Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Angerby Published 11 Sep 2018
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A transformative book urging twenty-first century-women to embrace their anger and harness it as a tool for lasting personal and societal change.
Women are angry, and it isn’t hard to figure out why.
We are underpaid and overworked. Too sensitive, or not sensitive enough. Too dowdy or too made-up. Too big or too thin. Sluts or prudes. We are harassed, told we are asking for it, and asked if it would kill us to smile. Yes, yes it would.
Contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and an entire lifetime of being told otherwise, our rage is one of the most important resources we have, our sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. We’ve been told for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode our bodies and minds in ways we don’t even realize. Yet our anger is a vital instrument, our radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power.
We are so often told to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements in this world would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Rage Becomes Her makes the case that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a new understanding of one of our core emotions that will give women a liberating sense of why their anger matters and connect them to an entire universe of women no longer interested in making nice at all costs.
Following in the footsteps of classic feminist manifestos like The Feminine Mystique and Our Bodies, Ourselves, Rage Becomes Her is an eye-opening book for the twenty-first century woman: an engaging, accessible credo offering us the tools to re-understand our anger and harness its power to create lasting positive change.
"Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger" Reviews
In Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger, author Soraya Chemaly explores and confronts the gendering of emotions, in this case the gender ideas of anger. Social norms teach us that anger expressed by females is undesirable, uncomfortable, and certainly not feminine, unlike with males where it is accepted because of its normalized tie to masculinity. She discusses how this suppression of anger harms women physically, emotionally, professionally and politically, and how the world would benefit from the much needed voice that the healthy and penalty-free expression of women's anger would provide. Chemaly stresses that Rage Becomes Her is not a self-help book nor is it an anger management guide.
“Self-help, different from self-efficacy, is frequently what you do when you aren't getting the help you need from your society. We cannot “self-help” our way to being heard, taken seriously, paid fairly, cared for adequately, or treated with dignity. We cannot “self-help” our way to peace or to justice.”Chemaly's research and writing provides enormous validation as she connects the dots between ignored anger and common women's issues ranging from shame to chronic pain, while also offering a look at culture, sexualization, women's rights, #MeToo, raising girls, and even the beauty industry which profits from it all. Rage Becomes Her is bold, confrontational, and angry, and it embodies Chemaly's very message that women's anger can lead to meaningful change. It embraces femininity and feminism equally, because it is. “Because the truth is that anger isn't what gets in our way – it is our way. All we have to do is own it.”
My favorite quote:
"If #MeToo has made men feel vulnerable, panicked, unsure, and fearful as a result of women finally, collectively, saying 'Enough!' so be it. If they wonder how their every word and action will be judged and used against them, Welcome to our world. If they feel that everything they do will reflect on other men and be misrepresented and misunderstood, take a seat. You are now honorary women."
Really loved the thesis of this book, that women's anger is a powerful force for change in response to sexism and discrimination. Soraya Chemaly is intersectional and all-encompassing in Rage Becomes Her, as she interweaves the experiences of women of color and lampoons the sexism that occurs in the workplace, in online communities, in families, and more. She discusses several important topics that parallel the power of women's anger, such as how women are expected to do so much more emotional labor than men while also receiving punishment for expressing emotions like anger whereas men get praised for it. One of the many quotes about the uses of anger that I appreciated:
"What if we used frustration, irritation, humiliation, anger, and other 'negative' feelings to be methodical and demanding? First at home, then at school, then at work. This would mean critically assessing the comforting habits we support out of nostalgia and tradition, which would require no small measure of effort. It means walking out of places of worship, not buying certain movie tickets, closing certain books and picking up others, refusing to pay for certain products, and finding compelling ways to disagree with friends and family at the dinner table. It means explaining to grandparents, engaging with school administrators, and demanding rights at work. The slow and productive burn of anger is an asset. But leveraging it means taking a risk: the risk of finding out how much what you care about matters to your community."
Only giving this a lower star rating because the format of the book dragged a bit for me. Again, I loved the actual content and Chemaly's take-home message, I just found that some of the sections blurred together and read like a long list of research findings and related facts without a more cohesive structure. Still, I liked the book, and I am glad to see its emergence alongside other recent books about women's anger, like Eloquent Rage by Brittany Cooper, which I loved, and Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister, which I have and will read soon.
One of the most powerful books I've read this year, Rage Becomes Her gives voice to the causes, expressions, and possibilities of female rage. I will do a full video review on my YouTube channel Beautifully Bookish Bethany, but I cannot recommend this book enough. It says the things that have long needed saying. It also strikes the perfect note between anecdotes and hard research, making it very readable. This will make you reconsider everything.
Can you read about a book about rage without becoming angry? I certainly could not. Chemaly brings up many relatable experiences and topics: the role of women as selfless caretakers, fear of being publically harassed and shamed, women in politics, benevolent sexism, the #MeToo movement, Hollywood, and general injustices against women.
Clearly, the main topic revolves around anger. Women are taught to suppress their anger because to express it would be unladylike and against gender norms. Instead of sticking to this unhealthy social norm, Soraya Chemaly encourages women to understand and use their anger, not in the name of vengeance, but as a way to create positive change in the world. This involves having uncomfortable conversations, asserting oneself, and getting involved, such as joining a protest or starting a petition.
Overall, this was a great feminist read that encourages women to express themselves and strive for social change. She does not encourage blind rage or revenge, but encourages women to express and channel their rage in a healthy way, rather than allowing the anger to bubble up inside, which can negatively impact anyone. The book is intersectional and well researched. There were some sections that I found to be a bit dry, but I also found other sections to be completely absorbing. I would definitely recommend.
I am glad I read this book, but I didn't love it. It's not really a contemplation of anger that provides new insight or analysis. It's sort of a hodgepodge of feminist critique--all of the micro and macro ways in which women are harassed, discriminated against, and devalued. If you're a woman who has been paying attention to these trends, you likely know all of this stuff. Still, it's a thorough and sad catalogue of sexism. There wasn't much to learn from. If you are already mad about the state of affairs, this book just confirms and validates your feelings. But what now? Also, I am not sure just expressing outrage is helpful. Perhaps men are given more latitude to do so, but it's also not effective when they do it. To just point out the double standard and say that women are not able to express anger is not enough in my opinion. Anger doesn't change things. If it pushes us to organize, then great. But we need to get beyond anger to make changes.