Thursday, September 5, 2013

On Anger

The stereotype of the angry oppressed person runs rampant. Angry feminists. Angry gay/trans people. Angry people of color. Chances are, if you've ever spoken out about a social issue, you've experienced tone policing and had your entire viewpoint dismissed because of your anger--whether than anger was real or just perceived on the part of the listener/reader. These same people offer their sage advice that others would listen to you if you were nicer, that you'd "catch more flies with honey," and that the oppressors can't learn unless you're willing to play nice and educate them.

I saw an unattributed* quote floating around that hits at this point:
People often say ‘stop being angry and educate us,’ not understanding that the anger is part of the education.
This so hit home with me for primarily two reasons. The first is the outward message that those who need/want to be educated about these issues must know that understanding anger is inherently a part of this education. How can you try to empathize with someone's oppression without acknowledging the emotions that come from that? Having your people murdered, fearing/surviving harassment and rape, not being free to live the lifestyle you want, etc. are all situations that come with a lot of emotions, one of which is logically anger.  In order to learn about oppression and move toward being an ally, you must be able to understand that.

The second is a wonderful reminder that anger isn't inherently bad. In this case, the quote highlights how it can actually serve as an instructional point for others, but anger is good for so many other reasons. For example, it can provide self-insight and motivation (I know when I'm angry about something, it makes me want to change things. Hence the entire reason I'm in the field I'm in and why I write what I write.) And properly managing anger (which does NOT include suppressing it) is associated with health benefits.

Too often we assign value to our emotions and deny letting ourselves feel whatever it is we are truly feeling. In other words, happy is the "best" emotion, so clearly we should avoid sad, mad, frustrated etc. I know, as a feminist in particular, I am afraid of falling into the "angry man hater" stereotype so I have been silenced before under that guise. But it's good to remember that:

1) Anger is OK.
2) Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is OK.
3) You don't have to change your tone** for anyone.
4) Anger is part of the education.

*If you know the original source, let me know and I'll attribute. A Google search just produced a lot of Tumblrs reblogging it and I couldn't trace it to its origins.
**In case it needs to be said, tone is different than words/terms used. 

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