Alternatives to Strength and Anger
I hear a lot in feminist circles about strength. Strength is a value that’s really embraced in feminism, along with independence and anger. And of course, women do have a great big right to be angry. The stereotype that women should be soft, weak, sweet, submissive, etc., does a great injustice to an entire gender. But feminism is also, as I see it, about recognizing a wide range of possible behaviors that doesn’t depend on gender. It’s about safe space. And for me, it’s much more important to have a space in which it is safe to be soft, sweet, and react to negative events with sadness and a need for protection than it is to have the right to be angry.
The fact is, not everyone feels anger. And no one has a responsibility to feel angry, to be strong, or to be independent. You’re not a bad feminist if you just can’t react that way. It’s okay to depend on other people for support, reassurance, and even protection. If someone threatens you, gets in your personal space, or uses innuendos that make you feel uncomfortable, you’re not a bad person if you can’t “handle it” on your own. My reaction in such a situation is to freeze, and to feel embarrassed and sad. And that’s okay. For a long time, I thought that I needed to work towards instead feeling angry, getting hostile, and yelling at the person in question. But that communication style goes against my personal values. I don’t really want to confront anyone. I want the world to be a place that’s safe enough that I don’t have to.
Of course, the world isn’t that place now. But I would honestly rather be harmed or attacked than I would go against my values and my personality in an attempt to defend myself. My pacifism and my conviction that my communication style is 100% as valid as the alternatives are worth sticking up for. In the mean time, I’m going to keep working to educate those who aren’t familiar with radical feminism about how to make the world a safer place, and I’m going to keep working with my own process of feeling proud of myself as a somewhat shy, anxious, sweet person who needs a little protecting from time to time.