speaking honestly, because we’re unknowingly taught that it isn’t our place as women to behave in such ways. We’re taught that women can’t speak or live as unapologetically as men do, because when we do it we come across as ill-mannered.
I haven’t always been a fiery, outspoken person. I certainly didn’t always argue when I wanted to, or speak up for myself and others when I longed to. One thing I’ve always had? A deep, booming voice that people find hard to ignore. If I whisper, you’d probably hear me from across the room, maybe even across the street. When I speak, I command attention. I used to perceive this as my biggest weakness and insecurity, thus I kept quiet and only spoke when necessary. As a woman who has always had a deeper voice, a trait that I was told was masculine, I learned that people would often try to silence me using this trait.
I would continuously be told I sounded manly, that my height added to this masculine perception, that I would never find a boyfriend because I was taller than most boys at school; I became quiet because I was scared I would no longer be seen as feminine. I envied the shorter girls who had soft, pretty voices. I refused to speak out during class out of fear and insecurity, and when I did speak I was singled out and reminded that my voice was ‘more annoying’ and ‘stood out amongst the rest’. I had to be extra conscious because if I raised my voice, even in the slightest, I would be punished for sounding threatening and intimidating.
It took me a while, but I came to the realisation that my ‘masculine’ voice and tall frame was a gift; I no longer envied the girls who I once longed to sound like and look like. I can’t be spoken over like most women often are. My presence cant be ignored like many women constantly struggle with. People have always been likely to challenge me by raising their voices, because I don’t have to raise mine to be heard. My voice turns heads. The only way people could silence me was by threatening my femininity, because women are taught that a girl should look like a girl, sound like a girl, and behave like a girl.
We believe this to such an extent that my voice, something I cannot and won’t ever try to change, became a weird and ‘quirky’ trait- something unnatural and strange for a woman to possess. My height was once my greatest insecurity. I didn’t dare wear high heels and I always hunched over or slouched, because I’d been wrongly convinced that a boy liking me was determined by my height, and was all my life was worth. They silenced me because they knew the power that my voice held, because having a deep, powerful voice threatened the power in theirs.
It’s okay to be angryClementine Ford- ‘Fight Like A Girl’
It’s particularly much harder as a black woman to have traits that society connotes as masculine and threatening. History, politics and the media has brainwashed people into believing that black people are villainous. We’re the perpetrators and the aggressors. We’re rebellious, we like to fight and we like to argue. Black men and women can never be the victim, there’s always something we did or something we said to provoke someone into retaliating, because we’re angry and we’re ferocious. This is a problem, and because of this problem I was taught as a child that I’m not allowed to show my anger or frustration in the same way that white boys or girls can. I must remain composed and classy at all times, as a woman should. I shouldn’t ever challenge people or retaliate, because that’s what people expected from me as a black person and I didn’t want to be a stereotype.
The next time you witness an ‘angry’ feminist fighting for equality, think about what they’ve gone through. Think about the troubles they’ve faced, the snide comments they’ve received, and the world they live in that has led them to protest so angrily and passionately.