As increasing numbers of Americans walk around brimming with rage, increasing number of Americans need an outlet so the anger doesn’t turn inward. Organizing and activism is productive and takes the edge off, but sometimes, the boiling cauldron of wrath overflows. Megan Stielstra found an unexpected but in retrospect eminently understandable outlet: axe-throwing. She writes about it with great eloquence and clarity for The Believer.
Competitive axe-throwing goes back to lumberjacks in the late 1800s, but its contemporary indoor equivalent was started by a guy in a Viking metal band. He threw parties in his backyard in Toronto with axes and booze, and people showed up via word of mouth until they had an informal league. Scoring was added—each ring around the bullseye holds a different points value—and in 2011 they moved into their first warehouse. Now there are dozens of axe-throwing centers in Canada and across the United States.
Of the two in Chicago, one is twenty minutes west of our apartment. I learned this in September on the day Betsy DeVos rescinded sexual assault protections on college campuses. I’ve been teaching creative nonfiction for twenty years and long ago lost count of the young women and queer and gender nonconforming people who put their hearts on pages and hand those pages to me saying please, please, please don’t tell because they don’t trust the systems that are supposed to protect them. I choke on that word: protection. We shouldn’t need protection. We should be able to walk into the classroom or dorm or boardroom or bar or park or grocery store or anywhere without needing a bodyguard or a wing person or a knife in our goddamn pocket and while the protections under the Department of Education weren’t perfect, they were something, a start, a way of saying we see you and you matter and we’re trying.
My husband found me crying in the bathroom and asked how he could help.
Vote. Donate. Teach our son to dismantle the white cis hetero patriarchy.
“I would like to throw axes,” I said.
We got a babysitter.