The books I read: Rage becomes her

I am trying out a hopefully semi-regular (so much commitment!) format for the blog where I discuss the books I read. Let me know what you think!

Let’s start it off with a bang: I have recently finished reading the book “Rage becomes her” by Soraya Chemaly. The subtitle is “The power of women’s anger”, and the book deals with the ways in which women’s anger is systematically suppressed and dismissed in society, and the countless subtle and often overlooked ways in which that anger finds a way to express itself anyway.

Note: I am using the words “woman/women” here because the author aims her discussion at cis women. If you are nonbinary or trans, your experiences are also valid and welcome!

Let’s dive in: The author does not make it easy on the reader (maybe that’s because I am not a native speaker though). She cites studies and calls on research to describe the injustices that women face, injustices that could and should cause anger in the victims, and then continues to discuss the societal pressures on women to not show their anger. To suppress their anger, even, to the detriment of their own health and well-being, and also to the detriment of their ability to fight back. There’s a whole bouquet of awfulness to choose from: wealth disparities, violence, harassment, discrimination and so on. It skews towards a US-centric view, and some topics resonated less with me than others. For example, street harassment, while certainly still a problem in Germany, seems to have a more dangerous connotation in the US – or maybe I’ve just been lucky so far. Either way, the main points hold true even outside of the US from my perspective. The author includes a section on the particularly nasty double-whammy of discrimation against people that are women and POC, which is a completely different level of pain I was not prepared for.

Bascially, it’s a full book of “Here are the many ways that science says the world is shit for women” – and how insidious and plain mean it is to separate the idea of a “good woman” from being angry. I mean, you could not make up a better way to keep things as they are with minimal effort! Like I said, it is definitely not an easy read. While most of the concepts were not new to me personally, it’s an exhaustive collection of studies in one place and a wonderful way to connect to your own anger, if you are one of the targets of said injustices. I certainly felt very much seen with my personal experiences. I imagine it’s also a really good eye-opener if you do not identify as a woman and have not yet experienced the wonderful world of “hey baby, smile for me”.

While not a fun read, I absolutely recommend picking up a copy of Rage becomes Her. Especially if you are a woman, and especially if you are not. I took away a more nuanced view on the way I handle myself when I am angry, and the many ways in which I’ve seen the female-gendered people in my life silence themselves instead of fighting back. I will never again take for granted that a woman’s tears must signal sadmess.

If I had one thing I could add to the book, I would wish there could be a bit more practical advice on how to deal with all of this – although I am aware that this is asking too much. Just, I would like to have a How-To-Be-Angry in 10 easy steps, you know? Something I could read and nod along to and then not follow, i.e. a typical advice book. But advice is limiting, because in order to fit in a book, it has to be generic – in that regard, it’s probably a smart choice to leave the concrete next steps to the reader, especially because we are not all starting from the same place. As a white cis-woman, I certainly have more freedom and leverage to work on this on a societal level than others.