If you are a woman, and you critique social, political, or cultural institutions, figures, or narratives through your voice, art, writing, music, or social media, you will be called “angry” and told, directly and indirectly, to “calm down.”
Behave better. More pleasant, please. Maybe add a bow to your hair.
If you are a woman of color in the aforementioned scenario, you will be called “angry” even if your tone is not angry at all, and Super Helpful White People will instruct you how you could “gain more allies if you were nicer.”
(People sit DOWN with that redemption bullshit. Nobody needs you.)
If you are a woman and you write satire, which, by definition, is used to call out another’s bullshit by elevating the situation or behavior to ridiculous extremes, you will be told you are “shaming” that “poor soul.” Even if the poor soul in question SHOULD be called out and NEEDS to be called out and you, as the motherfucking critic, have CHOSEN satire to do so.
That’s right: “shaming.”
Mean girl stuff. You know, vaginas in dispute.
If you are a woman and you say things people don’t want to hear, and you refuse to do it in a tail-between-the-legs, indirect, gentle, subdued way, your argument will be reduced to perpetuation of “mommy wars” or some other contrived battlefield of female bickering.
And as such, people will dismiss you as just “too much.”
Yes, even if your critique is balanced, researched, thoughtful and nuanced, your arguments will be ignored in light of your TONE. Your words will be reduced to the ravings of a “jealous,” “envious,” and “hateful” “shaming” woman.
But if you would have been nicer we would have listened to you, so it’s your fault.
One wonders how many male comedians are told they are “shaming” people, how many male social critics are told they really should “stop being so angry.” That they are “mean” and “envious” and that is why they’re cracking jokes and writing satire and political commentary.
Even if the thing you’re writing about deserves anger, outright rage, clinched fucking fists and screams, even if the thing kills people, rapes people, unjustly incarcerates people, removes freedom and bodies and choice – the violence of the thing itself will fade to nothing under the shadow of your unpleasant delivery because check it out: YOU CAN SPEAK OUT BUT DO IT WITH YOUR INSIDE VOICE, please.
Nobody likes the yeller.
In other words, you’re not making me feel good about this topic, and I like feeling good, so in the interest of my feelings, please deliver ideas to me gently in a way that makes me feel good about myself and my pick-and-choose activism so I can go home and remember what an aware and enlightened human I am.
I love supporting causes, but I don’t like feeling uncomfortable.
And it’s not just expected of women writers. It’s actresses and musicians and teachers and mail carriers and doctors and marines. Mothers and daughters and wives and friends.
WE GET TO BE FUCKING ANGRY SOMETIMES.
We get to say what we think in the way we want to say it.
And we get to say it out loud. And loud.
We get to not be “nice.” And they get to deal with it.
If you are a woman and you critique and publicly analyze people, systems, and rhetoric of society, you will be called mean and “judgey” and angry and irrational and shaming and “not displaying your best self” so often that one day you will wonder if they are in fact correct.
It will creep in unannounced and plant itself right there in the center of your mind, where faith in yourself lives.
You’ll wonder where it came from, that voice. Was it there before? When did it arrive? When did I grow afraid?
When did I start wondering if it is worth it?
When did I grow so tired?
And when you sit down to write that thing you want to say, you will wonder if silence is perhaps a better option, because you’re not sure you can take one more assault reducing your brain to petty shit-slinging, your voice to the squeals of a little kid not getting their way.
In that moment I hope you come back and read this, and say it anyway, because every time you do, I hear you, and I see you, and even in your rage I witness your love, and turn around to do the same, maybe even a little truer than last time.
LOUDLY. Or quietly, actually. It’s cool.
We just need you to say the thing as opposed to not saying the thing.
We start May 24 (and we need your voice).
JessicaThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 13:58
Say it anyway. You put that idea in my head and it’s stayed. Thanks. I hate being a stay at home mom and I’m fine with my office job and wearing heals and all my hippy friends can just deal. Isn’t this why we had fucking feminism in the first place?!?!
BridgetTuesday, 12 April, 2016 at 18:31
emilyThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 14:09
Well, sometimes it’s because we are all on our periods….
AGTuesday, 12 April, 2016 at 14:23
Or we’ve forgotten our medication. And sometimes, when the raging, bloody, estrogen monsters unite, it’s both.
Nicole QuinnThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 14:22
Well said. And also well said by Ani-the goddess-Difranco
SavThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:41
Ha! I posted the same thing before reading the comments. Wonderful!
DaphneThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 14:33
I have noticed lately that regularly in meetings, other people preface statements with “Now, Daphne, don’t freak out!” As if somehow, my constant habit of calling people out on their shit is a failure of mine, rather than theirs. They are trying to shame me into quietude and apathy. I almost fell for it. But fuck that shit. Thanks for this, Janelle. Just when I needed it most.
MaryThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 16:02
Jodi TaylorThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 14:37
We can’t lose our voices because we would lose our minds, FUCK THAT. Well written, strong words. Would love to collaborate with you! #writeanyway
SinaThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 14:39
Women having a strong opinion or an unpleasant message is always a problem in our societies(I’m a reader from germany)… make this “on this planet”. What we say is too often belittled. It’s surely feels like we have to deal with not being trusted because of our gender.
LarissaThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 14:42
what a blessing you are.
perfect_mayhemThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:11
I was thinking you could be a little bitchier. Pretty please? Love your stuff!
SherryThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:17
Oh, Janelle. You make me believe I’m ok. Can it be? Is it truly ok just to be me? To have strong opinions and a big voice? Maybe I’m not a psycho bitch after all? Maybe I don’t need to calm down? Maybe they’re just an asshole?
My God, it’s a whole new world!
Daphne, rock on. I’ve been you. I’m home with kids now, but I’m going to be you again one day. And fuck them. I need you in that boardroom with me.
DaphneThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:53
Thanks Sherry. Psycho bitches unite! We would be unstoppable.
Kyla WhitwellThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:25
Janelle, keep saying what you say/ doing what you do. We hear you. We love you.
Also, damn do I ever want (need) to take your writing workshop in May but: 9-5 job (that I love) that pays my rent = nope. 🙁 I’ll be here waiting to pounce should you ever offer an evening option (or, yeuch, an early morning one… please don’t. But do. Because I’d be there… but really… don’t) or a weekend option.
Leah NobleSunday, 10 April, 2016 at 5:20
Kyla – I think the classroom get-togethers are recorded, so you can listen in later. I’m taking the class and I also have a 9-5 job.
SavThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:39
Well said, as always. This makes me wanna crank up the volume on Ani DiFranco’s “Not A Pretty Girl.” Tell me you know it.
AdriannThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:41
I love you. You make me happy. Your angry, yelling rants make me happy. “Naps are for losers/Sleep is for losers” has been the mantra in my house all week, according to my 15 month old girl. You get us.
LoriThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 15:58
In my experience, women are the absolute worst when it comes to this. I’ve raised legit complaints about actions of others or blatant unfairness in the workplace and told to “stop with the drama” by a woman who is the living breathing epitome of drama.
So tired of feeling silenced while the truly mean amongst us stomp about flinging shut ups. So done with self doubt. I’m 50 and I am just fucking over it.
DaphneThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 16:15
Amen to that.
Leah NobleSunday, 10 April, 2016 at 5:21
Oh man, I dealt with this this past week with a co-worker. Because I feel like there are people who thrive on drama, and there’s a difference between that, and the truth-telling that Janelle is talking about here.
Sarah UlmetThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 16:24
Yes! Am I an angry woman? No. I have the temerity to argue and that’s too often equated to the same thing.
TrudyThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 19:03
I recently was told by a male friend that had stumbled into my house the night before, blind drunk with my husband taking care if him, that I wake up angry and should give the day a chance ! All because I was not cheery enough in the morning after being woken up by him at midnight being too loud. I mean WTF ?
I love your posts Janelle x
Vanessa WishstarThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 19:06
YES. This. All of this. Fuck yes and thank you.
MargieThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 20:30
People really don’t appreciate my directness sometimes. They will say sarcastically ‘well tell us how you really feel’. It’s usually after I’ve spent the last hour being courteous and they’ve completely ignored me. That said, I do try to challenge myself to try to get my point across without being too direct as a form of practice, and well entertainment too.
GrouchiegrrlThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 22:17
Fuck I love your writing. I am always so glad when I take a break and check out your website.
Leah NobleSunday, 10 April, 2016 at 5:22
I love your handle, Grouchiegrrl. 🙂
AudreyThursday, 7 April, 2016 at 22:41
I’ve lost my fair share of “friends” because I consistently hurt them with my opinions on politics, medicine, police militarization, media…the list goes on. I have so many people try to tell me to stop speaking out, or I can change…do you know angry this makes me? It’s infuriating. I don’t even try to make friends now because what’s the point? Unless you share in the same opinions on everything…you are a freak. Thank you for writing this!
Nicole QuinnFriday, 8 April, 2016 at 9:50
I’ll be your friend Audrey. As long as you put up with me ranting on about rape culture, the crushing of the middle class, climate change, the right to choose (and the right to be supported – i.e. MATERNITY LEAVE – either way), and the overconsumption of meat. Sound fun?
kateFriday, 8 April, 2016 at 2:26
my writing seems pretty tame to me, but i’ve been told more than once, its another ‘rant’ blog.
what? i write about faith and hope and trying …. ? shit, man. rant? fine. just, fine.
DFriday, 8 April, 2016 at 4:59
I spent much of my childhood, and early adulthood, in silence-not speaking. People thought I was extremely shy and just preferred not to talk, but truthfully I was screaming, “Just shut the FUCK UP!” on the inside. It took a very liberal arts college, which no one in my family understood, for the silence to finally lift. I purposefully waited to have children until my late 30’s and early 40’s, cause I knew this shit was going to suck. Yes, I love my children, but this honestly sucks! No one and nothing prepares you for the suck. I fight the daily struggle to be nice with sarcasm and swearing but it is an uphill battle. Most days I feel like I am fighting alone, and what makes it oh so much more fun is when people say, “What happened? You used to be so sweet.” Really? When I never spoke a single fucking word? So I am with you and I thank you for your encouragement. I will smile and say, “Kindly go FUCK yourself!”
Diana CameronFriday, 8 April, 2016 at 8:58
I love reading your shit- it’s not for everyone- the people who get it will continue to get it, and we don’t need posts like this to help us along. This post is for people who don’t get you/enjoy you or others- woman who speak boldly and make people uncomfortable- and isn’t that ok too? Of course everyone is not going to appreciate what you are putting out there- they never will- no matter how many times you try to explain your satire or sarcasm to people who respond negatively to something you post. They are never going to get it. With this here internet you are reaching a ton of people who are going to love you and some who won’t- there is no magic button to make only people who get/respond to your stuff react. You’re super smart- perhaps you’ve already thought it though and this post was not about you but for every other voice out there who feels shut down by people. It was inspiring. You are absolutely right- continue to write and express yourself. We all go through times where we question our selves- and we should- sometimes we need to make changes- sometimes we realize we don’t need to change a fucking thing about what we are doing.
MeilyFriday, 8 April, 2016 at 9:38
check out this 9 yr old reporter who was told to play with dolls instead of being a kick-ass reporter and human being.
CorbyFriday, 8 April, 2016 at 14:08
Seriously… I’m bawling. Because I am a yeller. I am angry. And I am tired of being told to shut up…. And I feel oh so Beat. Up. Years ago my husband asked me, as I was ranting on about some injustice I witnessed: “why are you so angry?” Dude… You fucking married me after knowing me for 4 years… Your just catching on??? But I didn’t know exactly why I was angry either… I wasn’t supposed to be… Or allowed to be… And now I know – at 41, hearing my father say to me for the gazillionth time, “Why can’t you just keep your mouth shut?” I know. I’m angry because of the cultural power wielded against me and those without a voice… I’m angry because the people I loved best and most in the world taught me to distrust my own voice. I’m angry because I feel super alone in a mysoginistic sea of racist sexist men (and women)… In my rural redneck town. And I feel unheard despite my screams. I feel beat down… And then I read this. And I cry because I wish you lived next door.
AGTuesday, 12 April, 2016 at 15:31
Corby, keep fighting lady!!! You aren’t alone although I’m sure it feels that way sometimes. I live in Idaho now, dig a hole and it bleeds GOP red from the Earth here, it’s that conservative. I grew up in Michigan which almost couldn’t be more liberal. It’s been a struggle to live here but I have found the people that grew up here and think it’s just as backwards as I do!!! Hang in there or get the hell out, either way never stop being you!
CorbyTuesday, 12 April, 2016 at 19:04
True dat, sistah… I’m sticking. Fuck them if they think I’m leaving. Just gets hard sometimes… thank for the love!!!
EllenSaturday, 9 April, 2016 at 8:49
JeanMonday, 11 April, 2016 at 4:53
This made me think of the interview with Samantha Bee I heard on Fresh Air this weekend. http://www.npr.org/2016/04/09/473503055/fresh-air-weekend-samantha-bee-robbie-fulks-new-album-the-start-up-bubble
Keep on writing, Janelle! We hear you.
aocMonday, 11 April, 2016 at 12:36
My spouse is comfortable with loudness, and daughter appears to be following her lead. Will save this for enlightenment.
AGTuesday, 12 April, 2016 at 15:24
About a year ago I was a member of a local pool team that was part of a much larger association nationwide in the US. When I started having problems with the owner of the local franchise I enlisted the national office for help which backfired on me when the man I spoke with immediately relayed every word I spoke or wrote through email right back to the franchise owner. This ended with the owner having a personal vendetta against me and anyone associated with me. He would insult me to my face, talk shit about me behind my back, and tell me things like, “you know, you’re not very well liked in this league”. Absolutely anything he could do to try and break me and get me to quit.
It got to the point where I actually started to question myself and wondered if I really was just a huge bitch looking for a fight. I started being quieter in my every day life, not just pool. I started “letting it go” and “staying calm” more often when people insulted me or screwed me or betrayed me because I didn’t want to ruffle feathers. That lasted a couple months before the real me came back and said, “fuck that bullshit, if they can’t handle me they need to put in the work to get stronger because I’m sure as hell not going to water myself down for anyone.”
Fast forward a year later, the league operator was unceremoniously fired and replaced with a WOMAN who personally contacted me to apologize for his behavior and invite me to be a member again. It took a little while of self doubt but I’ve emerged stronger and louder than ever and now my anthem is “Unapologetic Bitch”. Raise those voices ladies, be the thorn in the side of every naysayer and never apologize for voicing your opinion or standing your ground!!!
BridgetTuesday, 12 April, 2016 at 18:34
I am “often” told I am too blunt, too honest, not nice enough. Well you know what?! Nobody listens when I’m nice or polite so why bother with your feelings and being gentle? I’d rather get to the point and be done with it. Does that mean my point is less valid b/c I didn’t dance around people feelers? No way…
Allison WatersSaturday, 16 April, 2016 at 23:48
This is fucking awesome. Thank you.
Clair SlegerThursday, 19 May, 2016 at 3:07
I FUCKING LOVE YOU!
This tone policing is just another way to take the focus off of the issue at hand. Which you just said much more colorfully and angrily. Fuckin’ A.
I don’t have kids, but post links to your stuff on my mom-friends’ pages, and read you semi-regular-like.
That is all, I reckon.
Thanks for being awesome!
ClairThursday, 19 May, 2016 at 3:11
Sorry–not angrily, annoyedly.
Keep on keepin’ on!
Andria RedlinMonday, 25 January, 2021 at 12:55
If Janelle’s post is true, there’s going to be a lot of men out there who will hate on my book…but we women must never allow ourselves to be silent.