Battle Hymn of the Angry Feminist
“Angry feminist” isn’t an insult to me; it’s just an accurate description.
Yes, I’m angry. In fact, I’m furious.
My attitude is not in need of adjustment. I am angry not because there is something wrong with me, but because there is something wrong with the world. I’m angry because there is just so much to be angry about.
I am angry that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States — more common than car accidents, muggings, and cancer deaths combined. I’m angry that every day, three women in the United States are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
I am angry that 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I’m angry that college girls have learned to go to frat parties saying “leave no woman behind,” like soldiers going into battle. I’m angry I can’t tell a street harasser to leave me alone without considering the possibility that he will slash me with a box-cutter.
I am angry that police officers disbelieve rape victims, to such an extent that the Philadelphia sex crimes unit was referred to as the “lying bitches unit.” And I’m angry that people are always looking for a way to blame rape victims — she was dressed like a slut, she led him on, she was embarrassed the next morning and invented a false accusation, she went to a bar alone. She fought back too hard, she didn’t fight back hard enough. Just walking down the street as a woman is seen as an “invitation” to rape.
I’m angry that school dress codes forbid girls to wear clothes that don’t hide the fact that they have bodies, and those bodies are female. I’m angry that educators justify these restrictions by saying, with straight faces, that leggings are forbidden because they are “too distracting for the boys” or make male teachers “uncomfortable.” I am angry that girls are being taught that they are responsible for boys’ behavior because of the way they dress.
I am angry that in Texas all but seven abortion clinics have been closed by a law that claims to protect women’s health, although there is zero evidence that it will actually serve its supposed purpose. And I am angry that women are being arrested and prosecuted for taking desperate steps that put their lives in danger because they have no other options. I’m angry that there are even laws requiring abortion doctors to lie to women to convince them not to have abortions.
I am angry that a woman can only expect to make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. I’m angry that the gender pay gap will probably not be closed in my lifetime, and that it exists even for young children doing household chores.
I’m angry that 60% of women in Silicon Valley have been sexually harassed in the workplace, and 90% have witnessed sexist behavior at work. I am angry that when I have children, my salary will go down and my husband’s will go up.
I’m angry that it takes me twice as much time and three times as much money just to walk into a room looking equally as professional as my male colleagues. I’m angry that a certain standard of beauty is demanded of me as an entry ticket to social and professional success, and then angry again at people who say I’m vain for pursuing it.
I’m angry that successful professional women are liked less because of their success. And I’m angry that women get less credit for being team players at work because they are expected to do the “office housework,” just like they are expected to do the housework at home.
I’m angry that more than 70 percent of Gen X and boomer men say their careers are more important than their wives’, and 86 percent say their wives take primary responsibility for child care. I’m angry that people keep asking me if my husband is ok with me making more money than him, or how I convinced him to “let me” keep my name.
I’m angry that women’s deodorant costs more than men’s, even though under the gender-coded packaging it’s the same damn thing. And I’m angry that tampons are taxed as a luxury item, because apparently it’s selfish to be a young woman and not be pregnant, and extravagant to want to avoid waking up in a pool of your own blood.
I’m angry that outspoken women on social media get so many rape threats it is considered business as usual. And I’m angry that when those women say something about the harassment, they are advised to just ignore it, and lectured that they should never have opened their mouths to express themselves if they weren’t tough enough to take a little criticism.
And because feminism isn’t only about rich white women, I’m also angry about the mass incarceration of black men, and race discrimination in hiring and housing and medical care. I’m angry that the grand jury deliberating on the guilt of Tamir Rice’s killer apparently didn’t even vote before deciding not to indict. I’m angry about Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and Sandra Bland, and all the others whose names I don’t know because police killings of unarmed black people don’t even make the news most of the time. I’m angry that black girls are suspended from school at higher rates than white girls, and fat women are less likely to be hired than either thin women or fat men. And I’m angry that trans people are being painted as sexual predators while defense attorneys argue that their murderers should be punished less harshly.
There are many, many more reasons to be angry. These are just the ones that spring easily to mind.
Why am I angry? WHY ISN’T EVERYONE??
Let me put this bluntly. If you can read through that list of injustices and not get even a little bit angry, there is something wrong with you.
There is nothing at all wrong with being angry. On the contrary, there is something deeply wrong with failing to be angry in the face of injustice.
As Aristotle says, part of being a good person is knowing when and about what and to what degree to be angry. Getting angry all the time and over nothing is the wrong way to live, but so is placidly ignoring egregious injustice. Virtuous people react appropriately to the situation, and in some situations the right thing to do is to get angry.
The correct response to injustice is anger. And when the injustice is enormous, the anger should be enormous too.
But don’t misunderstand — anger does not mean despair. Being angry about injustice doesn’t make me depressed or exhausted. Seeing the injustices perpetuated by my country on its citizens does not make me believe less in its ideals. Knowing that people do terrible things to each other does not make me believe less in the human capacity for good. Anger is not the opposite of hope.
Righteous anger at injustice burns, but does not consume.
I am not full of hate because I am angry. On the contrary, I am full of love.
We are often angriest at the people we love, when they betray or disappoint us. That anger is rooted in a fundamental belief that our loved ones are capable of better, and a furious demand that they change their behavior and become their best selves as we see them.
To be angry at injustice is to love the world enough to believe it can change.
Not giving in to despair is an act of defiance against forces arguing that the status quo is unchanging and it is futile to speak out against it. Anger in the face of injustice is a powerful expression of the belief that positive change is possible.
I am angry because I believe injustice is not an immutable fixture of the world but a problem to be solved. And I believe injustice can be remedied, not in a utopian fantasy or the distant future, but now — in our time, through the efforts of people who are alive and fighting as we speak.
I suppose you could call that belief faith.
The belief in the possibility of change is what fuels my anger, and what motivates me to fight for the world I believe is possible. Righteous anger is a powerful force for good. Go out and get some — and then use it to fix the world.