Aug 14

Injustice: Kamala, “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 about anger at injustice 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.

Jul 17

Soraya Chemaly, Rebecca Traister Quotes

Your anger is a gift you give to yourself and the world that is yours. In anger, I have lived more fully, freely, intensely, sensitively, and politically. If ever there was a time not to silence yourself, to channel your anger into healthy places and choices, this is it. Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger 

Now more than ever, the personal is political. Anger is personal. Anger is political.

More quotes follow.

I. Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger (2018)

A society that does not respect women’s anger is one that does not respect women; not as human beings, thinkers, knowers, active participants, or citizens.

Gendered ideas about anger make us question ourselves, doubt our feelings, set aside our needs, and renounce our own capacity for moral conviction. Ignoring anger makes us careless with ourselves and allows society to be careless with us. It is notable, however, that treating women’s anger and pain in these ways makes it easier to exploit us—for reproduction, labor, sex, and ideology.

In the coming years, we will hear, again, that anger is a destructive force, to be controlled. Watch carefully, because not everyone is asked to do this in equal measure. Women, especially, will be told to set our anger aside in favor of a kinder, gentler approach to change. This is a false juxtaposition. Reenvisioned, anger can be the most feminine of virtues: compassionate, fierce, wise, and powerful. The women I admire most—those who have looked to themselves and the limitations and adversities that come with our bodies and the expectations that come with them—have all found ways to transform their anger into meaningful change. In them, anger has moved from debilitation to liberation.

We minimize our anger, calling it frustration, impatience, exasperation, or irritation, words that don’t convey the intrinsic social and public demand that ‘anger’ does. We learn to contain our selves: our voices, hair, clothes, and, most importantly, speech. Anger is usually about saying “no” in a world where women are conditioned to say almost anything but “no.”

If #MeToo has made men feel vulnerable, panicked, unsure, and fearful as a result of women finally, collectively, saying “Enough!” so be it. If they wonder how their every word and action will be judged and used against them, Welcome to our world. If they feel that everything they do will reflect on other men and be misrepresented and misunderstood, take a seat. You are now honorary women.

II. Rebecca Traister, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger (2018)

The British feminist Laurie Penny tweeted in July 2017, “Most of the interesting women you know are far, far angrier than you’d imagine.”

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.

Oct 02

“Good and Mad”: Women Owning Their Anger

“Anger” can mean several different things for the purposes of the book: It’s a spontaneous emotional response to mistreatment, a motivating force for political action, an affect for which women are disproportionately criticized and penalized and an important aspect of public political expression that can be deployed in various ways. Elaine Blair, NY Times, reviewing Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister

Today’s the day journalist Rebecca Traister‘s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger finally hits the bookshelves. Couldn’t be timelier.

From Traister’s opinion piece in the New York Times two days ago regarding the Senate hearing at which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford‘s scared but respectful testimony contrasted with others’ male anger: “Fury was a tool to be marshaled by men like Judge Kavanaugh and Senator Graham, in defense of their own claims to political, legal, public power. Fury was a weapon that had not been made available to the woman who had reason to question those claims.”

Women’s anger through the centuries has often been transformative. However, states Good and Mad reviewer Rebecca Greenfield, Bloomberg, “History has a habit of erasing female anger, Traister argues. Fuming hot ire is the necessary and righteous fuel for igniting radical social change: It drove the suffragists, labor rights organizers, second wave feminists, and civil rights activists to push for the right to vote, humane working conditions, reproductive rights, and racial equality under the law’.”

Traister in an interview with Hilary Howard (NY Times) on the contemporary importance of owning our anger:

People tell you how bad anger is for you. If it’s inside of you, it’s going to corrode and poison you. I think it’s the bottling it up or swallowing it down or thinking that there’s no outlet for it — that’s the thing that corrodes….

I would argue that the tail of the Anita Hill fury got us to #MeToo.

How Traister wraps up her aforementioned New York Times piece:

If you are angry today, or if you have been angry for a while, and you’re wondering whether you’re allowed to be as angry as you feel, let me say: Yes. Yes, you are allowed. You are, in fact, compelled.

If you’ve been feeling a new rage at the flaws of this country, and if your anger is making you want to change your life in order to change the world, then I have something incredibly important to say: Don’t forget how this feels.

Tell a friend, write it down, explain it to your children now, so they will remember. And don’t let anyone persuade you it wasn’t right, or it was weird, or it was some quirky stage in your life when you went all political — remember that, honey, that year you went crazy? No. No. Don’t let it ever become that. Because people will try.

Selected Book Reviews

Kirkus Reviews: “She explores how feminist outrage has been suppressed, discouraged, and deemed unattractive and crazy. With articulate vitriol backed by in-depth research, Traister validates American women’s anger as the heart of social progress and attributes its widespread denigration to the ‘correct understanding of those in power that in the fury of women lies the power to change the world’.”

Dr. Brittney Cooper, author of Eloquent Rage“Women’s anger rightly placed and soundly focused can be good for America, once again. In fact, it is essential. Tell the truth: We’re all sick and tired of being sick and tired. It’s high time we got good and mad.”

Publishers Weekly: “Traister closes with a reminder to women not to lose sight of their anger…because ‘being mad is correct; being mad is American; being mad can be joyful and productive and connective’.”

Sep 11

Women’s Anger: Suggested Books

Eloquent Rage…Rage Becomes Her…Women & Power…The Logic of Misogyny. These are parts of book titles that Rebecca Traister, author of the upcoming Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, has suggested be read in the wake of the recent Serena Williams incident.

I. Brittney Cooper, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2018)

Publishers Weekly review excerpt: “Cooper, Cosmopolitan contributor and cofounder of the Crunk Feminist Collective blog, provides incisive commentary in this collection of essays about the issues facing black feminists in what she sees as an increasingly retrograde society. Many of the essays are deeply personal, with Cooper using her own experiences as springboards to larger concerns.”

As Cooper states, “…(T)here’s this stereotype that dogs so many of us that we’re ‘angry.’ We get accused of being angry even when we’re not, and we’re just sort of going about our lives.” She then asks, “What does it look like to both say, ‘Yeah, we’re mad as hell about the ways that the world treats black women consistently and relentlessly,’ and then think about what it looks like to have that rage, to own it and to use it in ways that are beneficial to us, rather than letting other people weaponize it against us?”

II. Soraya ChemalyRage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger (2018)

Chemaly on CBC Radio“We talk to girls about a wide range of emotions but parents don’t really talk to girls ever about anger. Whereas they talk to boys almost not at all about the full range of human emotion, but specifically about anger.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Women who step out of line to assert themselves become targets of what Chemaly calls the corrosive ‘drip, drip, drip’ of microaggressions that ultimately become ‘the building blocks of structural discrimination’ (among countless others, see: Hillary Clinton).”

III. Mary Beard, Women & Power: A Manifesto (2017)  

…(O)ne satiric stunt on US television featured a fake severed head of Trump himself, but in that case the (female) comedian concerned lost her job as a consequence. By contrast, this scene of Perseus-Trump brandishing the dripping, oozing head of Medusa-Clinton was very much part of the everyday, domestic American decorative world. You could buy it on T-shirts and tank tops, on coffee mugs, on laptop sleeves and tote bags (sometimes with the logo TRIUMPH, sometimes TRUMP). It may take a moment or two to take in that normalisation of gendered violence, but if you were ever doubtful about the extent to which the exclusion of women from power is culturally embedded or unsure of the continued strength of classical ways of formulating and justifying it – well, I give you Trump and Clinton, Perseus and Medusa, and rest my case.

IV. Kate Manne, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (2017)  

From the review in The Guardian (Moira Weigel):

“Down Girl is full of sadness about Clinton. Some of it I agree with; some of it I don’t. (I would prefer never to argue with another woman about Clinton again.) But American feminists cannot accept that a female leader will always, necessarily be doomed – for the sake of…Gillibrand or Kamala Harris, or whoever comes after, as well as all of us. Not only is misogyny ‘still a thing’. As Trump and his cronies eviscerate the state, and appeal to their base’s wounded masculinity, it is poised to become more of a thing than ever.”