I am not the first feminist blogger to write about the 'f' word and the hostile reaction it can receive. I am with Sarah Waters on this one ('Surely the real question should be, not 'Why are you a feminist?' but 'Why aren't you one?') but right now I want to focus on why, differences aside, feminists are often labelled 'angry' and the harm this can cause.
The first thing to note is that there is no single definition of a feminist; the term encompasses a spectrum of ideas (yes this is another pet hate, we feminists don't all have the same opinions on everything). Some are more politically active than others, embarking on protests and marches. Some are socialists, liberals, environmentalists, post structuralists. Some may have 'extreme' opinions, others less 'radical' (depending, of course, how you define extreme and radical).
The non-feminist may disagree with some feminist opinions within this range and thus not want to be swept under the broad brush of the term. Some may totally disagree with the core principles of feminism. Others may just be apathetic, getting passionate about things other than feminism (yes I admit there may be other things to care about.) Working for an organisation that encourages discussion and debate, differences of opinion are not my concern here.
So then, where does the angry part come in? Indeed sometimes a feminist may get angry. Any person with political or ethical views (or of course, just any person) may get angry. But there is something more commonplace about the term 'angry feminist'. A friend tweeted the other day that someone had called her an angry feminist, 'which makes me angry' she said. I suspect that she was not showing signs of anger when she had been on the receiving end of that remark (as I've also been referred to as an 'angry feminist 'in the past). This means the 'angry' part was referring to her opinions rather than her composure. Do certain opinions and beliefs make 'angry' a part of your identity? Hearing certain opinions and beliefs can make someone angry, yes (this happens every time I pick up a certain tabloid).Similarly a person can be passionate about the views and sometimes display anger in doing so. Calling someone 'angry' simply for having strong views however is a misuse of the term. At best this is confusing, at worst counterproductive.
This is where the vicious cycle begins. Why does calling the feminist angry make him or her angry?
Firstly to misuse the term devalues and ridicules their opinion, calling someone angry is akin to saying they are 'hysterical' (a word that actually derives from the greek for 'womb') or too emotional to engage with discussion. This dismissive attitude gives the offender an excuse not to debate with the feminist. Secondly, as many feminists are women, this dismissing of opinion has greatly affected women's engagement in past discourse (women being deemed too 'emotional' and not 'rational' enough for political debate) and is something feminists stand against.
The third problem is that it the term 'angry feminist' labels feminists as purely reactionary and vindictive. This disregards the philosophy of the ideology; furthermore it ignores the subtleties and differing opinions of feminists, creating another broad brush stereotype.
Feminists are about fighting stereotypes on many levels. Please don't stereotype us further. This does make us angry.