Monday, February 29, 2016

Witness: Fear turns to anger

"Fear is the path to the darkside. Fear turns to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Sometimes there are just quotes that stick with you forever. And like any nerd, I've seen Star Wars enough times to know a good Yoda quote when it comes up.

According to Lucas and thus Yoda, Fear is the thing that leads us to the Dark Side. Fear is the driving force of evil, at its core, because of the path it leads us down.

This never used to bother me until I really began to understand the complexities of victimhood. Fear, as it turns out, isn't a path to the dark side. It's the path most people I know, whom aren't cisgendered white dudes, are forced to walk daily. We live in fear. We leave our house to go to work, or the library, or a friend's house, or a bar, or a restaurant, and we take a breath to steel ourselves against whatever harassment we're about to receive.

Not all harassment (in my experience) is scary. But enough of it is. I'm always nervous walking alone at night, regardless of where I am. I'm always slightly nervous when the streetcar or subway car is filled with only men and myself. I'm always nervous when a man sits beside me on public transit. I'm always nervous when I have a male client for the first time.

Where did this nervousness come from? Well, from trauma. From years of abuse at the hands and mouths of men.

And sometimes that aching fear that's inked into my bones does something else. It does something fascinating and miraculous. It becomes anger. I get pissed. Righteously pissed.

These are the moments when a victim of harassment gets angry at their harasser. They're the guy who's just hit the right button or been the fifteenth guy that day to hit the button. These are the moments when the victim looks at the harasser, eyes blazing, and gives him a piece of their mind.

These are where the Feminazi and bitch comments usually come from. Because yeah, we're angry. How dare these people think they can comment on my body? That they can harass me without consequence? How dare they treat me as less than a person?

And that anger comes again and again and again. It's as unrelenting as the harassment itself. If it's been a particularly patriarchy filled week, the threshold for invoking the anger instead of just the fear is pretty low. Or rather, the shit meter is so high that anger mode is about to be triggered at any moment.

That anger, leads to hate. The myth that feminists hate men is a big one. While I'd like to say I don't hate men, it's not entirely true. I don't hate men most of the time. There are days where I've read enough comments from victims about the men who raped them, and the stories of mansplaining and disbelief and having their thoughts called into question that I'm ready to smack someone. I never do. But I want to.

And then I go to game and some dudebro says something to me and I'm done. I don't argue with him because I've been mad all day. I'm right onto hate. I hate men in that moment. I hate what they represent, the ephemeral and subtle patriarchy all around me, as invisible as oxygen but as noticeable as a lack of oxygen. I want to burn it all down. I want to light the world on fire. I want to hurt this man who just made me so ragefilled I can barely contain myself. I hate men in this moment. From my husband to my best friends to the nice guy I play games with, I would happily trade them all in for a breath of air that didn't reek of patriarchy.

The mood passes.

But how many of these hate filled moments can I healthily have?

I shouldn't have any of them. But I do. I've come home from meetings where I stand against a wall with my hands on the back of my neck just telling myself to breathe. My skin crawls with the dirty feeling of sexism and the silence I had to take in order to be seen as respectable and professional in the eyes of others. The shit I just had to swallow makes me want to vomit. Breathe, I tell myself. Just breathe.

There is no revenge. There is nothing that can make that better.

When you hurt and can't stop it, when you constantly endure hardship that seems unending, that's suffering.

My life is filled with suffering. Every person subjected to the whims of the patriarchy are suffering. It doesn't matter what gender you are, you're suffering. Some genders have it worst than others. But toxic masculinity is fucking hurtful and if you think you get out of the suffering circle because you're a dude, well, they've got some good wool over your eyes.

It sounds fucked up, right? Suffering. But if you think about the fear many of us live in, the constant hyper-vigilance, the anger and rage, the pain, the feeling of being dirty because of something a man said to us, or the feeling of shame from remaining silent when we didn't have the energy to fight back, or when we were afraid to, or worse, when societal pressures dictated we couldn't and keep our job, then that constant sphere of worry, anxiety, pain, and fear is suffering.

Some of us endure. Some of us break. Some of us suddenly understand why being a nun wasn't such a bad idea. Men? Who needs em.

And at some point, we may fight back. We may take a breath, ground ourselves in what we can do, and go forth and do it. To those people, you're my fucking heroes.

Final stage: Suffering leads to the Dark Side.

The Dark Side being where you take ownership of the mother fucking force gifts you have, reclaim your agency, stop feeling ashamed for your fear, and fight back?

Screw Yoda. I'll be a Sith Lord.

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