Yesterday evening, my partner and I were catching up on Game of Thrones. For those of you not in the know, most folks have been disappointed with this season. I was too.
At some point during the show, I started talking aloud. Angrily. About how annoyed I was. About how bored I was of the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, relying on the same, age-old, tired trope of “woman going crazy.” About how dull it was that the female mastermind character ended up weakly weeping, without a backup plan. The story’s been done a thousand times, almost always by men. I’m bored of it.
And I was really, really angry.
My partner, meanwhile, was a little shocked and a little defensive. “OK, OK,” he said. “I get it. You don’t have to shout at me.”
He was annoyed that I was shouting in the same room as him, perceiving me to be shouting at him, for his crime of enjoying a show I think portrays women in a terrible, negative, but most of all, boring light. He didn’t understand why it took so little to get me so riled up.
After all, I knew that Game of Thrones wasn’t brilliant when it came to the portrayal of women. I knew that going in, and I still chose to watch it. But I still got mad.
Why did it take so little to make me angry?
The answer? I’m always angry.
I operate at a low level of rage on a daily basis. I’m constantly simmering about how women are treated — in my workplace where I’m belittled and patronized. When I go out for a drink, and my friends' refusals aren’t respected. Georgia, my home state, which gives more bodily autonomy to corpses than women.
I’m never not angry. And that means that it takes just the barest spark to get me ablaze.
My anger is fed from everywhere.
I can’t browse on Twitter without reading about how men are trying to take away the rights women have earned and fought and died for.
I can’t go on Facebook without seeing a man harass one of my friends, and be annoyed when he’s called out for it.
Watching TV, reading books, talking to my friends, I am constantly reminded that the world we live in isn’t fair. It’s unjust. And there’s nothing I can do about it but fight and struggle and yell until I’m exhausted.
The kicker is that out of all women, I’m among the most privileged. I’m white, from an upper-middle class family. I’ve had every advantage given to me, from very early in life. And still, even from my position among the most privileged of women, even from the exalted state I live in, I am angry. There is enough to get angry solely on my own behalf.
Of course, because I’m not an unempathetic monster, the rights of other women concern me, too.
I may never be in a position of needing an abortion in Alabama, but I am still furious when the rights of those who will are impinged upon. I may not be at risk of having my home wiped away by climate change, but when white men pooh-pooh Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green Deal as unnecessary, I am still furious on behalf of those who are most at risk.
No matter where I look or what content I consume or what relationships I build, no matter how safe I think I am, no matter how desperate I am to just have a rest and live in a fantasy world for just five minutes where women and men are equal, I am rudely evicted as soon as I open my eyes.
And that makes me mad.
I’m exhausted. I’m hoarse. I’m angry.
What this means is that even when at rest, even when enjoying a leisure activity of my choice, I am forcibly reminded that women don’t have the same rights as men, not even in a white-washed, dragon-loving fantasy world. I am reminded that in the eyes of men, and a powerful woman is a worse leader than a weak man.
And when I angrily drag my eyes away from one screen, I see the exact same story playing out in our politics. What happens to me then?
I don’t get mad. I’m already mad.
It takes so much energy to be angry all the time. I’m tired of being angry. I wish I could close my eyes to the whole thing and pretend there wasn’t a problem like so many men seem to be able to do. But if I did that, I’d risk losing my voice altogether.
These emotions, in women, are unseemly.
It’s normal and typical for men to shout and cry and holler during sporting events. That’s the atmosphere — their team is fighting for a win!
And yet when I shout and cry and holler because my team — women — is angrily, horribly, desperately fighting for a win, any win, it’s perceived as unseemly. It’s a bit unsightly. Women should be calm, cool and collected. When they give in to their emotions, they’re giving in to the hysteria, which always lies close to the surface.
Male politicians will rabble-rouse, coming into the arena shouting, “Yeah! Yeah!” They can spit and shout and curse if things don’t go their way. Women must come in demure, professional, prepared and above all peaceful. We must suppress our passion — or risk our credibility.
In other words, women aren’t allowed to get angry. And when we inevitably do, and we make the mistake of letting it show, casual observers will decry us as emotional, as less believable, less worthy of respect.
That makes me furious.
It’s not just one thing. It’s everything.
My partner wonders why it takes so little to set me off. It just takes one Tweet, one TV show, one comment from a coworker, to make me so angry that I have to take deep, calming breaths to stop from shouting into the void.
But you know what? It’s not one Tweet. It’s not just one show. It’s not a single interaction. It’s an accumulated lifetime of being told, in ways both small and large, that living in this world, identifying as a woman, means that I will lose on so many issues.
My authority will never be taken as seriously as a man’s.
My interests will always be classified as “chick lit.”
My body will always be open for commentary; my opinions will be seen as subjective, coming from a “women’s agenda.”
At the end of the day, two men who, in the words of more experienced television reviewers that myself, have ruined an enormous, lucrative, fan-beloved enterprise? They’ll go on to bigger, better and greener pastures, unhindered by the simple fact of consequence that happens for so many of us lesser humans.
And me? I’ll continue getting upset at small things, fighting what seems like a fruitless battle, fighting not to be silenced, fighting for myself and for everyone who’s in need. I’ll stay angry.