The Anger Club

Between being fashion icons and excelling in the job they do, some stars are prone to fits of anger that are neither stylish nor professional. Two of them made news within days last week, proving, again, ours today is a culture of rage, as much as outrage


Cardi B & Serena WilliamsPhotos: (left) FilmMagic, (right) USA Today

From the front row, by the side of the hottest Asian leading man to charging at Nicki Minaj, Cardi B wasted no time in becoming New York Fashion Week’s star to dodge. From new motherhood to on-court melt-down, Serena Williams spared no effort in making sure everyone knew who was not to be messed with. Both women giving vent to intense anger—the former with a shoe and the latter with a racquet—in full view of onlookers and spectators show that rage in the presence of a crowd is no longer considered shameful. Perhaps more disappointing, for some of us, is that we do not expect such unbridled violation of public decency from stars that are not only at the top of their game, but are also faces of fashion.

As we have said before, how well one dresses is no indication of how well one will react or hold back in the presence of a perceived attack. Even if one is in a swanky place such as The Plaza Hotel or a renowned sports venue such as the Arthur Ashe Stadium, one is not reflecting one’s propensity to staying calm when confronted with what is thought to be an affront to one’s motherhood, femininity, gender, or race. Anger hides under the most expensive threads and lurks in the swankiest grounds, waiting to burst like a ripped seam.

Fashion is a form of self-expression, but expressing oneself through clothes is no longer enough. Clothes are too silent however loud they may be. Moreover, dress is no longer part of decorum, just as control is less and less part of public persona. Cardi B is considered one of the best dressed hip-hop stars, with The Telegraph touting her as “a fashion icon of our times”, yet she saw fit to lurch at Nicki Minaj at a fashion event where bad temper is usually held in check so as not to ruin hours of getting dressed. Serena Williams not only appeared on the cover of American Vogue (twice!) and in the music video of Beyoncé, she has her own fashion line, prompting The Guardian to call her their “kind of fashion icon”, yet she didn’t think twice before screaming and pointing an accusing figure at an umpire on duty. Different icons, same sort of temper.

Bruce Lee once said, “A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.” But these days a fool does not emerge from rage. Instead, a hero/heroine does. Fans of Cardi B would not say she over did it, with model Tess Holliday saying, “I can’t blame Cardi tho” and others encouraging her to stand up for herself. Serena William’s US Open flare-up had Billie Jean King tweeting a suggestion that the former was merely being “enotional”. After the game, Serena Williams claimed that she was, in fact, “fighting for women’s rights and women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff”. When the day was done, the outburst was overshadowed by issues of skin colour and the sex of the angered. Indecorous, bathetic behaviour was upstaged by charges of unfair treatment and persistent racism and sexism. Who remembers the rage anymore?

While Serena Williams’s catsuit and tutu have brought fashion to the tennis court, and forced fans of the game, as well as officials of tennis associations to rethink what is acceptable in competition, her outburst has not encouraged many to consider what behaviour is up to mark in sports that value fair play as much as attitude that is considered sporting. It is not wrong of Serena Williams to raise those issues that she has raised, but could she have not done so in calmer, more measured ways, after the game? In the US, where discussions on race is divisive, anger shines a spotlight on the issues at hand and those outside the stadium. The thing is, if you can be disrespectful to umpires in the court of sports, can you, too, be disrespectful to judges in the court of law? Anger, as it goes, may win after all. Welcome to the club!