Def Jam recording artists and pop star, Ne-Yo, (Shaffer Smith) released a song about four or five years ago entitled “When You’re Mad.” The song is a catchy ballad-esque track about the singer’s arousal whenever his female partner gets angry, and how any expression of her outrage is essentially a plea for sex as far as he is concerned. As I read this week’s pieces on Nikki Craft and revolution at the hands of angry women, I began to examine my own notions and feelings about angry women at the individual and collective level.
The answer I came to, of course, was informed by gender privilege and patriarchal foundations that even as I am aware of, (in some small way) I cannot fully purge myself of. To begin with, I certainly take a woman’s anger just as “seriously” as I would that of a man on a personal level, but I acknowledge that this does not mean I treat them the same way. I can’t imagine that many men do. An angry woman, though in many ways equally capable of causing me harm (physical, political, social) does not occupy the same space in my imagination as that of an angry man, regardless of race or class, though I would not say the two are not factors at all.
Now there are certainly women out there who could physically harm me, however, I have not been socialized to imagine the anger of a woman as something to be feared and therefore respected in the same way as that of a man.
So when I really analyze how I react to an individual angry woman, I am, quite frankly, shocked at how closely my way of thinking aligns with Neyo’s.
Moreover, as this extends to a collective level, I am still, as a man, not convinced that my reaction to women’s collective anger is the most productive or empowering one. Throughout my summer with Hollaback! and the Moxie Project (both of which were woman-centered spaces for lack of a better term) I have always treated the anger of women collectively as something to be respectfully validated (which is also problematic) but always distinctly different from my anger, or outside of the space accessible to me as a black man. That is, while I can understand and even articulate (to some meager extent) the collective anger of women in a patriarchal state, I have never been angry with them. Specifically, I can agree with Nikki Craft destroying the work that she felt perpetuated violence against women in art and society at larger, but I have yet to reach the place where I am ready to go with the Nikki Crafts of my time and place and risk expulsion. So when I allege that angry feminists often want gender reform with no attention to the role of race or class in society, I am frequently correct, but what is my motive for that critique? Is it because their collective anger, at its core, unsettles me with the possibility of a world where I will have to revere and fear a woman’s anger the same way I do a man’s because the two are equal, perhaps indistinguishable? How much of my objection then can be attributed to the logic of self-preservation, to perpetuating the patriarchal state that has privileged me when it comes to facing a woman’s, as well as women’s anger? When does complicity become active repression in and of itself? These are the questions that the reading sparked for me, and I definitely think that they are one’s any man who claims he is interested in gender equality or equity should be asking himself and the men around him.