“Anger is a powerful emotion — it warns us of threat, insult, indignity, and harm. But across the world, girls and women are taught that their anger is better left unvoiced,” says the author of Rage Becomes Her, Soraya Chemaly.
Chemaly is an award-winning writer, media critic, and director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project. Over the last ten years, Chemaly has written dozens of articles and spoken to countless audiences including the World Bank, legislative members of government, and industry associations and organizations. She speaks regularly on a range of issues around gender, tech, education, the media, and sexual violence.
When I heard Chemaly’s discussion about the power of anger in today’s TedTalk below, my first instinct was to recoil. I hate the idea of angry women. I’ve never found much good in anger other than its release. When I get angry, I say things I regret, I’m callous in my communication of feelings, tensions rise and I lose control.
Chemaly sees anger as an effective power tool for women, saying it’s far better than being sad. I’m not sure I agree even though I understand how this could be true for some people. I think you need to know yourself and what motivates you to positive action.
For me, sadness isn’t always passive and it’s not always done in silence. While I don’t howl in pain when I’m sad, my sadness does provide a quiet space for me to think. That’s not passive for me, and I have room to reassess how I feel. When I’m sad, I often talk with a friend or my spouse – I don’t necessarily hide.
I’m calm when I’m sad, even when my heart aches at the loss of someone or I’m feeling misunderstood or mistreated. There are times when my sadness has helped me to dig deeper and go back to something. It can force me to try harder and work smarter to fix a relationship or change a loss into a win.
I’m not so sure everything is lost in sadness but I can see why Chemaly would think anger can help empower women. I remember being angry about a betrayal when I was a young mother. It that made me so angry I took up running after stopping for many years. It gave me a healthy place to work out my anger and disappointment, and I had one of the best running seasons of my life!
Here’s what I like most about Chemaly’s provocative idea.
She helps us explore what anger can mean, and how it might be attached to gendered or cultural influences. I like that. It makes sense. When Chemaly talks about justified rage as a healthy and potential catalyst for change, I don’t agree but I do know people are listening to what she has to say. Some 2 million, in fact, have watched today’s video link.
But as we always do here on WS, I’d like to suggest you think for yourself. Listen and question some of the unhealthy issues that can manifest around anger and its promotion. Both women in Wednesday’s article, Sahar and Aileen, were angry. Sahar protested her exclusion from football games and lit herself on fire. Aileen’s life-long anger and resentment manifested into a pathological and deadly rage.
There are many ways to advocate for change and get things done, and at the end of the day, our emotions are what they are: our emotions. What meaning we attach to them does matter and how we act upon them is everything. Have a great weekend and please share Chemaly’s video and discussion about it.