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Wealthy white women turn to ‘rage rituals’ in the woods

A woman featured in a promotional video for Mia Banducci's rage rituals

May 13, 2024 - 10:00am

It’s official: therapy culture has come for the Karen. USA Today reports a new, expensive wellness trend — “rage rituals” — in which women pay thousands of dollars to retreat to a safe and remote location, call to mind everything that’s ever annoyed them, and then scream, flail and rage while hitting the ground with sticks.

Mia Banducci, a self-proclaimed mystic who leads just such a “rage ritual” retreat, extols the power of these events to release negative feelings and increase joy elsewhere in participants’ lives. “When people do this and give themselves permission to release their anger, their capacity for joy actually expands,” she explains. “They’re able to feel more happiness and pleasure, and they go home to their families with more gratitude and ease and peace.”

Banducci argues that the rituals are powerful because women are socialised to suppress anger. “It’s like, ‘don’t be a bitch’ or ‘don’t be angry’ or ‘don’t be aggressive’ or ‘don’t stand up for yourself.’ ‘Don’t protect your integrity’,” she says. “Women need to be able to get angry.”

There may be something in this. But what it misses is that women aren’t socialised to suppress anger but, rather, to avoid confrontation. Legitimate anger, in context, is confrontational: oriented toward or against something or someone, with the aim of getting something done, or preventing something being done.

By contrast, a “rage ritual” is empty, goal-less anger: pure emotion with no object. In fact, this is the point of a “rage ritual”. They’re “held in the woods, so participants can make noise without fear of bothering people nearby”. Participants are paying to enjoy a risk-free experience of pasteurised anger, carefully purged of any motive force, that goes nowhere and bothers no one.

In an Instagram video promoting one of her rage retreats, Banducci gestures at the actual, confrontational nature of women’s anger, describing how this “sacred rage” has the power to change the world. But somehow it follows from this that anger should be expressed in a risk-free setting: “it is imperative we give ourselves safe spaces to release this fiery hot emotion” lest it “poison or toxify our inner reality”.

Is it really liberating, or healthy, or detoxifying, to pay thousands to work yourself into a rage in a context that strips the emotion of any meaningful capacity to change anything? Well, if not “healthy” exactly, it may at least be pragmatic. For in the age of viral public shaming, wealthy white women who express their anger through actual confrontation can face ferocious consequences. When such individuals confront strangers in the name of public norms of order, cleanliness, or decorum today, they are routinely shamed on social media as “Karens” — or even traduced as ideological descendants of the Klu Klux Klan.

Banducci does not address this increasingly brutal racial politics of female anger — at least, not directly. But the images she uses in her video, to depict women channelling their anger into changing the world — that is, into activism — are strikingly “diverse”, and the causes on their placards are impeccably right-on. By contrast, the videos of angry, flailing women hitting the ground pointlessly with sticks in her therapeutic retreats suggest a much richer, whiter customer base than these praiseworthy activists: in other words, one drawn from much the same demographic as the one demonised in viral “Karen” videos.

So the video’s overt message may be about liberating women to “fully emote”. But the implicit one concerns where, for whom, and on what grounds anger is legitimate, and comes loaded with subtle caveats concerning race, class, and moral values. The inference could not be clearer: bourgeoise white women are permitted to express confrontational, interpersonal anger, but only within the language of progressive activism. In any other context, this powerful emotion should be suppressed, then redirected toward the closed, inward-facing, inert circuit of “self-care” and therapeutic personal growth.

A “rage ritual”, then, is the opposite of what it claims to be. Retreating into a depopulated woodland to scream isn’t a way of liberating conflict-averse AWFLs to express their anger, in contexts where confrontation would be the appropriate response. Instead, it’s a complicated, expensive, and therapy-coded way of helping such women avoid being publicly pilloried as a viral “Karen” by ensuring their capacity for righteous anger is reserved for morally approved causes, and otherwise left to dissipate into the empty woods.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
9 days ago

Creatures of the forest are preparing a class action lawsuit.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
9 days ago

I’m going to invite wealthy, angry white women to my garden, where they can take out their rage by therapeutically digging out weeds from my potato garden, and then they can therapeutically chop firewood and therapeutically stack it in my woodshed.
I will only change a thousand dollars for the privilege.

Dennis Lewis
Dennis Lewis
7 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Sounds like a promising plan.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
9 days ago

OK, someone has found a lucrative market niche, knowing that the target audience consists of rich and stupid people. Better even, rich and stupid women who are much more prone to falling for yet another bizarre fad.
Nothing new under the sun…

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
8 days ago

And yet those same rich, stupid people will give someone hell if they accidentally overcharge them a dollar.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
8 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

True. Maybe because they can’t boast about it on social media?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
8 days ago

Maybe they are screaming at themselves when they suddenly realise how gullible they are ..

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
8 days ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

That’s not ruled out, but usually people who paid a lot of money for something tend to convince themselves (and the others) that it was worth it.
Still, indeed, they might be screaming and raging because they have realised how many other stupid things/”experiences” they could have bought with this amount of money 😉

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 days ago

If a woman screams in the woods does she make a sound?

Geoff W
Geoff W
9 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Yes, because some spiv charging thousands of dollars is there to hear her.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
8 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

They scream when the see the bill.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
9 days ago

On what planet do women totally suppress their emotions while men fully express theirs?

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago

Some do. But a lot don’t. And there’s a lot of passive aggression.

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago

That’ll be the same world in which men are criticised for not expressing their emotions. Strangely enough.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
9 days ago

These rage release courses are one of those things that scream “MORE MONEY THAN SENSE”.
Full agreement on the societal taboo around female anger though and how little girls are brought up to avoid expressing anger or seeking confrontation. I would extend that taboo to “arguing forcefully”, a separate and distinct form of expression. The judgment extends to all behaviours which might make others (not necessarily just men) feel uncomfortable or rock the nice cosy status quo.
I won’t lie, I am a shouter when anger hits. Doors get slammed, items have flown through the air on select occasions. But channelling the frustration and anger is so much more productive.

Peter D
Peter D
9 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think that both men and women are taught to suppress their anger. As a man in a female dominated industry, I am constantly walking on eggshells and minding everything I say until I get the sense that I can somewhat trust who I am speaking to. Male anger is the road to banishment. Female anger is actually ok. However, the cause of that anger is predominately from other women, so it doesn’t bother me that much.
By the way, I am teaching my daughter that anger is a natural emotion and should be felt and expressed, just don’t let it control you. I think that guys need to accept that women get angry and be ok when a loved one is fairly or unfairly expressing anger in your direction. Hell, I would have been divorced ages ago if I couldn’t handle my wife being unfairly angry at me. The stupid doofus who caused the anger would only make things worse if he/she copped the spray that they so richly deserved.
Roll with it people.

William Shaw
William Shaw
9 days ago
Reply to  Peter D

Men more than women are taught to suppress anger, and for good reason because when male anger is unleashed it’s Armageddon.
Female anger is less constrained by society because it is generally far less destructive.

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Yes, women get much more of a free pass than men do where anger and other negative emotions are concerned. We even have a euphemism for it: being in touch with your feelings.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
8 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Female rage and anger can be very destructive, just in a different way.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
8 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Mmmm. Isn’t suppressing anger a cornerstone of a civilised society?
If we all went around expressing our anger it would be total chaos.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 days ago

The Anglo-Saxon world continues to fascinate the globe. In Britain we are so often victims of American cultural imperialism and particularly adherence to their foreign policy or, well, geopolitics. In terms of benefits, it’s a one-way Special Relationship. Culturally, we are much closer to Australasia but the distances are punishing. Nothing good has ever come from the Atlantic.

McLovin
McLovin
9 days ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Is the US on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge? I didn’t know that.

Jo Jo
Jo Jo
9 days ago

Pity the poor native wood-dwellers, wildlife. Don’t suppose they’ve even been considered.

McLovin
McLovin
9 days ago
Reply to  Jo Jo

Maybe they’re angry.

Mark Knight
Mark Knight
9 days ago

Maenad, the female followers of the Greek god Dionysus did pretty much the same, but a lot better; drunk and free from societal restraint they hunted and killed wild animals for food, frolicked and fornicated, and legend has it, were known to have ripped-apart any unlucky men that they happened upon. They don’t do rage management like they used to!

b blimbax
b blimbax
9 days ago
Reply to  Mark Knight

With whom did they fornicate if they ripped apart men whom they encountered?

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
9 days ago
Reply to  b blimbax

Yep them, the same men, if my experience is anything to go by.

Mark Knight
Mark Knight
8 days ago
Reply to  b blimbax

Satyrs, and more practically any of the male followers of Dionysus who were involved in the ‘worship’.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
9 days ago
Reply to  Mark Knight

Perhaps those males making themselves ‘ripped’ in the gym are suppressing a desire to be consumed by a gang of rampant females?

Mark Knight
Mark Knight
8 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Suppressing, or expressing?

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
9 days ago

But won’t the screaming alert nearby bears to their presence?
Oh wait, they haven’t got anything to worry about – it’s only a bear. Just imagine if they came across a man, though!

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
8 days ago

Some men ARE bears. Of course those men have no sexual interest in women so they’re possibly safe from Karenragers.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
9 days ago

It’s not socialisation, it’s evolution. And for good reasons.
Woman who engage in open conflict risk getting taken out of the gene pool when they lose their battles, and that condemns their children too in the environment of evolutionary adaptation.

Francisco Menezes
Francisco Menezes
9 days ago

I am amazed how women can make their lives miserable. For themselves and for others. Undoubtedly, the word ‘Karen’ is a male invention and is meant as a joke. It has been translated in other languages as well and aims to make the same humorous comment on a particular behaviour by women. But trust the wayward sisters of Woke Academia and their helper-loonies to turn a joke into a natural phenomenon like gravitational pull or meiosis. Suddenly, there is racism, a plethora of phobias and, of course, neo-colonialism. One is amazed to find how much extreme right wing thinking there is in an apple pie recipe.
Women should take life (or at least men) less seriously. Avoid the forest and book a spa week end at an expensive retreat in a well manicured surrounding. Careful with bubbles when you hit the sauna. And enjoy the massage.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
9 days ago

Or, if they really feel the need, just go into the woods on your own and do it. Why pay good money?

David Morley
David Morley
8 days ago

Undoubtedly, the word ‘Karen’ is a male invention

It seems to have been invented by service workers for a particular type of entitled middle class woman. The type that abuses service workers and then asks to see the manager.

The Real Karen
The Real Karen
8 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Actually “Karen” was “invented” as a name, ethnicity, geographic region and language of tens of millions of people dating back centuries. Karen was first misappropriated as a disparagement by a white male comic, picked up by teenage gamers whining about their mothers, accelerated by a ranting husband and his misogynist following on Reddit, adopted as an annoying pet owner, transformed into a manager, then twisted into a ranting racist. Every one of these caricatures are superimposed onto the core identity of 15 million people alive today who are being increasingly harmed and erased by identity-based stereotyping.

The Real Karen
The Real Karen
8 days ago

Identity-based stereotypes are never harmless humor. The Karen trope is rooted in age and gender discrimination. It steals a vital identity characteristic (name) from a subset of older women and redefines it as a demeaning stereotype for all women. History shows few more effective ways to spread prejudice and dehumanization than through a “joke,” because those who perpetuate the prejudice and dehumanization can deny intent to harm and dismiss the people who raise concerns…like by telling them to relax and book a spa.

David Morley
David Morley
8 days ago
Reply to  The Real Karen

Great name – you certainly are a real Karen. You’ll be asking to speak to the manager next.

David Morley
David Morley
8 days ago

Women should take life (or at least men) less seriously

They seem to get just as wound up over their friends. Even a spa retreat with a group of friends can go badly wrong.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 days ago

Good grief. I can’t stand my sex. Too bad I can’t change it.

McLovin
McLovin
9 days ago

But you can? Haven’t you heard?

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago

While reading the article I did wonder how many of them were getting angry over things that were actually their own fault. Maybe learning to take accountability for one’s own actions and say sorry is a better way forward. In the meantime, can’t you bash sticks in the woods for free?

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
8 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Resentment will eat you alive; Gratitude sets you free. I suspect none of these ladies subscribe to that philosophy however…

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
8 days ago

I adore your sex. I wouldn’t change a single thing about women.

David Morley
David Morley
7 days ago
Reply to  Jack Robertson

That’s really nice of you. Good luck with your first date, by the way 😉

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago

But what it misses is that women aren’t socialised to suppress anger but, rather, to avoid confrontation.

I think this is bang on – but for some women the resulting anger is then expressed in passive aggression, nagging, bad mouthing to friends, silent treatment and sometimes even days of low level hidden rage.

It really may be that taking this rage down a notch by unleashing it in the woods allows women to be able to communicate their feelings in an adult way. Or perhaps after venting it just doesn’t seem such a big deal anymore.

Peter B
Peter B
8 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

There are plenty of women who relish confrontation and plenty of men who don’t – the generalisation is meaningless here. And some of this is cultural and varies across countries.
Venting anger and frustration has to be better than letting it build up.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Better yet: Just let it go. Teach yourself to cool down; go for a walk. Whatever.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
8 days ago

Seriously. Take a breath, people.

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago

I tend to use the following heuristic: does this behaviour resemble that of a child? If so then the issue is almost certainly one of emotional immaturity. Nothing more to be said.

Banging sticks and throwing expensive collective tantrums in the woods might work short term. But growing up and becoming an adult (with help if necessary) might be cheaper long term.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
9 days ago

Every time I see something that purports to be pro-woman, it invariably reduces them to a pitiful mass of quivering emotions with no agency over their lives. It’s a bit demeaning. Imagine paying money to go into the woods and scream, and act like something noble occurred. What?
This sort of stuff only reinforces the image of the Karenwaffe, most notably its affluent white liberal wing. It’s reminiscent of the white women who paid good money to have another white woman tell them they’re racist simply because they’re white, which is racist in itself, but something about fools and their money comes to mind.

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

it invariably reduces them to a pitiful mass of quivering emotions with no agency over their lives.

Basically a child! Which would be simply insulting if they weren’t shelling out large amounts of money to confirm the judgement.

David Morley
David Morley
9 days ago

Obviously there are situations in which women are entirely justified in getting angry. Others where they are tired or stressed. It happens to all of us.

But the great mystery to men is why they get so angry over tiny things that really don’t matter. Most men assume there must be something seriously wrong in the background that they are not telling them about. But often there isn’t. Often it is just not getting their own way over something trivial.

Men then react by switching off to it – called “not listening”. But what we wonder is: why can’t they just chill. And where is this much vaunted “emotional intelligence.”

Peter B
Peter B
8 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

When are they going to add “the right to a quiet life” (essentially the “right to switch off”) to the human rights list for us chaps ?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
8 days ago

women pay thousands of dollars to retreat to a safe and remote location, call to mind everything that’s ever annoyed them, and then scream, flail and rage while hitting the ground with sticks.

I get why screaming in a forest is fun – cathartic even – but why pay thousands of dollars for it? Just go to a forest and do it.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 days ago

Isn’t it cheaper to lift one’s shrill voice in rage at one of the phony Palestinian protests the Marxists organize?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 days ago

Why can’t they go into the woods and scream on their own? Save a few thousand bucks. When I was in college (1978-1982), we had the primal scream. During midterms and finals, we would interrupt our studies or writing our thesis papers and go into the back stairs and scream. It actually made us feel refreshed and ready to tackle our studies anew.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
8 days ago

That picture…
Somehow made me think of this song:
https://youtu.be/aye2CFuHr94?si=DyxLxxNo72Yz5SBm
Would be cool if they did their rage rituals dancing to this song in the woods.

Judy Posner
Judy Posner
8 days ago

unfortunately this essay and the comments which follow neglect to point out the most important criticism of such retreats. What we now know from psychological research is that rage rituals and techniques of forced catharsis do not reduce anger, but rather fuels the flames.

David Morley
David Morley
8 days ago
Reply to  Judy Posner

The research suggests this, but there really does seem to be some benefit in certain kinds of letting off steam. Perhaps one’s that focus energy elsewhere, but utilise hormones associated with anger. I’m thinking: having a good work out, going for a run.

In this case though we seem to be talking about pent up rage which is so strong that one can seek out a provider of catharsis, pay a lot of money, book a slot, drive there and still have enough rage to take out on dead bits of tree.

if you are that rageful, either something really terrible is being done to you – something which needs to be addressed; or you have a pretty serious emotional problem.

edmond van ammers
edmond van ammers
8 days ago

Didn’t we have Primal Scream therapy in the 70’s ?

The Real Karen
The Real Karen
8 days ago

How disappointing it is to see Unherd join the herd of publications mindlessly appropriating the name and ethnicity of 15 million people worldwide as a promotional tool. Mary Harrington’s otherwise thoughtful article is scarred by legitimizing a demeaning identity-based caricature in the first sentence. Beside the article, one sees that Unherd has begun tagging “Karen” as a keyword. Really, Unherd? Should we expect racial and religious identity stereotypes and other identity slurs to become keywords as well?
Before Karen became a stereotypical picture in your head, it was already the name of millions of people worldwide, mostly women and girls. It was already the ethnicity of millions more people, many of them persecuted, confined to refugee camps, or trying to build new lives in the diaspora. A core piece of the identity of millions of people worldwide has been randomly stolen and transformed into a caricature increasingly harming those people, and the media does worse than turn a blind eye. It propels it.
This article did not need to include “Karen.” Harrington is a talented writer capable of finding other words. Sure, stereotypes are efficient shorthand, that’s why they endure. But I can’t remember another Unherd article that substituted identity-based stereotypes for behaviors.
I do remember plenty of Unherd articles that call out stereotypes. So where are the articles on the “Karen” label and its role in promoting misogyny and ageism, Unherd? How about debunking the artificial histories invented out of whole cloth by the NYT, WP, The Atlantic, and most mainstream media in 2020? How about an examination of the free pass given to bullies and bigots to spout this entirely new stream of prejudice while espousing anti-prejudice, and the evolution of an entirely new identity group to bear the brunt?
One can already predict the responses to this comment: “Calm down Karen,” “Don’t be such a Karen,” etc. The most damaging part of the Karen meme is that it robs its victims of the legitimacy to object to their dehumanization. Harrington rightly points out that women feel pressure not to be Karen. For women whose identity isn’t Karen, that pressure is situational. For those whose identity is Karen, that pressure is constant and relentless. I’m not in a rage; I don’t need to go scream in the woods. But I do need to say to you, Unherd: Do better.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
8 days ago
Reply to  The Real Karen

Struck a nerve?

Jack Robertson
Jack Robertson
8 days ago

Banducci argues that the rituals are powerful because women are socialised to suppress anger. “It’s like, ‘don’t be a b***h’ or ‘don’t be angry’ or ‘don’t be aggressive’ or ‘don’t stand up for yourself.’
Banducci clearly hasn’t visited Australia.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 days ago

My ex wife never seemed to find it necessary to conduct her rage rituals in the woods.

Dan Croitoru
Dan Croitoru
8 days ago

Actually it’s a quite common in therapy to enact rage. One needs training to really let oneself feel enraged when hitting a pillow. A perceived relief bereft of guilt is a measure of success.

Arthur King
Arthur King
8 days ago

Rage therapy was big in the 80s. What is interesting is now they have made it into a religion.

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
7 days ago

Isn’t this just another instance of a conformist fad, akin to having the correct handbag, a “trans” child, a particular spa, vacation spot or frequency, etc. It’s not specific to women. Men do the like with similar markers.