I recently read Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister, and thought I’d do a review. I’m hoping to start doing book, movie and TV reviews more regularly going forward.
The book was quite good, and gave me a lot to think about. It provided some very good history of various social movements in American history and how women were at the forefront of such movements–often launched because of rage at injustice. I saw immediate parallels to the women of the Roman empire who have been more and more recognized as how Christianity spread so quickly and so widely.
I do, however, remain unconvinced that anger is benevolent or neutral–and I’m not entirely sure anger, in and of itself, quite captures what Traister is talking about. I do not say this in an attempt to silence women expressing anger. Traister is quite right that that has been done far too often throughout history. When someone is screaming “F*ck you” at a political figure the response should not be to deride or mock them–it should be immediately apparent that there is deep pain behind that response, and thus very likely deep injustice.
Yet the theology of anger is something I struggle with. I am a cisgender heterosexual Caucasian male–and yet my parents were always insistent that I argue calmly and rationally, not erupting in anger or fear or distress. My practice of Tai Chi, my love of Star Wars, and my own personal experience revealed to me that anger, much like fear, despair, hate, etc. clouds the mind.
At the same time, I also do recognize that anger at injustice is a legitimate, and indeed, desired response, and and that anger is simply an emotion. While I do not advocated acting out of every emotion, I do not advocate suppressing any emotion either.
So I tend to lean towards trying to find a middle ground—recognizing that anger can signal an injustice, but working towards that challenging that injustice while cautious of anger clouding my mind to the extent that injustice is perpetuated. After all, it does no good to replace one injustice with another.
I do think Traiser is spot-on though in recognizing that there has to be a re-distribution of power. If we are to truly restructure society, there will be a loss of privilege, perhaps even power of individual groups–but the benefit to the power of humanity as a whole will be infinite.
Finally, I wonder whether anger is truly what Traister is dealing with. While anger at injustice is certainly a piece of the puzzle, perhaps even a crucial piece, it is balanced in many of these movements by hope and compassion–both of which are definitely recognized as virtue and may well be what allows anger at injustice to be moderated so that other injustices are not perpetuated.
I definitely recommend reading Traister’s book. For all my concerns around anger as benevolent or neutral, the book will definitely still make one think, and contains history and accounts that everyone should know.