Tag Archives: Audre Lorde

A Day to Celebrate Women’s Anger


Women say:

Audre Lorde:  “… while we scrutinize the often painful face of each other’s anger, please remember that it is not our anger which makes me caution you to lock your doors at night and not to wander the streets of Hartford alone. It is the hatred which lurks in those streets, that urge to destroy us all if we truly work for change rather than merely indulge in academic rhetoric.

“This hatred and our anger are very different. Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change. But our time is getting shorter. We have been raised to view any difference other than sex as a reason for destruction, and for Black women and white women to face each other’s angers without denial or immobility or silence or guilt is in itself a heretical and generative idea. It implies peers meeting upon a common basis to examine difference, and to alter those distortions which history has created around our difference. For it is those distortions which separate us. And we must ask ourselves: Who profits from all this?”  — Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism.”

Margaret Cho: “Anger has been a tremendously healing tool for me. Obviously, there’s a lot of language around not being angry and accepting and forgiving your abuser, but — I don’t want to forgive. [Laughs.] I don’t care! I’m not taking the high road. I’m not here to be the better person. That, to me, is another way to excuse rape. Why are you trying to forgive your abuser? You need to forgive yourself … My rage is really keeping me alive, my rage is my art. We’re always told by therapists and clergy and mentors that you need to forgive and heal, and I’m not there, and I don’t plan on going there.” — Washington Post, November 2015

Roxane Gay: “When women are angry, we are wanting too much or complaining or wasting time or focusing on the wrong things or we are petty or shrill or strident or unbalanced or crazy or overly emotional. Race complicates anger. Black women are often characterized as angry simply for existing, as if anger is woven into our breath and our skin … Feminists are regularly characterized as angry. At many events where I am speaking about feminism, young women ask how they can comport themselves so they aren’t perceived as angry while they practice their feminism. They ask this question as if anger is an unreasonable emotion when considering the inequalities, challenges, violence and oppression women the world over face. I want to tell these young women to embrace their anger, sharpen themselves against it.” — New York Times, June 2016

Elizabeth Gilbert: “Anger is OK, actually. Anger, we can work with. At least anger (unlike boredom and fear) has fire in it. At least anger is alive with a kind of passion. The ancients said that there are three different kinds of prayer: You can pray in gratitude, you can pray in beseechment or you can pray in anger. You are allowed, in other words, to vent your rage to God. You are allowed to say, ‘I am furious at you for what you have allowed to occur!’ Do it. Get it off your chest. (God can take it.) But make a commitment that you will not remain in that state of rage for your entire life, or else it will burn a hole right through your soul.” — The Huffington Post, October 2014

Fran Lebowitz: “I’m pretty angry, but the problem with me is that I’m always in an extreme state of rage. I have all this other rage in me from 1950.” — The Huffington Post, October 2012

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Jen Cross: An Interview with the Author of Writing Ourselves Whole


Laurie and Debbie say:

We were very pleased to be invited to interview Jen Cross about her book, Writing Ourselves Whole: Using the Power of Your Own Creativity to Recover and Heal from Sexual Trauma.

Jen is a sexual abuse survivor who has worked intensely with both writing for her own healing, and the healing power of writing in groups. Writing Ourselves Whole is her first book. We were  both very impressed by how thorough, clear, and complete it is: so much so that we had to put effort and energy into finding questions to ask that she hadn’t already answered fully in the text.

Body Impolitic: What led you to make this work your life passion?

Jen Cross: I was a writer before I was abused, and wrote very little during the years the abuse was happening. A few months before I broke contact, I started writing again. The great thing about writing was that nobody could tell me I was wrong. Writing became a core healing place for me. I was also becoming a queer feminist, doing consciousness-raising groups with domestic violence survivors. I found myself wondering how writing could be of service in that work.

I noticed the shift that happens when we write together. In the context of the understandable tension between incest survivors and the queer sex-positive community, I was blown away by how much risk folks were willing to take. Even in the first meeting, people would bring forth stories in stunning, powerful, rich language. There was room for our full stories and artistic genius.

In writing groups structured this way, we make choices about what we share. And we are generously, effusively kind to one another.

BI:  What differences do you find between erotic writing groups and other writing groups?

The difference is in the expectations of the writers when they walk into the room. In explicitly erotic groups, I talk about “adult lived consensual sexuality now.”  In general groups, we are more about feeling out possibility, re-embodying sexuality.

BI: We were both struck by how you use this quotation from Audre Lorde in your book:

I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way. And when I say living I mean it as that force which moves us toward what will accomplish real positive change.

 The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.

BI: Can you say what draws you to this concept of the erotic?

JC:  Some of it is about trying to keep the erotic separate from being purely about sexuality.  Lorde offers an expansive view of the erotic, truly about empowered embodiment—living fully into our artwork, or nonsexual conversation with a dear friend. Erotic is too often relegated into one place. For an abuse survivor, it can be about being able to replace the abuser’s “erotics” with a form that is not his, but is the survivor’s own. 

BI:  So you are differentiating between creativity that arises from the need to be creative to survive trauma vs. creativity that comes from other sources?

JC:  I don’t know where our creativity comes from. One thing survivors have to do is reframe our relationship with coping mechanisms. The genius in our psyche helps us get through horrific situations.  But then we blame ourselves for how we did it.

There’s not a person I have ever written with who hasn’t written something that blows the top of my head off.

BI: Can you say something about the difference between writing an organized book like this one and freewriting?

JC:  I freewote all of the sections. I made a list of topics and then used those topics for freewriting. I wanted a book you could read in chunks, or as a whole, or return to. I used Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones as a model.

I found it such a pleasure to do editing. I print out everything and edit on paper. Editing uses a different part of my brain, and I can let the writing show me what it wants to be.

BI:  When you talk about healing, are you talking about something like returning to our true inner selves before we were abused, or about creating ourselves in a new context. How do these processes differ?

JC: I struggle with the sense of healing and recovery as return—finding your voice. We are multiplicitous and vast. Finding our way in a positive sense. Trauma is part of us. We can feel fragmented and be accepted as fragmented. Healing is about something messier than simply being whole all the time. We are able to say both “This shouldn’t have happened” and “I like who I am now.”

Writing Ourselves Whole is a finely crafted roadmap to an entire world of healing strategies. Jen Cross is fiercely honest and effusively kind. If anything about the topic of the book or the tone of this interview speaks to you, buy the book. You’ll be glad you did.