Soraya Chemaly on The Power of Women’s Anger talks about the ways in which women’s anger is often seen as an exaggeration and misrepresentation, which makes them rude and unlikeable.
She says, especially for women and girls we are taught that anger is silent, isolating and destructive. This is despite the fact that anger is a signal emotion which warns us of indignity, threat, insult or harm. Yet we are taught that it is an emotion reserved for men and boys.
My question then follows, if we have so gendered this emotion, what happens, when the indignity, threat insult and harm are not aimed at men and boys? What happens to the signal at that point? The reaction has been the intimidation of those women who have chosen to express their anger at this.
I am starting to think a revolution, to be effective, and to bear impact must, by its very essence be distasteful to those who are comfortable with the oppression. It cannot be soft, understanding and gentle. It must be angry. It has to come from understanding that those revolting can no longer accept the things they cannot change! There is nothing serene about change bearing revolutions. They have always been uncomfortable.
Stella Nyanzi, Ugandan activist who is well known for publicly criticising Museveni and the many arrests which have resulted from her radical rudeness, insists that “challenging power isn’t polite!” She has been accused of using language that is vulgar, indecent and lewd.
As a result, she has been prosecuted, time and again, often, in an effort to warn those who wish to follow her line of activism, by employing radical rudeness, and to intimidate them out of same. I tend to think the more radical the activism, the more necessary it is!
The space for protest, difference and therefore holding leadership accountable in various forms, is shrinking, recently.
This shrinkage has brought with it systematic attacks on human rights in general, but more specifically, in women’s and other marginalised communities’ rights. Various structural barriers and negative trends are visible across the African region.
Accusations and judicial proceedings against activists and NGOs as well as the arrests of human rights defenders, those who question government’s shortcomings in protecting women against gender-based violence (GBV), as well as the failure to prioritise same, is evidence of the shrinking civic space – an undesirable state.
So of course women are angry. In fact, those who aren’t, should be. Patriarchy protects only itself! It has no care for anyone. So it will do what it has to, to ensure that the oppression of women is sustained; that their anger is silenced; that they do not loudly call out corrupt and immoral men, rapists and defilers.
Patriarchy makes sure that there is no urgency placed on responding to and preventing GBV. So when a young woman, on her own
It challenges the unnameable things which ensure that women remain vulnerable to violence.
It threatens to uproot them, or at the very least, force those in leadership to face them. In simple terms, it is a “look at this really big problem! What are you gonna do about it?!” but it is viewed as something else, completely.
The reality is that “our lives are at risk 24/7”! We would hope that this horrible state would cause those around us the lack of restful sleep it causes us. We are not expecting a force to silence our anger, and call it by other names.
We know that our deaths are glaringly visible, and that a national address on the future publication of a sex offender’s registry, from a conversation which has been ongoing for almost five years now, is no longer sufficient.
It is no longer enough to merely acknowledge that the abuse of women and children continues to be a problem in our country. Women simply want to feel safe, without feeling like our safety and security is a threat to national security, as it is made to seem.
Resego Kgosidintsi’s call is viewed with disdain by those who can afford to. It feels that way for those who are sure they will not lose their lives at the hands of a stranger or loved one.
What it is for those who understand the extent of the problem, is evidence of how desperate women have gotten at the indignity, threat, insult and harm. It is a demand for more attention – the same attention we were promised in election campaigns.
It is a cry! It is also an expression of anger! It says women’s lives and their bodies are important, too! It is a reminder that women’s anger can also be ruthless. What it is not, is a threat of violence – not in the ways of warranting an arrest. Women know violence.
It has been visited on them one too many a time. They know how it works and the responses it solicits. In reading Kgosidintsi’s call to action, I think most visibly, we should understand that women can and should be angry about the violence against them. And that it is no longer enough to just talk at them about it, because they too know violence.