Rebecca Traister wants you to get good and mad.
“In the United States, we have never been taught how noncompliant, insistent, furious women have shaped our history and our present, our activism and our art. We should be,” she says.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that her 2018 book Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger made it onto the New York Times bestseller list.
It’s thrilling to read about other women’s anger—without partaking in such a destructive emotion yourself.
An angry woman inspires both shame and awe. Shame, because it’s so uncouth. She’s making a fool of herself. Awe, because it’s so courageous. She’s daring to speak her truth.
Women’s anger is getting harder to ignore. Politically, socially, and personally.
2018 is the Year of the Angry Woman.
In addition to Traister’s book, 2018 saw the publication of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly and Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper.
Does that mean we all have a right to shake our fists and shout out loud and refuse to play nice when other people are playing nasty?
Or does it mean we have a source of power inside of us…
A source of power that cut both ways?
Acknowledged, it can fuel our work to create a better world. Unacknowledged, it can twist itself and poison us from the inside out.
One in 8 women will experience depression in her lifetime. One in 6 American women is currently taking antidepressants—and a quarter of those women have been taking antidepressants for 10 years or more.
It’s commonly said in mental health circles that depression is anger turned inwards. Get in touch with your anger, and you can break out of despair.
Before you start punching the pillows or calling up your ex to vent, there’s something you should know.
Mental health professionals distinguish between adaptive anger and maladaptive anger.
Adaptive anger “motivates you to assertive action to end a violation.” Maladaptive anger makes you feel victimized.
In short, anger can be constructive or destructive. It can spur change, or it can burn bridges.
Many women aren’t taught the difference.
They learn at their mother’s knee that all anger is bad. Little girls shouldn’t get angry. It’s not polite.
Soraya Chemaly has a different view.
“We are so busy teaching girls to be likeable that we often forget to teach them, as we do boys, that they should be respected,” she says.
Little girls and little boys learn different lessons about anger.
Boys learn they can get what they want—status, power, respect—by getting angry. Anger makes them feel powerful.
Girls learn they’ll lose privileges if they display anger. They’ll be seen as unfeminine. Anger makes them feel powerless.
Domestic violence expert Lundy Bancroft notes that male anger is often seen as justified or legitimate in family courts, while female anger is seen as a sign of hysteria or a difficult personality.
Anger can even be seen as unspiritual. Gabby Bernstein urges spiritual seekers to give up all judgement and forgive everyone. The true test of your spiritual heart is the absence of anger.
But is that REALLY true?
From Chemaly again:
In the coming years, we will hear, again, that anger is a destructive force, to be controlled. Watch carefully, because not everyone is asked to do this in equal measure. Women, especially, will be told to set our anger aside in favor of a kinder, gentler approach to change. This is a false juxtaposition. Reenvisioned, anger can be the most feminine of virtues: compassionate, fierce, wise, and powerful.”
This compassionate, fierce, wise and powerful anger motivates women to put an end to injustice.
To assert their boundaries. To protect their children. To refuse to used. To ask for what is owed them.
This anger doesn’t focus on the enemy. It focuses on the restoration of justice.
So the next time you feel angry, don’t stuff it down. Ask yourself what it’s calling you to do.
Adaptive anger doesn’t call for vengeance or attack. It calls for vision and truth.
The clarity that comes from rage should also tell us what kind of world we want to see, not just what kind of things we want to get rid of.”
– Brittney Cooper
 Lisa Firestone, “The Role of Anger in Depression,” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201710/the-role-anger-in-depression