What I Learned About Anger, Cat-calls, & Forgiveness In 2011
Editor’s Note: Last night, I lashed out at my husband with misplaced anger. We had been walking up and down the streets in San Francisco, and I spent the majority of my night avoiding eye contact and biting my tongue to keep from hatefully responding to the obscene looks and gestures that men were throwing my way. When we got home, I had about 14 city blocks of frustration pent up in my little heart, and nowhere for it to go. And then I sit down to read Grace’s submission today, here below. Please, as a woman created by the author of beauty and redemption, join me in seeking His way of responding to brokenness. Grace blogs at With Grace in The City. – Lauren
My first memories of being cat-called are from high school. I was on the cross country and track teams, and, on occasion, the girls would get cat-called as we ran around the city. Back then, I would ignore these experiences and continue running. No second thought given.
These days, however, cat-calls elicit an altogether different response. I am currently living in inner-city Los Angeles and participating in an internship with an organization dedicated to seeking transformation in urban poor and slum communities around the world. Darkness and brokenness hang heavy over the inner city. One particular area of brokenness that I experience on an almost daily basis is that of fractured gender identity and cross-gender interactions. Women are broken, men are broken, and the relationships between women and men are broken.
If you knew me, you would know me to be a pretty even-tempered, controlled woman. You’d also know that I am a woman who has uttered no more than a handful of expletives in my entire lifetime. ” alt=”" width=”300px” />
And yet there are times when I am walking our streets and my immediate response to a man’s unwanted attention is “F*** OFF.” These are not words that any of my closest friends would ever expect me to utter.
Because, you see, I am deeply frustrated with the broken gender dynamics of my neighborhood. It is a salient point of frustration because the reality of cat-calls and unwarranted attention are a fact of life for most any woman walking the streets of my neighborhood – regardless of who you are, how you dress, or what expression you wear on your face. Further, I now understand all of the unspoken realities that lie hidden in a cat-call. I recognize it as an act that is demeaning, insulting, and condescending. I see how it diminishes women into objects of lust in an oversexualized society.
It is so very easy to be angry. So easy to get stuck in frustration that I can’t see past the brokenness to hope for something better. It is easier to boil with anger for a moment than to actually engage and deal with the negative emotions that run through my veins.
At one of the meetings for my internship, we had an extended discussion about gender in our neighborhood. The women on the team shared our experiences as women in the inner city. We asked tough questions.
How can we, as women of God, live in the inner city and cultivate healthy cross-gender relationships? Is it even possible?
Is it possible for us to live life here without feeling constantly demeaned by men and subsequently frustrated and angry?
Is it possible for our sense of self-esteem and worth to not get screwed up or contaminated by the sinfulness and brokenness of this present culture?
Even after hours of considering how to engage in gender brokenness in a Biblical and loving way, we had few answers. The only real conclusion we landed on was the fact that, for women, it is a cost of discipleship to live in the inner city and to love God’s people here. As people of God, we are to expect suffering and for everyone there are different costs to us in our journeys with Jesus. For me, as a woman living in the inner city, having to experience the reality of cat-calls, whistles, and other demeaning cross-gender interactions is a cost that I choose into.
It is also a cost that I am learning to bring before Jesus. And so in 2011, I learned to be a woman who forgives and prays. I have chosen to not remain a woman who sits passively and powerless in anger. Instead, with the Lord’s help, I am learning to be a woman whose guttural response to broken gender interactions is to forgive and pray for the man who hollers. Because anger does nothing to bring change. Yet praying to our God who is powerful and who created gender and created woman is indeed an act of power. In fact, it is a revolutionary act because it places power not in the brokenness of our society and culture, but rather in the hands of Him who is powerful to redeem and restore where our human eyes see only fractured hopelessness.
I’m not oblivious or blind.
I noticed you noticing me as you walked by, biked by, drove by.
I see you and sometimes I just want to throw my middle fingers in the air.
I want to respond in rebellion to your treating me as an object of your pleasure.
I see you and I wish to retaliate in every way that the world has taught me to defend myself.
In anger. In frustration. In violence.
I hear you too.
I’m not deaf or ignorant.
I hear you cat-calling me like I’m some piece of meat you can bid on at the market.
I hear your overt invitations that deny the existence of a soul and mind and beating heart beneath this skin.
I hear you and sometimes I want to throw words back at you.
The mean, nasty, offensive ones I was taught never to use.
My anger wants to flow out with fighting words – to command my arsenal of insults against you.
But, as a daughter of my heavenly king, my actions and my words are worth so much more than these irrational, emotionally-driven responses.
Because the Lord has given me words to speak life into death and hope into depression.
He has armed me with the creativity to fashion my thoughts and actions into powerful instruments that can influence this world for good and not for bad.
So with my words I will not cuss you out or even mutter frustrations under my breath,
Instead, I will recite my father’s love letters to me as given in His word.
And I will harness my words to pray determinedly that God would redeem you and that He would redeem our broken gender dynamics.
With my words I will tell stories, and mentor, and encourage the young women of this neighborhood to grow up confident in the love of their Father who sees them in secret and beams with joy at their beauty.
With my hands and feet I will not fight or incite.
Rather I will love with them; I will hug, and hold, and carry – both the pains and sorrows and the joys and hopes of those around me.
They will be instruments of art and creativity, life, color, hope.
I will use them to build up God’s kingdom here on earth – to bring life into dry and parched lands.
My hands and feet, my words – they were formed and made, commissioned – to build up the Kingdom of God here on earth – intended to tear down that which is unjust and to replace it with what the Lord deems GOOD.
So I will not waste them on rash anger. I will not squander them in frustration.
Rather, I will use them – with intention and great power – for the glory of the Lord.
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