“Throughout history, angry women have been called harpies, bitches, witches, and whores. They’ve been labeled hysterical, crazy, dangerous, delusional, bitter, jealous, irrational, emotional, dramatic, vindictive, petty, hormonal; they’ve been shunned, ignored, drugged, locked up, and killed; kept in line with laws and threats and violence, and with insidious, far-reaching lies about the very nature of what it means to be a woman—that a woman should aspire to be a lady, and that ladies don’t get angry. Millennia of conditioning is hard to unlearn.”
If you’ve ever been called any of the above, or been told that you’re “not acting like a lady,” welcome to the club. It’s fun here, because we’re ANGRY!
I’ve spent a lot of therapy sessions talking about my anger: why it’s there, why I’m ashamed of it, and why I’m hesitant to let myself feel angry. It’s a terrible experience, being told you’re not allowed to yell when you’re mad, or that “you’re too emotional” when others around you (men) are acting how you want to act. So, when I first saw this collection of essays, I knew I had to read it. Feminist non-fiction is one of my favourite genres, and I’m always looking for more.
This collection includes essays from 22 incredibly diverse women, and a forward from the editor. It was a very quick read, and let me experience a whirlwind of emotion. Each experience is different; some may leave you in tears, whereas others will fill you with hope, and some, rather aptly, will leave you seething with anger.
Anger manifests in many ways, and is caused because of countless reasons: illness, harassment, sexual assault, disrespect, violence, and more. Sometimes we may not understand someone’s anger, and that’s when we need to stop and listen to their story. Everyone has different experiences that fuel different emotions, and they’re all valid.
One essay in particular really resonated with me: “Why We Cry When We’re Angry,” by Marissa Korbel. My friends who know me well know that I cry a lot. Yes, I cry when I’m sad, but I also cry when I’m overwhelmed and stressed, and holy shit, I cry a lot when I’m angry. It’s awkward at times, and embarrassing, and can make me feel even worse than I already do, but this is how my anger tends to show itself. It often feels like a complicated mess, and I was so happy to read this essay and know that someone else feels their angry in a similar way.
Not all tears are sadness. Not all rage is yelling. Sometimes the wires between one thing and another get crossed, synaptic fizzles. Sometimes it comes out as a sigh, or a thud, or a whimper. Sometimes it looks like tears and tastes like fury.
Burn It Down is obviously full of anger, but it’s also full of acceptance and hope. It allowed me to explore new ways to feel my anger and allow myself to make room for it, and it showed me how other women deal with similar experiences. It also showed me many other experiences—some I’d never even thought of before—and the strength and courage it takes to deal with them in a healthy way.
I’d like to say that this book is essential reading, because everyone will learn something from it. It’s a quick read, and will give you new ways to reflect and think about anger.
Thank you to HBG Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Burn It Down: Women Writing About Anger came out on October 8, 2019, and can be purchased wherever books are sold.