Angry Tears

Dear President Trump,

I’m going to pivot away from current events this morning because the landscape will likely have shifted so much by this evening that whatever I focus on now will be irrelevant. You must be driving everyone in congress completely crazy, messing with them like a cat does a mouse, pretending they should go one way and then pouncing to force them in the opposite direction.

Instead, I want to share some observations about angry tears. I was reminded of this phenomenon when someone dear to me was talking about the issue of consent in sexual encounters that the Aziz Ansari situation has raised. As she spoke it was clear she was angry about rape culture, about how dismissive guys are about issues of consent, and about how younger generations are still having to deal with all this crap. As she made each successive point it became increasingly clear she was on the verge of tears. Her strong emotion highlighted how very important these issues are to her and her sense that they need to be dealt with in ways that don’t settle for the same old lame excuses and allowances. Later, when I looked online to see if I could find any relevant research on angry tears, I found nothing empirical but did come across some commentary pointing out that it happens much more frequently to women and suggesting it occurs particularly when people are addressing injustices. All this seems right. I’ve never seen this happen to a boy over the age of eight and never to a man. And certainly the other night the conversation was about issues pertaining to fairness and justice.

I also found some discussions regarding how people tend to not be taken seriously when they are expressing anger tearfully and about how it can be so embarrassing to have this reaction that people hesitate to speak up when they are angry. This too seems right and is very worrisome to me. I don’t know what the solution is but I think it likely involves girls and women practicing expressing anger and it also involves everyone practicing hearing them whether they are tearful or not, hearing what they are saying and reading the intensity and passion behind it as further punctuating their position rather than undermining it.

May we be safe to express anger tearfully or not.
May we be happy to respect tearful expressions of anger.
May we recognize feminine forms of healthy strength.
May we consider that more tearful anger could help build bridges.

Tracy Simpson

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