Getting Angry: the Benefits and Challenges to Using Your Voice


By Christine Taylhardat

Photo from: Unsplash

What does it mean to have voice?

To have a voice in contemporary culture means to have a space to express yourself and be listened to. I find that often in our culture, particularly within social media platforms, everyone has "space" to talk, but if no one is listening and if others are merely yelling back their own points of view, is that considered having a voice? I would say no. It is true that our media culture provides individuals a platform to connect with others, and therefore the potential to disseminate their voice. And while there are safe spaces in social media, some individuals are more likely to face trolling and vitriol. Wood (2019) gives the example of American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who receives backlash due to her public role and her identity as a Latina woman. Her assertiveness and transformational ideas often place a target on her back, taking the form of harassment in comments. Yet, there are also growing opportunities for voice in mainstream media. Dobson and Kanai (2019) describe how there are increasing television programs created by and about women. This is one way that women are creating space to express themselves and counteract the common narratives of “can-do girl success.” By displaying more varied narratives, these programs illustrate more structural barriers to success beyond becoming more confident.

Gender and Voice

Post-feminist narratives and confidence culture are an obstacle for women to have a meaningful voice because they individualise problems, like lack of success, by not acknowledging structural barriers (Dobson and Kanai 2019; Pomerantz, Raby, and Stefanik 2013). Postfeminist narratives make it seem as if feminism is no longer needed in society because both genders are now "equal". Legally in Canada and the United States, males and females are mostly considered equal, but this fails to count the myriad ways inequalities play out in other contexts. One way, highlighted by Pomerantz et al. (2013), is that ideas like ‘Girl Power’ are part of the neoliberal structure that attributes success to hard work and confidence. Narratives like these can impair the communication of experiences of sexism, and the realization that when one is not successful, these are not necessarily individual problems, but issues held up by patriarchal structures and beliefs. 

When feelings like anger and voice in general are suppressed, it affects our ability to see the injustices we are experiencing. Orgad and Gill (2019) showed how often the experience and the blame is turned inward. Thus, post-feminist narratives are one way in which women and other marginalized groups experience communicative injustice since their voices are being delegitimized and excluded from conversations (Kay 2020). Post-feminist narratives mask the need for more feminist action by minimizing the experiences of women, and taking away their space to speak. Whether this violence is justified because a man was “just joking”, or because the woman is reacting like an “angry feminist”, they are discouraged from further expressing themselves. 

Politics of Rage

Women and minority groups experience communicative injustice since their voices are deemed less important and given less attention in the public sphere. Affective injustice is another injustice that occurs because emotions like anger and rage are given a bad reputation in our culture for being irrational. This takes away from the fact that the anger develops for a reason. Wood (2019) shows how women are socialized into remaining composed amidst injustice. However, engaging in this strategy is ineffective for women because the rules will always be changing (Wood 2019). Alternatively, turning anger outwards to become a tool to pressure society and to break down these patriarchal systems is one way women can fight back. Srinivasan (2018) points out as well that there is privilege in the ability to express anger publicly. Even when anger might be considered an appropriate emotional response, those from marginalized groups can experience worse oppression by speaking out. Ultimately, seeing anger as unreasonable is a way to maintain the status quo and limit the ways in which oppressed groups can challenge systems of oppression (Srinivasan 2018). This narrative asserts a certain amount of social control in society as it makes people hesitant to act angry while ignoring the legitimate reasons for that anger which individuals are bringing attention to (Srinivasan 2018). This also points to the fact that anger and passion can get people’s attention towards a certain issue. In this way, gaining collective support would impact the effectiveness of social control as the collective voice is a powerful one to challenging systems. Therefore, at the very least, anger is useful for helping point out issues of injustice.

While women are increasingly getting angry at injustices, we need to keep the momentum going. To an extent, #MeToo showed us that collectively, our voices are powerful and can change the world. While #MeToo has not reached society-wide structural-level changes, it is transformational in showing how important it is not to minimize our voices and to value this anger even as a lot of the spaces where we speak out are occupied and regulated by men and the patriarchy.


Dobson, Amy Shields, and Akane Kanai. 2019. “From ‘Can-Do’ Girls to Insecure and Angry: Affective Dissonances in Young Women’s Post-Recessional Media.” Feminist Media Studies 19(6):771–86. doi: 10.1080/14680777.2018.1546206.

Gill, Rosalind. 2011. “Sexism Reloaded, or, It’s Time to Get Angry Again!” Feminist Media Studies 11(1):61–71. doi: 10.1080/14680777.2011.537029.

Kay, Jilly Boyce. 2020. Gender, Media and Voice: Communicative Injustice and Public Speech. Germany: Springer International Publishing.

Kay, Jilly Boyce, and Sarah Banet-Weiser. 2019. “Feminist Anger and Feminist Respair.” Feminist Media Studies 19(4):603–9. doi: 10.1080/14680777.2019.1609231. 

Orgad, Shani, and Rosalind Gill. 2019. “Safety Valves for Mediated Female Rage in the #MeToo Era.” Feminist Media Studies 19(4):596–603. doi: 10.1080/14680777.2019.1609198.

Pomerantz, Shauna, Rebecca Raby, and Andrea Stefanik. 2013. “Girls Run the World?:Caught between Sexism and Postfeminism in School.” Gender & Society 27(2):185–207. doi: 10.1177/0891243212473199.

Srinivasan, Amia. 2018. “The Aptness of Anger.” The Journal of Political Philosophy 26(2):123–44.

Wood, Helen. 2019. “Fuck the Patriarchy: Towards an Intersectional Politics of Irreverent Rage.” Feminist Media Studies 19(4):609–15. doi: 10.1080/14680777.2019.1609232.

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