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By Marie-Claire Chappet
he economic fallout from Covid has been so specifically onerous for women that it has been dubbed ‘the shecession,’ with women’s earnings down by 12.9% - nearly double the reduction for men. In 2020, domestic violence in the UK affected 2.3 million people, the majority of whom were women and, just last month, MP Stella Creasy was recently told she could not bring her three-month-old nursing baby into the house of commons.
How many times have you bitten your tongue this month, or experienced an act of everyday sexism, and why aren’t we all angrier about it?
Despite ample reasons for mass fury, a large-scale, united anger of women globally is rarely seen. Feminist outrage is plastered across Instagram and permeates many a millennial WhatsApp group every day, but are women merely sitting in silos of fury, ingesting bad news stories, and depressing statistics but ultimately…doing nothing?
There is, of course, the sense that many women see anger as futile.
“Hysteria derives from the Greek word for womb and women’s ‘emotions’ have been weaponised against them for millennia”
Could it be that female rage has terrible PR? Historically, women’s anger has been demonised, politicised, belittled, and ridiculed. Hysteria derives from the Greek word for womb and women’s ‘emotions’ have been weaponised against them for millennia, causing a legacy of viewing women’s anger as crazy or irrational, with the damaging stereotypes of the ‘angry feminist’ and the ‘angry Black woman.’ As a result, women are either gaslit into silence or slowly socially conditioned into suppressing their rage to seem palatable or attractive. ‘‘There’s a lot to be angry about,’ says Monika Radojevic, Women’s Equality Party staffer and author of the fairly rageful poetry collection Teeth in the Back of My Neck. “But, rage can be destructive, and it needs to be productive. We need the kind that galvanises us.’
Women today have seen decades of feminist uprisings, enough to know that- while there have been many victories (the vote, the Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Act) much has remained the same. The recent incident with Creasy shows how square-peg-round-hole our power structures still are, with not only scant considerations for women, but an actual lack of space for them in a framework built by and for men. ‘We’re losing these moments that have historically shown the power of constructive rage like the marches of the 1960s and the suffragettes,’ says Radojevic.
Brief pockets of energy – like the Women’s March in 2017, when 100,000 protested the election of Trump – have dwindled, and numbers at the subsequent Women’s Marches were greatly reduced, even before the pandemic. ‘You don’t see anything working, life is getting harder and more expensive, and rage takes energy,’ Radojevic continues. ‘How can you have that energy if you're a mom of two, working 24/7 and being crippled by childcare costs? And let’s not forget there are also measures being put through parliament which mean protest is being heavily clamped down on. You're getting in trouble for being angry, and - if you're a person of colour, you're getting criminalised for being angry, even if that anger is justifiable.’
Perhaps women need a cause as uniting as those their mothers and grandmothers marched for. In early 2021, they got one, with the brutal murder of Sarah Everard. The outrage which followed caused hundreds to protest in March this year, and even clash with police on Clapham common after a vigil was stamped down on. Everard’s death proved, in its own perverse way, a great leveller. The fact she was a white middle class woman is relevant. In a still racialised society, Everard easily became the ‘everywoman.’ Her death simultaneously rallied women together and made glaringly apparent how little concern is comparably afforded women of colour.
“Rage can be destructive, and it needs to be productive. We need the kind that galvanises us”
It proved to Chloe Grace Laws, founder of FGrls Club, what she sees in the feminists of old: ‘The suffragettes were largely fighting for white women and few of the feminists of the 1960s were considering LGBTQ+ rights at all,’ she says. With women today fighting for their lives on many different battlegrounds – sexuality, race, class, religion, gender identity, the banner of ‘feminism’ may not cut it. ‘If you’re not considering intersectionality, how can you expect female rage to be united?’ she asks.
Yet one group which has accomplished much from harnessing female rage is Pregnant Then Screwed, a motherhood discrimination organisation which came into its own during the pandemic. Their fury was unleashed online accompanied by free legal advice for mothers, large scale petitions and consistent lobbying of parliament. Though the pandemic grounded their physical protests, like their ‘March of the Mummies’ on Halloween in 2017, their ire since 2020 has seen results; from helping to end the practice of women giving birth alone to, this November, actually holding the government to account for discriminating maternity leave takers during the Covid financial scheme. ‘When you pool resources and agree on a clear message, you can create the most noise about a subject and achieve the cut through you need to get those in power to listen,’ says the group’s campaigns and communications manager, Lauren Fabianski. ‘We’re huge believers in the power of collaboration and bringing together people who are just as angry as we are.’
‘That’s an example of good rage,’ agrees Radojevic.‘We need to make ours have purpose. We need to normalise and accept women’s anger and, crucially, we should no longer be afraid to show it.’
Historically, women’s anger has been demonised, politicised, belittled, and ridiculed. We need to normalise and accept women’s anger and, crucially, we should no longer be afraid to show it
By Marie-Claire Chappet
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