All witches are selfish, the Queen had said. But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine!
For the most part, I try hard not to get angry, not because I think there's anything wrong with anger, but because my own anger is not something that I'm able to harness and put to use. When I get angry, I cry and cave in; I spin out; I end up frustrated and unmotivated. Anger, to me, is not a fuel. Resisting the urge to get angry is part of my self-motivation.
To some people, though, anger is a fuel, and resisting anger means silencing their own motivations. For some people, anger is a thing that makes them go out and resist oppression, go out and make sure they're heard. Those people experience anger very differently than I do; for me, anger just makes me want to break something. It doesn't make me want to build or even protect.
I've seen a lot of anger in the last couple of weeks. Anger led a lot of people to march last Saturday, and anger led to a lot of careful thought about the outcomes of those protests. Anger led to masses of people crowding airports this weekend, and hundreds of lawyers to hunker down in those same airports drafting and filing suits. On the other hand, I've also seen the anger lead to a lot of defensiveness, quick on the heels of those thoughtful words and actions.
I'm writing this as a pretty privileged white lady, so let me make it clear that I'm directing it to my relative peers: If you marched for your rights, voted for Hillary, or took part in another form of organizing, but then turned around and got angrily defensive when someone criticized you for the way you dealt with women of color, women of different socioeconomic classes than your own, or queer or trans women, I suggest you take some time to introspect on why those criticisms made you so defensive and angry. I'm not immune to those feelings, I admit; it's hard to be told that the work you're doing with all your might isn't enough (or is even hurting someone else). It's hard to have done everything you could think to do and be told there's still more. I understand the response. You are exhausted because you have been working, and it sucks to be told there's still more work before you can rest.
But the thing you should take from criticism of your work is not a refusal to acknowledge the gaps. The fact is this: You can never do enough. It's a knowledge that can be discouraging, but it can also be absolutely freeing. It doesn't mean what you're doing is useless, only that there will always be more to do. Do what you can, and do your best. Take a minute to feel the energy of having done something, take a minute to catch your breath. Then, before the fire inside you dies out, look around and see what's left to do. Use both the criticism and praise to find the next task. Don't give the praise so much weight that you forget the immense value of the criticism. If this weekend showed you anything, it should have been that the risks to people in the current climate are not equal, and that while there are threats to us as women, we as white women will probably come out ahead of a lot of other people. It is a burden to ask those who are more at risk to teach us knowing that we may respond with anger, but we put that burden on marginalized communities every day. So when they are taking the time and energy to tell you how you can help, offering guidance on how to use that fuel you hold? That's a gift. Do not refuse it.
A newsletter on life, current events, media & culture, and living in wonder amidst it all.