Image by Seydou Keita

A lot of us fear the word, anger. I used to as well. I hated being described as angry because it felt synonymous to being uncontrolled.

I felt out of touch with my emotions as I believed that the instigator had ‘won’ by making me angry. I made a conscious effort to avoid being labeled as an angry person until I got tired of trying.

As a Nigerian-Ghanian based in Nigeria, there are very many things to be angry about. Including:

  • Why Nigeria, the poverty capital of the world, has senators with million-naira salaries.

  • The fact that the age of consent in Nigeria is 11 years old.

  • The fact that every girl seems to have a harassment story...and even when the story is not about her, it's about her friend, her sister, or the friend of her sister.

  • The fact that women have to protest in Yaba Market to stop men from groping them.

In the average Nigerian setting, the woman is praised for her silence and meekness. She is upheld for being with the average man for as long as possible regardless of the atrocities and failure of the man. She is taught that anger is not a good emotion for her. After all, no man wants a noisy woman in his house. She must ‘be his peace’.

Nigerian women are encouraged to suppress their anger and we see this happen frequently.

When I was in school, one day when my friends and I were lingering around after supper, a guy walked up to a girl’s table, and slid his hand right under her, as she was about to sit down, feeling her up.

It was obvious that he had done it on purpose, but he feigned ignorance and looked at her like he didn't know what she was talking about when she confronted him about it. He tried to convince her that she made it all up in her head.

His denial made her angry, and she of course began to speak louder-cue the aggression- creating a scene.

He then informed her that he was just playing with her. Why was she getting angry? After all, she was not ‘that fine’.

It didn’t matter that we had all witnessed it happening. That did not bother him and he walked away with a smirk, with no consequence for his actions, thinking he had successfully shamed her.

We spoke about this incident in length afterwards, in our private space, but that was where it ended. The life of harassed women, forced to suppress their anger.

The thing about anger is that regardless of how hard you try to bury it, it will surely come out. If you do not set it free on your own accord, it will eat its way out of you and come out in an unrecognizable form: bitterness.

You must be angry. You must not be bitter. -Maya Angelou

Unlike anger which is targeted at one subject, bitterness is blind. The bitter woman spares no one of her rage except, surprisingly, the one who has caused that bitterness.

Sometimes, it is the children who feel the heat. All of a sudden, they are yelled at by their moms for the most random things like putting a fork before a spoon and not the other way around. It could also be random outbursts at domestic staff, unnecessary lashing out at the workplace. Whatever.

Sometimes, it is taken out on younger girls. You see, bitterness gives birth to misery, and misery loves company. The most atrocious ‘advice’ is given to brides at weddings. I remember watching a video of an older married woman telling the new bride to always be available for ‘duty’ every night for the next three months whether she wants to or not. Ah, and the oh-so-familiar advice of learning to be a master chef and coming home early to cook every day so as to not allow the maid ‘snatch’ the husband.

Bitterness is served to everyone but the one person who truly deserves it. The one who truly causes this anger gets the least of it. Rather, the bitter woman trains herself to suppress her anger and puts up forced smiles and awkwardly giggles at horrible jokes (which she could be the subject of occasionally). I have unfortunately seen this play out so many times and I cringe every single instance.

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.

When I was a child, I observed this attitude and I wondered what it was. I couldn’t place my finger on the sudden dim in the eyes of women or the newly formed wrinkles. I just concluded that women were just weird. My ‘uncles’ were always joyous. They bellowed and drank beer and ate food in front of the tvs while their wives were always ticked off by how the food was not served properly or little things that never mattered before. I learned to stay out of their way.

As I grew older, the one thing I promised myself was to never be afraid of my anger. Bitterness was the emotion to fear.

To the women reading this,

If there is a need to shout, shout out loud before you lose your voice.

If there is a need to vent, take a trip with your sister friends and cry your hearts out with cheap wine and The Notebook.

We, women, must never be afraid of our anger. Rather, we must use it for our benefit and the benefit of the girls who come after us.

So use that anger, yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”-Maya Angelou

Put your anger together, nurture it and let it give birth to progress.

Write it in a book.

Sing about it.

Shout it to the heavens.

Pray about it.

Do something with it.

Do anything.

Cést fini.

By Sope Lartey

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