The Vocal Local: On female rage

Not being able to express our anger is causing women to act strangely in supermarkets, says Martha Pailing, who’s channelled her rage into a one woman show

I gently punch the packet of cheese.

I have been walking around the supermarket, circling the cheese aisle several times now. I have seen my ex-partner’s favourite cheese on a shelf, Comté, and it’s pissed me off so I have been thinking about punching it for several minutes. I know it’s irrational and the cheese has never personally caused me any harm, but I cannot seem to rid myself of the thought. Eventually, I give in, lean over into the fridge and gently punch the packet of cheese. Just once. Under my fist it shifts about half a centimetre. I can move on now.

Anger is a complex emotion. I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic – but I’ve done my research and I can certainly speak from the place of someone who, these days, is quite an angry person. An angry woman to be specific. The catalyst was the breakdown of a relationship a few years ago, and the anger has kept on simmering since, evolving into something else. It can come out in odd ways. Sometimes it seeps into areas of my life I could really do without.

Why don’t I just express my anger in a normal healthy way and bloody get on with my life? I firmly believe that society’s unrealistic expectations on women’s behaviour contributes to the need to suppress our anger. Women are told to be approachable and welcoming. Women are told to smile and be soothing. We are taught that to cry is feminine and acceptable but to shout is unattractive and disgusting. To show anger in a woman’s body is to be ‘hysterical’, ‘emotional’, ‘crazy’ and we simply must ‘calm down’! There is a significant difference in how women’s emotions are treated by others, and anger is no exception here. These may appear bold claims and sometimes it’s not as black and white as this, but the inequality exists.

“By denying women the free expression of their justified anger, society is forcing us to swallow it, making us ill” 
Dr Kirsten Neff, Angry Women, Fierce Self Compassion

What’s more, there are studies to show the women suppressing anger can result in stress, anxiety, depression and self-blame.

My anger can come out in odd ways, but sometimes I also find it to be incredibly useful. Anger expressed in a healthy way can move things forward. It can be a positive catalyst and a powerful resource. Anger moved and motivated me to make a whole show.

Chat Sh*t, Get Hit is a brand-new show about recovery, solidarity and the suppression of women’s rage and coming to the Old Electric this September. It’s storytelling, performance art, football chanting and comedy. Following Art Council funding, I have been lucky enough to develop the show with an incredible creative team of women, who are legends in their own right: Annie Siddons as dramaturg and Ursula Martinez as director.

I have also had the opportunity to share the space with some remarkable women in a different capacity. This summer I facilitated spoken word and self-expression workshops at Lancashire Women, Blackpool – a charity that supports and champions local women by offering a range of personalised services.

I’m really excited to share this project with my hometown – where I’ve been emboldened by seeing women channel their anger into Reclaim Blackpool Map – it offers a narrative that feels more pertinent than ever. Women are angry, and for very good reason, and we aren’t getting over it. We are punching unpasteurised French cheese in our local supermarkets and I’d like to talk about that.

Martha Pailing: Chat Sh*t, Get Hit (work-in-progress) is at the Old Electric, 29th September, 7-8pm. Get tickets here.

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