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And if you can go one step further—well, who’s laughing now?At college, there was a new kind of angry woman: the kind who was angry not at a specific offense, but at the structure of society.They are fearsome-looking creatures, unsmiling, uncrying (except, Ovid tells us, when Orpheus plays). This grotesque image might seem to be at odds with a righteous heart. I stumbled into it ridiculously late for a women’s college graduate, not until my mid-twenties—a time when I was hauling around a lot of pain and confusion, awkwardly, like a person trying to carry groceries without a cart.
I prided myself on being different from other girls.
“Different” meant “not as angry.” Girlfriends had expectations, got jealous, got their feelings hurt. We never objected to casual misogyny; it was the coin of the realm, and we paid our dues.
Before I went to a women’s college, most of my friends were boys.
My favorite and most steadfast friends, from contexts that mattered more than high school, were women, which is why I was willing to apply and then to accept—but I almost didn’t.
All the self-protective laughter, all the excuses, all the making myself a concave bowl to hold an insult where it would not hurt: Had those been to protect someone else all along?
the parents of their children, just receptacles for a father’s seed.I could take a joke, and if that meant taking an insult, well, didn’t that mean insults were jokes?The word “fury,” as we use it today, implies chaotic, unfocused frenzy, but the Furies themselves embodied justified anger, stemming from an adamantine moral code.Myth and folklore teem with frightening women: man-seducers and baby-stealers, menacing witches and avenging spirits, rapacious bird-women and all-devouring forces of nature.In our stories and our culture, we underline the idea that women who step out of bounds—who are angry or greedy or ambitious, who are overtly sexual or insufficiently sexy—aren’t just outside the norm: They’re monstrous.In Homer, they are curses made flesh, released upon those who commit a crime or threaten the natural order.Seneca the Younger calls them “they who with awful brows investigate men’s crimes and sift out ancient wrongs.” In Ovid, they are the chthonic guards of souls judged too wicked for paradise.Their real names are Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megaera: Avenger of Murder, Unceasing Anger, and Jealousy. But the title Eumenides holds a deeper truth: Their vengeance is a mercy, a deserved and necessary cleansing fire.They hunt down the wicked and punish them, both in life and after death, but the wrath of the Furies is not capricious.To me, it seemed obvious that the proper, proportional response was the same: Laugh it off, let go, join in. I wasn’t one of those tiresome young women who latches onto antifeminism to impress the boys; I believed in body positivity (for other people), in abortion, in enthusiastic consent.But I also believed it was safer and more comfortable to make yourself soft and porous, to absorb the affronts of the world.