Guest opinion by Norma Barnett
Should women be angry? Unequivocally yes! Because if we do not feel anger, or dare to call it anger, we hold back from speaking the truth, and not just about rape and sexual assault. We refrain from speaking up when interrupted, from protesting when men tell us what we think—without asking us, when they demean someone, as Orrin Hatch did when he called Christine Ford “pleasing.” Ford subjects herself to danger and humiliation, tells a frightening and all too common story about sexual assault, and all he can say is that she is “pleasing”? How dare he.
The insidiousness of misogyny often shelters its manifestations behind an invisibility cloak. Maybe worse things were said about Christine Ford, but calling her “pleasing” is the one that got to me. He must have missed the part when the “prosecutor” began to suggest to Dr. Ford that she was in cahoots with the Democrats to ruin Brett Kavanaugh. A muted spark of anger changed her face from pleasing to tight as she said, “I am no one’s pawn.”
Without anger women easily slide into conciliation, apology, crying, depression, and “shutting up.” Women react these ways in small moments (when interrupted or disrespected) or when talking of a sexual assault that occurred decades ago. As egregious as the response has been to many of the women who have come forward this past year, I am saying that many women endure assaults (often subtly stated) on their character, their intelligence, their right to speak, the legitimacy of their criticisms of men, and other acts that are simply part of being human. These little moments damage too.
So far I have written freely about what I think and feel. Now comes the harder part. What are we to do with this anger? Because anger, especially when melded with its more violent expressions (rage and fury) can becomes destructive. Many, including Dr. Ford and (former) comedian Hannah Gadsby, emphasize telling one’s story, or in everyday life, speaking up. I also am inclined toward telling one’s story, over and over again, if necessary. I honor marches and protest, and political action, but sometimes something more seems to be required. The woman who stopped Jeff Flake at the elevator and demanded that he look her in the eye and listen to her, did women proud. There is no one answer, and we cannot be paralyzed by imagining that we have to wait until we are absolutely sure, to speak and act. Christine Ford feared that telling her story would come to nothing. I hope she knows the effect she had on many others, although not on the men in power.
I do not want my anger to drive me to adopt the tactics of power that permeate male behavior. I do not want my face to reflect the hatred, bigotry and contempt broadcast on the face of Lindsay Graham. Men cannot be allowed to seduce us into behaving like the worst of them, using power to demean and abuse others.
Whatever it takes for women to forge new ways of responding, it is a moral imperative. Anger may provide a platform from which we can speak, but it is not our aim. And at least a part of that aim, involves refusing to be silenced.