Women’s anger is complicated, dating back to the days before they were allowed to vote and when all but a few careers were available to them. Even in the last generation or so, women have fought against discrimination in pay, employment—consider that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor could at first only get a job as a deputy county attorney even though she graduated from the prestigious Stanford University and what they wore (up until the 1970s even pantsuits were considered inappropriate in the workplace) among many other things. On a personal level, when my father returned from serving overseas during World War II, at least one of the men on the East Chicago Public Library board demanded that my mother resign because she was taking a job away from a man. Fortunately, other board members disagreed and she worked there until she was in her 70s, retiring after 50 years. Other women weren’t as lucky—many were asked to leave or fired so that men could be re-employed.
For New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Traister, a National Magazine Award winner for her coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandals, writer at large for New York Magazine and contributing writer for Elle, the long-simmering anger women have felt is now brimming over. This is shown by the ever growing #MeToo movement and also what she sees as women’s reaction to Donald Trump and his policies that hurt women. In her newest book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger (Simon & Schuster 2018; $27) Traister wants to let women know their anger is potent.
“It’s consequential, it’s meaningful, valid and rational,” says Traister who discusses how women’s anger is often held against them and used to invalidate their feelings. “I think those are things that women are told are not true about their anger all the time. This book sort of serves as a guide and a reminder–to let women know that their anger is powerful, that it has historical precedence.”
Indeed, Traister argues that anger, when used to make changes, is a potent force.
“It’s the bottling up of anger, rather than the anger itself, that raises our blood pressure and makes us grind our teeth,” she says.
Though her book was written before the recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Traister says the reaction to how the women who came forward were treated will also reverberate into the future—just as they did 26 years ago after the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.
“#MeToo was an examination of how often sexualized harm was actually a tool of inequality within workplaces and within power structures where women faced all kinds of economic, professional, public forms of discrimination,” she says noting the harm being done wasn’t just sexual—it was also economic and professional. “What was being exposed were fundamental inequalities.
What: Chicago Humanities Festival, in conversation with Dr. Brittney Cooper
When: Sunday, October 28 at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston, IL
FYI: (847) 467-4000; chicagohumanities.org/events/207-rebecca-traister-good-and-mad