How 13 women are channeling their anger about the state of America right now into action | Perspective
"There's a rising tide of women's being fed up."
For some time, anger has been the defining mood of the nation – expressed in Trump rallies, in street marches and protests, in online trashing and bullying, and more tragically, in mass shootings.
For the past few years especially, more and more women have been expressing their anger – over physical and sexual assault, erosion of rights, pay inequities and more. Then, in late September, Christine Blasey Ford testified that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her 35 years ago. Kavanaugh responded with blistering — and blustering—screed that did nothing to stop his ultimate confirmation, but did serve to polarize people even more.
Here are some of the voices of women in Philadelphia and beyond, talking about what they're mad about, and what they're doing about it.
Author, publicist, and advocate; creator of www.phillytweens.com,
On October 6, as Vice-President Mike Pence presided over the vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, he repeatedly called for order amongst what can only be described as a cacophony of primal screams. It brought me to tears.
They were the screams of women who have spent centuries not being believed. I was 12 when I believed Anita Hill. But it took decades for me to finally believe myself.
I didn't believe myself when I was sexually assaulted.
I didn't believe myself when I was sexually assaulted again.
I questioned myself when my doctor didn't believe me that I was sick. Then there were the doctors who didn't believe me when I was really sick, dismissing me as hysterical when I was, in fact, in septic shock.
But now, at almost 40, I believe every single word I say. My rage is very real and rooted in the fact that I know what is true and what is right.
I've turned my anger into conversation. I will talk about voting and the election with any human who breathes near me. I interrogate my Uber drivers and delivery people, befriend women in parking lots, commiserate with cashiers. It is impossible for me to shut up – and I'm fine with that, because, sometimes, it has actually made a tangible difference. Sometimes they believe me. They believe their votes will make a difference.
Head of school at The Baldwin School, an all-girls independent school in Bryn Mawr
Over the past year, we've seen women speak out more and more. Yet, as an educator of girls, I'm still concerned. Because, by and large, women are still not being heard and young girls aren't being taught how to use their voices.
Research shows that, at work, men speak more than women, interrupt more often, and are more likely to self-advocate – and that there's gender bias at play in school that reinforces many of these behaviors early on.
What's on my mind is how address this reality to better prepare girls – not just to protect themselves from discrimination or sexual harassment but to self-advocate, too. It's not enough to help young women be confident, resilient, and brave. We also need show them how to boldly speak up and, in the process, help transform entrenched systems of gender bias.
Above all else, it's about reminding every young girl that her voice matters. In this moment. I think about why it's so important for schools, families, and communities to tell our girls that we value them speaking their minds and then teach them how use their voice, loudly and effectively.
Heather Mac Donald
I disagree with the selection criterion of this feature, and reject even more strongly the hysterical feminist tribalism that has gained epic proportions in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. (See, e.g., "Our rage burns so brightly. I look out, and I see a nation of women incandescent with rage. We will burn patriarchal institutions to the ground.")
Females are not an oppressed class in the U.S. today. Every mainstream institution is twisting itself into knots trying to hire and promote as many women as possible. From the moment a girl gains consciousness, she is surrounded with "You go, girl!" messages of empowerment. Foundations, governments, and private companies spend millions encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers; boys are left to fend for themselves.
Destroying due process and the presumption of innocence, as the #BelieveSurvivors credo demands, is no solution to harassment, however. #BelieveSurvivors' peremptory assignment of guilt and innocence on the basis of gender displays a stunning ignorance about how despotically governments have acted throughout human history when unconstrained by the rule of law.
Author, Rage Becomes Her
There's a rising tide of women's being fed up with double standards. We're being told today that #MeToo is a dangerous movement, because it empowers women to destroy the lives of "innocent men," and that we have to defend the presumption of innocence. That presumption of innocence is extended to men in a way that it's not extended to women who come forward with their stories of harassment and assault.
Women on the left and right are angry, but women's anger on the right tends towards looking at the past, into a history that excluded most people from political and social benefits. It is the anger embedded in the refrain that America should be great "again," an anger of resentment, looking back at what is perceived to be lost. The anger of women's on the left is of a different sort, it is a call for accountability and the extension of full citizenship and rights to women. It is fueled by an incredibly hopeful anger, based as it is on the idea that if we speak and say clearly and loudly what's important to us, we will be believed and that what we say will be considered important by our society. That is a risky proposition for women, because we live in a culture in which our credibility, rationality and authority – even authority as experts of our own lives – are constantly challenged.
University academic advisor
I am angry, but it's more of a mix of anger and disappointment. Since November 2016, I feel like America has been in this weird dream without a moral compass. We're in "The Upside Down" (a reference to the show Stranger Things). Where is the morality? Where is the humanity? We can see that with the whole confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. That shows me that America doesn't believe or protect women. As a black woman, my voice is drowned out. It's like we are screaming but our voices are mute. Even if we speak, we are silenced and ridiculed.
I feel that women can band together. White women can use their white privilege to help all women. Consider their womanhood, before their whiteness. Stop letting predatory behavior slide. Stop making excuses for people that violate women and children. Stop with the "boys will be boys" and "that's the way it's always been" rhetoric.
I'm angry but my anger hasn't been influenced in the same way mobs of women are being influenced and systematically used by politicians to over react emotionally.
My anger is more rational.
I'm of an age where being groped and harassed was considered boys being boys. I hate that term. I don't know one woman my age that doesn't have a #MeToo story. I'm relieved it's being talked about, finally.
What infuriates me is when inequality, groping and harassment are confused with sexual assault. I was raped. Rape is life-altering trauma. Groping and harassment, while wrong, is not rape.
We also need to punish to the full extent of the law those who come forward with false reports and character assassinations. Every time it happens it sets back the credibility of real victims. That infuriates me.
I have three daughters and six granddaughters. I'm not worried about them. They have the right and the opportunity to be whatever they want to be. I'm rationally terrified for my seven grandsons. If they grow up to be successful men, anyone from their past can lie and accuse them of a crime with no proof and ruin their lives.
Kimya Johnson, Esq.
Senior counsel, Ogletree Deakins
I feel more frustration than raw anger. When we really look at the gains we thought women had made, whether in the workplace or politically in terms of having our representation and issues of equality come to the forefront, it is really frustrating to be confronted with issues that show that is not really the case and it is causing me to really re-think. I thought we had come so far as a country in so many ways and frustrating that it appears not to be the case.
As an employment lawyer I have handled sexual harassment and pay-equity cases so for me my focus is on "How can we address the workplace and provide equal access for women — as well as others – to really be able to not only have a voice but to have a voice related to pay, resources and opportunities for ascension and success in a company.
Director of Business Diversity for a large transit agency
Am I angry? With the white hot fury of a thousand suns.
The ongoing assault on women's autonomy over their own bodies. The ongoing assault on transgender people's autonomy over their own bodies. The normalization of sexual assault by men in the highest public offices and that credible allegations against a now Supreme Court Justice didn't even warrant an adequate, impartial investigation. That the President encourages violence against protestors and members of the press – and that he has no voice when one is murdered by a country he allies with. That we put children in concentration camps separated from their parents and place pre-verbal children before judges to testify. That people of color have been murdered by those sworn to protect them. That so many formerly incarcerated people lose the right to vote forever. That so many women of color with transgender histories are murdered in hate crimes.
I'm working to provide economic opportunities for women and people of color. Standing against transgender othering and disempowerment. And most importantly now; supporting progressive women candidates for office.
Marsha Cohen, Esq.
Executive director, Homeless Advocacy Project
I'm infuriated that the President of the United States speaks like a mean middle-schooler. I'm heartbroken over our relations with the rest of the world and at a loss to explain who we've become to my non U.S. friends.
I'm enraged that a group of white men could determine who my boys may love and marry and that my future granddaughters might not have access to safe, healthy abortion if they ever face that heartbreaking choice.
I'm insistent that my teenage boys "listen" to those who disagree with them and that they find a way to use their words, respectfully, to challenge those with different opinions.
I'm fierce that my boys and all men learn that "no means no" and that victims of assault be heard and acknowledged.
I'm hopeful for a different tomorrow. I'm going to fight like hell to get us there.
Executive Director, W.O.A.R.
I'm disheartened that the same senators who believed Brett Kavanaugh over Christine Blasey Ford actually sat in the same room, 27 years ago, and believed Clarence Thomas over Anita Hill. And I am truly angry at the voters who keep electing these people into office and at the systems that allow it to happen. It tells me that the work that gender-based and gender-violence organizations like ours is doing is having an impact only in certain pockets of America. We are not yet impacting that bigger place, where power and authority still perpetuate rape culture by asking, "Why didn't she come forward?"
Brett Kavanaugh's behavior during the hearing was so outrageous that it was clear he was told beforehand that the job was his, no matter what. Why else would someone act the way he did – on a job interview? If anyone else had acted that way, he'd have been escorted out by security.
Instead, he was given a job for life. But what do we expect in a country that elected a president who has been accused by 22 women of sexual misconduct? So I'm angry and disheartened. But, sadly, I am not surprised.
As a professional housecleaner watching Dr. Ford's testimony, I was left deeply angered, realizing that if the assault of a financially privileged, white doctor isn't believed, what message is sent to domestic workers like myself, who have few legal protections under federal law while working cleaning homes? Philadelphia domestic workers — housecleaners, nannies, and private caregivers — are highly marginalized. Most of us are women and femmes, people of color, immigrants, and low wage workers invisibilized as we care for homes and loved ones. Domestic workers are stuck in a gig economy that provides few financial and legal support systems. I have heard too many accounts of fellow workers experiencing sexual harassment, assault, and even rape while working in homes.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting sexual harassment does not include protections for people who work in workplaces of fewer than 15 — virtually all domestic workers. This maintains power dynamics introduced during slavery, when white men owned their domestic workers and could do as they please.
There is real action that can be taken to include domestic workers in the Civil Rights Act sexual harassment protections. I have teamed up with the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance to close this unsafe and discriminatory loophole.
Deja Lynn Alvarez
Trans activist and advocate
I am beyond angry. I feel like safety measures that we thought we had in place in the government, which has already not been very good to women and to people of color, have been completely lost. People can do whatever they want to us.
I was a guest speaker at a women's health event and we were about to talk about reproductive health and an older lady in the audience said, "I don't want to hear about trans stuff and addiction and sex-worker-rights that. I'm here because my son has disabilities and I need help! You're steering away from the causes I care about!"
People think because other people's concerns are different from ours and they need help that it will mean something is going to be taken away from us. We have to understand that all our concerns matter, and we have to fight for all of them together, because we all have human rights.
President and CEO, the Philadelphia Education Fund
My news filter is overrun by stories featuring angry women. Red faces, mouths agape, rage prickling through their veins. I feel guilty looking at these images. They scream, "Rise up woman, get angry." But, I'm not angry.
To some that may seem like heresy. After all, I'm a woman, a child of immigrant parents, Latina, and of color. I've been told I should grab a nasty t-shirt, knit hat and take to the streets at the next gender-allegiance protest march.
But, I've never been one to be moved by anger. Even growing up, when I shared a room with my sister, I was the one who would annoyingly stick a toe across the imaginary line she would draw down the middle. I saw no reason to give energy to what divided us, when there was so much more to unite us.
Our anger has turned us into a nation of line drawers – divorcing our families and unfriending childhood pals. Yet, there are no winners to come from these new battle lines we've drawn. In the current climate, allowing others to translate our righteous indignation into an anger-fueled political contribution does little to solve our nation's most pressing problems. Those solutions will come only from dialogue, debate and compromise – a trifecta out of reach when we can't even be in the same room together.
As Democrat Senator Chris Coons demonstrated at the Pompeo hearings – to the tearful gratitude of Republican Senator Bob Corker – it is possible to stick a toe across that imaginary line that divides us. It is possible to work together, even in disagreement. It is possible to erase lines and build bridges. No. Not anger for me. I embrace hope.