I stepped off the stage at the Brighton Dome - palms still clammy, heart still vibrating - after delivering a 13 minute spoken-word speech in front of 2,000 people. I was at TEDxBrighton: an event designed to challenge the norms, to inspire, to anger, to motivate. Waiting in the lobby for my friends and family, a member of the audience approached me.
"God, you were just so angry, weren't you?" he said.
Despite having a thesaurus of eloquence at my disposal, despite having studied English for three years at university, despite having just delivered a rhyming rant about racism in the beauty industry, I was left speechless.
Because his words were loaded, and his finger was poised over the trigger that would shatter my argument. I knew how this conversation was going to end. I've had it too many times before. The stereotype of the angry woman. The hysterical feminist. The bra-burner. The man-hater. The caricatures that are pulled out from dusty closets whenever a line of thought needs to be shut down.
And I'm actually pretty tired of it. It's reductive, and it's unsophisticated, and it's boring. It's a blunt tool used to silence indiscriminately, when the individual is too lazy, or too ignorant, to engage with the systems and structures which might make others angry.
Things like, well, I don't know, the patriarchy.
It's a knife used to cut differences between 'this' kind of feminist, and 'that' kind of feminist; between those who 'don't hate men' and those who hate the society we live in, which privileges white, cis, hetereosexual, able-bodied men. Because the patriarchy is sophisticated and oppression is sneaky, and this whole 'angry feminist' bullshit is another method of trying to weaken the movement. Now, usually I wouldn't waste my time or energy trying to convince someone just how valid my anger is. But it's happened too many times, and to too many of my friends, to let it go. This isn't a new argument, and I'm not going to be saying anything we haven't heard before - but I write in the hope that one of the many voices like mine will one day be heard.
It is Christmas, after all. And I'm feeling charitable.
The central problem is that anger is gendered. Type the word into Google Images and you'll be presented with lines of screaming, snarling men. Anger is a trait of the hot-blooded male, it seems. So when a woman is labelled angry, she is made unfeminine and, therefore, undesirable. In line with those wonderful heteronormative gender roles that we all know and love. And if cis women didn't give a shit about what cis men thought of then, then it'd probably all be fine. But the problem is that everything in our society is geared towards male ideals of beauty and success and power. It's insidious. Pushed inside our brains from our very first steps so that, often, we don't even realise it. We're living within a paradigm of power in which patriarchal privilege is praised above all else. And to challenge that is to be angry, and to be angry is to not fit in the nicely wrapped boxes given to us when we popped out the womb.
And so, we mitigate our experiences. We speak with hesitation. Reshaping our stories to be reasonable, rational or relatable. We have learned how to retell a narrative to stop others feeling uncomfortable. To avoid confrontation. To stop angering a man who, of course, would never do something you're describing. I mean, of course he would never touch a woman in a club, or wink at her on the street, or internally bemoan the state of women drivers. Of course he would never judge a woman on her body, or think a woman dressed in a short skirt was asking for it, or comment that a high-powered woman was high-maintenance. Of course not.
We have all laughed away derogatory comments. We've all brushed off an inappropriate stare. We've all moved carriages because someone made us feel unsafe. We've all swallowed our anger when being patronised.
Because we don't want to be angry. We recognise that anger is not a currency we can deal in.
But it should be. And we should be angry.
We should be angry that we live in a society where consent is branded as 'sexy', when it should be branded a necessity.
We should be angry that we are even having to talk about consent.
We should be angry that the only language we know and use for sex is violent. That women are smashed, and banged, and fucked rather than loved and touched.
And we should be furious that 100,000 women a year are raped, 77% of students across the country are sexually harassed, and two women a fortnight are murdered by their partners.
We should be angry that, thanks to government cuts to refuge shelters, those women will now have nowhere to go.
We should be angry that a trans woman is murdered every 29 hours.
We should be angry that women own 1% of the world's land and property.
We should be angry that only 18.3% of the world's members of parliaments are women.
We should be angry that 70% living on less than $1 a day (or equivalent) are women.
We should be fuming when a young girl gets beeped at by a faceless man in a car. When she is pressured into dieting and wearing make-up by glossy magazines that teach her how to be sexy, rather than happy. When she is told that to be sexy is to be happy because her worth is tied to what men think of her.
We should be pissed off that our mothers and sisters and aunties and friends are being socially, economically, politically and culturally abused by this society.
And, at the end of this, my anger should not be made palatable, washed down with a side of sedation to make it easier for you to swallow.
Because what I want - what my anger wants - is unapologetically difficult to swallow.
I want the eradication of oppression. I want to walk down the streets without the sensation of eyes on my skin. I want to order a meal in a restaurant without the waiter handing the bill to my partner. I want to be paid the same as men. I want to be offered that promotion. I want my body to be the only language my partner knows in the bedroom. I want to be taught to laugh. I want to love myself. I want my voice to be heard. And I want the voices of all those oppressed, beaten, silenced and discriminated against to be heard too.
I want the world to be a better place for my children, and their friends, to grow up.
And I'm angry that, right now, I've lost faith in my generation to make that happen.
My anger is valid and it is justified, and next time someone asks me if I'm angry, I'll have something to reply with:
"Yes I am angry. And why aren't you?"Suggest a correction