I Didn’t Expect The Anger

My underpants

I wasn’t aware of the crack, the breaking of something inside of me.

I wasn’t surprised to hear of one more man sexually abusing a woman or a teenage girl. Like most women, I expect it.  I know it as a truth, as “the way things are“.

It’s such a good thing what’s happening, women (and with some men too)  finally feeling safe enough to speak out.  Finally being heard and for the most part actually believed.

What I didn’t expect was the anger.

My anger. I didn’t even know what it was when it started to bubble up in me last night.  I only knew I was feeling something that I didn’t recognize.  Something I  didn’t know what to do with.

At that point, what came to my mind were the few pairs of white underpants in my dresser drawer.  I never wore them, I don’t like white underwear, but they came in the package with the other colors.  Suddenly I was driven to make those underpants mine.

I sat at the dining room table with a couple of black markers and started drawing on my underpants.

I couldn’t tell you why, but there was nothing else I wanted to do at that moment.

Then I had a dream…

I was in a museum or zoo.  There was an old Chimpanzee and a deer-like animal sitting on a couch together cuddling, as if they were on display.  The Chimpanzee was aggressively massaging the deer and singing a song called “What is Love ?”  I knew, in the wild, the Chimpanzee was the predator and the deer the prey, but the Chimpanzee had no teeth and his nails had been removed.   So at first what looked like a loving relationship between the two animals turned out to really be a predator trying desperately to kill his prey, but unable to.

Maybe I was creating a shield, claiming my body as my own by drawing on my underpants.

In Sue Monk Kidd’s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, she writes about the myth of the Minotaur.  The Minotaur is a creature, half man and half bull.  He lives in a labyrinth under the palace of King Minos.  The Kings daughter Ariadne, helps Theseus find a way out of the labyrinth after he kills the Minotaur if he promises to marry her and take her away from her father’s kingdom.

Kidd writes:  In the female psyche, the Minotaur represents negative, uncivilized (beastly), masculine power, the part the old King had driven underground.  …the Minotaur is the bullish, bullying, bulldozing force of the patriarchy internalized in the cellar of a woman’s psyche. It is a presence that works invisibly, hampering, limiting, driving, even destroying a woman’s inner and outer life.

When I read this, I immediately thought of Donald Trump.  How with his being elected president, the “old part of the king” (or as in my dream, the true nature of the Chimpanzee) has risen up from the underground, how, now it’s all out in the open.

I’ve been silently cheering each time another woman comes forward and tells her story.

I’ve been allowing myself to feel so good about it, I forgot to let myself feel the pain of it.

And then, last night, the anger.

Slowly seeping through the  widening crack,  till it broke wide open this morning.  It crashed through my body, coming out in curses and tears. A life time of  internalized anger.  My very own underground…surfacing, spewing hot rocks and fire.  “I’m angry”, I yelled through tears, “I’m so fucking angry.”

It came in waves and bursts lasting an hour or so.  I let it come, working its way though me.  I’ve felt anger before, but not like this.  It wasn’t free-flowing, or misdirected.

I knew what the anger is about.

It’s about my personal experience of growing up in a family where my sister and I weren’t seen as  equals to my brother,  and  my mother  was  subservient  to my father.    Where I was told that if  I walked past a group of men, instead of crossing the street, it was my fault when they made lewd remarks about me.  And how that dynamic lead me into an early marriage, that I thought was an escape, but turned out to be  another relationship where my feeling and thoughts were dismissed and ignored.

It’s the anger that comes from with living in a society that accepts sexism as if it’s normal.  That in so many institutionalized ways tells women and girls that they are subordinate to men.  A society whose culture is to silence women through intimidation and fear.

It’s the anger I tucked away, replacing it with fear, shame and confusion.  Blaming myself for men’s inappropriate sexual behavior and at the same time wanting a man’s approval at almost any price.    And the frustration of not being able to understand or articulate it all.

It’s not one thing, not one incident in my life, but a million little things.  Words, images, touches, gestures that over a lifetime have made me feel inferior to men.  And I sometimes wonder what my life could have been like if I hadn’t believed that lie for so long.

The anger has subsided now.  Maybe I released it all.  Although I have a feeling there’s more inside of me.  I do feel like there’s some healing going on.  And somehow, drawing on my underpants, telling my story that way, is a part of it.




34 thoughts on “I Didn’t Expect The Anger

  1. First of all, I’d wear these underpants in a heartbeat.

    And second, I completely understand this. Every time another woman comes forward and another powerful man falls, I smile. It’s almost as if karma can’t do anything about Trump at the moment, so it’s making up for it by letting every other woman out there be heard and believed.

    I’m luckier than most – I was never abused, and what sexism I experienced, while still sexism, could have been far worse. (I know, I know, that it happened at all is wrong, but there’s such a range of bad behavior I’m happy to have missed most of it).

    One thing that stands out: in 5th grade, I was walking to school with a friend when a man flashed us. We were both pretty savvy kids, and while we were startled, neither of us was upset, and we didn’t think to report it at school because we were running late that day. My friend mentioned it at home that night, and her mom called mine, and the school. Our teacher made a point of telling everyone the next day, and she and I were basically “blamed” for not telling. In retrospect I understand they were worried and panicked, but the result of their behavior was making us feel we’d done something wrong by being there when this guy decided to open his pants.

    My mom, on the other hand, shook her head and said, “Some men are just jerks. Have some ice cream.”

    1. There are definitely different degrees of sexism and harassment and abuse Karen. It’s so interesting that thing about blaming the victim, even in the back handed way you and your friend were blamed. For me it’s the cumulative effect of so many incidents built into a lifetime that makes the sexism so potent. We each have our own experience with it way of dealing with it.

  2. Thank you, Maria, for your powerful expression of anger. There are so, so many of us who understand the feelings you describe. I’m much older than you and have known that culture even longer.
    I’ve felt anger recently as well, but I’ve also had a feeling of exhaling, saying “Finally. It’s happening. Women are rediscovering the strength that was always there and it’s a force like no other.Maybe this is the best thing to come out of the past year. We can’t keep it in any longer. It’s time. Our time.

    1. Oh yes Laura. I think it’s so great that it’s happening. And I do believe it’s a direct result of the election of Trump. The good to come from it all.

  3. Thank You so much Maria. This spoke to my broken and physically ‘fixed’ Heart. (Triple bypass in April ’17.)
    In Love and Appreciation of You.

  4. Thank you, Maria….I’m 65 and was raped twice. I’ve been sexually harrassed. I’ve been a good little girl, most of the time, playing by the rules in my various jobs.

    I have been stunned by the outpouring of both women’s outrage, grief and the identification of the varous perpetrators. Many of these perpetrators were men I’ve looked up to and liked/ admired. I do wonder who’s next.

    I now know that it is commonplace for a woman to be raped. Domination by this twisted patriarchal culture is a given. But never did I think rape would be commonplace. Did you know it IS commonplace in India? I just recently learned this….India is the home of the Divine Mother, but her women are commonly raped.

    I think of Jon’s post yesterday about shame….he has a point.

    But we are talking about thousands of years of patriarchy. Western civilization has permitted the development of subtle arguments, economics and technology that undergirded the subjugation of women.

    Perhaps the same things that promoted patriarchy will support the throwing off of its chains. Because not only do I crave the overthrow of this antiquated, destructive system, I also want to see men freed from their isolation from intimacy. I want to see the rise of healthy masculinity along side the Divine Feminine.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Nova. And I agree, we need both the Divine Feminine and the best of the masculine. I was shocked to learn that Rape just became a war crime a few months ago. Which of course is good, but I’m can’t believe it took so long.

  5. lots of long buried feelings have come up, am shocked how quickly the floodgates have now burst open, it has been a long time in coming. Are
    there enough underwear and markers to be a canvas for all the anger?

    1. yes Jane! Thanks for this, it is wonderful news and it is changing! I think all that is going on is so good. I feel like there is hope after all.

  6. Dearest Maria,
    You are speaking for all of us! Thank you. We are tired of being silenced, diminished, and told that our feelings, opinions,and ideas don’t matter. Well they do matter and so do we. Thank you for a heartfelt post.
    With much love,
    From Fran

  7. “Me, too.” Thank you for sharing your feelings, Maria. My experiences are very similar to yours, and, my anger is present, as well. So many years….3 marriages, and other condescension and disrespect, all the while thinking it was me. Thankfully, I am mostly my own woman these days, yet the old stuff is roiling inside and out right now. Thankful for creativity and grandchildren, and the voices of so many brave women, like you.

  8. Maria, I’m eighty years old and I understand how you feel and how other women feel through these latest allegations of sexual abuse although I have never been sexually molested. But I do know the feeling of women being put down, of being treated disrespectfully, it happened to me in a second marriage following the death of my husband when I was 34 years old, he 39 when he died. The problem for me was that I had never been treated with disrespect before in my life and I did not know how to handle it. It was done jocularly, so that if I didn’t ‘ride’ with it, I wasn’t being a good sport. After ten years, I left the marriage, it affected me considerably. Two step children, nice but affected by their father’s attitude towards women, his former wife labelled him a misogynist. And so in the year following, I ‘grew’ up, I am very aware and conscious of condescending gender-based men. Last week, due to obstreperous neighbours who are using their property as a used car parking lot with between 16 and 19 old and broken down cars in a residential neighbourhood, here in the country, called the police on me because I was taking pictures of their mess from my own property. Invasion of Privacy their complaint. A young police officer, nice kid, came to my house, pleading with me to try and be a good neighbour, that I had to get along with people, instantly making this problem mine and me the problem not the two red-necked yahoos (men) next door. Then he asked: is your husband home. And that is what brought me to the boiling point. I asked him why he’d asked that question, he didn’t respond, so I said, I don’t have to answer that question…it was to me a gender based question unless he was able to explain otherwise. The putting of women in a lesser position is still going on despite the recognition of others thinking it’s not so. I called the police staff sgt. in charge of the OPP in our area, a woman, I asked her about the comment, she refused to see me personally, said I was wasting her time. She blew me off but I did say, you might understand how I feel, having climbed over men in a difficult profession for women, the police force. Apparently that wasn’t part of her agenda to consider.
    Sandy P, in S. Ont., Canada

    1. It’s all those years of just this kind of treatment, of being expected to “keep quiet” and “Make nice” that created all that stored up anger. Thanks for this Sandy.

  9. Wow! Just wow! I can relate in so many ways. I can remember from childhood being taught that boys were smarter, men were superior. I wasn’t buying it. I struggled with this all my life. My first job after college (in the late 70s) was horrific. I was young, thin and pretty working at a male dominated company. No one took me seriously, even though I had the same education as my male co-workers. After three years of harassment I finally landed a job working mostly with women and never looked back.

    I even have issues with Thanksgiving. Although I was a full time, professional career woman, the expectation was that I prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal while the men were expected to do nothing but show up and watch football. I remember dreading Thanksgiving. I was exhausted from working and raising my children. I wanted a day off too. Yet I bought into the expectation far too long and grew to resent the holiday. I hosted my last Thanksgiving years ago. I’m done.

    Thank you for your post and allowing me to vent.

  10. I remember getting fed up with all the sexual innuendo from my male co-workers. I was pretty young, 22 years old, and was very intimidated by them. I finally took my complaints to my male boss, and his response was, “are you sure you’re not taking it the wrong way?” I shot back, “How would YOU take it?”. He was stunned but finally agreed the comments were inappropriate. So glad there are laws now against this sort of behavior.

    We’ve come a long way, baby!

  11. thank you maria and to everyone who posted.
    today i was reminded to be silent. to not show anger.
    I was told that i was not feeling anger but watching..reading too much news and that by doing so it was causing me to relive my past.
    today i was told that I’m not a survivor but a survivor-victim
    and i will always be that.
    I know deep in my heart and soul that what I was told is the untruth. my heart breaks but my spirit will not. I am a SURVIVOR.
    I’m sharing this because there are many in the U.S. and many other countrys who MUST remain silent for various reasons. there are many who don’t have the same freedom as others through no fault of their own.
    those who can speak up.. please share your anger..share your experiences .do so for yourself. please also if you can.. share your voice..speak up loud for those who do not have that freedom.
    maria I mean no offence by writing this here. but felt a deep need to share this. in this place i feel safe to quietly
    share my words. thank you.

    1. I’m glad you did share your voice and your feeling. I Believe we need to keep telling our stories, anger and all, whatever the truth is. I love that you know the truth within you and are not deterred by the other voices.

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