I am Woman. I am Furious: Why Are Women Getting Angrier?
“You are always angry,” he said casually from the couch as I shot daggers across the room with my eyes. Booking a doctor’s appointment in one hand while preparing dinner with the other, my brows furrowed as I slammed the fridge door a little harder than I should have.
I had become a version of myself that I scoffed at in my twenties. Smooth-skinned with bouncy hair back then, I would see frazzled mothers with a baby in the pram and a snotty-nosed, whiny child in tow. I thought the world couldn’t possibly be that bad. Now I realised I was just an optimist filled with toxic positivity…or perhaps my youth had blinded me.
Since becoming a mother at the age of 30, I find constant anger bubbling underneath my calm exterior. Once in a while, something triggers, and like a volcano, rage poureth over and burns everything and everyone close to me.
One early winter morning when the world was in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, the undercurrent of rage finally overflowed. While my husband was taking a leisurely morning shower, I was furiously searching for a baby-safe fork for my son who had woken up at 4 am grumpy and hungry. Exhausted from months of sleep deprivation and envious of my husband’s lack of awareness, the elusive fork triggered something deep within me.
I let out a deep, dark scream from the depths of my lung. I was so angry that I yanked out a full drawer of stainless steel utensils and slammed the drawer on the ground. I looked at the utensils and broken glass strewn across the floor, and I slumped into a heap on the cold, white kitchen tiles sobbing.
I don’t remember another outburst that was quite as destructive since then. Acknowledging that postpartum depression could be at play, I sought some support during a routine visit to my local maternal health nurse, but was met with apathy. According to her, the strive for perfectionism that is pervasive in Asian culture was to blame for my anger issues. Not once did she ask if my husband was providing adequate support to help my transition to motherhood.
I had since learnt to keep my feral anger in check. A few deep breaths here, some aromatherapy there and tapping out for the occasional self-care days when I felt myself shaking with anger at the slightest things. While all of the above helps to tame my anger, I can sense there’s always a low-grade frustration simmering within me.
As it turns out, I’m not the only woman feeling such frustration.
According to Gallup World Poll, women consistently reported feeling stress, worry, anger and sadness, more so than men.
This International Women’s Month, I can’t help but wonder: if, collectively, we are now more educated, employed, and economically independent, why are we angrier than before? Where is the promised land of freedom if we “study hard and get a good job”?
Perhaps it is because as women, we are still tethered by archaic, patriarchal systems and cultures. This dissonance between the patriarchal system at home and the emancipation of women outside of the home is causing women distress.
This dynamic could not be more true and I see it in play in so many households.
On a regular day, you can see men heading to the bar for a beer, before heading home. Meanwhile, women are starting work earlier so they could rush off in the afternoon for school pick-ups. Overwhelmingly, women would take a break from their workday to do attend to childcare and domestic labour, before logging back at night to continue their work shift.
Where a man enjoys an uninterrupted workflow and transitions from work to leisure in clearly defined blocks, a woman’s day looks more fragmented, with barely any time dedicated to pursuing their passion and hobbies. Furthermore, women are still bearing the load of most childcare duties. The nature of motherhood duties particularly during unexpected sickness and injury also results in a woman’s loss of agency. It is this mental load that women are constantly carrying that causes anger, particularly when faced with patriarchal systems and cultures that are so deeply rooted.
Statistics would support this theory. A 2020 survey by the Institute of Fiscal Studies in England found that mothers assumed more domestic duties during the lockdown, compared to fathers. This results in women having to reduce their paid working hours. No wonder we are angry! In this age where both the man and woman in a heterosexual relationship work similar hours in a week, it is all the most disappointing and infuriating when the truth sets in that the partner that you choose to spend the rest of your life with is part of the system contributing to the decline in your well-being.
Historically and culturally, women are pressured to conform. As “the fairer sex,” let it be forbidden that we roar and let out our anger, for fear of being condemned for our sexuality. Witches were put on trial, outspoken women were labelled heretics. On and on it goes. But, we know that change does not come from being silent. So, this International Women’s Month, instead of letting cupcakes and pretty floral arrangements placate us, let us rage and roar, so our voices will be heard.
If, like me, you’re also angry and the disproportionate division of labour between men and women, here are a few things you can try to help raise awareness that will hopefully improve things for you:
- Communicate — Talk to your partner and share how his actions are contributing to a decline in your well-being. In the humdrum of life, people and things can be taken for granted. A little nudge and open communication can go a long way. Rather than letting other resentments simmer, talk it out and spell out exactly how your partner can help you.
- Keep the receipts — If you face some resistance during communications, keep a log of when and what you were doing vs. what your partner was doing. Sounds petty, but this helps to clarify whether you are overthinking. It may also help your partner see how disproportionate the division of labour is at home. Make sure to include your mental load in the list too!
- Carve out some ‘me-time’ — This is so much easier said than done, and I am still guilty of neglecting my own needs. However, a mindset coach once taught me to intentionally block out some time in my calendar for self-care. More importantly, communicate with your partner that you have blocked out some “me-time,” or “self-care” time. I’ve been doing this for two months, and it has been so helpful to have a block of time set aside to reconnect with my passion such as writing, photography or even just people-watching.
Now, I’m no expert when it comes to well-being or mental health, what I’m sharing here is based on my own experience as a millennial woman, standing in between old-world motherhood expectations and a strong self-identity outside of the domestic sphere.
If this article sparks your desire to seek more information about gender division of labour and managing mental load, here are some great books out there written by some amazing women that address these issues.
- Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly
- The Cost of Labour by Natalie Kon-Yu
- Fed Up: Emotional Labor, Women, and the Way Forward by Gemma Hartley
- Emotional Female by Yumiko Kadota
- Fair Play by Eve Rodksy