The Angry Lady at the Dinner Table
Over the years, it has become common for me to be the "angry" woman at the table. In my 20s I was the "rabid feminist" (which was often fetishized - ugh). But as the years go bye, the feminist anger boils inches closer to the surface and becomes more righteous. And it shows. That anger is a slow boil of clarity premised on the reality of being a woman and advocating on behalf of victims for years. It is the result of walking through the belly of the patriarchy and racist beast, seeing it in all its unrepentant brutality, and then being asked to "be nice." I share this as I try to help another woman navigate a system that just won't believe her. I share this because I've had to tell mothers to not report sexual assault on their children--because the moment they will, they will be labeled as "manipulators" and their children will go unprotected. Instead, I have to direct them to take their children to mandatory reporters and hope they bring it to the attention of authorities.
A woman's word, when it is expressed against a man, immediately loses staying power. This is the truth I face every day. As I sat in my office, I shared this with my husband and told him, "This is why I get so angry at the jokes. At the comments, you know? That women are unreliable, ha ha. That women are so 'crazy,' ha, ha. That women are so 'out there.'" He leaned against the door frame and tells me, "That sounds like a good blog post." So here we are!
If you start to notice the number of times women's intellect is disparaged in shows, music, and casual conversation, you won't be able to stop. Once you start down that path, you will also begin to hear every time women's honesty is attacked: women lie about sexual assault, women lie about sexual harassment, women lie, lie, lie. Even more problematic is when men joke about women being "confused" or "changing their minds" (about sex--it's always about sex). And while I used to understand how people could make these jokes but also believe that when it matters "women are believed" this has now become an irreconcilable cognitive dissonance. The running joke that women are unreliable has real-life deadly consequences.
It is like a cancer that spreads in the social conscious. It is the backdrop to every outcry and the framework of "assessing credibility." And because the consequences of that soundtrack of disbelief are devastating, leaving women alienated from their children, leaving victims of sexual assault traumatized and rapists free to hurt again, as well as abused children in the unfettered grips of their abusers, I end up being the angry woman at the table.
I snap back at the jokes with dark statistics and sardonic comebacks, I bite with sarcasm and cut with lack of conciliation, I destroy the mood by dropping the ugliness of violent misogyny onto crisp white table cloths. I am not a pleasant dinner guest when the "jokes" make their way into the conversation. I make things awkward.
And that's just the way things are going to be. Because I also don't have enough sense of self-preservation left to care.
There is no takeaway from it; no magical self-realization. What I do hope, though, is that if any of you out there are also the angry woman at the table, we one day end up at the same one.