Hold On to Your Female Anger


You can LOVE dudes, wield peace signs and also LOATHE how some of them treat you, too.

Yesterday’s post about my Dad and his best friend received more attention than most, and, no #humblebrag bullshit, I was pretty surprised—I didn’t say anything groundbreaking or use any turns of phrase I was particularly proud of. It was more like a therapeutic meditation for myself than something meant to connect with others, and perhaps that’s why, ironically, it had broader appeal.

But what I noticed in numerous reactions to the piece were comments about the lack of anger and expletives, and how people “liked me best” when I wasn’t wearing such harsh feelings on my sleeve. In a society that considers itself so #woke, it’s hilarious and also troubling to me that no one would realize how inherently fucked up such comments are. I was not surprised that most of them came from young men, or women and men over 50—which is not to sweep all of those people under one rug (I know many people in those groups who want me to thrash on the page until it’s downright bloody, like the human that I am), it’s just to highlight how no women in or around my age group came forth with that opinion.

Those women had reached out days before, instead, when I wrote that rageful piece about our collective treatment via fuckboys. Those women got a thrill from that rage, because they recognized it, but are so often told to keep it coiled up inside. Those women liked to see it splayed out baldly, warts and all, primed for continued insult and injury from men or older folk who hate the sight, smell and lack of subservience that comes from a pissed-off lady… people who think that using “fuck” is for shock value, when it’s simply the only appropriate word to describe our widespread function as penis pleasers.

And, of course, these reactions made me ANGRY, but they also made me really fucking sad. Women have been swimming in this ignorance forever, and, despite all the chatter re: “how far we’ve come,” the endpoint seems to endlessly recede. But it wasn’t just the bird’s eye view that had me riled, it was the subsequent striking of a very personal chord…

Years ago I was told by the vapidest, most-heartless stripe of person that holding such opinions made me hateful, that my willingness to think out loud or to stand my ground in any situation needed to be immediately quashed. Because he screamed this violently in my face and slammed me into a bookshelf in front of other people who merely looked on, I believed him. I sipped on his hatred of me and convinced myself that shutting up was the thing I most needed to do—the only thing left for me to do if I was going to make it through the daily slog. The fanaticism on his face made it crystal clear that female anger, or the simple notion of a female STANCE on anything, could grate other people, could send them, arms swinging in my direction, to shut me up.

And I absorbed it. I stopped talking to friends, and to most people at all. I spent hours alone or running away from my hateful opinionated self at the gym, trying to become the calm, quiet girl I knew society would prefer. I lost tons of weight, developed anorexia and became a shell of myself—one who was comfortably numb, who could glide blindly through the bullshit flung at women without a second thought. But while it was ignorance, it wasn’t bliss. I would grow to feel like a puppy with her tail cut off, endlessly chasing after that unabashed, bumpy spark that had made me me.

Today it has grown back, but not without cuts, bruises, and endless second-thoughts. I’m hyper aware of how anger via females can rattle the world, how, when wielded, it can render us less “worthy” of a man’s time or the all-too-common “crazy.” The numbness of those days still tempts me, seeming easier (and frankly, it often was) than the shaky ground that comes with standing and stomping loudly on my XX soap box. I convince myself, briefly, that full-on feminism won’t do me any favors—leave me simply stranded and alone—and consider discarding it, once again, on the side of my current road.

These thoughts rushed through my head again yesterday, a million different waves crashing in the same place as I tried to figure out which one to ride. The answer, however, was clearer than it has been—chalk it up to age, a larger lack of unsupportive assholes in my life or the growing-in-appeal idea that women have a right to be uncomfortably PISSED OFF. I knew in my core that the anger I had traded in days ago was well-founded, that it was shared by many and deserved a voice (and many more voices, for that matter). I knew that not everyone would understand that, that many would and could and will continue to hold it against me—that it will irritate people when I don’t simply lie back and allow “the way things are” to trample over me uncharted.

I also know better now than to let that stop me—that anger (not always, but often) is warranted, therapeutic and useful in getting a message across. That there’s a way to wield it in writing that should not be made akin to slashing someone’s face, a way that can call out men without calling them all out, lining them up en masse to be attacked. When people struggle to recognize that, when they find themselves so quickly on the defensive, I’ve learned it’s better to let them stew in their confusion alone—to view it as a separate entity, not one I always need to taste, too, or believe in.

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1 reply »

  1. Jess – I ‘liked’ your piece about your Dad. You have a way of channeling and articulating that gives an honest picture of you at that moment in time.

    Anger can be useful if it motivates action to deal with the cause in a productive way – for you. It can also eat away at your psyche in a way that is not good for you. The constant turning over in your mind of the cause and re-kindling the anger flame. The anger can intensify and evolve into rage paralyzed by inaction and a feeling that it can never be avenged or resolved. Not that I have experienced that (!). ‘Just chill’ does not work. Writing is good because it forces the distance that composing words requires – a kind of discipline that restores a balance. We have to get to that point where we let go, forgive those whose relationship and empathy incompetence allowed them to put that negative energy in you in the first place. I used to think forgiveness was for others. It is not: it’s for your health and psychological well being. It dissolves the power of those who wronged you over your life. It melts the rage. But it takes some time.

    I love to read your writing – it is truly you and I appreciate you sharing you. Don’t stop – ever.

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