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As a woman, have you ever felt you cannot attack someone verbally, for the fear of being attacked physically? Have you ever confused your anger for sadness, and conveniently disregarded it? Do you still feel you are being sexually objectified in almost every possible arena of life? Do you lose your temper at misogynist comments and sexist jokes? If you nodded your head in agreement, which I presume you did, you should certainly consider reading the book “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Rage” by Soraya Chemaly. 

The Unapologetic Anger

Chemaly is an award-winning writer and the director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, an initiative committed in the direction of expanding women’s civic and political participation. She writes and speaks regularly on topics related to media, gender, education, women’s rights, tech, sexual violence and free speech. 

Centering the unpleasant association of women (and girls) with anger, the author takes us through a long journey across communities, ethnicities, religions, industries and other socioeconomic elements. This provocative, yet highly percipient book, Rage Becomes Her: The Power Of Women’s Anger, is aimed at comprehending the emotion and experience of anger in women and men; though both the genders feel anger similarly, the way it is received, responded to, and acknowledged, are noticeably distinct. 

Chemaly has used observations, experiments and research to form concrete arguments. The book is a rich read as it is heavily backed by facts and statistics as well as personal encounters of the author. Moreover, the author successfully links theoretical frameworks with the regularities of life, enriching the read. 

Considering the limited amount of research done on this topic, Rage Becomes Her: The Power Of Women’s Anger makes an original contribution to gender studies.

This provocative, yet highly percipient book, Rage Becomes Her: The Power Of Women’s Anger, is aimed at comprehending the emotion and experience of anger in women and men; though both the genders feel anger similarly, the way it is received, responded to, and acknowledged, are noticeably distinct. 

Hush, hush, hush… 

How long have you been silencing yourself, woman? Just like you, Chemaly is exhausted and overwhelmed by silencing her anger. She stresses on how anger has always been seen as an emotion clearly out of sync with femininity, thus necessitating women to exercise alternative options to vent out their frustration. These substitutes often are inclusive of self-silencing, resulting into a loss of voice. Women subconsciously practice these mechanisms in order to accommodate themselves into the socially constructed ideas of gender functioning and contribution. These alternative mediums of expressing anger are implanted since childhood, wherein children learn to acquaint themselves according to their surroundings. The fundamental idea of dealing with anger is an acquired behavior, based on culturally accepted models of behavior. 

Chemaly emphasizes on the fact that the alleged feminine and masculine traits are non-biological, and are normative. Girls are often penalized for expressing their anger in their early childhood years. Boys, on the other hand, are rewarded for being “manly” enough by expressing rage. Hence, as they develop, women start associating their anger with powerlessness, shame, and a sense of guilt; men, begin to identify themselves as macho, authoritative and thus it enhances their power. 

Caring for the carer 

Most of us are fascinated with the idea of men displaying chivalrous courtesy towards women, but fail to recognize when the same chivalrousness subtly turns into benevolent sexism; a more ambivalent and low-key discrimination. Though this kind of sexism is not hostile, but delivered in a casual and unharmful way, women fail to realize that this can result into a serious diminishing of their own freedom and opportunities. This casual sexism often piles up and renders the false idea of women’s need for protection, which further leads to actual physical restrictions (not being able roam outside at night or going to the bathroom in the buddy system). 

Also read: Book Review: Work Like A Woman: A Manifesto For Change By Mary Portas

The word care has been exceptionally gendered. Men are trained to display their share of care in monetary terms; women are expected to demonstrate care in terms of emotional labor. This distinction often results into the acceptance of women performing the unpaid work, almost all the time. It is a given that managing and prioritizing others’ feelings is the duty of a woman. 

Chemaly underlines the fact that nurturing is a social construct and not a biological principle. The society conveniently defaults a higher share of child care, parental elderly care and other emotionally fatiguing work on women. This placement of unreasonable burdens on women results into them suffering from caregiver syndrome, with an unrelieved caring for others. The author morphs from the subject of nurturing and caring to further cultivate the idea of motherhood as a benchmark against which all women are judged. A lack of reproductive justice is a byproduct of social norms, the limited control over their pregnancies, motherhood penalties and a finite say over their very own bodies. 

Chemaly underlines the fact that nurturing is a social construct and not a biological principle. The society conveniently defaults a higher share of child care, parental elderly care and other emotionally fatiguing work on women.

The Fight for Room 

Both, women and men share the same space, yet have varied experiences. The author mentions the Separate Spheres Ideology (SSI), which clearly divides the existing gender roles into separate sphere. The SSI impedes the entry of either of the sexes into their so-called unnatural interests. In corporate spaces, men tend to consume a lot more verbal space than women, which leads to women leaders making the space uncomfortable with their authority and power. Women employees are often subjected to tone policing in meetings and debates, allowing men to control the conversation. Women tend to tone police themselves as well, because of the fear of not conforming to the idea of being a “good” woman. This toning down of themselves often works as a confirmation to men that they are still in power. 

The notion that men are the providers of financial security and protection to women, generates the toxic idea of an ideal real man. The wrongly rooted idea of masculinity is often built on the pillars of women’s insecurities. If women are financial independent and physically safe, the tall construction of the manliness tower might just fall. 

Also read: Book Review: Woman Hating By Andrea Dworkin

As a reader, the book is familiar yet weirdly foreign. Whilst my read, I discovered I am an active participant in practicing some or the other kind of sexism, but never formally recognized the same. I like to believe that I practice an egalitarian approach towards life; however, I realize that I fail to do so by not showing my anger in its unadulterated and in an unapologetic form. Chemaly is a must read for all humans who wish to start acknowledging their anger. The book ends with some helpful tools for developing anger competence.


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