Following on from my last post, and after the good ole ranty pants I had on Twitter this evening, I want to talk some more about anger. Because you know, the minute a woman stands her ground and says “Enough!” she is accused of two things – being selfish and being angry.
I think there is a whole lot of shame attached to anger, particularly in women. We’ve talked before about how accusing someone of being angry is meant to derail and silence someone who is speaking up/out about something. I want to expand on that a bit further.
Particularly on the accusation “You’re such an angry person.” that so often gets thrown in the direction of women.
When it comes to social justice, which is what fat activism is a form of, anger is a completely understandable emotion to feel, and to see from social justice activists. Because really, we’re talking about injustices here. We’re talking about the oppression of people based on their size. We’re talking about the open hatred of people because of their weight. We’re talking about social and medical discrimination of human beings. We’re talking physical, emotional and social abuse of a whole swathe of people, simply because their bodies don’t fit into a narrow, arbitrary measure of “acceptable”. I say there’s something wrong with you if you’re not getting angry about this.
In fact, I get angry about ALL forms of social injustice, be they based on gender, size, race, sexuality, spiritual beliefs, physical ability, economic status or beyond. I get angry at the marginalisation and oppression of human beings for any arbitrary reason. Because it’s fucking wrong!
If that shit isn’t making you angry… there’s something wrong.
Of course, speaking up about any of this gets that dreaded accusation “You’re such an angry person!!”
What many people fail to understand, is that they so often only see one aspect of someone. Many readers of my activism work know little more about me than what I write here, or tweet. They see just this perspective, Kath in her activist boots.
We’re all a whole lot more multi-faceted than that. Yes, as an activist, there is a good amount of anger expressed through my work. But then there’s my career – those people only know me through my employment. They see a different side of me, and many of them don’t know about the activism I do. They see dedicated Kath who loves her job to bits and most of the time, has a whole lot of fun doing it. They see Library Kath, in her librarian hat.
Beyond that, there are people who know me primarily through my hobbies. They see yet another facet of me. They see someone who loves to have fun and laugh. They see playful Kath, who loves to try new things and expand her horizons. They see Leisure Kath, in her leisure dress.
Then there is Kath the friend. Kath who cares about the people in her life. The Kath that wants to hear when her friends are going through good times and bad. They see Friend Kath, in her friend socks.
Then there is private Kath. This is the Kath who enjoys her own company, likes quiet down time on her own, away from any need to perform to other’s expectations. Almost nobody sees this Kath, since she likes to keep that side of herself to herself. That is Kath, in her private underpants.
Some very special people in my life get to see all those facets, and they know me better than others, so they see the whole outfit – dress, hat, socks, boots and if they’re really lucky, underpants. They see all of me, the whole outfit. They see that the anger is tempered by the humour, which is balanced by the caring, which is strengthened by the intelligence. Now sometimes parts of those aspects of myself get a bit worn through, and I have to lean on the others. That’s how it is with everyone – we sometimes focus on one aspect of our lives more than others, until we are refreshed about our careers, our loved ones, our activism, our hobbies etc.
Yet because people may only see certain parts of the whole, they decide they can judge someone only on the strength of the part they see. So in my case, lots of people know me as the angry fatty, who rants and raves about how people treat fat folks.
I hold no shame for my anger. Just like love, or humour, or sadness, or passion, or worry, or dedication, it is part of who I am and a genuine emotion that I have as much right to express as any other emotion.
Many people equate anger with violence as well – but the two are not the same thing. I believed they were until my late teens, because that’s what I was taught anger was. I was taught all my childhood and most of my teens that if you made someone angry, the repercussion was violence. It wasn’t until I met a dear friend of mine at 17 (hey Big Dude, love you!), who taught me that someone could be absolutely livid, totally pissed off, and not engage in violence at all.
Anger can be damaging, for sure. It can be damaging if we direct it towards the wrong things. It is also damaging if we let it fester inside us and don’t deal with it.
So often, we bottle up our anger. We suppress it to be “nice” or “polite”. Particularly women – women are expected to be pleasant and nice, caring and gentle. We’re not allowed to express anger at hurt or injustice. If we are, we’re aggressive, unfeminine… bitches. So instead, many women learn to be passive-aggressive, and engage in snark or spite.
For the first… well most of my life, I didn’t express my anger at injustice. I held it in, worried about what people thought about me. So it came out at things. Instead of allowing myself to be angry at people for behaving like complete arsehats, I let it fester inside me until I took it out on something inanimate. I can’t tell you how many appliances I’ve destroyed in complete rage that was boiling over from the way I had been treated as a fat woman.
Now, I focus my anger on the injustices of the world. Instead of swallowing my anger at bigotry and ignorance and hate, which forces it to surface later, in my job or at my loved ones, I let that rage out at where it should be - at the injustices towards human beings.