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.
Beautifully said Kath! I was just thinking about this, because my iphone popped up Ani DiFranco’s Not a Pretty Girl. There’s a verse that says:
I am not an angry girl
but it seems like I’ve got everyone fooled
every time I say something they find hard to hear
they chalk it up to my anger
and never to their own fear
I absolutely get angry, I can’t imagine living in the world that we live in, seeing all of the injustice and never getting angry about it, and I think that the shaming around anger definitely comes from other people’s fear – fear about things changing, fear that since they base their self-esteem on being not fat, then fat people have high self-esteem represents a direct challenge.
Thank you for being so awesome!
What a fantastic lyric Ragen, thanks for sharing it. I need more Ani DiFranco in my playlist.
Thank you for being one of the awesome women who inspire and encourage me.
Love this! I think it applies to so many different kinds of activism. I think it’s a favorite pasttime of privileged people to dismiss you as being angry or hostile simply for having a problem with the way the world is. I love the way you’ve broken this all down. It makes me appreciate all the different parts of me.
We are complex beings Kel, and it’s good to sometimes look at what facets of us show at different times.
“the minute a woman stands her ground and says “Enough!” she is accused of two things – being selfish and being angry.”
So true! I used to get really upset when people accused me of selfishness and anger. Now I recognise it as a form of control. Those people have a vested interest in me remaining a doormat and when I say, “No, you’re not wiping your feet here!” they act like I’m the problem. It’s misogyny and bullying, but we are conditioned to accept it because we are raised to want people to like us. It works on pretty much all levels from our families to internet trolls.
Spot on The Huldra – it’s absolutely a form of control. It’s a way of silencing us when they don’t like what we are saying.
I had someone verbally attack me and friends of mine of a personal level, he had some perceived authority in the sphere we interacted in and he went out of his way to bitch and whine about how he felt about what he didn’t like about us – he used twitter and an online radio show to spread his message about how pissed off he was at us far and wide and then after he’d spread his anger far and wide he felt better and when anyone mentioned how unfair it was he’d turn round and go ‘dude why are you getting so worked up about this, it’s just the internet’. I was absolutely livid. He’d harassed us for over a month getting sympathy for himself by not naming who had pissed him off and then once he gets it all out we are told we are childish for being angry.
People like that, or those who say things that make you angry and then act surprised really need to learn a lesson I learned as a child and has been reinforced by the size acceptance movement – that everyone deserves respect and people have the right to feel happy, sad or angry etc. depending on the situation.
It’s what you do with that emotion that defines you and when you get shut down and your emotions are invalidated then you feel helpless and victimised. I think sometimes that is the intended effect as victims are easier to control.
Thank you (and Ragen) for giving me role models to follow.
Pyctsi – I just don’t get it with people like that. What do they expect!?
Thank you SO much for this. Anger can be productive, and we are given the full range of emotions for a reason. We are meant to feel them, and the ability to feel and channel them is what fuels much of our academic, political, and creative work.
I get this a lot too, mostly from Xtians that see Christianity as novocaine for the mind. There seems to be the mindset that if you don’t act joyful and accepting of “God’s will” 100% of the time, then you’re not doing it right.
Like you said, there are some things thst SHOULD upset us. The proper response to life is not to fumble in the dark and twiddle our thumbs when something goes south. With the power of the human mind and opposable thumbs, we should *do* something. If that makes other people unhappy, all I can say is that I’m not obligated to make them happy. It is hundreds of times better to be angry and sincere than happy and insincere. The truth is an act of love, and that is something to be happy about.
I think that’s the aim of the privileged. To numb us of all emotion until we’re quiet and compliant. Until we make no more fuss. Until we accept our “fate”.
What a beautiful post, so full of self-love and self-respect. It has taught me a lot, just now, by reading it.Thank you very much.
Thank you jtothee
If someone says I’m angry, I generally take it as a compliment. Fat acceptors are angry, they say. Not angry enough, I say. We need more angry people. We can put the anger to good use.
Harness that rage huh?
Anger is a feared and denied emotion, so much so that it is portrayed as something that must be hidden, controlled or worse gotten over. Well I’m not playing that game anymore and am happy to admit I’m angry. I’m cranky, pissed, irritated, annoyed and downright mad as hell, especially when it comes to others treating people differently because of their size, age, gender, sexual preference, religion, music preference or whatever. I will also admit that I get so frustrated at times that I do get snarky and snippy. I’m working on that as I can see it isn’t productive as I’d like and I end up getting more upset. I love that you Kath, and others, are examples of being able to communicate rationally and well even amidst obvious discrimatory comments and even when you are angry and have every right to be so.
Get stuck into it Kerry, I’ll be right there with you.
…Here Here! Bravo. So well said. I love the analogies – thank you for the reminder that I am more than just what I may seem at any given moment, to others AND to myself. This has given me the idea that I could set down all the facets of myself and have the answers assist me in where I so long to go. Inspiring~
Thank you wonderfulme17. I think it’s probably a good thing to look at all the facets of ourselves and realise that we’re so much more complex than the dimension we present to the world at any one time.
That part about smashing appliances hit a little to close to home. Thanks for your post. As a mom, I need to teach my son that anger doesn’t have to be violent. And myself.
Earlier today I was reading Margaret Cho’s response to Karl Lagerfeld’s comments about Adele, and one of the commenters said Cho sounded “like a lunatic.” (http://bit.ly/AkXkVz) Anger, even justified anger, is often depicted as a sign of mental illness. Cho’s anger was searing and beautifully sharp but was not “unhinged.” Detractors will often point to anger as a sign of mental imbalance, to say that people angered by injustice are somehow reacting inappropriately to the world. They see an individual situation – just one back-handed compliment, for example. They don’t consider the outrageous slings and arrows of the thousand injuries that fat people endure living in a culture that actively despises them. They don’t see the situation that made Margaret Cho say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” in the first place.
Or, worse, if they see beyond the surface they see fat hatred as an immutable fact of “how the world is.” They don’t think that the reasons behind that particular way of the world are ridiculous and wrong. So, of course, being angry about fat hatred is like being angry the sky is blue. It’s another way to discredit and derail us, to say that we can’t articulate our experiences for ourselves.
(Even if we are mentally ill, we still have every right to be angry about injustice. I realize I’m privileged in this area, so I’d like to say that my intent here is not shame anyone suffering from mental illness or deny them the right to articulate their experiences. Rather, my intent is to say that anger is seen as a sign of mental illness, and mental illness is seen as a reason to discredit our arguments.)
Oh how I love Margaret Cho! She takes that justifiable anger and uses it to fuel her magnificent words into the brilliant, articulate work that she does. She’s someone I really look towards for inspiration.
I have to say, I find the whole “how the world is” thing more infuriating than most other forms of gaslighting and dismissal. That’s such a crock of shit isn’t it?