No more stifling rage

Leonard Suryajaya, Two Bodies (2017)

In the past few days Malaysian Twitter, or Twitterjaya as we call it, were inundated with reports of rapes and assaults done by seemingly ‘respected’ men in the industry, organisations, and some among the very immediate circle of the people they have assaulted. It was heartbreaking to read the accounts of the victims as they filled up our timelines one by one, and I could not imagine how terrified the victims were at the same time having to gather the courage and relive the trauma of being sexually assaulted by the people of whom they thought they could trust. Less than a few hours after the posts surfaced, it felt like a tyranny of notes app, as they were also posted one by one by the perpetrators — claiming to be innocent — and their friends in their immediate circles, of mixed messages of “I have never thought he is this kind of person”, “we never saw this coming”, “we must hear the allegations from both sides”, “I refuse to be associated with this person anymore”, “I offer myself to be the mediator between the victims and perpetrator(s)” etc. In all of my, and the collective outrage of women who came across these accounts, in between other observers in the peripherals who felt the need to offer their opinions of ‘preventative measures’ and the religious overtures of “the girls should never have followed him home!!” were the observation of the similar pattern: we saw largely women apologising on behalf of their perpetrator friends, apologising for not seeing the signs much earlier, and mediating and doing the hard work of mitigating harm and centering the voices and experiences of the victims. And so we are back here again: doing the unpaid labour for men albeit indirectly, putting ourselves on the front line to make sure our sisters are protected while at the same time the men are further ensconced into their patriarchal comfort, with lack of regards for their very own accountability. My body shook even harder coming across a very spirited thread of an old friend of which — in the name of religion and ‘preventative measures’ as to how she put it — reeks of victim-blaming and rape culture enabling. She did not take well to other people’s comments calling her out on her ignorance, so I decided my battle — I blocked her.

This is what we women do — our bodies, our whole existence have been used as weapons, for ours or for others, all throughout our lives. All throughout our lives, we are told to make ourselves small, not too loud, not too visible, not too smart, not too ambitious, not to be too hopeful, not to exist too much. For those of us women who wanted to break free, we realised we have accumulated years of rage compounded inside us. And in these very years of grievances we must learn to channel this rage — I know how cliche this sounds — to smash the harmful wall of patriarchy.

For these men who refused to take responsibility and accountability, they knew the wall must never be dismantled because it requires us women, nonbinary folks, and allies (including men, and especially men) to come into senses and realise that this ideology and system — that encompasses all the spectrum that allow them to hurt women and get away with us — harm us. And for this very reason, we need also men to come to their senses, to acknowledge their privilege, to educate themselves on problematic behaviours whether it’s from themselves or their friends, to call out their friends whenever they do any of these problematic behaviours, and many others. We need them to also take up the load for once, goddammit.

I think this is why I find the idea of abolition so appealing. The idea of dismantling a very problematic system that even reforms won’t cut it anymore, the idea of stripping everything away and starting something new altogether based on the idea of community and togetherness. I love how its an idea rooted in imagination and hope, and with them we can chart our next course of action. The idea of collapsing the entire patriarchal structures seems insurmountable, but a lot of ideas beforehand — slavery abolitionism, universal suffrage etc. — all seemed insurmountable and started with hope and imagination too. It’s definitely a lot of work, but if they have been done before, we can do this too.

Reading in my tabs:


  • Reading: Sasha Costanza-Chock’s Design Justice and Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice.
  • Listening: This interview with therapist and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem: “Einstein said energy cannot be created nor destroyed. But it can be thwarted. It can be manipulated. It can be moved around. When we’re talking about trauma, when we’re talking about historical trauma, intergenerational trauma, persistent institutional trauma, and personal traumas — whether that be childhood, adolescence, or adulthood — those things, when they are left constricted, you begin to be shaped around the constriction. And it is wordless. Time decontextualises trauma.”
  • Viewing: A virtual tour of the International Space Station.
  • Food & Drink: Made some grilled fish to go with white rice today.

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