This weekend, we all received an e-mail from an extremely thoughtful, eloquent, and righteously angry young feminist named Samantha. We all wrote back to her privately, but asked if we could run her e-mail so that everyone else could join in the discussion. All the Harpies have had some variation of the experiences she describes, and we’re sure you have too. So let’s activate the sisterly hive-mind…mine your own personal experiences, air your views, and give some advice, not just to Samantha, but to all of us angry feminists . K thx.
I’m a new feminist. I’m making mistakes.
I’m sitting here in tears at the moment, over a thoughtless tease from my mother. She caught me unawares, and found me reading the book “Quiverfull” by Kathryn Joyce. She laughed, told me “Don’t be hating!”
I was near the end of the book, enraged at a system that equates women to wombs and elevates abusive men–at points excommunicating women for bringing up their husbands abuse because, though their husbands were “wicked” in hurting them, the women were “even more wicked” for speaking badly of their husbands in public. It’s a subject dear to my heart. My introduction to feminism (and atheism) came from reading and analyzing my own thoughts in response to the NoLongerQuivering website.
But what my mother didn’t see were the days before, hiding the book from her under a blanket or behind my legs. My recent foray into feminism couldn’t have come at a worse time in my family, and unbeknownst to them, was a lead into the situation we’re currently in. It was feminism that opened my eyes and made me realize I had thoughts of my own, worthy thoughts, against gender roles, etc. It was feminism that made me aware of the extent of the abuse going on in my family–which lead to, with extenuating medical circumstances, to a near suicide attempt. That in turn led to my mother having the courage to kick my father out of the house and return to college. (Together, we’re learning Spanish). That exacerbated the situations with my brothers. My older brother was already verbally abusive toward my mother. My younger brother has recently become so, angry that the family is falling apart.
The entire family is angry.
And now I am, too. Now I am angry when my brothers spout out misogynistic language, objectify women, make homophobic, transphobic, and racist jokes. Now I call them out on their behavior. Now I am adding to the yelling.
My brothers call me a feminazi or easily brush aside my rants and attempt to analyze their behavior–and why it’s wrong–with a eyeroll, sigh, and “Oh, God…” or even more common: “Shut up, Sam.”
My mother tells me to pick my battles. Let it go. Don’t get angry. At least not over the “small stuff”. Now she’s found me with a book I’ve tried to hide from her, knowing she wouldn’t understand why this is so dear to me. Reactions I’ve tried to hide from her. To keep in my mind and stew over and analyze and wonder…
…her first comment is “Don’t be hating!”
I’m not allowed to get angry.
I am. I’m an angry feminist. I’m angry that I can’t get angry! Angry that I spent so many years in SILENCE because my brothers were angry and loud enough on their own. Angry that now I can’t use the vocabulary I’ve learned, or the articles I’ve read, that so clearly explain why these bother me… Angry that I’m not allowed to keep my anger when my younger brother jokingly refers to me as trash, and, when I calmly point out it was offensive, refuses to apologize. It was a joke, after all.
So was what she said…
So I mustn’t get ANGRY over humor! I mustn’t get angry because the root of that humor is disvaluing human opinions and experiences, usually of a minority…I mustn’t get ANGRY when everyone else laughs–when we talked tonight, my mother pointed out that I shouldn’t even give it a second thought! They’re JOKES…
…however can you be happy, Samantha, if you can’t laugh at jokes?
If you can’t find them funny?
What a sad life…
…oh, what a sad life it is, that my younger brother can’t walk into Bath and Body Works for fear of “someone seeing him.” He used to love that store, when he was younger. But now he is older and wiser and knows to be a man, he mustn’t go into Bath and Body Works. Not willingly. “But wouldn’t it be more ‘manly,’ to be able to go into a store you don’t like to pick out a gift for someone you love?” I point out.
No, he happily tells me. In other conversations, he’ll tell me there are “guy things,” I just can’t understand….like the want to “get a girl,” though I point out women aren’t prizes to be won.
But I’m told my brothers won’t change. Men and women are wired in a certain way, don’tcha know. My mother loves to bring up “some study” about young kids who, when given opposite gendered toys, the boys would find some way to pretend to have a gun and the girls would pretend to cradle whatever they were given.
(What IS this study? Can anyone find it? Is there any truth to it?)
She brings this up often, proof that “that’s the way things are,” never mind the fact that her own personal experience is different: I, her only daughter, made my Barbies into dinosaurs.
I’m an “angry”, “humorless”, “man-hating” “feminist”, in an already volatile household.
I’m too angry.
It’s upsetting my mother.
It’s upsetting my brothers.
I feel like I’m ruining nights…instead of watching ER with my mother, I’m angry at being told not to be angry, angry that I can’t get across to my mother WHY I’m angry (because after all, she is quick to tell me how often I make her angry with my feminist rhetoric), WHY it matters…why it should matter…
I hate myself. I hate that I’m feminist, but I can’t let it go: I hate more the comments my brothers make, my mother makes, my family makes…sprinklings of “little battles” I must let go…I hate the disrespect and inequality and “the way things are”. But my raised fist does nothing but hurt the people around me and add unneeded fire to a house burning down.
I’m changing nothing, though I see so much to change.
Find some feminist way to tell me to be quiet. Some coping mechanism to once again accept the abuse. Some better way of speaking. Some way to stop being humorless or man-hating.
I don’t want my brothers to feel I hate them for their penis…anymore do I like their current attitude about me and my vagina.
Help me find some outlet, so I can get some semblance of my life back…without returning to a life of Silent, Submissive Samantha, always the peacemaker and listener and reassure-r.
A reader and a lurker,