Not To Sound Like an Angry Feminist...

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, 1921, by John Singer Sargent.

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Anger is powerful. Anger is useful. If you insult me at the bowling alley, I am bound to bowl a strike right after. I tend to utilize anger in three areas: passive aggressive, the rare occasions where I engage in competitions, and talking about feminist issues. Not to sound like an angry feminist, but there is a lot to be angry about on that front.

In the eyes of the world, the only thing worse than being a feminist is being an angry feminist. Usually, angry is a placeholder for irrational. “Stop shouting, stop making a scene,” they say. “Don’t you realize you’re only hurting your cause?” I’ve always found such critics ridiculous. People become feminists because the world is not right. No, not every feminist is burning their bras or swearing off men. But I can assure you that almost every feminist—every thinking human being, actually—is angry about something. I don’t remember when I first learned what rape was, but for years I assumed that rape victims received widespread sympathy and support to bring their attackers to justice. When I learned just how wrong I’d been, I felt bitterly betrayed. Within my bruised disappointment with the world, I felt like the only option available to me was to seek out more about these miscarriages of justice.  Ever since the birth of the modern feminist movement, anger has been a driving force. Why is anger something that is respected in other groups, but not in feminists? Anger, after all, is only Passion’s more unsavory twin. Not to sound like an angry feminist, but I think I know the reason why: we are still not respected.

Susannah Heschel wrote that her rage as a feminist “turned to laughter at the absurdity of sexism and its defenders” after the publication of her book about Judaism and women. I admire Heschel and her ability to rise above it all. But she is a prominent scholar and author—from her view, of course sexists are utterly ridiculous. But from my perch as a “green” young blogger, as I become more and more acquainted with how seriously messed up things are, I find it very hard to laugh. The artists, the writers, the activists I admire the most are not with me on the ground. They have made their way to ivory towers of scholarship and politics. Like Heschel, they are above it all, or at least, above the fray. I envy their cool and their grace so much. But before I can be wise, I must try my hand at rage for a while. Not to sound like an angry feminist, but being angry helps me stay engaged.

Anger is a conduit to curiosity. When I’m angry about, say, HIV/AIDS prevention in the developing world, I try to learn all I can. The knowledge I gain keeps them open, and learning new things makes me feel alive—as corny as it sounds, it’s true. Of course, keeping your eyes open can make them red and achy. Many times when articles about, say, police brutality up on my computer, I don’t click on them. I scroll past. I scroll past because sometimes, I get tired of the anger, because it feels good sometimes to be resigned.

The feeling does not last for too long, however. The anger replenishes in due time, like thirst. Even we angry feminists need time to recharge.   

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Feminism
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How to cite this page

Bayroff, ELiza. "Not To Sound Like an Angry Feminist...." 14 May 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 18, 2024) <>.