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My lingering thoughts on feminine rage portrayed in the media

My lingering thoughts on feminine rage portrayed in the media

I’ve been looking for reasons why I should start watching The Menu. Well, aside from just seeing Anya Taylor Joy in all her glory. I’ve started reading reviews and watching videos. That’s when I stumbled upon her interview with Nicholas Hoult and BBC Radio 1’s film critic, Ali Plumb. She mentioned something about the feminine rage that stuck with me. 

“I have a thing about feminine rage… This is no disrespect for any writer, I get a lot of men doing really terrible things and women sitting silently while one tear slowly falls. And, I’m like, ‘Oh, no, no no. We get mad and angry.’ I remember pulling Mark (The Menu director) aside and saying, ‘I’m really sorry. But, the only way to play this truthfully is for me to attack him.’”

Anya Taylor Joy on feminine rage (TIMESTAMP: 6:28 – 6:58)

And, you know what, she is genuinely right on that part. That’s why people should see the ‘real’ feminine rage in TV and movies.

I mean, who does that? When a man does something horrible, what woman actually sits silently with one tear slowly running down her cheek? And, Anya isn’t the only woman saying something about feminine rage. Whether it’s in a book, a movie, a TV series, a song, or even a post on social media, women have talked about the same thing. Even Grammy award-winner Taylor Swift mentioned a similar thing in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning.

“A man does something, it’s strategic; a woman does the same thing, it’s calculated. A man is allowed to react; a woman can only overreact.”

Taylor Swift on sexism in the music industry

Because that’s the thing. A woman’s anger and feminine rage are often diminished and used as a punchline, especially in movies or television series. There’s the punchline for the nagging wife or the crazy and dramatic girlfriend. And, a lot of people don’t bat an eye. Why? Because they see women getting mad and it’s treated as an annoyance rather than something to take seriously.

It’s the fact that women are always called too emotional. But, then, women are expected to react minimally when a man does something psychotic. It is not normal and healthy for women to just sit there silently like men love to portray women. Women are not decorations or trophies. We are humans who have emotions… and yes, feminine rage is included in that range that we feel.

Even Pitt News’ Anna Fischer talks about how society has disrespected female rage. She points out that emotions of anger are perceived as powerful and authoritative in men. However, they have been deemed unnatural in women. Of course, she noted that when a woman is angry, she’s always asked whether or not she’s on her period. Oh, don’t forget, that she needs to “calm down.” Fischer would, then, go on to name the epitome of the ridicule of feminine rage. 

“The epitome of the ridicule of feminine rage is the ‘angry Black woman stereotype,’ which twists and demonizes valid anger toward oppression in Black women into a hostile and aggressive caricature of legitimate feelings of frustration.”

Anna Fischer on embracing feminine rage

And, personally, there have been times when I felt anger — deep-rooted anger — that I didn’t feel was valid enough to even act on. 

I was twenty-three years old and at that time, I had become the interim editor-in-chief of Village Pipol Magazine. Although I didn’t like being in charge of the entirety of the magazine as I was having fun as part of the editorial team, I did my job diligently and took it seriously.

Unfortunately, I was a twenty-something-year-old young woman. And, apparently, nobody listens to someone who wears trendy pink clothing in a meeting. Although it was my idea being presented, it didn’t feel like it. The men would turn their heads to the other men in the room, instead of asking me about it.

I was the editor-in-chief and nobody listened to me. Unfortunately, that got too deep into my head. And, it quickly became one of the reasons why I stepped down and settled to be a senior editor of the same magazine. 

It wasn’t professional of me to get angry but I kept it down, despite feeling disrespected. I cried the moment I arrived home. Society had taught me that I wasn’t allowed to be angry. And, I’m exhausted of suppressing my anger just because it makes the men around me uncomfortable.

It’s like they’re allowed to disrespect me but I’m not meant to call them out. It’s unfair. Anger is powerful. And, a woman having the opportunity to act on her feminine rage is even more than that. Maybe that’s why patriarchy has suppressed it all along. 

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That’s why I feel excited when I see a woman, even if she’s a female fictional character, acting on her feminine rage.

But, the thing is, throughout history, feminine rage in the media and even in literature has always been written and depicted for the male gaze. That’s why it reaffirms sexist stereotypes. There’s the bullied girl who releases her fury to those who destroyed her first. Then, there’s the scorned wife who plots against her cheating husband. Of course, there’s the rape victim or a friend of the survivor who exacts violent revenge on her attackers. And, I think even with those phrases, you already know which movies I’m trying to mention. Carrie, Gone Girl, and Ms. 45 (or even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the Promising Young Woman).

When women get written with anger powerful enough to make it into a story or a movie or a book, they become villains in the public eye. And, it clearly implies that feminine rage is an irrational emotion. Then, the word ‘crazy’ is inserted to question an angry woman’s capability to make a sound judgment. Thus, it effectively silents her and any woman in the room. 

But, when a woman is acting on her anger, she is judged and belittled even more.

That’s what Kimberly John Bautista mentioned in an article in Esquire. To avoid being called ‘hostile,’ ‘catty,’ or even ‘bitchy,’ women repress that ‘I am angry’ statement. Then, we substitute it with ‘I’m just disappointed’ or ‘I’m frustrated.’ And, even then, women are still judged for feeling that way. It makes us smaller even more than we already feel. 

“Today, there is plenty to be angry about. Furious, even. We continue to live in a world where respect is hard-earned rather than intrinsic. A society where women have to maintain composure and poise in any given situation if they wish to be taken seriously; all while watching men cruise through life effortlessly, doesn’t matter if they have the emotional intelligence of a toddler.”

Kimberly John Bautista on why female rage are all the rage

Emma Clifton even listed the best fictional pieces that channel righteous feminine rage. These include Yellowjackets, Double Jeopardy, The Good Fight, Hidden Figures, Killing Eve, and Revenge among others. However, film critic Laura Mulvey pointed out that the sexual politics of looking suggests an objectification of women to cater to masculine scopophilia. That is, the sexual pleasure involved in looking. And, essentially, the female character is treated less like a person with agency. They are also positioned more as an object placed in the frame for heterosexual male desire. And, that… is genuinely real and laughably infuriating. 

But, there is something I read from Aradhana Choudhury about the term ‘female rage’ itself. 

“The fact that we have to label the rage women present on screen as female rage, like many other labels, implies how often it is assumed that the rage women experience, like their characters, is one-dimensional. The female gaze brings out the various nuances behind such anger and its subsequent consequences, allowing for more fleshed-out female characters who have more to them than their bodies.”

Aradhana Choudhury on women’s anger onscreen

And, that is why we need more healthy portrayals of feminine rage as much as we need more healthy portrayals of masculine emotions.

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