“Take a breath.”
“Don’t get upset, that won’t solve anything.”
The above are some of the most infuriating phrases in the English language. I’ve been on the receiving end of them many a time, and they never fail to make me more upset, stressed, angry, or agitated than I was to begin with because of their disingenuousness. People say these things not to ease your mind or soothe you, but to help themselves, particularly when you are a woman. “Calm down, upsetting yourself isn’t going to help,” is really just code for, “Your blatant display of emotion is making me uncomfortable, and I’d like you to accommodate me by being quiet so I don’t have to help or address your concerns.”
We all occasionally get upset over nothing. It’s part of being human, and sometimes a blatant display of emotion isn’t helpful. When you getting worked up over a minor typo in an office email, or when a waiter gets your order wrong, or you can’t get cell reception, or you spill tomato soup on your brand-new white shirt, “calm down” is an appropriate, if ineffective, sentiment.
Now is not one of those times.
Over the next several weeks and months, Senators, Congresspeople, media pundits, men (and women) on the street, newspaper columnists, elite “thinkers,” people on Twitter and Facebook, and pretty much anyone in any position of power are all going to be beaming the same message out to the people of color, women, LGBTQIA+, indigenous and native peoples, and anyone else who dares to be angry, agitated, stressed, sad, or otherwise non-accepting of the tragically corrupt confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS: “Calm down!”
“You’re being unreasonable,” they’ll say from their podiums and pulpits. “What’s done is done; there’s no use being upset about it,” they’ll sneer to protesting crowds. “What a dangerous time for our sons!” they’ll lament from verified Twitter accounts followed by dozens of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists and PUAs. “Things aren’t that bad; they’ve been worse before,” they’ll write condescendingly in their Medium columns catering to Bernie Bros. “So just calm down.”
No. I will not. My anger, and the anger of so many of my fellow citizens, is warranted and righteous. My fear and stress are reasonable. My wariness of a president and a party who confirmed a partisan hack to the Supreme Court while mocking sexual assault victims and complaining that freedom of speech and to protest, the concept upon which this nation was founded, is “embarrassing” is more than justified. I will not be gaslit. I am a grown-ass woman, and I’ve seen enough to know that we are going in the wrong direction much more quickly than anyone would have thought possible twenty-four months ago. If my rage and fear at our slide into fascism make you uncomfortable, well, that’s just too bad, because I’m not going to back down from expressing them. I’m not going to let anyone tell me or any other woman or survivor or marginalized community member that we’re being unreasonable.
This post is a reminder that I’ll come back to when I’m doubting myself, or when a pundit or a neighbor or the guy on the bus implore me to just chill out. Remember: they’re protecting themselves, not you, from guilt or laziness or facing their own privilege. And that’s their problem, not yours. And if they don’t like it, they can calm down.