Mad Men Women

There’ve been a lot of articles in the mainstream press addressing women’s anger. Reading them is both validating..and ironically, rage inducing. They please me because they’re long past due. They piss me off because women have been writing about their own anger for decades…yet those articles and essays and books, like women in general, have largely been ignored or negated, shoved under the rug and passed over.

Look, women’s anger–when it has even been allowed— has almost always been used against them. Mocking, shaming, creating caricatures around women’s anger? It’s used to shut down the conversation before it even begins. It’s the wrench in the patriarchal tool belt.

Angry women are almost never granted legitimacy. There is no framework for women’s anger. We are shushed, patted on the head, prescribed Valium, and repeatedly told to calm the hell down can’t you take a joke?

Mad women are shrill, we’re harpies, we’re hysterical. We are the cartoon figure of the feminist killjoy, an equality pushing dementor who sucks the joy and fun from every conversation; the racist caricature of the angry black woman; the crazy ex-girlfriend, the bunny-boiling anger of a scorned woman or the vengeful ex-wife. And so forth.

All of these caricatures? They exist to undermine the legitimacy of women’s anger. You see, if we make fun of it, we don’t have to take it seriously. If we don’t take it seriously, we can convince each other that women are just being whiny bitches out for revenge and avoid the real issues.

Pssst…..there’s a lot to be angry about. Legit.

And here comes the mainstream media riding in two centuries too late on a lame-ass pony reporting on women’s anger as if it’s a new trend.

Women’s anger is not a damn fidget spinner.

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I’ve borne witness to the anger of women young and old, but by far the most pissed off group I’ve seen is the one caught between maiden and crone. Which, perhaps not coincidentally, is my own peer group.

Women between forty and sixty who are coasting on a tidal wave of blind, white rage.

And still the media asks, gosh ladies, why are you so darn mad?

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Women my age–women who grew up with the idea that it was ALL possible (Sally Ride! Sandra Day O’Connor!), we were lulled into a false sense of equality. Abortion was decriminalized, birth control became available. Women took control of their bodies–and by doing so, their economic power.

And they have been fighting to retain control of both ever since. It is never-ending.

We were told the problem was not enough girls liking math, not enough girls going into engineering. We were told the problem was high powered jobs were difficult to maintain as a mother. We were told, in short, the problem was us.

The problem was never that girls weren’t good at math. The problem is not that women aren’t interested in science and tech, or sports, or medicine. The problem is not that women aren’t funny or innovative. The problem is not that women make up allegations against men because they’re liars or out for revenge. The problem is not that women are not ambitious enough to have both a career and a family.

The problem is not women.

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You want to know one reason why the wage gap exists? The real wage gap–the one which traces the income of women working over a lifetime vs. that of men. It doesn’t exist because women don’t want good, high-paying jobs, or that they don’t possess the innate skills to do those jobs, (and if you thought any of those were the reason–check your misogyny at the door, bro.)

Let’s look instead at how men have been traumatizing women right OUT of those jobs with their penises.

Men with their dicks out have been chasing women out of tech, out of publishing and film, out of academia, out of finance, out of comedy and Congress and sports and every, single, other industry until all we are left with is men. Men who control what we read and see and hear and buy and listen to and like.

Those same men then turn around and ask why women are under-represented in those fields. Some go as far as to promote themselves as allies to the feminist cause. Those same men? They control the narrative we’re fed about women. That’s right. How’s that for a double-bind mindfuck?

Have you never wondered why women cluster in certain fields? Sure, some of it has to do with trying to carve out a career around the demands of family care taking (and don’t even get me started on that), but a lot of it is this: when you are surrounded by other women, you’re relatively safe. Oh, you may not be safe from backstabbing and bullying, but you are safe from being chased out of your chosen career path because your boss can’t keep his fantasies or his dick zipped where it belongs.

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Do you want to know why so many women are so blindingly angry?

Women have been playing by the rules we’ve been given, rules written by men, and yet whenever we get close to the trophy, the rules suddenly change. It’s like reaching square 98 in Chutes and Ladders and landing on that damn chute which dumps you back at square 4 every, single time.

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This anger you’re sensing from women? The one behind hashtags like #MenAreCancelled? It’s a survival mechanism against a system which has left many women with no other choice but to fight their way out.

And women have reached the point where if they’re going down, they’re going down fighting.

They may not win, but they’ll make damn sure they have the skin of the patriarchy under their fingernails on the way down.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Stop Telling Women to Chill Out

angry-womanDudes.

I keep reading and hearing about women whose husbands or brothers or male family members or bosses or strangers are telling them to chill out.

Sometimes this is thinly veiled code for “Oh My God, I am never going to have sex again.” Most of it is male cluelessness. Sometimes that cluelessness (I’m done mincing words) comes from a place of benign unawareness. Sometimes it’s more than that.

Before I delve into what promises to be the mother of all profane and rage filled rants, I need to clarify a few important things. My husband is a white male. He is categorically not one of these men. That is one of the many reasons he IS my husband. For the most part, the husbands of my friends are not these men either. There are always one or two, and for them, I have zero fucks left. Many of the men I interact with on a daily basis are not either. Some are. I see them, nodding along, inwardly hoping I shut the hell up.

Yeah…nope.

I will not chill out and if you are a woman, neither should you. Nor should you chill out if you are a minority or an immigrant of a Muslim or LGBTQ. And please, if you are a man who is ready to put his money where his mouth is, you should not chill out either.

Other things you should not do: Apologize for being angry. Explain. Justify. Rationalize.

The US just elected, by a margin that’s so disgustingly small it pains me to think about it, a man who normalized sexual assault. To the point where it is apparently now a thing to grab a woman’s body and shout “We can do this now!” or to demand she open her legs to allow easier access (culled from first person accounts). It elected a man accused of sexual harassment by over ten different women. A man who, on 60 Minutes, said he has all intentions of nominating SCOTUS judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade. A man who has suggested that women who seek abortions be punished. A man who has surrounded himself with, surprise surprise, a cadre of old, white conservative men who care about three things: money, their dicks, and apparently, making the lives of women as miserable as possible.

You may say, “Oh, but he won’t do that!” To you I say, “Why the hell should anyone trust that he won’t do exactly that?”

So no, thank you very much, I will not simply chill out.

When someone starts creating nonsense legislation targeting penises, then come and talk to me. When someone starts slicing and dicing at health care plans and organizations which protect the health and well-being of penises, then you can tell me it’s not that bad. When someone starts normalizing women giving the old ‘twist, pull, twist’ on random male testicles, because “They can do this now!” then come and tell me we should just wait and see. When only men are held responsible for the upkeep of children, maybe then you can tell me to chill out. When, law after unconstitutional law is created which outlines and legislates penis upkeep and usage, then fine, we’ll talk.

Until then, uh-uh.

I am so weary of managing the emotions of angry, white men. Because let me tell you something. All those post-mortems and studies which show that the white, working class is angry about being left behind? Those are white, working class men. Do you know how I know?

Because women and minorities and immigrants have been working shit jobs for decades and getting left behind. And….wait for it…they’ve continually had their civil rights under threat as well! I imagine they’re pretty angry too. But I’m also fairly certain the white working class women who have been busting their asses in dead end jobs will continue busting their asses in dead end jobs. Because all those magical jobs which are going to fall out of the sky like so many manufacturing unicorns? They’re not going to be for women. Women will get left behind again. Including whatever margin of white, working class women opted to vote for ‘change’.

And they’ll still get told to chill out.

So now the rest of us have to stop what we are doing to manage the emotions of the white, working class male who is having an identity crisis as his role of sole provider is changing in a global economy.

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Goddamn. And they call liberals cry-babies.

What do you think women who have been abandoned by their husbands, left alone to raise kids, forced to have kids by restrictive abortion laws, have had to do for the last fifty years? Women who have gaps in their work experience from staying home and supporting their husband’s law career? Women who never had work experience in the first place because they were told they’d be provided for…until they weren’t? What do you think ALL THOSE WOMEN have been doing? They take a crap job cleaning toilets or working at McDonald’s or in some office, where they then have to deal with some asshole groping them. They do it to feed their kids. They put their heads down and get on with it while they figure it out. And let me tell you, administration after administration left those women behind. And so they chilled out. And got left behind again. I imagine they’re pretty pissed off too. Substitute minority or immigrant in there for women and the same holds true.

One article I read suggested the white working class male felt hard done by. They felt they were being laughed at by younger professionals. Their pride was hurt.

Holy shit.

Now the rest of us have to hold the line while white male identity figures out how to rebrand itself? We are here, on the cusp of having to fight another goddamn war over reproductive rights because men felt like they were being laughed at?

This is what privilege is. Privilege is bringing a country to the brink of cultural revolution because a white man feels like he is being laughed at. Fuck me gently with a chain saw.

Sure. You got left behind. Yes, the government should have done more. And yes, you should hold the government accountable. Hell, you should be angry. But you are not the only ones who get left behind. Yet you are the only ones who went and flipped the whole table over because if YOU can’t sit at the table, then by God, NO ONE is going to sit at the table.

So no, women do not need to chill out. What women really need to do is allow themselves the anger that they’ve been denying and supressing for years.

My mother told me about a show that studied the biological desire in males to conquer. How there is speculation that because there is so little left to conquer and explore, all that pent up energy has nowhere to go.

May I suggest the outer reaches of Russia? I think there’s a lot of space up there. You can roam around and shoot things. Or each other. Plant a few flags and deal with all the feels of manliness. If your pride gets hurt you can punch someone in the face.

Then if you’d like, come back where the rest of us have been carrying on doing what we need to do. Where we’ve been dealing with being laughed at, harassed, assaulted, groped, denied, oppressed, all the while still managing not to flip the fucking table over.

unknownSo don’t give me the spiel about how this is all about the white working class male regaining his pride. If the white working class male’s only way of regaining pride is by stepping on the necks and rights of others, than hell yes, I’m going to be angry.

And so should every other man, woman, immigrant, minority, Muslim and LGBTQ American that feels the same.

So no. You chill out. I hear Russia’s really nice.

 

 

How To Become Radicalized in Ten Easy Steps

f43d2d05a50cf51b2282509fca7df12aStep 1

The slow realization that something about you is considered not as good as, seen as less than. Even though you don’t feel less than, everything you read and see and hear, watch and listen to, screams and whispers it to your heart.

Step 2

The dissonance of questioning and doubting your own experiences. Making excuses for patronizing behavior, shushing. The strange discomfort of being patted on the head like a good, happy dog because everything you are seeing tells you that you are supposed to expect it and enjoy it–even though it makes your soul prickle. Denying your own emotions. Believing them when they tell you it will be fine, as long as you follow the rules.

Here is the list of rules. There are a million of them. They cover how to dress and talk and walk and act. They cover what not to do, how to do it, how to please, how to avoid displeasing. In between the lines it tells you how to keep your head down like a dog.

Step 3

Follow a million rules to the letter and wait for a validation which never comes.

Oh look, here are a million more rules. Come back later.

Step 4

Attack the rules with education and knowledge. Study the problem from a historical perspective. Immerse yourself in theory. Learn about the sociology and the psychology, the economics. The art and literature. Endure endless mocking and judgement for studying something invalid, some phantom, as if oppression and ghost hunting were Siamese twins.

Step 5

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals to stockpile comfort and succor. Armed with others like you, you bask in conviction. You are tackling age-old issues, but from a new angle, one which will work this time. It has to work this time. How can it not?

Step 6

Advance, retreat, advance. Repeatedly absorb and move on. Cling to the hope Pandora shut in her box despite being continually and perpetually let down. Learn to swallow the bitterness of betrayal–not only by those holding you back, but those who should be on your side as well.

Step 7

Realize everything you’ve done, have studied for, have worked toward has achieved absolutely nothing. Out of two million rules, you are at #67. They’ve rewritten them when you were not looking.

Step 8

Allow yourself to feel anger. Stop explaining. Cease apologizing. Begin actively demanding and agitating. Surround yourself in an echo-chamber of those who believe in the same things you do, who nod and agree and encourage.

Step 9

Accept your goals, once so attainable seeming–will never be reached peacefully, with logic or reason, with discourse or compromise. Shift focus from demanding acknowledgement and equality to plotting revenge and seeking payback.

Step 10

Jettison anyone who doesn’t fit your narrative. Escalate the rhetoric. Cocoon yourself in righteousness and anger. Hone in on the enemy. There is no longer a ‘we’, but an us. And a them.

Congratulations. You’re radicalized.

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Years of living in this woman’s body, where compromise is not only a natural way of living, but a necessary tool of survival, has given me an awareness and understanding of my mind and psyche. I know the map of my heart. Lots of therapy and a liberal dosage of Prozac over the years have helped as well. So when I feel the quiver of rage that shakes my very bones, I know I must be careful not to let it tip the scale to hate.

And right now, it is very, very close.

I am fortunate to have friends who are open enough and enlightened enough to have begun the healing. I am not there yet. I am not sure when I will be. Maybe tomorrow, I keep saying to them when they ask. Maybe tomorrow. Though it may be four years of tomorrows, or eight, or a forever full of them.

I know that feeding the flames of rage long-term will consume me. It will consume my soul and my writing, my family, my friendships, my life. And so I must let those flames die out eventually. Whether it burns itself out one time or I must put it out myself, what walks out of the funeral pyre on the other side will be a changed version of myself. A Phoenix. A woman formed in the ash heap of disappointment and despair, of rage and whatever borders on the thin line of hate. The question remains if it will be a constant struggle to tame the rage, to direct it instead, into something resembling determination and focus. Today, I don’t know the answer.

I understand now how easy it is to lose faith so completely in a system which has continually let you down. I understand how easy it would be to turn to an all-consuming darkness. It is hot enough in there to melt your very bones–but it feels good–like a dark sunshine burning in your blood. I understand now the desire to burn, the desire to exact revenge. To take. That desire is delicious on your tongue, though I know it will turn bitter soon enough.

I understand the appeal. 73623-phoenix-rising-from-ashes-quotes

It frightens me that I do, yet at the same time, I’m glad.

Facing some sort of darkness and making the choice to walk away is its own kind of power. Another one I will add to the notch on my witch’s belt. Ultimately I will do that. I will walk away.

But not today. Maybe tomorrow.

Maybe tomorrow.