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An angry woman is probably taken more seriously than a woman in tears, though men in a patriarchy would prefer the crying woman who they feel superior to.
Yesterday, in one of my binge watches of the Mentalist, I was on Season 2, Episode 4 (Red Menace), and there was a scene where one of the detectives interrogates a suspect, a woman, and he tells her, “’You are a very angry person and you express it physically’’, and she tells him, “I am not angry. I am sad”.
It felt like he was speaking to me. All my life, I have had this rage bubbling up inside of me. It has manifested in angry outbursts and walk-outs and heated arguments.
However, when I look back now, I noticed one thing. Each and every one of those episodes was directed at a man. Either it was my father, my brother, my ex-husband, an ex-boyfriend, an ex-boss, a guy at a store, etc. I have never lost my cool at a woman.
A little more digging into my psyche and my memories revealed that in each and every instance that I was raging at a man, underneath that anger and indignation, there was deep and utter sadness. I was using my anger as a cover-up for my tears. But why was I sad?
In spite of growing up and studying and working in a relatively well-educated and privileged background, surrounded by men who I naively expected to have overcome patriarchal conditioning, I still always had these run-ins with them. Why? Because they proved time and again that they still saw me as a woman first and a human being later. This is what made me sad.
This sadness has snowballed into a pent-up rage that just won’t be silent anymore.
The fact is that, if you are a woman, no matter what the color of your skin is, no matter what your caste or religion is, no matter what you look like, how much you have achieved in life, no matter what your social and economic background is, you will have one thing in common with all other women, if not in all areas, then at least in one area: You will be oppressed, suppressed, and silenced.
How will this not make anyone sad?
So why then did I express this as anger and not as sadness? Why did I rage instead of cry at the men who perpetuate this at me?
Because deep down I knew that if a woman cries, a man will immediately calm down and run to her rescue. Or he will stop whatever he was doing and feel guilty and walk away. Or he will feel sympathy for you and stop the shouting. You know why I didn’t do it in spite of subconsciously knowing this?
Because I didn’t want to ‘’win’’ the argument by manipulating using these famous ‘’feminine wiles’’. I wanted to make him see reason as his equal on an equal footing. I didn’t want his sympathy. I wanted his understanding.
Men are likely to look more favorably at a woman who is crying and talking than at an angry woman who is raging and talking. Why? Because when a woman is crying, it instantly puts them back in the seat of control and back in the pedestal as a macho man and it appeals to his sense of protection. However, when confronted by an angry woman, it pushes his buttons and threatens his ‘’manhood’’ that has been so carefully constructed by society. What he hears in his head is ‘’how dare she’’ whereas when a woman cries, what he hears in his head is, ‘’oh poor she’’.
So wasn’t it in my best interest to work with this reality than fight against it? Wouldn’t it have helped my cause to get the man on my side if I did use some ‘’feminine wiles’’? What’s the problem in doing some manipulation as long as it got me what I wanted?
However, I have fought against this all my life, to my own detriment in many cases. And still I have stubbornly refused to toe the line. Why, I ask myself.
Because I want to get what is my right by talking to a man face to face as his equal and winning his respect and not by winning his sympathy. Because I want to see who is secure and confident enough to not be threatened by my power and rage. Because I want to weed out the men who are only secure and confident if the woman is one step lower than them as a whimpering, simpering mess.
Because maybe generations of women before me have gotten what they wanted through so called ‘’manipulation’’ and ‘’feminine wiles’’ which, ironically, is looked at with contempt by the very system that gave them no choice but to get things that way. They were never given the freedom to express their wants and desires openly and directly. Women who did that were treated as social outcastes, made an example of, to warn other women. And it is but human nature to want to be accepted, to belong. So women had to find a workaround to this. And the solution they found to get their way in a male-dominated world was through appealing to his baser instincts of ‘’protection’’ and feel-good manhood.
But I am not my mother or grandmother or great-grandmother. The buck stops here. With me. I demand to be seen and to be heard as I am. I don’t want to be heard and seen only if I am crying and not being a threat. I demand to be seen and heard even when I speak as an angry woman, even when I speak face-to-face and eye-to-eye.
Enough is enough.
Image source: shutterstock
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Karishma has been writing short stories since she was 8 and poetry since she was
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