Immediately after the 2016 election came to an end and the results were clear, I dressed in all black and began mourning the country I wanted America to be. This wasn’t necessarily the country it was, but the idea of it as a shining beacon in the slowly receding darkness of its own reality. My already flagging hope for the future had taken what I worried was a mortal blow, leaving me stumbling through the next few days as I nursed what felt like a repeated sucker punch to the stomach. But after a few days, that deep sadness morphed into something different.
I became enraged.
I wanted to scream, to burn shit to the ground, to roam the streets bellowing my refusal to accept the country as it was. And that fiery anger led me to do something I never thought I’d do: I got political. I became an active member of my local Democratic Party and joined every other progressive group I could find. That didn’t feel like enough, so I started a grassroots organization with a few other pissed off women that also wanted to get shit done. Instead of howling into the void, we figured out how to make change happen in our community. We built coalitions of other pissed off people, mostly women, and held our elected representatives accountable. When that didn’t work (I’m from a ruby red district in the Sunshine State), we rolled up our sleeves and worked to get local candidates elected. When the 2018 midterm cycle began, I threw myself into working for a gubernatorial candidate and hit the ground running. I’m still running today, and I’m still livid. I haven’t stopped being furious since a few days after November 8th, 2016.
Now, let’s cut back to the present day.
In a recent primary debate, a certain female candidate eviscerated one of her male opponents so completely, I was waiting for someone to hiss FINISH HIM. She then proceeded to carpet bomb the rest of the participants with devastating arguments and critiques while simultaneously making an ironclad case for her own electability. In short, there were a lot of things she came to do on the debate stage that night, and playing wasn’t one of them.
But after that performance, in pure this is why we can’t have nice things fashion, there was quite a bit of buzz that essentially centered on how angry this female candidate seemed, and how that was unfortunate, because this was a contest of ideas and likeability, and no one likes an angry woman. The immediate application of this annoying double standard especially rankled me, considering two of the male candidates spend the better part of their debate performances yelling at the audience, and one of them appears perpetually enraged, as though an entire coterie of grandchildren just ran through his precious flower beds after being repeatedly warned to stay the hell away from them.
Here’s the larger question in all this: why is male anger seen as a sign of righteousness and female anger is seen as a sign of instability?
We’re living in a political climate that’s akin to an endless dumpster fire that just keeps getting hotter and more destructive by the minute. We don’t have time to play nice. I want my presidential candidate to be angry. I want the person to be able to summon the flames of hell if need be, and focus them directly on the problem. This isn’t debate club, y’all. This is a fight for what the soul of our nation could become. It’s a fight for our shared future. Will we continue down this path of destruction and widespread inequality, or will we start to veer in more constructive, equitable, and sustainable directions? We have a man sitting in the White House (or gallivanting about the golf course, more like it) that would use the Constitution to wipe his ass if we let him. He’s damned near doing it now, and his cronies are more than happy to ask how high before he even thinks to demand they jump. This isn’t a drill, folks. It’s a five alarm fire. We need a fighter. We need someone enraged by the status quo and committed to do whatever’s necessary to change it.
The criticisms of that debate performance stem from society’s penchant for only allowing women to operate in one of two speeds, and they just happen to reside at the opposite end of the spectrum: serene and refreshing as a southern breeze or batshit crazy, hysterical, irrational. If a woman shows even the slightest hint of anger, that automatically labels her unfit for certain high level positions for which society agrees men are just better suited. And if she remains sugar and spice and everything nice, well, she’s too soft for those positions anyway, isn’t she? Just leave it to the men, sweetie.
This double standard is amplified to nearly insupportable levels if you’re black or another woman of color. God forbid any woman be angry, no matter the situation, but if she also happens to be a person of color, she’d better learn to balance on eggshells while keeping her emotions locked the fuck down or face swift repercussions.
As is my custom when faced with the worst American society has to offer, I’m calling B.S. on all of this. I categorically reject the implied premise of your argument that this female presidential candidate is unfit because she unleashed her righteous anger on several of her opponents.
This isn’t a tea party. It’s a race to see who is best equipped to do what’s arguably the most important job in the world. And, anyway, world history is basically the story of pissed off men conducting their conquests and wars while women mostly looked on from the sidelines, smiling sweetly as they lay the table for a home cooked dinner. It’s about damned time we have some women take center stage for a change, and if that means slicing through a number of less qualified men to get there, I’m here for it.
I don’t care who you are, what you believe, or who you’re supporting. If you can look at what’s going on in this country and not feel a deep seated, unquenchable rage, then you must not be paying attention. And if you’re still clinging to outdated gender norms, that shit is on you. Women are pissed. We’re running for office. We’re winning. Get over it or get the hell out of the way.