Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

A Response to Anger

Dear World Citizen,

I hear you. You sound very angry. And that is not surprising. In a world where the leading cause of death for women is being murdered at the hands of an intimate male partner, how can any caring human being not feel righteous anger? In a world where more than half of those who survive on less than a dollar a day women and children, what right thinking human can keep calm? When the chances of death or injury through sexual violence of every girl conceived is higher than the chances that she gets an education, isn’t the right response to scream with rage?

Believe me when I say I am angry, too.

I grew up in India and ever since I can remember thinking and talking, I was overwhelmed with messages about how “unlucky” it was to be a girl. There was the constant refrain of “Girls don’t do that” from playmates in school, from extended family members, from strangers. In the time and place of my childhood, no one thought twice about walking up to a 8 year old child and telling her to pull her skirt down or to stop running around like a boy or that she laughs too loudly for a girl.

Later struggling with sexual abuse from a male family member who chose to take advantage of my powerlessness as a child, I coped by dissociating myself from his behaviour and my body. I battled and survived sexual harassment on the streets, in my college, in every public place in the city I lived in, as an adolescent.

Through all this, my mother and sisters tried their best to help me find my own power. They supported me as best as they knew how, and told me that girls were powerful, girls were strong. They told me that we had to be strong, for how else would we live through what the world threw at us day after day, just because we were women? “I hate men”, my older sister stormed into the house yelling. My mother read out a story from the newspaper about the genocide of Muslim women in Gujurat by Hindu mobs. “Sometimes I feel like we should line all the men up and shoot them down”, said my mother and my other sister nodded in agreement.

But my mother also brought me up on stories of non-violence and love. She told me of Gandhi, of Gautama Buddha, of Jesus turning the other cheek, of Martin Luther King Jr. but she would often laugh and admit that she probably would never be able to turn the other cheek if someone ever hit her !

I grew up with a militant rage, and a passion to help women and girls and to move the world into justice. And as I grew older, I came to slowly realize that before justice must come compassion. I have come to see that my anger at men is but the other side of my grief and pain at my own victimization. I saw that for the number of men who had tried to take away my power, there was a miniscule number of men who had stood by me and supported me as well. I saw that a narrow idea of masculinity was the problem, and that these gentle men were limited by those same forces that taught other men to exercise their power over women. I saw that the only way to forgive and begin to love myself again was to forgive and begin to love the men in my life.

I am aware that the majority of the violence on women is perpetrated by men. In fact, I strongly support and encourage activists to use the phrase “male violence against women”. I do no want to lose sight of the fact that this violence does not happen in a vacuum – that women are not raped, but that men rape women; that women are not beaten to death, that husbands and male lovers beat women to death. If we cannot state the problem accurately, how can we hope to find a solution?

However, I cannot and will not blame all men for the crimes and inhumanity of some. And I say it again. Men are not the enemy. The construct of hegemonic hyper-masculinity that teaches boys and men that the only ‘real’ man is an aggressive man is the real problem. Every boy child starts off as a full human being. I respect that. We cannot reclaim full human status for women, by denying men their humanity.

Lastly, I reject victimhood, both for my sisters and for men and for those of any gender or sex. As some wise person one said, beware of turning into the enemy you seek to vanquish. I firmly believe that that the path forward is through love, and not anger.

Does this mean I am never angry? In fact, I am more often raging and angry than I am calm and wise.

I want to end this piece with some words by Alix Olson, which are a validation of how I used to feel. Alix Olson is a brilliant feminist poet. The story goes that at one poetry reading, a male audience member commented that her message would be heard more easily if she could be more subtle in her words. He wondered why she always sounded so angry. To listen to the full poem, please follow this

Here are the final lines of Alix Olson’s poem, ‘Subtle Sister’, in which she outlines various forms of violence against women and her response to it. I strongly encourage you to listen to the full performance.

See, sometimes anger’s subtle, stocked in metaphor
full of finesse and dressed in allure
yes, sometimes anger’s subtle, less rage than sad
leaking slow through spigots you didn’t know you had.
and sometimes it’s just

fuck you.
fuck you.
you see, and to me,

That’s poetry too.

- ‘Subtle Sister’ by Alix Olson


pearld's picture

A response

Hi ShukThi,

This is a very powerful story that many women will most likely relate to on some level. Thank you for writing and sharing it with us. I agree so much with it is not the "man" who is this, it is what he becomes, and not all become, but too many are made to believe they should. I have never understood this constant battle that society bestow upon men to control women to such extremes of abuse.

When I was younger, I use to blame it on the power of birth. That although we may not be the stronger sex (most often physically) it is our ability to create life inside us that has turned on itself. Once the man being the protector of this, now turned to wanting to destroy it with brutality and rape. Then as I got older, I wondered if it is because we no longer need them to protect, that has made us need to be protected from them. Have roles of equality and humanistic intelligence not caught up with most of the men in this world society of old world thought? We can co-exist with acceptance of differences or roles as well as respect without abuse. It takes more understanding, compassion, forgiveness and love. Turning the other cheek is one of the hardest lessons to learn. I struggle many times with it, but slowly I am learning that to say nothing can be more powerful and to walk away lets it go more easily.

I hope that you are doing well.

Kindest regards,

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

Face to Face with the U.S. Special Envoy to DRC

Face to Face with the U.S. Special Envoy to DRC

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Highlights of the 2014 World Pulse LIVE Tour

Highlights of the 2014 World Pulse LIVE Tour

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative