Why are we so afraid of anger? Anger is, I think, one of the most useful emotions we have in our toolbox. It’s one of the best motivators in this life. Second only to cheese, I think.
Think of all the human rights organizations that wouldn’t exist if someone didn’t first get really friggin’ angry about a certain type of injustice. Anger is important and can be used to do huge and world-changing things. It’s powerful and can be and definitely is often times mishandled but just because it has been used incorrectly does not make it wrong. Changing the lives of millions isn’t the only way to use anger correctly but it’s an easy example.
We are particularly uncomfortable with an angry woman. We can’t handle the thought of an angry woman, can we? What do we do with angry women? We shut them down. We say “I can’t listen to you when you’re talking like that.” We say, “why are you so angry?” We say, “be nice.” We police her tone. We write her off as a bitch.
What do we say to angry men? We say, “Oh, he was upset when he said that. He didn’t mean it.” We say, “he has a powerful presence.” We say, “he’s just telling it like it is.” We bend over backwards to try to hear past the anger to the message at the bottom of it all. We do a lot of work to dig deep and give him the benefit of the doubt.
At the end of last week, I made an offhanded statement in frustration that “ugh. Men are trash.” Which, if you look back over the past few
centuries weeks in the news you might find that men haven’t really been doing a great job of proving themselves not to be trash. It’s just, I mean… UGH! It doesn’t feel great. It makes us angry. It should make us angry. If we were making a list of times when it’s okay to be angry, finding out that we’ve been supporting sexual predators for decades is certainly on the list.
I got responses ranging from, “you’re a reverse sexist” to, “how does your husband feel about what you just said??” to “I’m really trying to hear your heart but it’s hard because I’m just so hurt by what you said.” They said that I’m smarter than that and other patronizing excuses that patriarchy uses over and over and over again to dismiss and quiet down angry women.
This frustrates me because I really thought that the venue that I chose for this statement was one primarily filled with people who would actually get what I’m trying to say. It’s not the kind of thing that I would just say to anyone. But they call themselves feminists and allies. Though, if there’s anything we’ve learned after the Louis C.K. reveal, it’s that even our allies don’t get it as much as we want them to. As much as they say they want to. They just can’t get it.
So, now that I have the time, energy, and patience to do so, let me do the work of unpacking what I mean when I say, “men are trash” to a group of teammates:
First of all, if I was trying to make an intelligent and mind-changing argument, I absolutely wouldn’t have used a three-word sweeping generalization.
I will also admit that I was expecting too much when I thought that male allies would be able to mentally put the “some” at the beginning of the sentence. It was also a lot to expect them to have the self-awareness required to know whether or not that statement described them.
“Men are trash” means I’m so exhausted: I’m so tired from my regular everyday life of being a woman in the world. And then on top of that, you throw in how every single day we hear about new ways that men we’ve been supporting for years have been using that support as leverage to force women into degrading and dehumanizing situations. Situations that we’ve all been in and re-live over and over and over again every time we hear about it or think about it or fall asleep and have dreams and then wake up thinking about it and then, oh! What’s that? Another one? Cool. Yeah. Of course. Just pile that on. Nothing surprises us anymore. Just keep re-traumatizing us over and over again. It’s fiiiiiiine.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that this is happening. People should be held accountable for their abuse of others no matter how late it is. I’m willing to sit through the re-traumatization as much as I can as long as the world is changing because of it. Back when it was just happening with no consequences (you know, like when a sexual predator was elected to the presidency?), it was too much.
Then, in a moment of exasperation–at the end of one of these days at the end of one of these weeks I’ll say not the most intelligent and enlightening thing in the whole world. Please and thank you for telling me about how sad you are that I didn’t bend over backwards to make you feel good about yourself and how you’re the exception. Yes. That is very helpful. You’re out here doing the Lord’s work. Where would I be without you?
Even in our anger, even in our pain, we are expected to accommodate and smile and curtsey and offer tea and pray quietly that you’ll hear us. But you kind of can’t really hear us because we don’t sound serious enough because it’s all covered in a delicate sweet glaze and how angry can we really be if we’re serving you sugar? But then when we serve you our truth, you tell us we’re too much. You can’t hear us through our tone and your hurt feelings. Well, what do you want from us?
A man can shoot up a public space and the world grasps their collective pearls and says, “Oh, he was hurting or sick.” Meanwhile, I have to beg for a pass to express frustration in the presence of those who claim to be on my side. GAH! It’s so unsurprising, though, to those of us who have lived a life in a female body that you almost don’t think to mention it. Just a day in the life for us.
I am no longer responding to men who ask me to educate them for free. I’ll write here on my blog where I’m in charge of saying whatever I want whenever I want to but I’m no longer responding to men who want me to make them feel better about their advocacy without first sharing my PayPal information. I don’t have enough energy left in a day to not be getting paid for this labor. And if you’re the kind of person who needs me to personally come to you and assure you that you’re not trash because you can’t decide that on your own, well, then you’re kind of trash.
Oh, and, PS
My husband doesn’t care that I say “men are trash” on the internet for the following reasons:
1. He’s not the boss of me and I don’t have to answer to him.
2. He knows that statement doesn’t describe him.
3. He knows that, yeah, some men are certainly proving to be extra trash these days.