builtofsorrow: (politik | i'm also secretly a muslim)
[personal profile] builtofsorrow
The Manifesto of An Angry Feminist

Note - The use of the specifically singular article is very purposeful here: while, frankly, I think society could do with a lot less condemnation of feminist outrage, this is most definitively not anything to do with Why Everyone Should Be Angry. This is why I am angry, and that is all the justification I offer for it.

Over time I have chosen many words to define myself; some stay with me for a long time, most of them shift eventually, but right now, today, these are fundamental: I am a woman, I am a feminist, and I am angry.

I am angry because so much of what I read, so much of what I am told, so much of what is implied every day in the actions of others toward me says that I am not allowed to be.

I am angry not only because I am not allowed to be angry for myself, but also because men are allowed to be angry for me, and they are allowed to punish me and others for causing that anger. Because the law built into itself excuses that allow men to literally get away with murder, because for centuries, a man could (and in many places still can) kill his adulterous wife and her lover if he caught them in bed together, because the helpless rage he entered into upon seeing the 'violation' of a human being who was to all intents and purposes of the law his property was justifiable, was reasonable, was okay. I am angry because there will always be someone to point out that this law protects women who kill their husbands caught in bed with another woman, when I am quite certain that it's unlikely that such a protection for women was historically anything more than an incidental consequence painted into the facade of equality.

I am angry because throughout literature and history, men are angry and ferocious and outraged and fight wars with each other over women or over feminized intangibles like their Nations. I am angry because Troy fell because Menelaus's wife ran off with Paris, I am angry because Odysseus killed dozens of men because they tried to seduce his wife, and I am angry because the women in Lysistrata had to withhold sex to prevent the men of their city from engaging in a trivial war, had to be rational and calm and exert influence in the only way they were allowed to, had to hope their husbands' 'primal urge' for sex would outweigh their 'primal urge' toward violence. I am angry because no one thinks to condemn Menelaus or Odysseus or the men in Lysistrata for being immature or overemotional or irrational. I am angry because even if Achilles' anger is put forth as his weakness, it doesn't ultimately stop him from being a hero, but classes and classes of literature students condemn Medea, who had left everything and borne Jason two sons, because she reacted with anger and despair when Jason decided to leave her and banish her and take away her children.

I am angry because men objectify their countries into women and kill other people and violate their women (both figurative and literal), angry because America likes to talk about how we saved Europe and the world from Hitler and his Axis, but not about how we broke treaties with our allies, not about how we didn't give a damn about World War II until Pearl Harbor, because it wasn't our Motherland whose citizens were being systematically slaughtered. And no one likes to talk about how the Germans were also angry men, angered because their Motherland was subjected and violated by the armistice of the previous war, but if it were mentioned, that anger would be justified because they are men, because violence is one of their primal urges.

I am angry because I ended the two previous paragraphs not because I am out of examples, but because I have too many.

I am angry because certain males in my life won't walk through the doors I hold open for them because it makes them look weak, but I am derided when I point out the utter silliness of this. I am made to feel ungrateful for not always standing back and waiting for them to open the door for me, even if their hands are full of things I am not allowed to help carry.

I am angry because when my Constitutional Law professor asked for opinions on why the rate of teenage pregnancy had decreased, a fellow student posited, in all seriousness, that it was probably due to the feminist movement, as though the ultimate goal of feminists is to prevent him from getting laid.

I am angry because when two men in my Criminal Law class engaged in rudely-worded victim blaming in regards to a rape case, and I spoke up and I spoke out, when I condemned what they said so passionately that I shook for five minutes afterward, only one other person in a class of eighty supported me verbally. Only two others gave me non-verbal indications of support. And several others whispered to themselves, as though I couldn't hear them sat not ten feet away, that I must have been sexually assaulted at some time in my life. I am one of the lucky ones, the privileged women who have not been, but I suppose the assumption is that only another victim could feel so passionately, only another victim would want to place all the blame on the male who was apparently too confused by the 'mixed signals' from a woman begging him to let her go, begging him not to kill her, begging him to let her leave the apartment he coerced her into entering by forcibly taking her car keys away from her — apparently only a fellow victim would posit that this woman, who had consented to drive this man home from the bar in which they met, did not thereby consent to have sex with him.

I am angry because it is far too easy to understand why my classmates say (or don't say) the things they do, to excuse their behavior because they've grown up in a society that tells them that what they think is true and good and proper. It is far too easy to say, yes, the woman in this case shouldn't have given a stranger a ride home, the woman in this case shouldn't have gone to that party, this woman here shouldn't have been walking home alone at night, that woman there is just a slut, this woman should have fought back, should have screamed, should have bitten and scratched and struggled. It is far too easy to not only ignore the fact that women who fight back are more likely to sustain more violent physical injury, but also to ignore the fact that from birth, we women have been conditioned not to fight back, to give in, to shut up, to keep walking. We learn to laugh it off when men we don't know whistle at us, call us names they don't have the right to call us, ask us for things that aren't theirs to ask for, and when they finally try to take what is not and never was theirs to take, it is too easy for courts and jurors and society to pretend that a 'reasonable' woman would have fought back — even though we have spent our whole lives being told not to — because ultimately, that's easier than changing centuries of socialized behavior.

I am angry because for so long I was just like my classmates; I was blind to my subjection, blind to the insidiousness of victim-blaming, and blind to the paltry excuses of men who refuse to check their 'primal urges' because it's far easier to simply blame the women over whom they exert their power, far easier to condemn those women for being too much of a temptation.

I am angry because I have spent my whole life being told to dress a certain way, act a certain way, be just enough of this and not too much of that and less of something else, achieve this balance so you are not feminine enough to create irresistible temptation to men who can't control their 'primal urges' around sluts like you, but don't be too unfeminine because then you are ugly and unwanted and a dyke.

I am angry because I am certain that if I ever am sexually assaulted, there will always be someone to make me out as the perpetrator of my own victimization, someone to tell me that I was too much of something and not enough of something else, and if only I hadn't gone there or done that or been this, then it wouldn't have happened — when the truth is that if ever I am sexually assaulted it will likely be by someone I know, and there's a good chance it will happen in or near my house, and what will matter isn't that I went somewhere or did something, but rather that I made the mistake of not being privileged enough to get out of having breasts and hips and a vagina and being born without a Y chromosome.

I am angry because I am judged and condemned for choosing not to talk to my biological father, who never cared three straws about spending any time with me until after he walked out on us, until after he suddenly decided that he didn't want people to think that him leaving meant he was a bad person, until after he could use fear of a legal system that doesn't really care about the feelings of the children they treat as property to coerce visitation rights and make my mother give into his demands. I am angry because when I was old enough to be free of that fear, I chose to cut out of my life the man who never cared about any of my education or my extracurricular activities except insofar as they reflected well on him, I chose to cut out of my life a man who never made any effort to know me, but felt he had rights to me solely because half my DNA comes from him, and I am told this makes me bitter and unforgiving and a cold-hearted bitch with daddy issues.

I am angry because when I'm at my parents' house, I get scolded if I wear clothes that have a neckline that shows even a small part of my breasts, because it goes against my step-father's standards of modesty, and I am angry because my mother doesn't understand why that makes me feel uncomfortable around my step-father, even if I also love him and trust him and know he would never do anything to harm or violate me. My mother doesn't understand why I connect not being able to wear a tank top in my own house with my anger that I am told that it's my responsibility to keep men from having sexual urges, from looking at my body, from wanting it.

I am angry because my step-father tells me that men constantly think about sex, that they never touch a woman, look at a woman, talk to a woman, befriend a woman without thinking of her in a sexual way, and I am angry because there is a huge part of me that believes him and makes me distrust all my male friends.

I am angry because every time I read something or hear something that unexpectedly contradicts the patriarchy to which I am subjected, I feel such an intensely profound gratitude toward the person speaking or writing that I lose my breath. I feel like I've unexpectedly stumbled upon an oasis in the middle of a soul-destroying desert; I feel such sheer relief that I want to throw myself in that person's arms and cry, because that person's behavior is so out of my normal range of experience that it's shocking.

And I am angry because I have spent too long not being angry, because I have been nice for too long, I have rationalized for too long, I have made too many excuses for men and society for too long, I have laughed it off and been sweet and quiet and submissive for too long, I have been socialized out of my autonomy and my outrage and my sexuality for too long, and I and my sex have been silenced in the face of reactionary fear for too long.

I am angry, and I am a feminist, and I am a woman: and maybe if I shout violently enough about all of these things, you will finally listen to what I am trying to say.

Date: 2010-03-16 07:26 am (UTC)
gules: ((never apologize for) feeling)
From: [personal profile] gules
I don't suppose you'd consider making this public? I'd love to share it with people, because it's a really powerful piece of writing, but only if you're comfortable with that.

Date: 2010-03-16 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] builtofsorrow.livejournal.com
No, absolutely; I've done so.

Date: 2010-03-16 05:51 pm (UTC)
such_heights: amy and rory looking at a pile of post (scc: cameron)
From: [personal profile] such_heights
This is completely awesome, as are you. ♥ ♥ ♥ Posts like this make me feel so much less alone. *clings*

Date: 2010-03-29 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] builtofsorrow.livejournal.com
-clings back- Thank you. I'm glad I have you.

Date: 2010-03-18 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wanderlight.livejournal.com
I have been thinking several of these things lately, & thank you for verbalising them. You are amazing. ♥

Date: 2010-03-29 04:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] builtofsorrow.livejournal.com
♥! Thank you for that, Rita. Like Amy said, it's good to know none of us are alone in this. -hugs-

Date: 2010-03-18 10:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aohdwyn.livejournal.com
I don't know whether applause or hugs are more in order. And both at the same time sounds like it could backfire rather. Instead, a cookie! *gives cookie*

Date: 2010-03-29 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] builtofsorrow.livejournal.com
\o/ Cookies are always in order, I think. :D (Thank you. ♥)

Date: 2010-03-20 09:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cherise.livejournal.com
Reading that people thought you had been sexually assaulted as well puts this cold pit of anger in my stomach. Why are your classmates such idiots that I constantly feel like I have to time travel in and support you?

It is far too easy to not only ignore the fact that women who fight back are more likely to sustain more violent physical injury, but also to ignore the fact that from birth, we women have been conditioned not to fight back, to give in, to shut up, to keep walking.

God, that just. The other night someone mentioned that it's dangerous to fight back during sexual assault, and then it deviated into what weapon would work best in that situation, and there were knife vs. gun debates going on and you know what? I look back on that conversation and I don't see myself standing up and going, "Wait, why the fuck do we have to deal with which weapon is better? Isn't it wrong that we HAVE to defend ourselves?" I know this, and I have said that before, but for some reason I didn't that time. No lie, one of my greatest fears is getting raped, not only because I'm planning on staying a virgin until marriage and it is obviously horrifying, but because I know as a victim I will receive confusing signals about who was responsible and my rapist will likely not be prosecuted or blamed in any way, and will most likely walk away without thinking he'd done anything wrong. I will be the victim because we haven't changed that yet. And not I, really, but that there are victims because we're not there yet and people won't listen and I can't believe that when I mention I'm walking home ten minutes away and if someone could walk me home my friends look at me blankly and my roommate said, "Did you expect someone to do that?" and yes, I kind of did. The other night I thought I heard someone behind me on my not very well-lit block and glanced behind myself out of pure fear. I live a single block from campus and campus security, but I also live in Seattle, and ten minutes is a long time to be alone.

... long paragraph is long, and there are so many things I didn't even mention, but yes. And I grew up in churches where I was told to dress to prevent guys from being tempted and sorry, I have boobs and I don't hate them. I hate that it's dangerous for me to think that way. And also, about your stepfather, I am so sorry, and I think you did the right thing with your biological father. Haters to the left.

Edited Date: 2010-03-20 09:43 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-03-29 05:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] builtofsorrow.livejournal.com
-clings to you- I have so much I want to say in reply to this and I can't organize it in my head.

But I know. It made me really angry too, and frustrated, because how can you ever hope to be any good in the world if you can't imagine what it's like to be someone other than yourself? (There's this theorist, Richard Rorty, who I read selections of in undergrad, and who I always want to go back to but haven't yet, but there's this one quote of his that says, 'Solidarity is not discovered by reflection, but created... by increasing our sensitivity to the particular details of the pain and humiliation of other, unfamiliar sorts of people.' A huge part of my personal philosophy stems from that quote.)

And, and, and... I think I could write an essay or three in response to your paragraph, but I just... yes, I know exactly what you mean in all of it, and the frustrations and fears and getting invalidated by other people. And sometimes I feel so hypocritical, because I don't always say something, and I don't always lend my support like I should, but it's all so muddled, and I hate that. (Also, I want to time travel in and walk you home!)

& thank you for the last bits too; they mean more to me than I can express. ♥♥♥

Date: 2010-03-22 11:40 am (UTC)
ext_9352: (s: the tragic flaw of charming men)
From: [identity profile] charlie-d-blue.livejournal.com
Hi, I got directed here from Tumblr, of all places.

I am angry because every time I read something or hear something that unexpectedly contradicts the patriarchy to which I am subjected, I feel such an intensely profound gratitude toward the person speaking or writing that I lose my breath. I feel like I've unexpectedly stumbled upon an oasis in the middle of a soul-destroying desert; I feel such sheer relief that I want to throw myself in that person's arms and cry, because that person's behavior is so out of my normal range of experience that it's shocking.

This is pretty much exactly how your post made me feel, and it's so strange to see it put out there, that kind of bone-shaking relief at even the slightest acknowledgment of the ugly side of our society, something that everyone feels has been done through the feminist movement and that to bring out all the ugly again would be tasteless in the manner that all modern feminist movements have been categorized and stereotyped as tasteless.

Everything you talk about here reverberates with me, but I wanted to mention the clothing thing, because I get this all the time. To be dressed and ready to go out, and to look in the mirror, realize I look damn good, and instead of feeling awesome, I get this weird, jarring sick feeling in my gut, almost like shame, almost like contempt. And it took me a long time to realize, that's not me, that's something that's been put on me, that I carry around on my shoulders like a little mustachio'd devil.

So thank you for writing this, and for being so unashamedly angry. There needs to be more like this in the world.

(Also, I'm going to friend you to keep up with the fic, so no pressure to friend me back or anything, but I'd like it if you would. *g*)

Date: 2010-03-29 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] builtofsorrow.livejournal.com
Hi! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply to this, but I'm glad you're here. It means a lot to know that you found this and... that it meant something to you (that seems a bit trite, but I'm not sure how else to phrase it). It means a lot, too, to just know that I'm not alone in this. So thank you.

Also, this: Everything you talk about here reverberates with me, but I wanted to mention the clothing thing, because I get this all the time. To be dressed and ready to go out, and to look in the mirror, realize I look damn good, and instead of feeling awesome, I get this weird, jarring sick feeling in my gut, almost like shame, almost like contempt. And it took me a long time to realize, that's not me, that's something that's been put on me, that I carry around on my shoulders like a little mustachio'd devil.

I needed to hear that expressed, just like that. I'm not sure I can quite explain why, right now, but thank you particularly for that.

(And again, I'm sorry this reciprocation took so long; I've been kind of wrapped up in stressful school things lately, but I definitely look forward to getting to know you better. ^^)

Date: 2010-03-31 04:31 am (UTC)
ext_9352: (s: I stood beneath an orange sky)
From: [identity profile] charlie-d-blue.livejournal.com
Hey, now it's my turn to apologize! Sorry it took me this long to get back to you. No, that's not trite, because I kind of felt the same way about the post.

You're very welcome. It helps to put it into words, especially for me.

Date: 2010-03-26 06:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bornofstars.livejournal.com
I just realized that I never commented on this - I'm so sorry.

Really all I have to say is yes. I am tired of men treating me with condescension. I am tired of the expectations that I must live up to as a woman. I am tired of constantly watching over my shoulder because as a woman, I am automatically targeted for violence. I'm tired and I'm angry too.

The mockery and indulgence with which people treat feminism enrages me. There is a boy in my European History class who has said multiple times that women's rights aren't as important anymore because women have equal rights now. He has also made mulitple comments about the inferiority of women. I want to punch him in the face.

There is some equality, but we are not finished, not when society allows this sort of thinking and victimization.

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