Anger at Injustice: Kamala, So-Called “Mad Woman”

It’s come as no surprise to feminists that Trump has rushed to label Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, as a “mad woman”—angry, in other words. Strong women who dare to challenge injustice, who indeed have every right to feel anger at injustice, have unfailingly been put down by men while men are not similarly punished.

When Rebecca Traister wrote Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger (2018) she stated the following:

This book is about how anger works for men in ways that it does not for women, how men like both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders can wage yelling campaigns and be credited with understanding–and compellingly channeling–the rage felt by their supporters while their female opponents can be jeered and mocked as shrill for speaking too loudly or forcefully into a microphone.

A related quote from the same source:

We are primed to hear the anger of men as stirring, downright American, as our national lullaby, and primed to hear the sound of women demanding freedom as the screech of nails on our national chalkboard. That’s because women’s freedom would in fact circumscribe white male dominion.

Although I’ve introduced Traister’s work in past posts (see here and here and here), it feels like the right time to expand on this by selecting additional quotes from Good and Mad:

In the United States, we have never been taught how noncompliant, insistent, furious women have shaped our history and our present, our activism and our art. We should be.

We are never forced to consider that rage—and not just stoicism, sadness, or strength—were behind the actions of the few women’s heroes we’re ever taught about in school, from Harriet Tubman to Susan B. Anthony. Instead, we are regularly fed and we regularly ingest cultural messages that suggest that women’s rage is irrational, dangerous, or laughable.

Perhaps the reason that women’s anger is so broadly denigrated—treated as so ugly, so alienating, and so irrational—is because we have known all along that with it came the explosive power to upturn the very systems that have sought to contain it. What becomes clear, when we look to the past with an eye to the future, is that the discouragement of women’s anger—via silencing, erasure, and repression—stems from the correct understanding of those in power that in the fury of women lies the power to change the world.

...(W)hat is bad for women, when it comes to anger, are the messages that cause us to bottle it up, let it fester, keep it silent, feel shame, and isolation for ever having felt it or re-channel it in inappropriate directions. What is good for us is opening our mouths and letting it out, permitting ourselves to feel it and say it and think it and act on it and integrate it into our lives, just as we integrate joy and sadness and worry and optimism.

More broadly, we must come to recognize our own rage as valid, as rational, and not as what we’re told it is: ugly, hysterical, marginal, laughable.

As Amanda Litman…has written, ‘Instead of resisting (anger) or avoiding it, let your fury push you to action. Embrace your anger and put it to work.’

The other side of the anger is the hope. We wouldn’t be angry if we didn’t believe that it could be better.

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