Must Feminists Be Angry?

Angry women are tricky. As they are rarely seen in public, there are no norms for the rest of the society on how to go about such a phenomenon. We’re used to women being presented and portrayed as beautiful and pleasant. Should some poor beings be less genetically fortunate, they should at least  come across professional, ambitious (but not too ambitious!) and, if in any way possible, nurturing.  Angry women don’t really fit in there. Therefore they are often labelled sluts, bitches, nasty women or, gaspfeminists. The best fun men (and some women) can have at the expense of these unnecessary sub-categories of the female species is, of course, by belittling their anger.

Why so angry, anyway? No bigger issues to worry about? Can’t shake off these girlish things and let time take care of them?  I’ll let you make up your own list of things to be angry at in today’s world. I am more interested in how anger might help feminism to advance its goals (or, alas, not). Feminists are widely considered angry people – despite the glamorous mainstreaming of the movement lately. The acceptable and fashionable feminists often subscribe to the cause in interviews to  glossy magazines wearing a big smile and a trendy t-shirt. Then there’s the less glamorous crowd of raging feminists who wear knitted pussy-hats at women’s marches. Which are the real feminists?

I’d like to believe that women’s rights get automatic and regular updates, like my mobile devices, without me having to bother my head about them. I come from a consensual culture where the only thing worse than sticking one’s neck out is… Well, actually, there isn’t a worse thing. Therefore, in principle,  I’m all for calmly chatting about gender equality until everybody finds a nice compromise and can go home.  Sadly this only works if every single person elected to power anywhere is a sensible human being. Even outside the state-of-emergency-USA, this is, generally speaking, not the case. Therefore the world needs angry feminists, who do not need to pretend to men in power that feminism isn’t coming to destroy every certainty they cling to*.

For feminism, per definition, is a disruptive movement. It’s supposed to be. It is so interesting, how blatant displays of bigotry are often presented as societal symptoms that might hide actual, legitimate concerns that absolutely everybody on this Earth should be concerned about. Remember how we all were expected to have understanding for angry white men who secured the Brexit-vote, and how this was considered a societal challenge for the whole Europe that required a rapid response not only by the political elite, but by every single academic, political researcher and NGO from Tallinn to Timbuktu? Enter women who demand reproductive rights, and watch the issue being reduced to something that only concerns the “liberal elite”. We are absolutely allowed to be pissed off by this. 

I suppose I could be an angrier and louder feminist. I suppose most people could. I do take some issue with people (including men but especially women) who are not feminists, but I care less whether they are angry or not or whether they wear makeup or not – I salute everybody who is tireless and relentless in their fight for equality, whichever way they choose to go about their battles. As much as we like to put women in categories (so much easier than men, no?), it does feminism no good. In the end, it does not matter how (or whether) we let our convictions (religious, political, societal) show; whether we wear silly-expensive t-shirts in the name of feminism fashion or leave our legs unshaven. Or knit hats that resemble our genitalia and wear them in public.

Looking at the current political developments kamikaze chauvinism around the world, I think not just feminists should be angry. Anger kicks off a movement, and without a movement we will get nothing changed, ever. I do not wish you all to be angry at everything 24/7 (it’s soon Christmas, after all), but you know what I mean. We should be angry at the unacceptable shit that keeps happening around us and to us.

To put all you happy campers in the right mindset, I have pre-read some fabulous literature for you, and recommend you take a look at these books and let it rip. It will do you, and the world, good. The following three books are collections of essays and short stories by fantastic writers, whose texts are at the same time angry and scream-out-loud good (occasionally in very funny ways). No bra-burning required, but absolutely feel free if you feel like it (as long as it’s your own bra).

So, here’s to all feminists and to November finally being over. I hope you enjoy the books. 

Nasty Women, A Collection of essays + accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century. Published by 404 Ink.

The Bitch is Back: Older, wiser and (getting) happier. Ed. Cathi Hanauer. Published by Morrow.

Bitch Doctrine – Essays for Dissenting Adults by Laurie Penny. Published Bloomsbury Circus. 


Pictured above is Ukrainian journalist and artist Inna Shevchenko, who is also the leader of the international feminist movement Femen. The portrait was part of “We Have a Dream – About Courage, Compassion and Human Rights” exhibition at the Swedish Fotografiska Museum earlier this year. The portrait is taken by Albert Wiking.

*) The quote is from Laurie Penny’s “Bitch Doctrine”.

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