If you know me, you know I’m a baby astrologer. I’ve been obsessed with astrology for as long as I can remember. I have an entire folder of bookmarks dedicated to horoscope sites, I include my sun/moon/ascendant/midheaven signs when introducing myself and I mark off retrograde periods and eclipses on my calendars. My sun sign is in Aries, the first sun sign of the zodiac *flips hair*. I consider myself to be the prototypical Arian. We are adventurous, witty, clever, ambitious, exciting, and intoxicating…however, we are also impulsive, impatient, foolish, and quick to anger. Mercurial. Hotheaded. (Blame it on being a fire sign). As the prototypical Arian, I’ll say here that I can definitely get angry, fast. Even small things like grounds in my coffee can frustrate me for hours.
I’ve always known that I can be an angry person when the right nerve is plucked. However, I was taught that as a woman (especially a black Southern woman), it’s always better to be polite than to be angry. Instead of learning how to hold my anger, use my anger and include it as part of myself, I learned to hide my anger. I was so afraid of being angry that I never acknowledged when I was mad, although everyone I interacted with could see it written clearly across my face. To be angry, especially to be an angry black woman, was off limits. To be an angry black woman was never acceptable. To be angry was to be out of control, to be irrational, to be too emotional in a world that has no room for softies. Anger was never an emotion that I felt I could access in a safe way.
During my sophomore year of college, I switched my major from Theatre Studies and History to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and History. After taking my first WGSS course, I felt rage I had never experienced before. It was as if my rose colored glasses had been slapped off. There was no faking, no pretense, and no more wool over the eyes. The wolves had their cheap dollar store sheep costumes pulled off, and they were snarling at me, ready to pounce. As I moved through my major, my friends in the program and I always complained to each other about how growing in feminism and learning about systemic oppression had made us less fun. “I can’t enjoy ANYTHING anymore!”, became a catchphrase every time we tried to enjoy a movie, a tv show, a popular song with a catchy beat. Everything reminded us of our status as women in the world, a status that was synonymous with inferior. We were quickly turning into the thing all women are taught to dread being labeled as: the killjoy feminist. The one who is always so angry about something, who can find an issue in every little thing. That “uptight bitch” who can never just “be chill”or “lighten up”. That girl that never stops critiquing anything long enough to enjoy it.
If you’re just beginning to explore your womanism/feminism, I’m going to tell you a big secret that no one wants you to know. Lean in close. Are you ready? Your anger at how the world has been stacked against you is valid. Your rage is sacred. Your anger is powerful. Your anger can move mountains… only if you are willing to use it in service of something bigger. I had to learn that my anger was valid, my anger was important and my anger was transformative when I used it as praxis.
I’m quite angry about the fact that I’m constantly reminded of the grim reality of being a black woman in America every time I get on Facebook and see another headline about a black woman who died at the hands of white supremacist patriarchal violence, because black women thriving in joy is not an image that permeates the news cycle. I’m furious about the fact that in my home state of North Carolina, public education, access to abortion clinics and reproductive health services, environmental protections and voter’s rights have been under attack since 2013 by a General Assembly who claims to have our state’s best interests at heart. It makes me livid to know that campus sexual assault and rape run rampant, and that our colleges and universities would rather punish survivors than secure justice. However, my anger meant nothing until I used it to organize.
My anger pushed me to join my school’s awareness group, Sexual Assault Awareness, Support and Advocacy, where we planned the annual Take Back the Night event, fundraised for different organizations and worked to correct injustices on our campus. My rage pushed me to speak up, to speak out, to no longer be comfortable with crumbs from the table and to demand what I needed. My anger no longer afforded me the privilege of being silent or of being inactive. My anger has been central to my fight to secure liberation. One of my favorite artists is Jenny Holzer, an American visual artist whose primary medium is text. In her series, “Inflammatory Essays”, she writes in one of her pieces
“let fire be the celebration of your deliverance”.
By embracing my anger as a positive motivating force for change, I finally freed myself from the constraints the world had put on me as a black woman and the limitations on myself that I had bought into. By working with my anger instead of suppressing it, I found new energy and kindled a fire in my belly. My anger was no longer coded for “irrational”, “emotional”, “crazy”, or “PMS”. My anger was as real as my joy, and was channeled into my work for change. Using my Arian fire as womanist praxis and incorporating it into my work has been transformative, healing and revolutionary. So the next time someone calls you an “angry black woman” or an “angry feminist”, take it in stride. What they’re really saying is that they see your power, your drive and your passion…and it’s scary to them.