a short reflection on female anger

Featured Image: Laura Palmer in the television show Twin Peaks

We have now surpassed 200,000 global cases of COVID-19 as of today. How am I coping with everything, you ask? Well, I guess it’s a good thing that I was already holed up in my apartment about three months before we found ourselves in a global pandemic. I know I should be freaking out more about this but honestly, I’m kind of glad I have an excuse to stay inside and not go anywhere. Now, what I am freaking out about is if I’ll be able to go to the grocery store without getting sick…I don’t know the logistics of how long Coronavirus might stay on a box of pasta but my mind is thinking of all the worst case scenarios. Can I get the virus if I touch the same gas pump as someone who’s sick? What if I grab a frozen pizza that was made by someone who was forced to go to work while sick because they need to pay their bills? Did the virus cells remain on the pizza and get frozen, only to become alive again once I toss that yummy looking pizza in the oven? Maybe I’m thinking too much.

I don’t have any pre-existing health conditions (besides being fat) that might make me more vulnerable to COVID-19 but still, I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want to unknowingly spread it to someone who won’t survive it. I’m not optimistic concerning how many Americans are actually practicing social distancing and staying home based off how many people I’m seeing out and about from my kitchen window; this is in addition to the increased numbers of infected people I see when I check Twitter in the morning. I feel as if Americans, especially die-hard conservatives and those who don’t care, are living their lives as usual. Young adults are spring-breaking, people celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and airports are unnervingly packed. I think things are going to be much worse by next week.

With all of that said, I wanted to touch on an article that I came across that talked about a trauma response called fawning. I really liked this article because it made me realize how much I fawn in my personal life as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home. Basically, fawning means that you try to keep relationships as happy and ‘normal’ as possible at the expense of your authentic self. Fawning usually stems from a dysfunctional upbringing where nothing was normal, no one was happy, and the ‘fawner’ in question had to respond to this trauma by attempting to placate everything. Fawning can happen even in normal relationships and scenarios because the traumatized person doesn’t know how to react healthily.

One manifestation of fawning is that the fawner feels guilty when they’re angry at other people. This one really struck me square in the chest because growing up in a dysfunctional home, I was not allowed to be angry. Ever. My parents never explicitly said “Hey, you’re not allowed to be angry!” but it was very much implied by their actions. It was implied that I should stuff my emotions deep down, be quiet, and never show any emotion that would reflect badly on my parents. Being female added fuel to this fire as little girls are expected to be quiet, pleasing, and fun to be around. Have you ever seen a little girl having a fit of rage for whatever reason? Her mother, and sometimes her father, shut that shit down so quick because little girls are not supposed to show anger. It’s inappropriate. Anger is incompatible with female gender roles in modern society. Little girls should never show anger because it’s inappropriate and grown women shouldn’t be angry because it’s unattractive. Different reasons exist here but the idea is all the same – female anger is unacceptable.

When you grow up not having your anger acknowledged for whatever reason or having your anger suppressed, you internalize shame right along with your quieted anger. Shame and anger are suddenly compatible, resting besides each other somewhere in your chest. And when you become a grown adult, and your dysfunctional parents want to talk to you on the phone because they miss you and want to see how you’re doing, you feel that shame/anger flare up in your chest. You’re angry because how could your parents act like they care about you when in reality they ruined your childhood and refuse to even acknowledge that? Then – this is where the shame enters. You feel guilty being so angry at your parents; after all, they managed to raise you into an adult and you owe them a conversation after all they’ve done for you. Right?

The fawner is left feeling ashamed at the anger that has materialized from within themselves. Shame is extremely powerful at subduing anger; I’m not entirely sure why. But this part of the article stuck with me the most because I have felt, and continue to feel, extreme shame alongside the anger I have towards many things in life. I’m sure many women and trauma survivors experience the same feeling. We know where this trauma response stems from but I think it needs to be noted that this response is also innately female. We talk a lot about trauma in general but not the trauma that comes with growing up as a girl. And there are little to no resources for these little girls who grow up to be adult women and don’t know how to recognize their anger, process it, or come to the understanding that their anger is vital. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be angry at other people (within reason of course), your parents, or towards anything else that has failed you. There are compelling forces at work trying to eradicate female anger; we can’t let this happen. Little girls need to be angry. Women need to be angry so that they can heal from the trauma that the world has placed upon them and become their authentic selves.

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