"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"--
The examples and situations of women's anger being dismissed or turned against them, both historical and contemporary, are as infuriating as they are endless, but she also recounts times when women have persisted and used their anger to effect real social change. It's powerful stuff. I appreciated how Traister didn't shy away from discussing the ways that the righteous anger of women has been undermined by other women, and the frustration and resentment felt by women of color, who have often been vocally agitating on particular issues long before they are "discovered" by white women. There were a number of times that I felt uncomfortable and had to examine some of my own assumptions and behaviors, recognizing that despite my best efforts I have sometimes been complicit in such "whitewashing" and erasure of the important work done by black women.
This book is "hot off the presses," so to speak, covering events that happened as recently as this past spring and summer. Even so, as I was reading it in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the recent election, I wished I could have read what Traister thought about the historic numbers of women who were elected to both federal, state and local offices this week, and the racial and cultural diversity that they represent.
The book closes with Traister cautioning that while the fury women felt following the 2016 election has compelled many of them to become politically active for the first time, that level of commitment and action will need to be sustained for a long time if the goal of a better society is to be met. It's a marathon, not a sprint, but there may be no one better to run it than all the "moms in tennis shoes" who are learning how not to use their indoor voices.
It is, though, a very good, enlightening, informative, and useful look at the women's movement, and its roots and antecedents. Traister examines the ways in which women's anger is both dangerous and useful--and even healthy, which is not something many sources will say about anger. Yet we do know that bottling up anger with no outlet is unhealthy, and it should be obvious that finding useful and productive outlets for it can only be good for us.
But this isn't mainly a book about emotions. It's about the ways the we have had to fight the same battles over and over again, and yet each time making a little bit more progress, with a bit more freedom, a bit more bodily autonomy, a bit closer approach to equality.
And it's about the different experiences that white and black women have, and always have had in this country. African-Americans have never really been able to lapse into complacency, while white women, if they have good relationships with the men in their lives, often can for long periods. One result of this is that African-American women know a great deal about organizing, resistance, and the risks that white women have had to relearn every time another boiling up of resistance against white male patriarchy emerges.
Yet the same social forces that let white women forget about the problems for long periods also mean that white women have valuable resources to bring to the struggle, when social forces remind us that it's our struggle, too.
Traister doesn't put it quite this way, but we need to not get distracted into resenting and fighting too much with each other, but rather learn from each other, learn to collaborate, and focus on what this is really all about.
Parts of this book are very difficult. Not everyone will be in a mental and emotional place where they can read it. But if you can, it's well worth doing.
I borrowed this audiobook from my local library.