I Have Been Angry
The day after International Women’s Day, after reading a slew of bold posts that genuinely made me smile, I read one from an ex-boyfriend on Instagram, and it made me angry. It made me angry because although I knew it was probably borne in sincerity, it felt like the words were slathered in shit. I am angry that this man spent three Instagram comments worth of text listing the multitude of ways women struggle, and the multitude of ways in which he struggles to appreciate that struggle.
One paragraph struck me:
“All my life I have witnessed mansplaining, misogynist slurs when womyn are successful, womyn having [to] compromise themselves to achieve a position, grown-up boys rating womyn on appearance, shops and advertisements and entertainment and pornography exploiting womyn’s bodies and setting impossible beauty standards…”
All of this was written in an effort to push the readers, and himself, into working harder and trying better for the women in their lives. Admirable, yes, and important to boot, so why do I feel so left out?
It’s because an image of my body, which is to be included in a professional art series of his, is sitting on the same Instagram profile as this epic Women’s Day post, illustrated and uploaded without my consent, only a few photos down. The original image was taken in a moment of empowerment and frank sexual expression. It was shared with him within the context of our relationship and the trust said relationship endows. Without all the flowery language, it was just a fucking harmless nude. It was never intended for anyone else. I didn’t give my consent.
I have spoken up about this image, and yet, it is still there. It is there in spite of me, in spite of my rage and in spite of an explicit call to take it down because it had upset me. And that is why I am angry.
I have been angry.
Despite personal goals to write more, I haven’t produced a lick of writing in almost a month, because I have been angry. Before I had seen that image of my own ass, in my own bedroom, I had been happily deep in a little writing slum, mostly jotting down poetry about my current boyfriend and short snippets of fiction. But since this shit got dragged centre-stage in my mind, I have not written a single thing.
I have been angry.
In the past month, I had a drunken argument: me against three men. I argued that when all else is equal in a relationship (in this example, a hetero relationship where both parties are cis and white and straight, have come from the same class, and have a similar level of ability and intellect), the man will still have the upper hand. To me, it made perfect sense: the commonplace definition of privilege. They disagreed: “Not always.” So, I started to doubt myself. I didn’t trust my instincts in the argument, right up until my boyfriend realised we had been locked in a misunderstanding the entire time, and that I was right. Basically, I didn’t trust myself until a man I respected agreed with me. He was beyond remorseful and genuinely apologetic for being defensive. I trust him explicitly; in normal circumstances (not heinously drunk) the conversation would have lasted roughly 15 seconds and would never have become an argument between us. But that’s not really the issue, we were drunk, yes, but I still felt alone and unheard.
And I have been angry.
Every time I walk across this one set of traffic lights at my local train station, men from parked cars at the lights will beep and yell at me. I know this isn’t news to women, but for me, it has become significant in the context of these last few weeks. Two nights ago, I was wearing double denim. Not a low-cut top, or a short skirt, or whatever else is usually used as a scapegoat for on-the-street sexual harassment. Double-fucking-denim. I got beeped at four times and by the time they yelled out at me, the weight of the entire month had worked me into such a frenzy that I shouted “Fuck off!” at the top of my lungs. But I still couldn’t look them in the eyes when I did it.
And I have been angry.
I haven’t written anything this month. Generally I write when I’m either happy or sad, but I knew the only thing I wanted to write about was finding this image of my body on Instagram — though I couldn’t find the words. My personal autonomy and sexual consent were removed from the conversation, and despite trying to communicate this to the person responsible, the image remained online. And so I was angry, but I didn’t have the capacity to articulate that on paper.
I am not a stranger to anger; I am quick to a temper and quick to raise my voice. I think I got that from my father, but while he is known-to-all as a powerful figure, I have had a complex about the words ‘bossy’ and ‘control freak’ since I was a kid. However I also know that in spite of my short temper I am quick to let things go. Sometimes, all you need is an impetuous rage and a swift release. But this is not one of those times. This anger has lingered. This incident has left me with a latent rage that has underpinned and coloured my experience of sexism and misogyny in the past month. Reading a post on International Women’s Day by the man responsible for this has helped me connect the dots.
I have realised the anger I am holding is emblematic of the need for my own feminism. And it is not an impetuous anger: It is not fleeting. The involuntary reaction I had to yell at the men in a parked car didn’t do anything to help. It was violent and out of character. I usually work through emotions by talking and by writing. I have not been able to do this. I have let my anger sit and stew and tumble into a dread that has kept me from it.
All day I saw posts from women I’ve met and loved which have emboldened me, and I considered posting something too. But I couldn’t do it, not until I had traced together the constellations of rage I had been experiencing and connected them to the broader context.
So on this International Women’s Day, my post comes one day late because I have been angry and I have been afraid. Ultimately, though, I think it’s important for women, especially privileged women who have the social standing and respect to do so, to demand more from the feminist men in their lives. To demand they practise what they preach, and work harder to be better.
Before you let your anger fester into fear, it should be tossed over and articulated. It should be put into words, shared, and used to catalyse the passage of other women’s anger. Women who can and want to write, should keep writing and filling up space; staying angry, but not afraid.