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Friday, July 12, 2013

My Least Favorite Piece of Misogyny This Week: Emotional Towel-Cape Edition

Posted by Barbara Holm on Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 3:29 PM

As a stand-up comedian, I incessantly spew out my most vulnerable, passionate opinions about gender, anxieties, politics, and the philosophy behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Recently I was ranting about sexual objectification, just to get a workout going, and one of my friends said, "Just calm down, you're overreacting." They were trying to make me feel better, attempting to placate me (and weirdly, not with bunnies). But I wanted to feel my emotions, at their full radioactive strength level. It's painful to be told the intensity of your emotions is invalid. Every time I talk about objectification and misogyny, it seems like someone kindly tells me to calm down. My least favorite piece of misogyny this week is the dismissal of emotions.

I hate being told to calm down about misogyny. I do not think I need to calm down about misogyny! That's just one difference between misogyny and kittens pretending to read books. I react strongly to being shamed for my sensitivity and feelings, because when I hear "your emotions are inappropriate" it sounds like "your existence is inappropriate. Feel shame for that."

In an article a few years ago, Yashar Ali wrote, "Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they're crazy... And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It's patently false and unfair."

One time I was in Seattle at a comedy show, and a woman in the audience left in tears after a comedian did a joke about "bigger girls." Some of the other comedians attempted to dismiss her as crazy, which would absolve some guilt. "She was overreacting, wasn't she? She was wrong to cry, right?" No! She felt a strong emotion, and if that vigor was uncomfortable for them, too bad! Emotions don't have to be comfortable because emotions are not bathrobes. They're bath towels tied around our necks like capes!

Whenever someone says to "calm down" about misogyny, I'm like, oh your wizard powers are working in reverse! Try rewiring that unicorn hair. I can handle my feelings; you cannot handle my feelings. Also, I bet there are other people out there with similar feelings about sexism. That doesn't make us weak—that makes us passionate. If we allow ourselves to be silenced, we won't be happier, we'll just feel guilt for our emotions. And guilt doesn't help anyone, except Julio, the monster who eats guilt.

We are human beings and we have feelings and while they might not all be strictly logical and rational, nothing is. We are entitled to feel whatever we want and we deserve to feel our emotions as strongly as we want, because that's what it means to be alive, to be a person. Sometimes it's amazing and sometimes it hurts, but that's because we're full awake alive people. I'm not saying people who contribute to gaslighting are bad people. I'm just saying, if you're a victim of this, please know that you're not alone and that you are right to be upset or delighted, or a rainbow, or a bear, or a minotaur, or even—gasp—a woman. And if you do feel attacked for some reason by the strength of my passion, well, calm down, sweetheart, I'm just overreacting. That has been my least favorite piece of misogyny this week, tune in next week to see where this tortoiseshell brick road leads!

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