I’m sure we’ve all heard it before. The old “Why are you so angry?” Or “You’re such and angry, angry person!” Any time we speak up about an injustice, or show passion for a cause, this is the accusation that comes at us to try to derail us from our objectives.
It’s an incredibly passive-aggressive method of derailing an argument. Particularly when coupled with those concern-troll statements like “I worry about you.” or “I really hope you find peace.” Oh vomit! What they’re really implying when they pull the old “you’re angry” defense, is that you’re too emotional, or you’re too aggressive, or too simply “you’re right but I want to save face”.
What it also does is attempt to shame you for having emotional reactions to something, for being angry or passionate or outspoken. Women are supposed to be “lady-like”, demure, not make a fuss, not get too emotional, keep their opinions to themselves. People rarely criticise a man for being passionate about a topic, or about stating his opinions. Men are supposed to be assertive. But women who display these behaviours are scolded for not being “lady-like”.
What year are we living in? 1911?
Here’s the thing. Anger is a perfectly valid emotion. I know, shocking isn’t it? And anger at things like injustice, loathing, bullying, stigmatisation and shaming is perfectly justified. We have every right to be angry at the way the world treats fat people. The same as any other marginalised group of people has every right to be angry at the oppression they suffer. The idea of shaming people for anger at oppression isn’t new – after all, the trope of the “uppity negro” has been used for centuries. Damn straight we’re angry at fat hatred! I defy anyone to face that kind of outright loathing and bullying that fat people face every single day, and not be angry at it.
Sure, anger can consume you, and that’s not a good thing. If something makes you so angry that you’re unable to function because of it, then yes, it can become a problem – particularly as prolonged anger is a form of stress, and we all know stress is damaging to the mind and body. But anger is also a valid emotion that fuels action when channeled properly. There is nothing at all wrong with using anger to propel yourself into action. There is nothing wrong with expressing anger (only when expressing it with violence) at injustice and oppression. In fact, I believe it’s vital to vent that anger. Expressing anger doesn’t mean that someone is an angry person, or is in any way angry all the time. I can get as foot stomping, table thumping angry as anyone but really I’m as happy as Larry generally speaking. I’m an optimist with a goofy sense of humour, yet that doesn’t mean I’m never angry.
The only thing I don’t condone when it comes to anger is when people use anger to be violent. There is never an excuse for violence, no matter how angry someone or something makes you.
But I also want to talk about other things that are conflated with anger. Particularly passion and outspokenness, and especially in women. It seems that the minute a woman is passionate or outspoken about a topic, it is assumed that she is angry. Having strong opinions and voicing them is seen as somehow aggressive and irate and overly emotional in women, where usually it is seen as assertive and confident in men. I’ve had people say to me “You’re pretty opinionated.” in a tone that clearly expresses their disapproval with that fact, as though I’m supposed to apologise for having an opinion or being passionate about things.
Yeah, that’s not gonna happen folks.
Passion is an awesome thing. I love passionate people. They inspire me. I have no time for cynicism or complacency in my life. It’s boring and counter-productive. When I’m surrounded by passionate people, who fire my passions, there is nothing I cannot achieve. Passion is what had me fighting my way through high school when I was expected to leave and get a full time job at 15, writing my first novel at 16 (damn I should try to get that thing published!), starting a radio station at 21 years of age, travelling around the US on my own, working my way into a job that I love and am constantly challenged by, and taking up fat activism. Passion is what propels me through life with gusto. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives half-heartedly, without ever feeling any strong emotions. That sounds as boring as batshit to me!
If something makes you angry, and you want to express that anger, then vent that anger (non-violently of course). If someone pisses you off, and you are in a position that you can do so… then say so! We all have to bite our tongues from time to time, but learning to vent your anger appropriately is so powerful, especially when you refuse to be shamed for it. Build a network of people you can trust, and who understand that your venting anger is in no way a commentary on them, and let rip! Be there for those people when they need a good old vent too.
If you have an opinion on something, make yourself a space somewhere (be it a blog, a letter to the editor, your Facebook or Twitter) and share that opinion. Sometimes people will have different opinions to you. That’s ok. Sometimes you will find yourself shifting your opinion when you listen to other people, sometimes their opinions will shift when they listen to yours. Other times you each will strengthen your own opinions and always differ… and guess what, the world doesn’t end. Sometimes if it is something truly important to you, you find yourself having to move away from that person. But other people, who feel the same way you do, will come into your life.
But most of all, please, please, please celebrate your passions. Share your passions. Live your passions. And by doing so, you inspire those of us who are not afraid of passion.