You have heard it. You have, probably, lived it. “In an argument, the person who yells the first has already lost”, “there’s no greater greatness than forgiveness” and “Let it go, it is useless to be so angry”. Or, of course, the ever-popular “you have to understand them, they is going through a rough patch, and sometimes says things they doesn’t mean to. Forgive them.”
Also “Yeah, at the beginning they looks like an asshole, but once you get to know them, they is a pretty decent person”. That only has one meaning: learn to tolerate that asshole. Live with their slurs and their shitty personality, avoid their dirty underwear on the living room floor, keep your mouth shut when they go on their sexist/racist/classist ramblings. After all, you can afford to be gracious, can’t you?
Funny, men never seem to learn those lessons.
Suck your anger, lady. Swallow it, even if you poison yourself. Let them have all the cake, the playing ground, let them dominate the discourse. It is not proper or ladylike to spit, to curse, to yell, to hold grudges. Deny your feelings, coat them in layers and layers of passive-aggressiveness until you smother them. Die a little bit inside.
It brings me the memory of the Fight Club novel. At the beginning, the unnamed narrator expresses frustration with his corporate, plasticized life, and he complains about being part of “a generation of men raised by women”. He and his alter ego Tyler Durden create a cult-like society where young disgruntled men can beat each other up to a pulp and express their aggression, free of the judging gazes of the females in their lives. For three hundred pages, he wrote about the liberation of young men (the most oppressed group ever) through anger and destructive energy. Now his fucking book has a cult following of nerds and hipsters who unironically quote the movie and use it as an excuse for their assholery.
With all due respect to Palahniuk, this is tripe. Yes, I’m aware that the book is more complex than that. But I cannot forgive that, for him, female aggression is not only taboo, but literally unthinkable. He cannot imagine women feeling the same raw rage that drives the men to a violence frenzy. He cannot imagine a woman yelling, punching, fighting tooth and nail in the same ring. No wonder.
We have been tamed, dammit.
Male aggression is celebrated and groomed. A man can yell and demand, and he will be called dominant and assertive. A man can be competitive without being deemed “a bitch”. A man can fight for his position, and he will be quickly forgiven if he steps over the line. After all, he is a man, and he will be taking what is rightfully his.
Instead, female anger is nipped in the bud. It is disqualified, pathologized, patronized. A woman who raises her voice is not opinionated, she is hysterical. We are taught that from childhood, from our mothers. Later, men don’t even need to disqualify us. We do it to each other.
Words by Esther Nelke
Illustration by Judy Mièl