Dia Bondi 00:19
Hello, everyone, this is Lead With Who You Are. And I'm Dia Bondi. On this show, we explore and discover what it truly means to lead with who you are. And we're doing it with people who embody just that. In this episode we're talking with Sariah tamale about her book rage becomes her the power of women's anger. In this episode Sariah says anger is information and a way for us to be creative, true and healthy. And she talks a lot about how we can lead with a new understanding of rage and anger in our homes, lives and workplaces listening. Hey, just a quick reminder, you can subscribe to this show on your podcast platform of choice. We're live nearly everywhere and you can always listen to the show at diabondi.com. If there's a leader or innovator in your life, who is it their shiniest when they lead with who they truly are, Please share the show with them. And rate subscribe, and leave us a review makes a huge difference in the reach that the show has when you let everyone else know what you love about the show. Thanks so much. Soraya Chemaly is an award winning Author and Activist. She writes and speaks frequently on topics related to gender norms, inclusivity, social justice, free speech, sexualized violence and technology. The former Executive Director of the representation project and Director and Co-Founder of the Women's Media Center speech project, she has a long been committed to expanding women's civic and political participation. She's the author of rage becomes her the power of women's anger, which was recognized as a Best Book of 2018 by the Washington Post Fast Company Psychology Today and NPR, which is what we'll be talking about today. She's a contributor to several anthologies most recently free speech in the digital age, and believe me how trusting women can change the world. Sariah currently serves on the National Board of the Women's Media Center and is a former board member of eMERGE America, women action and the media and the DC volunteer lawyers project and has served on the Advisory Council of many other organizations and social justice and media. In 2013 Sariah won the Association for Education in journalism and mass communications award for feminist advocacy, and the secular women activism award. In 2014, she was named one of Elle magazine's 25 inspiring women to follow on social media. And in 2019, she was awarded the Feminist Press Feminist Power Award. Hello, Soraya, it's lovely to see you.
Soraya Chemaly 03:05
Lovely to see you, too.
Dia Bondi 03:14
I want to say one, thank you so much for being with me today. And I want to set this up a little bit for us. And for folks that might be listening. So here goes. So I'm having you on the podcast today to talk about and discuss rage, how it works, how we can understand it in a new way, and how we can lead with it with that new understanding. So your book rage becomes her the power of women's anger hit real hard for me, because of both the collective experience of rage and the research that you talk about women's collective as well as individual experience around rage and anger, the cultural implications of the shitty way that we relate to it in our culture and deal with it, yeah. But also because of my own personal experience with it. And I got your book, when you and I both actually spoke at the same 3% movement conference a handful years ago, and I start to write, I sat in the audience and I picked up your book on the way out the door at the three percents store. And I just, you know, for me, the reframing of anger, you know, as from a liability to an asset was super powerful. I mean, that's my language, not yours. Yes, but being considered, you know, sort of constructive ly. Looking at how we can use anger and rage and directed at something to make it productive and work for us instead of it being something needs to be gotten rid of smoked out right you know, annihilated. So to start, why, in your view, do we need to claim or might we want to claim anger and rage and let it be a full citizen in our lexicon of emotions and dialogue? And specifically for women?
Soraya Chemaly 04:54
Yeah, I mean, I think that, first of all, one of the reasons I like I wrote this particular book when I did was because it was so clear to me that there were many reasons why women in their broad diversity and their many feminism's have to be angry. But that that anger was just not respected anywhere, it wasn't respected at home, it wasn't respected at work wasn't respected in the political world, wasn't really respected in media. And it was at a time in 2016, when male anger was everywhere, and very respected. Whether that was in the way that it characterized certain political populism, or in the way that political candidates could express themselves. Over and over again, there was this quality of men being taken seriously, and listened to and women being mocked and dismissed. That was one the second reason though, is because I didn't have a resource like this in my own life. And I had come to the conclusion in my 40s, that my inability to understand anger at all was making me sick, it literally was hurting me. And it took me a long time to realize what that was, and why it was happening. And I didn't want other women and I didn't want girls, in particular, to be left ignorant in the way that I was. I just looked back at my life. And I thought,
wow, I just No one ever said anything, no one talked about it, nobody shared information. The whole idea behind my anger was that it should go away. Yes. And that I should keep it to myself. And it didn't really matter what the costs of that were to me, or relationships, or the political world that I'm part of, I really felt that my ability to feel my anger and understand it was like returning to myself. It was like I had hidden myself from myself. And I remembered what it felt like to actually be a person that had these feelings, and that those feelings were very important, you know. And, and the point, the point to me about rage is by the time you have gotten to rage, it's already dysfunctional, it's already been ignored. It's already not working. By the time someone explodes like that. So much has already happened that has gone unaddressed. And the point is to never get to that point.
Dia Bondi 07:51
Right? In that way. I walk with the possibility of having a rage all the time. But it's not it's not inevitable. There's a distinction to me between rage and anger, right? That if I am good at understanding and incorporating, letting be present the angers that I have about something, and to be able to let them be here. They don't have to push me into a rage. Right? That's
the goal. I mean, if you if you think what am I feeling? Oh, you know what, I'm not tired. I'm not stressed, I'm really angry. Why am I angry? I'm angry, because I feel taken for granted of, you know, I'm angry because I feel like there's no reciprocation in this in this exchange that I'm in whatever the reason is, then you can do something about actly, you know, but because we're socialized instead to ignore it, to repress it, to suppress it, to divert it to distort it. We don't get that information. We just can't even come to that conclusion. Because we're really taught that to, to have needs of our own and have those needs prioritized, is it makes us bad people. Right? That's the message girls get?
Dia Bondi 09:10
Yes. And there's this interesting read languaging of like, You're not angry, you're just frustrated. You're not angry. You're just tired. You're not angry. You're just hungry, anything.
You're not angry, you're sick.
Dia Bondi 09:22
exactly understand understanding completely that for me, when I do a good job of being able to understand my anger, I recognize that when I am tired when I am hungry when I am overstretched when I'm saying yes to things I really need to be saying no thank you to those those things that create a primer for a rage because my anger like then it's like a second set of risks that get put into the mix.
What I think happens and I don't know if you've seen this, but I think it addresses what you were saying is that so many people don't
Soraya Chemaly 10:00
Even if they don't even have that point, they literally don't even know they're angry. So, so they can't have the combination of feelings that you might have, or, or consciously think, or unconsciously think I should be doing X or Y, they literally stopped being able to feel the emotion. They don't know what it feels like in their bodies, they don't have a language to address what is going through their head,.
Dia Bondi 10:27
You know, we're talking about this at a very individual level right now. But, you know, it is our collective experience is a collection of individual experiences. So, for me, it took I lived with it for, you know, 30 years before I did a thing, right. I'm thinking all the while that I needed fix that it was a broken thing in me that I needed to fix. And so I spend all of my life and time trying to figure out how to not be not have them to prevent them without actually experiencing the feelings, that if I let myself experience them, it would in fact, prevent it. You know what I mean? It was like, fear was fear was rage, anger and rage was death. If I actually feel it, I might I've a couple times it felt existential enough that if I feel this, instead of express a rage, I will actually die like it was physically painful.
Soraya Chemaly 11:22
like a panic attack
Dia Bondi 11:25
Soraya Chemaly 11:26
It's like, I feel like I'm going to die. But if you have really been taught that you're going to be punished, which is the case, right? If you've been taught, you're going to be punished for expressing anger, or a sense of injustice or wrongness in your personal life or in the world. Those are powerful lessons. I mean, I don't know how you grew up, I grew up in a Catholic Church, which I promptly fled from. But you know, I mean, that those are incompatible, you can't, anger is simply not anything remotely like virtue in certain traditions, certainly not for women.
Dia Bondi 12:01
Yet you started this conversation saying that at the time when you wrote this book, you recognizing how much men in our society were rewarded. Maybe that wasn't the word you used?
Soraya Chemaly 12:11
No, I did say rewarded, they are rewarded. And that's the interesting thing, right? Because I think if you ask men, they too will say, well, anger is not good. But that doesn't mean they aren't rewarded for having it. Right. There's that's different. They may like, there's a time like for men, the idea of justified rage or justifiable anger is part of the patriarchal legacy. It's how you exert your authority, it's how you prove your leadership. You know, it's, it's what good fathers do, they love, but they're also firm, you know, only like, you can go through all the stories, any story you want. There's always an incident of anger, there's a whole mythology around that, yes, there's a whole thing you know, and, and so, you know, I think our experiences as women are very different. If you're a black woman, your experience with anger is very different from if you are, like an ethnically ambiguous brown woman like me, or a white woman or a woman of Asian descent, like there are so many ways in which our stereotypes and our cultural norms, construct anger for us and impose rules on us, you know. But still, in the aggregate, in the United States, white men have the benefit of anger, black men don't, like black men, if they demonstrate anger, they could very well end up dead or in jail. You know, when Obama was president, there was a whole comedy routine that went on for four years, based on the idea that he needed an anger translator. I don't know if you ever saw the Key and Peele skit, but the whole skit was that the man who was Obama would say something, you know, very benign and dignified. And then his anger translator would say, what do you really mean?
Dia Bondi 13:59
that's when we finally listen?
Soraya Chemaly 14:01
And that's when we're, you know, and so I think, you know, I think it's just important. I think people just think that feelings are inside us, and we have them in their private and nothing could be further from the truth.
Dia Bondi 14:13
You talked a little bit earlier about sort of the somatic experience of feeling these things in your body. And I remember the first time I actually experienced a rage, it wasn't yet anger, it was still a rage, but I didn't actually express a rage. I didn't actually have a rage, but I had a rage. I was at home alone. I knew it was coming on and it was like a like that scene and was that film in the Neverending Story, you know, where the the nothing the great, nothing is coming and just eating all the land. I could feel it coming. Yeah, moving toward me. dissipated like it was, I had this peak experience without actually doing anything. And I felt it instead of acting it. And that was the beginning of really understanding how it behaved in my body, what it would do, and how I could both invite it and not feel threatened by it because I knew it wouldn't kill me. And I became started to become less scared of my own feelings of rage, and then started to be able to distinguish the difference between that and anger. And so I'm curious for women that you may be interviewed over, because I haven't talked to a lot of people about this, you know, who, who, you know, who've been having conversations about it for as long as you have you as you did you reach out and talk to other women, like how to other women start to feel it and have it not?
Soraya Chemaly 15:53
Well, I mean, I think, again, to go back to this idea that people lose the ability to feel it, I would say that the somatic experience of Rage is often not an aware one.
Dia Bondi 16:07
Soraya Chemaly 16:07
it's the experience of having rage act on your body
Dia Bondi 17:40
oh, look at you!
Soraya Chemaly 17:41
you know, and, you know, adolescent girls are, are not only are they losing their childhood, but they are acutely aware of the vulnerabilities that looking like women comes with, right? They're sad, they're grieving, a lot of them. They're confused. Some of them are excited. But it's, you know, it's a complex cocktail of very potent feelings. And they're really angry. what is making you angry, let's talk about it. We would much rather pathologize them and say, Oh, my gosh, she has an eating disorder, let's send her off to some clinic for three months, you know, so she can learn how to change her behavior. And that's terrible, right? Like, that's just a horrible way. So we're already disallowing anger already? Well, we're disallowing it and what we're basically saying is we would rather that you be sick and hurt yourself, than as a society deal with what you are want to say, right? Like this. The level of self silencing that goes into girls adolescents, is really staggering. I think women know this, even if they don't admit it. I don't think fathers know it. For the most part. It's very radically different from most men's experiences. Again, I think black men in America have a different experience. But still, I would say that for young men reaching adolescence is being able to look forward to freedom. And that's true for for girls and women too, but not in the same way. It's just not the you know, a lot of girls and women experience adolescence and adulthood always hand in hand with the sense of their physical vulnerability.
Dia Bondi 20:07
So you mentioned sort of this common story of a girl having rage and or anger. Having that show, we pathologize it, we want her to exit stage left to go get fixed. I want to talk a little bit about the myths that we have around anger, the stories we tell about what anger is, you know, the idea, you know, I've shared a little bit with some people about my journey with it. And there's, I hear these phrases all the time. Oh, you just need to get it out. Or you just need to punch, you know, punch a pillow. Yeah. Like it's a, I don't know, like it's a hairball we're supposed to hack up and then clean up and walk away. And then there's and it's also there's some fixed amount of it that needs to be removed. And exhausted, yes. What are some of the other sort of stories we tell or myths things that we hear?
Soraya Chemaly 20:58
I mean, I think a couple of things. One is, people believe men are angry or because, quote, unquote, "testosterone", like, by a factor of four for a woman, they go up a factor of 10. Right? So, the relationship between aggression and testosterone is a really interesting one. Particularly if you think of the way we socialized children to play. So people are much more likely to allow boys to engage in physical fighting in rough and tumble behavior, in exploring wilderness, in venturing farther away from them in a playground, like they're all these fascinating playground studies. But all of those physical behaviors, increased testosterone in the body, regardless of whether it's a boy or girl engaged in them. Right? So, in fact, the way we think of gendered play, also has an impact on our hormones, as opposed to the other way around. That was really interesting thing to consider in terms of anger. We also believe that women are more likely to be sad, which is just how we characterize their anger. If you see a baby, and you think that baby, that baby's very disagreeable and techy, and people think it's a boy, because it's dressed blue and blue, right? They'll describe the baby as angry and difficult and aggressive, the exact same baby doing the exact same thing as a girl. They'll describe it as sad and anxious and in need of some back padding or something. There's no difference in their behavior at all. It's just the difference in the way people want to attribute those emotions.
Dia Bondi 23:18
Yes. And that these myths can be so destructive, because they let us off the hook for actually holding space for the real emotion, don't they?
Soraya Chemaly 23:28
Yeah. And yeah, they do. But I would also argue that, you know, we incorporate these ideas into ourselves. So I write, for example, about women who cry when they're angry. I used to cry when I was angry. And I didn't even know why I didn't even want to cry. Right? But in fact, if you're a child who learns not to be angry, and you learn that people will listen to you, if you cry, then you learn to cry. Because and that's a really early childhood lesson, right? Like, we actually have a tendency to breed anxious behaviors into girls, right? Oh, you fell and skinned your knee? Come here. Are you alright? Like that? That whole thing, right? But, in fact, when you're an adult woman, you don't want to cry when you're angry.
Dia Bondi 24:10
No, I want to break shit when I'm angry.
Soraya Chemaly 24:12
Right. But in a heterosexual relationship, it's often the case that because a woman doesn't want to break the relationship, they won't show anger. Instead, they'll display sadness or fear. Because they correctly assumed that the man they're with will dislike the anger. And studies show that that's true men and heterosexual relationships, when they see anger in their spouse. Their response isn't to say, oh, I should listen to why she's angry or what can I do to help her change the circumstances that are making her angry? Their response is tone policing. It is to get angry that she's angry that she's expressing anger.
Dia Bondi 24:53
So as we think about the our own experience of anger and rage, recognizing And I can actually lead with it now, instead of gaming, everything on my chessboard of life on how to rid myself of it, and my life of it. It's actually part of leading with who I am, I've said like, Okay, you get to, you get to be here. So for you, um, you know, what does it mean, for you to lead with who you are knowing you've had your own relationship with anger and rage?
Soraya Chemaly 25:56
I think that, I think for me, the most important thing is to enable other women to experience what you and I have experienced, right? Like, it's really a liberation. And, to me, it's just very important that we understand that our anger is information as Audrey Lord said that it is a way for us to bridge communities. It's a way to find like minded people. It's a way to be creative. It's a way to be true to yourself, it's a way to be healthy. It's a way to have more intimacy, my God, if you can't say what you need, to the people you love, you are not in an intimate relationship. Right? Like, if you fear that the people you love the most don't care enough to listen to you say what you need, then there's a problem. And the anger gives you a way to address the problem and solve the problem. You know?
Dia Bondi 26:59
You said earlier, you're a bit of a pessimist right now. Is there ever one thing you're optimistic about right now?
Soraya Chemaly 27:04
Yeah, the thing I'm optimistic about is that, I think, well, first of all, more young people came out in the midterms to vote than ever before. I'm super excited by Gen Z. They're getting increasingly politically active. And I'm writing a book about resilience myths. And a lot of people seem to really believe that young people have a lot of hopelessness and despair. If they record high levels of anxiety or depression, I would argue that it's because they have the language and the wherewithal to recognize those things. And to talk about them in ways that prior generations were far less inclined to. So those are some of the things that give me hope.
Dia Bondi 27:52
Soraya, thank you so much for being with me today.
Soraya Chemaly 27:55
No, thank you for inviting me today. It was delightful to talk to you.
Dia Bondi 27:58
Where can people find you? And what can they do outside of buying the book?
Soraya Chemaly 28:03
Well, thank you. They can find me on Twitter as long as it's still there. Every day is a mystery on Twitter, right? I do. I am on Twitter. I also have a Rage Becomes You account on Instagram, and a writer's page on Facebook.
Dia Bondi 28:22
Soraya, Thank you so much.
Soraya Chemaly 28:24
Dia Bondi 28:27
Lead With Who You Are is a production of Dia Bondi Communications, scored, mixed and produced by Arthur Leon Adams, the third and executive produced by Mandy Miranda. You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a voicemail at 341-333-2997 You can like, rate, share and subscribe at Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Go to diabondi.com for show notes and to learn about all it is that we do to help you speak powerfully and lead with who you are.