Under the rules of the patriarchy, an angry woman is a more than a minor inconvenience: She is a problem. When a woman expresses her anger, she betrays the parameters of femininity imposed by a society that views men as humans and women as passive objects. Our society still operates on tired gender roles and misogynistic stereotypes that routinely silence, shame and demean women. Anger is regarded as a positive trait when associated with masculinity, yet it is simultaneously seen as the antithesis of what is acceptable behavior for women.
In the age of the #MeToo movement, the concept of recognizing and validating women’s anger has reached a palpable sense of urgency. For too long, women have been told that they should not only regulate their emotions but bury them while society encourages men to disregard emotion in favor of physical aggression. Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger is part cultural analysis and part call to arms. Chemaly—an award-winning author, activist and the Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project—writes with clear-eyed conviction. Using an arresting combination of personal anecdotes, interviews and heavily researched data, Chemaly argues that women should reclaim their anger. She acknowledges that this process varies between women of different races, namely the ways in which white women can weaponize their privilege and anger against black women. While white women are routinely treated as “fragile” and “delicate” damsels in distress (see “Missing White Woman Syndrome”), black women’s anger is pathologized as dangerous, volatile—even criminal.
Nevertheless, women have historically been forced to undertake immense emotional labor that comes at the expense of their mental, emotional and physical health. For Chemaly, a liberated woman is one who can freely find strength in her rage.