Marvelling at and still trying to understand why Greta Thunberg has so knotted so many knickers (the white-hot, foaming-at-the-mouth hostility and/or condescending misogyny shewn to her by so many commentators is astonishing for those of us who admire the well-intentioned teenager) I've just received some assistance from the American writer Marissa Korbel.
Korbel has just piped up (though not mentioning Thunberg at all) about women and anger in a heart-on-the-sleeve piece, Why We Cry When Were Angry. Her essay decorates the latest online Guernica Magazine.
It's not the theme of her piece but she does discuss the strong social expectation that girls and women should never, ever publicly melt down and show rage. Rage is thought unbecoming in females. It is unladylike.
It was the close-to-tears sheer fury of Greta Thunberg's brief (a little over four minutes) but action-packed address to world leaders at the UN Climate Summit on September 22, coupled with what she actually said, that made her speech so unnerving. Men, especially, (as analysts point out) have found her speech cage-rattling.
And in Thunberg's case, the fact of her being almost a child, let alone a female child, has added a level of psychological complexity to the outrage that outraged men (often older, cro-magnon men) feel about her.
Yes, there is the familiar old misogyny there, but there is as well an element of pedophobia (fear of, dismissal of the voices of, children). And so here with Gretaphobia we have a toxic blending of the conviction that women should be decorative but silent with the age-old popular belief that children should be seen and not heard.
Everywhere where I forensically follow (online and in daily social intercourse) whats being fumed against Thunberg after her UN volley I find fossil-men fuming about her failure to show respect. And, I diagnose, her perceived lack of respect for her elders in what she seethed in New York (''How dare you! You [adult world leaders and your generation] are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you) is commixed in fuming fogeys' minds. They think it is disrespectful for a 16-year-old schoolgirl, this post-pubescent battleaxe, to so vocally and visibly and spotlight-attractingly wear her heart on her sleeve.
In her Why We Cry When Were Angry, writer Marissa Korbel discusses how when she was a young child she felt free to express anger when she felt it. I knew how to be explosively mad.
I remember the burn of pure fury. I can hold moments of it in the tightening of my ribcage, the tingle at the back of my neck. Once, rage lived in the heart of me, once it breathed between my ribs.
Until, one day I knew I shouldn't do that anymore. Nobody sat me down and taught me that rage was ugly on a girl. My liberal, West Coast, free-spirited private elementary educators never would have said that I couldn't show anger. [No, it was] the world that taught me that rage was ugly on a girl.
I curated my emotions to look the way they were supposed to: pretty. My anger pacifiable, easily calmed, all pink cheeks and dainty trembling. A whisper-rage that tremored through me. I wanted to behave. I wanted to fit into the mould of girl.
Yes, there is a mould in which conservative folk feel girls and women should be shaped. When you think like this, bristling wimmin who (like Greta Thunberg in New York, like PM Julia Gillard in a few infamous parliamentary shows of explosive anti-sexism madness, like enraged Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open final) show uncurated emotions must look and sound like misshapen, unladylike hellions.
Perhaps it is ageist of me (the columnist pretended to muse, while privately laughing at the very idea of his being ageist) but so much of the most spiteful criticism of Greta Thunberg comes from older men with wrinkled faces and matchingly wrinkled and wizened souls. Their dismissal of her and her ideas because she is so young invariably involves their sexist/ageist weaponising of the word girl, spitting it out disparagingly as a synonym for birdbrain, for flibbertigibbet and even, at their most venomous, for silly little bitch.
But, then, so many older people have the opinions they have just because they are older and are withered by cynicism and world-weariness. Perhaps young Greta's sheer, pigtailed youthfulness is in its own right an affront (Childhood is wasted on children! one hears the right-wing oldies snarl, gnashing their dentures in anger) to some who have one curmudgeonly foot in the grave.