‘Rage’, from my perspective, is a pounding frustration which surpasses the emotion of anger. It is as if there is a seething ocean in one’s soul which erupts spontaneously. Colloquially speaking ‘seeing red’, and there is nothing in the world that can abate the rising tide. It reaches a furious peak and abates at its own leisure. My parents said that they detected this temperament when I was younger, a rage which didn’t manifest in a tantrum rather a kind of frozen insipidity. Where had the kindling for this personality trait come from?
This is a question I’ve mulled over for years. At first I thought that perhaps there was something wrong with me and my lack of control, which allowed my emotions to spiral out of control? However trying to suppress how I felt had a NET negative effect. I thought rage was bad, was conditioned by my family and environment to believe that girls shouldn’t be ‘passionate’ or ‘angry’ whilst boys could (metaphorically) burn the house down. It was only until recently upon reading Audre Lorde’s collection of essays ‘Sister Outsider’ that I began to see myself and my rage in a more realistic light, beginning what has become ( brace yourself for the cringe) a journey of self discovery.
Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our livesAudre Lorde – ‘The uses of anger: women responding to racism’
Female rage is the subject of much interest in Feminist literature. I am skeptical about the use of the label ‘feminist’- I think it is a reductive label for the ideas that it represents. Contrary to what is politically correct feminism for me is concerned with female power. Lorde’s exploration of ‘female power’, containing motifs of ‘poetry’, ‘rage’ and the ‘erotic’, particularly resonated with me. She desconstucts the feminine experience with the unique adversities women face and their manifestations in emotional and partical spheres -presenting arguements coutering those which result in the placid obedient female perpetuated by patriachal mentalities.
Is female rage is good, useful even? My opinion summarised is that in measured doses it can be a potent force for change. There needs to be an element of self control which is not oppressive, rather directive. Rage is a necessary fodder to feed the fire of revolution and battle systems of injustice- the female iteration in its fecundity is perhaps the most powerful type. In my opinion it is dimensional, infused with sensuality, feeling and passion. The same aspects of womanhood that form us as mothers, lovers, and daughters, that can make us demure bystanders, are also infused in intense anger and revulsion. Imagine if we could direct that. If women fought their battles as openly as men.
But anger, when left alone for too long, is corrosive. And, most important, it is addictive. It must be diluted and counterbalanced with more powerful, positive feelings: empathy, compassion, kkindness, sisterhood and love. I’m not suggesting that we should suppress female rage or be embarassed by it, not at all, but if we mae it our main guiding force, we will be lost in the maze of our own cultural ghettoes, echo chambers, identity politics. And the only thing that will benefit from this will be patriarchy itself,Elif Shafak
There is obviously a very dystopic vision of women rising up and unleashing their wrath on the world. Once again I’ll drop in a reference to ‘The Power’ by Niaomi Alderman. The book’s premise is that women around the world, though starting with those who have been oppressed ie sex workers, assault victims, sweatshop labourers ect, wreck unbridled havoc on earth with their newly evolved skeins which allow them to shoot electricity. They use this power to topple patriarchy and ,as the novel progresses, it seems ,more importantly, to inflict their rage upon men. I am by no means calling for the enslavement of all males on earth- as was entertained in the novel- however the book does make a salient point regarding the reserves of female anger that underpin our societies.
Revolutionary vengance requires profound class-consciousness. Hatred and revenge, anger and love, will be misdirected if they lack the correct foundationsSakine Cansiz – Prison Memoirs
I’ve been reading Sakine Cansiz’s autobiography ( It is 3 volumes long with only 2 translated into English thus far. My progress: halfway through volume 2 and blog post in the workings). She is an inspiration for me. Her commitment to revolutionary principles, her passion and composure are aspects of her personality I’m drawn to. At the end of volume one in the founding conference of the PKK, as one of the 2 women present, Cansiz describes a moment of internal delibration. She disagreed with a group of the cadres on an issue regarding women, and describes how she in a moment of passion stood up and spoke her mind in front of the men and the party leader Apo. It is this steely commitment to female rage, in foundations of revolutionary principles which I aspire to embody.
Laying foundations to channel female rage is an important process. Mary Wollstonecraft argued that women’s work deliberately trained women to be frivolous and incapable. A social conditioning which tears them away from a revolutionary life, as they could no longer stand up for their own rights and integrity, and respect those of others. Despite her writing in the late 1700s, I feel that Wollstonecrast’s message rings true to this day. We as women are fed such infantilising consumerist indoctrination- an inconspicuous aspect of patriarchy- it is no wonder that so many live with degraded self integrities which manifest in substandard principles and praxis.
I’ve learnt that I’m going to have to live with my bouts of rage and that the man I will end up spending my life with, as my family has done, needs to accept this part of me. It used to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed. Now I feel the opposite way. My capacity for feeling, ability to feel enraged by injustices in the world define my actions. I would now be ashamed if I lost control- either due to being scared to speak up or allowing my emotions to get the better of me in my articulation. The latter continues to happen to me, and I think in time I’ll be able to control and harness this ‘power’ better- however the former position is debilitating and shameful in my eyes and something I strive to avoid. Judicious calculation is valuable but fear is not, it is a fine line between the two and a balance which I plan to hone.