A Little Bit of Anger Is All I Need

Anger can be a nasty thing, especially abstract anger. Anger at a concept, a theory, or an ideology can spark some of the cruelest, often hypocritical behavior in people. Look at the American political process. The left and the right are rarely angry at specific people, just ideas. Their angry is often so nebulous that virtually anything can set them often. It is so bad that even when they agree they are still angry with each other.

The same thing happens with other ideologues, be they religious like the Christian right, or secular like feminists. They create theories to justify their anger about something done to them, and then act surprised when the people they project that anger on become angry in return.

Yet what seems to bother angry people more is when one of their group lets that anger go. Anne Thériault wrote such a response to Sarah Beaulieu’s How I Stopped Being an Angry Feminist, and Started Loving Men article. In her piece, Thériault wrote:

I’m not angry because I hate men. I’m not even angry at men. I’m angry at the system that, for the lack of a better term, most people refer to as the patriarchy. As far as defining the patriarchy, I don’t think anyone has ever done it better than Ashley Judd, so I’m going to use her words here:

Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it.

Patriarchy is defined as the “social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power.” To say patriarchy is not men is akin to saying Christianity is not Christians.

The mental gymnastics Judd and Thériault attempt to play does not change that the concept of patriarchy, both as defined by society and by feminists, is intrinsically tied to men. If it were not, feminists would have chosen another word to represent their conspiracy theory, in the same way that if feminism were about gender equality and not just about changing women’s positions in society, feminists would have chosen a word for their movement that had no connection to the concept of female or feminine. Both words were chosen because they implicitly represent the intent and focus of those terms.

Thériault went on to rail against the ways she is complicit in “The Patriarchy”, which includes acts such as being non-threatening in the face of “blatant sexism,” telling men she does not hate them even though she is a feminist, and wearing make-up and dresses. What I found most curious was this:

I participate in the patriarchy when I write for the Good Men Project, trying to make my feminism safer, more palatable, in an attempt to convince you that I’m not like those other feminists, the feminists that some of you hate so much. And just to be clear, these posts have been my own choice to write, and I have come up with both the content and the subject matter, so don’t think that I am trying to obliquely criticize the project or its editors. I chose to try to sugarcoat feminism, and now I regret it, and I have to own that.

I fail to see how explaining “her” feminism is participating in “The Patriarchy.” If feminism is such an individualized ideology that every feminist can have her own personal take on it, then by default every feminist must explain how “her” feminism is different from all the others.

Thériault then listed all the things she is angry about, most of which have nothing to do at all with “The Patriarchy” and are simply complaints about expectations on her behavior, expectations that are coincidentally placed on men as well.

After listing this litany of complaints, she wrote:

So my hope is that, while reading this, those of you who have had negative experiences with individual feminists will try to understand that the unfair actions of one particular person don’t mean that you should write off the feminist movement.

She cannot argue that after arguing this: “I’m not angry because I hate men. I’m not even angry at men. I’m angry at the system that, for the lack of a better term, most people refer to as the patriarchy.”

The feminist movement, or more accurately feminism, is an ideology, i.e. a system of ideas. If one can write off “The Patriarchy” because it is a system one takes issue with, one can also write off feminism or any ideology one takes issue with. You cannot have it both ways, particularly when the latter system is actually practiced by real people in the real world while the former is just a doctrinal scapegoat.

Coincidentally, every experience one has is with individuals. No one person represents every member of a group, so when man does something to you, he does not represent all men or “The Patriarchy”; those are merely his individual actions.

Of course, such actions can occur commonly among a particular group, therein making it reasonable for a person to assume that members of that group will engage in that behavior. This does not magically disappear when someone declares themselves a feminist. Just as men within a given culture can behave in a common set of ways, so too can feminists behave in a common set of ways.

So when Thériault warned people not to “conflate your anger at things that have been said or done by people who label themselves as feminist with anger at feminism in general” it sounds like she is trying to have it both ways, which ironically sparks the anger she seemingly wants to quell (as does the sudden implication that the feminists who hurt others are not really feminists). Ultimately, Thériault wants people to:

Instead, maybe you could join me in directing your anger outward, to all the injustices that both men and women deal with in the face of the patriarchy and its desire to impose strict gender roles on all of us. Because I can tell you from personal experience that the patriarchy hurts men, too. Because I don’t want my son to grow up believing that being a boy means that he can only like certain things or behave in certain ways, in the same way that I don’t want to feel constricted by my gender, either.

If she does not want her son to grow up believing that being a boy means that he can only like certain things or behave in certain ways, then she should not support feminism either because that is exactly what feminism does, along with blaming her son for all of his mother’s problems and denying that he can ever be victimized in any legitimate way.

What I also want to address Thériault’s idea that “anger can be a good way, sometimes the only way, to fuel change.”

I agree that anger can motivate people to act, however, when anger is the motivator it often is the only thing fueling the person’s actions.

What begins as anger at a specific thing soon becomes anger at an abstract concept. And because the concept is so loosely defined, there is always a reason to be angry. “The Patriarchy” is such a concept, and Anne’s list of complaints is an example of there always being a reason to be angry.

Letting go of anger is the first step to actually making change. It allows you to see past the hurt and see the real issues at play. Yet the most important reason to let anger go is because anger often begets anger. Anger does not exist in a vacuum, and no matter how justified one feels in being angry, the more angry one feels, the more it will taint how one views and treats others, which in turn affects how people treat you.

I frequently tell feminists something: you are dealing with other people. Not caricatures, not “men”, and not the doctrinal conspiracy theory of “The Patriarchy”. People. People with feelings, emotions, and experiences you know nothing about, and people who have done nothing to you. No matter how justified you feel in your anger, you are dealing with other human beings who have the same emotions as you. If you would not want anyone treating you with contempt or as a scapegoat for their anger, you should not do it to them. And the best way to make sure you do not do it is by not holding onto your anger.

About these ads

24 thoughts on “A Little Bit of Anger Is All I Need

  1. Toysoldier:
    I was all set to make a longer response decrying this post as being futile and saying nothing that the people who read this blog (and most of the other blogs you’ve participated on) don’t already know(though the information on this particular feminist is of use to those of us who occasionally post on the “Good Men” project). But then:

    “If she does not want her son to grow up believing that being a boy means that he can only like certain things or behave in certain ways, then she should not support feminism either because that is exactly what feminism does, along with blaming her son for all of his mother’s problems and denying that he can ever be victimized in any legitimate way.”

    THIS, in a nutshell, is why feminism has failed and failed miserably to live up to its professed ideals. Brilliantly and concisely expressed.

    And:

    “I frequently tell feminists something: you are dealing with other people. Not caricatures, not “men”, and not the doctrinal conspiracy theory of “The Patriarchy”. People.”

    Occasionally, there is value to posts such as this if you pull out a nugget or two of wisdom, which you have done here. Unexamined movements (and I’m willing to bet even more so ‘social justice’ movements) tend to dehumanize the opposition, at least theoretically. “Patriarchy Theory” is the “tell” of mainstream feminisms current true opinion of men.

    If you want to know what “patriarchy” tends, to mean when most feminists use it, it means “male dominance hierarchy”. But only a fool thinks that such an entity exists for the aggrandizement of all men at the expense of all women (the conflation of ‘patriarchy’ with ‘andrarchy’ is a wonderful way of erasing female misbehavior and male victims) or that women( of the largely heterosexual or bisexual type) don’t help BUILD the damn thing via their expressed sexual preferences and the power they have as mothers. Only a fool, or liar. And that’s what many feminists are doing: lying to themselves.

  2. “I can tell you from personal experience that the patriarchy hurts men, too.”

    Ugh, no actually you don’t “know this from personal experience” you are not a man. At best you know it from first-hand *observation*

  3. Agreed Paul. At the most unless she was at some point a man then the most she can say is that she knows from first hand observation. I can imagine how it would fly if a man were to say that he has personal experience that patriarchy hurts women.

  4. Great post.

    It allows you to see past the hurt and see the real issues at play.

    I think this is an important point. I suspect part of the reason politically motivated people encourage anger is that it fosters uncritical support for their cause. It’s all about getting enough support for your team so you can ‘win’ the political war and feel good about yourself, while avoiding the effort of being concerned about whether your cause is actually a moral one or even meeting its stated goals.

  5. It would be wise to remember these words though.

    “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

  6. Pingback: An Example of Stupidity | Clarissa's Blog

  7. Its funny how quickly some “feminists” show their compassion for others. Clarissa’s post on you today confirms your thoughts exactly. I would have posted a response for support but I was banned for two months for stating the obvious. ;)

  8. Titfortat, I do not think there was any attempt on Clarissa’s part to show compassion. She just took issue with my post but could not be bothered to explain in any detail what her problem with it was beyond thinking it “stupid” and me a “freak.”

  9. I agree, sorry you missed my sarcasm. She actually has a very nasty streak to her. I would bet money she was bullied and as is common, the bullied very often become the bully.

  10. Wow what the hell happened to Clarissa? I used to think of her as the only feminist I ever knew who genuinely wanted equality.
    I stopped reading her blog for a long time now and I come back and it’s like she’s gone bat shit crazy and the comments she allows are just despicable.

    I guess it shows that you can’t be a feminist and not end up hating yourself and everybody else.

  11. It will be detrimental to men who can only exist within a system where they dominate and have unfair advantages conferred onto them. They need huge parts of population to be kept down artificially or they won’t be able to compete.

    Yeah, sure. Project much?

    Clarissa and her cronies will assure you that they are standard bearers for equality and fairness. Meanwhile their hatred and disrespect and complete absence of empathy oozes from every word. It’s almost indistinguishable from futrelle’s chamber of sleaze.

  12. Funny how she has a post titled “Homophobes Are Not Only Pigs, They Are Idiots”. Yet she tolerates homophobic slurs from her supporters “MRA faggots”

  13. Well, someone COULD write to her employer.
    Seriously, that is some fucked up shit, TS.
    And yes, she does come across as both hateful AND stupid.
    And yes, I was reading her years ago and she used to seem reasonable, and fair. But the past year or two she seems to be doubling down on the ideology. What I NEVER expected to see from her was such mindless frofthing hate, and such piss poor argumentation. Maybe she has a medication issue(and no, I’m not saying that to be snarky, but THIS clarissa is a shock, even given some of the posts of hers I’ve read over the past few years when she seems to have gone more ‘feminist’.)

  14. Guy’s don’t waste your time. She read TS’s entire post and took one single line to pick a bone over (and then her supporters followed suit). I’m a bit dismayed by her commentary but I guess that’s what happens sometimes…

  15. I agree mostly with what’s been said about Clarissa. Instead of a reasoned argument there’s a lot of name calling, with made-up words.
    Whenever a feminist says that feminism is just about equality, you can say, Okay, ever hear of the SCUM manifesto, ever hear of Catharine MacKinnon, ever hear of Mary Daly, ever hear of false rape charges, ever hear of the “Dear Colleague” letter, ever hear of Catherine Comins (the assistant dean of Vassar who said that men can learn something from the experience of a false rape allegation), etc. etc.

  16. “Wow what the hell happened to Clarissa? I used to think of her as the only feminist I ever knew who genuinely wanted equality.
    I stopped reading her blog for a long time now and I come back and it’s like she’s gone bat shit crazy and the comments she allows are just despicable. ”

    Adi, that’s my feeling too. It’s sad, but she has an almost sociopathic lack of compassion. Probably to be expected though, the mask was bound to slip sooner or later. I do think it goes with maintaining the belief structures required for feminism.

    TFT,
    “I would bet money she was bullied and as is common, the bullied very often become the bully.”

    The culture she was raised in sure would fit the bill for this.

    “Actually Danny, she said she didnt even read it. Go figure”

    For someone who is getting paid to be an academic, this almost makes reporting her to her employers a reasonable response. She teaches at a public institution as I remember, so her bigotry is a matter of public interest.

  17. @Ginkgo

    I have been very surprised at the level of vitriol that comes out of her at times. Mind boggling that as an educator she seems to have no concern of how it might look to her employer. I wonder if that mindframe is an offshoot of her Autism? As far as the potential of her losing her job I would imagine it to be highly unlikely. Afterall, woman and Autistic, In this day and age good luck with that, lol. :)

  18. I…What…Buh…

    I just read the commentary on that ping back and…

    Those people are digusting bigots. Them and Clarissa.

    “MRA Faggot”?

    I don’t have the words right now to even describe the amount of putrid bile they spewed out of their mouths. Actually, I do. But I’ll let live just for the sake of my sanity.

  19. “I don’t have the words right now to even describe the amount of putrid bile they spewed out of their mouths. Actually, I do. But I’ll let live just for the sake of my sanity.”

    This level of anger is incapacitating. it blinds a person and destroys judgment. That is a very good thing considering who it is happening to.

    Sun Zi even advises a commander to provoke it as a military strategy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s