Saturday, November 17, 2018

"Good and Mad" by Rebecca Traister

Gotta love that cover...! ;) 
Since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the explosion of #MeToo in the public consciousness, and (more recently) the Senate justice committee hearings that elevated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, people have (finally??) noticed: there are a LOT of really, REALLY angry women out there. (Moreover, they have a lot of really good reasons to be angry.)

Several recent books have added fuel to the discussion, including "Rage Becomes Her" by Soraya Chemaly (which I recently read & reviewed, here), and "Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger" by Rebecca Traister, which I picked up immediately after finishing Chemaly's book (which was published a few weeks earlier).  Beyond my interest in the timely subject matter, I've read & enjoyed Traister's two previous books, "All the Single Ladies" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" (reviewed on this blog, here and here).

The books obviously share some similarities in subject matter. But while Chemaly's book takes a broad, sociological look at women & anger, Traister's has a more specific focus: in her own words, "this is about the specific nexus between women's anger and American politics, about how the particular dissatisfactions and resentments of America's women have often ignited movements for social change and progress." (p. xviii)

"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,"  Traister comments. "We should be." 

Traister leads us on a journey through American political history and current events: the early suffragists, second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem & Florynce Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Lee, Phyllis Schlafly and the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, Anita Hill, the subsequent "Year of the Woman,"  Pat Schroeder, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren ("nevertheless, she persisted"), Michelle Wolff, Thelma & Louise, Harvey Weinstein (Traister has her own personal Weinstein story to tell) and #MeToo, Parkland and Emma Gonzalez and March for our Lives; and so much more. She write about how women of colour have led the way in so many progressive movements that have benefited all Americans, about the (mostly white) women who cling to the proximal benefits of patriarchy, and the male backlash and discomfort with women's anger: 
Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein's earliest and most vociferous accusers, recalled being asked "in a soft NPR voice, 'What if what you're saying makes men uncomfortable?' Good. I've been uncomfortable my whole life. Welcome to our world of discomfort.” (p. 199)
As someone who has a difficult time making decisions, this passage was an "ah-ha" moment of recognition for me: 
Erin Vilardi, the head of VoteRunLead, which trains and supports women running for state and local office... also noted that until recently, women have had no road map for what to do with their resentments and furies. "Women are not allowed to scream from podiums, not allowed to slam doors in workplaces," she said, acknowledging that this expressive limit is part of what's earned women the reputation as more benevolent bosses. "But that's bullshit," she went on. "Because if you look at all those studies about how women are better bosses, they're better at everything except in areas of decisiveness, and that's because we don't get to have that split-second, I'm-the-goddamn-boss-that's-why gut reaction. We have zero role modeling in channeling our anger into decisiveness or 'That's just the way he is' stuff people said about Harvey Weinstein. We don't get any of those passes." (p. 221-222)
Near the end, Traister writes about the bonds women have formed as they channel their anger into activism:
This is one of anger's most important roles: it is a mode of connection, a way for women to find each other and realize their struggles and frustrations are shared, that they are not alone, not crazy. If they are quiet, they will remain isolated. But if they howl in rage, someone who shares their fury might hear them, might start howling along. This is, of course, partly why those who oppress women work to stifle their anger. (p. 230)
As I read this section, I thought about how this applies to us in ALI-land, too -- how our hurt and anger over the injustice of our losses, and how we are treated (ignored) by the fortunate fertile in a pronatalist world, has led us to find each other and use our individual and collective voices to comfort each other -- and work towards change, in both small and big ways. 

I closed this book feeling exhilarated.  My copy is covered in yellow post-it notes.

I gave Chemaly's book five stars on Goodreads, and I gave this one five stars as well. I loved both books. Both would rank among the best books that I've read this year, I think. If I had to give the edge to one over the other, I would probably pick this one, simply because I am a bit of a political junkie ;)  and I also really like Traister's writing.  But they are both excellent, and both deserve to be read, discussed, pondered -- and acted upon. I highly recommend them both. :) 

(You might enjoy this review of both books -- by a male critic -- from the Washington Post.) 

This was book #23 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 96% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

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