Navigating the “That’s Just How I Am” Dynamic This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again. The holiday blitz. Too much sweet, too much savory, too much wine, too much cheer, and, for some, too much family.

Perhaps it’s age, perhaps it’s the current political climate, perhaps it’s my job, perhaps it’s nothing to do with me whatsoever. But I find as I get older I struggle with the holidays more and more. I dread meals with my family, sitting around the table listening to their religious and political beliefs, their passive aggressive comments about my life, the micro-aggressions being passed along with the potatoes. Knowing all too well that engaging in conversation will only result in conflict, and setting boundaries will only ignite tempers. And so each year I feel a little more trapped.

How many times have you heard, uttered, or thought the words “That’s just how I am”? When you’ve been confronted because of behavior another finds off-putting, have you defended yourself with, “that’s just how I am”? Behavior is a fascinating science and there are dozens of major theories on personality development. Things from genetics, to caregivers, to potty training, to behaviors reinforced or not, and a combination of everything and nothing. According to many philosophers, to understand oneself is the goal of life.

Understanding why we behave certain ways can be very helpful. But is understanding sufficient? Explanations can be comforting, certainly. Knowing you are the way you are for these particular reasons or background can lead to self-acceptance. But, is the way you are behaving how you actually want to be?

There is a lot to be said for self-acceptance. Often the goal of therapy is self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is a worthy goal.

But when someone says, “this is just how I am”, what are they really saying? The preface is, “I can’t help it…”, viewing it as a cop-out. Or perhaps, more plainly, they are saying, “I don’t have the motivation to change this aspect of myself”. It communications a sincere desire to avoid change.

How many times have you wished you hadn’t said something? Or started to say something, and realized it was a bad idea? So much of what we say is triggered by our current interactions tapping into our historical interactions. Otherwise known as conditioning. We have all been conditioned in our life. Our sense of humor is conditioned, how we handle our insecurities is conditioned, how we view men and women is conditioned, our family structure and dynamic is conditioned. We may have no control of our conditioning, but we do have control of our actions. And we have responsibility in how we treat other people, regardless of conditioning, regardless of “that’s just how I am”.

Breaking this conditioning takes a great deal of effort. Understanding yourself is a big part of it, but understanding why you behave the way you do requires more digging. It requires one to be come more conscious, to act more intentionally. And that is easier said than done.

So this holiday season, I encourage you to do some self reflecting. Not just on what you believe and why you believe it. But also on how you react in your interactions and why. Find something about your own behavior and conditioning you would like to change. For example, maybe you want to be more patient. Consider how you would want that to present, and find ways to remind yourself daily of your new goals. Seek out others to help you be accountable for your changes, to encourage you in your growth.

And most importantly, the goal is progress, not perfection. Progress is a slow journey, and requires grace. It is a worthy cause.

-Darci

GUEST WRITER: I Hate Men!

“I HATE MEN!!” <- That’s me, yelling at the television almost every night. Sometimes it’s Toby from “This Is Us” not listening to anything Kate says, as if he didn’t hear a thing she just said and totally speaks over/for her (the current season is much better).  Anytime violence against women is used as entertainment value – one main reason I can’t watch Game of Thrones (sue me). Or how about THE FREAKING NEWS. Women being murdered by ex-boyfriends for no reason. This fucking Boys Club that runs our country and elect’s rapists to the highest seats. HOW IS ANY OF THIS OKAY?!

My husband, sitting on the couch across the room from me either lets me have my angry moment or agrees with a nod.  I always finish the sentence with ‘of course I hate all men except for you’. But sometimes I wonder, do I mean it?

Since I choose to not live in ignorance to the world around me, it becomes more apparent everyday how men use, abuse, and hurt women. I see it in everything. How a white man walks into a room acting as if he owns it. How a man can go running at 11:30pm and make it home without even a thought to his safety. I once read about a woman who started walking in a straight line instead of moving out of the way for men walking the other way. I tried this at my gym. A small space, but I just walked in a straight line to the stretching room and noticed some men seemed totally annoyed that they actually had to move a little out of the way. It was eye opening to see this male privilege in action.

I met my husband 5 years ago and the thing that drew me to him was the way he listened to me. He believed the things I said, never dismissed any emotions. In 27 years, I had never had a man treat me like a person. He is so very aware of his white male privilege and always takes the side of the oppressed. But while he is an amazing man, he is still a MAN.

He is still representative of what feels like ‘his’ people. People born into a male heteronormative lifestyle. White male men who never ask for anything, they just take what they want and see no consequences. It feels like the more women speak out about these micro aggressions, the more it feels like ‘them’ against ‘us’. It feels so divisive.

On one hand, I am grateful to have open eyes and awareness of this, but maybe if I didn’t…
-I could love my husband better.
-I could not get so angry when he doesn’t clean the bathroom.
-I could not be so annoyed when I pick a tv show and ask him if he’s okay with it, but when he picks a show he just presses play.
-I could not look at him and only see the privilege he walks in.
-I could rant and not have to realize that while he tries his best to understand- there is no way he can feel what I feel.

I’m working this out. Every day I am trying to see him for the beautiful human being he is. The person who is my safe place to fall. Who loves every part of me.  I am l trying to navigate how to love him well, while constantly being bombarded with how his gender generally views mine. I basically think it’s my lifelong job to help him understand the difficulties women face and how we are represented (I cannot even imagine it’s 100x harder for women of color).

I don’t really know how to end this article since there isn’t any big revelation or anything I’ve had. Maybe it will resonate with someone else. It feels like until the world fully changes (I don’t have very high hopes it’ll be anytime soon) I will struggle with this. I think I should bring him into this struggle and not deal with it on my own. It feels very raw and vulnerable. While he may not be able to do anything to fix the world around him, he and I can continue to love each other the best we know how.

 

-Allison

What This Administration is Teaching Our Children

The last two years in politics have been an utter shit show. It’s hard to keep up with all the shit going on. The key players change weekly. The plot twists happen so fast if you blink you miss it. And we have all had to face the harsh reality that we are a nation run by racists and sexists.

But this isn’t just about surviving these four years and hoping that we still have elections and a right to vote and that we don’t end up in a nuclear war in the meantime. There are very clear, very dangerous lessons we are passing on to the next generation right now.

The youth of our nation are watching, and we are teaching them horrible truths.

What our boys have learned from this administration:
-There are no consequences.
You can treat a woman however you want. You can violate her body and the law and openly brag about it. You can blame alcohol. You can deny. You can coerce. If you want it you can have it. And nothing bad will happen to you. You won’t go to jail. You won’t lose your job. You can even rise to the highest power of our nation. So what’s stopping you from taking it?

-Women are not credible advocates for their own story.
Look at Dr. Ford. She has advanced degrees, a prestigious career, and has multiple sources supporting her credibility and honesty. She was calm, poised, eloquent, and professional. And yet she was maliciously questioned, attacked, and told all the ways she had misunderstood her circumstances. Meanwhile Brent Kavanaugh can scream and cry and behave like a bafoon and his testimony is considered the credible one.

-If you don’t like the truth, you can just call it fake.
The new mantra any man can use now when someone is telling a story they don’t like: Fake News. And that ends the conversation. A woman accuses you of rape? Fake News. There is undeniable evidence that you payed hush money? Fake News. There is testimony from multiple sources that support claims of sexual assault? Fake News. Man can determine truth and lies based on what is most convenient for them. The reality they want they get.

What our girls have learned from this administration:
-When men yell, they are passionate and full of conviction, when women yell they are unhinged and discredited.
We all know the narrative. If a woman expresses an emotion she must be on her period. And if she is on her period we are not to take her seriously. Because being on your period means you are irrational, and more importantly incorrect. This narrative is pushed in every platform. Find me one sitcom that doesn’t push this narrative and claim it to be humor.
And we women have learned that because of this ridiculous narrative that we must remain calm, quiet, and patient when we are fighting for what we believe.
During the last two years our girls have watched countless men yell and scream because they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted how they wanted when they wanted. While a woman calmly and patiently stood her ground and told the truth. From Hilary Clinton to Sally Yates to Dr. Ford, our girls have watched powerful and intelligent women stand their ground while men yelled and screamed at them.

-What happens to you in your teenage years doesn’t matter, because what teenage boys do doesn’t matter. Boys will be boys.
Just as boys have learned there are no consequences for their actions, girls have learned there is no protection to be found when they are violated. There is no protection, no justice, and their bodies are not their own. And more girls are learning to fear coming forward.

-His future is more important than your body.
We can’t punish him for raping you because think about his future? It doesn’t matter that he was caught in the middle of the act by two sober men who will testify exactly what they witnessed. It doesn’t matter that there are multiple women coming forward with the same story. It doesn’t matter. Because his future is more important, and we must protect his future, not your body.

 

We have to change the message we are sending to our children. This isn’t about republican vs democrat. This isn’t about political parties. It’s about teaching our children to be honest, respectful, and good. Otherwise our children’s fate will be worse than our own. #MeToo won’t matter, #TimesUp won’t matter, women won’t matter.

Our girls deserve better. Our boys deserve better.

The Mid-term elections are almost here. Go vote on November 6th. And maybe we can tell a new story.

 

-Darci

 

GUEST WRITER: What Do I Tell My Female Students?

It’s been a year since #MeToo swept the nation. So this month I decided to open up my platform to allow some other amazing women in my life to share their anger as well. Want to be a guest writer for Angry Feminist as well? Let’s talk! – Darci 

“Ms. K—what does it mean now? Will Kavanaugh definitely be confirmed?” It was the end of Friday’s lunch period, just moments before class was set to begin. The sophomore girl looked at me, eyes wide, asking not just for answers, but for hope. She shared with me that her mother had cried in the car today while they were listening to the confirmation hearing on the radio. I felt like crying myself as I watched her face fall as I explained that, given this morning’s vote to continue the confirmation process, it seemed likely that Judge Kavanaugh would be confirmed. When I finished my answer, she stared at me as if the response had been in a foreign language. Her voice held a similar tone of shock and confusion: “But… really? After all of this? Why didn’t anyone care about Dr. Ford?”

Usually, teaching at an all-girls, college-preparatory school is inspiring. Usually I am in awe every time one of my students tells me about a game she coded, or about the social justice conference she went to, or about the non-profit she started. There is so much I should be hopeful for—so much promise this current generation of youth holds. Most days I swell with pride and the knowledge that these women are so talented and ready to take on the world and make a difference.

But somedays the world wins. Somedays I have to watch the confusion and pain in their eyes when they realize that the world might be more broken than they thought, that they might not be listened to or believed. The confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh caused days like that, as did the election of Donald Trump.

I remember the day after the election. The excitement had been palpable in the school the day before—the girls had been ready to celebrate America’s first female president. They were ready to hear that society had rejected the person who bragged about grabbing women—“they let you do it… you can do anything”—and instead took a brave and long overdue step toward equality. The shock and disappointment filled all the classes the next day. I remember the same confused faces, the hurt and the anger as well.

Sometimes, I see these brave, passionate, intelligent women shocked to the core that the world we’ve built for them is still so unequal—still so full of sexism, rape culture, and oppression. On those days, I feel so sad and so angry.

This isn’t the kind of world I want to send these young women into. I’m not proud of this world. So, I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to tell them, “We’ve come so far, but it’s not far enough, and some people want us to go back, to surrender our rights. We can’t do that.” I’m going to tell them, “We’re not going to forget, and we’re not going to stop.” I’m going to tell them, “This isn’t the world it could be, but we’re going to keep fighting—together—so that it can be.”

 

-Lauren