Female fury: the representation of female rage in modern media

Illustration by Sydney Smith

In a world where women have long been silenced and told they’re “overly emotional”, the expression of female rage in the media has been a welcomed outlet for many of the women who have so often felt suppressed and unheard. 

Female rage, or feminine rage, has recently been majorly referenced and discussed in popular culture and through social media trends (particularly on TikTok). The concept of female rage isn’t new; women have been justifiably furious with their circumstances and constant suppression for thousands of years. 

An article from Her Campus defines female rage as “an ancestral and inherited response to the struggles, oppressions, and wrongdoings that women have been subjected to”. Many women today have the power and resources to express the fury that many generations of women have felt, and these intense emotions have been depicted in media, particularly movies and albums, throughout recent decades. 

P**sy Whipped 

“P**sy Whipped” (1999) was the first full-length album from the iconic punk band Bikini Kill. The group itself is largely credited for the beginning of the “Riot Grrrl” movement, a subculture that “emerged from the punk rock scene during the third-wave feminist movement in the early 1990s, uniting women and girls against capitalist and patriarchal cultural ideologies”

“P**sy Whipped” explores themes like sexual harassment, gender inequality, the patriarchy and the overall anger that women everywhere experience. The album title itself takes a generally derogatory term and reclaims it in the name of women’s empowerment. Bikini Kill’s music urges women to rebel against oppressive societal norms and take control of their narratives. 

Lady Bird

Directed by Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird” (2017) portrays a nuanced version of the female rage often depicted in media. The titular character, played by Saoirse Ronan, is a teenage girl living in Sacramento and attending a private Catholic high school.  

Although “Lady Bird” doesn’t feature the violence or destructive anger most associate with female rage, the film addresses the internal turmoil that nearly every woman experiences during adolescence, especially those who grew up in a religious setting. Lady Bird’s complicated relationship with her mother, her restlessness in her hometown – which she has deemed “the Midwest of California” – and her search for identity and individuality are just a few factors of the film that illustrate the complexity of young female emotions. 

When the Pawn… 

“When the Pawn…” (1999) is an album by Fiona Apple that explores female rage along with the other complex emotions that women feel and are often pushed to suppress. Songs on the album like “Limp”, “A Mistake” and “Get Gone” can be empowering for women who relate to the themes of anger and resilience that are displayed, particularly those who have suffered at the hands of men.

Throughout her time in the music industry, Apple has refused to conform to industry standards, creating a name for herself as a deeply independent and uncompromising artist. She has time and time again expressed the broad spectrum of feelings that women experience, such as frustration, defiance and empowerment through her music. 

Jennifer’s Body 

“Jennifer’s Body” (2009), directed by Karyn Kusama, explores how feminine rage might play out should the supernatural be added to the equation. Starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, the horror-comedy follows Jennifer (Fox), a high school girl who returns from a boy band’s afterparty with some very strange appetites, and her childhood best friend Needy (Seyfried), who watches as the horrors unfold in their small town.

The film opens with Needy’s iconic line, “hell is a teenage girl”. Although the female rage depicted in the film may be considered exaggerated and somewhat satirical, the film deeply evaluates the true agony of being a girl in high school. Aside from the horrors that the men of Devil’s Kettle are subjected to, many women can relate to the pain of male objectification, strained friendships and jealousy. 

Gone Girl 

The film “Gone Girl” (2014), based on the novel of the same title by Gillian Flynn, truly embodies the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. The story is told from two perspectives: Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), who has gone missing, and her husband Nick (Ben Affleck), who is working to find his wife and absolve himself of the blame their town has placed upon him. 

Over the course of the film, Amy’s dark sides are revealed as viewers see how she exacts revenge on the people who have wronged her in various ways. Though Amy may not be the protagonist she initially seems, her “cool girl” monologue strikes a chord with many women who have changed themselves to please a man, and Amy’s masterful externalization of her anger gives voice to the emotional depth that women were not given for so long in the media.

Women have been expressing their deep-seated rage through various media types throughout history and will continue to do so in the future. In a culture where femininity should be embraced and women should have the power to express the depth of their emotions, creating and consuming media that represents the extent of our anger with the subpar treatment of the women who came before us can be incredibly healing and empowering.

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