What’s this about female rage?

People are often surprised when I admit that I’m an angry person. I rarely show frustration or impatience, and it’s difficult for me to be vocal when someone upsets me. I think this is true for a lot of people, but especially for women. We’ve been taught that to be feminine is to act with grace and poise, even when faced with unfairness or unfortunate circumstances—to essentially grin and bear it. 

It’s no wonder, then, that the pressure of these negative emotions builds and inevitably seeks a release. This might be why there has been growing interest among young women in what has been dubbed “female rage.” What is so-called female rage and why is it important? 

The phrase refers to the uninhibited expression of women’s anger. Though female rage could be used to describe any woman’s expression of anger, this particular terminology is more typically seen in reference to representations in pop culture, such as music or films. Some examples include Alice yelling at Jack in the film Don’t Worry Darling, or songs like “Kiss With a Fist” by Florence + The Machine and “Violet” by Hole. Recently, I have seen increasing numbers of Tik Tok film scene compilations that feature screaming female characters, as well as playlists entitled “female rage” filled with songs that express pure frustration or fury. 

Young female audiences latch on to these depictions as a form of catharsis. It is refreshing, even thrilling, to see our rage be shown. This rage can come from so many sources—seemingly small issues that haven’t been given focus, not being listened to or understood, and of course the broad plights of women. Female rage is the final straw, a refusal to continue being silent.  

It could be argued that the interest in female rage is also a reaction to the glamorization of sadness. Sadness has long been romanticized—just think of the entire “sad girl” aesthetic and all of the female singers that capitalize on melancholy. This is because sadness is more easily feminized (and is often considered inherently feminine) as it is inwardly focused and self-destructive. Anger, on the other hand, is focused outward and is considered a more dangerous emotion. Therefore, it is rarely shown—and when it is shown, it is villainized. 

Women often don’t feel comfortable expressing anger because they fear being labeled as too much, unattractive or crazy. Female rage releases all of these fears and demonstrates to the world what it looks like to be pushed to the brink. It is liberating to finally be able to express this anger, but it doesn’t come easy—it’s almost always the result of ongoing repression. 

Acknowledging this repression is essential, as is investigating the reasons for women’s anger. Anger does not exist in a vacuum; it is a direct result of circumstances that need to be addressed. The fact that anger is often a call to action further emphasizes its importance. This ties into feminist philosopher Amia Srinivasan’s 2018 essay “The Aptness of Anger,” in which she establishes that anger is not counterproductive, as some might argue, but rather a fitting response to injustice. Unfortunately, those who express anger in response to their own oppression are often told to tone down their emotions in order to ensure more “productive” discussion—an easy example is women being told to “calm down” without their anger being validated. Srinivasan refers to this phenomenon as affective injustice.                                                                                                  

It must also be remarked that there is still an imbalance even within these expressions of anger. Celebrated expressions of female rage most frequently feature white women, which indicates that there are unjust levels of acceptance towards women’s expression of anger. 

The more intersectional a woman’s identity, the more “threatening” her anger becomes to oppressors and, therefore, the less it is accepted. So while it’s exciting to see women’s anger be spotlighted, there is still a long way to go in ensuring every woman is heard and addressing the causes of their anger. 

To me, this is the main point that female rage is trying to make: women have every right to be angry. That anger is there for a reason, and it deserves to be listened to. 

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