Dancing With My Angry Self

pasdedeuxI’ve been dancing with anger for some time now. Perhaps it’s been on simmer for years, finally coming to a boil after a contentious election cycle. Maybe my hormones are shifting. Perhaps it’s an awakening. The why isn’t important.

Whatever the reason, my anger and I have gotten to know each other very well over the past few months, an intimate pas de deux.

What are you so angry at? People ask. Why is your daughter so angry? People ask my mother. Why is your wife so angry? People ask my husband.

The short answer? I’m angry at men.

I know it’s not fair to lump an entire sex into that sentence and that is one of the more complex movements of this dance. But I’m attempting to be as open and honest as I can–because I know I’m not alone in this.

There will be men who are offended by this bluntness, or perhaps surprised by it. I know because I had the same reaction when I started reading articles by feminists of color expressing their anger toward white women. But I”m not that woman! was my immediate response. And maybe I’m not. But I probably am, because regardless of who I think I am, I am the beneficiary and heir of a movement which has systematically left women of color behind. I cannot claim the successes without acknowledging the failures.

The same way men, in particular white men, are the beneficiary of centuries of patriarchal structure, whether they participate in it, uphold it, applaud it or try to change it. Men bear the weight of that structure on their shoulders. You can’t escape it simply because you know it’s wrong, it is too entwined with who you are.

And it pisses me off.

You hear a lot these days about being ‘woke’.  Woke to privilege, to racism, to sexism. Accepting you are part of the problem is a big part of waking up, scraping the crust of a lifetime of sleep away from the corners of your eyes. It’s uncomfortable. Yet as uncomfortable as it was and still is, I must keep acknowledging how I am part of the problem–even when all I want to be is part of the solution.

So I get it. I know there are men who want to be part of the solution, but in order to do that, you must realize you play a bigger part in the problem, whether it’s intentional or not.

pasdedeux_02

Being spitting mad with an entire sex has its downside of course. The biggest is that I’m married to one of those ‘men’. I’m raising two more. Nothing bitch slaps you in the face like expecting to smash the patriarchy and instead realizing you are raising the next installment of it. The rational woman within me recognizes that my husband is the best man I know. I know my sons are growing up with a sense of equality that didn’t even exist when I was a girl. I know many men who are allies, are compassionate, are feminists.

And yet, I”m still angry. For better or worse, I’m unapologetically angry with men. Fair or un, it’s there, pulsing like a metronome. And me and my angry self keep dancing.

The last year has felt like one big sucker-punch, kick in the teeth and stab in the back–with a “fuck you” thrown in for good measure. This is not just about election results, it’s also about the resurgence of anti-feminist hate groups. It’s about GamerGate and Breitbart headlines. It’s about male politicians introducing bogus legislation and men who have no clue what it is like to be a woman explaining to women what their problems are. It’s mansplaining and insulting. The casualness with which the demands of women are forever dismissed. The brush offs. And yes, the hate. Because there it is, at the core. And hate is what is coming through to my woke-ass ears loud and clear.

You see, it’s a pretty devastating thing to wake up one day, remove that last layer of crust from your eyes, and realize how hated you are by some. Simply by virtue of being a girl or  woman. It’s a harsh truth to stomach. There are men who hate women. There are men who simply don’t care. There are men who want to kill women just for being women. Or who use them as punching bags or live sex toys. There are men who think women are stupid, incapable, in possession of an emotion and intellect less than a man’s. Even if none of those things affects me personally, I cannot escape the fact that I am a woman, and these things are out there. They are the discordant notes I am dancing to.

Grappling with that leaves little time to stop and ask every man I see, “hey, are you one of those men who hate women?” And so generalization steps in to fill the gap.

I knew all of this of course. I’ve known it since I was a girl kneeling on a pew when someone told me there were no altar girls. But something about the past year has driven all of this home with a ferocity and clarity that’s left me breathless.

Sucker punch, kick in the teeth, dagger in the kidney.

I’ve come some way. I no longer vibrate with fury every time I see a male. I no longer want to smash things or spit in their face. Progress, right?

145Did you think only men got that angry? Only Fatal Attraction level crazy ex girlfriends? No. White middle-aged women get that angry. I am that angry.

Are you friend or foe? Adversary or ally? I don’t have the time or head space to ask. It is up to men to show me which they are. I’ve been giving most men the benefit of the doubt my whole life. I can’t afford those benefits anymore. The well is tapped.

If this post makes me sound like an angry woman, good. That’s the point. There is a time and a place for anger. The time and place are here and now.

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Dancing With My Angry Self

  1. Lynn February 22, 2017 / 9:06 pm

    You are not alone in this feeling.

    I, too, am married to a good guy and raised two boys. My husband is enlightened regarding feminism and supports me in everything I do. The weekend of the March on Washington he spent 6 hours in the car taking me to and from the bus I rode to DC (I have an autoimmune disease and the weekend tested that to the max without adding the driving part to it). He watched all of the March events on C-SPAN. But even with that, there were times I could tell he didn’t quite “get it”; why there was so much upset from women, why I felt I had to spend the money and time (and health) to go to DC (“Can’t you just go to the one in Indianapolis? It’s closer.”), and why I look at our new granddaughter and just can’t stop this feeling that I have to DO SOMETHING. And it’s because of men. The entitlements of men.

    I think of the sexual harassment endured at EVERY job I had up until about the age of 40 (starting at 13). I think about years of catcalls, whistles, and shouts just when I would go for a walk, put gas in my car, or work in my yard. I think about the family I babysat for and how the husband would hit on me when driving me home (ages 14-16) and I said nothing because I needed the job and loved the kids. I think about the boss–who I thought was safe because he had been my high school teacher before he bought a shoe store–who pinned me into a corner one evening during closing when I was in my early twenties and newly married. I think about the two times–years apart–when I was stalked at shopping malls by normal-looking men who were so creepy in either the whispered comments or the looks given that I had security walk me out to my car. I think about how all of those experiences and more are part of why I don’t give a shit about losing weight I know I should lose. Since I have gained it, I don’t have those issues all the time. Some of the time–and it slays me when it still happens at 75 pounds over what I should be–but not every day. And here’s the thing. I am not nor ever was movie star- or model-gorgeous. Not voluptuous. Not sexy. And yet it took cutting my hair super short, gaining significant weight, being middle-aged+ , developing a no-nonsense posture and a get-the-fuck-away-from-me-or-I’ll-drop-you look for that shit to nearly stop.

    What would it be like to work in an environment and live in an environment not have those issues? I am a confident person (I worked in law enforcement for a long time and I know how to take care of myself), but after my own experiences and years of talking with victims of harassment, assault, and rape, both in my previous career field and as a teacher now, I know that women walk around with a bounty on their head in a way that men will never grasp. What would it be like to not have that?

    What would it also be like to not be the one expected–not by my husband but by society–to do certain things for the family or household, or to be limited in career choices and opportunities (don’t get me started on what working in law enforcement was like in a red state and small town)? The closest thing I can imagine that men experience that would be nearly as galling is being expected to be the breadwinner, the protector, the strong one, the furniture mover/mechanical stuff/dirty jobs person — and that doesn’t seem comparable to me to having governments [mostly goddamn men] dictating what I can do with my body and at the same time seeing it as an amusement park.

    Like

    • Dina Honour February 22, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      You’re breaking me, Lynn. All the things you’ve listed, and all the ‘coincidental’ things that have happened to me, or to other women I know….it’s really only a wonder why it took me this long to stay angry. I was angry when I was young, but marriage and motherhood softened me up. Perhaps that’s the way it should be, is meant to be? And then you get older and wiser (yes, wiser!) and realize that you’re still carrying around all that shit and it’s not going anywhere, it never was. And it weighs you down, even when you’re not thinking about it.

      I have had a few bouts of frustration so extreme my husband has found me huddled in a mess somewhere. And the worst part? He has no clue. I have to do this by myself because he will never know what it’s like. And that fact both kills me a little inside but also pisses me off even more. Because as much as you ‘get it’, you’re never going to really ‘get it’.

      I dont’ know what it would be like to walk around without a bounty on your head. To walk through life as an equal, not just to the ones we love, but to society. To not be judged by the merits of men, to have their standards be the standards by which we are all measured. My husband and I were talking philosophy (how romantic 😉 and the state of nature. And I kept thinking, but how can we talk about the state of nature, when we are ONLY EVER taking into account men? Philosophers (at least the ones we study) were men. They were basing all their experience and observations and study on other men. So how can we truly know what the state of nature is if we’ve never really looked at it from both angles. Somedays he thinks I”m crazy. But he loves me anyway.

      Stay strong and angry. There’s a lot of work to be done.

      Like

  2. Maggie Wilson February 23, 2017 / 12:23 am

    What contributes to my anger? There’s hormones. And too much caffeine. (For me, anyway).

    But also, as you say, a life-long habit of remaining vigilant to attack, to feeling “less than” at the very least to feeling invisible to feeling like a vile piece of shit based on the degree of the dismissive response.

    I recall reading a novel a million years ago – by Marilyn French, I think – and I think the reason that her name sticks when most names never do is because of the theme of her book – women and rape – especially the idea that no woman, no matter how old or “undesirable” is safe. For 40 years since, I feel that I’ve dodged a bullet. I’ve made it another day and haven’t been sexually assaulted. There have been close encounters and threats (which constitute assault in my books) but never the “real thing” that French wrote about.

    How insane is that!?

    You want to know what worries me now with the white supremacist BS that’s gaining traction? Witch hunts. Maybe not out-and-out tossing her in the drink to see if she floats ambushes, but some sort of push-back to the uprising of woman who are protesting, speaking out, and demanding a voice.

    Not being heard: THE main hot button issue in my life.

    Thanks for writing.

    Like

    • Dina Honour February 23, 2017 / 11:33 am

      The Women’s Room.

      Somehow I bypassed this book in my first go-around with feminism. But a friend lent it to me about 5 years ago and I read it then. And it likely resonated even more then, because I was a mother by that time.

      Witch hunts. Have they ever really stopped? I’m fairly certain that the ‘witches’ who were burned were the women who refused to bend to the oppression of some man along the way, the wise women, the women who were ahead of their time. We still burn witches–we just do it by shaming now instead of logs.

      As I did with Lynn above, I’m going to direct you to an essay I wrote–not because I enjoy plugging myself (HATE it), but because I think you’ll find a to relate to in it.

      Make yourself heard. There are lots of us listening, I promise.

      http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2016/11/1001-nights-by-dina-honour/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynn February 23, 2017 / 6:59 am

    Spot on.

    As empathetic as I feel to people of color or to my friend who lost a child, I know I will never, ever “get it.” I know that compared to them I am incredibly privileged. But I try. I mean really, really try.

    Most men don’t even fucking try.

    I raised my sons to be good guys. One (the younger one) is better at “getting it” than the other, but they’re both pretty decent guys. Still, I occasionally see something–usually out of the older one–that makes me lose it in a major way. If he gives a kneejerk, “Jeez, o-kay”, acting like he’s thinking Is mom’s post-menopausal self slipping back into PMS–well, the reaction is not pretty.

    As you said, we’re older and wiser. I’m being even more specific in my teachings with my eight-year-old grandson, and doing all I can to make my granddaughter a raging feminist. They are my catalysts now.

    I’m not a crier but I’ve cried more in the last year than at any point in my life. Watching all night as the primary election results came in for Hilary Clinton was a feeling only surpassed by when she became the Democratic nominee at the convention. Though expected, when it happened it felt surreal. Tears flowed. That level of joy…I’ve only felt it a few times. The possibility — heck, the likelihood — of having a woman I’ve admired elected President seemed eminent. But in the week leading up to the election I started to have a feeling of foreboding; then the night became wave after wave of sick feeling and numbness. No tears at first. Once they started they wouldn’t stop. I was still crying on my way to work the next morning.

    I liked Bernie Sanders and most of his ideas, but HRC was for me far and away the best candidate–with the added bonus of being female. Losing not only the best candidate but likely losing the chance of seeing a woman elected president in my lifetime was so terribly painful that I almost didn’t go to school. I’d had no sleep, and felt and looked like shit. I only went because I’m the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) sponsor, and I knew my kids would be having a hard time and needing support. Turns out they weren’t the only ones. I have former students who are female and now teachers in the building, and who were devastated. In a conservative area in a conservative state, we liberals know where our kind can be found, and that morning we needed each other.

    It took a few days for the anger to start to overtake the grief, and it wasn’t until late Dec. that I was beyond pissed, to the point of booking a ticket to DC for the March, even if I had to go alone. Reading the posts on Pantsuit Nation have brought back a lot of memories (the events in my original reply). I know there are more suppressed. And we all do it. I recently learned that a high school friend of mine had many of the same experiences–some even with the same men!–but in 40 years of friendship we’d never discussed those things with each other or much of anyone. We carried it. Because that’s what women do.

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    • Dina Honour February 23, 2017 / 11:28 am

      We carried it. Because that’s what women do. I think you summed it up in one sentence. That’s what women do. Lynn, did you ever read my essay 1001 Nights? I think you’ll enjoy it if you haven’t, it encapsulates a lot of what we are talking about here. All of these individual stories we carry which are part of ourselves, but also, they are the store of Every Woman.

      Also, you likely know, but A Mighty Girl is a phenomenal resource for books and articles for kids about women. I buy my own sons books from there, as well as for the girls I know. Perusing those stories and books–it makes my heart both sing and sink. Sing to know we are finally leaning the names of these women (Hidden Figures!) and sink because how many more have been lost to HIStory and how many simply don’t want to know?

      Like

      • Lynn February 23, 2017 / 2:39 pm

        I suspect that you, like me, seldom express or let out these feelings to anyone but yourself; and that they aren’t a constant loop in your head or heart, but rather something that bubbles up, especially with certain triggers that seem more prevalent lately. What irks women my age is that we’re still dealing with the same stuff. But you’re so right about how encouraging it is that more stories from women are emerging.

        I follow the Mighty Girl site and love the titles they share. Thank you for the link; I’m looking forward to reading 1001 Nights.

        Like

  4. tomc49 February 23, 2017 / 11:01 am

    I am sorry but I really don’t like being lumped in with all the insensitive a-holes that are men. We are not all like that. I didn’t have an easy life. I was abused and the pain stays until this very moment. One of the first things that come into my head every morning is the abuse I had to endure. But I work to rise above that. If you enjoy feeling sorry for yourself you go right ahead. It is not going to get you anywhere.

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    • Dina Honour February 23, 2017 / 11:23 am

      I am truly sorry about the abuse you suffered, and the difficulties you’ve experienced. And I am glad you’ve found ways to rise above that. Many don’t.

      As to the question of being “lumped in”, I’m not surprised you don’t like it. No one likes that feeling. Did you read my description of feeling that way, as a white woman, when I read about how feminists of color feel? It’s the same thing, the same feeling. I don’t want to be ‘lumped in’ with the white women who put Trump over the top. I like to think I live my life in a way that is not racist, that is inclusive….but I also have to acknowledge that my white woman-ness has given me things and privileges never given to women of color. It makes me uncomfortable to be lumped in with ‘white women’, but I have to accept it, and I have to listen.

      I don’t think anything about this essay was about feeing sorry for myself. Quite the contrary, it is about allowing myself to be angry–not shunting the emotion away under the rug because it is frowned upon or too scary. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, I find it empowering to name the emotion and to try to look for positive ways to channel it moving forward.

      It absolutely hurts when someone generalizes. It chafes when you feel like you go out of your way to live a life and then someone comes along and makes a sweeping generalization which includes you. But part of opening ourselves up to the next level of activism is acknowledging aspects of the power structures we are part of, whether we asked to be part of them or not, whether we fight agains them or not, we are STILL benefiting from them. We can’t escape it. So the best thing we can do is to show each other that we are allies, by listening, and acknowledging where we fit into the whole. It’s not easy. It’s not comfortable. But I’ll argue that it IS necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tomc49 February 23, 2017 / 8:35 pm

        You and I are both white I think. We grew up in a land that is racist. You can’t imagine how people of color feel. When I moved to The Netherlands a little over 20 years ago I was continually reminded that I came from America. This goes on to this day. There are a lot of stereotypes about Americans, We are all bragarts, we think we are the best at everything in the world and that everyone on the planet should do things the way we want them done. I can’t have a normal conversation with anyone without it being brought up that I come from America. I have been often told that I don’t speak English at least not real English.
        People assume all kinds of things about me.
        The upside from all this is is that now I have a better appreciation of how people of color in America might feel. It’s not easy.
        One last thing, Anger is not a positive thing. Ask yourself where that anger comes from.
        Keep up the blogs. I really do enjoy them. I read these things first thing in the morning for me. I don’t like being yelled at so early. At least make the first 2 or 3 sentences “lighter”. I’m still on my first cup of coffee then.

        Like

      • Dina Honour February 23, 2017 / 9:26 pm

        Tom! I’ve given up caffeine–perhaps that’s why the anger seeped through so quickly.

        Funny you should bring up the feelings of being outside of the norm in The Netherlands, I have an American friend married to a Dutch man and just the other day she was talking about how much of an outsider she felt when she lived there (people berating her for not speaking Dutch, probably many of the things you mention as well). I’m in Denmark. The Danes aren’t perfect either. No one is, right?

        But you’re right–I can’t imagine how people of color feel, and that’s why I need to give up defending myself and just listen. I’m glad you’re sticking around. I’ll try not to yell so much….first thing in the morning ;-).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Priya February 24, 2017 / 3:37 am

    I can relate to the fact that my husband is a decent man, sees me as an equal in every way – yet his life has been one of privilege every step of the way and he can’t know or recognize so many subtle put downs I receive, or even why something seemingly “small” can hurt so much – because you get so tired of defending yourself and the stress begins to show.

    I’m raising 2 sons as well. I’ve tried my best to raise them to see women as equals, as human beings. However I’m surrounded my family that still engages in patriarchal practices. The way my sons are treated when extended family visits – as if they are princes – that really bothers me.

    You are right – good men, decent men, should do more than believe women are equals. They need to be vocal and insistent. They need to listen and understand more. They need to take a stand. This impacts them too. It impacts all of us and what kind of society we want to create for our kids.

    Being angry is never comfortable for others – but isn’t that something that has been denied far too long for women? Why not let women be human, let them get angry. Prolonged anger, anger that is nurtured constantly is not a good thing – but a burst of anger can make us question things, maybe change things, if channeled. That’s not such a bad thing.

    Like

  6. Paul Grizenko February 26, 2017 / 11:41 pm

    Let’s see. Male? Check. White? Check. Older? Check. Straight? Check. Privileged? Check.

    Does your anger make ME angry? No, not really. My awareness of my privilege does not change it, and does not make it less unfair. I won’t insult you by telling you that I totally get it – because I can’t. I can imagine what it is like to be a non-white, or a non-male, or non-straight, but it becomes a function of imagination, not reality. And yet, I do also feel an anger – at witnessing the doors that aren’t opening for my wife that may have opened for me, at listening to the stories of my adult daughters are they try to carve out a space for themselves in this world, at remembering the many difficult choices that my mother and women of her generation had to make because they were women.

    There are also other reasons to feel angry, if only, in my case, for second-hand reasons. Even in Canada, there is too much racism. Even in Montreal, my gay friends cannot fully live their own lives without some fear.

    There are different kinds of anger. There is the anger of injustice – that needs to be nourished and fanned into even hotter flames. There is the anger of foiled ambition and loss of privilege – that needs to be doused, or at least reflected back to its source. My wife and daughters will understand your anger in their guts, as they live with why you are angry. I can understand it intellectually, but I cannot feel it the way you do.

    Continue to be angry, and let us together work at making the reasons for your anger become less and less. I choose to believe that this will be possible.

    Like

    • Lynn February 27, 2017 / 12:23 am

      Well said, Paul.

      Like

  7. Gina Earle March 16, 2017 / 7:41 pm

    “In particular white men, are the beneficiary of centuries of patriarchal structure, whether they participate in it, uphold it, applaud it or try to change it.” I like this. But I’m also mad about it. Womyn need to stop repressing their inner Kali. I think venting and writing about it especially is a useful tool. The pen is mightier than the sword as they say.
    Thank you for sharing. Someone had to do it.

    Like

    • Dina Honour March 20, 2017 / 9:58 pm

      Some days it’s the only thing that keeps me sane and upright…

      Like

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