Oasis sang about not looking back in anger, although the Gallagher brothers need to take their own advice, at least, regarding their spat in the press. Women, on the other hand, always get told never to get angry, always pay the price for expressing anger, always suppress anger to the point of getting sick. Some of the angriest women I know quote scripture, pray the rosary, or always assure things are fine. Scratch that, the ones most filled with rage are all three.
Lately, I began to explore anger because my anger began to burn hot enough to get my attention. The discovery began at Hot Yoga out of all places, coming from the intentions set at the beginning of our practice. The yoga instructor encourages us to set an intention then put ‘I am’ in front of it. One night, the intention ‘befriending my anger’ popped into my head, leading to the intention ‘I am befriending my anger.’ Like I said, irony abounds but it lead me to really think about an emotion I knew next to nothing about.
I had outbursts and they happen if things get stuffed away until they explode. Usually, that happens later, away from the source of whatever made me angry. What I later learned about those events in my life, once I processed the anger and really felt it on an unconscious level, provided the fuel to power me forward. Perhaps the best depiction on the use of anger came from The Avengers. Bruce Banner refuted the assumptions from Stark and others as he remained calm despite some Hulk-like situations. Before the climactic New York scene, he utters that famous line “that’s my secret-I am always angry.” I thought it was a cool line but now I am getting what he meant by it.
What’s a nice, Catholic-raised, approaching-middle-age, woman to do with anger. How do I befriend it? Take it out for coffee? Luckily, this moment in time thanks to Orange Voldemort, Me Too, and everyday sexism getting called out has produced a torrent of books by women exploring anger. For some reason, I wanted to listen to the audiobooks, as if the author talked to me as if we went out for coffee and the chit-chat turned into one of those deep convos that happen with the right timing. It doesn’t mean the same conversation can’t happen with the books themselves. In my case, I needed to hear it, while in my car, with the volume turned up a notch.
Good and Mad By Rebecca Traister
Traister’s follow up to All the Single Ladies starts off, not in the anger after the 2016 election, but in the last century as civil rights, the women’s movement, and Vietnam collided. The 2016 election sees a return to those expressions as Trump’s election galvanized women across the board, in some cases pushed them into activism for the first time.
I listened to this book while ago and forgot Traister’s involvement in an infamous incident involving a fellow journalist and Harvey Weinstein. For those asking why women are disclosing now need to hear about the mechanisms behind keeping powerful men like him in place. The book also explores how women’s anger fuels advocacy in the beginning, only to get erased from the historical record. It’s not a long listen and, from the looks of it, not a long read.
Ironically, Traister gets a mention in the acknowledgements of the next book about anger…
Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly
As soon as the audiobook finished and reset itself, I hit play again. Nothing against Rebecca Traister’s book, she covers some of the same ground regarding politics and women’s anger, Chemaly’s thorough research, and as the daughter of immigrants, resonated with me.
Rage Becomes Her details how women’s anger in both private and professional spheres have always existed yet societal norms have attempted to bank those flames. Chemaly unfolds the ways women suppress, divert, or sublimate anger while also looking at the ways women of colour deal with anger as a stereotype. That’s only a fraction of what she explores in the chapters of her book.
In audio form, you can hear the meticulous details and Chemaly deftly reads her work, subtly punctuating her points. In the end, I will end up buying the book to go over her points again. Another great feature comes at the end as she offers up ways women can learn ‘anger competence’ as opposed to ‘anger management.’ Anger offers a way for women to return to themselves, as a way forward, and to make real change.
Women don’t talk about anger very much, especially women in Winnipeg. We are busy being ‘bubbly’ and trying to ‘not cause drama.’ We shoulder the emotional loads of work and family, boundaries beginning to blur, rage pooling in recesses we can’t even talk about with a professional never mind a best friend. We look for safety valves in all the wrong places like food, drink, or shopping. Talking about anger, much like reading about it, drags it from those dark recesses into the light, because our shadows tell us something just as much as our light.
Reading about anger has made me understand my own and how it interacts with my other emotions. Instead of stuffing things away, I acknowledge it, catching the emotion to name it then asking ‘what are you trying to tell me today.’ One of my favourite quotes, used in the early years of my blogging, comes from C.Day Lewis who stated he wrote in order to understand. Both books seek to understand women and anger, and in doing so readers can seek to understand their own.