Women embracing their rage is crucial for progress.
When the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk wrote about rage in his book “Rage and Time” (referencing Heidegger’s “Being and Time”) he was concerned with analyzing the “psychopolitics of rage.” It’s a rage that he considered being the “energetic force that could possibly control humanity” — much stronger than eros and its uncertain forms of narcissism and its death drive. Perhaps the mistake made by modern civilization, during the strive for progress, was to create confusion and misunderstanding between rage and eros.
After all the socio-historical analyses in Sloterdijk’s book, we are introduced to the archaic term of rage, or “thymos,” first used in Homer’s Iliad as a dominant emotion. Sloterdijk’s book presents the different phases that human evolution has come to confront, beginning with epic battles over a vengeful God, to the victory of religious hegemony, then the mobilization of political masses that replace the hateful God with human figures, to the present day — where it remains to be understood where the rage has dispersed.
Sloterdijk explains how rage has “gone missing” in history and the forms through which it has been used as political compensation for the losers who have fallen victims to what he calls “eroticized economy” — the form of repressed rage and illusionary expectations that capitalism can suggest, in terms of lack and insufficiency and the desire to achieve more. But why is it important to discuss these illusionary and absurd concepts, if rage is still a toxic potential of destruction?
The eroticized economy is the original result of how powerful, greedy and impulsive men have constructed the framework of capitalism, making use of the repression of thymotic emotions, the accumulation of guilt for feeling these sinful emotions and the compulsive need to get rid of the latter, by creating an imaginary comfort space of escapism.
The dreamy character of capitalism appears to be the appeal of peace, security and prosperity, as well as the maintenance of fixed power relations so that these greedy, powerful and impulsive men can continue to secure their ownership of the means of production and in order for the patriarchal system to remain untouched in its nucleus.
Rage has been considered too powerful and dominant an emotion for girls to handle — but believe me, I can be very angry.
So far in Sloterdijk’s socio-historical analysis, we have only seen a bunch of angry men — from the wrathful white male God to the revolutionary mobilization of the masses — by, again, young angry men — until the present: the time of civilizational learning.
In his discourse, Sloterdijk seems to concentrate on the masses of angry young men that are perhaps found to be everywhere: angry young men in the Middle East, angry young men in the U.S. and angry young men in the Balkans. This gendered dimension of rage remains unclear — is it because anger and rage are intrinsically and solely connected to men?
Throughout history, women have been left out of this equation. Rage has been considered too powerful and dominant an emotion for girls to handle — but believe me, I can be very angry. I got angry the other day, when a man verbally assaulted me and my friends in the bus for laughing and talking, called us “stupid parrots” and told us that we needed a man to control us, to stop us from acting in that way. I got angry today when people looked at me with judgment, simply because I was wearing a short skirt.
I get angry when someone asks me about my future and then judges me for prioritizing my studies and career. I get angry when people tell me that I shouldn’t be angry, since anger is not a good look for cute little girls like me. I get angry when people automatically assume that I’m angry because I’m a feminist, since they think that feminists are angry all the time — that’s what they do.
The manner in which this emotion is managed by many women is somewhat ambiguous and confusing. A friend of mine once told me that when she gets angry and is about to explode, she bursts into tears and wants to be left alone. I asked her whether she is actually sad or angry, and she insisted that she is furious — that is the reason for which she cries.
I didn’t understand it back then, until I realized that most women have the same reaction as my friend. It can seem strange to express anger as sadness, but that is what women do. They have been taught since they were little that showing anger or fury isn’t a trait fitting for girls.
Instead, they should rather be vulnerable crybabies, repressing the anger inside of them, because society doesn’t accept angry women — those crazy, hysterical witches. Indeed, according to a psychological study, angry women are judged as much more hostile compared to angry men. Female rage makes people feel afraid and insecure — but a sad, suffering female face looks beautiful and elegant. “Who would want an angry, messy woman, anyway?”
God knows it is better for men to be alone even in an apocalyptic world, than to be alongside an enraged woman.
On the other hand, anger in men makes them appear strong, powerful and even admirable. They are taught from childhood to hide their fear and vulnerability and turn it into anger — nothing but a camouflage. Meanwhile, girls learn the complete opposite: Being angry is unattractive; it encourages fear and rejection instead.
Female rage has been a taboo since the Old Testament. “It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman,” because God knows it is better for men to be alone even in an apocalyptic world, than to be alongside an enraged woman.
This repressed female anger fueled the first, second and third waves of feminism. Women started to accept their rage, to embrace it as a part of themselves. Nietzsche considered rage perhaps to be the most powerful emotion — yet we all know that women can do what men can do, but not the other way around.
As a dominant emotion, owned so far only by men, women have to claim it, scratch the surface to find somewhere in them the hidden gem of rage and to never be silenced again. When the feminist activist Gloria Steinem was asked on the matter of when women will be able to mobilize altogether against injustice, she said, “They aren’t angry enough.”
The recent sexual assault cases in Drenas and in Kavajë in Albania — where a 14-year-old girl was allegedly blackmailed and raped by classmates — are going to add fuel to the fire, because women in Kosovo and Albania have been enduring pain, humiliation and refusal to be treated as even ranked citizens along with men, for longer that it can be imagined.
Thousands of other women are suffering just as much and are in desperate need to know they’re not suffering alone.
Do we really need more horrifying examples of verbally or sexually abused, beaten or killed women to understand the state of depression that our patriarchal society has been forcing us to live in? Do we have to tolerate more of the actions of greedy, impulsive and compulsive men to understand the oppression that we are experiencing? When are we going to understand that private life is no longer private when it perpetuates the same features in every little and familiar space?
Every abuse experienced by women should be denounced and word should be spread beyond the family walls, because thousands of other women are suffering just as much and are in desperate need to know they’re not suffering alone.
If the state fails to protect women and prevent abuse against them, it is our duty to accept the gravity of the situation and raise our voices to every injustice — even by using our thymotic forces to challenge the rotten norms that shame and humiliate us.
I have to agree with Sloterdijk and his principles of thymotic theory, by which it is established that through political groups, political actions, collectivizing affected forces, changing symbolism and rhetoric, we will object to the existing conditions. By fully understanding and accepting our rage, defying the eroticized economy that has chained our corporal and individual liberty, we will put an end to a bloody history of violence and victim shaming.
Calm, mild women are rarely taken into consideration and even more rarely are they listened to, but angry women have changed history. Being enraged shouldn’t be considered as a pejorative — it is a necessity to be heard and to make progress happen. In order to achieve this, we need to express our rage.
Feature image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.