Monday, November 23, 2015

Fear of Male Anger: A Universal Trauma

[TRIGGER WARNING: MALE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, ABUSE]

For about as long as I can remember, I've been afraid of anger coming from men. Any form of anger directed at anyone or anything makes me cringe, tense up, and start looking for exits. A man could be angry at someone else about something that has nothing to do with me, even a complete stranger cursing at an inanimate object that inconvenienced him somehow - the moment I detect anger, my fight, flight, or freeze instinct activates and the blood rushes to my limbs. Recently two male coworkers at my former workplace started arguing and I had to go hide in the walk-in freezer.

Now, I though this was a personal problem of mine that was caused by certain recurring incidents throughout my childhood (ahem), but once again, Tumblr has shown me that I am not alone.

One post made by a woman about how terrified she gets when men show any anger has gotten over 300,000 notes. If you're not familiar with Tumblr, this means that it has been liked or reblogged over 300,000 times, and that is a lot. Check out this thread of women explaining how little it takes to send them into alarm mode, interspersed with men talking about how they were, of course, unaware. But then, so was I. If you look through the notes, you can find woman after woman describing her experiences and saying that she's also afraid of male anger and/or she thought she was alone in it.

Again, a universal experience and collective trauma experienced by women, and we're all surprised about it because we're not allowed to talk about things like this. We don't dare talk about how men terrify us lest we be labeled man-hating devils.

But the truth is that so many women are afraid of male anger. And why not? Why wouldn't we be? How many of us have witnessed men lashing out at women physically in anger? How many of us have been warned about making men angry? We've all seen or heard of the consequences of male anger. We know how explosive it is and how society excuses just about everything men do in anger. We know that if men attack us in anger, we'll be blamed. Even if they kill us.

Angry men kill, bomb, shoot, beat, torture, mutilate, do every horrible thing you can think of. We see it in real life and we see it in media. Many of us have been hit or screamed at by fathers twice our size or more or abused by angry male partners. So many of us have experienced that trap where no matter what you do or say to reject a man, you know he's going to get angry. The only question is how angry and whether he'll just scream at you about how much of a bitch you are or try to hurt you physically. We try so hard to treat men gently and not get them angry, but they do anyway. They find a way, and they use that anger as an excuse to hurt us.

And they wonder why we don't trust them.

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