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I’m Allowed To Be Angry

March 7, 2014

Fat HealthMy Boring-Ass LifeDickweed

Trigger warning: Brief mention of rape in reference to misogyny

This post was inspired by two things this week. The first was a feminist post which was shared by a Facebook page I follow which had an image with the words “I’m a feminist and NO I don’tYes and No hate men.” The second thing was a post by atchka, “World’s Tinist Violin —,” and the reaction that it got on reddit.

As to the first. I’m a feminist. This shouldn’t really surprise anyone who reads my posts regularly. However, I’m not overly fond of men in general. Unfortunately, I’ve been in a position my entire life of being abused by men. I’ve been physically abused, I’ve been sexually abused, and I’ve been emotionally/psychologically abused. Eventually, a distrust of your abuser and your oppressor becomes a learned response. In other words, you become wary of men, not intentionally, but because of an almost Pavlovian response to systematic oppression and abuse. I said as much on this image and the response I got was decidedly aggressive, abusive, and misogynistic (I should add that the response did come from a man).

I’ll say this right now. You have the right to be angry at your oppressors and the privileged group(s) that they belong to.

On Atchka’s post on reddit, many people called him names and curse words for standing up against his abusers and oppressors. One person said that being an asshole, even to another asshole, just makes you an asshole. One response stood, shining, in the midst of all of this though. As Cyranothe2nd said:

Its vastly unfair to expect an oppressed person to always be nice and sweet to their oppressor and educate them on oppression, rather than get angry and/or expect their oppressor to educate themselves.

Furthermore, insults are a perfectly valid rhetorical choice. If someone is arguing stupidly, sometimes they need to be told that they are being stupid. I don’t feel that I should sacrifice accuracy in argument to civility. ESPECIALLY because civility tends to maintain the status quo and let people remain blissfully ignorant about oppression. Fuck. That.

Tone trolling is often a force of privileged silencing.

So can we just talk about the trope of the angry feminist, the angry fat person, the angry black woman, and on and on and on? Bigots very often use the oppressed person’s anger to delegitimize their arguments. If you search, you can find posts and articles on why it’s not our jobs, as the oppressed, to educate the privileged. There are resources for that and we have the weight of the world on our shoulders already. If I don’t have the spoons to be a teacher to a bigot, then I shouldn’t be obligated to do so.

Above all else, I, we, have the right to be angry at our abusers, at our oppressors and we have the right to react accordingly. We do NOT always have to be civil, we do NOT have to hide our emotions or be emotionless, we do NOT have to always be tolerant of the intolerant. It does not make you a better person than me just because you never get angry. In fact, anger and, well, finally being fed the fuck up, has been a driving force in a lot of change throughout history and all over the world. Anger, whether you like it or not, gets shit done. And you can’t even use the excuse that anger doesn’t help people become more tolerant because I have absolutely won arguments with bigots through anger where they have come around to my point of view.

It’s true that many bigots will become defensive (boy, you should see the comments in /r/TumblrInAction which Atchka’s post was cross-posted) and will respond with anger and sometimes it’s just a shouting match. But that’s okay… sometimes it’s cathartic and sometimes it’s justified. It’s okay to become fed up and to become so disgruntled and so frustrated that you are just about to burst. Being oppressed is not easy. There is no wrong way to be oppressed. You can be a calm oppressed person, an activist oppressed person, an angry oppressed person, an apathetic oppressed person, or any combination thereof. Everyone reacts differently.

I read a great article this morning on Psychology Today called “Must You Forgive?” which essentially argues that refusing to forgive your abuser is sometimes healthier than forgiveness, which is something that the abused are pressured into. Not forgiving is often seen as a moral failing, but it may in fact be the healthiest and most logical thing at that moment.

In the same way, believe that being angry at your abuser is justified and legitimate. When someone gets upset or tells someone that they’re not allowed, or shouldn’t get their point across in a certain way, it’s called tone policing. It’s yet another way of shutting down someone whose opinions you disagree with. Worse is when you tone police someone you actually agree with; when you believe that your brand of activism is the right one and everyone else’s is flawed or flat-out wrong because they choose to go about it differently from you. For instance, when a feminist tells another feminist, “Shhhh, don’t get so angry! Don’t yell so much! Don’t use angry words! They’ll think we’re all like that and they won’t listen to us anymore!” while wringing their hands worriedly.

The fact that our point can only get across if we’re acting as we’re expected to is part of the underlying problem to begin with. The fact that we’re only allowed to be submissive to our oppressors is a problem. And this is exactly what the reaction has been to anger against our abusers and oppressors — to be submissive. Well, I’m telling you right now that with a lot of us, that shit just ain’t flying.

Call me whatever you want, but I’m mad. I’m really mad and I don’t have enough spoons in the day to tolerate all of people’s bullshit as they rant and rave and call me names, and then have the audacity to tell me to keep calm and to blast me for getting upset? I don’t fucking think so, thank you very much. No one gets to silence my voice.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2014 10:56 am

    Brilliant. Thank you. This is a very important message and something that I very much needed to hear right now.

    It’s also really got me thinking about the extent to which framing forgiveness as a virtue (and anger as a fault) has been used to oppress and control many societal groups. That’s something that I haven’t thought about much before and, as a sociologist, probably should have.

    As an aside, it’s interesting how often Atchka is assumed to be a woman by these people. i wonder if that’s more to do with his stance on fat acceptance, or his angry words.

  2. March 7, 2014 11:34 am

    I actually have no idea whether I’ve persuaded anyone at all to change their minds with my tone, whether it was angry or civil.

    I do know that there are times when it’s taken tremendous force of will for me to respond to haters with a civil tone, only to have them come down on me like a ton of bricks and accuse me of being angry when I was, in fact, going out of my way to soft-pedal my message. Of course, once they provoke me by accusing me of doing something that I didn’t, it’s all over. :p

    In short, if you’re angry at shitty people and/or the shitty things they say without thinking, you might as well just express it in whatever way you damn well please. Because if it feels authentic to you, that’s the most important thing. As far as I can tell, civility fails at least as often as it succeeds. It’s the online equivalent of a coin toss. :/

  3. vesta44 permalink
    March 7, 2014 11:49 am

    This reminds me of that line “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” from Network. For oppressors to think that we shouldn’t be mad and don’t have the right to express that anger just shows how privileged they are. They think the status quo should never change, never expand, never be inclusive of anyone of whom they don’t “approve”. I hate to inform them of this, but the only thing that stays the same forever is change – change happens, and from what I’ve seen throughout my reading of history, it usually happens when the oppressed get fed up, get angry, and rebel against their oppressors. That’s a good thing, even though the oppressors may not think so. After all, the status quo benefits the oppressora and heaven forbid that anyone else should get those “benefits”.

  4. Linda permalink
    March 7, 2014 4:02 pm

    I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree. Anger makes people respond either in anger or fear. It is an intense emotion, and even when justified, may repel the people you most want to influence–those people who are on the fence with respect to your subject. Those who strongly oppose your viewpoint aren’t going to budge. I only engage them if I feel I can refine my arguing skills through it. If it’s a shouting match, or an exchange of insults and fowl language, I disengage. I see little good coming out of that. I’m not trying to ‘shhh’ anyone, or convince anyone that anger isn’t justified when an oppressor is bullying and baiting. I guess I’m just showing my roots: ours is a family of lawyers. Audiences have limited attention spans, so making every word count makes sense to me.

    • hlkolaya permalink
      March 7, 2014 4:39 pm

      you’re absolutely allowed to disagree- as long as you aren’t saying that we don’t have the *right* to get angry and react accordingly. I’m not saying everyone *has* to get angry, only that those who do are allowed to and that saying anger de legitimizes an argument is often used by oppressors to silence their victims.

      • Linda permalink
        March 7, 2014 4:51 pm

        I understand your point about oppressors’ manipulations. Many do a form of gas-lighting, whereby they push you to your limits. You respond appropriately with outrage. And then they try to make you feel crazy, out of control or simply wrong. I think everyone has a *right* to get angry. But, I’m nearing 60. I’ve been angry plenty of times in my life. Now, I prefer keeping my cool because it allows me to see what’s happening with better clarity. In other words, it’s a choice.

      • Linda permalink
        March 7, 2014 5:11 pm

        I also want to say I have an aversion to really rude, coarse speech. I know ‘eff this’ and ‘eff that’ is common parlance, but I tend to stop reading if there’s too much of that language. Anyone has a *right* to display angry language of this sort. I am a true believer in free speech, but I don’t have to stick around to read it.

        • hlkolaya permalink
          March 7, 2014 5:14 pm

          you’re absolutely right that it’s a choice, and that’s all I was trying to say. 🙂 one choice is not better than another. both are valid and necessary for change.

          • Linda permalink
            March 7, 2014 5:50 pm

            Most of my activism has been in support of veganism, and I try not to be the ‘angry vegan’ people have come to expect (and dread). I don’t think you can promote compassion for animals while at the same time being angry and nasty to humans. It sounds ridiculous: ‘Be kind. DAMMIT!’ HAES activism doesn’t have the same constraints. Now that I think about it, I tend to be more confrontative IRL when people are rude to me because of my size. In any event, I enjoy your writing and modeling, and I’m glad there’s a place we can gather to support each other.

  5. LittleBigGirl permalink
    March 7, 2014 7:22 pm

    Anger is a signal that something wrong is happening – we get angry when our boundaries are crossed. Not the lesser frustration of not getting what we want – the pure defensive reaction that blazes forth when we feel threatened. After fear comes flight – or *fight.* Under threat you either avoid or confront.
    Why would someone be expected to not get angry when they are being mistreated?
    The objection to the anger is an indirect support of the mistreatment – if you tell someone they shouldn’t get angry when they are mistreated you are saying it is acceptable for them to be mistreated. You can’t say “I’m all for [social justice issue], but you don’t have to get so *mad* about it.” By definition, it is our anger – our indignant rejection of oppression and marginalization that is the driving force behind any social justice movement. We wouldn’t be angry if there wasn’t something very wrong happening that was causing people harm. We wouldn’t be angry if we didn’t care.

  6. Susan Huddis Koppelman permalink
    March 8, 2014 12:43 am

    ” Being oppressed is not easy. There is no wrong way to be oppressed. You can be a calm oppressed person, an activist oppressed person, an angry oppressed person, an apathetic oppressed person, or any combination thereof. Everyone reacts differently.” Right. And sometimes an oppressed person responds/reacts to oppression in one way and other times, another way. We aren’t required to be consistent, either.

  7. Elizabeth permalink
    March 8, 2014 1:59 pm

    I do not tend to speak with anger, but I do speak with passion and intelligence. I have found that the reaction is pretty much the same if I had been angry. Many, many people do not like ANY expression of strong feelings, and many, many people do not like to have to deal with a intelligent woman.

    What I find a bit worrisome as I age is my inclination to stop biting my tongue. When I finally received Social Security disability, there was only one person I knew who was clearly not happy for me (at last, I had some income!). I fear now I would have asked her why, and not in the nicest possible way! (I know why, she’s one of those people who doesn’t think other people deserve benefits.)

  8. March 8, 2014 6:10 pm

    Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    Yes, we do have a right to be angry. Myself, I have no problem with men as individuals. I have a son, and I certainly would not want to project the idea that I hate men wholesale and across the board. However, I despise the patriarchy, and I have zero tolerance for dudebros and other misogynists. My son understands this, and is in agreement. Depending on whether one believes that men can be feminists or not, my son is either a feminist or a feminist ally.
    Also, I get tired of tone policing, and it does not matter the gender of the person doing the tone policing. I am tired of people telling me to sit down, fold my hands in my lap, and be a sweet, well-behaved lady while I am being told that I am inferior because I have ovaries rather than testicles, that I am less than human because I do not fit the narrow perimeters used to define beauty, and that I am “too sensitive” because I get my hackles up when I hear rape jokes.
    Happy international women’s day (March 8) to all the ladies.

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