Should Feminism be Angry?
Today is a big day- I get to officially unveil a project I’ve been working on for weeks. A group of writers, including me, have created a website dedicated to promoting strong female characters in literature. Check us out!
My friend Amy who started the group said she wanted to promote any type of female character, “Who could not be replaced by a sexy floor lamp with a post-it-note on it.” (This expression comes from: here.) I thought this was an absolutely tart & hilarious way of summing up the problem: too often female characters in literature are just there to look pretty and perhaps advance the plot mechanics by delivering a piece of information. They don’t have enough action, enough agency, enough internal narrative. And they are often jammed into stereotypical boxes.
When we brainstormed topics, I was fascinated by the following suggestions from the group: “women can be assholes too,””female villains,” and “female anti-heroes.” It made me think about how the movement for “strong women” in literature has produced plenty of Buffy types, but very few people feel comfortable writing a dark, troubled, female protagonist or antagonist. That’s because society tells us ladies are supposed to be good little angels. (Keep an eye on our website, and you’ll hear me say more!)
BUT- speaking of how ladies are supposed to be good little angels, how do you feel about Angry Feminism? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It started a few months ago, when my dear friend Anna Leinberger posted a blog in which she called herself a “proudly angry feminist.” Then when I tweeted her post, a male Twitter friend responded with, “anger is something you should never be proud of.”
Yoda said, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side of the force.” So Yoda definitely comes out on the anti-anger side. But Yoda is missing the first link in his chain- where did that fear come from in the first place? Fear is a common response to powerful people being assholes. Stop victim-blaming, Yoda. Why are you blaming the person who is afraid, instead of the person who causes fear?
Anna says in her blog, “I am tired of other women patting themselves on the back for pointing out flaws in feminists, while living lives that they never would have had the opportunity to live without radical, ‘bra burning’ activists in the 70s.” So there’s also that to be said for anger- it gets things done.
I know the exact moment I shifted from being an absent-minded feminist to an angry one. I was returning books to the main San Francisco library branch, which is in a bad part of town. It was late in the evening, getting dark, and no one was around but a man who approached me and tried to chat with me. I gave a couple of terse, polite replies, but I didn’t really feel like talking. When he realized I was trying to get away, he started screaming at me that I was a stuck-up white bitch and that I’d better watch out, or he would hurt me.
I spent the train ride home fantasizing about kicking him in the nuts and beating him up. I never went back to that library again (leading to Amazon getting a bunch of my money in Kindle purchases.) I’ve also been obsessively reading Internet accounts of violence and harassment towards women. I usually am crying by the end of the article, but I can’t stop reading them. My fear drives me, imbues the negative pieces with an eerie fascination. Anger is the only thing that makes me feel better.
Rewriting Mary Sue has made the decision that angry feminism is not really our brand. Yes, we are definitely feminists- we promote the idea that women are people and thus should be written accordingly- but we’re focused on building something good, not destroying something evil. Why would you spend your time arguing with trolls, when you could be writing and reading amazing female characters instead?
Like Anna, I am proud of my anger. We always hear people saying, “Feminists shouldn’t be angry, it’s bad tactics and alienates people from the cause.” I don’t agree with that. To me, that argument always sounds like, “I would be more comfortable if you continued to be a sexy floor lamp for me.”
However, I AM very happy and comfortable with my group’s decision that we’re about shining the spotlight on the positive examples. It’s not that anger & negativity are bad- it’s that, well… you deserve your anger, but you also deserve all the good things. So don’t forget to give yourself the good things as well!
As I said on Twitter,
Because this is one victory that is available to us at any time, in any place. The ability to treat ourselves, the way other people should be treating us. Be good to yourselves, ladies.
Meet the other ladies of the Rewriting Mary Sue team by reading their blogs posts about our group’s launch: