Friday, January 2, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Yesterday, a view of male emotion in Men Stay Silent.
Today a specific look at one emotion, anger, evidence of its existence, justification for it, and safe ways to release it.
On the front page of yesterday's New York Times, a story of a woman, Karla Faye Tucker. She's on death row in Texas, scheduled to be executed on February 3.
Before discussing the specifics of the case, how do you feel about this?
In Texas they're having quite a problem. Killing a woman? Wow. In the name of justice! It doesn't fit the Texas lifestyle.
Television evangelists, her prosecuting attorney, the family of a victim all agree. It's a mistake to kill this person.
Everyone says over and over that it doesn't matter that she's a woman, but we know it totally matters. Why is it more of a tragedy for the government to kill a human being just because the person is female?
What does this say about our attitude, in general, about each of the genders?
One deserves forgiveness, and the other deserves vengeance?
Here's another experiment. What is your visual image of Ms. Tucker? Is she tall or short? Ugly or beautiful? Young or old? Black or white? Does any of this make a difference? Really go in there, try the experiment.
If you can find her picture on the net you might be shocked.
A social setting in Marin County, California. Several adults, equal numbers of men and women. A woman uses the word "Bobbit", in a (mock?) threatening tone, to a man, and then laughs. Everyone, men included, except me, laughs. I turn my head so they can't see the look on my face. I am outraged.
I believe it would do no good to stop the conversation and say "I find that very offensive. I thought you were a friend. How can you make fun of sexual mutilation?"
That's the calm version, after several months of reflection and processing. The words that would express what I was really feeling would have been much stronger. The anger would have been clearer, not judged, not transformed into silent frustration.
I don't want anyone to get hurt, and that includes other men. I identify with the man in the Bobbit situation. It's impossible for me to have a balanced opinion about this. It's a horrible idea.
Here's what I want to say to men about this. Stop laughing at things that aren't funny. And the same message, with something extra for women.
First, remember the golden rule. Imagine part of you being severed from your body. Double the value of that because of differences between men and women.
The second thing that's wrong is that you probably aren't ready to hear from men about this. This is one of those barriers I talked about yesterday. I've tried. The response is "lighten up" or "get over it". Uh huh. Learn to listen.
A joke! If a man said something in a forest and no woman heard him, would he still be wrong?
It's so true!
I heard a report on National Public Radio a few weeks back, talking about an educational program in an inner city to teach boys not to abuse women when they grow up.
It was a long report, with interviews and tapes of the classroom sessions. The teachers don't pull any punches, they explain what abuse looks like, in detail, say why it's wrong, and explain what the penalties are for doing it.
The premise of the program is that the boys don't have healthy role models. Their fathers, uncles and brothers all abuse women, so they will become abusive when they have wives, girlfriends and children. The cycle continues.
OK, it seems reasonable at first, they're trying to stop the cycle, but I don't think it can work because the teachers are women. I know how this feels, the strongest personalities when I was growing up were women. They taught me what it means to be a man, from their perspective. Yeah, but they didn't have a very positive view of men! Oh boy. That left me with lots of old tricks to unlearn as an adult.
Boys are boys, but they have a sense of justice, I did when I was a child. The basic premise of childhood is innocence. Start with a clean slate. These boys are hearing that they're bad before they even get a chance to be good.
Instead, let's show them, by example, how to have fun and retain their masculinity. Giving them fear about themselves isn't going to get you what you want, nor is it fair.
I strongly believe that only a man can teach a boy what manhood really means. Women taking control is one of the things that is wrong with the world.
Hopefully by now you've given me the right to have my anger.
Let me tell you about it. I get deeply angry when a government kills people in the name of justice. I think the Karla Faye Tucker case and the contradictions it reveals are the best evidence that if we look into our hearts, we're all against capital punishment.
Yes, I am even more against killing a woman. I don't like what this says about me. I think the poor little boy inside every convicted killer deserves forgiveness. I don't think we can erase the wound, or serve justice, by killing any person, male or female. I don't think little girls are any more innocent than little boys.
It also makes me angry when anyone makes fun of violence done to another person's body.
And it makes me angry, in a more confused way, when people insert themselves in the middle of situations that don't directly involve them.
This is me, what I believe, in some sense, who I am. The anger comes up. Emphatically, it is not a sign of weakness. I want my friends to know me, so I want to share what I see with them, but I don't want to direct the release of the anger at them.
Here are some tips.
Find a pillow and a tennis racket. Close the door. Smack the pillow as hard as you can with the racket. Scream as loudly as you can without hurting yourself or alarming others. Do it repeatedly.
Get a punching bag!
Another one. If you have a pool or a hot tub nearby, you may not know this, but you can scream under water and no one can hear you. You can say anything you want. You can curse out anyone. Mom, Dad, anyone.
For extra credit, after releasing your anger into the pillow or punching bag or water, get a hand mirror, look yourself in the eye, and explain how you feel, to the person in the mirror. Has the anger gone? What replaced it? Describe how your body feels.
Anger has to come out of your body.
It's not hard to find safe ways to let it out without hurting other people.
And if a friend is having an anger release, clean or not, don't judge it. Watch if they're willing to let you. But don't try to talk them out of it. Just listen.
As my mentor Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot just by watching. It's so true.
Have a grrrreat day!