What should I get angry about first?
A friend tweeted today that he doesn’t know why women aren’t more angry about everything that’s going on.
There is lots on the news to be angry about, after all. Femicide. Sexual abuse of minors. The inevitable avalanche of victim-blaming.
Coincidentally, I’d just spent a few days working on a piece on consent and sexual coercion. It was a decidedly non-angry piece of writing. I was really going out of my way to show that I wasn’t trying to blame or vilify men. That I just wanted to talk about why consent is important. It was a pretty good piece, even if I do say so myself. Raw and uncomfortable, super honest. And really very calm and non-confrontational by design.
I’ve been called angry and overly emotional more times than I care to count. So I wanted to engage even one man in conversation without making him feel personally responsible for all the evils in this world. I was so desperate for constructive conversations about consent that I took all my anger, bottled it right up, and set it aside. I wrote about my personal failings and what I’ve learned from them. Made myself look as vulnerable and flawed as I am, to make it clear to any man reading that I was trying to approach them from a point of understanding. Not from any kind of moral high ground.
Then I saw my friend’s tweet. I revisited the day’s headlines. I spoke to an ex who said that the woman on the news coming forward about being abused as a teen was doing it for fame and attention. I scrapped the piece I’d been writing.
And very calmly, I thought to myself: Alright. Fair enough. What should I get angry about first?
Perhaps I should first and foremost be angry because I’ve been taught to consider myself so very lucky never to have been violently assaulted or murdered. Not once. So lucky only to have been molested a little bit here and there (“It’s not like he raped you,” as one man put it, very helpfully, when I told him about it). Coerced and manipulated by a man or two, of course. Physically overpowered and kissed despite my very explicit verbal objections, sure. Possibly roofied, although I’ll admit I’m not 100% certain on this one. But it’s not like any of it was that bad.
Yes, that’s definitely something I might consider being angry about first. That disgustingly low bar for what a woman should be grateful for.
Or perhaps I should start by casting a wider net and, less selfishly, be angry about the state of the world in general. About any of the injustices women face daily. The violence and the systemic discrimination. The gender wage gap.
Or governments regulating female bodies and taking away a woman’s freedom of choice. That’s a good one. Speaking of governments, I’ll definitely need to take a moment and quickly be angry about that Estonian politician who said that a childless woman is a drain on society.
I could also circle back to the news in Estonia today and direct my anger at the way the public will jump at any opportunity to say that a girl or woman was asking for it.
Maybe I’d be better off getting the angriest about Sarah Everard and how her death was also somehow her fault. Because a woman needn’t venture outside alone after dark, surely.
Wait, I’ve got another one! I’ll be angry about the way people ask “Why didn’t she say something sooner?” when survivors come forward. As if sexual assault wasn’t emotionally and mentally so damaging that talking about it can be impossible for years. Decades. A lifetime. And then the absolute shitstorm of blame and gaslighting that follows if and when you do say something? That makes me pretty angry, I’ll admit.
I’ll also need to reserve some anger for the inevitable flood of whataboutery that hits me when I want to talk about any of the above. What about violence against men? What about false accusations of sexual assault? Please accept my apologies — I am fully booked for today but I promise these things are in my anger backlog. I promise. I’m just trying to prioritize and manage my workload here.
At this point I’m getting angry about so many things at once that I literally don’t know how to deal with it. Literally. I literally don’t know.
So I bottle it up and set it aside. I try to live my little life to the best of my ability. I try to talk to men but I’m too emotional, too confrontational, too feminist, too this and too that. I talk to women and we despair together. I try to spread the word and change a few minds where I can, if I can. I get told I’m doing it wrong, not doing enough, playing the victim, imagining things, being indoctrinated, being radicalized, making things worse.
Frankly, I’m so very tired. I’m tired. Me. One of the lucky ones.
So if I’m not any angrier, it’s probably just some kind of self-preservation thing. I’ve tried anger and been penalized for it. But if more women (and men, please) would like to get more angry with me, I’m game.