When a woman has been unjustly treated and decides to fight back, she is dismissed as emotional, vengeful and bitter. When a man responds the same way he is righteous, angry, a warrior.
An angry woman is deemed hysterical and ignored or gotten rid of; she is told to be quiet and be pretty – to calm down. An angry man is feared and taken seriously.
Growing up I watched my mum dismissed again and again and again. She was dismissed by her doctors, dismissed by the police, dismissed by family services, and dismissed by the men in her life.
As young teenage girl she was placed in a foster home after being kicked out of the house by her mother to make room for her new stepfather’s three boys. Message – you are less valuable than men.
She bounced around foster homes for a while until there were none available for her.
As a practice in the 1950s if there were not enough foster homes you would be placed in the care of a mental asylum because they often had spare beds.
While in such an institution in Whitby, Ontario the staff decided a young, depressed teenage girl who was angry at what had happened to her needed one thing – electroshock treatment.
Mum struggled with memory issues and headaches the rest of her life after that.
When I was being bullied by a group of teen boys once, she stormed over and let loose on them and they stood there and laughed at her. She stood her ground and took it and eventually they left.
When she was being threatened with a beating by my stepfather and called the police, they told her they couldn’t do anything until he beat her up. When he left her face a purple, bruised mass, they took him away joking with him asking “what did you do now Pete?” while she wept and eventually went to the hospital.
Mum had to fight with all her energy her entire life to be taken seriously about things men take for granted. Again, and again and again she screamed to be heard, many times literally, and her voice was swept under the carpet and ignored.
These memories are burned into me forever.
Even today in our enlightened era people make fun of women who present as strong and angry – they are called “Karens” and consigned to the category of joke. The relegation of angry women to a special category for mocking is stupid, demeaning and horrible.
As my daughter leaves childhood and is growing into the strong, young woman she is becoming I do not want a world that dismisses her or that deems her emotional and hysterical simply for standing up for herself. I want a world that takes her seriously and listens to her voice.
If she is in a meeting with peers and management, I want her voice to count as much as the next person’s.
A world that does not take women seriously, a world that devalues, mocks, and ignores them, is a garbage world and the people who do this are garbage people.
It needs to stop.