Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Angry Young (and Old) Feminists

Feminists are angry. Today’s feminists are just as angry as their feminist foremothers. At the least provocation they will pop off. When they do, you had best run for cover. If you are a man, that is. Because if you strike back the furies will descend upon you. If you retaliate it will all be your fault.

In many ways women have never had it so good. Yet, in some ways, in some cases, today’s liberated women are more miserable than their ancestors. And they let you know it. They never let you forget it.

They scream and yell. They throw things. They are protected from blowback by a band of matriarchs who will string you up by your whatevers if you dare say that they are behaving inappropriately or boorishly. If you think that the Donald is boorish, you should read about young feminist Casey Wilson. And you should also read about her mother Kathy Wilson.

Casey Wilson is an actress. She has often demonstrated appallingly bad manners. Apparently, she had been taught that it is better to act like a harridan than for anyone to think that you are feminine. She was raised by a Republican father and a Democratic mother. Her mother was not just a Democrat; she was a feminist activist. Kathy Wilson headed the National Women’s Political Caucus. Amazingly, Wilson grew up in a household where people delighted in being ill mannered. It was inevitable that she become an actress.

If you were curious to know why Casey Wilson and so many other young feminists are angry, we can read all about it. Wilson has written an article about her appallingly bad behavior for Lenny, a magazine that is being edited by one Lena Dunham. Yes, by that Lena Dunham. Happily, for those of us who wish her well, Wilson has shown how she has gotten herself out of the cycle of anger that her mother bequeathed her.

The first thing she tells us is that women’s anger is a cultural appropriation. By the lights of feminists, men are angry. Ergo, if women want to be more like men, they must be angry too. It will, presumably, grow some hair on their chests.

How angry was Casey Wilson? Glad you asked. She regales us with stories of her bad behavior:

When I was a waitress and a man tipped me in pennies, I addressed the entire restaurant and pointed at his wife and announced: "I just had to spend an hour, but I'm so sorry you have to spend a lifetime with him."

I tripped my college roommate after I overheard her say she didn't think I was "fun."

At sixteen, when my parents told me I couldn't go out, I pulled two heavy brass sconces out of the wall by hanging from them, leaving only dangling wires in my wake.

I have seriously contemplated driving my car through my home for "effect."

And yet I seem so mild mannered and sweet on the surface. But just underneath, I'm seething.

Charming, don’t you think? One is surprised to hear that Wilson has any friends at all.

Where did Wilson learn all of her bad habits? Surely, she did not learn it from people like me who inveigh all the time against saying out loud whatever is passing through your mind. Wilson was a living, breathing example of someone who is living by the mantra that you should never repress your emotions.

You guessed it: she learned it all from Mom and Dad. Surely, the two had suffered from far too much therapy. Theirs is an example of what therapy has wrought:

My parents were highly successful, funny, passionate people who taught me life should be lived out loud and all big feelings felt. My mom once tried to throw a dining-room chair at my dad's head, and I barely looked up from Mr. Popper's Penguins. My dad was arrested for screaming at a maître d' because they wouldn't seat an elderly woman. Later, she told my dad that while she was grateful he had stuck up for a stranger, they hadn't seated her because she was waiting for someone. (Oops.)

Of course, the world is not quite as tolerant toward these outbursts, whether by parents or by daughter. Wilson is angry about that too:

I've realized that anger doesn't seem to be as palatable on a woman as it is on a man. And I'm angry about that. I'm angry at women who can't access their anger, or who cover it by masquerading as little sweeties, or those who display it and are off-putting. Which are all versions of myself I have spent my life trying to wrangle and negotiate.

Since this is just therapy writ large, Wilson does not find much help in therapy. In the bad old days, therapists were down with angry outbursts. They called them authentic and encouraged them. At some point they came to their senses and noticed that while anger felt momentarily cathartic, as soon as an angry young woman looked back at what she had been doing she was seized with anguish for having made herself look like a blithering fool. It isn’t that easy to turn off your moral sense.

Wilson writes:

In the moment, these eruptions felt fantastic. Nay, important. But afterward, I started feeling disproportionately upset about my behavior, and it then became about the emotional hangover the anger wrought. Where was this all coming from? I got into therapy with the hopes of figuring it out. It's too boring to blame everything on our moms, but I wonder if, maybe, the conservative wave of the early '80s is something I can blame?

Wouldn’t you know it? She was taught to shift the blame. After all, what good is the conservative movement or the Tea Party or the NRA if you cannot pin all your failures on them?

It’s a thought. But, refreshingly Wilson has another thought. She seems to understand that her feminist mother stoked her anger by raising her according to an ideology:

My mom was the president of the National Women's Political Caucus (an organization devoted to getting women elected) for the first several years of my life. I wonder if growing up with a mother who was so angry at the state of things she wore a pro-choice sticker while eight months pregnant with me played a role. She raised me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be. Which was liberating and wonderful. But perhaps this combination had me feeling a little too free to be me. I had become a subway ad: if I saw something, I said something. It wasn't a good look, but no amount of therapy or meditation (my mantra made me EVEN. ANGRIER.) or astrology retreats (I'm a Scorpio, doy) seemed to help with this particular issue. I couldn't get a handle on it.

How does feminism stoke anger? It is easy to understand. Feminism hands out advice. It tells women how to live their lives. It might tell them to postpone marriage and family until they are in their mid- thirties. It might tell them to do as they please, to hook up as much as they want, to express their feelings openly, honestly and shamelessly.

But then, when they discover that they have waited too long to have children or that last night’s hookup does not respect them in the morning, feminists tell them that this is a sign of sexism, misogyny, bigotry, hatred of women. When bad advice yields bad outcomes, feminists exploit it to recruit people for the cause.

As it happens, Wilson’s story has a happy ending—but not in the sense you are thinking—get your mind out of the gutter. She comes to her senses. Or, should I say, her mother’s death causes her to reflect on what she has been doing, to take a step back and to look at it from a more objective distance. Strangely enough, and sadly enough, her mother’s death liberates her.

Examine her testimony:

Surprisingly, the things that ended up helping me the most are arguably the things I have the most reason to be angry about. I was not asked back to Saturday Night Live. My long-term relationship ended poorly. My mom passed away. And yet when I received my things in a brown box from SNL and saw that bottles of alcohol had been thrown in with photos of my mom and everything had exploded all over, I didn't feel angry. I felt sad. When the former boyfriend declined my invitation to meet for coffee years later so I could apologize, I just felt deep regret. And when the woman who did my mom's makeup for her funeral came up to me in the receiving line and asked if she could grab the number of the doctor who had done my mom's eye lift ... I laughed. And gave it to her.

In the realization that life is ever tenuous, I suddenly became less angry. I found such joy in my work. I got married. I had a baby. Now, please note, I'm still an angry bird, to be sure. But now I'm acutely aware that things and jobs and people come ... and go. And I can't afford to destroy what and whom I have.

This tells us that the anger was an act, that it was put on, that it was adopted in order to play a role in an ideologically-driven script. When you come down to it, women are not angry and ought not to try to pretend to be angry. And, dare we say, men are not, for the most part angry either. Or, at least they would rather not be.

We applaud Wilson for having overcome her rage, or at least for having learned to manage it. Because, the only thing that it as wrong as being too angry is not being angry enough.


David Foster said...

"I've realized that anger doesn't seem to be as palatable on a woman as it is on a man."

Actually, a male who engaged in this kind of unhinged anger and insulting behavior would have probably been punched in the nose often enough to stop doing it, by somewhere around the 8th grade.

Webutante said...

What a terrific post Stuart! It shows again that maturity can often and only come from the school of hard knocks. Thanks for the verification.

Recruiting Animal said...

It was a good read but I see it way differently than you. She's probably born angry and comes from a family culture that encouraged her to indulge her innate passion rather than manage it.

I've known people who did not have feminist mothers who were much the same as her. Unfortunately, gaining the wisdom she did seems to be very rare.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Fair point... you do not have to have been brought up by a feminist. On the other hand I think we agree on the basics.

Anonymous said...

"She's probably born angry and comes from a family culture that encouraged her to indulge her innate passion rather than manage it."

Yeah, personality accounts for a lot.

Within any ideology, you will have extroverts and introverts.

The extroverts will always make a lot of noise.

This is surely with the case with some Christian preachers.

Among feminists, you got the mousy spinsterish ones but also the aggressive garrulous types. If Paglia were a hardcore feminist, her personality would be hard to take.
But somehow, her personality latched onto individualism and libertarianism.

Dennis said...

I would suggest that peer group pressure has more of an affect than primary groups, families, have on many women being angry. This is not to say that families have no affect. One cannot go through all the "mean girl" indoctrination, school and academic indoctrination, feminist indoctrination, et al as a young girl and not be negatively affected. When one is constantly told that being feminine is wrong then it leads to dissatisfaction with being what one is as a human being.
We are some what lucky that this constant drumbeat of negativity has not affect large numbers of women. The reason we think so is that most of the so called opinion leaders and/or feminists come from "blue" areas populated by people who seem to be continually angry about everything. It is difficult being a violent non violent person, being an intolerant tolerant person and all the other conflicting things.
Also one might consider that feminism has lead to young girls not growing up understanding the importance of being a girl and having boys being boys to their joy of life. There is no sense of how important sharing the "load" is to them. My son and his 3 children spent the last couple of weeks here. My son has enjoyed wrestling and became a coach and the fraternal twins wanted to wrestle so they got involved. Both the boy and girl are both competitors. The girl wins quite frequently agains't boys in her weight class. I do wonder how this will affect her when the boys hit their growth spurt and she can no longer truly compete with them? This mirrors what happens to many young girls, who when young, are bigger and faster? Then comes the gradual change that alters that equation. Interesting the various question that apply.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Isn't all this the reason we were told it was time to get rid of the word "bossy"? Rage is what follows when the boss's orders are not heeded. We are certainly seeing a lot of rage, eh?