September 5, 2013

This is a continuation of a discussion with the always illuminating Ashe Dryden.

Anger is power. In skilled hands it will fuel a revolution, and when misdirected it is an unparalleled force for destruction and despair. Recently in the online activism community the topic of anger and feminism has come up. Let me be clear, women are entitled to their anger. Everyone is entitled to their anger, especially when it comes to social justice in the modern age. As Ashe pointed out, trying to tell an activist they should “just be more friendly” is nothing more than a form of aggression. The GeekFeminism wiki has an excellent article on Tone Policing that I recommend everyone read.

There is a side of this discussion I think is being overlooked, however. Anger, and other emotions that often go hand in hand with it such as hate and bitterness, can be very off-putting. This is not something bound by lines of gender, ethnicity, or anything else. This leads to a nuance of I want those that find anger empowering in their struggles to keep being angry, and yet I want to ensure those that do not want to interact in a context of anger are not silenced. As Lauren Still put it:

Anger makes me uncomfortable, and lessens the likelihood of my involvement. I dont feel safe, for lack of a better word.

Speaking personally, anger in those around me is something that I find very taxing to interact with. Anger issues are something that I’ve personally struggled with and speaking with someone who is expressing anger puts me distinctly on edge. Again, to be clear, this is not a reflection on the other person, it is 100% my issue and I will keep it that way. What I won’t do is take a back seat to fixing things that need to be fixed because of this.

One of the most powerful elements of online activism is the diversity and multitudes of allied communities. How do we bootstrap a space for this kind of communication? There is a definite aura from the people I most respect when it comes to feminism that this is a “you are either with us or against us” issue as they have felt silenced for too long. However it does make it hard to know where to begin. I want to ensure that the response to being uncomfortable with anger is not “you are on your own” and I want everyone’s voice to be heard.

So here is where I ask for help. I want it to be okay to not be angry. I want spaces that are unambiguously pro-feminism while still being safe for all. I want spaces where anyone can find their place in this movement. If you think this is something we as a community need to create, then please let me know.