06 November 2010

False dilemma

Earlier this week, Arcadian talked a bit about when and why to bring up feminist issues. I'd like to spend a little time talking about how.

As in so many other situations resulting from being a woman, the path of talking about feminism seems lined with traps. If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention, but if you speak up every time something grates on your soul, you risk friendships, jobs, physical safety. Melissa McEwan of Shakesville addressed aspects of this eloquently in her post on The Terrible Bargain, but in doing so she outlines a similar, possibly false, dilemma to Arcadian's one of excuse-making vs. hardassedness.

I think there is a third way, but it has its traps, too. A common silencing tactic directed against feminists is the tone argument, in which women are warned that if they can't find a nice and/or impersonal way of voicing their anger, they can't seriously expect to be heard.

That argument is not a useful one. Anger does not invalidate a point, any more than humor does. BUT. I've been thinking quite a lot lately about the possibility of being angry while maintaining an open heart.

See, when I get angry, it's usually because I feel betrayed in some way, which makes me fearful. And Yoda told us all where that leads. I'm constantly looking for ways to keep myself from curling around that fear, growling and snapping like a dog guarding a bone at anyone who tries to take it from me. What would happen if, instead of clinging to that pain and lashing out with contemptuous correction, we took a different way? What would it look like? How would it feel? I'm asking. Tell me. Show me. Let's change this thing.

1 comment:

  1. This isn't an answer, but all I could think of while reading this was a scene in Laurie King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Our heroine has spent the last couple of chapters helping to rescue a six-year-old girl who was kidnapped for ransom. She goes to visit the little girl and talks to her a little about her ordeal. The child confesses to being angry and frightened at everyone around her. Our heroine nods, and says, yes, the things they did should make you angry. But the anger hurts you more than them, so instead of being angry and frightened, can you be angry and happy? And lo, the little girl has a solution.

    Okay, it's fiction. But I liked the scene without ever realizing that it could be applied to anything broader. But what your post made me think of is that idea of being angry, because something really isn't right, and happy, because you are the person who rises above that injustice and tries to be fully yourself in spite of it. And that is a joyous thing to do.