Mansplaining Buttfaces and Women’s Anger

The other week a man that I once trained gave me a piece of paper citing exactly what I once trained him about. He presented it to me like it was brand new information.

He handed this piece of paper across a table where I was surrounded by my colleagues who all know that I had explained to him what he was now preaching to me and he did it as if I’ve never heard any of it before.

I stared at that piece of paper one moment too long.

He then proceeded to mansplain something to me that I trained him about less than a year ago.

And I said, “Yes. We’ve made a conscious decision not to do that here for multiple reasons. Would you like to hear them?”

And everyone at the table sort of flinched. But nobody said anything. Nobody usually does. Except the mansplainer who didn’t want me to say our reasons. He just jumped to a different topic instead of taking that moment to maybe learn something, which is sad. It’s sad for him.

Afterwards, someone said, “You had your voice. That voice you get. The angry voice”

And someone else said, “I was ready for you to go crazy.”

But I didn’t. Because in that second I was too tired to care. Instead I thought, “Hey, at least he listened the first time when I taught him about the exact same thing he’s shoving in my face today.”

I regret that now.

In a New York Times article, Leslie Jamison wrote, “For years, I described myself as someone who wasn’t prone to anger. ‘I don’t get angry,’ I said. ‘I get sad.'”

Women and girls? Sometimes we have a hard time realizing that what we’re feeling isn’t sadness, but anger.

And Jamison goes into that a bit in her article writing, “If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.”

After I gave a training last week, a disruptive, older man told me afterwards that I would get paid for talking if “You weren’t nervous.”

“I wasn’t nervous,” I said, pretty calmly. “I’m high energy.”

“You were nervous,” he insisted, stepping closer. “That’s why you move around a lot.”

“No. I move around a lot because I have a lot of energy. I like my trainings to be inclusive, to involve the people and engage them instead of me standing up there and preaching,” I insisted.

Another man, same demographic, came over and said, “Carrie’s authentic. She’s passionate. That’s what you’re supposed to be.”

“Maybe you should sit down,” the first man said to me, inching even closer, “that would contain your energy.”

“No,” I said, literally standing my ground. “I’m not as good a speaker when I sit down.”

And the man with us (Nice Man) said, “Carrie’s a great speaker. You wouldn’t want to change anything she does. Everyone was rapt. You were enraptured. There’s magic in what she does.”

I can not tell you how much I appreciated Nice Man aka Second Man. I jaunted off and first man actually yelled after me, “You could get paid for this if you weren’t nervous.”

I basically had enough. I whirled around and shouted from the doorway of the room, “I wasn’t nervous. Think of it this way. I’m like Janis Joplin. You can’t help but watch me because you’re constantly worried I’m going to fall of the stage. Okay?”

I did a speed walk sort of thing down the hallway and this other facilitator told me she was going to buy me a beer. She did. I deserved a keg honestly, but I got something better:

  1. A nice man who knew exactly what to say and when
  2. A female friend who has had similar things happen to her
  3. Self respect because despite my conflict-averse nature I stood up for myself over and over again even as a rich white man, older, in a position of power, wouldn’t back down.

Over that beer, the same woman told me how she walked out of a training once because the man in charge of the event didn’t want her to use a projector because when she walked in front of it, the lights flashed on her breasts.

Seriously.

When she told me that story, I was so proud of her because she didn’t back down. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger lately and how so many women relate anger to powerlessness and how men relate anger to power and how our society consists of so many of these binaries.

Author and activist Soraya Chemaly talks about this in her just released, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger.” There’s an excellent interview with her here at WBUR.

But my favorite thing that she says is this, “When we shut down somebody’s anger we are literally silencing the knowledge they have and saying it’s not valuable to us as a social resource.”

I did that to myself during that first exchange with the mansplaining. I could have taught him more, but I shut down my assertiveness before it got ‘out of control,’ and I silenced the knowledge I had and didn’t share it. Not that he deserved it, but the other people at the table did.

That’s a big deal. It’s so hard not to let others shut down our anger as women.

Anger has meaning. There are reasons people are angry. And when we shut down their anger, we also shut down their voices. This is so important when we’re talking about bias and oppression. By shutting down angry voices, we shut down the opportunity to make ourselves better as people and as a country.

Anger isn’t this one-size-fit-all thing. Anger is used to stereotype an entire race of women into a trope. Think about all the pejoratives used for black women in America.

Anger and sex combined is used to defame people implying their emotions are out of control, ie calling Kamala Harris and Corey Booker “hysterical women” during the Kavanaugh hearings or Serena Williams “hysterical” when she was arguing with the tennis judge. But it’s also the all-encompassing term that doesn’t cover the nuances.

There are so many nuances. Me speaking about human trafficking isn’t the same as a man raging at his wife because she texted another man. Me getting annoyed at someone teaching me what I’ve taught them isn’t the same as someone screaming at their colleagues because of a newspaper article. Me being annoyed at a man cornering me and insisting that I was ‘nervous’ isn’t anywhere near the same as a woman’s anger and frustration when she’s been systemically oppressed because of both her race and her sex, and possibly also her sexuality or religion or economic class.

All anger isn’t the same. Anger has degrees and nuances.

When one of my friends was talking about me getting “that voice,” that voice isn’t me actually angry. It’s me assertive. It’s honestly just me not being simpering. And whenever I use that voice? People listen and they bristle and some of them rub their hands together because they expect a fight and unlike me – they like fights.

But why does that assertive voice equate to being angry? Why is me being passionate and assertive the same thing as me being enraged?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s because I’m a woman.

I talk about this with my male friends and family all the time, how if my tone isn’t absolutely loving and placating people get offended or think I’m being angry. And how their every-day tones are so much harsher that the one I have which sets people off.

I’ll give you another hint. I’m not actually angry when I talk that way. It just means I care.  It means I want to be heard. And that’s the scary thing. Why is being heard threatening? Why is it so scary to see women, to listen to women, and to hear them? And when we do listen to them, and hear them in a place like a training, why do we feel compelled to tell them to change?

WRITING NEWS

I’m heading to Freeport, Maine on Sept. 28 and then Houston and Virginia Beach pretty soon to promote my picture book biography of Moe Berg. It’s called The Spy Who Played Baseball. 

My Post copy 6

 

ENHANCED and  FLYING are here! And they’re out of this world. Please buy them and support a writer.

 

The last TIME STOPPERS BOOK is out and I love it. You should buy it because it’s empowering and about friendship and bias and magic. Plus, dragons and elves.

Timestoppers3_005

How to Get Signed Copies: 

If you would like to purchase signed copies of my books, you can do so through the awesome Sherman’s Book Store in Bar Harbor, Maine or the amazing Briar Patch. The books are also available online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For signed copies – email barharbor@shermans.com for Sherman’s or email info@briarpatchbooks.comand let them know the titles in which you are interested. There’s sometimes a waiting list, but they are the best option. Plus, you’re supporting an adorable local bookstore run by some really wonderful humans. But here’s the Amazon link, too!

Art Stuff

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Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

19 thoughts on “Mansplaining Buttfaces and Women’s Anger”

  1. I just send this blog post to a number of women friends who NEED TO HEAR THIS. Congratulations and Salutations and Praise Be’s for standing up for being you. I am only sorry you had to.

    1. Oh, Julie! <3 Thank you so much for doing that. And I am so sorry that any of us need to hear this. This was actually one of the hardest posts I've ever written. Thank you so much for reading it and sharing it and commenting. That is so kind of you.

  2. This. All of this. You speak for so many people who feel the same way, and have shared similar experiences. Thank you for giving it a voice, and for conveying it so eloquently.

  3. Thank you. I’m sorry both that you have to write this and that you feel like it is difficult to do so. It should not be that way. I’ve heard “that voice” before. Now I know better what it means and will do my best to respond appropriately.

  4. “manspaining” and the multitude of other sexist terms used these days, primarily by women is sickening.

    If women do this to men, and both do this in the workpiece to suck up to their superiors to take undo credit for themselves, it’s not manspaining. To describe it as such is sexism, pure and simple.

    That you feel justified in your anger is also a problem. Reacting in anger is a problem. Reacting in life is a problem when any opportunity to make a conscious choice would have been more productive.

    Anger is never productive else I would have plenty to justify getting angry over everything I notice others behaving well under their actual age. Primarily any lack of responsibility for their behaviour as the default seems to be instead to justify their right to react (usually with denial of their anger in their behaviour) and almost universally making any situation worse…. Bringing about more division instead of understanding and cooperation.

    Bringing together only other angry women who are banding together to find further justification to hold more anger and division against an entire male gender is unhealthy. Personally unhealthy, socially unhealthy, and unhealthy to raise our children with.

    To all arguments I’ve heard “oh this helps men too” please explain to me how holding anger and resentment and brining shame and guilt to another is helpful. … These things are a large part of a suicide rate that is 2-3x higher in men in every age group

    1. It would be lovely if we didn’t have to get angry in order to be heard. I look forward to that day. Until then, I will feel free to feel all of my feelings and express them accordingly regardless of how uncomfortable that makes others. Thank you for making comments that illustrate the problem and strengthen my resolve.

      1. I look forward to that day too, Alison. I also really appreciate you and your feelings and strength.

    2. It’s so ironic that in a post where Carrie presents what it’s like to experience life as a woman, a man has tried to silence the female perspective and claim that her experience is not real. The response above proves her point.

      X <——The point___________________________________________________________X <—-David's understanding.

      Thank you, Carrie, for another insightful post where you cherished both the men and women who understood. David is gaslighting regardless of whether he means to. It's hard to know intent, so it's possible that he might believe what he's said and have reasons that he thinks that maladaptive strategy works for him.

      We live in a world where men define the narrative because they hold the positions of power. They are granted the voice. This process erases the female experience. Since a male narrative tells us "how things are," some choose to ignore how society really is and perhaps mistake that as being somehow helpful. So some choose to overlook overwhelming statistics showing sexism in our society, such as: 1) the overwhelming male majority of presidents, congresspersons, legislators, judges, CEO's, law firm partners, academic deans, producers, directors, screenwriters, media moguls, and the like, 2) the wage disparity between women and men even after factoring in time off for childcare, and 3) rape and other sexual offenses. Those of us who live it every day and are choking on d*ck, sometimes literally, often know full and well from our expeirence what's really happening without statistics and despite gaslighting like the post above.

      Any therapist worth a darn will tell you that identifying the source of anger and processing it, giving meaning to it, in a post like this one is on a healthy path for all. Anger, sadness, joy, love, fear—all the emotions form the full spectrum of the human experience. When we ignore their existence within us, we ignore our existence. And heck, yes, gosh diddly-dangit, we all should be angry sometimes. As a former child protection attorney, of course, I got angry when I saw that someone had molested or beat on a child. It is right that I should be angry. Anger motivates action, and action leads to change. Those kids grew up to be safe and healthy because I got angry.

      Carrie has similarly processed her anger and given it meaning to establish equality for all. Would we have her say, "Oh, yes, I'll sit down for my presentations from here out and lower my voice"? Ha! That man felt threatened by Carrie and how powerful she was. He was trying to silence her. And, yes, when you've choked on guys like him all day every day, of course, you get angry. I feel so grateful to her not only for standing up to him but for writing about it here. She's champions us all. In a world that strikes at her for standing up, she is telling the world what it's like to be a woman. What bravery! What compassion! To take such a risk for all of us!

      When one group more frequently engages in annoying or silencing behavior towards another group, then, yes, we can and should use group identity labels, like "man-[something]." Although people of all sorts may sometimes steal others' ideas, most women face mansplaining daily all day long. Thus, the label "mansplaining" accurately captures this disparity. We can come up with another label for the less prevalent experience of people-splaining, but that's tangential to Carrie's post. Last spring, I sat in a meeting where leaders shouted down a woman. Ten minutes later, a man said the exact same thing, and people said his idea was great. Several of us spoke out. Two weeks later, with roughly the same group of people, the same thing happened to me—different man. We spoke out again. It's been happening for years and years at our workplace, and the women are only just now speaking out.

      Thank you, Carrie, for giving us our voice and validating our experience in a world that seeks to silence and invalidate.

      1. Thank you so much for your response, Cat, and for reading my post.

        You wrote, “As a former child protection attorney, of course, I got angry when I saw that someone had molested or beat on a child. It is right that I should be angry. Anger motivates action, and action leads to change. Those kids grew up to be safe and healthy because I got angry.”

        And I cannot thank you enough for the work that you did that changes those kids’ lives. Your action and anger definitely made this world a better place for those kids. Thank you for being a warrior on their behalf and for also speaking here. I appreciate it and you so much.

      2. As a CSA survivor, I’d also like to thank you for your work and your anger on behalf of abused children. Thank you for caring about them, believing them and fighting for them. Your anger and compassion gave the kids you helped a fighting chance at recovery I was never given. I am so glad they had you on their side.

        Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    3. David, I appreciate that you commented on the blog despite disagreeing with its contents, but I am sorry that you are so angry about things in what appears to be a way that’s extremely frustrating to you. Judging from your comments, you seem a lot angrier than I am. I hope you feel better soon or find a healthy outlet for your anger.

      However, I think you might want to rethink your statement about sexist terms and who most sexist terms are used against.

      When men react in anger, they are often called warriors and powerful. If you’d like to learn more about the dichotomy in treatment between men and women’s anger, I suggest you read the links I sourced in the post. Since there is no explicit call for action, my post is not a rallying call for angry women and I’m surprised you read it that way, but writing is always a dialogue and a conversation between the writer and the reader and I can’t control (nor do I want to) what people take away from a post, especially since we all read things with the bias of our own life, culture and experiences.

      Finally, I’m not quite sure what you mean by your last paragraph.

      I hope you have a lovely day.

    4. This entire rant sounds very angry. Isn’t there some sort of a conscious choice you could make that would be more productive?

  5. Carrie, thank you for this post. I agree wholeheartedly that our society’s toxic standards of masculinity hurt all of us, women, nonbinary people, and men alike. Speaking as a man, we are, like all humans, vulnerable and empathetic beings, but our self-imposed mandate to claim assertiveness, strength, and anger as our sole province means we also deny ourselves vulnerability and empathy. As a result, too many of us become unthinkingly sexist, or consciously misogynistic, or at our worst, life-threatening predators, and in committing those acts of damage and destruction, we damage and destroy ourselves. There is so much work to do, and it’s grossly unfair that it so often falls on you, but know that I respect and admire you on a profound level, and that I stand with you.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Mike. I appreciate it and you and your views so much.

      That self-imposed (and societal-enforced) mandate really does hurt all of us. I respect and admire you at that profound level too, and am so glad to stand with you on this and so many other issues where you are doing so much work. Thank you for being such a gift to this world.
      \

  6. As a nonbinary person who prefers to dress in clothes from the “women’s” section (because let’s be honest, they’re just more fun), I am regularly treated as an angry woman, especially by men who are uncomfortable with my passion and energy.

    It’s funny—I’ve always known I’m more of an angry person than a sad one. As an unbearably socially anxious child, I remember telling people I had a temper and feeling extremely frustrated when they’d laugh and tell me they couldn’t imagine that.

    And yet I couldn’t truly access that anger, couldn’t even defend myself from those very comments or talk back to the people who said them, because I was too afraid of how much worse I might be treated if I let myself get actively angry. I was scared I might get punished for daring to feel or express anger at all.

    In my case, the anger and the fear of my anger both came from being sexually abused by my eldest brother as a child, and subsequently having my parents fail to stop him even after I tried to tell them what he was doing to me. They then opted to never ask me if he was still abusing me or talk about what he’d done to me and how it made me feel, much less get me (any form of professional help or support for the trauma, or my get brother therapy for his abusive behaviours.

    I’ve finally learned to access my anger over the past several years. I’m just now beginning to feel confident that I am safely in control of it, rather than my anger controlling me. I pick my battles carefully now; I rarely raise my voice out of stress when I argue anymore.

    And yet I’m still being forced to make an emergency move out of the home I have leased for almost another full year. Because my new next door neighbour chose to introduce himself to me by blocking my driveway for six hours without permission or advance notice, and became loudly verbally abusive when I politely asked him not to do it again, and expressed frustration that he laughed at me and did not take me seriously.

    He called me a number of misogynist slurs, as well as a “wingnut”, asked if I was “out on a weekend pass”, engaged another male neighbour who has been transphobic to me and my partner before to help him verbally abuse us, and actually called the police on me for the supposed crime of embarrassing him in front of his children. Because it’s apparently humiliating to him for his teenage daughter and pre-verbal infant to see him treat a non-man with basic respect and decency, instead of misogyny, transphobia, slurs and stigma.

    The sad part is how that is only one of the more egregious incidences of men becoming fragile and abusive in response to my appropriate anger. A lesser example: on Sunday, I addressed a man who I saw run a stop sign through a crosswalk while a pedestrian was in the middle of crossing. He denied that he’d run the stop sign, denied there was a four-way-stop intersection where he’d run the sign, and was completely dismissive of my concern. While I was speaking to him, some other man who knew neither of us and was not involved in the incident stopped just to scream at me that I was wrong and the man was right.

    Given that Screamy Stranger Man was nowhere near the intersection where the other man ran the stop sign, so he had no evidence to support his opinion, much less reason to involve himself at all and accuse me of being a “crazy bitch”. And yet he’s very far from the first man to treat me like that for daring to tell another man he’d done something wrong while not being a man myself.

    Joke’s on them, though: every time they treat like that, my righteous anger grows, as does the certainty that I have every right to be angry at men who treat me like crap for standing up for myself.

    It’s cold comfort, but I do enjoy knowing their discomfort is all based in insecurity and fear. At least it gives me something to laugh about when the scary part is over. It’s breadcrumbs, but hey, it’s better than nothing.

    Thank you for writing about this. I wish the men who need to change would read this, though I know they likely won’t.

    1. Thank YOU for writing this ands eloquently sharing a piece of your story. I am so grateful for it and so sorry for all that you’ve gone through.

      But also – wow. I am so impressed and floored by your strength and courage, not just in dealing with your anger and your past traumas, but also in that recent incident where the pedestrian had been in danger. Thank you for being a warrior for that pedestrian and for yourself. You are remarkable.

      Good luck with the housing situation. That sounds terrible. I hope you have found a new place and I hope our paths cross some day.

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