I write best when I am angry.
The angry writing I’m talking about here is the opposite of punching down. It is not the bear bit, boorish, attacks of social media. Where the trolls are increasingly our own politicians. Angry writing should not be confused with the hate speech we see in our public discourse – feminist angry writing can be a small act against the dog whistle politics of the UK – and beyond – at the moment.
Channelling anger to write is not about spluttering your personal rage onto a page either – although there is a place for that (try a journal, or speak to a professional – and I am not being flippant here ) – it is about connecting your sense of injustice with all the much larger and more devastating injustices of our world.
Angry writing, as a form of emotional or reflexive writing, need not be privileged navel gazing. It may be a privilege to be able to write for a living (or part of it). Yet, to misunderstand feminist rage as individualised and myopic, really is deliberately missing the point.
Being angry means I care enough. It makes sense to channel this powerful emotion. It gives the impetus to get down and actually say something. I’m not simply writing platitudes or ticking boxes; I’m really connecting to what I care about – and what I hope my writing will convince others to care about too.
Anger and academic writing
Since leaving my academic post in May, I’ve found it much easier to accept, sit, and write my anger out more clearly.
That is the peculiarly frustrating thing about (some/much of) ‘academic’ writing. Where we are trained to be – or at least appear – somehow ‘dispassionate’. That writing when angry would risk producing some kind of emotion-fuelled diatribe.
Of course, we feminists have long known and argued that the idea of dispassionate research and writing is nonsense. I’ve enjoyed some recent interventions in thinking about academic writing differently, which I highly recommend (see references below).
Yet, we continue to bound by disciplinary, institutional, sector, and even media conventions, around ‘bias’ and ‘equality’. That to me, are really forms of institutionalised blindnesses.
My kind of angry writing is feminist and it is evidence based and driven. It is me being clearer on my interpretation and my position.
It is about how you choose to channel your rage.
The power of angry writing
Otherwise; what do we do with our anger? Where does it go? What productive outlets are there?
If we are not angry at this point in time – about the gross inequalities, the destruction of the environment, the denial of human rights – then what are we?
What is the purpose of our writing now?
Angry writing is essential & it must be directed up. My anger is never punching down. It is never personal and it is never about ‘just me’.
The Politics of angry writing
My angry writing is my feminist praxis. We need to listen to one another more. We need to understand our own anger. We need to productively engage it. Not for our own gain.
As Suzanne Moore wrote this week in her tips for women writers:
“You cannot reinvent the conditions you are in, but these conditions are your fuel – anger, frustration, despair, revenge, love, silliness, need… and writing is your way to clarity, to understanding what is important. That is its power”.
Livholts, M. (2020) Situated writing as theory and method: the untimely academic novella, Routledge.
Lykke, N. (ed.) (2014) Writing Academic Texts Differently: intersectional feminist methodologies and the playful art of writing, Routledge.