Assistant Professor of Sociology
California State University, Chico
TRIGGER WARNING!: rape, sexual violence, sexual assault, trauma
I don’t usually yell at the television, sit in front of the TV for 8 straight hours, post my real-time thoughts on Facebook over the course of an entire day, cancel every work-related meeting I had that day, have tear-filled conversations with my Mom about our own violent sexual histories, burst into tears upon hearing a single word uttered by a stranger, or sit in my (painful) memories for long stretches of time. This is not my daily, weekly or even monthly routine. But Thursday, September 27th 2018 was a special kind of day, one that literally forced me to confront, head on, what had been buried deep for well over 2 decades. Since then, I know so many of us have been in a similar space, grappling with pain that is often far too difficult and deep to confront at any one time. Honestly, the pain and rage is often so fierce and sharp that it feels like it is literally cutting me into pieces, ripping my chest apart and open a thousand times over. This entry is the beginning of my coming to terms with the avalanche that hit me on Thursday and hasn’t really gone away. It’s the beginning of some kind of clarity regarding how to move forward; some way that I/we/all of us might be able to use these moments of rage to support one another and contribute to some real social change.
When I talk about Facebook, I usually roll my eyes or bemoan the performance aspect of it all, the way it feeds into our anxieties, often hurts us, and can certainly be used too much. Thursday, again, was a different kind of day. Instead of being used by Facebook, I used it all day long and felt remarkably better and often held by those who heard me and supported me. I was also moved by the collective rage that so many of us expressed on social media across multiple platforms. The Ford/Kavanaugh hearing propelled me forward, fully ready to engage and share and collectively learn how to navigate this rage.
Since Thursday, I’ve also been hyper aware of my embodiments of rage and pain. What has this looked like? To start, I was running errands on Thursday morning, simultaneously listening to Dr. Ford’s testimony in my car, when she said one single triggering word after Senator Leahy asked her the following questions:
Leahy: “What is the strongest memory you have? Strongest memory of the incident? Something that you cannot forget? Take whatever time you need.”
Ford: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter, between the two and their having fun at my expense.”
“Dr. Ford just said she remembered the laughter at her expense. Ooof, that brought on some instant tears. Yes, Dr. Ford, that’s what I remember, too.”
And at the same pain/rage moment, I remember saying to myself: “Welp, I’m so done for the day,” and then I called my Mom sobbing, trying to explain myself. We live together so I managed to explain that I was coming home as soon as possible. And the rest of my day was spent literally glued to the television, often screaming at it with so much white hot rage, especially when I, like so many others, were witness to Kavanaugh’s outright lies and contempt. Once again, real-time posts on social media helped so much but the writing has also helped and, perhaps most importantly, my embodied self-awareness has served as a guide for how to protect and take care of myself.
In a previous post on this site I referenced Dorothy Smith’s The Everyday World as Problematic as I discussed how we might think about our own gendered embodiments and space as we interrogate the normal, everyday patterns we find ourselves in; and in that interrogation, we can begin to challenge patterns that don’t serve us, patterns that reproduce inequality in our bodies and everyday lives. I gave readers an example of how I was able to do this: when my partner and our friend left the house that we all shared, this gave me the freedom to literally have a room of my own and clean less. I described how I shared this story with my theory class:
“What do you think went on for me when they left? I was there for a year, by myself.” I asked this last question with a devilish smirk and then gave them time to consider the full meaning of my story. A student answered, “You had less work to do.” I immediately followed that with, “[Yes!], and I felt light as a feather for that entire year on my own.” I didn’t have to pick up after anyone (this meant that I literally felt energized) and I could do whatever I wanted to do in each and every room in the house (I immediately set up my own office and breathed a huge sigh of gratitude every time I entered it).
And in this entire rage moment in so many of our lives, my embodied reactions to other related stories have consistently reminded me of what needs to be done. For example, I was listening to Stormy Daniels’s (2018) new book, Full Disclosure, the other day, when she told one of her stories, shocking me into pain and rage, once again:
The feeling I most remember is SHOCK at what was happening. I was nine, I was a child, and then I wasn’t. It was the start of two years of this man’s sexually assaulting me. He was raping Vanessa, so I put myself between them, continually offering myself up so that he would leave her alone.
I just started reading Rebecca Traister’s (2018) new book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. In the Introduction, she revisits some feminist history, connecting today’s rage to U.S. feminist rage in 1972, writing:
And then, on the Instagram feed of a friend in San Francisco, I saw her, like something out of a 1972 fever dream: a woman riding BART, wearing enormous lizard slippers strapped above her sandals and socks, a soft, sparkly, green reptilian boob-bib across her front, and a sharp-toothed lizard’s mask over her head. She was carrying a sign.
“Goddess-zilla got woke. Watch out” (p. xviii).
Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo is an assistant professor of sociology at California State University-Chico. She completed her Ph.D. (2009) at the University of California-Santa Barbara and her MSc (2001) in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her areas of interest include gender, sexuality, sociology of the body, and globalization. As a graduate student, she coedited Narrating the Storm: Sociological Stories of Hurricane Katrina (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007) and coauthored “The Dyadic Imaginary: Troubling the Perception of Love as Dyadic” (2008). Her work has appeared in Porn Studies, Journal of Bisexuality, Sociological Spectrum, and Journal of Family Issues.
Daniels, Stormy. 2018. Full Disclosure. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Hidalgo, Danielle Antoinette. 2016. “Embodying Theory: Problematizing the Mundane in Everyday Life.”
Smith, Dorothy E. 1987. The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology. Boston: Northeastern
Traister, Rebecca. 2018. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. New York: Simon