Death by a thousand cuts. A thousand micro (and macro) aggressions, a thousand dismissals, a thousand violations, both overt and oblivious. A thousand subtle—and not-so-subtle—ways in which women all over the world are told they don’t matter, that our bodies, autonomy and feelings don’t matter.

And not only do we not matter or have the right to protest; we don’t even have the right to be angry. Our anger doesn’t matter.

This is the message that’s been given to women for centuries, passed down from generation to generation and reinforced by our current administration. And it’s the message Tracee Ellis Ross took to task in her recent talk for the TED2018: The Age of Amazement conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, earlier this month.

Building upon the momentum of the #TimesUp movement, which she co-founded, Ross used her 10 minutes at TED to call men out on their entitlement—and women out of the conventional shadows of politeness.

Advertisement

“Men are so used to helping themselves that it’s like, they can’t help themselves,” she said. “And not because men are fundamentally less moral but because this is a very big blind spot for most men.”

Ross also called attention to the legacy of trauma that feeds the justifiable anger of women—anger that has been festering for centuries and has only grown since our last election:

When someone helps themselves to a woman, it not only triggers discomfort and distress, but the unspoken experiences of our mothers’ lives, sisters’ lives and generations of women before us. That’s lifetimes of women dealing with men who assume they know better for us than we know for ourselves. ...

And if you add in the history of race—which is a whole other talk—it gets exponentially more complicated.

Advertisement

“Complicated” is one way of putting it. Ross asks us to give ourselves permission to own our anger—to sit in it, speak on it and create safe spaces in which to share it, if only because it’s ours.

“I encourage you to acknowledge your fury,” Ross says. “Your fury is not something to be afraid of; it holds lifetimes of wisdom. Let it breathe, and listen.”