I am angry, as I am when the world just gets too much, when all the oppressive shit just seems never ending and you feel hopeless and you can’t quite formulate anything beyond a sort of screaming frustration.
I’d say I’m pretty much apoplectic right now. So I’d like to talk about anger and how I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
Anger is not a bad thing. Anger is a valid emotion. Anger is a response and it’s a lot easier to chastise people for being angry than to look at why they are angry. Especially as it is often the more privileged casting judgment on the less privileged.
I’ve spent a lot of my life trying not to be angry. Believing I should play along with the good girl role I was assigned, you know quiet, shy, reads a lot of books, gets good grades blah blah. The policing of anger is really sneaky and insidious. You get told you’re a ‘good girl’ you shouldn’t be angry, that you’re ‘too intelligent’ (though don’t get me started on ‘intelligence policing’ – when people tell you you’re ‘too intelligent’ and you should dumb yourself down because you’re just being difficult now and you’ll never attract a man if you keep using long words etc etc, whatever it’s all part of the same silencing crap). I’ve been told that swearing is a sign of a small vocabulary and low intelligence, that no one will listen to you unless you ‘ask nicely’. But it’s all bullshit, or bovine faeces, or dudely cattle droppings or whatever my tiny vocabulary full of un-ladylike profanities decides to call it. Now I’m not saying everyone should go round being mean to everyone, but the whole passive niceness as the ideal way to behave is a form of subjugation.
I’ve realised as I grow older and angrier that actually I have every right to be angry. That the policing of my anger is just that, policing. That it’s designed to stop dialogue. It’s derailing. It’s the imposition of arbitrary standards of politeness that never seem to apply to white, abled, heterosexual cis men, who for the sake of brevity I’ll just call ‘white dudes’ from now on. White dudes have ‘debates’ they’re ‘opinionated’ ‘outspoken’ and all sorts of rugged and wholesome manly adjectives that enforce their status as accepted and listened to. Everyone else is just ‘angry’. Or we have an ‘agenda’ or we’re ‘hysterical’ or ‘bitchy’ or ‘whiny’ or ‘ungrateful’ or a slew of similar terms designed to undermine not only our arguments but our very humanity and our right to make these arguments in the first place. The whole ‘rational objectivity’ is a white dude concept that’s full of implicit bias; it ignores the fact it’s an enormous privilege that is far from the ‘default’ to be able to debate ‘issues’ in a detached way, because they don’t affect you personally. There is a tangle of implicit sexism, racism and classism within the set up of white dude logic. White dudes are the pinnacle of objective reasoning; they don’t get ‘too emotional’, they’re not ‘uncivilised’ they speak ‘proper english’ and they do things ‘properly’ (which as well all know means ‘done by a white dude’). White dude logic pretends to be ‘objective’ but it demands everyone engage with it in an innately white dude way. In white dude logic ‘taking it personally’ is a bad thing, but what else are you supposed to do about an issue that affects you, as a person? Why are emotions bad? Does the fact I feel angry about whatever oppressive crap I deal with as a disabled woman mean that I am incapable of intelligent thought? Or is it just a load of crap designed to exclude more diverse voices from a system that benefits white dudes? Why is it so common to hear thing like ‘well YOU would say that’ directed to women, people of colour, LGBT people, disabled people, anyone not on the throne of white dudely privilege? You rarely hear ‘well YOU would say that you’re a white dude!’ in the same sneering tones.
To not be angry is a privilege. I’m angry because I feel under attack. Because I am under attack. From patriarchy, from kyriarchy. From a government and society that sees people like me as a ‘burden’ and ‘scroungers’ , from supposed allies who think that raising our voices is ‘divisive’. I see others under attack too, every day all over the world and being the soppy bleeding heart I am who actually gives a shit about humanity I get angry about that too.
Also as someone who has mental health problems, I am acutely aware that the policing of emotions is a very bad thing indeed. Part of my problems stem from the fact society doesn’t really give you a space to be angry about this stuff, that it enforces some sort of emperor’s new clothes ‘positive thinking’ bollocks on you, ‘Smile or Die’ is an amazing book on this topic, go go go read it.This is something which is especially prevalent with regards to disability and the ‘super crip‘ ideology. I had a youth of endless ‘think positive it’ll help you get better’ stuff thrown at me and I felt I didn’t really have any place to explore and get angry at the fact that being ill really, really sucks. Further more there is even less space to freely vent about how the fact that being ill really sucks is made so so so much worse by all systematic the ableist crap foisted on us by society that is deeply prejudiced against disabled people and sees us as either a costly nuisance or ‘inspiration porn’ for the benefit of abled people.
Basically, having your whole life go to crap is hard. It was always geared towards thinking of ‘when you’re better!’ and less about facing the shit right now. But whilst I am a lot better than I have been, I’m still ill and have been for over half my life, I don’t have much hope of a ‘normal’ ‘well’ life but I’m ok with that. I think a lot of this stems from societal ableism that views disability and illness as such a bad thing and that we must always be ‘fighting’ it even if it makes much more sense to accept it and live your life as a perfectly valid human being as it is.
In short I feel all this ‘don’t get angry it’s bad, think positive!’ stuff is about compliance. It begs you to be a good, compliant little person who accepts their shitty lot in life and never complains, never questioning the rampant inequality of society. To ‘know your place’, except my place is right here being as angry as I want to be.