In the countdown to the 2020 election I interviewed Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger – an amazing book she wrote after 2016 election delving into the reasons why women can’t be angry without being called “unhinged” or a “b*”.
Our conversation includes:
- how the progressive white male was most “shocked” with 2016 results
- why the power differential between men and women hurts EVERYONE (hello, judges of Kamala Harris’ facial expressions)
- why the ideology of separate spheres keeps us divided — and struggling to maintain our mental health, hence all those bubble baths and lavender oil treatments. (Raising my hand to that… its great, right, but… is it really enough?)
- Soraya also shares the historical context of gender roles and intersectional feminism to provide convincing reasons why self-care rituals fall short of any real solutions while remaining vitally important for us to do.
Listen to Episode 160:
Rebecca Scritchfield: 0:01
Welcome to Body Kindness. I'm Rebecca Scritchfield:, creator of the Body Kindness, philosophy, book and audiobook. I'm here to help you create a better life by reinventing health from the body oppressive shaming, and you'll never be enough type of mindset to positive and joyful ways that you can spiral up your energy mood, and your well being at any size, shape, or weight. And as you are right now, get started for free at BodyKindnessBook.com/start
That's the sound of me smashing a stack of scales in front of some friends. And I have to say that breaking up with the scale and all the other ways I was judging, monitoring, and measuring my worth, was absolutely pivotal in my life. Creating the Body Kindness, philosophy, and letting myself be a human being again helped me become a better mom, a better clinician, and a happier and healthier person. I believe we all have a right to decide how we want to care for ourselves. And I think we all need support and figuring out what that looks like. You don't have to do this alone. There's a whole community of like minded people who are fed up with diets, who are embracing intuitive eating, and who are completely redefining their lives from body shame, to Body Kindness, you're not broken our culture is. Find your inner caregiver and create a better life with Body Kindness.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 1:52
I have a really personally like conflicted time with the notion of self care. Because I, as I said in the book, you have to engage in self care when the people around you aren't caring for you. You know, there's a lot to be said about that. Like, if you are being cared for properly, then you don't have to maybe think in terms of self care all the time. But, you know, making the space to care for yourself is very important. But having other people respect, that is when it stops being self care, right? Like, if you if the people around you are like no, you need to rest you need to literally rest because a lot of what we talked about with self care is resting, resting from, you know, self objectification resting from teaching, resting from caring, resting from working, just rest. Rest is, you know, what we grapple with, I think is a time poverty, women. It's not just a matter of wage gaps or wealth gaps that you can measure monetarily, financially, economically, it's time, you know, and that's what we don't have.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 3:04
That was Soraya Chemaly. She is currently Executive Director of The Representation Project, and 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 Director and Co-founder of the Women's Media Center Speech Project, she has long been committed to expanding women's civic and political participation. Her work as a writer, activist and organizer is featured widely in media books and academic research. She's the author of Rage Becomes Her - The Power of Women's Anger, which has been translated into several languages, and a contributor to multiple anthologies most recently, Free Speech in the DigitalAge, and Believe Me - How Trusting Women Can Change The World. I am deeply honored, thrilled and excited to share this episode with you. We talk about power dynamics, we talk about the election, we talk about representation, and intersectional feminism, and we relate it to what you might be thinking on sort of your day to day, in the day to day pandemic, and the day to day of your Body Kindness practice. So I really hope you get something personally meaningful and helpful out of this episode today.You can always email me Rebecca at BodyKindnessBook.com if you are getting any benefit out of this podcast and can help support the show, that's gofundme.com/bodykindness.
Hey Soraya! Welcome to body kindness.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 4:59
So great to be here with you today, Rebecca, thank you, oh my gosh, um it's about time.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 5:05
It's about time for so many reasons I have looked up to you and loved you and respected you. So, so much. And I want to let listeners know how I came to really get to know you and your work. And it has to do with our shared literary agent. And a Sproul Latimer, who is co founder of neon literary agency, and they're just doing a wonderful job trying to raise and amplify more voices that are being unheard in publishing. And so that's amazing. And, you know, you basically really kill it with your books. I'm holding your latest that is, it really blew my mind, it's called rage becomes her the power of women's anger. And, you know, it came out when my daughter was having an issue actually in kindergarten, where she was playing with a boy, and they were playing blocks, and she was make believing. Like, she was a she had an ice cream stand. And he decided he wanted to switch it to cops and robbers. And she didn't want to do that. So she had said, No, and he kicked down her blocks anyway, and she lost it in the kindergarten classroom. And I'm sure you're not be surprised that she's the one who got in trouble. And that made her even more pissed. And so we dealt with it professionally as adults, and and the teacher is fabulous. She didn't have all the information. But one key thing I said was after reading your book is like, I want to teach my daughter that she has a right to her anger. And this is in kindergarten. So by way of introduction, I'd love to know, let the audience know a little bit more about you this book and what you do in the world.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 6:51
Well, first of all, thank you so much for such a lovely welcome. You're so kind and I've enjoyed we've had many conversations now about these issues. And I think each one delves into a different aspect of these problems. I wrote the book after the last election, because the disparate treatment of women and their anger was evident everywhere. And I mean, at the highest levels of our politics and chat rooms online. And you know, at work, and it was just very clear that some people are able to articulate their anger in a way that brings them respect, and inspires confidence. So specifically, as we know, from decades of studies, in the United States, white men, for example, if they use their anger, politically, are seen as patriots and leaders. And so even the presidential candidates at the time, and even in our vice presidential debate last night, you could see aggression being used as a way to buttress masculinity and leadership and gender ideals. Whereas women can't do that. Because the stereotypes related to women in anger, all of which are intersectional. So if you're a Black woman, you don't have to even do anything. It's there's sort of just this assumption that you're going to be angry and aggressive, and sort of difficult to deal with. If you're a white woman, and you're angry, you're on hinge, you're crazy. If you're Hispanic or Arab, you're spicy and hot. I mean, the list of stereotypes goes on and on. But those are kind of silencing techniques. And so girls learn really early to not feel that their anger is their own to use. And that's a very corrosive message. Because anger is a survival emotion, right? It tells you when there's injustice, or when there's a problem, or when you're being threatened, like your daughter, right? Like, here's a person who's destroying something that she created and transgressing all kinds of boundaries and controlling the environment. Yes, even in kindergarten, and a girl's anger isn't perceived as legitimate. And so we need to fight hard to make sure that all kids have access to all of their emotions, right? So girls and anger, and perhaps boys and sadness, like that would be a corollary. So that's what the book the book is about. And it has remained, I think, relevant in this moment, as we go through this political campaign. Season and election.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 9:23
Yeah, absolutely. It's a wonderful book, they can get it anywhere and including audiobook if they want to rip, rage walk and listen. So I highly recommend that I'll include the link to it in the show notes. But I do want to pivot and and kind of talk about the current landscape and you know, what, like, what are you seeing what are you feeling and think, what are we what are we not getting as we work to get out the vote and, you know, really, I would think, you know, create liberation for all human beings here.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 10:01
Yeah, I mean, I think one one persistent theme in this is that even, you know, when we, when we evaluate problems when we analyze them and in media, when people are talking about political dynamics, and they're talking about the administration and how it is behaving or not failing or not, there's a kind of assumption at a very deep level of separate spheres for men and women. And that assumption doesn't doesn't actually get questioned very much people are willing to maybe talk about sexism and racialized sexism and gendered racism when you know, in reference, for example, to Kamala Harris, and, and they can sort of perceive that she may be treated differently than Pence, for example, right, because of her identity, and because of our our cultural norms in history. But the fundamental assumption is still, that women should be upset with the way she's treated, right? As though what happens to women only matters to other women, instead of being central to our political life. And, you know, even today, the day that we're recording this, Donald Trump is, twice this morning called become Kamala Harris, a monster, and a lot of the online chatter. And immediate is, are you hearing this woman, like don't vote for him women? And I'm thinking why, why men not accountable for rejecting misogyny and racism against a woman candidate as anti democratic, right? Like, we need men to step up and recognize that this is unacceptable in our society, it's not women's job to take care of the misogynist.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 11:53
Right. You know, I agree with you. 100%. And it's, you know, even in my own house, right, and looking after my own, you know, a white male partner, you know, it's like, it's a constant conversation and labor that I'm taking personally responsibility for, I guess, in my agreement to be partnered with him. But yeah, why? Why is it that way? It's basically the system that his ancestors created, and completely defined power around the ideas and the lens of what white men believe power to be.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 12:32
Well, I mean, I think that it's like an historical hangover, right?
Rebecca Scritchfield: 12:36
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 12:37
It's just, it is a sustained systemic bias that we have to identify, name, disrupt and change. And I think the hard part is that at one level, you know, throughout the 20th century, we moved in the direction of more equality for women, and more equality for black people in the country. And that, and that was legislated. Right, like there are laws, and those laws might still be questioned, right? Like we have supreme court justices that overturn voting rights, and that don't think that, that gay people should be married. I mean, that's an ongoing question for some people, right? But having said that, in fact, the thing that matters now, are these deep cultural norms. Right? How does power work? politically? How does it work in our legislators, but how does it actually work in the context of the home, because that's where we're really having to fight this fight now, in lots and lots of places is We know, for example, that women have been grossly disproportionately hurt by this pandemic, because women are simply expected to do the unpaid care work of tending to people's bodies and children and the elderly and their families. And so if, as we all now know, we don't have access to teachers and to other health care, and we have to be self isolating. It's women that absorb that work. And so women are going to pay a huge economic cost. And that economic cost is going to have a very long tail possibly over decades. So you know, we know that over 800,000 women compared to about 250,000 men have now left the workplace, they can no longer do paid work that their families rely on which deepens poverty deepens, intimate inequality, deepens social inequality. But that's another one of those assumptions about separate spheres and gender roles and who is fit to do what kind of work right. So who's defining the separate spheres? That's the patriarchy just it's we just we, we believe it in our bones because that's what we've always been always been told. Well, I mean, there's some really great academic work.places is We know, for example, that women have been grossly disproportionately hurt by this pandemic, because women are simply expected to do the unpaid care work of tending to people's bodies and children and the elderly and their families. And so if, as we all now know, we don't have access to teachers and to other health care, and we have to be self isolating. It's women that absorb that work. And so women are going to pay a huge economic cost. And that economic cost is going to have a very long tail possibly over decades. So you know, we know that over 800,000 women compared to about 250,000 men have now left the workplace, they can no longer do paid work that their families rely on which deepens poverty deepens, intimate inequality, deepens social inequality. But that's another one of those assumptions about separate spheres and gender roles and who is fit to do what kind of work right. So who's defining the separate spheres? That's the patriarchy just it's we just we, we believe it in our bones because that's what we've always been always been told. Well, I mean, there's some really great academic work on on separate spheres ideology, and I would, I would, you know, encourage people who are interested to, to look it up and learn more about it. These are deeply entrenched cultural norms. They're grounded in all of our institutions, you know, particularly sort of Judeo Christian cultures that have kind of hetero patriarchal power structures. And that plays out all all over the place, right? Like we see it over and over and over again. So if you think, for example, about the fact that we, frankly, pretend that people's religions don't interfere with their political beliefs, or their political actions as leaders, right, we're supposed to maintain that we're having this huge conversation right now about the Supreme Court and the, and the and the place of people's religion, which happens perennially, but, but at a very different level, if you just think about what happens when you take children into a religious institution where women cannot be priests, right, I grew up Catholic, that's how I grew up going into places of worship. And my brother and I would walk in and there would be a priest. And eventually, we came to understand that women couldn't be priests, and in effect, are expected to be silent and deferential in the face of men and their public authority. And that affects leadership, way outside of the bar, the bounds of any religious institution, right, that affects people's identities and their sense of self and leadership and self efficacy and relationships with others. So you take boys and girls, and you know, you take children into those spaces. You're teaching them about the presidency when you do that, you know, you went up in saying it, but you're doing it.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 16:54
Yeah, wow, it's definitely an area that I would like to get some more knowledge on myself, because I can see how it's, it's kind of, it seems like you're talking about something that is, is like a root, a root risk, like, like a root belief, right. And if we're buying in at the separate spheres level, then we're going to continue, say where this conversation started, for lack of a better word, I'm going to go on Twitter, right during the debate, and say, Hey, ladies, look at, you know, how much more emotional labor, you know, three times the success Kamala Harris has to do and all the smiles and all Excuse me, I'm speaking and so I, I think I'm doing something that is empowering and helpful, and eye opening. And it's, if I understand you, right, it's like, and yet, the fact that I am the one saying it, and my husband's watching a true crime on Netflix instead of the debates.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 18:07
Right, hypothetically. That is inherently part of the problem? Well, I mean, I, I hesitate. Like, it's, I think that we all have a tendency, right to, to particularize based on our experiences, because that's what that's how we know things, right. I don't know that. I would say that you're part of the problem, I think that the problem is part of our intimate lives, right. And so how individuals negotiate that within the context of a hetero patriarchal marriage, because that is what we're talking about, right? These, the dynamics that you just described, are far less likely, in a same sex relationship, or in a relationship where people aren't married in an in a heterosexual partnership. And we know that from again, lots of studies that show that heterosexual marriage is just a factory of gender norms. You know, even if you have to progressive people, some great studies that came out of Georgetown a few years ago, even to progressive people will find that they are that they sort of their their relationship evolves in a very conservative way. The longer the longer the relationship is, and the more they have, for example, to deal with things like parenting. And it's not conscious. It's just because the structure of the of marriage is itself supported, for example, by the economy and by religion and by all of the sort of community supports that that people have.their their relationship evolves in a very conservative way. The longer the longer the relationship is, and the more they have, for example, to deal with things like parenting. And it's not conscious. It's just because the structure of the of marriage is itself supported, for example, by the economy and by religion and by all of the sort of community supports that that people have.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 19:55
Mm hmm. How would you thread for listeners? Who might you know? You know, they're they're kind of, they're listening to body kindness, because they're somewhere on their journey of, I can't diet anymore. And I need to kind of be kind to myself in my mind, I need to stop treating my body like it, you know, doesn't deserve to take up whatever space that needs to take up or, you know, and actually engage in, in self care that whether it's getting sleep or actually stopping the punishing workout and doing something that's more healing and joyful anyway, just somewhere kind of along those more the lines of what I might be typically talking about, and how would you, how would you kind of connect the dots for the listener? Who was kind of in that space to be like, yeah, and you know, where this comes from, or, you know, what, what really is going to dominate keeping you in that place? Maybe.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 20:54
So, I mean, I think, let's tie it back to this notion of separate spheres, gender, gender roles, gender ideology, and emotion, right, and anger in particular, because anger, I think, is maybe one of the clearest examples of what I'm talking about. Anger is an expression of need, right? Like when a person gets angry, it's because they need something to change. Something that and I distinguish that from resentment, resentment kind of looks backwards. But anger is a little different, because anger implies the right to make demands on the society around you, whether that's your family, your workplace, your political environment. And it's very helpful. Because in anger, we believe that change is possible. But there are a couple of things about anger, that are very, very hard if you're socialized in it to be feminine. And one of those things is centering yourself. So girls and women are socialized to center the needs of others, and to put their needs aside to prioritize others first. And so anger in identifying a personal subjective need can be very conflicting, because we learn to put that feeling aside very often. So it makes it very hard to say things like I'm angry, or I need or can you help me, because, in fact, it feels selfish. And studies show that particularly in hetero patriarchal families, men in those families feel that when a woman, whether it's a wife, or a daughter, or a mother gets angry, that she is in fact selfish. Right?
Rebecca Scritchfield: 22:31
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 22:32
And that that's really not very helpful or useful. And it's definitely not based on recipt reciprocity in a relationship, right, an egalitarian relationship should be one in which we care for each other.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 22:45
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 22:47
We care for each other, you care that your spouse might be upset, you care that your partner might have a need, and that you could help them address that need. But if a person says, Hey, I'm really upset, this thing happened, and I need you to pay attention and your responses. Were, you're a selfish bitch. That's not particularly helpful, egalitarian, useful, caring, or any of those things. Right?
Rebecca Scritchfield: 23:15
Not No, not at all. And, you know, it's interesting, because it's making me think about just, again, you know, this, this value system, you know, in the United States, where it's, it really is built on individualism, right? And like, I'm going to do it by myself, and it's what you're, you know, what you're adding, which I would say is absolutely in the realm of body kindness. This The idea is like, no, it's really a collective well being, it's, I'm allowed to say, my needs matter, I'm allowed to ask for help.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 23:48
Rebecca Scritchfield: 23:48
Not only that, but my, my well being is tied to your well being.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 23:53
Rebecca Scritchfield: 23:54
And I, you know, and it's, yeah, again,
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 23:58
I have the right to be cared for, this is the thing like I, you know, I I have a really personally like conflicted time with the notion of self care, because I, as I said, in the book, you have to engage in self care when the people around you aren't caring for you.
You know, there's a lot to be said about that. Like, if you are being cared for properly, then you don't have to maybe think in terms of self care all the time. But, you know, making the space to care for yourself is very important. But having other people respect, that is when it stops being self care, right? Like, if you if the people around you are like no, you need to rest you need to literally rest because a lot of what we talked about with self care is resting, resting from, you know, self objectification resting from teaching resting from caring resting from working, just rest rest is, you know, what we grapple with, I think is a time poverty, women, it's not just a matter of wage gaps or wealth gaps if you can measure monetarily, financially, economically, it's time. You know, and that's what we don't have.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 25:15
Yeah, you're 100%. Right. And it's an i do think it's this, even though primarily, like, when I work with someone one on one, it is where there's so much of a conversation is about what is happening in the home or in like, who, who's in your network? You know, who, how, where is their community driven healing?
And it's, there is a massive scarcity there. And what's interesting with the time, I think that's also part of it, right? First of all, we're not conditioned to think of collective well being and, you know, we're all in this together, you know, even within our affinity, you know, our smaller affinity groups say, you know, any manageable group, it's it, do we even take the time to group up and hold space, hold a sacred space for that group to like, hold each other, hug each other? I got you, you know, because it's like, oh, you know, to even think about that, that is even worthy of our time. And that, or that could be seen as restful, which could absolutely influence everything down the line and disrupt everything down the line, and what you think of in that term of self care, and I, I feel you it's like, how do I individually appreciate that bubble bath, I made time for without constantly, you know, it's like, that screeching halt of the idea of like it all be fine, just take a hot bath.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 26:49
Right? And again, like, like, I think what concerns me so much about this, the conversation, like perpetual the explosion of the self care industry, is that you can't bubble bath, your way out of inequality, right. It's not going to happen. So fine, have the bubble bath, do your nails, it's relaxing, it's pleasant. But don't, don't suggest or pretend that that is going to fix the structural problems that make it feel so urgent and necessary to somehow just rest. I mean, we're talking about a very basic human need, right? Which is to rest the brain and body and to be healthy.
And that's just not something that a lot of people have. It shouldn't be a luxury, you know?
Rebecca Scritchfield: 27:42
Yeah. Yeah, it should be embedded in our fabric.
Let's take a quick pause from this conversation for an important message from Bernie Salazar.
Bernie Salazar: 27:57
Hey, listeners, Bernie Salazar here asking you to support our show, make your contribution @gofundme.com/bodykindness, and 100% of any amount you can give goes to offset to production expenses. If 20 people can donate $25, it pays for this episode. Again, that's gofundme.com/bodykindness to chip in and support our show. We're so grateful to have you as a listener, and we thank you for your support.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 28:34
I wanted to share something that speaking of anger, something that it has recently angered me. And it was a quote that I found this past weekend. And for the record all of 2020 has been this massive self reflection of what took me so long, you know, it is it's not it is purely a curiosity question and I can't really fairly say all of 2020 because it was like, the first thing was the pandemic and then it was George Floyd, you know, I need to be honest. It was post George Floyd, this what took me so long curiosity. Well, you know, this weekend, I'm doing some reading and I came across a quote from bell hooks. And this was in an interview that was done in 1997.
You know, so I'm in college at the time. And Bell Hooks says, "I began to use the phrase in my work, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, because I wanted to have some language that would actually remind us continually of the interlocking systems of domination that define our reality, and not to just have one thing, be like gender is the important issue, race is the important issue, but for me the use of that particular jargonistic phrase was a way of shortcut way of saying all these things are actually functioning simultaneously at all times in our lives. And if I really want to understand what's happening to me right now, at this moment, as a black female, or of a certain age group, I won't be able to understand it. If I'm only looking through the lens of race, I won't be able to understand it. If I'm only looking through the lens of gender, I won't be able to understand it if I'm only looking at how white people see me."
And so, first of all, mind blown. Secondly, my source of my anger is like, how could I have somehow miraculously public high school but like in honors? Right. You know, how did I not have that quote, you know, in college, again, I don't care how small my school was, it was liberal arts, does shouldn't matter that I was a Chem major, you know, like, I just don't understand how it could be 2020. And I'm like, oh, looky here. My blown And so yeah, so I'm just, you know, and it is what it is. And it's, it's, I'm in my process. It's not about, you know, like I said, a shame and blame, but it is this question of me trying to learn from what she's saying here. And why is it? This was being said in 1997, and I somehow missed it. And there's probably listeners today, that's the first time they're hearing this.
Well, I mean, I, I think that the, listen, we don't teach intersectional feminism in kindergarten, through college, you have to go find it. Right. And you usually have to go find it because you yourself have been hurt or profoundly alienated by mainstream culture. So if you are actually comfortable, if you have an identity that lends itself to being comfortable, and I will say that she added, you know, it was a white supremacist, capitalist oppression, but it's, you know, it's more complex than that what she herself says when she added a white supremacist, hetero patriarchal, capitalist society, right. And that's pretty much what Patricia Hill Collins talked about with systems of domination. And Kimberly Crenshaw was really describing in using the term intersectionality. And as you pointed out, this isn't new, right? This is 30-40 years old, of the canon of work. But that canon of work is marginalized. And it's marginalized, because we have the systems that we do, you know, if a if a black woman is writing about politics, her book is far less likely to be considered mainstream political theory, and much more likely to be categorized as race sociology, and put on some shelf in the back of the bookstore. And we still see that today, you know, I mean, Dr. Brittany Cooper wrote her book, eloquent rage, came out, I think, six months before mine came out. And then I wrote mine. And then Rebecca Trister, wrote good and mad. So within less than a year, we had three books about anger, and women and politics and all of these intersections. But still, those books didn't show up in bookshelves. It's sort of in the current news, current events, tables, or shelves, they, they were categorized as Gender and Women's History and race studies. And, you know, if you look at books written by men along the same lines, like Michael Cummins, Angry White Men, a few years before, those were political, and that, again, comes back to this separate spheres theory. Like if you think about if you associate men with politics, and white men with knowledge, that's how your taxonomy of knowledge gets organized. And so it's not particularly surprising that you weren't exposed to these ideas, which are deeply subversive to the institutions and systems that exist. But that's why it's so important to seek that out.
Right. Yeah, you know, it's that sort of, I've added sort of a tagline on to that what took me so long, which is like a, it just keeps popping in my head. It's like, dot, dot, dot, like never going back, you know, it's like, find it, learn it, see how I can apply it in my life and my counseling work and my parenting and, and keep going. But, you know, it's, it's interesting, you know, to talk about through the lens of publishing and where things are gendered because and again, back to the broader separate spheres, right, you could look at the publishing industry, right, and the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy lens of publishing, that even that continues to keep it separate.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 35:00
Right. I mean, I think I think the point is that we have to re envision education starting at zero, right, but just how we talk to children, how we teach them to think about other people's humanity and dignity, and that that then has to be part of school, you know, it has to be part of school at every level.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 35:27
It's really not going to happen if if men don't show up and take accountability.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 35:34
No, because men just have much more power, much more resources, much more influence and authority. And so, you know, we can continue to fight I mean, I, I never used the word empowerment for women, because we, we need power, right? Like, all the women I know, are confident and strong, and they work really hard, and they know what they want, and they get tired, but it's not a question of empowerment. You know, it's a question of who has power.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 36:05
And men need to be at the table, giving it equalizing the...
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 36:12
Well, I think people like to say, this isn't a zero sum game. But as long as we have these hierarchical systems, in a capitalist society, it is a zero sum game. I mean, if you're going to be like, try and balance, who's sitting at the table, fewer, white guys, are going to be sitting at the table. And I think that's really unpalatable for a lot of people.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 36:33
Yeah, yeah, it that's definitely it. It's scary. And what's their incentive?
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 36:40
Right, who gives up power willingly? I don't know, anybody who gives up power willingly?
Rebecca Scritchfield: 36:44
No, no, I don't think it's in our ancestry. It's not in our DNA, you know.
I wonder if you would have any insight at all for, it can always help listeners to be kind of critical of the media. And I'm not talking about fake news. That is so frustrating to me as I mean, you know, my partner works in the news. But media does present the idea of power through the lens of what how men see power. And specifically, oppress, you know, well really I would say, anyone who's not a white male, you know, what, what can you say in terms of the connection between media and the power and how it perpetuates us in the system?
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 37:34
Yeah, I mean, media is no different from any other institution. Right, most political writers still in newsrooms of reputable news organizations. You know, I'm on the board, the Women's Media Center. And we do annual annual audits of media every year, obviously, annually, but you know, the numbers haven't changed much since 1992 73% of political reporters are white men. And, and I would say that, and also managers of editorial managers and senior management of media companies, like all of our other institutions tend to be somewhere between 70 and 85%, male, white, Christian, hetero man, just you just go down Bell Hooks his list, right. And that's, that's a pretty stubborn, stubborn fact of life. But what it does is it shapes our perception of risk, it shapes our public knowledge. I mean, I really believe that if we had had more inclusive and diverse senior management and newsrooms and editorial, we would have had far more realistic assessments of the threat that Donald Trump posed in 2015 and 16, the 2016 election, right. But as it was, those newsrooms created narratives of false equivalence, and shame shamefully were grossly sexist in the way that they treated Hillary Clinton. And yet, the sexism that is discussed is often considered a matter of intent. There's, there's no intention here, right? There are some people who are bad actors who are intentionally sexist, but for the most part, what we're talking about is misogyny. It is the sort of systemic exclusion of women from full humanity and from being knowledge creators and culture shapers and risk assessors, right, like the like an infinitesimally small percentage of black women voted for Donald Trump.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 39:44
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 39:45
And that's because they perceived the threat that he represented with more accuracy than people in those newsrooms. And so I don't think that it's a bunch of men sitting around being sexist on purpose. I think that they're participating in the culture that rewards them for doing the work that they do.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 40:04
Yeah. And also there was this like, almost charicature of the whole thing, like whether it was didn't believe that he could ever get elected. So let's, let's kind of make this like reality TV or, you know, like, it was all, like disbelief after, you know, disbelief, and then all of a sudden, shock and tears. And here we are four years later. And I think that there is a real chance that Trump could get reelected again, whether it's through trying to steal the election or pandemic concerns, maybe some voter apathy, and this interview is going to be out before the election right ahead of the Women's March, it's being organized for October 17. It is definitely not too late. Things could get worse. We need to get the vote out. We need to keep going. What would you like to say, given everything we've talked about that that just could help a listener not blow this?
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 41:11
Well, I mean, I think clearly, it's important that everybody vote. I think that we have to take this really seriously, I think that if anybody's I'm among the people who can't believe anybody's undecided, and I'm just stumped by that at this point. And if you have the resources, time, wherewithal to dedicate something, some time or resources to election integrity, to making sure that that we can trust what's happening, because clearly this administration is cultivating distrust in outcomes, it's refusing to both Trump and Pence have now refused to acknowledge a legitimate outcome to the vote, were way down the path of kind of authoritarian governance and their treatment of information and respect for, you know, political norms. But I think people they need to vote and they need to take this threat as an existential one.
And, you know, don't engage in the false equivalences. You might not like Biden, but Biden and Trump are radically different animals. And they're just not comparable. There's no equivalence in the threat that they represent to democracy in the country. So
Rebecca Scritchfield: 42:46
You know, as I'm wrapping it up, it's this thought popped in my mind, which is like, man, I feel like shit after talking to you. No, but I think that's No, no, listen, all emotions are good, right? Even, even negative emotions, because they help you stay focused, right? Something I care about is at stake, I care deeply I care deeply about, you know, ways my ancestors could have done better, how I could have done better in this life, what I can do going forward my role as a mother, as a multi privileged helping professional and so to to feel this, this place of, you know, because again, in that sort of, if it is all about power, right, and it's all about, you know, being able to have, you know, an equal voice, the seat at the table, and it's going to require those with the greatest abundance of power to share some of it, and it's just not likely. It does feel a bit hopeless. And yet, you know. I think that it's, you know, too much apathy is going to make it worse and that there's, you know, you've got to find a way to have some amount of hope. But to your point, there was that you had said, I wrote down four words, we need to identify, name, disrupt and change. Right. So maybe we are in the naming phase in this conversation. And it's about taking some meaningful action to disrupt, to lead to change.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 44:32
Well, and I think I think this is important, we're really not asking white people to do anything that Black people in this country have always had to do. Right. The people that were shocked in 2016 more white people, particularly progressive white men. They, they were particularly I think, stunned in the in the months after the election. And so you know, on the morning after Trump was elected I've got to believe that for black families, it was felt an awful lot like lots of other elections.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 45:07
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 45:08
Right. And so I think that the sense of commitment to this cause is one that we see demonstrated in lots of communities around the country. But now we need the people who have always been the least vulnerable. And now feel vulnerable to understand that right to understand that there are communities that have been fighting for a century. Now, like if you really think about reconstruction, post reconstruction, Jim Crow mass incarceration, right. That's what we're talking about, like, the fact that that some some communities are new to these issues doesn't make the issues new.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 45:50
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 45:51
Right. And so there's a lot that a lot of hopefulness in the but it yeah, it isn't raging, and it does take takes hard work. And it takes sustained commitment.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 46:02
Right. Well, I am I'm definitely here for it. I'm not going anywhere. Yeah, we'll keep it going. Um, before we go,can you share any sort of insight I know you're writing again, I don't know, if you're willing to talk at all about what you're working on.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 46:22
I'm, I'm working right now on a kind of history of the idea of trauma and care what it means to really have a caring economy, a caring society. So that's, that's my next project.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 46:38
I know it's going to be amazing. You are like five years ahead of everyone else, right. So by the time you do your work, by the time the book is out, it's going to be culturally relevant and very useful to move us all.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 46:50
You know, we're all thinking these things. We're all especially now with COVID. It's amazing. I think it's just putting everything into such sharp relief.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 46:59
Yeah, absolutely. I want to thank you so much for coming on the podcast and generously giving your time and Rage Becomes Her is your latest book. I'll have the link to your website and social handles in the show notes, of course. And I am very hopeful for a much more positive outcome to the election and hopefully some collective healing that we all deserve.
Soraya Chemaly (Author of Rage Becomes Her): 47:25
Yes, I'm with you there. Thank you so much. And thanks again for having me. It's always a delight to talk.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 47:37
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Soraya Chemaly is currently Executive Director of The Representation Project. 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 director and co-founder of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, she has long been committed to expanding women’s civic and political participation.
Her work as a writer, activist and organizer is featured widely in media, books, and academic research. She is the author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, which has been translated into several languages, and a contributor to multiple anthologies, most recently Free Speech in the Digital Age and Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change The World.
Prior to 2010, Ms. Chemaly spent more than fifteen years as a market development executive and consultant in the media and data technology industries. After several years in market development at the Gannett Corporation, she moved into the datatech sector at Claritas, ending her tenure there as SVP of Marketing Strategy.
Soraya currently serves on the national boards of the Women’s Media Center, Women in Journalism, and the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project. She has also served on the boards of Women, Action and the advisory councils of the Center for Democracy and Technology, VIDA, Secular Woman, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, No Bully, and Common Sense Media. As an activist, Ms. Chemaly has spear-headed multiple successful campaigns challenging corporations to address online harassment and abuse, restrictive content moderation and censorship, and institutional biases that affect free speech.
In 2013, Soraya won the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC)’s Award for Feminist Advocacy and the Secular Woman Activism Award. In 2014, she was named one of Elle Magazine’s 25 Inspiring Women to Follow in social media, and, in 2016, the recipient of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press’s Women and Media Award. In 2017, she was the co-recipient of the Newhouse Mirror Award for Best Single Feature of 2016 for an in-depth investigative report on free speech and social media, and a Wikipedia Distinguished Service Award for exemplary contributions to the advancement of public knowledge and educational content. In 2019, she was awarded the Feminist Press’ Feminist Power Award.