Blog post by Abigail Mulligan, a joint honours student in history and political science with a focus on the topics of political violence and genocide, and is now going on to pursue her degree in law, reviewing Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.
Review of Good and Mad
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister. Traister is an accomplished feminist author who writes for the New Yorker and is a National Magazine Award winner. Because of her accolades I had high hopes when I began this book, which were met as Traister took great care to not only look at historical feminist issues but explored their connections to contemporary events. Through various issues this text explores the nexus between women’s anger, politics, racism, sexual violence, homophobia, and capitalism in the United States. Instead of taking the traditional view in society and politics which considers women’s anger as negative, this anger is celebrated as the force behind many successful social movements and political change.
This text attributes long-lasting institutional reforms and social movements in the United States to the motivating and inspiring acts led by women’s anger. This includes: women’s frustrations with the political status quo which has traditionally excluded them from high office and has inspired more women over the decades to run for office, seen through the examples of Shirley Chisholm, Elizabeth Warren, and Hillary Clinton; how women’s frustrations with sexual violence culminated in the Harvey Weinstein case and ignited the #MeToo movement which helped improve awareness on the issue of sexual violence; and more recently in the wake of Trumps 2016 presidential election, women’s anger towards racism, sexism, and xenophobia led to the Women’s March and women’s voices being increasingly heard in political movements and government. These examples, although not exhaustive, bring to light that the political system in the United States continues to have asymmetries that disadvantage women. We should be mad about it!
Although this is a thought-provoking text, it did lack an interdisciplinary approach at times. To Traister’s credit, she did briefly touch upon how the Obama administration ignited a racist backlash from right-wing and white-supremist America; however, the text did not do a deep dive into the intersection of race and gender. It would have been interesting to learn how race and gender interact and affect the experiences of political candidates as well as social movements. Instead Traister gave much attention to Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, rather than cases that would speak more directly to intersectional issues in American politics. Focusing on this and more than the occasional example of a person of colour in politics could have helped Traister explain why women continue to be greatly underrepresented in US congress, the statewide elected executive office, and statewide legislatures. Additionally, she did not address any efforts or movements that have aimed to combat this, as well as their challenges and successes.
That being said, this book was very useful personally since part of this text made me consider the greater implications my political decision could have on people of colour. It made me mad to learn about how white women hurt other women by using politics to support candidates who suppress women of colour. It was interesting to hear how racism and patriarchy are at play as white women (especially married middle-upper class ones) are more likely to vote for Trump or right-wing politics since these parties benefit their husbands and as a result, secure women’s financial stability which they gain from their spouse. This made me realize that a lack of gender and racial equality in politics offers power and protection to some and denies them to others in varying and nuanced ways. This also makes me believe that social movements, whether negative or positive, can take many forms and can be executed through our existing political structures to create change. I highly recommend this book since it was extremely thought provoking for the reasons I noted and many more. I would like to leave you with some questions to think about which I believe relate directly to the contents of this text. I hope that after reading this post and thinking about these questions you find this topic interesting, get mad about its inequalities, and read Traister’s book for yourself!
1. What part of the political system makes you mad, and how do you suggest we change it?
2. How is women’s anger treated in different countries, and how does it manifest itself differently depending on time and place?
3. Can you think of any instances in your own life where you used your anger to create positive change?
4. How could the experiences and anger of white women in politics differ from minority women in politics?
5. Do you think that patriarchy and gender asymmetries play a role in politics? And if so, how do you think we should go about changing this?