September 28, 2018 8:08 PM Subscribe
All the Rage: What a literature that embraces female anger can achieve. Rebecca Solnit: "Instead of a theory of male anger, we have a growing literature in essays and now books about female anger, a phenomenon in transition..."
Rebecca Traister’s new book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, scrutinizes its causes, its repression, and its release in the last half-dozen years of feminist action, particularly in response to the treatment of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and in the remarkable power shift that women demanded in #MeToo. Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger focuses on the ways in which women’s (and by contrast, men’s) emotions are managed, judged, and valued in contemporary North American life, while Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower is a first-person narrative about power, solidarity, race, gender, and their intersections.
These books arrive at a moment when a lot of women have changed and too many men have not—and some are, in fact, retreating into revved-up misogyny and rage against the erosion of their supremacy. Women no longer obliged to please men may finally be able to express rage, because we’re less economically dependent on men than ever before, and because feminism has been redefining what’s appropriate and acceptable. “Gender-role expectations . . . dictate the degree to which we can use anger effectively in personal contexts and to participate in civic and political life,” Chemaly notes. “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.”
The same feminist transformations that have allowed this outpouring may eventually wear down some of the causes of our anger. Much of the anger discussed in all these books comes from being thwarted—from the inability to command respect, equality, control over one’s body and destiny, or from witnessing the oppression of other women. One of the pitfalls in trying to establish equality is to confuse gaining power with unleashing rage. For all of us this is the conundrum: How, without idealizing and entrenching anger, can we grant nonwhite people and nonmale people an equal right to feeling and expressing it?
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