Welcome to our “Women of a Certain Rage,” clinic, a little anger management session during which we identify what makes us want to scream and then search for creative ways to stay calm, sane and effective as preposterous, dangerous and deeply dispiriting events that directly affect our lives unfold in the news.
Let me tell you, a lavender-scented bath as part of our new and admittedly very pleasant self-care routine is not quite going to accomplish this.
There was enough last week in the public realm to make many of the women I know shout I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.
Alabama’s governor signed into law a bill that effectively bans abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. The state joins a slew of others introducing what have been called “the most restrictive abortion laws in decades.”
As many have pointed out, Alabama doctors performing this service would face up to 99 years in prison, which is more potential time than rapists who are found guilty face. If that’s not enough to make you angry I don’t know what is.
Many women of a certain rage would relate to a protest sign held aloft during the first gigantic Women’s March in January 2017 — one of the largest single day protests in history — in Washington, Toronto and around the world a day after Donald Trump was sworn in as U.S. president. The sign said: “I can’t believe I still have to protest this s–t.”
No wonder so many women in my demographic are furious. We continue to be, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
As efforts intensify in the anti-abortion campaigns across North America, reproductive rights activists have suggested everything from sex strikes to an underground railroad to get vulnerable women swiftly to safe legal medical services across borders.
They’ve also suggested women publicly declare their abortion history on social media, a move I disagree with. The whole point about making this difficult but sometimes necessary choice to terminate a pregnancy is its privacy — and women should never have to violate their own right to privacy to gain support for reproductive rights.
Canadian author Susan Swan summed in one tweet how many women who are pro-choice feel: “No woman I know finds it easy to choose abortion but she must be free to choose.”
The renewed campaign against women’s reproductive rights wasn’t even what made me angriest last week. It was an article in the New York Times that stated, in the wake of all this renewed anti-abortion fervour, that some Democrats were weighing whether it was “too risky” to nominate a female candidate in 2020 to run for president.
Too risky. A woman. I can’t even formulate the words fast enough to say how offensive and self-defeating that is. With a Republican male president currently in the White House who is a narcissist, a pathological liar, an incendiary negotiator, and a man who seems to have no discernible moral centre, nominating a woman is too risky?
That, my friends, is misogyny in action even if it’s self-induced.
And while the article went on to acknowledge there was a double standard when it comes to women running for president — and obviously especially one running against Donald Trump, this is no time for women to be hustled off the political stage to make way for another male candidate because he might possibly beat Trump. Men have defeated each other politically for years. One man — Donald Trump — defeated one woman — Hillary Clinton — and well, maybe it’s better to not to risk that gender thing again.
Leaving aside the reproductive justice issue and the ever-enraging American politics, I’ve met women recently who are also furious and alarmed about the slow response everywhere to the effects of climate change.
What has helped them not self-immolate in a blaze of fury is actually calmly doing something about it — even if it seems very small.
In one week, I’ve socialized with a friend who carries her own straw and plastic cutlery in a small case across the country so it’s no longer a single-use situation, another who likes to eat sushi and finally contacted the supermarket bento box suppliers to ask why the sushi always comes on black plastic, and a third who figured out where to order bio-degradable dental floss. None of these women in public or private would dream of drinking their water in a single-use plastic bottle.
Clearly there are ways to both give yourself a reprieve from this anger, and to make your anger more productive.
We need to still enjoy life without feeling powerless and enraged all the time. That’s what family, friends, and okay, scented baths are for. Not to mention exercise, sunshine, and finding not one but several key purposes in life.
We need all this more than ever as some of the most consequential political battles of our lifetime loom.
In fact the real truth on offer in this session of our Women of a Certain Rage clinic is that anger is the only sane response to what is going on out there. It’s how we turn it into something productive that will help define the future.
Judith Timson is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @judithtimson