The time I almost got raped. How to handle your inner dark feminine. And why Sansa Stark may well be the best feminine icon of our times….
“(You reach the place where) whoever you are attracted to sees you and goes — this isn’t someone who is gonna destroy me.”
I don’t trust like that either….
That’s what I want, Guru Jagat. That’s exactly what I want. I mean I’m really feeling you here.
I’m longing for a world of real power girls. Lovers, friends and allies. A place where — even if conflict arises — we are able to look one another in the eye and know that the difference of opinion is rooted in a commitment to not destroy the relationship in the exchange. If I see or sense someone wants to dominate the fuck out of the space with their need to be right, or their self-entitled anger disguised as woke for example, I don’t trust like that either.
And yet. For most women I know, reigning in our destructive side can pose a little problematic. Not least because, for most of their lives, they have gone to great lengths to stifle their natural inner rage in order to:
- Confine to social norms
- Keep things safe and stable and risk free
- Basically survive
- Be seen as spiritual/loving/accepted/worthy of inclusion
Getting through life without your destructive side in tact is tricky ,however. It takes its toll on us to keep all this in. The dark feminine is a thing. It’s like we’ve consigned her to the shadows. She’s the creepy one tapping at the window pane in the rain. And it takes effort. Daily effort. To keep her locked out there.
Truthfully, me too. As a feisty child I struggled to reconcile what was growing within me and what was expected of me. An errant teenager. I was conditioned to behave as a female like every other female. Brutally taught that females are really only ever truly acceptable when providing social cohesion. And not when tearing social structures the fuck down. Anger makes us worthy of punishment in the eyes of our communities. It also makes us ugly — which is the opposite of female in our current culture. A power girl is fine if you are in a comic. But in real life? You’d better learn to buckle down.
One of the major problems with all this is this is that, if you are taught that anger is not acceptable — ever, and even in moments where it is needed — frankly you just become a goddam danger to yourself.
Turns Out I Like Myself….
I remember the day I was almost raped.
He ran up to me in the woods.
“Go on” he said. Like some kind of frenetic dog. Sweating in my face with excitement. “You know you’ll like it.” Pointing at the ground where he pictured he was about to enter me.
The voice in my head knew danger when she saw it:
“Just lie down and let him get it over with” my inner voice said to me. “It’s safer that way.”
Clear as day. To get angry with a man. Was more dangerous to my psyche than to be raped by a man.
Thankfully on this occasion my anger took over anyway. (For the record he didn’t actually want to force himself upon me after all. Apparently, he was just playing with the threat.) And so he ran like a nervous puppy. Stalling and crying all the way home. I remember watching him flop around as I screamed a rage so primal I didn’t even know I had it in me. It was like a forcefield of rage. A super weapon.
Turns out I like myself then — especially when I’m scared. He fell as he turned the corner, and I remember still screaming at him because he was a motherfucker.
I’ll admit I was lucky. He may not have been a murderer or a rapist like I’d feared. He may not have had that in him on this particular day. But I guess you could say my anger took a punt on it. Because the truth is — you and I both know — it could’ve gone either way.
This is what it means to be a woman with anger in this world. A liability without it. A liability with it.
Don’t put the blame on me…..
I woke the next day after a fretful night with one thought in mind. The man knew who I was and he knew where I lived. The fact that I knew who he was and I knew where he lived escaped me. Within a week I had moved.
Why didn’t I report him?
Don’t put the blame on me, frankly. I am sure I should have, yes. But — like many before me — I was scared of the repercussions. I was scared my anger would get me in trouble next time round. I was sure the anger police would sniff me out and I would, finally, have it coming. My trauma body — my deeply ingrained conditioning — had got the better of me.
So maybe you can understand my confusion then, when people tell me over and over that I am an angry woman — like it is some kind of disease. Like it isn’t welcome. Or necessary. Or that I just need to make a choice about being angry and that choice is basically to NOT be.
I’m sorry you feel that way….
I mean look at Thich Nhat Hanh” a spiritual person actually said to me once. “He doesn’t get angry.”
Or another (male) buddhist teacher: “Your anger is like a demon, Julia. You are mistakingly identifying with it as real.”
Okaaaaay — so both of them had a point. (I’m being generous here.)
But, crucially, I was struck how neither of them paid any attention to the context that my anger grew up in and still exists in. As men in both cases, I had seen them getting angry multiple times for example, and with no apparent social backlash for doing so either. No-one was calling them out for getting angry when they needed to.
(By the way — if you disagree that I DID grow up in a context — I’m sorry you feel that way. I recommend you get your self a copy of “Rage Becomes Her” and get back to me. This text is a harrowing read and will educate you that women have a lot of reasons to be angry. Walking alone in the woods under threat of assault just being one of them.)
Anger + Entitlement = Harm….
Another thing I have discovered along this journey, is that reclaiming my anger and destructive side is not a clear cut path back to health and integration either. We cannot do this alone. And I understand the negative impact of rage on the world around me. It can destroy relationships. It can destroy health. Both in its over controlled suppression AND in its uncontrolled entitled expression. Just read Gabor Mate’s cutting account of how repressed and internalised anger ravages the body mind of his patients every time.
On the other side of the spectrum though — the unbridled rage bit. Indeed, I have met lots of people — of all races and genders — who believe that the world owes their rage a kind of witness. It is easy to give credence to this belief when your anger has been throttled at birth. Or when you are forced to comply with the social structures around you in order to avoid isolation or even death. It is easy to believe that when anger became an experience that slowly strangled you from the inside, unleashing it on anyone who happens to trigger it is a completely bonafide thing to do.
But the truth is — it isn’t..
And that is a hard truth to bear.
My response to my own upbringing and conditioning was to try and exorcise my rage by letting it off just about everywhere I could too. I thought that was me healing. Language was my preferred option. I grew kind of proud of the firework display. I found myself courting the heretical for the sheer thrill it gave me to goad the hunters online. An outrageous post here. An outrageous post there. A drop of rage in a relationship here. A soupçon in another relationship there. Like a dog baring it’s teeth. Just so they knew. (And they knew.)
At the risk of alienating myself from the feminist club then, I have to say that I see a lot of unbridled and entitled rage around me in feminism today which saddens me greatly. Because whilst it can only be healthy to integrate anger — I would argue the utilising anger in community takes a great deal of interpersonal skill and a huge amount of dexterity at the edges. And most of the time I don’t see any evidence of this kind of skill at all. In fact a lot of the time all I see is harm.
We appear to be happy as women to just let the bombs off, in some kind of futile “I don’t give a fuck about you” act of gender retaliation. We forgot the nuance.
Sadly for me, my unbridled approach didn’t really get me anywhere. Because the reality is that any kind of human being who wears anger like that, like a badge, is going to ultimately draw nothing but a counter attack. And that is what happened to me. Over and over.
People did not look into my eyes and see a woman who was not going to destroy them, Guru Jagat. They saw a woman with the potential to destroy them. And mostly that made them attack me first. Force begets force.
Future feminine leaders….
For the times we live in then, to reclaim rage as an embodied AND a relational experience, would seem like something that all future feminine leaders must get comfortable with. Furthermore, this would seem even more necessary in my opinion for all groups of people who have either been denied the right to their healthy expression of anger, or who are living in such circumstances where rage is a necessary and natural response.
In other words — I can’t get rid of my anger just because it makes you uncomfortable. And neither can anyone else. The cry for social justice is imbued with necessary anger.
All I am urging you to consider is that we are also all in constant relationship with a world. And that that world that frequently finds itself strung out and on the edge of nervous system burnout. No group with privilege is exempt from this either. Men in the West have high rates of suicide, for example. How would it help to throw your unbridled rage at a man in that kind of state, I ask you? How does that change a goddamn thing?
Personally, I believe it is imperative then, for those of us trying to broker some sort of healing for both ourselves, and the world around us, that we pause to consider exactly when and how we use our anger for change.
It is tricky. There will no doubt be people in the “unbridled rage is freedom” camp wanted to retort right now about emotional labour and all the rest.
But here’s the thing — I think if we are to transcend our current cultural limitations and pains — we are actually going to need to just buckle up and do this anyway. We need to master ourselves.
(And thankfully, we do have some archetypal role models along the way.)
Female domination for the win?
Which brings me back to Sansa Stark.
We pretty much all remember the last episode of Game of Thrones, right?
(Okay. So whilst you lot were bitching about the storyline. I was, as always, positively grooving on the costumes and just the symbolism of the thing.)
But before we get to Sansa, let’s just think about Daenerys for a moment.
Jeeez Louise, let me tell you the feminists had an absolute field day on my wall about that one.
Here’s this amazing female leader, the one who we have been invested in all along to be some kind of female saviour of the entire world — just like women would be if given half the chance (female domination for the win?)
Anyway, so there goes Dany — the total modern day feminist icon, suddenly losing her shit completely and burning everything to the ground, including cute middle class white toddlers with their cute middle class wooden toy sets.
Dear God what has befallen us? Cried the feminists.
Are you ready?
But are you ready for a different take on this? Because here’s how I framed the notorious moment in King’s Landing.
Dany and her dragons are bonafide symbols for feminine power, yes. And perhaps that I why we love them so. The dark feminine. The chaotic feminine. The one we keep outside in the rain. The feminine that destroys as much as it creates. And that archetype is real. Dany lives in us and around us. Feared, hated and for the most part controlled. The wild feminine was totally unleashed.
For sure, I recognise Dany in myself. I mean — don’t you?
I actually love to just let go, and surrender all the way in like that with my anger. Oh how I adore it when I just let the rage — so long held in and repressed — I just let it fly. I give up all control, I have it do what it will. Hang the consequences because the patriarchy had it coming anyway kind of thing.
I don’t give a fuck
I hope for yourself that you’ve experienced that too. After being so long held in and told to behave? There’s such a delicious undoing in that place of going full throttle — I don’t give a fuck about you. I don’t give a fuck about the toddler even. I basically don’t give a fuck.
Can you feel the female outbreath in there?
I mean — can we just pause there for a moment and actually feel that?
Right? So good.
Sansa Stark and a Rage Integrated
Eventually though — I just came to accept — that to go that deep into chaos in terms of my anger will probably cost a lot of things that are dear to me along the way.
Relationships for one. (I have never yet met a person who could handle that kind of darkness in me for example. I never yet met one who wanted to either. And whilst that makes me kind of sad — that is also a burden for being human. Like tough shit, Death Mother. The toddler needs to live.)
So here’s what I try and do instead, Guru Jagat. Now I am a bit older and wiser in my years.
I found myself turning to Sansa. I watched Sansa with her fire. And much to my surprise it made me cry with happiness. So I took to wondering why that might be, all you Game of Thrones naysayers. And this is what I found:
There at the end of the season, there was a moment where Sansa was crowned as Queen in the North. Daenerys betrayed and defeated — just as she had betrayed her own cause. And there in subdued colours and dark overtones — there was the true Queen. The guardian of the fire in the end. The fire still fierce at her back.
I don’t know about you, but I look at that Queen and dread to think what might happen to the next Ramsay Bolton that tries to enter the room.
Sansa owns it now. Her rage is going nowhere. In its enormity, the fire literally lights her aura. Unlike Dany, who lost control of its force in that delicious but awful way, with Sansa we sense that her power is integrated. Which means that we know it’s dangerous. Still we believe it is nevertheless safe in her hands. Used only when necessary.
More Power to You….
That is how I like to handle my rage nowadays, Guru Jagat.
I no longer believe that giving my dragons full reign is the key to my power.
Instead, I prefer like Sansa to keep the fire at my back. Ready to annihilate if absolutely necessary. (Run rape boy, run.) But generally just keeping me warm and giving me a kind of quiet confidence in a world that would often seek to strike me down for the audacity of simply being a powerful woman.
To my surprise then, I find that anger that exists in this way is actually kind of — friendly. And not because it should be. Not because it seeks to conform to social pressures. But because it knows that, when it stays relational, that life is more connected, nourishing and fun that way.
With integrated rage then, I am able to fully appreciate the honour that it is, when a person offers up a surrender in connection to me that comes only when they see that they are safe in my presence.
Of late, I find that people open their souls to me over and over. They know it is okay to do so. That I am not gonna destroy them, Guru Jagat. No I won’t.
They know I am only here to love them. To serve. To inspire them to lift their lives into power, and into a world that really fucking needs them right now.
They know that the fire is handled at my back.
They know, finally, that I am a woman capable of handling it at last.
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