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Entitled people often blame oppressed people for their personal frustrations. Entitlement teaches privileged people that oppressed people have a responsibility to meet their needs. For example, Mr. Sexist “Nice” Guy might blame women for his inability to get a date (rather than examining his own self-centered and sexist behavior, which is the actual cause). Instead of taking responsibility for himself, he might write angry rants about “the friend zone” and otherwise blame women for not fulfilling his entitlement to having a girlfriend. And, in many cases, Mr. Sexist “Nice” Guy might harass feminist women online as a way of getting back those he blames for his personal frustrations. When anger combines with entitlement it often comes out as violence and harassment. Anger connected to entitlement is about asserting power over an oppressed person.

Oppressed people, however, are frequently told we are to blame for the oppression we face. We are told to that we need to change ourselves to avoid harassment. If that doesn’t work, then obviously there is more about how we dress, where we go, what we do, and how we express ourselves that needs to change. The reality is that oppression isn’t our fault or responsibility. I have found for myself, that when I separate myself from the oppressive things that happen to me and say, “This painful experience is the result of oppression and it isn’t my fault!” then I get angry. This anger makes me feel stronger and more powerful. When oppressed people become angry about their oppression, they are claiming their own power.

Notice that in both cases anger has a deep connection to power. It is easy to see anger as one thing or the other: as a purely destructive or purely empowering force. The truth is it can be either. It is about how you use it and what you do with it. The question is, “In this situation is anger being used to reinforce or push back against oppression?”

 

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