“Yes, we’re angry. Why shouldn’t we be? Why aren’t you?”
This is how author Laurie Penny ends her Wednesday essay in Teen Vogue. She tells readers that “many women you know are angrier than you can possibly imagine,” and that’s good.
This advice, demanding to know why teen girls aren’t seething and insisting that they should be, could harm a generation coming of age in an already rhetorically violent culture.
Not Just Raining on Her Parade
I’d like to give Penny the benefit of the doubt. She writes that girls are raised to hide anger. That “we worry too much about how men and boys will respond” to it. She doesn’t want that to get in the way of girls being honest about their feelings. All healthy concerns.
I’ll momentarily ignore her cheap “patriarchy is so scared of women’s anger” comment to show that I (kind of) understand. I’m an introvert born with a naturally serious expression. I’m often told to “lighten up,” “smile,” or “be happy!” So while she’s exaggerating, I sympathize with the feeling that “if you leave the house without a sweet smile slathered across your face” you might be called names. And yes, it’s frustrating when any emotion other than serenity draws a sarcastic query about your menstrual cycle. It happens to all women.
While these tendencies may be worth criticizing, they don’t call for a 1,400 word essay encouraging anger. That doesn’t serve her readers’ mental health or happiness.