I thought I would write about the myth of choice. How when we talk about choice in a feminist context we mean “We want people to have a choice in terms of how and when they get pregnant and if they carry that pregnancy on”. How we want people to have a choice on their jobs, we want them (ourselves) to have a choice in the kind of relationships we establish, how we conduct them, who we associate with, how frequently (if at all) we have sex and with whom. Choice, the magic word that would liberate us from the chains of Patriarchy and set us free to live as fully realized human beings. Except that these choices are not removed from our overall sociocultural contexts. Except that, for some, the choice is between a rock and a hard place.
There are hardly any real choices. We live in a system where for many people, the choices available are not only limited but framed in a way where we can only chose, from this narrow pool, those options that are barely related to basic survival. And I am genuinely angry that due to recent political developments pretty much all over the West, so many of our basic choices are presented as unnecessary, as undesirable, as the only choices we should have access to.
So, instead of writing about choice I needed to pause and examine my anger. This anger which is cumulative, which grows inside me and overtakes my capability to articulate bigger pictures; this anger which, I am constantly told, is not “productive”. Because being angry in and by itself, it seems is not part of a political position. Well, I have news for those who obturate discussions on the basis of undesirable anger: MY ANGER IS A RADICAL POLITICAL STANCE. My anger is the basis of my actions. It is my drive and my reason to fight. Right here, right now, let me tell you this: I AM AN ANGRY FEMINIST. And I refuse to be shamed for that.
As I write this, Dominique Strauss Kahn remains in detention for his alleged connection with charges of ‘complicity in pimping’ and “misuse of corporate assets”. I read “All of the women, who are mainly French and Belgians from immigrant backgrounds, claim to have had paid sex with him while he was IMF chief”. I need to collect myself in face of this new evidence. The anger overcomes me. So many words I wrote this past year devoted to this man and to what he represents. So much I have said about him that speaks of racism and his systematic oppression of non White women, both through his personal actions and through the policies imposed by the very same institution he managed. This anger which is so much tied to my personal history and how this man reminds me of a form of suffering that extends through borders, through the lives of women, children, people who never had choices.
More than one person has complained in the past few weeks about my anger. People who have said that I “rant” about issues like racism or immigration but I do not offer advice on actions they can follow. They are frustrated, they say. They say they wish I told them what to do. Here is what you do: you find your moral imperative and you act. Ranting is one of mine. What is yours? If your anger is only limited to reading these words I string together and then wondering “oh but what can I do?” then I am afraid to say, your anger is not powerful enough. The kind of anger that does not lead you to, at least, google for more information on the topic you just read and then at the very least reflect on what you read and position yourself in relation to the topic and how you could contribute, no matter in which small way to fix it, is not anger. It might be upsetting because you have just been exposed in your complicity with this system of inequalities we are all forced to partake in. That might as well make you uncomfortable. But angry? No, obviously not angry enough if all you have left is to complain because I “rant”. Because, here’s another inflammatory statement: in the vast majority of posts I write about these topics, I do not rant. I spend days (sometimes weeks) doing research. I patiently scout archives, websites, offline sources to document every statement I make with a fact to back it up. To call these posts “rants” is an insult to my work. And moreover, it is testament to the privilege of those who would deem them as such. As if “rants” could not be powerful political statements. As if the stream of consciousness behind a rant could never hold us together in awareness, as if ranting could never be a political act by itself. As if we could ever remove the political action that is initiated through a shared rant. That moment when we stand together in awareness to feel, if only for a fleeting second, less lonely. As if that act initiated by a moment of anger could never be radical.
And so it is from this moral imperative driven by anger that I write. And I refuse to be boxed in the simplified category of “ranter” because I am angry. Because this anger makes me “difficult”, it makes me “alienating”, it makes me “impossible to deal with” and I should just accept that certain things just are.
I refuse. And I also refuse to accept that my small act of rebellion, this moment of refusal driven by anger should place me in the category of “feminist pariah”. The unreasonable one even within our movement. Because you see, when I said my anger is cumulative, I should point out that, as much as I am frustrated by the overall political environment in which I must operate, I am equally angry at this, our movement. When I have to speak up about the failures done in the name of my political affiliation, I also know I am putting myself at risk. The risk of being alienated, yet again, for being difficult, for being angry, for being irrational. But then I read of initiatives, seemingly feminist ones that tell me something like this:
Also, while public harassment motivated by racism, homophobia, transphobia, or classism—types of deplorable harassment which men can be the target of and sometimes women perpetrate—is recognized as socially unacceptable behavior, men’s harassment of women motivated by gender and sexism is not.
And I want to scream in frustration: INTERSECTIONALITY FAIL! This is not how we “Stop Street Harassment”. For some of us, the racism, the transphobia, the homophobia, the classism cannot be separated from the sexism. They are all tragically interconnected to one another. But I should be less angry. And if some random dude in the street harasses me, I should perhaps pause and ask “Are you bothering me because of racism or because of sexism? Can you, fine dude, please elaborate on the root cause of your aggression?”. And yes, I am angry that this is supposedly done as part of my “movement”, that this is supposedly done on my behalf. But I am even more angry by the fact that merely complaining about this lack of intersectional lens would label me “angry” and “difficult” and it would put me at risk of ostracism.
I also happen to be angry with myself. Mostly at my inability to shut up. I am fully aware that it would make things easier for me. Just avert my eyes and pretend I haven’t seen this or that. Just pretend that this or that hasn’t happened. Just go with the flow and accept that both within and outside this feminism I call mine there will be failures. That we live in a world where inequalities are a matter of fact, they happen and I should perhaps redirect this anger towards fixing those that are within my reach. But I can’t, because, see above: moral imperative, etc. Which, in turn, makes me fully aware of the fact that my anger can easily become sanctimony because there is such a small threshold that separates the two. I want to think that this pain I feel inside, the tears I hardly hold when I am angry are what separates me from the sanctimony. But if I am to be intellectually honest, which I also try to be, I need to acknowledge the risk. That moment when the anger transforms in a faux sense of moral superiority.
And so I examine this anger, not necessarily because I do not want to feel it but because I need to understand it. I ponder on the stigmas associated with it, how they have been used as a means to silence those who voice it. I remember the tone arguments, the stereotype of the “angry, hysterical, screaming Latina”, the way every time a person dares speak about their frustrations, people can be dismissive on the basis of “anger” and “irrationality”. As if the reasons why we are angry were less legitimate because we articulate from a place of passion. Because yes, I am deeply passionate about my and our survival. But I also want more than merely surviving. I want us to thrive, I want us to have real choices and not just those the system we live in deems to be appropriate. I want us to be fulfilled and dare I say it, I want happiness to be a legitimate, if elusive goal. And how could I not be angry when I see all of this denied, taken away, available only to those born in the right places, with the right bodies, with the acceptable genders and sexualities. How could I not react with passion and with fury?
This I’ve heard so many times: loca, bitch, puta; you are an embarrassment, nos haces pasar verguenza; all those words that have been hurled at me every time I was angry and I spoke. I raised my voice. I was compelled to say something but my wrath obscured reason and because of that, I gave others a justification to ignore me. I’ve had enough of that. If anger is all we have left then anger will be the expression of my politics. This frustration I experience because so many rights we have gained are slowly being taken away from us; because we have to witness how States perpetuate policies of oppression, how people are divided in categories of humanity, how men like Dominique Strauss Kahn are in charge of the administration of people’s lives and how his actions and the current allegations speak of his entitlement to the bodies of the women who are already objectified and abused on the basis of their ethnicity, and how we are forced to endure it all and pretend it was a choice. I cannot dismiss this anger I also feel right now by the lack of intersectionality within our movement which compels me to denounce it, even if it is at the expense of my own reputation. This anger that drives me to consciousness and to action is, right now, all I have.
I AM AN ANGRY FEMINIST. And I dare anyone tell me there is something wrong with that.