Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister

In the year 2018, it seems as if women’s anger has suddenly erupted into the public conversation. But long before Pantsuit Nation, before the Women’s March, and before the #MeToo movement, women’s anger was not only politically catalytic—but politically problematic. The story of female fury and its cultural significance demonstrates the long history of bitter resentment that has enshrouded women’s slow rise to political power in America, as well as the ways that anger is received when it comes from women as opposed to when it comes from men.

With eloquence and fervor, Rebecca tracks the history of female anger as political fuel—from suffragettes marching on the White House to office workers vacating their buildings after Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Here Traister explores women’s anger at both men and other women; anger between ideological allies and foes; the varied ways anger is perceived based on its owner; as well as the history of caricaturing and delegitimizing female anger; and the way women’s collective fury has become transformative political fuel—as is most certainly occurring today. She deconstructs society’s (and the media’s) condemnation of female emotion (notably, rage) and the impact of their resulting repercussions.

Highlighting a double standard perpetuated against women by all sexes, and its disastrous, stultifying effect, Traister’s latest is timely and crucial. It offers a glimpse into the galvanizing force of women’s collective anger, which, when harnessed, can change history.

Author: Rebecca Traister

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Rating: 5/5

“…Senator Mitchell’s approach had been ‘Let’s keep things under control, under control.’ The women’s insistence they get to talk, that they got to insisted that Hill get to tell her story, was the moment that George Mitchell lost control.

Yes, things were out of control. That was the point. Because control was when no one was able to report the story of Harvey Weinstein raping women; control was Donald Trump getting elected president, thanks to voter suppression and the electoral college systems designed to suppress, and better control, nonwhite populations. Control was the unchallenged reigns of Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby. Control was women being too terrified to defy Eric Schneiderman by telling of how he hit them; control was ensuring that no one cared about the abuses sustained by Ford factory employees or flight attendants; control was all male presidents and vice presidents; control was only two black women senators and no black women governors in the history of the country; control was marital rape being legal to the seventies; control was slavery and locking women in unsafe shirtwaist factories. Control was Jordan Peterson’s Taoist white serpent, thrust at us against our will.”

I listened to this audiobook in the week or so leading up to the 2018 midterms, and I actually had it in my ears as I voted. I finished it that evening, before the elections were decided. That was an excellent choice.

Traister does a great job of picking back through our country’s history, calling attention to the ways women’s anger shaped the world. She acknowledges all the hesitations women feel around their angry emotions, picks them apart, and helps you to see that they are, in fact, okay.

This book is not a rallying cry to anger. She is not trying to make women angrier or convince them to go on tirades through the streets. Instead, she reminds you that the tirade you already want to go on is justified and normal and could actually have an impact, and that women (mostly black women; shout out to the black women for real) have been going on tirades to make change for centuries. She has facts and anecdotes and she’s powerful and convincing.

I think what I learned the most from this book was that, as a white woman, my anger is new. But women’s anger is not new. Women of color and women in oppressed groups have been angry for a long time, and they know what they’re doing. So we don’t need to build a new fight; we simply need to join theirs.

This was my favorite quote, and the one that I remembered as I went to bed while they were still counting the ballots:

“Consider Shirley Chisholm, who cried when she was mad, and who didn’t win. She lost. And yet. She pulled Barbara Lee into politics. Barbara Lee, who was the only person in Congress to vote against the AUMF, which she has been trying to repeal ever since; a fight she has also lost. Barbara Lee, who pioneered a bill in 2015 that would overturn the Hyde Amendment—a major step forward for poor women on an issue that no one had dared to touch since the 1970s. Lee’s bill went nowhere. But enthusiasm for her efforts would help opposition to Hyde to find its way into the presidential agenda of Hillary Clinton. Who lost. And whose loss helped spur the entry of perhaps tens of thousands of women into electoral politics and provoked this country to take women’s experiences of sexual harassment seriously for the first time. Some of those women will lose, too. But that will not be the end of the story either.”

One thought on “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger

  1. Nice review and selection of quotes! I also listened to this on audio around the midterms and thought Traister did a great job of breaking down the history of women’s anger in America.

    Like

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