Been continuing to think on some of the rage and frustration I’ve encountered online over the last year, particularly in recent months, among some men and women who term themselves as MRAs and/or MGTOWs or feminists. And I realize I need to step back to my own past in remembering how much rage I once contained, toward both men and women, but most especially toward men since they were who I was in most direct contact with and kept experiencing mistreatment by. No one could have told me not to be angry then, and doing so would’ve just ramped up my aggravation and wound up causing a fight. Because my pain felt (and still I feel was) justified as a reaction to what had come before. I was working through those emotions and it took several years to do so.
During that time I came online and likely spat some vitriol toward mankind in general. There was no aim inside me at that point to be fair and balanced because all I could see was how I’d been done wrong, and then this was amplified when I discovered other women (and in some cases men) who experienced similar forms of mistreatment. My own issues centered around my family (particularly my mother, stepdad and step-side of the family) and then beginning at a rather young age (early teen years) dealing with attempts at sexual misuse of me by much older men (one of the first experiences that messed with my mind and still sticks with me involved a 70+ year old man I’d grown to trust when I was 14). At first I became scared because I didn’t know what to do and my family wouldn’t or couldn’t offer the kind of protection that was needed back then. And then I got angry. And then angrier. And then outright hostile toward the end of my teen years and heading into my 20s. During that time I came to identify myself as a feminist, as I’ve discussed, largely because I needed support and guidance and help like any young person does. But then I didn’t wind up finding much of that there either.
The point here though is that I was in incredible pain, some of which still stays with me. I felt bewildered and was aiming to protect myself from what this world showed itself as having to offer. And everywhere I turned it seemed people were screaming in my face “Well, life’s not fair! Get over it!” Rage doesn’t seem an adequate word to describe where I went inside.
But as time moves on, you aim to manage some of what you’re feeling, and for me this meant trying to accept a more “pessimistic” outlook in terms of recognizing how dangerous men could be in the right circumstances and doing what I could to navigate in this world. My lifestyle during those years probably had a lot to do with me trying to take back power over the situation by me determining how relations would go (so far as I was able) and ensuring I stood to benefit on some level. During that period I spent a lot of time in neighborhood bars in my off-hours and through the use of alcohol and sexuality aimed to, on one hand, numb myself and, on the other, to seek comfort where I could find it. Escapism flavored by distrust and a sense of feeling I belonged nowhere and that ‘wicked’ people were everywhere waiting for opportunities to strike, and it came down to me protecting me because no one else would. I already had virtually no faith in the police or the courts, moved hours away from people I’d known, and had a weak support network at that time.
Strangely enough, through those years and despite experiencing and witnessing additional damaging events (though decreasingly so; luck factored in there as well), the ice began being chiseled away from my heart and I came to see numerous examples of men in need, not on the take, hurt in their own ways, suffering with serious problems on a level most others can’t even fathom (for example, one man relayed to me his story of winding up paralyzed AND being hit with divorce papers while recovering from related injuries in the hospital — a very, very sad ordeal).
Funny thing is the taverns I frequented actually proved a bit rehabilitative in a sense because there I met the old war veterans and people from all walks of life with nowhere better to go. They sought out companionship, someone to talk to, someone to listen, and I came to appreciate sitting with them one-on-one, hearing stories of what it was like working as a Teamster or hearing about a man’s wife who had died of cancer or hearing about how another man’s kids won’t have much of anything to do with him, etc. Individual men with individual stories to share. In other aspects of my lifestyle back then I met men with debilitating health problems as well as those who’d been overlooked as potential dating partners by most of society. Still met my fair share of jerks, but I also gained a lot of respect and empathy for plenty of others I came into contact with.
This led me on to my next phase, after a bit of a setback where I returned to feeling angry once more due to circumstances I don’t wish to get into right now. But this next phase was about opening myself up to others and to realizing that while my own life experiences and views aren’t trivial and do continue to matter, they don’t represent the bigger picture of what all is going on out here in the world. They are one perspective, the closest one I’m privy to, but still not by any means a definitive say on the matter. As I began opening up more and more, I began realizing who my real friends were and who I’d been treating unfairly due to my own hostility and fear of trusting others. Once I stepped beyond feminism and began exploring more about our military and then our economy, my whole outlook shifted to include a great many more considerations than merely focusing in on the harm men and women can do to one another. But it’s not a straight path, it winds and circles back around.
This path also led/leads me to looking more closely at events where I had contributed to the problem or where I had outright harmed others. Hindsight isn’t 20/20, but reflection and introspection of this nature is invaluable. Also it has helped to remember people from way back and stories they shared and my past observations on how they came up and what they looked to be up against, etc.
I still have a long way to go (as if there’s ever a finish line). While it is very trying for me to sit by and let others verbally attack me and paint me as some princess who knows nothing about this life—that always boils up my indignation—I’m realizing how these folks are on their own journeys, which hopefully they actively continue on, seeing as how remaining mired in the muck of bad memories and powerlessness is no way for anyone to have to live (as I try to remind myself, impossible as it is to forget the past). Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh and dismissive categorically because I don’t know how else to respond. In person it is easier because we can size one another up and get a better sense of whether we’re being honest and forthright. Because not all are — some are charlatans who will prey on others’ sympathy so as to position themselves to take advantage of the situation, this I have learned. And some are so angry that they turn cruel to such an extent that they become outright toxic. We do still have to protect ourselves despite wanting to be open to the concerns and stories of others. We have to be realistic, taking in all that we’ve learned thus far, while also trying to shelve that enough to where we aren’t too closed off to people. This is a struggle, and it won’t be easy for anybody out here.
The next question becomes where to go from here. I don’t know. But I’m trying to keep walking on while pondering and letting a lot of information in to swirl around and meld with the rest. I’m aiming to be more careful with my judgments, though there is a time and a place indeed to judge, particularly when it comes to scrutinizing ideas.
Perhaps part of the problem becomes trying to fuse personal healing with political activism, because we’re prone to behave as reactionaries with very narrow focuses when we feel like a ball of pain. It nearly can’t be helped at those times in our lives, but in doing so, we can unfairly heap even more wrongs onto the pile and make enemies out of potential friends and allies. The tragedy in that isn’t just about alienating potential friends and allies but also what we wind up doing to our own selves, we who need help, we who wish to be heard, we who crave validation and understanding. We wind up isolated, or worse, in an echo chamber with other extremely angry individuals who see no way out.
Life and living are very tricky in this way. There are no easy answers to this dilemma, so I am simply acknowledging this appears to be where we stand today.