Expressing Your Inner Rage

Rebecca Traister is writer at large for New York Magazine and a contributing editor at Elle. A National Magazine Award finalist, she has written about women in politics, media and entertainment from a feminist perspective for The New Republic and Salon and has also contributed to The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vogue, Glamour and Marie Claire. Traister's first book, Big Girls Don't Cry, about women and the 2008 election, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010 and the winner of the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. She lives in New York with her family.

Women are often taught to suppress their frustration. This can create a lot of pent up emotions for anyone! Rebecca Traister, author of GOOD AND MAD, wants you to do the opposite by expressing your inner rage to help better your own life.

I confess that I am now suspicious of nearly every attempt to code anger as unhealthy, no matter how well meaning or persuasive the source. I believe that Stanton was correct: what is bad for women, when it comes to anger, are the messages that cause us to bottle it up, let it fester, keep it silent, feel shame and isolation for ever having felt it or rechannel it in inappropriate directions. What is good for us is opening our mouths and letting it out, permitting ourselves to feel it and say it and think it and act on it and integrate it into our lives, just as we integrate joy and sadness and worry and optimism.

I had been given a gift: the opportunity—the incentive—to explore the dimensions and be curious about and respectful of my own anger, as well as the rage of other women. It felt great. I felt great. In getting to voice and appreciate fury, I had found relief, release, inspiration, and exhilaration

Good and Mad

Good and Mad

by Rebecca Traister

  • Get Good and Mad
  • Get Good and Mad
  • Get Good and Mad

But I was also aware that my experience was unusual, that it could not be converted into advice that might apply to others. So while sure, I urge those who can comfortably do so to scream, yell, curse, write it out, phone a friend, and not keep themselves from feeling their own anger, you will find here no exhortation to lean into your own rage as I have into mine. I was not paying any price for expressing my ire, in fact I was being paid for it; it was my work, my job to take women’s anger seriously. My editors, bosses, friends were taking this project, and therefore the fury it was unpacking, seriously. It was glorious. But it was not replicable.

To suggest to other women that they should simply let it out, channel their fury and scream it to the world, would be to repeat a long history of well-intentioned, idealistic, but ultimately impractical approaches to feminist strategy: the urging of individual women to work around or within the systems that have not been built to accommodate or even acknowledge them. I can’t tell women to express their anger as I have and not acknowledge that in the real world, this rage might get them fired, denied raises and promotions, incur punishments and violence. We live in a world in which a black woman, angry at being pulled over for no reason, risks arrest, and a woman angry at being unjustly arrested risks death; in which young women are shot, or run down by cars, because they—or because another woman—have rejected the advances of a man

Having had the rare and privileged experience of having had my anger taken seriously, valued on its merits, I no longer believe that it is anger that is hurting us, but rather the system that penalizes us for expressing it, that doesn’t respect or hear it, that isn’t curious about it, that mocks or ignores it. That’s what’s making us sick; that’s what’s making us feel crazy, alone; that’s why we’re grinding our teeth at night.

And so it is not women (or not only women) who must change our behaviors; it’s the system built to suppress our ire, and thus our power, by design. We can change it by protesting and marching and calling and sending postcards; by donating money and knocking on doors for candidates and running for office, and making demands of our government and in our workplaces, on behalf of ourselves and, crucially, alongside and on behalf of those with more reason to be furious and less ability to leverage that fury than we have.

To learn more about expressing your rage pick up a copy of GOOD AND MAD by Rebecca Traister!

***

For more on Tips of Life & Love: Be Brave Enough to Stop Pleasing People

***

Excerpted from Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister. Copyright © 2018 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

More Stories >