There’s a scene in the “Diary of A Mad Black Woman” where the main character, Helen, rejects a man attempting to flirt with her at a family BBQ. Having recently found that her husband of 18 years was cheating on her, and literally thrown out of her house by him and his mistress. Helen had zero interest in men, despite his respectful efforts. The man somehow takes her disinterest personal and says “just another mad black woman.” Helen throws her drink at him and yells “I’m not bitter. I’m mad as hell!”
We’ve all either been there or will get there. Some of us, actually, need to get there. Anger tends to be the most neglected emotion by women because society has placed an unreasonable taboo on it. Women, society has told us, should not be able to express their anger. And in rare cases where women do finally express anger, they will be “crazy” or “psycho” or “emotional” or “dramatic.” They will be everything, but mad as hell.
Because when you understand the anger, it becomes the power and then, it becomes the movement.
Serena Williams argued an umpire’s decision to penalize her overhand gestures to her coach which the umpire considered “coaching” (illegal during a match) and consequently hinting that she cheated. The celebrated tennis champion exclaimed that she is not a cheater. As she fought back in anger, she called the umpire a “thief” for stealing her points from her. He then deducted more points for that remark. Then she was fined $17,000. In a press conference, Serena expressed obvious disappointment in the decisions against her. She mentioned how male players get away with actual temper tantrums without any warnings, deductions or fines.
Serena, amongst other women, are standing up for themselves and against the object of their anger in a way society has told women they should not do so. Society would rather see us quiet, conforming, non-threatening. Truth is, society would rather see us cry than be too loud. However, a man’s anger in this society is often accepted, taken seriously, and effective- whether it be through fear or respect. This is at the center of Soraya Chemaly’s book, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger.” Chemaly is an award-winning writer, activist, and media critic who wrote the book to encourage women to embrace their anger and to productively and shamelessly express it. “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger” is also an in-depth look at why society has made us believe we are not ready for a woman’s anger. As the book explains, misdirected anger can affect the mind, the body, the spirit, decision making and relationships transforming itself into fear, depression, anxiety, and illness. While societal expectations have told girls and women that anger does not look “pretty” on them, expressing it is beneficial for the collective anyway.
For women, the act of being angry publicly is heavily policed, says @schemaly.
It’s time for women to change the way they think about rage: https://t.co/xhVILFccIQ
— NBC News THINK (@NBCNewsTHINK) September 23, 2018
In a time where women are still being mistreated and are still seen unequal to their male counterparts in the economy, in politics, in Hollywood, and in sports, a woman’s anger becomes a superpower that forces society to notice her. Serena Williams, Cynthia Nixon, Ash Sarkar, Kirstie Allsopp, and Helen from “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” and the thousands of women who have stood up for themselves and the women before and after them- they matter. And even if society is questioning their anger’s validity, it will still be taken seriously. It will not be silent, and comfortable and conforming to a man’s expectation of what female anger looks like. As Chemaly states, “Because when you understand the anger, it becomes the power and then, it becomes the movement.”