The Myth of the Angry Feminist

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    I’d love to know where these angry feminists are.  You know, the ones that you deny any relation to, the ones that men fear.  I’m starting to wonder if they even exist, or if they are no more than boogie-men of the conservative imagination.

Look up the stereotype.  Google “angry feminist.”

The most extreme feminist I ever met didn’t believe in shaving and identified as trans.  H* is a vegan eco-feminist, who fights for all oppressed beings.  H is the most extreme feminist I know, and yet, H has never once became  the angry feminist stereotype, no matter how much I inadvertently annoyed her.

I suppose that I could be considered an angry feminist, given my penchant for feminist speeches, or my inability to see past the sexism in a commercial.  Or my addiction to reading feminist blogs, where the women speak out, uncensored.  But I don’t hate men.  I’m a cis-bodied straight white female, who is interested in getting married and raising a family.  I love working with men, I love being friends with men; I just happen to be a warrior against the patriarchy.

But even I defer from the “angry feminist” label.  I still shave my legs and my armpits, hating myself and the process as I do.  I shy away from using the word patriarchy, and I try to preface my feminist beliefs with examples, so that my cis, able-bodied, white male friends will listen.

Instead, they criticize my technique, saying that I don’t get to the point quickly enough.  It is another variant of the tone argument.  These boys can play Starcraft for hours on end, build robots from scratch, and can deconstruct all of the current political speeches, but they cannot listen to a three minute explanation of why something broke sexist norms or expectations.

We eschew the angry feminist label, as if we can make our opinions more legitimate and more palatable to outsiders.  As if distancing ourselves from the mythical demon makes us a more reliable source.

Instead, the very presence of a mythical “angry feminist,” serves to discredit all of us, even the most mild-mannered of us.  The presence of a mythical “angry feminist” forces us to distance feminists from anger, forces us to hold our tongues, forces us to be polite to the men who insist that we have achieved equality, that the real reason for pay discrimination is that women’s childcare interferes with the quality of their work.

The mythical “angry feminist” teaches us that no matter how furious we are, that no matter how wrong the injustice we are fighting, no matter how abhorrent the rape joke or rape apologist is, we still cannot be angry.

Cloaked in the language of power, we avoid anger at all costs.  We believe that if we remain rational, if we remain calm and devoid of emotion, then we will be taken seriously.  That our words will matter.  If we scream and shout, pounding our fists to the ground, we will be dismissed as hysterical, or asked the ever insightful, “Are you on the rag?”  As if women don’t have legitimate reasons to be upset.

If we scream and shout, we become the irrational “angry feminist” the thing to be avoided, feared and made the subject of endless jokes.  If we scream and we shout, nobody will take us seriously.  But even if we speak calmly, devoid of emotion, presenting the facts, does it make a difference?

On days like today, when I’ve just finished listing all of the latest news in the War on Women, I wonder if it makes any difference if I present Paul Ryan and the GOP and their supporters with a detailed list of facts, statistics, and scholarly research on rape and pregnancy.  The information has been presented, taught, explained to them again and again and again and again.  And still they don’t hear us.

If everyone is deaf, it doesn’t matter if you scream for help or ask nicely.

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8 comments on “The Myth of the Angry Feminist

  1. Well said, thank you. Your comments on the consequences of and reactions to anger really resonated with me…

    Over here in the UK, there was a popular advert for insurance starring Michael Winner – director of the Death Wish films and now ‘bon vivant’ and media talking head – in which he used the catchphrase ‘Calm down dear’ to a series of angry women. The whole advert was based on the assumption that women losing their temper is inherently hilarious.

    The catchphrase has become such common currency that our current Prime Minister, the odious David Cameron, used the catchphrase in the House of Commons to put down a female MP who was objecting to his reforms to our healthcare system.

    Calm down dear? When we have equality, I might!

    • cafeaulait13 says:

      I wrote this a while back in response to a fight I had with some well-meaning but clueless friends.

      I got angry because we were trying to talk about a Disney movie and they kept talking over me, and I felt like I had to stay calm, or else they would find another reason not to listen.

      It’s frustrating, because I want to be angry, but it’s been socially conditioned out of me, and I don’t even know how to be angry any more.

      I can’t imagine a grown man saying “calm down, dear.” to a female politician. We just call them “unladylike” or expel them from the house on this side of the pond!

  2. Kaoru Negisa says:

    This is a fairly common way to be able to continue to oppress minorities, to get a little intersectional for a moment. You get used to the phrases,”angry feminist,” “radical feminist,” “militant homosexual and/or atheist,” “angry black man,” etc. By appending an adjective to the front of the word, those in power can then define all actions by that particular group in that context, so you’re forced to either be quiet and take it or be willing to accept the label. It’s similar when powerful groups call for civility, which naturally means being unwilling to express the problems faced by your particular group in anything but the most clinical terms, making arguments less effective.

    I gave up on trying to please people in this regard. I’d rather be an angry feminist than a silent one. The biggest problem is that, as you point out, it’s used as an excuse to not listen. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that it’s not so much the people you’re arguing with, but the people watching the argument that are more likely to be convinced.

    Which is a very wordy way of saying I loved what you said, especially at the end, and I take it to mean that you might as well be passionate, since you’ll get labeled the same regardless.

  3. I am proud to be an angry feminist. You can’t demand your rights from the sexist perverts in power by asking politely in dulcet tones.

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