20-Something Years Of Anger All Coming Out At Once

May 3, 2017

I’ve talked a few times [and have at least one post in my drafts that I’m still catching up on] about how angry I am all the time, and how exhausting that is and how it doesn’t feel good one bit.

And part of the reason why there is so much anger is because I’m fitting in my whole lifetime of living in the patriarchy into the last number of months, basically.

I don’t quite know the right way to explain this. But for me specifically, it kind of feels like I’m in one of those leashes you can put on toddlers. I think that’s what living in the patriarchy has felt like to me…

I can feel it, sure. But it hasn’t actually held me back at all. It’s like something that’s put on you when you’re born as a girl. And so I grew up just thinking “well, yeah, of course I always feel this fabric on me, or these little tugs. That’s just part of life.”

And I was very lucky and privileged. I have somehow navigated my life in a way that I’ve really joined a lot of “boys’ clubs.” I’ve worked on a number of shows that have had zero female editors. But I became an editor (up from assistant) pretty quickly-ish in the grand scheme of things (and certainly just as fast as I would’ve expected a male counterpart, and even faster than some male counterparts I’ve seen with my own eyes).

I was in a “boys’ major” at school. I played a “boys’ instrument” in band. I have often been doing things that statistically way more boys do than girls.

And it’s not like I wasn’t ever discouraged. I don’t have a giant dramatic story, but I have the small ones I think we all do.

When we got fitted for instruments when I was much younger, it was suggested to me, “but wouldn’t you maybe rather play the clarinet or flute?” And I don’t know if it’s because I thankfully grew up with Lisa Simpson as my role model (who showed me girls can do anything), but for whatever the reason, I was like “nope!”

Every time there’s been even a slight tug on my little leash, I’ve tugged back harder, like “hahaha, you think I can’t do this? Watch me.”

It has been somewhat hard to navigate the world as a girl. There have certainly been times in my life when I’ve felt I had to try to be a little smaller for a guy – not that my accomplishments actually had to be smaller, but that I had to downplay them, or I had to take sort of hurtful backhanded compliments, because “you can’t threaten boys.” (How crazy is it that truly a message I got growing up was that if you’re too good/powerful/confident/etc., that you will threaten boys… Like, how is it threatening to just be ourselves?)

So, I’m not saying it’s all been super rainbows all day every day, but for the most part, even if some tugs on the leash were a struggle, for the most part, I thought I navigated the world okay and life was fine and stuff…

Until all this sexual assault stuff happened. And I saw how the guy was just so brazen about not caring. And I saw how many people were so quick to jump and make excuses for him. And then I read about a billion articles to learn more about gas lighting and sexual assault and all that. And I had group therapy as well. And so I saw time and time and time and time again how women were treated and belittled. And I saw more clearly how we’re portrayed in media and how we’re talked about and how we’re spoken to. And all of a sudden, wearing that leash seemed like a problem.

It’s like somebody slammed that leash in a car door and I got dragged down the street. Like “Wait a second. This thing can actually hurt me?!”

And now when I feel even the slightest tug on the leash, I get so mad.

And to some extent I think so many of us are sooooo used to the latent sexism that we’ve all just accepted, that if I snap at someone who’s pulled that leash, a lot of times they are shocked. It’s like “whoa whoa whoa, why are you mad at me? I always do this.” But it’s like “look what you’re doing!”

And we can say, “well, it’s just a little padded leash, it’s not like it reeeeeally hurts. What’s the big deal?”

But it can! If you pull it tightly enough, it hurts. (And whether it officially “hurts” or not, it’s always a nuisance that shouldn’t be on in the first place.)

I don’t wanna be hurt again. And I can’t dismantle the whole patriarchy in one fell swoop. I don’t know that in my lifetime I’ll ever be able to fully take off my leash or anyone else’s.

And I have a really hard time knowing how deal with people who pull on it – no matter whether they do it subconsciously or not. There is so much sexism baked into our society, I still make mistakes.

I’m here on my blog talking about how important equality and everything is, and yet, it had to be pointed out to me that when I was getting slightly emotional about something, I said, “I mean, not to be such a girl about it.”

I like to try to be this evolved person who’s gonna get stuff right, and even I have some degree of enforced gender roles rolling around my brain.

I know I can’t just freak out at anyone who ever makes a sexist comment. That’s gonna be exhausting and isolating. I don’t wanna be the sexist comment police where people are afraid to even talk to me, lest they say something wrong.

But I also don’t wanna just keep happily bouncing around completely unbothered in my “nice” leash. It doesn’t matter how nice it is or how privileged I am in comparison to some women. I’m still wearing one. And now I feel it. I feel it everyday.

All of this small stuff really does lead to bigger stuff. (Like in the Malcolm Gladwell book The Tipping Point when he talked about turning NY around by being tough on small crimes first, and how that whole thing worked.) There is a correlation to off-handed things we say about women and the way we ultimately treat them.

And I’m having a bit of a hard time finding the balance between knowing that it is part of life right now and that there is a probably veeeeery long road to dismantling our views about gender roles and the way we treat women, and therefore still finding all the joy and happiness I can – while still trying not to take any guff from anybody, because I am not here for microaggressions anymore(!).

(I mean, ultimately I think the general answer is probably that you pick your battles. You take it kind of easy on people you know are trying, and you gently point out their missteps when it feels right (just as you’d want someone to do for you)… And you try as much as you can to stay away from people who really aren’t trying – who are happily steeped in toxic masculinity or the patriarchy… It’s not your job to try to fix the whole system. It’s reeeeeally probably not worth it to challenge every person you see say something pretty darn super sexist on social media. It’s probably about having love in your heart and approaching interactions from that place instead of having anger at the ready… Those are all probably the beginning of the answers to how I deal and navigate from here…)

So, anyway, all that to say, on top of everything else, I think one of the reasons I’m feeling oh so much anger is because I’m now feeling 20-something odd years of it, realizing I never should’ve been wearing a leash in the first place.

And I’m finding it a bit hard to deal with a giant rush of over two decades of anger all at once. I’m finding it a little hard to let it go and be peaceful and calm and normal about everything. So that’s where I am right now…

[Note: I think men actually to some extent wear their own leashes too. And I will get to that tomorrow]

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?