Uma Thurman has spoken out about the anger she feels towards Harvey Weinstein  (Photo: Kill Bill 2)
Uma Thurman has spoken out about the anger she feels towards Harvey Weinstein (Photo: Kill Bill 2)

OPINION

Women are furious. How are we going to use that anger?

After years of suppressing their anger, women are furious as the true extent of sexual harassment has been revealed. Let’s seize the moment to make real change, says Lynn Enright

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By Lynn Enright on

I didn’t know just how angry I was until I heard my own raised voice. “It’s not funny,” I screeched. And then a rage shivered down through my arms. My fists clenched.

I was shouting at my husband, who had just made a stupid jokey interjection in a story I was telling about a man – an older teacher at university – who had once made inappropriate comments about my appearance. My husband probably thought he could make the joke, because I was telling the story almost flippantly. It’s just one of the stories I’ve been telling recently, as I, like all other women, have been re-evaluating and reassessing and reliving the interactions I’ve had with men. The interactions that have made me feel sad or strange or icky or traumatised or violated.

It was a minor one, really, this story, but the minor stories have felt relevant too, recently: the belittling slights and the near-misses. In the weeks following the first Harvey Weinstein allegations in The New York Times, I’ve sat with women and talked about the reality and the pain of rape and sexual assault. We’ve talked about street harassment and pervy bosses. But we’ve talked about the tiny little inequalities, too. The other day, on television, I saw Rick Stein slide down a hill on his bottom and he looked so ridiculous and happy. And I never see 60-year-old women TV presenters do stuff like that. I mentioned it to a female friend and she nodded, sadly. “Totally,” she said, quietly.

Because it all feels connected, the lack of older women on TV and the sexual harassment and the catcalling and the abuses of power and the fear and the sadness and the rage.  

Harvey Weinstein is a monstrous man who is accused of violent rape and assault, of harassing and bullying dozens and dozens of young and vulnerable women; a man who allegedly used ex-Mossad spies to suppress allegations against him and undermine any woman who dared to speak out. It is an extreme situation, given his wealth and his power, but it is a story that has prompted millions and millions of women to write #MeToo. Because even though they might not have been a victim of the casting couch, they know what it’s like to have a boss who uses his power to harass and humiliate and abuse. They know what it’s like to be leered at and objectified and assaulted. And they know what it’s like to live in a world that allowed Harvey Weinstein to exist, to thrive, to abuse. That’s the Me Too every single last one of us can get behind. I live in a world where people look the other way when women are raped. I live in a world that values money above justice, and men above women. I live in a patriarchy. Me Too.

And I’m angry about that. Even the little stories are making me furious. I’m not the only one: as Lindy West pointed out in a New York Times opinion piece called Brave Enough to Be Angry, we are all seething. Uma Thurman is seething. Rose McGowan is seething. Women everywhere are seething.

I was a teenage waitress and he was an American tourist in his 50s and I said “thank you” when really all I felt was rage and revulsion

In 2015, Caitlin Moran wrote a powerful piece telling men that they should know that women are, for the most part, scared and tired. Scared of the violence; tired of the inequality. We are frightened and exhausted, she explained. And we all agreed that we were. Now, two years later, we are still frightened and still tired – but fucking furious, too. And that anger – that’s unwieldy, that’s important, that’s dangerous. Frightened and tired women can be oppressed more easily than furious women.

For years, we’ve been packaging away our fury and dampening down our anger. I remember thanking a man who whispered sexually suggestive comments to me. I was a teenage waitress and he was an American tourist in his 50s and I said “thank you” when really all I felt was rage and revulsion. When I was a runner in a production company, I politely took the lunch order of a man who watched porn at his desk in front of me. When I was a young actor, older male actors would watch me get changed between scenes. And I didn’t unleash my fury on them, I didn’t even ask them to stop. Instead, I changed my whole career. I now work in an office dominated by women and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

We’ve all been tying ourselves in knots trying to control the anger that’s swelled within us. We’ve performed complicated thought experiments, politely wondering whether we should eschew the work of artists who rape or abuse women. I’m angry and weirded out that a man would marry his stepdaughter – but is it too blunt, too womanly to then avoid his semi-autobiographical films? I’m troubled when I watch women who are starved on strict diets walk down runways wearing underwear and flamboyant, culturally insensitive headdresses – but hey, maybe I shouldn’t get mad, I should wonder instead whether Victoria’s Secret is actually, secretly feminist.

If we allow ourselves to be angry, then all those false conundrums we’ve been politely dancing around – Are gender quotas really fair? Can we ever achieve equal pay when women are the primary carers? Should we forgive sexual harassers who are, you know, old and doddery? – can be squashed. Maybe with the clear-sightedness of anger, we can begin to dismantle the system that has kept us in second place.

@lynnenright

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Uma Thurman has spoken out about the anger she feels towards Harvey Weinstein (Photo: Kill Bill 2)
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harvey weinstein
Sexual assault
Sexism in the media

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