Gathering examples on how the patriarchy is ruining our society is one of my favourite ways to relax on a rainy Sunday afternoon. There is something almost orgasmic about reading a statement that is in complete alignment with your own ideology, reinforcing your ideas even further, making your anger run even deeper. So why do I do this to myself?
But I love my anger, its rage stemming from passion. It lights me up in a debate while I hold it in between my palms like a lantern.
Growing up around a little feisty old lady, whom I call ‘grandma’, introduced me to the concept of an independent woman. She was forced to be both mother and father to her children, while running the business that her husband had left her after his passing in the 80s. Contrary to my grandmother, in novels and poems women and anger are associated with losing control, an act of embarrassment for a ‘lady’. In many cultures anger belongs to the domain of masculinity and studies have shown that children associate angry expressions with male faces.
But ‘female rage’ is powerful and a catalyst for change. It was the anger of Emmeline Pankhurst which organised the British suffragette movement, the movement that led to the women’s right to vote. It was the anger and discrimination that led Maya Angelou to write her award winning autobiography ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ in 1970, which has since been integrated into the education system, influencing generations.
When a woman or a man is displaying anger, they are showing the world what is most important to them. The injustice though, is that women are condemned for their anger while men are praised. This begins early on, telling young girls that the boy pushing her in the playground just fancies her instead of letting her tell him to ‘pi** off’, pre-emptively keeping the peace. He can run wild and control the environment but she needs to keep her emotions close, constructing a particular male entitlement. When teaching our young girls deference, we are depriving them of a life of freedom.
But the subtly lies in channelling this energy into positive action. Anger, when left alone, can consume you. My grandma has taught me everything there is to know about owning my feelings of fury. But it was reading ‘Why all women should be feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that opened my eyes to the systematic unfairness that I can no longer unsee. Not only do I now see patriarchy everywhere, I feel a responsibility as a citizen of the world to educate people. Anger has the potential to become an addiction, a fire that when held too long can start to burn.