What struck me was that both Rex and the attorney had delivered ill-timed, emotionally charged information, and when I'd expressed proportionate anger or irritation, the blame somehow boomeranged back onto me. I'd been expected to remain amiable, though by any objective measurement, that expectation was ludicrous...
Had their mothers and the women before me never displayed anger in front of them? Or were these men so conditioned by notions of women as the gentler sex they didn't understand that I wouldn't put up with their crap?
I've been a feminist since I was a little kid...But it's weird to me that many straight men watch professional sports and action films, or back their friends up in bar fights, and find those displays of aggression admirable— but when a woman loses her temper for a specific and valid reason, these same men judge her for what is, like burping, a human reaction.
How do we alter the notion that a woman who stands up for herself, her loved ones, or her beliefs is the one who's causing trouble? By accepting once and for all that legitimate female anger isn't the hallmark of a bitch, cunt, ballbuster, or drama queen. We're nearly 52% of the population— it's time for more men to understand our behavior isn't aberrant, and for more women not to feel "guilty" for not staying in the narrow range of traditionally accepted emotional responses. Women are multi-faceted humans with a full range of ambitions and emotional needs. Guys, sometimes we disagree with you, but sometimes we disagree with each other. Which is how it should be.
I grew up in a family where the women -- hmmm, how to put this delicately -- shouted their goddamn heads off all the time. Rocket-boosted by alcohol and/or mental illness and/or an unwillingness to confront the malfeasants making them nuts, the explosions were pretty constant.
There was no notion chez Kelly that polite, calm, quiet = ladylike. Incoming verbal RPG was more their style which, funny thing, I adopted as my own.
Which, funny thing, has made a lot of people nervous: colleagues, bosses, boyfriends, family, neighbors and friends. One woman my age, who now knows me very well indeed, initially told me she found me intimidating. Me? I'd heard it a lot.
Because I don't suffer fools gladly. Or at all.
This has made for a sometimes volcanic relationship with my husband, who also has one hell of a temper -- in direct contrast to his usual quiet, calm demeanor. No one can believe him capable of such anger. Me? No problem.
I'm always a little eerily fascinated by women who refuse to get angry. I'm in awe if they are now calm and mature enough to simply find a better solution than anger, but sometimes it is exactly the right riposte to bullshit, cruelty and deception.
Here's a recent blog post by a Canadian friend, emmapeel2, a woman my age, on the same subject. And, also from Open Salon, yet another great post, by Beth Mann, a woman who is fed up felling guilty for getting angry.
Guilty? Not at our house!
For many women, and those around them, rage is really the worst four-letter word.
Jose, my husband, and I had two massive fights, early on, that actually involved telling the other -- at midnight, living 30 miles apart -- to piss off and go home. His involved a $150 cab ride.
It taught us both a lot about one another, as both of us had been badly bullied when younger.
Some of the important lessons we learned from a full-throated expression of our anger:
I have limited bandwidth for bullshit
I am able to set and keep my boundaries
I won't hold a grudge -- I'll talk to you tomorrow, just not right now
I value/trust you enough to let you know how I really feel, not fake cheer and surface politesse
I have weak spots! You've just found a few of them
Fighting with someone you love won't kill the relationship, but clinging to unexpressed stuff might
I get it -- you arrived at this mid-life affair with baggage. Some of your anger is generic/vestigial and has nothing to do with me, really
It's OK to get really angry with me. I deserve it sometimes for being such an asshole
I'm able to apologize and mean it
I can accept your apology and move forward
Anger is an emotion that both men and women feel. But only men are socially sanctioned to express it publicly and clearly and forthrightly.
Women who get angry terrify people, because...?