Pity Is as Pity Does

Recently I posted as my Facebook status a bit of a rant about women and anger; that is, I said that women are not afforded the “luxury” of this emotion. Both men and other women are uncomfortable with it–the angry woman is unbalanced, maybe crazy, dangerous, or just laughable. Whatever the case, her anger will not be taken seriously or considered worthy of further thought. At times, I have been told outright to keep it to myself. I’m sure I will write more about women being denied this emotion, but for now I’d like to consider one of the comments my Facebook post received from a female “friend.”

She claimed she has no discomfort with women’s anger unless it is “self-righteous” and “self-pitying.” For now we will ignore how obnoxiously self-righteous her comment is, and focus instead on the idea of self-pity. What is it but caring about oneself? Something bad happened to me; I feel bad for me. Is that wrong? And if no one else expresses sympathy or understanding about the bad thing that happened, going so far as to prefer I didn’t talk about it?

Who then is left to feel bad for me but me?pityface

I lost my job, one I’d devoted myself to pretty seriously for seven years. And the way that happened is a long, complicated, boring story. Suffice it to say it was unfair, and that everyone involved knows it was wrong and unfair. While I am quite happy not working there anymore, I am still angry as hell over what happened, and also about who continues to enjoy undeserved, unearned employment there. I am stuck in a stage of the grieving process. However, I’m not allowed to discuss it. The people I know who work there don’t want to hear it, worry I suppose that I might show up and open fire (remember, an angry woman is crazy). My in-laws don’t want to hear a word against the place because of their own association with it, and because bad news and bad feelings make them uncomfortable. My own family is sympathetic but at too much geographic distance to fully understand what happened. And so no one has talked to me in a way that expresses sympathy. One former co-worker has admitted in private conversation that I was mistreated.

One. In private.

So I am full of self-pity, because no one feels bad for me. We “take pity” on people who need our mercy or charity, but women are rarely taught to treat themselves with the same kindness they are expected to show everyone else.

But let’s consider this woman’s concern with women’s anger that is self-righteous or self-pitying. First, why is her first thought that this is what another woman’s anger would be? Second, I’d say she’s looking through a sexist male lens, casting a male gaze where she should be using her own. Maybe this is because she works in a traditionally male field, and it was her husband who was home with the kids most of the time that I knew her. It is the comment of someone who doesn’t want to sound too much like a woman, if you ask me, someone for whom that might be an insult. How sad.

I feel pity for her.

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