Why, Yes, I am Unhinged. Thank you for Noticing!
Why, Yes, I am Unhinged. Thank you for Noticing!
Over the last couple of decades, in my sessions with my Rubenfeld Synergist, I have found myself returning to a theme of “keeping it together.” Why do I think I have to clutch my thigh, immobilize my shoulder, turtle my neck? Because I must “keep it together.” Because I don’t want to “lose it.” Everything might “fall apart.” I experienced my body as all buckled in, strapped together, contained by the proper restraint.
Over and over, I have learned to allow myself to let go and over and over I have returned to discover that I have contained myself again.
My synergist will often ask something like, “What would happen if you fell apart? What does losing it look like?” And I had no idea.
I have some idea now. And, truthfully, it looks great. It looks like freedom.
On a long walk after listening to Soraya Chemaly talk about her book, Rage Becomes Her, my friend and I talked about the power of imagination, of art, of dragons and how witchcraft made a man leave us alone just from a small hand movement and a funny whooshing noise. My friend said, with obvious appreciation, “You’re unhinged. In the best possible sense of that word.”
And I am. I am. I absolutely am. Completely unhinged.
And it feels like freedom. Unhinged is one of the many words we use to call people crazy but it is most often applied to women. It has a soupcon of benevolent sexism in it — as if the person using it is minutes away from calling the funny farm. It also tends to be deployed to dismiss a woman expressing an opinion. The Republican Senators call Kamala Harris unhinged when she calls them on their bullshit. Elizabeth Warren gets called unhinged for telling truths on the regular. Maxine Waters’ incredibly calm “reclaiming my time” moment also earned her an unhinged label, despite the logical, measured way that moment evolved. There’s something about “unhinged” that suggests that if the person would just fall in line, just climb back into the slots of a door hinge, all would be well. “Just calm down, little lady, you catch more flies with honey. Why don’t you smile more? We’ll just line up these hinges for you and you’ll be back in your place in no time.”
I keep thinking of something that Rebecca Traister pointed out in Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger — and that is the language overlap of madness. That is — to be mad can mean being angry or crazy. And, really, it’s both. Because if a woman is angry, she is seen as crazy. Madness (that is, anger) in women is seen as madness (that is, craziness.) Men’s anger is seen as cathartic — the cleansing wind that gives us noble revolutions. Women’s anger is seen as madness no matter how righteous the cause.
After all these years of being hinged, strapped in, appropriate, self-contained, I have released myself. I am unhinged. The straps with which I kept myself within the proper bounds have fallen away and I have let go of a wide range of behaviors and norms that I just don’t care about living up to anymore. I realize that all this makes me look unhinged and I find that rather than being worried about it, I am delighted by that perception. I suspect that the line between crazy and free is much more narrow than we like to think. Maybe crazy just means refusing to accept society’s unjust rules. I know that if I were living in the Victorian age, I’d have long ago been locked up for hysteria. (Whether it would be my novel reading, or my anger that would get me put away, I can’t be sure.)
If I were feeling the way I’m feeling now in the middle ages, I would have long ago been burnt at the stake.
Non-compliance is dangerous. To those who are attempting to re-invigorate the patriarchy, women who feel like me are nothing but trouble. I am un-hinged, non-compliant, unbought, unbossed, undone and free.
After all those years of keeping it together, I have been set free. To some, that freedom looks like madness. A free woman may well be unhinged but I think that’s a compliment. I take it as one. But I also no longer really care what anyone else thinks. I’m free. That’s it. You can’t strap me in, hinge me down and you can’t convince me to do it to myself anymore either.
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Originally published at artiststruggle.wordpress.com on October 30, 2018.