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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Cutillo

“Mad As Hell”: Working Women Getting What We Want

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

This famous line from the film The Network (1976) was angrily shouted by a newscaster to television viewers across the nation as an invocation to not tolerate rampant problems such as economic depression, crime, and unfit living conditions. Notably, this newscaster was a man.

What happens when women are “mad as hell” and don’t want to take it anymore? You’ve probably heard about the gender wage gap, the glass ceiling, and the pink tax. These all covertly serve to confer professional and personal advantages to men over women, and add to women’s inequality and rightful rage. These indignancies are even more pronounced for women of color. But frustratingly, studies show that women who express anger or display dominance are seen as less likable or less worthy than men who do the same. Look no further than presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for a prominent example of someone being negatively painted as an “angry woman” unfit for office, while those same traits are often celebrated in domineering male counterparts.

Women today are caught in a bind between standing up for what they want and being labeled as an “angry woman” (or other choice words). You don’t have to be in politics to have experienced this—if you identify as a woman, have you ever felt that the only way for you to get what you want is to “play nice” or “sit down and shut up”? You’re not alone. But what can be done?

  • Take care of your own mental health, and look out for others. Keep a core group of gal pals around you (or ally guys) who affirm your worth, not bring you down. Likewise—know someone who could use a boost? Ask them how their day is going, or if they could use a coffee-and-vent-about-the-boss session. There’s power in numbers, and no one should feel isolated or silenced—especially if there’s a toxic or abusive situation at play.

  • Share information. Though it might feel awkward at times, networking is your friend. Stay connected and find out what others in your industry are doing to get ahead. Offer to buy lunch for someone who has a job you could see yourself in, and find out what they did to get there. Don’t be afraid to talk salaries, either. Though often taboo, the more folks share information about income with others, the more equitable the workforce becomes. Knowledge is power, and employees gain leverage the more information they have.

  • Mentorship. Just as you might encounter a viable mentor on your own networking path, give back by mentoring others as well. There will always be someone ahead of you, and always someone behind you, so let’s all commit to pulling each other up. Have an abundance mindset. If you learn of an opportunity that might be perfect for that student intern in your office, let her know! The appreciation of others can only reflect positively on you—and who knows, she might be a future CEO someday.

  • State what you want. You can’t get what you want without asking for it, and you can be firm without being fearsome. Practice having that tough conversation in the mirror, and take a deep breath before launching in. Supply external rationalizations over emotionally-laden motives. Your request should always take the high road of civility, even if you’re in the right and someone else is clearly not. At the end of the day, if someone does judge you negatively for that, you can hold your head high knowing that you spoke your truth as respectfully as possible. Remember that you can only control your actions, not other people’s reactions.

  • Self-defense classes or other exercise regimens. Women, especially those who have undergone trauma, often feel extremely empowered by practicing self-defense. There’s something about knowing you could fend off attackers if you had to that makes you hold your head high and move through the world with more confidence. Kickboxing, running, and weight lifting are other options to let off steam in healthy ways.

  • Channel anger into action. Don’t like the office culture at your workplace? Don’t just take it in stride—you deserve better! Do what you can to change your circumstances (such as filing an anonymous complaint, or applying to new jobs). At a broader level, you can get involved in legislation for public change. Balance this all with sufficient self-care to avoid letting that flame of anger burn you out.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and try not to take setbacks personally. The world is changing exponentially every year. (Remember how a hundred years ago, women didn’t even have the right to vote for president, much less run for president? And for countless generations before that, women were essentially seen as property in many parts of the world.) So stay optimistic. And keep exercising those rights to use your voice and stake your claim. They will pay off.


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