Entre Nous: Soraya Chemaly

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Entre Nous: Soraya Chemaly
by Marcelle Karp

“There is not a woman alive who does not understand that women’s anger is openly reviled,” says Soraya Chemaly in her book, Rage Becomes Her. She goes onto say, “When a woman shows anger in institutional, political, and professional settings, she automatically violates gender norms. She is met with aversion, perceived as more hostile, irritable, less competent, and unlikeable—the kiss of death for a class of people expected to maintain social connections.” It hits you hard, this reality, seeing it laid out. The reminder of how, we as women, are constantly accommodating others, to ease the pall of disappointment. Familiar, right? Rage Becomes Her is a relief, a validation of our anger, not simply in the wake of #MeToo, but of right here, right now. It’s required reading for you, your partner, your parents, your friends, and of course, for your children. A call to action for women to embrace our rage, to set our own rules in doing so. What a powerful moment this is. I was so so honored to speak with Soraya, as we were both awaiting the return of our own daughters, from school, a moment of celebration for us each.

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“If there is a word that should be retired from use in the service of women’s expression, health, well-being, and equality, it is appropriate—a sloppy, mushy word that purports to convey some important moral essence but in reality is just a policy term used to regulate our language, appearance, and demands. It is a control word. We are done with control.”

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Please explain what you mean by “anger is a moral emotion.” 

I mean that it is an emotion of evaluation and judgement, both of which imply the right to evaluate and judge what is “good” and what is “bad.”

In Rage Becomes Her, you help us see how men approach things, how allowable any reaction they have for any situation, where women would be vilified for it.

It’s pretty funny because as I was pulling together a lot of research about these dynamics (that I’ve written about before), I just had to laugh. I found one recently that said men speak 97 percent of the time on conference calls. All of these statistics of speech dominance. In the wake of #MeToo, men keep saying,” well what do we do? We don’t want to be guilty by association!” You know, listening is an active thing you do. Doing includes just sitting there and listening and not just glazing over and letting women talk, but actually listening to what we’re saying and then making the leap to consider that maybe we’re not lying.

Isn’t it incredible that it goes directly to lying?

Yes, it’s incredible. “You must be exaggerating, it can’t be that bad.” All of those things that we know we hear all the time. It is exhausting, I have to say.

I love too, so much, by your unpacking of Anger Management, and what it is really saying to us (women), that we have to “control ourselves.” And you offer a more realistic, egalitarian approach, Anger Competence. So I thank you for that. 

You are welcome!

I am finding when I am angry, lately, that I seek solace in retail therapy. I think that’s your next book!

LOL, I will take therapy as it comes and wish you happy shopping!

Can you please tell me why I cry when I am angry? 

Crying tends to confirm feminine behavior and roles when we feel anger, which is “coded” masculine. It is also associated with the feminine corollary to anger—sadness, again confirming expectations. 

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“How many times does a woman say, ‘I’m so tired,’ because she cannot say, ‘I am so angry?'”

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What is it about, as we age, it is so very easy to access our emotions, particularly anger? 

I think it is many things at once. One is just fatigue, lol. The other is confidence. A third, I’d like to think, is wisdom and experience with emotional regulation.

Naps have become a salvation. The amount of bullshit I confront, on a daily basis.

More than anything at this stage in life, I’m really  interested, as you point out, in sleeping. I can’t sleep enough to be honest. I’ve always been a really terrible sleeper. Always. Every decade of my life has included some bad relationship with sleep and I love sleep. In college, I slept all the time: I slept through classes, I slept in the library. I kind of long for the day when I could sleep again and I don’t know that will ever happen. 

Also, please explain the derogatory nature of women’s “Resting Bitch Face.” (I feel like a man coined this term.) 

Resting Bitch Face is a description of a woman’s face in repose when her expression is deemed sullen and disagreeable. I think of the term as a reflection of the cultural expectation that women always look happy and pleasing, even when their faces are simply at rest. 

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“And if we smile, it should be because we want to.”

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What I admire too, about your book, is that you are not simply laying out all the ways women have been shut down, but you offer all the different ways we can speak up, speak for ourselves, speak our mind, without fear. 

I was talking to someone who was like why don’t we meet at 8. And I was like, I need to say this to you. For the first time in the last 22 years I don’t have to wake up to get kids to school or anything. So I’m not going to commit to 8. I just don’t want to commit to 8. And she understood. I’m just not there any more.

And you aren’t afraid to say so. It’s such a testament to you walking the walk of your book. And I thank you for it. I thank you for providing us with such a clear blueprint, of all the work you have done on behalf of women everywhere.

Well, thank you. You too though. Look at all that you’ve done. This is the thing too. There are so many women. I hate these confidence colored books.  Teach people to be more confidence.” Woman are confident. That’s not the issue. Your metric is male over confidence. No thanks so much, I’m done with that.

 

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Follow Soraya Chemaly on Twitter and Instagram.

And buy Rage Becomes Her.

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