The Thoughts of A Hysterical Woman
by Mandi Harrison
I'm not a sports person at all. My fantasy league revolves around film festivals and award season. However, I enjoy seeing someone excel at what they love. Passion and dedication towards anything is inspiring. Lately, I’ve been super inspired by Serena Williams.
I recently read an article about Serena, discussing what her body has been through, due to her training and playing schedule, and the complications that came up in her pregnancy. She has a history of blood clots, and after having a C-section, Serena developed a pulmonary embolism. After convincing the doctors to run the scans, she was rushed into the operating room. It has taken her body months to recover, and she has come back like a beast. She talked about her struggles with wanting to be there for her daughter, and wanting to continue her playing, to show her daughter that you can achieve your dream. She is a real life Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.
Last week, Serena was competing in the final of the U.S. Open against Naomi Osaka. Long story short, questionable (biased) calls were made by the umpire, and Serena took offense to his questioning of her character. She demanded an apology and declared discrimination for her behavior on court, when male competitors have acted far less sportsmanlike, with less punishment and less criticism.
And while many people, men and women alike, have spoke up for and defended Serena, saying there was discrimination, there are still many who have criticized and demonized her, saying she’s a sore loser, a hysterical woman- all because she spoke up. Some media outlets have called it a “meltdown”, an “emotional outburst”. Just weeks before, a baseball team was photographed berating an umpire and the caption was they were “debating the call.” The same paper reported on Serena and called it a “tirade”. One woman speaking out- a tirade. Several men yelling- discussion. Got it.
It is emotional. She and her abilities have been harassed and questioned for years. People have said her pregnancy was an unfair advantage. She’s been drug tested countless times. She was banned from wearing a uniform that would’ve helped prevent blood clots. And then accused of cheating at The U.S. Open. This was the moment that Serena had enough and called bullshit. This was her Norma Rae moment. Her “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” speech. And she is not alone.
There has been a seismic shift in the universe over the past few years. Women are ANGRY. It's not that we haven't been angry, we were just expected to smile and work harder. Showing emotions would deem us "hysterical", "worked up", "hormonal", “sensitive” or "a bitch". Little girls are taught to be “nice” and to always have a smile. To apologize. That boys will be boys, and if they are mean to you, that means they like you. But with the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements, the political climate and just a general exhaustion of misogyny and fear and being told what our place is, the women have taken a stand.
Enough is enough.
Women have had it. From politicians to actors to activists to everyday people, a battle cry has gone out. EQUALITY. That is all we want. Equal pay. The right to choice for our bodies. The right to feel safe walking down the street. The ability to speak what’s on our mind without being dismissed. And the ability to show emotion without being deemed a hysterical, nasty woman. I think now, more women are less afraid of being called a bitch and more afraid of what will happen if we don’t speak up.
If a man is forceful in speech, confident and direct- he is a leader. If a woman possesses the same qualities, she is bossy or a bitch. When Hillary Clinton ran for President in the 2008 campaign, there was constant criticism about what she wore, her tone, her “Resting Bitch Face”. One of my favorite humans on the planet, Tina Fey delivered one of my favorite quotes in defense: “Of course she’s a bitch. I’m a bitch- this one’s a bitch (gesturing to Amy Poehler). BITCHES GET STUFF DONE.” I too “suffer” from R.B.F. I too have to “watch my tone”. But just like she made me feel (somewhat) cool in my glasses, Tina gave me permission to be a Boss Ass Bitch. Because I get stuff done. I’m good at it, and I enjoy it. My daily affirmation is Be a B.A.B.
In the entertainment industry, even with what has happened with the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements, there is still an inclination to dismiss women’s anger. Last year, there was a movie called Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and then Toronto, making its way to the Austin Film Festival where Chris and I saw it. It was nominated for and won many awards, including Academy Awards for Francis McDormand and Sam Rockwell. It’s about a mother trying to seek justice for her daughter who was raped and murdered. The mother, Mildred, is angry and frustrated that there have been no leads in the case and takes matters into her own hands. The role is amazing and Francis is brilliant. There is such anger and contempt and heartbreak-turned-rage. Of course, after the initial rave reviews of the film, there was backlash. There were valid concerns about the racism portrayed by Rockwell’s character, but “She’s just too harsh” was a common complaint as well. My question is- how many movies have there been about fathers seeking justice/revenge for their families? Is it completely implausible that a mother wouldn’t do the same?
Another controversy revolves around a Netflix series called Insatiable. It’s about a teenage girl, who was overweight and bullied, and through an accident, lost weight and became “hot”. In almost every review, the series was labeled as fat-shaming and completely unwatchable. I got nervous after reading the headlines of these reviews- they were all but saying don’t watch this filth- but I was so looking forward to watching this series. I still wanted to give it a try.
After the first episode, I realized- people were upset because Patty (the lead) was ANGRY. This wasn’t the typical Let’s-make-over-the-formally-fat-girl movie. It is the blackest of comedies, a satire of the beauty pageant world, and I absolutely LOVED it. Was this an uplifting show? No. Did she make the greatest choices? Absolutely not. But Patty was a young woman who defended herself and took charge of her destiny and then had to deal with the consequences. She was angry and hurt and used that emotion to guide her. Again, this is a satire, and every situation is exaggerated. It really reminded me of Heathers or Mean Girls, two movies that went on to have cult followings.
Anger is labeled as a bad thing, but it can lead to change, to action. After the 2016 election, many women have taken a stand to fight for our equality. There is genuine fear that what others have fought for will be taken away, and there are groups that are making noise to make sure that won’t happen. Chelsea Handler stopped filming her talk show in order to help campaign for female candidates running for office. Kathy Griffin, Samantha Bee, Michelle Wolf and many others continue to speak out against hypocrisy and misogyny, despite excessive backlash and threats of violence. Many women, including actresses, directors, producers, writers, who are calling attention - TIME IS UP. EQUALITY FOR ALL. Not just for Hollywood- for all fields of work. For all women. For all underrepresented groups. All over the world.
Anger can take many forms. It’s not always loud and boisterous. There are people like Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who are quietly changing their own path, so it will benefit others. Tired of COMPETING for the role of the wife or the mother, and of being one of (or the) only woman on set, they have started production companies, developing projects with strong female characters, with women of all ethnicities. They are taking action to have quality roles, with diverse actors.
I’m going to close with this: A few months ago, there was a lot of talk online about a Netflix special called Nanette. It’s by Hannah Gadsby, an Australian stand-up comedian, and its classified as a stand up special, but it is so much more. It is an hour and nine minutes of truth. Her experiences weren’t my experiences, but her story is a familiar one to all women. I did laugh, due to indignation and her sharp wit, and I also cried with her and for her, and was filled with rage. I personally think that this special sums up why women are angry. There will be, and are, people who dismiss her as an angry, man-hating bitch. What she really is is tired. And that is the most relatable part of it all.