Margaret Cho, Anger, and Being A Take-No-Shit Bitch

[E]Coco PapyPerspectives12 Comments

If you happen to follow Margaret Cho on twitter, you may have noticed some ruckus in the previous week. Cho, who had just gotten a new tattoo, sent it into the twitterverse for fans to check it out, to be met with much enthusiasm, but also with some misogynstic vitriol. Words flew and as Cho put in her piece “Being Mad On Twitter:” “I blew a fucking gasket. I screamed out loud and tracked the perps down and blocked them, but not before really ramming it to them in the strongest language I could use. It was over the top and really kind of ridiculous, but I cannot help myself.” Some expressed concern that her “language” was too strong and effectively pulled out the playing card, “You have just lost a fan,” further cementing a long tradition of who actually gets to be angry and mad, as well as how that is displayed.

Margaret Cho at the Super Serious Show. Photo by: Anjelica Jardiel www.anjelicajardiel.com. Image courtesy of MargaretCho.com

 

I was a teenager when I discovered All-American Girl, the short-lived TV show starring Margaret Cho. It wasn’t the show that I was so in love with, but the young woman who starred in the thick of it all. Shortly after the show fell apart, I began taping Margaret Cho’s stand-up on our ancient VCR, watching it over and over, laughing as if it was the first time I had ever seen it. For the first time in my young life, I felt like there was someone else out in the world who reflected the very quiet, but real things I felt. She attacked with humor–the bawdiest, crassest, most honest kind. She laid bare her insecurities, mistakes, and the hilarious, often painful experiences that had shaped who she was. Margaret Cho wasn’t the marriage material, polite, “pretty girl” that, as a little frizzy-haired, buck-toothed, awkward Southerner, I was being culturally groomed to become. As I watched her talking about the time she shit her pants on an Los Angeles highway or her days in a San Francisco book shop and “The Assmaster,” I thought, “Yes. That is who I want to be. I want to be a funny, take-no-prisoners bitch. I want to lay bare the experiences that have eternally fucked me up or made me grateful or just become part of the different selves I am. I want to be like Margaret Cho.”

I suspect that much of the vitriol that Cho has received over the years is because she defies many people’s expectations of not fitting into one of the many-old unimaginative stereotypes of the “Asian woman,” and seriously, people hate it when stereotypes are not filled. Whether media outlets speculating on the many reasons why black women are “unmarriable,” immigrant women creating “anchor babies,” or how trans women aren’t “really” women, these stereotypes run through the cycle, getting spat out in a new package year after year. We see it in fourteen-year-old Girl Scouts, we see it in the most powerful news networks, we see it in magazines, in the best of social movements, and unfortunately, in those whom we love, relegating complex beings back to the tight, narrow boxes to which we are supposed to forever belong. We relive the insults, the attacks, the hostility, day after day, as another rape victim is blamed, another fat chick is a fat, or another politician uses reproductive healthcare/ LGBTQ rights/immigration/social programs as bargaining chips drenched in disdain. We are surrounded by the ads of overly photoshopped bodies that are not really anyone’s (choosing between hyper-unreal representation or all out erasure) or paychecks that are at 72 cents, 63 cents, and 57 cents to our male counterparts’ dollar. We see it in the way women are vilified or talked down to for having too many kids or no kids or not parenting the right way, and above all, we see it in the way that anger is treated.

Legit vintage illustration.

What the situation proves to me (as do numerous situations that repeat themselves) is that no matter how successful you are, no matter what you do, many still exist in the eyes of others as walking stereotypes for consumption, whether sexual, anger, violence, mockery or to make insecure dudes feel better about themselves. We are considered less than, more irrational, more emotional, more this, more that–more of everything that the standard straight, cis-gender, able-bodied, white male value system has set up. We sometimes even internalize this hate and turn it upon each other. One only has to watch an episode of The Bachelor to understand that.
Sure, someone is more than likely to listen to if you present something in a calm, well-mannered approach. But its that same approach that asks the person who is often hurt by very real societal oppressions to “suck it up,” be nice, and then explain why acting out on privilege is hurting them. It’s also asking that same hurt person to put aside their own hurt as to not “hurt” or “offend” the person that has just reminded them that they are low. Factor in the Internet to this equation where slight or complete anonymity, a dash of any sort of -ism, trolling (check out both Sady Doyle and Jaded16′s responses to these factors) and well, when we have folks lose their shit, there’s a reason for it.
Anger is framed as demonizing: we can only act a certain way when someone takes a part of our dignity and effectively squashes it. Hell, even the other approach–the nice one where you bite your tongue and gather up all your energy to talk about power structures, history, and your own intimate pain, that’s doing so on the assumption that those who hurt you even wants to listen to you. Frankly, many people don’t.

My usual stance on Tim Tebow Facebook status's, comment sections, shitty twitter tags, and all out general fuckery.

It’s also difficult because our differences can go severely unrecognized and will sometimes be cloaked in the responsibility-escaping “dividing the cause.” It’s a painful reminder to many that even in feminist, LGBTQ, sex positive, and anti-racism communities, we often continue cycles of oppressive behavior. One only has to listen to the many voices who have experienced the downfalls of the Occupy movements. Its not just Internet trolls or frat groomed boys – even those with the best of intentions can cause serious hurt, and if we do, anger is what is going to happen.

Anger is a mixture of disappointment, frustration, and defied expectation of the simple philosophy that people should just be good to one another. We are angry because even when we are at our best, a single ignorant comment can bring us down. We are angry because if we weren’t, some of us might lose our mental sanity. Some of us might try and put on a happy face and do whatever it takes to be “one of the team,” even while it tears our insides apart. Some might have swallowed that grief and anger and let its toxicity absorb into our blood, slowly poisining us. Some might have even killed ourselves by now.

I know some of you are thinking that being angry all the time is no way to live, and I agree. I see no benefit in walking around with such heavy feelings on your shoulders. But anger should not exist in such a stigmatized place, where if it doesn’t come from someone like Mitt Romney (really just any rich white guy) is a sign of weakness or uncontrolled irrationality. Sometimes it’s even expected or part of the stereotype package, which complicates not only the situation, but also the willingness to act out on it. But anger is just as much a part of us as happiness or sadness. Anger is one of the emotions that begins to change things– it fuels push back and creates louder and louder voices.
The point is, anger is ours, whoever we are. While we dont deserve to be made angry, we do deserve to act out on that anger. We deserve our words, no matter how painful or sharp or filthy they can be. Because when someone who has never experienced racism, sexism, ableism, fat-shaming, slut-shaming, (or even has…) comes to us with a bunch of toxic vitriol on the very things that are lived realities, people can’t really act surprised when shit gets real.
I grew up hard and am still hard and I don’t care. I did not choose this face or this body and I have learned to live with it and love it and celebrate it and adorn it with tremendous drawings from the greatest artists in the world and I feel good and powerful like a nation that has never been free and now after many hard won victories is finally fucking free. I am beautiful and I am finally fucking free.
I fly my flag of self esteem for all those who have been told they were ugly and fat and hurt and shamed and violated and abused for the way they look and told time and time again that they were “˜different’ and therefore unlovable. Come to me and I will tell you and show you how beautiful and loved you are and you will see it and feel it and know it and then look in the mirror and truly believe it. If you are offended by my anger and my might at defending my borders and my people you do not deserve entry into my beloved and magnificent country.
Margaret Cho helped me become the brassy-mouthed, take-no-shit bitch I’d always hoped I’d become. Sure, I don’t fill my full potential every day, but there is always a steady supply of people who will throw down assaults at who you inherently are. Sometimes they are so incredibly blatant and sometimes they are just ignorant phrases repeated over and over. Either way, we are allowed our anger. We are allowed to be mad. We don’t need permission. We don’t need anyone to sanction it. Frankly, part of me thinks that saying all this isn’t even necessary. But like Cho brilliantly says, “If you are offended by my anger and my might at defending my borders and my people you do not deserve entry into my beloved and magnificent country.” Sometimes, that might just be a place to start.
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[E]Coco Papy

Coco is a writer and burlesque performer. Born in the Deep South and based out of Brooklyn, New York, she performs and pens regularly, with gusto. You can catch more of her work at http://cocoepapy.tumblr.com/
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[E]Coco PapyMargaret Cho, Anger, and Being A Take-No-Shit Bitch

12 Comments on “Margaret Cho, Anger, and Being A Take-No-Shit Bitch”

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  1. Avatar of Jamie
    Jamie

    That pullquote from Margaret Cho has to be one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read.  Seriously.  It makes me want to jump out of my skin.  It’s electric.

  2. Avatar of Meghan Young Krogh
    Meghan Young Krogh

    Thanks for this, Coco. It definitely does not go without saying. I grew up being told to stop being so angry when people were being legitimately horrible to me, and I’m still not really at a place where I can just be angry without apologizing for it. Reading reminders like this helps, a lot.

  3. Avatar of Pam Newman
    Pam Newman

    I fucking love you, Coco.

    I try to live my life as a no-shit-taker, but alas. I find I too often give a fuck about what people have to say.

    Just last night, a woman on twitter chastized me for talking about sex via twitter. She said it was tasteless for me to do so now that I want to represent Occupy Louisville. Well, this is the same raunchy sex-loving bitch I’ve always been, and that’s just how it’s gotta be.

    I can care how other people think of me, but I just need to not try to please them by changing who I am.

          1. Avatar of Pam Newman
            Pam Newman

            Word!

            And even more than that, we’re supposed to be the fucking revolution. I don’t want to take part in a revolution that doesn’t let me say that I have ever had sex, or want to have sex again in the future. Especially not because I’m a member of the Majority Gender.

  4. Avatar of [E]SaraB
    [E]SaraB

    The vitriol of the Internet truly is a frightening thing. The women, like Margaret Cho and Sady Doyle, who take it on and expose it in all its ugliness are heroes.

  5. Avatar of Lucille-McGillicuddy
    Lucille-McGillicuddy

    It drives me fucking CRAZY at how dismissive the world (i.e. men) are of an angry woman.  When a woman gets mad, many men think the argument is over and they have won.  Angry woman = hysteria= dismissed.

    Yet angry men get to start new political movements.  FUCK THAT.

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