My non-blog about girls, anger and not saying sorry …

I wasn’t going to blog this week. I was going to concentrate on edits, edits, and only edits. That was my plan and I was sticking to it.

But then I got a bit angry. Again.

This anger wasn’t a quick-burning forest fire like the last time I went ranty.

This anger was more like a slow, simmering, sparking fire in my belly. One that’s been there for a very long time, but one I’ve never really been able to give a name to. I still don’t know what to call it.

It’s not “feminism”. I’ve always been a bit scared of that word. For me it has connotations of man-hating and ideas like “we should have a female prime minister just because she’s female, even if she’s crap”. I don’t hate men. I think people should be judged on their merits. Women are not better than men. We’re equal. And I know. I know that feminists fought long and hard for that equality and I am grateful. I’m just not a “feminist” myself. I think there are crap men and crap women. All men are not bastards. All women are not saints.

Women are our own best friends and our own worst enemies and I have been lucky in that, in my life, my gender has never prevented me from doing anything, because I never believed it was a barrier. I know that’s not the case for all cultures and all religions in this world, or even in certain circles in Australia. I think women’s rights should be fought for and mistreatment of women by men is evil and should be punished heavily. But that’s not what this blog is about.

The fire in my belly isn’t feminism. It doesn’t have anything to do with glass ceilings or whether women are demeaning themselves if they wear lipstick.

It has everything to do with double standards.

Two recent external events or factors influenced this article. One was this, the Penny Wong catcall furore. The other was this, Beauty Queens, the marvellously funny, insightful and incisive new book by the supremely talented and awesome Libba Bray. The first factor – the Penny Wong catcall made me angry because, as women, we should be allowed to be angry without being likened to any sort of animal, or being asked if it’s “that time of the month” or being called “hysterical”. More on that in a moment.

One scene in Libba Bray’s book really hit home with me (and no, it wasn’t one of the ones about the crackpot dictator talking in Elvis-isms to his chief advisor, the taxidermied lemur – and yes, you must read this book). It was the scene where the young beauty queens who were stranded on the desert island made a pact not to apologise.

As women, we apologise too much. In everyday life, if someone bumps into us, we apologise. If we take the last on-special apple (even if we got there first), we apologise. If we are sitting in the last free seat in a cafe, we apologise. We even apologise if wait staff forget to bring us our coffee! We apologise for reminding them! On a broader scale, if we win a job over someone else, we apologise. We apologise if we win an award, because we deeply believe we don’t deserve it; that other people deserve it more. I’ve apologised in writing groups for having produced more than other members, or for being published. “I was just lucky”, I’ll say. “I was in the right place at the right time”. All said with an apologetic look on my face.

We apologise, it seems, just for existing; for taking up space in the world.

And, if we go into the world with confidence, not apologising for our existence, we are labelled “up-ourselves”, “arrogant”, “b***hes” or, if we dare to dress in clothes other than head-to-to Demis Roussos kaftans, we’re “slags” or “get-arounds” or even the word that I hate most of any word in the English language. You know the one: it starts with “s” and rhymes with “mutts”. And don’t even get people started if, gods forbid, we take an active, healthy interest in the opposite sex. And it’s not just men who say these things. Women are their own worst critics.

Why do women feel like we have to be meek and invisible? Why do we feel like we have to say sorry for just being alive?

And why, why, why are we not allowed to get flubbing mad?

Women get called “hysterical”, “mental”, “crazy” just for expressing an opinion; told to “calm down” when we’re frustrated. Called a “b***h” for getting angry. Conversely, for men, getting angry is essential to achieving any sort of power in this world. And they don’t say sorry for it.

I’m not a “feminist”. I don’t believe it’s the fault of men that women behave like this. I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is, from now on, I’m going to try to stop saying sorry so often. And I’m definitely not going to apologise for getting angry.

Because anger changes things. Anger makes difference, if it’s challenged properly. Saying “sorry” doesn’t.

And now, back to edits. Because I am lucky to have this writing life I have. But I also work hard for it.

7 thoughts on “My non-blog about girls, anger and not saying sorry …

  1. I’ve never actually understood women saying they are not feminists, because it does mean only a basic belief that “men and women are of equal value”. I can remember being female in the 50’s and 60’s, and the automatic assumptions especially by older men that women were inferior, childish, weakminded and also “available”. Even if the woman in question was clearly much more intelligent than the bloke! Look at any old movie from the 50’s with the women speaking in silly little girl voices in order to be acceptable to men…*shudder*!! It quite upsets me when young women who have reaped all the benefits of 70’s feminism declare “I’m not a feminist!”, because it means the next generation of young women will probably have to fight the same old battle all over again. Apart from that quibble, great blog as usual!! 🙂


    1. As usual, I have 2 cents on the matter.

      My issue with using the term feminism is that it still refers to a single gender, which in my mind still creates a sense of “us and them”. I’d prefer some kind of post-feminist common sense “equality for everyone” terminology, rather than still singling out the female gender in the term.

      We have(to a large extent, but certainly not entirely) moved away from finding discrimination against any minority acceptable, but we don’t go around calling ourselves “gay-ist” or “black-ist”, we simply accept that there is a general right to equality. I often feel that feminism sometimes seems to want to be treated differently.

      If I don’t believe women should have more OR less rights than anyone else, why use gender specific terminology?

      In summary, I don’t particularly like the word, and the fact that it focuses on a particular subset of society. I find it more inclusive to remove the specifics from the *positive* movements towards equality and bring it under the overall umbrella of “everyone’s equal”.

      Make it “sexism vs. equality”, “racism vs. equality”, “homophobia vs. equality”, not “sexism vs. feminism”, “racism vs. racial tolerance”, “homophobia vs. sexual tolerance”(or age, caste, class, religion etc etc.)… they’re all the same battle, just different subsets of people. Singling them out seems counterproductive when what we really should be aiming for is to be “inclusive of everyone”. Singling out subsets of people is something intolerant people do 😉


  2. Great article. I learnt the hard way about not apologising .Did it once in a workplace and the person took it as an opportunity to go after me. Now I try to limit the apologising and move straight onto problem solving. The other thing that we have a problem is saying No. One of the most empowering experiences for me a few years ago was to learn to say No and not flinch from people’s disappointment. We are conditioned to be pleasant and not rock the boat. Learning to be a bit rough around the edges and not be afraid of conflict is hard, but so liberating.


  3. Well said, Sean. The word feminist belongs to any woman (or man) who believes in equality of the genders.

    “fem·i·nism/ˈfeməˌnizəm/ Noun: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

    Apart from that one quibble (well, it’s more that it worries me that you feel somehow the word is not yours…), a great post, Kate.


  4. Totally agree! Why do we do it? Have we been brainwashed by our mothers? By the world? Why on earth do we preface everything with “I’m sorry, but…” like we have no right to complain or object?
    On the other hand, I don’t believe in getting angry in order to get what you want either. Men who do that need to take a good look at themselves (and they probably have wives who secretly despise them and/or their behaviour).
    “I’m sorry” does need to be expunged. No, we don’t need to brag or gloat either (male behaviours again, unfortunately).
    How about we devise a new language of introductory phrases to distasteful or awkward subjects, for a start?
    As in, “Excuse me but this coffee is cold. I’d like another, please.”
    “Thanks, I appreciate that last seat.”
    “Thanks for your congratulations (or whatever), I did work really hard on that.”
    And maybe rather than getting angry and thus abusive, we can simply say to the person, “Is there some reason I should accept this?” or “Why are you behaving like this?” I find putting it back onto the other person, especially when they are behaving badly, is an excellent tactic. I just need to think of it on the spot more often!


  5. Tom boys are allowed to get angry – probably as a display of their masculine traits in the same way that potentially gay boys simply have to be crap at sport and scared of spiders.

    Red heads are also allowed to get angry, and if they don’t they’ll get goaded into a performance.


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