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On Anger and “Man Haters”

I don’t want to be as angry as you. Sometimes you come across like you hate men.”

This would have to be the most frequent and banal dig at an open feminist. This is what my mother said to me recently when I offered her some of my books. Raising my voice, I replied, “How unreasonable! How dare I be angry at guys who slut shame and think it’s ok to take drunken girls home?” After all, showing anger towards some people’s behaviour is not the same as misandry or generalised hatred for all men.

I had still not calmed down about her comments the next day. I knew my mother’s intentions were not to shame or slander me. She was simply conveying her own discomfort with expressing anger.

The question persisted though: “Maybe I am angry. Is anger a problem?” Surely it is reasonable to feel rage towards the men who call you a slut, who collaborate in a culture that insists you are inferior, who assault you, who make you feel unsafe, who yell at you from cars, who make sexist jokes, who undermine your economic independence, who beat you, who think they are better than you because they are a man, who subtly but insidiously encroach on your personal space, who feel entitled to tell you how you can and cannot use your body, who say “pussy” is gross and use “cunt” as the ultimate insult.

Nevertheless, it would be unbalanced to hate all guys. But to hate or feel anger towards those who perpetrate crimes against women is balanced. At some point most women are going to feel specific or generalised low regard towards men. This is not an attack on all men but a common symptom of those who have experienced sexism, trauma or violence. There are few women who have not experienced harassment or violence based on her gender.

I am convinced that it is ok and reasonable to feel negatively about these situations. Feeling outraged is good; we need to be aware of the issues that affect women. It is important, though, to keep a balance between rage and healing. Change is most likely to occur if we are determined to use our rage to bring about positive action.

Some guys may feel personally attacked by generalised comments about the bad behaviour of men. Statements such as “men are all” or “women are like” are broad-sweeping and tend to perpetuate sexist stereotypes. Anger is best spoken about in specifics.

If you are reading this as a white, Western woman then you are most likely better off than other women and minority groups. But “better off” or “better than the past” are not terms that mean we should “shut up and be grateful” or stop “complaining”. One Billion Rising, a global event dedicated to ending violence against women and girls, was held at the ANU on the 14th of February. The event revealed the terrible statistics of intimate partner abuse and violence against women both overseas and in Australia. I almost found it vindicating to listen to the disturbing plethora of facts about physical and sexual violence towards women. “I knew it was that bad!” I practically yelled to a friend who came with me to the event. These frightening statistics do exist and I felt I had the language and the facts to argue with anyone who says, “It’s not that bad; we’re not in India”.

We need to be angry; angry at a society that is complicit in the creation and protection of patriarchal structures and gender constructions that lead to these statistics. Our anger has the potential to generate change. I use the self-publishing forum ‘Zines’ to express my anger. I piece together images and statements to reduce the weight of powerlessness I feel as a woman living in a patriarchal society.

At some point we must move past the debilitating and festering resentment which only consumes and embitters us. Instead, it is better to focus on the discussions, groups and movements prepared for action.

There is going to be rage. We are going to be angry about what has happened to us, our friends, our mothers, to all women – both past and present.

Hatred can trap us – but anger can revolutionise.

(image by WishCandy) http://wishcandy.net/

An Inclusive Valentine’s Day: Pepe’s Paperie

DSC00855 (Copy)
This may not be the case for everyone, but for me and others I know, Valentine’s day is an emotionally complicated day. Its’ celebration is painfully associated with high school rejections, reminders of alienation and feeling left out when single.
I don’t blame those deeply embroiled in the grief of yet another destroyed relationship if they want to stay indoors with movies or take up rug designing as a way of blocking out V-day. Nor those who find the horror of mass public displays of affection maddening and thus won’t be catching up for a casual coffee and cake on the blessed day.
For me, its mostly the exclusiveness of Valentine’s days’ focus on heterosexual couples that spoils it. But this card ($6.95) reminds me that the disenfranchised can find a way to celebrate their own forms of love. This cartoon is based on the charterers or Margot and RichieTenenbaum and their unusual love story from the movie The Royal Tenenbaums. Richie is a former successful tennis player and Margot is his habitually secretive adopted sister. Over the course of the brilliantly awkward film they find a way to reconcile and reciprocate their love for one another.
This card did not inspire the whole concept of celebrating my own, less traditional forms of love, but it pushed me to remember, without bitterness, that a pool full of my most vivacious girl pals awaits on the 14th of February and that my passion for them is just as worthy of being celebrated.
(c) Rachael Nielsen 2013
10th Febraury

Festival Bag: Pepe’s Paperie blog post

Fantasy Bag

I have not stopped talking about the National Folk Festival since I went last year. None of my friends seem perturbed by my monthly gush about what I experienced. And now it’s not long till I will go again (28th March- 1April) and I am planning in my head what I shall take with me. This leather and canvas bag has become part of my fantasy ($160)!

I want to have one tapestry bag full of less essential items like avocados and brown twine, and this bag above will hold my most precious needs:

Precious Needs: 

  • bark pencils and canvas paintbrush holder
  • array of fountains pens
  • black candles
  • film camera
  • leather roll up journal
  • 2 pairs of boots
  • crystal necklaces
  • bottle of Marsala
  • spare purple paisley dress

My list thus far is not too long but it always expands, especially at the last minute. Though I try and scale down I always end up feeling like an obese pack horse. But surely I must be deeply creative to have such an overflowing bag? otherwise what am I doing with some many gluey paintbrushes?

So it makes sense I am so deeply in love with this bag, it has ridiculous amounts of room. But it is not out of proportion with my size and thus mistaken for a boyfriend instead of an accessory. It also has room enough for my packing fantasies. We’ll both definitely be at the festival!

http://www.folkfestival.org.au/

(c)Rachael Nielsen 2013

27th February

http://pepespaperie.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/fantasy-bag.html

Wood Ink: post for Pepe’s Paperie

DSC00867I’m terrified of living in a big city.  If I can’t get to a lake or a dense forest, be it a thicket of willows, pines, silver-birches or burnt black silhouettes of gum trees then I get immensely suffocated by the endless suburbia. I am nevertheless not a cliche ‘nature girl’, when I went to a festival last year I bought a carpet bag with me full of clothes despite the zip being broken, because I found the bag so enchanting. As well, I lamented not having bought an array of light Turkish carpets to line the bottom of my squat tent.

You may not see why I am drawn to this ink though ($20). Wood Ink is a romantic idea, and it might be clear by now that I am more romantic than practical, but what draws me to this Ink is that it smells of pine trees! This bottle of synthetic aroma is frighteningly close to the reality of what forests smell like.

My plan is to use it as a talisman ( I can wear it around my neck, or just carry it in my pencil case) so that I can freely go wherever I need in the world, feeling I have an escape from the constructed universe of man.

(c) Rachael Nielsen 2013

March 14