Rise Up, Angry Women! The Weinstein Backlash and Normalizing Women's Right to Rage
Women are socialized to defer to men and protect male feelings. So what happens when we stop doing that?
In our current cultural moment, women are using their voices to say #metoo. Enough. No, and no more. Women are no longer willing to remain silent about harassment we've endured and are calling men out.
Some women are simply raising their hands or sharing their stories and saying, yup, we're serious, it really happens to us all.
Other women are letting their anger take up space in the room.
They're taking a full breath to let out all the sexism and double standards, the groping and cat-calling and unwelcome touching that comes along with being assigned female. And a full chorus of women is legitimizing their anger by holding space and demanding accountability from men.
And I'm cheering them on from the sidelines.
Masculine of center queer bodies are exempt from male desire. Guys don't catcall women who look like me. Or maybe just me.
Nope, they're more likely to lean out their car window and yell "Dyke!" or "Lezzie!" or one long cry of "Faaaaaaag." At lease, they were in Boston, the place I've been street harassed most often.
So I've had a long and welcomed pass from the pressure of pleasing men's expectations, but I understand that pressure all the same because I was once a girl becoming a woman becoming sexualized in the eyes of others, and that meant being felt up while crowd surfing at a concert, it meant suffocating on the shame of watching a man's eyes glaze your curves like it was his right, it meant learning to avert the eyes when walking down a street lest a guy take your eyes as a suggestion of something you never wanted.
But this isn't about me. It's about what women are socialized to say, or more what we're socialized not to say and how we are finally claiming our rage and our power without shame. And that is a beautiful thing.
As a writer I'm drawn to messy, complicated female characters. Unlikeable characters, so I'm told.
My women get pissed off and they get angry. They're a little fat and a little flustered. They curse and they get jealous and they think ugly, dark thoughts.
And then I struggle with what to do.
Do I peel back their edge to expose more of their feminine vulnerability, so their interior thoughts make their actions more palatable to readers? Do I sand away their roughness so they fit better in the neat boxes of acceptable femininity, which is to say characters that swallow their anger with a smile?
Or do I leave them unapologetically complicated, giving my angry women a pass that male characters and male writers have always had.
I keep them rough and raw mostly, scaling back some of the bitterness. I struggle with how much to sand away and how much to let these women stand. Mostly, I long for a time when these rough, righteous women won't make an agent pass on my manuscript.
If we can celebrate angry women—which is really a question of whether we can make it acceptable for women to express the full range of their emotions and thoughts without tethering their acceptance to their passivity or a pleasant nature—then maybe we can hold space for the angry woman on the page, and she can tell her stories, too.
Because at the end of the day, why should women be more likable? What has it gotten us? And what has it cost?