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Owning Anger: Review of Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

October 2, 2018

Do you remember the last time you felt angry? Maybe you read an awful news story, maybe something went wrong at work. Regardless, think back to the most recent time. How did you react? Well, if you’re a woman, it’s likely you ignored or diverted your anger; repackaged or hid or trivialised it. Why? Because women and girls, in stark contrast to men and boys, are simply not taught how to acknowledge or manage their anger.

When women show anger in institutional and professional settings, they are met with aversion. They are perceived as hostile, less competent and less likeable. And while anger in men has to be controlled, it is still seen as a virtue, especially when it’s used to protect, defend and lead. When a man becomes angry in a debate, listeners are more likely to take his side, but when a woman acts the same way, she generally receives the opposite response.

Women’s anger is just not socially acceptable, and it’s this taboo that has led generation after generation of women to minimise and internalise their anger, processes which have both personal and societal ramifications. Unprocessed, anger fuels low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, and on a larger scale, women ignoring their anger guarantees the continued existence of a profoundly unjust status quo.

But as Soraya Chemaly so eloquently writes, time is up. We are living in a precarious age that has given women more reason than ever to be angry, and it’s high time we were all allowed to experience and productively express every emotion without being penalized – or criticized. The reality is that anger is powerful. It’s an emotion that leads to transformation and creation, and it’s one of the most effective tools women can wield against personal and political oppression. All we have to do is learn how to own it.

Rage Becomes Her is a powerful and timely new book from Soraya Chemaly, an award-winning US writer and activist whose work focuses primarily on gender, sexism and politics. Chemaly is an exceptionally skilled writer, deeply knowledgeable about her topic, and in Rage Becomes Her she has crafted an accessible, insightful, witty and thought-provoking work that will leave readers with a significantly more positive perspective on female anger.

Drawing on sociological and scientific research, as well as on personal stories and anthropological observation, Chemaly analyses the genesis of women’s anger as it relates to self-worth, pain, silence and denial, and delves deep into why we repress our rage. With so many women still scared to be angry (or scared to be seen, outwardly, as angry), Chemaly radically reframes the emotion in a way that helps women recognise its liberating and transformative power, and its potential as a tool for positive change.

Chemaly also makes some important points about the necessity of female anger in today’s world. Ignoring women’s anger, Chemaly writes, puts us at grave risk of authoritarianism and is a threat to democracy. Women’s anger must be taken seriously, must be allowed to be freely expressed if we want a just and democratic society.

For an important and truly empowering read, pick up Rage Becomes Her. We guarantee you’ll feel better for it.

About the author:

Soraya Chemaly is an award-winning writer and activist whose work focuses on the role of gender in culture, politics, religion, and media. She is the Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and an advocate for women’s freedom of expression and expanded civic and political engagement. A prolific writer and speaker, her articles appear in Time, The Verge, The Guardian, The Nation, HuffPost and The Atlantic. 

Purchase a copy of Rage Becomes Her here 


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