I’ve been writing a lot about rage and anger over on my Facebook page. I have made statements like “Your rage is valid” and “Rage is a normal emotion and normal reaction to being oppressed, to having our boundaries disregarded, to being told we are worthless, to being told we don’t matter, to being told we aren’t enough or are too much, to being disregarded, ignored, abused. I’m so over our culture trying to say our rage isn’t valid or “nice” or justified. Fuck them. xoxo.”
There has been a lot of YES! response to my statements, a lot of acknowledgement that we have a LOT to rage about. A few comments about how some people have stuffed their rage and they realize they need to tap into it.
And of course there has been the pushback.
The comments about “managing” our rage, or that it’s okay to be angry, and for gods’ sake at all costs, you have to keep it peaceful.
I responded to these types of comments in my most recent love letter (didn’t get it? You can sign up to get next week’s right here). Basically what I said in the letter in response to this pushback is “Fuck that.” I used those words and then expanded on it, of course. And still, I don’t feel I have said nearly enough words about rage and why it is so vital that we allow our selves to both feel it and express it.
I just responded, moments before coming here to write this post, to a comment about “managing” our rage with this: “…I feel that our fear of rage is a huge part of what has us stuffing it down. I also find this idea of “managing” our rage a bit problematic… and it goes in hand with the fear of it. If by “managing” our rage we mean not physically harming another living being, then yes I agree with this whole-heartedly. If by “managing” our rage however we mean to “play nice” or “be polite” or “speak calmly” or “don’t hurt someone’s feelings” THEN I feel that is simply the patriarchy silencing us and the status quo fighting to stay in power.”
Whenever I hear someone talk about “playing nice” or “being polite” or “speaking calmly” my bullshit sensor goes off and my rage starts to bubble and boil. And here’s why:: those comments are spoken *directly* from our internalized patriarchal training and are meant to silence us.
I’m not so good at being told to sit down and shut up. I played nice for decades. It got me plenty and nothing that really mattered.
I’m DONE playing nice.
Let’s be honest, playing nice, in the end, accomplishes only one thing: to keep the status quo and systems of oppression in power and chugging along.
We have a lot of fear in our culture around rage. There seems to be this story that rage = out of control rampages with senseless murder thrown in. I’m not sure where these stories came from. That’s a fucking lie, I know exactly where they come from :: they come from the white supremacist patriarchy that wants to keep control. What I mean is, I’m not sure why we started to believe these stories in the first place and then to internalize them and spread them out even further, strengthening their grip on us.
To be clear, I do not believe the mindless murdering of living beings is okay. In fact, I’m not really so keen on any sort of murdering (but even there I’m a hypocrite because I do love to eat some dead animals).
I think most people are against the mindless murdering of living beings.
I think this idea of mindless uncontrollable killing sprees only ever actually happens in war. Those crazy berserkers. You know, the ones trained and intentionally created to go out and do mindless killing.
Humans don’t naturally go on killing sprees. That isn’t a normal reaction to becoming angry or filled with rage.
(This is not to say rage is not destructive. However I don’t feel being destructive is a bad thing. More on that later.)
And still there is this persistent myth that if we get “too angry” or allow our rage to be “unmanaged” that it absolutely means we will go on an unstoppable killing spree. This doesn’t sit with me very well. It doesn’t feel right or true in my gut or my skin or even my mind.
So I took to google to find out the origins of the word “rage.” At first there were lots of articles about how to “manage” our rage or how to stay away from a person who is “raging.” Basically articles confirming this idea that rage equates physical violence. Even the Google dictionary defines rage to be associated with “uncontrollable violence.” None of this felt right to me, so I kept digging.
I came to etymonline.com and found this:
rage (n.) c. 1300, “madness, insanity; fit of frenzy; anger, wrath; fierceness in battle; violence of storm, fire, etc.,” from Old French rage, raige “spirit, passion, rage, fury, madness” (11c.), from Medieval Latin rabia, from Latin rabies “madness, rage, fury,” related to rabere “be mad, rave” (compare rabies, which originally had this sense), from PIE *rebh- “violent, impetuous” (cognates: Old English rabbian “to rage”). Similarly, Welsh (cynddaredd) and Breton (kounnar) words for “rage, fury” originally meant “hydrophobia” and are compounds based on the word for “dog” (Welsh ci, plural cwn; Breton ki). In 15c.-16c. it also could mean “rabies.” The rage “fashion, vogue” dates from 1785.
Which goes right along with the idea that rage equals uncontrollable violence.
HOWEVER, on the exact same page was this:
In looking at the above it looks like around the 13th century the emotion of rage started to get a bad rap. It went from “to play, romp” to “go mad”. That for some reason to be passionate meant to madness. (And I believe when they are using the word madness they mean insanity or mentally ill not anger. Let me not get started on this idea implications of “madness” and anger equating mental illness…)
Now, going to Thesaurus.com the word rage is defined as “extreme anger” (which is consequently exactly how I personally define the word) and here are the list of synonyms to go with it:
- madness, temper, fury, furor, violence, bitterness, resentment, excitement, mania, passion, irritation, frenzy, animosity, exasperation, obsession, indignation, outburst, agitation, umbrage, gall, hemorrhage, asperity, convulsion, spasm, choler, wrath, acrimony, vehemence, storm, ferment, ferocity, ire, explosion, eruption, squall, heat, huff, tantrum, rampage, spleen, bluster, upset, acerbity, uproar, paroxysms, apoplexy, raving, dander, blowup, hysterics, fireworks, wingding
I want to point out that one of the synonyms for rage is “hysterics.” Yes, you do actually know where I’m going with this…
In a recent article in the LA Times the current rash of “angry women” was brought to light. It’s a great piece and far too short and still is able to point out that even when our rage is justified, we are shamed for it. Specifically, women are shamed for it.
If you look at the two leading male contenders of the 2016 Presidential race, Trump and Sanders, both of them yell and scream and spit during their speeches, they both have been doing this all along. I am not exaggerating. They are both the epitome of “angry white guy.” No one comments on this much. However, could you even imagine the rash of shit Clinton would receive if she were to give speeches in the same manner? With the same passion? Oh, you can’t imagine? Well read this here and this over here.
I believe there are very real reasons for our fear of anger and rage. We have a history of when women express their rage two things happen:: 1. The women are beaten, tortured and murdered and 2. Cultural change happens (eventually).
These two things are terrifying. One, we are putting our very bodies and lives in danger by expressing our anger. And so it is a matter of self-preservation and survival to stuff our anger, to ignore it at all and any costs.
And two, we are fully aware that as soon as we start expressing our anger, shit is going down. This is also terrifying because even when the system is stacked against us, even when we are completely aware of the injustices and inequalities of our world, they are still known values. Once we start to tear them down, we are now responsible to build something new, something different, something better, something unknown from rubble and ashes. This is a very heavy responsibility. And frankly it is one that many people don’t want. So, we stuff and ignore and look the other way and tolerate our abuse and oppression and the abuse and oppression of others because at least it is the beast we know.
I’m going to let that sit with us all for a few moments.
We are going to continue to stuff our rage and allow school children to be murdered in their classrooms.
We are going to continue to stuff our rage and allow children of color to be murdered by police.
We are going to continue to stuff our rage and allow victims of sexual assault to be blamed for actions of the man who attacked them.
We are going to continue to stuff our rage and allow women to be paid fractions of a dollar compared to white men.
We are going to continue to stuff our rage and allow our girls to receive a lesser education than our boys.
We are going to continue to stuff our rage and allow any number of injustices and atrocities to continue to occur.
Because it’s easier.
Because these demons are known.
Because we have been trained for millennium to sit down and shut the hell up.
Because it will take mindfulness, time and energy for us to break from our oppression and what we have internalized it to be truth.
Here’s the thing though. It doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to look the other way. We don’t have to stuff our rage. We can break from the oppression and shine light on the lies. And sweet Jesus, we can tear this system down and build a new one.
Yes, all this terror about anger and rage lives in our very bones. And still, we can heal it, we can soothe it. We can start to feel, to express, our very valid, our extremely righteous, rage.
Together we can do this. One person at a time, coming together. Waking up. Connecting to each other and ourselves.
We can tap into this rage and we don’t have to do it alone. We can create change in the world by tearing down the systems that oppress and rebuilding a better world, together. Yes, it is terrifying to face our oppressors. Yes it is terrifying to willingly walk into the unknown.
And I believe our very survival as humans relies on it.
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