Sylvia Plath, Self-Portrait
I can feel the deepest emotional injury over the smallest of things. If you’ve watched David Attenborough’s Life Story recently, you’ll understand the sheer despair I felt watching a tiny gosling, fall hundreds of feet down a cliff face, only to get mauled by a fox. It was horrific. I’m still getting over it. However, I don’t want to talk about Attenborough-based emotion; I want to talk about anger. I want to talk about why I would rather feel angry than sad.
If you know me in person, you probably wouldn’t associate me with being angry. I suffer from the very British ‘stiff-upper-lip’ syndrome and am therefore emotionally stunted in all social situations. I manage to ‘keep a lid on it’ most of the time. Anger comes in different forms, and manifests itself both internally and externally. Through studying English Literature, I have learnt that female anger in particular, is naturally repressed; it is unfeminine to be angry. I’ve just finished reading Little Women, and have been studying a variety of critical essays that discuss the role of female anger in the novel. Louisa May Alcott’s novel, subtly instructs girls to internalise their rage as they grow in to women, because angry women will not be eligible for marriage *dramatic sigh*. Internalising rage is also a key aspect of the classic novels written by the Bronté sisters. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite novels, purely because Jane has a restless and irrepressible anger, equal to any man’s:
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel”
Internalising anger seems to be a dangerous, but necessary thing for women in the nineteenth-century, but I feel like the fourth wave of feminism is allowing modern women to be openly angry again.
So, I am here as an advocate for anger. I want to say that I think it’s okay to be angry, regardless of your gender. I’m not encouraging physical violence, and I’m definitely not suggesting you go out and head butt someone. That’s not okay; that makes you a bit of a bastard. What I’m saying is that anger can be a really useful, and important emotion.
When I become angry, it is usually because I have been humiliated or ignored. I still remember the time in year 9 when a girl who was trying to intimidate me, kneed me in the back of the leg in the P.E changing rooms, which consequently led me to nearly drop my P.E bag, and fall down in front of the other girls in my class. I snapped, turned around, and swore my head off at her. She was stunned in to silence. The humiliation, and the force of my reaction, made me angry, not sad. Now I’ve seen the back of secondary education (thank God), if something or someone has provoked anger in me, I take a few moments to compose myself, rather than just ‘eff and blind away. I’ve realised anger is much more useful when it is captured, and channelled in to something that benefits you in the long term.
I was angry about ‘lad culture’, and the misunderstanding of the word ‘feminism’; so I started writing for Belle Jar. I was angry about feeling creatively inadequate; so I started attending improvised comedy classes, and writing this blog. I was angry about getting the bus to work, and always being late; so I spent a year learning to drive. I was unbearably angry about being unexpectedly pushed aside; so I took up running and it’s helped take my mind off things. If I had felt sad about any of the above, I would not have achieved any of the above. Sadness paralyses me, but anger propels me in to action.
I realise that ‘sad’ is a blanket term, but I mean anything from marginally tearful to utterly distraught. If I find myself feeling anything like sadness, I achieve absolutely nothing. Sadness immobilises me; I don’t want to go anywhere, see anyone, I can barely talk without crying if I feel truly sad about something. I’m not denying that I often feel like this, I’m simply stating that like most people, naturally, I hate to feel sad. I’m sure the amateur psychologists amongst you will be able to judge me as passive aggressive or in dire need of some kind of counselling. Perhaps you are correct. I’m learning to laugh off the rage and sadness though, so I worry about it less than I used to.
Passive aggressive? Probably. Am I going to cry about it? No, I’m going to go for a run, write a story, drive my car, and imagine round-house kicking someone’s face off instead. This wouldn’t be a proper blog-post without a good lyric, So, courtesy of the immensely angry/talented Rage against the Machine, remember:
‘Don’t turn away, get in front of it; anger is a gift’.