October 24, 2013

DINEEN: A Call to Anger

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This article is a call to anger — because there is too much to be angry about and we cannot let a societal fear of anger stop us.

In our public and even private lives, we regard the expression of anger as a danger and a threat to the normal functioning of society. Anger is violent. Anger is irrational. Anger is destructive and it is, therefore, accepted that anger is unquestionably, objectively bad. We must denounce it and stigmatize those who so shamefully and immaturely respond with anger, because, we, as proper, educated people all undoubtedly know, it is much more productive to resolve our frustrations through dignified talk and cooperation … Right?

No. Absolutely fucking not. The control of anger is a question of power and, as such, we cannot regard it objectively. We must consider how it is used to advance the stations of power-holders and, conversely, to silence voices of dissent.

The deconstructive element of anger — that is, anger’s existence as a danger and threat to the normal functioning of society — is precisely why controlling anger is a question of power. Because who has a stake in society as it functions normally? And who has a stake in its deconstruction? Amerikkkan society, of course, exists as a haven for rich, white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied men. Only those who have more to demand from the world—the poor, the black, the women, the queer, the differently-abled, the “other”— have reason to deconstruct what doesn’t work for them, and are, therefore, driven to anger.

To deconstruct is a beautiful thing. To tear down oppressive institutions by smashing a sledgehammer against their foundations — beautiful. Productive. Revolutionary. But this is precisely why the dominant groups in society fear anger in its deconstructive capacity: To produce such revolutionary change is to undermine their power and stability. And so, to protect their interests whether deliberately or not, they have advanced the notion of anger as bad: They have played upon our fears by labeling it as irrational and violent.

The negative perception of anger has become an “objective” perception, of course, only because what is dominant is invisible, normalized and taken for granted as a given. The dominant group has been effective in their efforts, then, because when anger is delegitimized and invalidated, it becomes an impossibility. Marginalized people, internalizing that “improper” anger, are discouraged from thinking of anger as a viable way to enact change, and are thus stripped of one more channel to power.

And those that resist this perception and express their anger nonetheless are delegitimized. Have you ever heard of the bitch? Or the angry black woman? These are people that are fighting for basic equality but are knocked down and forced to the ground because their efforts are labeled aggressive and forceful (and the only types of aggression and force that are acceptable in society are those committed by rich white men).

So violence is a disgrace, angry mobs are stupid, a yelling girlfriend is overreacting. We cannot be angry, but if we are not, who is going to listen? No one, and that’s the point: Sanctioned forms of expression and change like the bureaucratic system and strongly-worded emails are ineffective for the marginalized, but any form of action beyond what is sanctioned is stigmatized. No one will listen.

But now we need to reclaim anger. We need to reclaim it to validate our experiences. We should be proud when we are angry because that means that we expect better and will fight for it. Should we find better ways to express ourselves, i.e. proper, dignified ways? Absolutely not. It is the societally-sanctioned diction and demure tongue of one person that inflicts violence on another. We need not be complacent within that mode of expression when anger provides the force of change toward justice.

We need to reclaim anger for its productive capacities. Every girl is a riot grrrl and the world needs to see how hard we can swing that baseball bat into the next person’s head. To embrace our anger is to liberate ourselves. When I said this is a call to anger, I meant it. If you want to be angry and act on that anger, shoot me an email, because who knows how much we can destroy.

“It’s not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you.” Get it right.