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  • Translator: Ellen Maloney

  • So sometimes I get angry,

  • and it took me many years to be able to say just those words.

  • In my work,

  • sometimes my body thrums, I'm so enraged.

  • But no matter how justified my anger has been,

  • throughout my life,

  • I've always been led to understand that my anger is an exaggeration,

  • a misrepresentation,

  • that it will make me rude and unlikable.

  • Mainly as a girl, I learned, as a girl, that anger is an emotion

  • better left entirely unvoiced.

  • Think about my mother for a minute.

  • When I was 15, I came home from school one day,

  • and she was standing on a long veranda outside of our kitchen,

  • holding a giant stack of plates.

  • Imagine how dumbfounded I was when she started to throw them like Frisbees...

  • (Laughter)

  • into the hot, humid air.

  • When every single plate had shattered into thousands of pieces

  • on the hill below,

  • she walked back in and she said to me, cheerfully, "How was your day?"

  • (Laughter)

  • Now you can see how a child would look at an incident like this

  • and think that anger is silent, isolating, destructive, even frightening.

  • Especially though when the person who's angry is a girl or a woman.

  • The question is why.

  • Anger is a human emotion, neither good nor bad.

  • It is actually a signal emotion.

  • It warns us of indignity, threat, insult and harm.

  • And yet, in culture after culture, anger is reserved as the moral property

  • of boys and men.

  • Now, to be sure, there are differences.

  • So in the United States, for example,

  • an angry black man is viewed as a criminal,

  • but an angry white man has civic virtue.

  • Regardless of where we are, however, the emotion is gendered.

  • And so we teach children to disdain anger in girls and women,

  • and we grow up to be adults that penalize it.

  • So what if we didn't do that?

  • What if we didn't sever anger from femininity?

  • Because severing anger from femininity means we sever girls and women

  • from the emotion that best protects us from injustice.

  • What if instead we thought about developing emotional competence

  • for boys and girls?

  • The fact is we still remarkably socialize children

  • in very binary and oppositional ways.

  • Boys are held to absurd, rigid norms of masculinity --

  • told to renounce the feminine emotionality of sadness or fear

  • and to embrace aggression and anger as markers of real manhood.

  • On the other hand, girls learn to be deferential,

  • and anger is incompatible with deference.

  • In the same way that we learned to cross our legs and tame our hair,

  • we learned to bite our tongues and swallow our pride.

  • What happens too often is that for all of us,

  • indignity becomes imminent in our notions of femininity.

  • There's a long personal and political tale to that bifurcation.

  • In anger, we go from being spoiled princesses and hormonal teens,

  • to high maintenance women and shrill, ugly nags.

  • We have flavors, though; pick your flavor.

  • Are you a spicy hot Latina when you're mad?

  • Or a sad Asian girl? An angry black woman? Or a crazy white one?

  • You can pick.

  • But in fact, the effect is that when we say what's important to us,

  • which is what anger is conveying,

  • people are more likely to get angry at us for being angry.

  • Whether we're at home or in school or at work or in a political arena,

  • anger confirms masculinity, and it confounds femininity.

  • So men are rewarded for displaying it,

  • and women are penalized for doing the same.

  • This puts us at an enormous disadvantage,

  • particularly when we have to defend ourselves and our own interests.

  • If we're faced with a threatening street harasser, predatory employer,

  • a sexist, racist classmate,

  • our brains are screaming, "Are you kidding me?"

  • And our mouths say, "I'm sorry, what?"

  • (Laughter)

  • Right?

  • And it's conflicting because the anger gets all tangled up

  • with the anxiety and the fear and the risk and retaliation.

  • If you ask women what they fear the most in response to their anger,

  • they don't say violence.

  • They say mockery.

  • Think about what that means.

  • If you have multiple marginalized identities, it's not just mockery.

  • If you defend yourself, if you put a stake in the ground,

  • there can be dire consequences.

  • Now we reproduce these patterns not in big, bold and blunt ways,

  • but in the everyday banality of life.

  • When my daughter was in preschool, every single morning

  • she built an elaborate castle -- ribbons and blocks --

  • and every single morning the same boy knocked it down gleefully.

  • His parents were there, but they never intervened before the fact.

  • They were happy to provide platitudes afterwards:

  • "Boys will be boys."

  • "It's so tempting, he just couldn't help himself."

  • I did what many girls and women learn to do.

  • I preemptively kept the peace,

  • and I taught my daughter to do the same thing.

  • She used her words.

  • She tried to gently body block him.

  • She moved where she was building in the classroom, to no effect.

  • So I and the other adults mutually constructed a particular male entitlement.

  • He could run rampant and control the environment,

  • and she kept her feelings to herself and worked around his needs.

  • We failed both of them by not giving her anger the uptake

  • and resolution that it deserved.

  • Now that's a microcosm of a much bigger problem.

  • Because culturally, worldwide,

  • we preference the performance of masculinity

  • and the power and privilege that come with that performance

  • over the rights and needs and words of children and women.

  • So it will come as absolutely no surprise, probably, to the people in this room

  • that women report being angrier in more sustained ways and with more intensity

  • than men do.

  • Some of that comes from the fact that we're socialized to ruminate,

  • to keep it to ourselves and mull it over.

  • But we also have to find socially palatable ways

  • to express the intensity of emotion that we have

  • and the awareness that it brings of our precarity.

  • So we do several things.

  • If men knew how often women were filled with white hot rage when we cried,

  • they would be staggered.

  • (Laughter)

  • We use minimizing language.

  • "We're frustrated. No, really, it's OK."

  • (Laughter)

  • We self-objectify and lose the ability

  • to even recognize the physiological changes that indicate anger.

  • Mainly, though, we get sick.

  • Anger has now been implicated in a whole array of illnesses

  • that are casually dismissed as "women's illnesses."

  • Higher rates of chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, disordered eating,

  • mental distress, anxiety, self harm, depression.

  • Anger affects our immune systems, our cardiovascular systems.

  • Some studies even indicate that it affects mortality rates,

  • particularly in black women with cancer.

  • I am sick and tired of the women I know being sick and tired.

  • Our anger brings great discomfort,

  • and the conflict comes because it's our role to bring comfort.

  • There is anger that's acceptable.

  • We can be angry when we stay in our lanes and buttress the status quo.

  • As mothers or teachers,

  • we can be mad, but we can't be angry about the tremendous costs of nurturing.

  • We can be angry at our mothers.

  • Let's say, as teenagerspatriarchal rules and regulations

  • we don't blame systems, we blame them.

  • We can be angry at other women, because who doesn't love a good catfight?

  • And we can be angry at men with lower status in an expressive hierarchy

  • that supports racism or xenophobia.

  • But we have an enormous power in this.

  • Because feelings are the purview of our authority,

  • and people are uncomfortable with our anger.

  • We should be making people comfortable with the discomfort they feel

  • when women say no, unapologetically.

  • We can take emotions and think in terms of competence and not gender.

  • People who are able to process their anger and make meaning from it

  • are more creative, more optimistic,

  • they have more intimacy,

  • they're better problem solvers,

  • they have greater political efficacy.

  • Now I am a woman writing about women and feelings,

  • so very few men with power

  • are going to take what I'm saying seriously, as a matter of politics.

  • We think of politics and anger in terms of the contempt and disdain and fury

  • that are feeding a rise of macho-fascism in the world.

  • But if it's that poison, it's also the antidote.

  • We have an anger of hope, and we see it every single day

  • in the resistant anger of women and marginalized people.

  • It's related to compassion and empathy and love,

  • and we should recognize that anger as well.

  • The issue is that societies that don't respect women's anger don't respect women.

  • The real danger of our anger isn't that it will break bonds or plates.

  • It's that it exactly shows how seriously we take ourselves,

  • and we expect other people to take us seriously as well.

  • When that happens, chances are very good

  • that women will be able to smile when they want to.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause) (Cheers)

Translator: Ellen Maloney

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B2 US TED anger angry emotion femininity masculinity

【TED】Soraya Chemaly: The power of women's anger (The power of women's anger | Soraya Chemaly)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2019/02/28
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