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Good and Mad
The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger
Rebecca Traister
read on November 5, 2019

Traister explores how women have been limited in their ability to express anger. For men it makes them effective and heroic, but angry women are portrayed as unhinged and hysterical. Traister explores the history here, and it is disgusting and depressing and somehow (for me) both entirely expected and yet surprisingly worse than I thought. I first heard of Traister and this book when she went on Ezra Klein's podcast. That interview aligned with Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, and frankly it would be hard to distill a more essential and comprehensive single example of what she was trying to describe. This book is raw and hard to read, and that's coming from someone with zero direct experience of ever actually having to tolerate and navigate this bullshit every day, every decision, every reaction.

I can't refute anything in this book, and am not looking for reason to do so. But Traister did have me thinking about anger as a catalyst for action, and if anger is a vice or virtue. Anger is easy, and almost always myopic and focused on the short term. Trump used anger, and stoked anger among his base, in order to win an election. I think it's correct and incredibly important to recognize how and why women & POCs have been disallowed to be angry in public and to use it as a tool - but I don't think that that injustice is necessarily evidence that it should be used more. Women should, of course, be allowed to be angry in exactly whatever capacity men are permitted to be angry. But I'm not convinced that anger should de-facto be advocated for as a driver of action. Why shouldn't we think that anger will be just as effective when used (by women) against women? That isn't to say that I think Traister is wrong about anything here - I do not think her position is that there should be more anger in the world. One cannot seriously propose a policy position that humans no longer be angry, but one can reasonably expect and hope that all people be treated equally.

I need to comment on it, because the cover to this book is horrible. So bad that it kept me from reading the book for much longer than I probably otherwise would have. I doubt Traister had anything to do with it (covers are typically entirely controlled by the publisher), but even so it seems perfectly aligned with the book, in the sense that Traister isn't here to be cute and "(doesn't) fucking care if I like it."

Author Bio:

REBECCA TRAISTER is writer at large for New York magazine. A National Magazine Award winner, she has written about women in politics, media, and entertainment from a feminist perspective for The New Republic and Salon and has also contributed to The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times and The Washington Post. She is the author of Good and Mad and All the Single Ladies, both New York Times best-sellers, and the award-winning Big Girls Don’t Cry. She lives in New York with her family.