When I think about the ways women have been held down in the past, and how women are still held down today (when we should be past that) I feel a barely suppressible rage.
And it’s hard for me to say that, because in my upbringing being angry was cause to have your concerns and thoughts dismissed. You’re being irrational. You’re overreacting. You’re being emotional.
It’s also why I stopped watching The Handmaid’s Tale after the third episode. After seeing what was done to the other handmaid and her ‘martha’ lover was just too disturbing and too visceral. And the overall theme of the women in society being ranked based on their ability to get pregnant and have children and being enslaved according to the needs of men sounded too real. It was extreme, fictional account of course but still too much like the situation for women that did exist not so long ago — when women were not allowed to own property or have credit in their own name, when having a husband was the only way to have material security, and back when it was actually being debated whether it was possible for a man to rape his wife (after all, he married her so he has rights, yes?) That when I was a young teenage girl I wasn’t sure about the marital rape question. All the information and advice I had been given on avoiding sexual assault centered around maintaining my purity for my future husband (thanks to Focus on the [Patriarchal] Family). In the name of Biblical Family Values.
We evolved the capacity for anger for a reason, to protect ourselves and our families from harm and injustice. It’s hard when the injustice is built into your society to really understand and express why you are angry — you just know the anger is there and that something is wrong. If you’ve been taught — explicitly or implicitly — that it’s not acceptable for you to express anger, you might even think that the wrongness is inside of you. If you’ve read much of my blog, you know that I’ve mostly expressed this anger towards the wrongs in my upbringing and my life toward religion. There are valid points there, but now I don’t think that the problems were mainly to do with the Evangelical Christianity of my upbringing. The problem is much broader and deeper than that, and it predates Christianity. And it isn’t limited to religious contexts either — it is also seen in secular contexts in ‘Gamergate,’ and ‘Elevatorgate’ (Google these if you don’t know what they are.) It is demonstrated in the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment, which would explicitly guarantee the equal civil rights of women in the US Constitution (rather than relying on judicial opinion that says references to men in the Constitution also apply to women, even though they were not considered to apply to women when the Constitution was written so what happens if the Judiciary changes its mind?), still has not been ratified since it
was introduced passed Congress in 1972. Who is it that opposes the official legal recognition of women in the Constitution? I have a few good guesses — probably the same people who now want to restrict women’s access to Title X family planning services.
While I don’t feel it all the time, when I think and talk about the injustices done to women though the years right up to the present day, when I think about the gender-specific bullying I faced in school, when I see conservative politicians threatening to strip our hard-earned rights to make our own decisions about fertility and pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood, I feel anger. Rage. The only question now is how to best put that energy to use so I am not consumed by it.