On Anger

I’m angry.

And I’m angry that I’m angry. And I’m angry that I’m angry that I’m angry. Why such convoluted phrasing?  Because I’m a woman and I therefore cannot be angry.

If I am, there are articles for the man in my life to “handle it.”  Apparently, according to the editors at Menshealth, I’m supposed to be placated by a massage, him doing housework, or some other inane thing.  And for some anger, that helps.  Elizabeth Stewart writes about this in the Daily Mail, how angry she is that she has to take a disproportionate share of the household chores.

No disrespect to Elizabeth Stewart, but not all anger stems from inequitable distribution of chores. My anger is supposed to be placated by small, trivial things, as if my anger is small and trivial.  It never occurs that I may be legitimately angry, angry at things larger than my nonexistent man for checking out the waitress.  And because society cannot fathom me being legitimately angry, we have no way of dealing with it.

I having internalized these expectations do not know how to be angry.  I don’t think I can even scream.  I’ve tried.  I’ve opened my mouth and no sound comes out.  If someone holds me up at gunpoint or tries to rape me, I don’t think I could even scream for help, for fear of being a disturbance or unladylike.  And that is the most terrifying aspect of all.

Like a good lady, I’ve tried to handle my anger in silent ways.  I’ve written angry letters.  I’ve thrown a tshirt across the room when no-one could see.   As it crumples when it hits the floor, I am ashamed.  I am horrified that I am capable of such nonexistent destruction.  And that sheer anger terrifies me-what’s wrong with me that I throw things?  Good God, I am such a barbarian!

But anger, expressed in private, is a legitimate emotion.  Why is it that as I a woman I can skip in giddiness, jump for joy, cry during that really annoying Sarah McLaughlin commercial with the sad animals, eat chocolate on a broken heart, snap because I am irritated and label it PMS, but I cannot be angry?  I can be irritated, sad, happy, annoyed.  However, I cannot be angry.

Possibly because these words, these emotions are light, insubstantial and temporary.  Anger on the other hand, is a strong word for a strong emotion.  Anger implies permanence.  Anger implies change.  Anger is legitimate. Perhaps that is why the Myth of the Angry Feminist is such a deterrent.

Anger from a non-dominant social group is a threat to the status quo.  Angry women are shamed into keeping sweet, often holding back resentment until it boils over, leaving the ones around them clueless, asking, where did that come from?    Angry black men are the threats to the dominant racial hierarchy.  Angry black women are doubly shamed.

Men get angry too.  Cis-bodied, straight white men can be angry.  But very few articles deal with angry men.  It is seen as an emotion, something they go through when something goes wrong, not a derogatory character trait.

Men are angry when a woman insults them, when their significant other cheats, when they get fired.  If they are angry because of traumatic experiences in their past, we, as a society understand this.   We understand and sympathize with Vietnam Veterans or veterans of old wars when they break out offensive stereotypes and colorful profanity.  “It’s just how he grew up,” we say.  “He doesn’t mean it, but the war changed him,” we say, ignoring the racist comments.

Angry men are angry because something happened to them, and we treat their anger as an emotion, not a defining character trait.  In contrast, angry women are angry because something is wrong with them.  Even if they have been abused, being angry at their abuser is labeled as allowing the abuser to retain too much power over them.  It is not considered healthy.  Angry victims are supposed to forgive and forget, and stop being so loud and so there.  We, as a society, want to go living our lives without the unpleasantness of rape and sexual assault, of child abuse, of discrimination, domestic violence and prejudice.  Anger forces us to acknowledge that these problems occur and that we can’t ignore them away.  No wonder it scares us so much.

But anger is real, and anger is a healthy response to injustice.  If women are people, then we as a society should allow women the same freedom to be angry that we allow men.  Anna Holmes at the Washington Post wrote, [anger] “is regularly used to discredit and dismiss serious and real frustrations by women.”  It is time that we allow women to start screaming out loud, and to acknowledge their anger as a valid emotion, not an undesirable character trait.

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Dear Men, 12 Pieces of Advice for the Men in Our Lives

Film still from the famous restaurant scene

Film still from the famous restaurant scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Update: I thoughtlessly posted this, not realizing how heteronormative it is.  My apologies.  The piece was intended for the clueless daters of any gender who prefer to date those that identify as women.

  1.  Aretha said it best; RESPECT.  Respect us, our bodies, and our opinions.  Also, remember that we are more than the sum of our reproductive organs.
  2. Women do not communicate directly.  We communicate in a more round-about way, designed to allow for disagreement without conflict.  So when we say, “Gosh, it’s late and I’m exhausted,” we mean that it’s time to call it a night.  Take the hint.
  3.  Learn to read body language; if you try the sneaky overarm movement (and believe us, we know you’re faking that yawn,) and we slide away, take the hint.
  4. Don’t call us crazy.  Unless we’ve torched your car, shaved our hair into designs of goldfish, or attempted to eat the cat.  Those are crazy actions.  Yelling at you because you’ve been dodging our calls and we just found out that we’re pregnant does not give you the excuse to say “B****** be crazy.”
  5. The exam did not rape you.  You are not going to have forced sexual intercourse with the other players in xbox live.  All you are doing is enabling rapists to get away with rape.  So stop.
  6. Our periods do not invalidate our emotions.  They just diminish our ability to tolerate things.  Besides it’s not like men don’t have hormonal cycles, either.  Ironically enough, PMS is an influx of testosterone.
  7. Women are not monolithic entities.  What makes one woman happy may not work for another woman.
  8. Women do not owe you their attention, time or affection.  Even if you have been her friend forever, you are NOT entitled to her love.  So stop whining about the Friend Zone.
  9. Women generally like sensitive men.  That does not mean, whiny spineless symphocant.  It means a man who stands up for himself, is respectful, and understands how to communicate.  The whole whiny spineless slob versus the puppy kicking, womanizing jerk is an arbitrary binary.
  10. Some women don’t want to have sex with men.  That does not mean that they just need the Right experience (aka with you.)  That does not mean that they will fulfill your fantasies.  So stop asking them that.
  11. The same goes for women who do want to have sex with men.  If they have not expressed any interest in sex with you, don’t ask them.
  12. Saying something offensive is like stepping on people’s toes.  Sometimes you did it intentionally.  But most of the time, when you step on someone’s toes, you didn’t mean to.  But you apologize anyway because regardless of your intent, you hurt them.

What do you think?  Is there anything else I missed?  Leave advice in the comments!

Quotation Tuesdays-Faith

Signature of Anne Frank

Signature of Anne Frank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Despite everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  Anne Frank

Although I work in social justice, I often get discouraged by comments that are issued from the mouths of the ignorant, comments that blame people for the forces beyond their control.  I force myself to remember that most people are fundamentally good, but their worldview makes them see the problems of the world in a less compassionate light.

I must believe that people are truly good at heart to continue my work.  Perhaps it is willful delusion, but I must believe in Anne Frank’s words.  As long as I stay grounded in reality, I can stay hopeful for the human condition.   Without that delusion, I would have no strength to continue doing my work and would sink into cynical boredom and dispair.

Perhaps this is hyperbolic, and there are truly evil people.  But it seems absurd to eliminate most of the population as evil.  Misguided, yes, but most people are not fundamentally evil.  Believe in the goodness of the people, if for no other reason than your own happiness.

Whore-O-Ween

SDSU Sorority Girls in slutty Halloween costumes

SDSU Sorority Girls in slutty Halloween costumes (Photo credit: San Diego Shooter)

Whore-O-Ween

     I loved the comments under differentiateddoormat’s piece on Halloween costumes.  The readers offered suggestions for individuals to try to change the partriarchical culture that promotes and “suggests” sexy costumes.

Motivational Mondays- Success, One Man at a Time

Talking To A Brick Wall

Talking To A Brick Wall (Photo credit: Joriel “Joz” Jimenez)

I have a classmate who has a tendency to say stuff that is really offensive.  Once he told the story of when he came to the United States, he expected brilliant professors, gold roads, and beautiful women.  According to him, these things only exist in movies about the USA.  (He then ended up sandwiched between the author and her roommate, for the rest of the car ride.  My roommate asked slyly, “Shame about that lack of beautiful women, eh?”  His face got ashen and we just laughed to ourselves, as he quickly backpedaled.  Needless to say, he isn’t known for his deft cultural sensitivity.  I had long since figured that he would never understand feminism.

Fast forward to a year later, and I have been telling him off every time that he used the word “rape” to describe exams, schedules, video-games and non-legitimate rape.  After the third time I called on him, he asked why it mattered to me.  And as I talked about rape culture, one in four, the twelve percent of men who inadvertently rape, he just sat and listened.

He said, “I had no idea that it was like that.  I never thought about it that way before.”  And he stopped using the word.  Sometimes, those that we believed to be opposed to us are merely ignorant.  They can be taught.  Keep going, because you may not have made an impact the first, second, or even third time.  The good ones can eventually be taught.

Millennials are people, too! Stop demonizing us!

Millennials are people, too! Stop demonizing us!

To the people of Generation X and Up:

Look, I understand that times have changed, that we dress in shorter skirts, with fake glasses, and call leggings pants (which they’re not).  Sometimes we wear our pants with our boxers hanging out.  We hate pantyhose and don’t wear it unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Our sartorial choices differ from yours.

But that does not mean that you should be demonizing us, calling us awful, spoiled, lazy, rotten, screwed, entitled, or useless.  Some of us are.  And some older people are prejudiced and forgetful, but we don’t draw generalizations about your generations from a subset of the population.  Please do us the same courtesy.

You’re our examples; we learn from you how to interact with the world.  If you don’t like how we’re acting, please teach us about how you’d like us to conduct ourselves.  Talk to the younger people around you.  We aren’t bad people, but we need guidance still.  We need mentors and friends to show us the ropes.  Remember those people who helped you in your career when you were younger?  Please be that to us.

Above all, respect us.  We’re people, who simply grew up in a different era than you.  But that doesn’t mean that we don’t respect you.  We want your advice, your stories, your expertise.  We are interested in what you have to teach us.  And we have things we can teach you.  So let’s stop antagonizing each other and learn from the generational gap.

     Every generation has claimed that the following generation is lazy and awful.  It has nothing to do with technology, with the internet, with Baby Boomers, with the parenting, with the decline of religion in the public sector.  I leave you with this final quotation.

“Youth today love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, no respect for older people, and talk nonsense when they should be working. Young people do not stand up any longer when adults enter the room. They contradict their parents, talk too much in company, guzzle their food, lay their legs on the table and tyrannize their elders.”
Socrates

Good News!

Good News!

Malala Yousufzal, the fourteen year old girl shot by the Taliban in her efforts to promote education for girls, is doing well, and her doctors say that there is no brain damage.  Go Malala!

For the rest of us, we can fight.  We can win.  At the end of the day, the fact that we are still standing is proof enough that we have won.

Sit Like a Lady?

I sit like a woman.  I cross my legs, shove my knees together, and fear showing my underwear.   Even if I’m wearing pants. I realize now that sitting in such a controlled way requires more concentration and energy than it does for a man.  When I move, I have to remember to cross my legs, readjust my skirt, and take up as little space as possible.  I ask myself if my seating position is remotely provocative.  Every time.

If I have to pay attention to the minute details of how how I’m conducting myself, I have less mental facilities to use for curing cancer. winning elections, or running a tri-athalon.

I read somewhere that women sit in a small area, whereas men spread out, take up more physical space and dominate the discussion, especially in a mixed group.  So, maybe I should sit more like a man.  Lean forward, spread my legs to take up the full chair, stretch my legs out on the floor.  But it’s hard to change the way you sit, hard to undue years of social conditioning.

   Do you find yourself sitting like a lady and resenting it?  Or am I reading too much into my sitting patterns?

The Myth of the Angry Feminist

Image   

    I’d love to know where these angry feminists are.  You know, the ones that you deny any relation to, the ones that men fear.  I’m starting to wonder if they even exist, or if they are no more than boogie-men of the conservative imagination.

Look up the stereotype.  Google “angry feminist.”

The most extreme feminist I ever met didn’t believe in shaving and identified as trans.  H* is a vegan eco-feminist, who fights for all oppressed beings.  H is the most extreme feminist I know, and yet, H has never once became  the angry feminist stereotype, no matter how much I inadvertently annoyed her.

I suppose that I could be considered an angry feminist, given my penchant for feminist speeches, or my inability to see past the sexism in a commercial.  Or my addiction to reading feminist blogs, where the women speak out, uncensored.  But I don’t hate men.  I’m a cis-bodied straight white female, who is interested in getting married and raising a family.  I love working with men, I love being friends with men; I just happen to be a warrior against the patriarchy.

But even I defer from the “angry feminist” label.  I still shave my legs and my armpits, hating myself and the process as I do.  I shy away from using the word patriarchy, and I try to preface my feminist beliefs with examples, so that my cis, able-bodied, white male friends will listen.

Instead, they criticize my technique, saying that I don’t get to the point quickly enough.  It is another variant of the tone argument.  These boys can play Starcraft for hours on end, build robots from scratch, and can deconstruct all of the current political speeches, but they cannot listen to a three minute explanation of why something broke sexist norms or expectations.

We eschew the angry feminist label, as if we can make our opinions more legitimate and more palatable to outsiders.  As if distancing ourselves from the mythical demon makes us a more reliable source.

Instead, the very presence of a mythical “angry feminist,” serves to discredit all of us, even the most mild-mannered of us.  The presence of a mythical “angry feminist” forces us to distance feminists from anger, forces us to hold our tongues, forces us to be polite to the men who insist that we have achieved equality, that the real reason for pay discrimination is that women’s childcare interferes with the quality of their work.

The mythical “angry feminist” teaches us that no matter how furious we are, that no matter how wrong the injustice we are fighting, no matter how abhorrent the rape joke or rape apologist is, we still cannot be angry.

Cloaked in the language of power, we avoid anger at all costs.  We believe that if we remain rational, if we remain calm and devoid of emotion, then we will be taken seriously.  That our words will matter.  If we scream and shout, pounding our fists to the ground, we will be dismissed as hysterical, or asked the ever insightful, “Are you on the rag?”  As if women don’t have legitimate reasons to be upset.

If we scream and shout, we become the irrational “angry feminist” the thing to be avoided, feared and made the subject of endless jokes.  If we scream and we shout, nobody will take us seriously.  But even if we speak calmly, devoid of emotion, presenting the facts, does it make a difference?

On days like today, when I’ve just finished listing all of the latest news in the War on Women, I wonder if it makes any difference if I present Paul Ryan and the GOP and their supporters with a detailed list of facts, statistics, and scholarly research on rape and pregnancy.  The information has been presented, taught, explained to them again and again and again and again.  And still they don’t hear us.

If everyone is deaf, it doesn’t matter if you scream for help or ask nicely.