If you call 1-669-BAD-TIME, you’ll be greeted with a pre-recorded message asking you to “Leave your rants, screams, and exasperated sighs after the beep.” The hotline is part of a project called For A Bad Time Call, which encourages anyone who identifies as a woman to call up and anonymously vent in its “voice-rage-box” — and then uses those voicemails as fodder for a podcast. “Call us if you’re just getting your voice and call us if you’re tired of calmly explaining your rights to deaf ears and need to rage-it-out,” its website explains. “We think women’s anger is underrated, useful, and productive.”
“Women’s anger is often viewed as insignificant or emotional, not even a real complaint to be taken seriously,” creator Anne Jaconette told The Verge. Instead of dismissing those feelings, For A Bad Time Call wants to offer women catharsis and validation.
Jaconette, who works in publishing, launched the hotline at the end of November with her friend Clare Roth, a radio producer. Now the number is fielding dozens of messages each week. For the women calling in, it’s the internet-connected version of screaming into a pillow or yelling at the sky.
In the three podcast episodes that have aired so far, each around 4 minutes long, the only cohesive theme is anger. There’s the woman whose pizza delivery guy asked if she lives alone, another struggling with motherhood, one going through a breakup, and one woman angered by chicken nuggets with defective packaging.
Given the timing, you’d be forgiven for assuming the hotline was a response to the wave of sexual assault allegations that have surfaced over the past couple of weeks in nearly every industry, beginning with Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in October. Women’s deep, private anger about systematic sexual abuse is more publicly visible than ever. But Jaconette and Roth have been working on the project since the summer — its launch just happened to coincide with one of the biggest moments for women’s anger in years.
Even if sexual harassment and misconduct weren’t the reason for the podcast’s existence, it’s still an unavoidable topic. “A lot of the calls we’re getting are about sexual assault,” Jaconette says. “Small instances that every woman has dealt with on a daily basis, and then larger cases of women saying, ‘Hey, this is scary, and this is happening at a lot of workplaces.’”
Jaconette told The Verge her personal impetus for the hotline was the lack of private and public space where she lives in New York City where women could just be angry. “I knew it was getting bad when I was walking down the street, just purposely bumping into people. I was like, this is not sustainable … So I needed a healthier way to deal with that stuff.”
The broader hunger for this sort of outlet stems from how differently people react to women’s anger and men’s anger, and how little space women are often given for those feelings. In a 2015 study, researchers found that women’s anger made them seem less reliable to others, while men’s anger made them seem powerful. A 2003 study from the American Psychological Association also found that men are socialized to act out their anger, while women are taught that anger is “unfeminine” and discouraged from expressing it.
In Episode 1, a caller offers an observation that could sum up just about every call to the hotline: “I’m just so pissed off about having to be pissed off.”
Because each episode is a collection of unplanned thoughts from random callers, the audio doesn’t feel slick or over-produced. Some messages are punctuated by long pauses, cracking voices, or sentences suddenly rerouted in the middle of a thought. Callers expose their raw nerves and frustration in a way that feels authentic and relatable.
For A Bad Time Call was inspired by the need to talk instead of the impulse to listen, but listening to the podcast feels almost as cathartic as yelling does. Jaconette says she was surprised by the effect of experiencing the voicemails all together — how it’s almost meditative to hear other women finally giving a voice to familiar struggles and frustrations.
“I thought it would make me angrier, and it does, when I’m listening to the raw data,” she says. “But when I’m listening to it all together as one, it feels really good.”