When I was 12, one of my parents’ hired laborers cornered me inside our bodega. He grabbed me from behind and pressed his erection into my back. He groped my breasts and asked, “O ano?” I ran away from him, silent. Am I angry at this man?
When I was 16, I attended a youth group sleepover in a local church, and I woke up in the middle of the night to a hand caressing my back and waist. I kept my eyes closed. Am I angry at this man?
When I was 8–or was it 9 or 10–while I was sitting in an owner-type jeep and playing with paper dolls, this boy our family knew walked over, asked me how I was, and showed me his penis in his hand. I remember the color brown, and reddish gray, and black, how mud would look if it were burnt and cracked. Am I angry at this man?
When I was 19, my boyfriend invited me to a motel. He said he wanted privacy for us to talk. I said I didn’t want to go. He gave me a blue pillow, I gave him a dolphin paperweight, and he proceeded to fade from my life. Am I angry at this man?
When I was in my last year at university, my friend was driving, and I had asked what he wanted to do, and he had answered, “You.” I sighed at the cliché, fixed my eyes on the road, and asked to be taken home. Am I angry at this man?
I am not angry at these men.
How strange a truth, this absence, this inability to partake of female rage, in an era where, as reported in a #MeToo toolkit, one in three women has experienced nonconsensual sexual contact, and that too many others have been victims of attempted or consummated rape in their lifetimes.
And yet, at the same time, I do remain angry–without a doubt, I am angry–but it is an anger that always simmers just below the surface, with just a sheen of ick, and it is an anger which does not wish to give a face or name to any one man.
I am angry that it took too long to recognize and define my sexual power as a woman. I am angry that I never felt like I needed, nor did I ever receive, any apology for another person’s intrusion in my exercise of ownership over my body and my choices. I am even angry that I am expected to be angry, that I am asked to be—or to feel—anything other than what I choose.
I am not blind to benevolent sexism and sexually coercive behavior. I can identify enticements, manipulations, and persuasions lifted right out of a HIMYM playbook. I too fall prey, willfully or not, to gender stereotypes, token resistance, and weaponized polysemy. However flawed I am, the journey to articulate the fullness of my person—as a woman, and especially as a woman in solidarity with all women—should not be made so serpentine or complicated.
So, yes, I am angry.
It is an anger not equivalent to trauma, hysteria, or complicity. It is an anger removed from vindictiveness, an anger by the day outgrowing its violence and confusion. It is an anger that lets all women speak, that allows no woman to ever be made to feel alone. It is an anger that seeks not itself. It is a new anger—calm, distant, and bright as the sun.