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“Most of the interesting women you know are far, far angrier than you’d imagine.” - Laurie Penny

 

  Rage Becomes Her is a series arising from my curiosity around taboos surrounding women’s anger and, more specifically, how that anger is policed, dismissed, and overlooked because of the ways in which its potent, transformative, social, and political power terrifies people. As women, we so often minimize our anger. We call it frustration, impatience, exasperation, or irritation; words that don't convey the intrinsic social and public demand that 'anger' does. We learn to contain ourselves, our voices, hair, clothes, and, most importantly, speech. Anger is usually about saying "no" in a world where women are conditioned to say almost anything but "no.” Rage Becomes Her explores visual expressions of anger, gore as a genderless and powerful symbol of rebirth and regeneration, and aims to show that the anger we have as women can be an act of radical imagination. 

There are numerous books on the subject of female anger as empowerment such as Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister or Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly, the title of which I ultimately chose for the project. These pieces explore the history of anger and nuances of anger within the context of feminism and political spheres as one of the most forward-thinking and progressive emotions. The design aesthetics of this project are inspired by a variety of studios and designers such as the Byblos 2008 knitwear collection, LeMaine alternative flesh fashion designs, textile knitting by Moriel Dezaldeti, and sculpted pieces by Margarita Sampson. For the topic itself, I took inspiration from artists such as painter Jean-Léon Gérôme and her famous work Truth Coming Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind or works by Artemisia Gentileschi and her depictions of angry women (a rarity for many artists for her time, particularly other female painters).

I decided to make this project fashion-based, as I hoped to create something people could relate to and find intriguing, such as fashion photography, and use this intrigue as a means to educate on how anger does not necessarily have to be something to fear, but can instead create important change if learned to be understood and accepted. The soft clothing half of the pieces within the collection are mainly knitwear, and the bodice pieces are from air-dry clay and sculpted expanding foam. I felt that knitwear would fit well in this project as it’s all about creating an entire piece yourself from the shape upwards, as opposed to just sewing together pre-made fabrics. I wanted the collection to have a distinct handmade and constructed feeling to it to further accentuate the themes of renewal and reconstruction of our social boundaries and realities. 

I designed the bodices with the hope that they be light enough for comfortable wearability, while still able to depict a kind of strong armor reminiscent of women’s battle garments such as those of the Amazonian warrior women. I found that expanding foam was a perfect textile for this as it was both light and easily malleable yet gave the appearance of a stronger material when dried. The main bodice has a color palette of scarlet and beige, depicting something similar to a gore (i.e. organic material, typically involving blood or other materials from inside the body). I wanted to explore gore as a genderless and powerful depiction of anger and renewal. Though often thought of in relation to dangerous anger or aggression, gore does not need to be inherently linked to radical, unhinged violence. Gore can be natural. Childbirth, a scab of a wound, and regeneration are often not without their more gore-y aspects. As Donna Haraway speaks of in her famous piece “A Cyborg Manifesto”, our society requires regeneration and renewal in order to evolve into one more equal, more human, more of the future we wish to see. We can think of gore as able to exist in between and beyond traditional boundaries of anger and gender, meaning both birth and death respectively, and representative of passion, anger-fueled or otherwise. Gore can represent both the more standard understanding of anger as a catalyst for violence and carnage and additionally, its powerful qualities of reconstruction.

Originally I began the project intending to create ceramic bodices and corsets, representative of the censorship of women and abnormal bodies in social media by damaging algorithms. However, as the work evolved, I decided that the use of these fragile pieces didn’t do justice to the strong image I wanted to show these marginalized people and bodies to be. I felt like there were emotions at play that would be stifled by creating another one of many soft and fragile depictions of women. I decided to redirect my focus and aesthetic to what I felt to be a more powerful topic, both artistically and socially. My final shoot for the collection photos became one of the most cathartic of my life, as each woman involved ended up sharing with me their connections to the topic throughout the shoot, aiding in my goal of the project being able to be related to despite having to breach a potentially touchy subject to do so. 

Through my research, I identified a stigma both within feminism and other larger-scale movements that require a diminishment of anger as a means to appear more appealing of wider acceptance from society. Quite often, it’s the very systems that have molded and incited and taunted female anger that then demand it be denied. Women of all races and classes tend to be socialized over time to believe that anger is not for us. It’s “unladylike,” it’s “unbecoming,” it’s “off-putting”—all of which, of course, are warnings to not make others, particularly men, uncomfortable. Girls and women in life and art are often subtly encouraged to put anger and other “negative” emotions aside, as unfeminine and undesirable. Studies show that women are frequently discouraged from even recognizing their own anger, from talking about negative feelings, or being demanding in ways that focus on their own needs. As we move from the intimacy and privacy of the home into institutions, this emotional gender divide compounds and is compounded by other forms of bias. In schools, for instance, young girls are expected to exert greater self-control, be more polite, and not use strong or obscene language. All of these also limit the expression and display of anger.

Overall I feel the outcome of this project despite straying from my original plan, now much more effectively comprises and communicates the criticisms of traditional feminism and gendered emotional boundaries that I wished to explore and to continue exploring. We as a society tend to assume anger to be an automatic catalyst for aggression and violence, but in actuality, female rage has been much more successful and has often been the catalyst for political and social change. And yet, we know that when women express their anger, they risk being seen as hysterical, overly emotional, and not to be taken seriously, even if the reasons for their fury are entirely legitimate. During the past several years – marked by widespread technological, social and political disruption and tumult – rage has been a defining aspect of our culture. Women have been more openly and actively expressing anger, an allowance that typically coincides with social unrest and then, generally speaking, subsides with stability. 

Today, we see women at the forefront of movements fighting for climate change and resisting authoritarianism. They are demanding an end to institutional tolerance of corruption, sexual violence, and discrimination. They are taking the risks that come with open, public, and political anger. My goal with this project was to explore and educate on the importance and right to claim this anger, and to underscore the necessity to change images of angry women from fearful depiction of unhinged Medusas, to simple images of women — powerful, cathartic and inspiring in all the ways our anger may manifest. 

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