I am angry because I am worth being angry about – Anon
I am angry.
I’ve been angry for many, many years. We don’t like anger much in the UK. We are at once terrified and bewildered when it lies within women. Female anger is feared because it is seen as unusual, against type. Angry men are passionate and assertive, angry women are irrational and disturbed. Anger is seen as a cancer, eating away at our bodies, minds, and hearts.
Except that it is not. Anger can give a voice to our pain, our experience of injustice. I am not pretending that anger cannot be harmful. It can be abusive, damaging and toxic. But so can any emotion or reaction. Why are we so afraid of women’s anger? Is it because it really is as damaging as ‘they’ say? Or could it be because it is powerful? What about the anger that prompts a woman to leave a job where she experiences discrimination? What about the anger that propels a woman to end a destructive relationship? What about the anger that fuels a woman’s work? What about the anger that inspires women to start campaigns highlighting male violence and victimisation? What about the anger that provides a reason to live, a passion to thrive, and a desire to be free?
But anger is so icky. It is much more palatable for women to be calm and reflective. A big buzz word is forgiveness. I find it curious that women are expected to forgive the men that rape and abuse them. More often than not, the reasons are carved into women’s psyche as some sort of abstract shard, slicing and digging deeply: “if you don’t forgive, you won’t ever come to terms with it, or start to heal”. A big factor in this forgiveness phenomenon? We need to OWN it. So we start saying “my rape”, “my assault” and we start to hear “your abuser”, “your stalker”. Language is powerful – it shapes our understanding of the world and everything and everyone in it. I do not and will never judge any woman who chooses to say “my….”. For some women, this is a powerful statement to make. What I am recognising is that for me to use language that owns what men have perpetrated against me, the violence starts to belong to me. This leads into some ownership of the experience. For me, this thought process starts to perpetuate victimisation and self-blame. I had over 15 years of that and I refuse to allow it to continue.
This post was inspired by a woman who refuses to “come to terms with” the rape she experienced as a child. Many people, often loved ones, cannot cope with women’s fury after experiencing brutality from men and desperately search for platitudes “learn to accept your experience” or actions “I think it’s time for counselling”. This woman refuses to ‘own it’. She voiced the feelings and experiences of many women I know. We don’t WANT to accept male violence. EVER.
What happened TO me is NOT mine to own. The experiences were violent, abusive, debasing, and the blame lies with solely the rapists and abusers: all of whom were men. It is THEIR violence, THEIR abuse that THEY inflicted upon me. It is not mine to accept, to own, to “move on” from.
I understand that a variety of men decided to abuse and rape me. I recognise that this happened to me from the day I was born. I have experienced the consequences of their violence: the trauma, the self-blame and the attempts at self-destruction. I accept my incredible resourcefulness in overcoming male violence. I appreciate and accept the care, support, love and belief in those that chose to walk along side me. I value my determination, my self-belief, my obstinacy to fight for a life I could never have thought possible. I cherish my anger – the fire that ensures that I leave the responsibility of brutality and violence where it belongs: with men.
I do not own their violence. I own my anger. I own my survival.