book review: Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister

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GOOD AND MAD: THE REVOLUTIONARY POWER OF WOMEN’S ANGER by Rebecca Traister
★★★★★
Simon & Schuster, 2018

 

“The fact that lots of people could extend such sympathy for [Charlie] Rose […] affirmed a bunch of things. First, that the world is stacked in favor of men, yes, in a way that is so widely understood as to be boring, invisible, just life.

But more deeply, it was a reminder of how easily we can see in men — even in the bad ones — talent. Brilliance. Complexity. Humanity. We manage to look past their flaws and sexual violations to what value they bring to the world. It is the direct opposite, in many ways, of how we view women, whose successes can still be blithely attributed to the fact that the boss wanted to fuck them.”

Good and Mad is probably the best contemporary feminist text I’ve read. Smart, biting, and unapologetic, Traister meditates on the post-2016 election state of affairs in America – Trump, Weinstein, #MeToo, school shootings, police brutality – and contextualizes all of this into a coherent narrative, the root of which is (not so surprisingly) white supremacy and patriarchal infrastructures. As an American who’s been sad and disheartened and yes, angry, every day since the election, who’s overwhelmed daily by the constant stream of depressing state of world affairs on Twitter, it was nice to read a refreshingly intersectional analysis of the times we’re living in that doesn’t write off the potential of the numerous female-led protests and movements that have arisen in recent years.

Traister’s central thesis is that female anger is good, healthy, constructive; she cites numerous examples of women, often women of color, who have refused to be silenced by the sociopolitical structures that have endeavored to dismiss their anger as irrational. This was at times frustrating to read because sometimes it feels like the sexism and racism in US politics is an unassailable force, but Traister herself has no interest in that kind of cynicism, ending this book on a note that succeeds in inspiring. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.


You can pick up a copy of Good and Mad here on Book Depository.

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14 thoughts on “book review: Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister

  1. Interesting! I just read Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly and was mildly disappointed because it read more like feminism 101 than an actual analysis of women’s anger. Chemaly wrote well on all the things women ought to be angry about, but didn’t spend much time on anger itself, if that makes sense. Would you say this one is better on anger?

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    • Hard to say for certain because I haven’t read that one, but it sounds like the Traister is much better! I do get that because my problem with a lot of these books is that they’re very feminism 101 (like the Bad Feminist/We Should All Be Feminist style ones, I can’t), but I was really impressed with the amount of nuance here. It’s a pretty comprehensive breakdown of everything women have to be mad about, but the anger itself also gets a pretty big focus and analysis. Definitely worth a try!

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  2. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about this one, I’m glad to hear you liked so much too! I hate to say it but I don’t particularly like reading deeply about feminism (I know that sounds bad) because so much of it is so basic and just things I already know and agree with. This sounds like it takes a helpfully different angle in its analysis.

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    • I’m actually the same way! I do like to make exceptions now and again to keep up to date with what’s going on in feminist lit, but more often than not this kind of book ends up annoying me because as you say a lot of the time it’s SO basic. Like, reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s nonfiction I am acutely aware of the fact that I am not the target audience, because while I’m sure the whole ‘women are people too!!’ concept needs saying for some people out there, I find those books so annoying and patronizing. So, yes, I TOTALLY understand where you are coming from. If the mood ever strikes you though, for whatever reason, I’d definitely recommend this! I was so impressed by the nuance and analysis. I was constantly awed by Traister’s intelligence as I was reading.

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    • Yay, I hope you enjoy! I haven’t read Eloquent Rage yet but I hope that one’s good as well. I read Sister Outsider for the first time myself a few months ago and loved it!

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  3. So glad to see you enjoyed this! I thought Traister did a really incisive job of overviewing everything that’s been going on in America since Obama’s election, from the tea party backlash to the anti-Trump protests following 2016. This book was less conceptual and more rooted in journalism than a few others of its kind I’ve checked out, which might have had to do with why it felt less basic?

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    • That’s a really good observation! Yes, it’s the conceptual ones that I tend to struggle with – there are only so many times I can hear some variation on ‘feminism is the radical notion that women are people’ without rolling my eyes. I really need these books to dig deeper to feel like I’m getting anything out of them.

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  4. Great review! I’ve had my eye on this one, but if I needed any more encouragement to pick it up, I think I’ve found it here. I love fiction most, always, but I really feel like I’ve been missing out lately on some of the great nonfiction releases in recent years. I’ll be sure to put this title on my nonfiction list for summer!

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    • I feel the same way – fiction has my heart but I’ve been branching out into more nonfiction in the past year or so and I’m finding it really rewarding, especially when I find a real gem like this book!!

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