Updated: Jul 1, 2020
I admit it. I care about what other people think of me. I care what they say about me. It disgusts me to admit it, and I work very hard to embrace all of who I am, even and especially the parts that make me cringe - so I admit it.
I am grateful I don't worry about it nearly as much as I used to, because frankly it is exhausting to be caught up in that. However, if I am honest, I still expend way more energy than I want to writing those stories in my head.
I say all this because I have noticed how I put off writing about my own personal struggles, thoughts, etc. with anger. I am afraid of what people will say about me ... specifically women. I grew up in a family of women - 4 sisters and my mom (my dad traveled a lot). All of us, the women in my family, have been and can be highly critical.
The dialogue in my head goes something like this, "But she's so angry!" in a very judgmental 'Becky' voice. Another voice says pretty much the same thing, but the tone is one of intellectual condescension. I know that particular tone is influenced by indirect messages from my father who taught me (though without conscious intention) that if one was smart then they did not let emotions have any weight or power. Emotions, especially strong ones, were for those who were not intellectuals. Intellectuals did not let such trivial things impact them.
If that is true, (and of course I do not believe it is), then I am not an intellectual. I am, however, angry. Angry as hell. Good and mad, as Rebecca Traister puts it. I'm fucking angry. I'm pissed right-the-fuck-off. I'm Samuel L. Jackson angry. I have been for a long time, but I was too afraid to admit it. I bought into the bullshit our society feeds women that it makes us unattractive. Oh GOD FORBID I would be unattractive! NO! A fate worse than death, because in a society that values women only to the extent of their desirability, I have no worth or value.
Really? Well, FUCK THAT, and FUCK YOU, white male patriarchy. Reminds me of this meme I saw posted on social media. A quote by Warsan Shire.
Here's what I know about anger. It's not a "negative emotion". What the fuck bullshit is that? There are no "negative emotions", in my book. Uncomfortable? Sure. Do I always welcome and smile into my discomfort. Fuck no! But I do value vulnerability, courage, and growth. There can be no growth without discomfort. That's what "stepping out of your comfort zone" means. It is a physical impossibility to have growth with no discomfort. Think about it. Doesn't happen. Every emotion has something to teach me. It has a purpose. Anger teaches me about healthy boundaries. What could be more important than that for a woman in a white male patriarchy? Nothing, that's what. As a white woman, I was taught that I should always take care of other people's feelings. Never, no never, make anyone uncomfortable. Always be nice and giving and sweet and accommodating. Always say yes when someone asks for something or needs your help, no matter what else you have on your plate. In other words, "no" is a dirty word. "No" is selfish. Tell me, what kind of mindfuck is that in a society that also taught me that I should be a "good girl", and good girls are not sexual, don't like sex, don't know anything about sex, never have sex, and are always "good girls" when with boys. So I can't say "no", but I have to remain a "good girl". How fucked up is that? But I digress.
Rebecca Traister speaks truth. I, as a white woman, have been offered privileges and incentives in exchange for shutting off and turning down my anger. As a result, other non-white women -- and especially black women -- have paid for it. They have always had reasons to be angry and have rarely been offered reprieve or reward for the act of suppressing it.
Anger is not bad. It is not unattractive. It is not unladylike. It is not unprofessional.
Anger is good. Anger is beautiful. Anger tells us when enough is enough and helps us draw a line in the sand, set healthy boundaries. Philosopher, Myisha Cherry, tells us that anger can be "a communicative tool, a call to action, engagement, and collaboration between idealogical compatriots." This is not to say that anger cannot be destructive. Certainly it can. It can be toxic when held inside for a lifetime. It can eek out sideways and hurt those we love. This is true of sadness that is held unattended for too long, or fear unaddressed. Even joy that is clutched onto at the exclusion of all other emotions can be unhealthy. Emotions are meant to be fluid. The image in my mind's eye is the ocean's tide.
This is what I want for myself and other women like me -- a healthy, conscious embracing of all that is a part of us and our experience as women. I want to invite women of courage, women who are curious, women who can look at themselves in the mirror and stand what they see, the beautiful and the not-beautiful -- invite all of us to come together in this exploration. Let's share our women stories, let us honor our feelings, let us laugh and cry and rage and heal together.