WordPress sent me a snazzy little graphic showing some of my blog stats for 2011. I was rather interested in what it would tell me, although I am totally unsavvy about putting stats and feedback to my advantage. Nevertheless, I am proud of what I write, and I want to know who is reading what, and why.
To my great surprise, three of the top posts for last year were marked with the “gender” tag, one that I didn’t even introduce on the blog for the first few years. I never wanted to write about being a woman, about the silent weight that bears on because of all that goes along with my sex. I didn’t want to be controversial or opinionatied. Those who know me well already know that I am opinionated, but there was something about proffering those opinions to the whole wide world that intimidated me. But sometimes, it seems, I can’t help it.
So in 2011 I wrote about the hassle of having to choose among different titles as a woman (Miss, Mrs, etc) and all of the implications that go along with those choices, whether we make them or they are made for us. I tried to unpack the seemingly universal desire to be beautiful after an afternoon of having headshots taken. I did my best to hold myself accountable for the ways I am complicit in my own woundedness and insecurity. And those posts were very popular.
But you see, that is what I don’t want to write. I don’t want the story of my life to be one of anger. I have tried not to be angry at a world that makes me a second-class citizen and at a God who makes me vulnerable. I have tried to be sorrowful or compassionate at our broken world, I have tried not to succumb to the frustration that comes with knowing that I am held to a different standard simply because I am a woman.
Being a girl, and then a woman, never mattered to me in the least. It was not part of my identity. I was daughter, sister, singer, Catholic, student, but I never thought of myself as “woman”. Perhaps I should raise my parents for raising me in too gender-neutral of a household. If I had learned to play by the rules, to keep my mouth shut and defer to men and never be too blunt, my life would be much easier.
How I longed to be a “good woman”, but my desire to fit the mold could never trump who I truly am, and so I spent years being punished in sundry ways for not being a “good woman”. And for that I am angry. Every time someone expects me to be dumb, every time a group of men excludes me from a conversation, every time I am criticized for having an opinion I am angry.
I don’t want anger to be the story of my life. But it is there, in that place that I try to keep hidden. That’s why I so rarely write about gender and about being a woman. Still, I learn that beside the anger there is triumph, and power, and a conviction that who I am is who I am meant to be, no matter what the criticism or the cost.
Alicia Therese says
You have put into words something I, too, feel quite often. In college, it would frustrate me to no end when girls (whom I knew to be actually thoughtful and bright elsewhere) purposefully dumb themselves down in class and in other situations in front of guys, just to fit some weird idea of what being a woman meant. I, too, struggle with transfiguring my anger into something else, something from which good can come. It is something I continually pray for. Please keep writing about this; it is something we women need to hear! 🙂
Thanks. As always it’s a comfort to know I’m not alone 🙂
Could it be that part of your struggle with anger is also a struggle with the expectations of womanhood? We women are punished so severely for being angry. I only say this because I have struggled so much with being angry, and with not wanting my life or who I am to be defined by anger, and because I think that maybe I wouldn’t ever have been called an “angry person” or “naturally angry looking” or “violent” if I were male. Maybe I would just be who I am, temper and all, if I were male.
Oh for sure. My strong reactions to things have always been one of the “masculine” tendencies that I have been criticized for. But at the same time I know that I truly don’t want to be angry. It is unproductive, it is ugly, and it doesn’t make me a better person. So while the culture may have told me that I’m not “supposed” to be angry, my soul has also told me the same thing.
I’m so with you. My anger is the thing that I hate most about myself, and struggle with most. But I also get very defensive of anger. I know this is cliche, but I think it’s what we do with it – how we express it – not that we experience it. Who is it that says, “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention?” I think there’s valid anger, and I think that anger is powerful and even essential to motivate change. But I, too, hate how easily I get/got angry, and how I treat/ed people when I am/was angry. I hate/d feeling like it is/was controlling me. As you can see, my relationship to my anger is changing. Though if I hadn’t gotten so angry with it, it probably wouldn’t be.