I Am An Angry Feminist
I’ve been a feminist since I kicked Jared B. one Thursday night after youth group.
It’s funny to me, now, because when some people accuse feminists of being violent man-haters, my story could fit their paradigm. Growing up, I always heard that feminists were angry. I am dismissible to some by admitting my anger. And that’s the problem, right? We can always find something to reinforce what we’re trying to prove or evidence that allows us to disregard another viewpoint. They want angry, and I have anger in my story, tied up in my reasons and stories of feminism. I thought for a bit that this disqualified me, or that my story would cause more discord between people if I was honest about it.
But rather than simply suppressing my story or anger, I’m inviting you into my real mess.
Feminism has never been nice and delicate to me, because I am simply not a delicate person. When I am being myself, I have weight and presence and mass. I value gentleness, see strength in kindness, and practice at pacifism. But I also care enough about people to get angry at injustice.
I am a feminist because justice matters to me.
I was wrong to kick Jared B. in the shin that night. But I’m also a bit proud of fourteen year old Emily, of her tenacity, of her anger driving a decision to stand up for herself. A lot of that was stuffed back inside for the next ten years, so I’m delighted when I remember moments of passion that squeaked out during my shut-down, people-pleasing years.
Let me be clear about this: I am not a feminist because I am angry and looking for something to pounce on, nor do I advocate violence. I believe anger is a vital tool for emotional and spiritual health, because it tells me very clearly that something is important to me. Sometimes it takes me a while to sort out what exactly is important, but I’m getting better at identifying it.
I believe that violence is an ineffective problem-solving method, and I am learning the ways of bold peacemaking. I will speak up against violence and commit to other solutions in my interactions.
But what I was trying to say, so clumsily, to Jared B. in high school and to you now, is that women matter.
He wasn’t being thoroughly evil. As I look back now, I can see that his attempts to engage me were probably an immature but earnest flirtation. He was making degrading comments about women, about girls, about me. They hurt. They stuck to the places in me that had already learned in so many ways that girls didn’t matter as much as boys, that chubby girls with glasses didn’t matter as athletic girls with contacts, that the things that made me me were socially unacceptable.
But I also knew that what he was saying was just plain wrong, so I politely told him to stop. He didn’t.
I was angry in the calmest, firmest of ways. I warned him that if he didn’t stop saying stuff like that, I would kick him. He didn’t.
I’m sure my face mirrored the shocked look on his. He muttered and turned away, apologizing. I felt a wave of regret and another of satisfaction. I felt like I mattered.
And now he knew that I knew that I mattered.
I suddenly had weight, took up space in the world, had mass and limbs that connected sharply with his.
I try not to kick people anymore. Maybe it feels like that to some of them, when I point out sexism or behavior patterns that reinforce oppressive gender roles or simply speak up that my life is different than they expect. Maybe I’m still awkwardly blurting out swift blows to tender shins. But my goal isn’t to never be angry or to walk out feminism perfectly, it is an intentional pursuit of mattering, for all genders.
Feminism gives me the personal responsibility to learn new things, make amends, and walk out healing in my own way. It is a label that says I mattered as a snappy little fourteen year old, a suppressed and weary twenty-four year old, and exactly who I am today.
Feminism says you matter.
It says us, this world, the way we do things matters. There is justice to be practiced.
And it matters.
Today's post is a reflection on Feminism and Me, the first topic of Feminisms Fest, a synchroblog discussion. See other posts on this topic hosted by J. R. Goudeau and consider writing your own! We'll be on Twitter under #femfest.