Do me a favour, let me have a ‘meltdown’

  • Anger is gender neutral, after all

We live in the 21st century yet ideals of femininity that suppress women to the point of living a pantomime continue to be practiced with the sensibilities of medieval times. These ideals constrict women from expressing justified human behaviours, especially anger.

Emancipation from the orthodox ideals of femininity beyond a certain level and number of times deems a woman non compos mentis. A display of anger earns her titles like unstable, mad, bi-polar, crazy ex, raging bitch, psycho, feminazi, shrew, virago and controlling wife to name a few because female rage has been depicted as unnatural for millennia. It garners prejudiced automatic responses including both visual and verbal cues telling a woman she is abnormal, emotional and certainly not feminine.

An angry woman having control over her thoughts, defending her position with rational arguments is unfathomable for many. Its suppression has been normalised to the point that its expression startles both genders. She’s simply throwing a tantrum, having a meltdown. Because, you know, female hormones.

According to a 2015 study of Law and Human Behaviour, people are significantly likely to reject an angry female’s argument in comparison to an angry male’s even when they present the same reasons and opinions. In fact, the likelihood of people believing in the opposing opinion of an angry female is directly proportional to the amount of anger she exerts.

This skewed perception is one of the ways oppressors have used to continuously wriggle scot-free out of their injustices, it is how the propagators of ‘female hysteria’, patriarchal men, have maintained their positions and it is how women undermine fellow women.

An angry woman having control over her thoughts, defending her position with rational arguments is unfathomable for many

There is a large scale normalisation of gas lighting angry women because the concept of female anger has become such a demonised one that women doubt their own sanity and, worse, they readily doubt the validity of arguments made by other women. A 2008 study found similar results, men who express anger earn respect while women lose it.

Kathryn Mayorga, the woman who has accused Christiano Ronaldo of rape, is being called a slut. The public has jumped straight to character assassination even after it is clear that the soccer star bought her silence in an out-of-court settlement. Even after the newspaper that originally published the story claims to have possession of a 27-page document in which Ronaldo quotes: “She said no and stop several times.” It is relevant to mention here the GOAT has not followed through with any of the threats to take the newspaper to court.

Anyway, Mayorga could only be a liar, but no, she is a slut too. This is an insight into why a large majority of women who feel angered by something guard their status as a rational and respectable figure in society by simply digesting exploitations large and small. Doing so eventually becomes second nature to them.

Society tells women that they are emotional, not angry. Of course! It isn’t anger when they are unsafe on the streets. Of course, it isn’t anger when their partners abuse and cheat on them. Of course, it isn’t anger when strangers grope and molest them on public transport. And of course, it isn’t anger when they are domesticated like sub-humans, silenced by powerful predators, denied equal wage; basically, reduced to a life of suffocation.

On the other hand, there’s the example of the other woman; the sad one. The version of female anger we are historically accustomed to accepting. This woman responds to injustice by bursting into tears, retrieving into comatose sorrow and saying sorry on a loop.

Like the wounded heroines who collapse on beds and lean on pillars; an image of the ‘good and feminine’ woman Pakistani serials propagate under the guise of artistry. Rather than telling their abusers to shut up and sit down, they secretly cry in the kitchen, they ball their eyes out while dressing the children and they sob at work. If someone catches them off guard and questions the tears, they simply fake a smile and answer ‘no’.

The masses are conditioned to offer sympathy and respect to these palatable women. This is another reason why a large majority of women in our country mistakenly end up romanticising sadness, with the younger generations falling prey to decadent Insta-poets who glorify shattering into a million pieces as opposed to embracing something like Rafeef Ziadah’s Shades of Anger, real art exhibiting one of the many shades of red.

Although ideals of femininity are forced worldwide, coming of age in an Asian country, particularly a South Asian one, means that women are expected to be the paramount representations of feminine qualities. Ideals of traditional feminine characteristics like shyness, gentleness and superhuman levels of endurance are culturally ingrained in women to an extent that suppresses them more than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

As long as you are quiet and reserved, an Asian preference over expressiveness, you will be considered well-mannered and ‘shareef’. God forbid you are the woman who decides to stand up for herself and reject a pity party, you’re the next Medusa; uncouth and unrestrained. Congratulations! You are the vixen everyone loves to hate, the perfect cover for your passive or suppressed counterpart. You are the Yin to their Yang, it’s the wounded against the wicked; a formula the Pakistani media, patriarchal men and ill-meaning women routinely use to their benefit.

Us Pakistanis, we dote over our selfless women. Which is why female anger and public surprise over here go hand in hand in the public consciousness like Eid and sheer khorma.

While male anger is evaluated as a response to external circumstances, their anger seen as reaction or provocation, female rage is seen as a personality trait. Its angry young men in contrast to unhinged women.

The problem with making it look like a woman’s personality trait besides sexism is that it wrongly underestimates their intelligence and rationality. When men are angry, they rescue the damsel in distress and liberate countries. When women are angry, they burn the whole village down.

Disregarding a woman’s plight with demeaning vocabulary and actions implies that rage is the limit of our mental competence. And as if we unleash blind fury for no rhyme and reason.

So, how then did we secure the right to vote? How did we get the right to drive in Saudi Arabia? How did we pave our way into professional fields monopolised by men? How did we shed light on inequality on multiple levels?

Women haven’t been ethically handed the basic right to exist on their own terms. Their lives only have changed after the explicit expression of rage.

In any case, the bottom line is that anger is a natural and gender-neutral emotion that all human beings experience.