The performance of rage we have seen in the Kavanaugh hearings echoes too closely what those of us who are survivors have seen in our own abusers. It goes beyond simple anger or frustration. It is an orchestrated warning of more punitive actions to come. “You won’t like me when I’m mad.” Something new is emerging here. The tactics of abusers are coming out the shadows and being deployed as a political weapon. Rage in politics should always be seen for what it is, as should the smirking, eye-rolling, and dismissing of others that often accompanies it. It is the mark of abusers when their authority is being challenged. In public, they are intent on silencing civil public discourses. In the privacy of bedrooms and hidden places, they are signaling the physical assault that almost always comes next.
The rage exhibited by members of the committee and by Kavanaugh himself was not about fairness. It was about having their authority — their place on the alpha male pecking order of the man box — challenged. This performance of rage resonates deeply with men who support Kavanaugh. For them, it is the confirmation of men’s hard-earned right to dominate others they view as being beneath them, women, and marginalized people.
… or private spaces; the assertion of dominance followed by increasing anger if there is resistance. For abusers, the performance of rage is the final card they always play. In the case of the Republican Senators, their anger was performed as indignation at what they would frame as an unfair process, but it was fueled by the same rage I always saw in my own abuser’s eyes, triggered by my refusal to just lay down and take it.