Part Two. Women’s Anger

Other commentators have talked of men feeling victimised so it is not just Matthew Parris. I suggest that the discomfort that men and indeed some women are feeling about the current stories involving men’s behaviour to women is actually a profound discomfort with women’s anger.  Because the #MeToo and #Times Up movements are  not a joined up feminist campaign with a strategy but symptoms of women’s anger and women do have a lot to be angry about. I first discovered that it was ok for women to be angry when I read Mary Daly’s extraordinary polemic Gyn/Ecology at university many moons ago. I also learned quickly that angry women are punished culturally so it is not surprising that we have seen so little of women’s anger expressed in history… the suffragettes and the second wave feminists certainly but both were described/ dismissed as harridans, harpies and generally disgraceful examples of women at the time.  But in the face of how women and girls are treated at the hands of men all over the world is there any other reaction that is more appropriate than anger? This is righteous anger and because it has been repressed for so long sometimes it may not look pretty.  Women are not used to being angry and men are not used to seeing it.

Several years ago I took part in a group analytical weekend on Gender, Sex and Power. You can guess that there were not many men on it but those that were, were all supportive, pro-feminist men. On day three a woman recounted that she had been followed and threatened by a man on her walk home the evening before. This had the effect of bringing out comments from other women about men’s behaviour they found upsetting. The anger of women in that group was being expressed quite cautiously but was palpable. Of all places this was a therapeutic setting and should have felt safe. However the men were deeply unsettled and felt attacked (sort of like Matthew Paris). One man even jumped up and left the group, followed by a couple of others. The male facilitator lost control of the group and the women were left with their angry feelings now mixed with that familiar feeling of guilt at having caused men to be angry. Yes it is complex and difficult. I suggest that this is what is taking place today. We do not have sufficient language and experience of discussing these issues. I understand it must be hard as a man to hear how your own sex behaves towards women, and to want to distance yourself from it, but the lid is off and we know that blame can no longer be put at the feet of a few perverted men. Sexism and misogyny are enmeshed in the fabric of most cultures in different ways and must be worked through for us all to move forward.