I've been thinking a lot about Angry Women. It all began when I read The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson last year. The undeniable, mad eyed glee I felt mixed with a little bit of hysterical guilt when the heroine Lisbeth Salander seriously kicked arse was such a 'Fuck Yeah!' moment that I’ve been seriously wondering about it ever since. I mean, should I really feel so deliriously and deliciously delighted when Bjurman gets a huge dildo shoved up his arse and 'I AM A SADISTIC PIG AND A RAPIST' tattooed on his torso? Ohh sweet, guilt free revenge. Larsson delivered it and I sucked on it lovingly, swallowed it deeply and let it satiate my anger.
You see, anger, rage and fury are so much a part of my happy, mild mannered existence that I have to question why that dichotomy is so seemingly normal and acceptable within me. I dare say, my fury was first aroused with my love of walking - again a sweet paradox. From Prep through to Year 12, I walked to and from school every day as well as taking long strolls with my dog every night after school.
But as a girl and a woman, walking the streets requires a steely, watchful, ready to defend yourself fury. When I was pregnant I stopped walking by myself altogether because I felt too vulnerable, completely unable to protect myself or run if a situation presented itself. Infuriating!
When you're alone on a long walk with not many people around, the constant state of alertness morphs in to anger. The scenarios that present themselves in your mind and your reaction to them (uppercut to the nose, an eye gouge, a ball breaking knee to the groin for example) forces your state of being into a subdued level of anxiety. Consequently, you are left in a state of rage because your nice peaceful morning walk has been ruined.
I've never been attacked, but I've been flashed many times, had cars slow down and ask if I'd like a ride, had my vagina felt up after being asked if I had the time (to put me off guard), seen a guy masturbating on the riverbank in Richmond and asked to look at a guys dick when I was walking home after school in Grade 2 (I was so scared that I did and then told him where I lived)!!! One old guy used to wank every morning on his balcony as I walked passed his house on my way to school. Lisbeth Salander is a heroine because she represents my fury and follows its course, with stunning, lip smacking violence.
I had a similar feeling of hysterical glee when I bought a book called Kung Fu For Girls by Simon Harrison. His self defense manoeuvres leave you feeling cat-got-the-cream satisfied. Here's an example called ‘Your Butt is a Weapon’.
"You suddenly are grabbed from behind, and a man tries to drag you away. If he puts his hand over your mouth to stop you from screaming, bite his fingers. Repeatedly stomp on his foot till you get the desired reaction. Grind your heel down his shin. Then slam your elbows into his ribs.
The next move is quite a revelation. Your butt is a weapon! Lift your arms in a rapid arc to snap his grip, and slam your buttocks backward into his gonads. He will double over and lose balance. This technique looks a bit like a silly '60's dance move, but it works.
Stick your arms out like chicken wings, and spin around to deliver a reverse elbow strike to the head or neck. If you've bumped him back out of range, move in quickly to finish him off with a kick to the knee or groin. Just pick your targets until he's writhing on the floor in pain, no longer a threat."
Deep breath - exhale - yeaaaaah!
The book is full of kick arse moves that take no prisoners. You don't run or scream or tell, you damage, debilitate and humiliate. There's always a final, painful blow - maybe even a chance to douse him with your beer - to inflict on the thug and complete the move. Like Salander, Harrison’s defense and retribution techniques give us power and independence without the guilt.
When I had self defense classes at 17, it was a revelation to understand that I wasn't as helpless as I thought. The ensuing confidence and independence was the most thrilling feeling I’ve ever had. It liberated me from what I’ve always known - that, as a woman, I am the ultimate underdog. A female’s life begins with this knowledge - bestowed or otherwise - and it's trajectory is controlled by it. Armed with this knowledge, women modulate almost every response, consciously or not. Whether it is playground harassment, a teacher's favour, daddy's approval, career climbing or simply socialising, a woman must measure a man's feelings toward her and decide if they are just and that she is secure.
Alone in a room with a male employer, an equal or a subordinate, a female will always be the underdog. And it is this fact that ignites the fury of woman. As the underdog, a woman has to use intuition, guile, aggression, beauty, intelligence, wit, sex and fury to survive. Beauty and sex, no doubt, appear to be winning. Intelligence, wit and fury don't work as effectively, after all we only get paid well if we are a hooker or a stripper. (Best rates around). Armed with a taser gun, some kick arse moves and best of all, no guilt, Salander (ie. all of us) can assuage our rage and exact revenge. And it feels fucking awesome.
Angry, aggressive women are generally laughed at, demeaned, ridiculed or treated with horror and disgust. Bjork’s airport incident is described on youtube as a “Classic scene where singer Bjork goes insane and strikes and attacks a reporter in the airport.” Women are taught to be forgiving, not to seek revenge and to let the (paternalistic) law exact retribution. Lisbeth Salander says ‘Fuck That’ and takes back her feminine power. And we ride with her on some bastard’s Harley with near ecstatic relish.
It’s interesting that it took self proclaimed feminist Stieg Larsson, a man and not an underdog, to create Lisbeth. His partner, Eva Gabrielsson, concluded a recent speech by referring to him as "the man who loved women", neatly inverting the title of the first book in the trilogy, published in English as 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo', but known in Sweden and most of Europe as 'The Man Who Hates Women'. I think Eva loved him fiercely.