Silence can take many shapes. Silence can be touched, sliced, it can be uncomfortable, if experienced for too long,… it can be used as a break to relax and enjoy the company of one’s selves living in one’s body. It very often embodies resistance itself… it can be used as a weapon to break someone’s spirit in a session of torture.

“Torture means severe pain,” they had warned me in our “training sessions” in my political party’s cell… no training session prepared me for this intense pain… my pain… the one I did not choose… all this alienation, this empty vacuum…, my body, my mind, my pain… this is not happening… I am a little speck in the universe… which universe?… the world is not anymore… I am… disintegrating… bit by bit… yell by yell… electrode by electrode…


You yell, you piss yourself and you are saying “it is hurting so much I cannot put it into f****** words!,” because the pain is deeper than flesh and bones; it travels beyond your physical body, into some space within yourself which cannot make meaning of what is happening outside. You say to yourself: “I am losing the only way I have known until now to describe what is going on inside me, I am losing my tongue, I am losing meaning.”

Political activist Consuelo Rivera-Fuentes on being tortured by the Pinochet regime. From Consuelo Rivera-Fuentes and Lynda Birke, ‘Talking With/In Pain: Reflections on Bodies under Torture’, Women’s Studies International Forum, 24:6 (2001), 653-668, pp. 665 and 661.



Women of Color in America have grown up within a symphony of anger, at being silenced, at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.

‘The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’, in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984), p. 129.